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CostHelper > Home and Garden  > Safety & Services > Portable Generator

Portable Generator Cost


How Much Does a Portable Generator Cost?

 
low costLow: $200-$650+average costMedium: $1,000-$2,500high costHigh: $2,000-$4,000
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A portable generator is typically an internal combustion engine powered by gas or diesel and used to supply electricity. It can be used during a power outage or other emergency, at a construction site, in remote areas or for camping.

Typical costs:

  • Small recreational generators (500-2,000 watts) that are good for camping or tailgating range in price from $200-$650 or more, depending on size and quality. For example, the Generac GP1800 with 1800 watts sells for $375-$400. These small generators usually power only one appliance at a time, and their gas tanks need refilling every few hours.
  • Portable generators designed for an extended power outage start around $330-$1,000 but usually run $1,000-$2,000 or more for a medium-sized model (3000-6500 watts). For example, the Centurion 5000 Watts by Generac sells for $650-$950. More expensive versions provide more power and are usually quieter and more compact. Diesel-fueled generators are more expensive but also more efficient, run more quietly and last longer than gas-fueled models.
  • It can be $1,000-$2,500 for a larger portable generator (7-8 kW) to power to a good portion of a smaller or older home, but probably not enough energy for a large central air conditioning system or a heat pump. The Powermate PM 0497000.02[1] sells for about $1,300-$1,900.
  • Expect to pay $2,000-$4,000 for an extra-large portable generator (10-18 kW) that can provide power for most average homes (depending on air conditioning wattage requirements). For example, the Generac GP 15000 sells for $2,400-$3,200. More expensive models may be designed to maneuver on rugged terrain, or are able to operate on more than one type of fuel (gas, diesel, propane).
  • Renting a small portable generator costs around $65-$185 a day, depending on capacity and local rates. An industrial-sized towable generator that can power multiple items rents for about $300-$500 a week, depending on size and local rates, but can go as high as $700-$1,100.
Related articles: Standby Generator, Adding an Electrical Outlet, Upgrading an Electrical Panel

What should be included:
  • Generator output is measured by watts or kilowatts (kW), and 1,000 watts equals 1 kW. An average refrigerator uses 700 watts when it's running, but requires 2,800 watts to start up.
  • A portable generator is basically an engine within a frame and usually weighs around 100-250 pounds. Some portable generators are powered by biodiesel, propane or natural gas, but those are less common.
  • Portable generators typically are not high-powered but can be used at a variety of locations and in a range of circumstances. For a more powerful but stationary emergency power source, see How Much Does a Standby Generator Cost. ThisOldHouse.com provides an overview[2] of generators.
Additional costs:
  • The most common way to connect a portable generator to household appliances is with heavy-duty outdoor-rated extension cords. The cords are plugged into outlets on the generator and then run through an open door of window to the appliances that are to receive power. Prices range from $10-$55 each, depending on gauge, quality and length (typically 25-50 feet long).
  • Another option is to have an electrician add a power transfer switch to the home's main circuit panel, typically at a cost of $400-$1,000. The generator is hooked up to the transfer switch using a single extension cord and provides power to selected circuits on the panel. This makes it easier to power built-in appliances like a furnace, which can be difficult to connect directly to the generator with an extension cord.
  • Some manufacturers include wheels with their portable generators, but others sell them separately as a "portability kit" for $25-$200.
Shopping for a portable generator:
  • Decide where the generator will be located when it's in use, and calculate the amount of wattage needed by each appliance. (Wattage is usually listed on an appliance's nameplate, but it's also good to consult with a dealer or an electrician when determining how much power is needed.)
  • When buying, ask about fuel consumption, fuel storage requirements and run time at full capacity. Popular Mechanics magazine provides a guide for choosing the right portable generator.
  • Major manufacturers of portable generators include Briggs & Stratton, Cummins Onan, Generac[3] , Honda[4] , Kipor, Powermate[5] and Winco[6] . Many manufacturers' websites include an online calculator to determine the size of generator needed, as well as referrals to local dealers.
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External Resources:
  1.  www.powermate.com/generators/product_detail.php?model=PM0497000.02&cat_id=3&w=79
  2.  www.thisoldhouse.com/toh/article/0,,192981,00.html
  3.  www.generac.com/Portables/
  4.  powerequipment.honda.com/generators/eurl.axd/b042254e7b49af49ac085705d51668ea/
  5.  www.powermate.com/
  6.  www.wincogen.com/home.php
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