After three years of owning a whole-home generator, here’s how things have gone

In brief: In this sponsored post with longtime partner Reliant, Eric writes about his experiences with owning a whole-home generator, including during recent storms. If you’re thinking about getting one, now is a good time. If you start the process today, there is still time for a generator to be installed prior to the busy part of the 2024 Atlantic hurricane season. Additionally, there is a special Reliant offer for our readers—read to the end for more details on that.

Hurricane season is right around the corner, but we are still about four months away from the time when Houston typically is most at risk for damaging tropical weather. So if you’ve been thinking about a whole-home generator, now is the time to order to have it running by peak season. You may recall that I had one installed by Quality Home Products, who partners with Reliant, about three years ago. I want to provide an update on how it has performed since then.

Surviving the storm

Truth be told, it has mostly just existed in the background. It’s kicked on a few times, during brief power outages, but until recently nothing serious.

Also, thanks to my preventative maintenance plan, it gets checked out a couple of times a year. However, in late March, I experienced my first problem. The generator didn’t run for its weekly test and the red service light came on.

What a standard residential generator looks like. (Generac)

One of the things I like about Quality Home Products is that when you call the service number, a real person answers right away. She was helpful, and sent out a technician a couple of days later. He fixed the problem, which involved a battery and a motor. And it’s a good thing, too. Because a couple of days later, early on the morning of April 10, we had some strong storms move through. You may remember them. The winds were especially nasty in our neighborhood. Briefly, they were pretty scary. We lost two mature trees, twisted and snapped in half. My daughter’s trampoline was picked up, turned on its side, and the metal poles were broken. These were violent storms.

The power went off in the heart of the storm, but seconds later the generator kicked on just as it’s supposed to do. It ran without difficulty for the next 16 hours until power was restored. (Several nearby power poles were snapped in half and had to be replaced). It was, shall we say, a comfort. And it all happened without me having to do a thing.

Not a small project

I want to be clear. Buying a generator capable of powering your entire home is a major investment. I feel very fortunate to have one. For the average homeowner in Houston, it will likely cost between $10,000 and $15,000. The entire process from an initial consultation to installation will take at least six to eight weeks.

Buyers have lots of options, but having lived the experience with Reliant and Quality Home Products, I can say the service is excellent and reliable. The peace of mind it brings is comforting during severe weather.

Reliant customer reader offer: For now through the end of June, Reliant customers can get $1,000 off a generator from Quality Home Products and one year of free preventative maintenance. For more information, please visit this website.

34 thoughts on “After three years of owning a whole-home generator, here’s how things have gone”

  1. Thank you for your feedback on the systems. Been on the fence about whether to get a regular generator or bite the bullet an invest in a whole house. This information was very helpful. I know of some who convert larger generators to a whole home but I think they have to manually be switched on…Last thing I want to do in a storm is go out and fiddle with transfer switches to get my power on.

  2. I have a portable generator that is hooked up to my house with a MANUAL transfer switch. It has 8 circuits to isolate and run the needed rooms through the breaker panel in the house and costs 1/4 of the whole home systems. It got its test with TS Nicholas where is ran for 19 hrs straight (2 refuels with a gas pump system) and powered my living room, master bedroom, kitchen, 2 refrigerators, two portable ACs, and my office for the Internet. I worked from home without any issue and the family watched TV.

    Plus, I can use my portable at the beach, on camping trips, work sites, etc., something you can’t do with a whole-home system. I might be easier with a whole home, but why pay tens of thousands of dollars for a system that hardly gets used? I did my manual system for less than $3k.

    • My problem with whole house generators, living in Florida, is that after a major hurricane when power is out for 1-3 weeks it is impossible to get a propane truck to fill your in-ground tank. Gas, on the other hand, is the easiest available fuel. So what we need is a dual fuel whole house generator.

    • I purchased a 12500 watt portable generator and had an electrician install a lookout switch on my power panel. An outlet was wired to the panel. The generator runs on gas or propane and has a fob that always me to stand in the house and start it up. I can power my entire house with two AC units. The entire cost of generator, electrical work and sound deadening enclosure was $3100.

  3. I agree with Eric. I have had my whole house generator for 3 years. It has worked remarkably for my house. My house is 1451 sq. ft. I never have to worry when the power goes out. Generac is a great product.

  4. Couldn’t agree more with your positive experience. Had an inline natural gas home generator for about ten years. No problem. It once ran for 9 straight days after a hurricane without a problem. It was a lifesaver.

  5. @michaelstringer, @eric – what was the cost of fuel for 19 / 16 hours or cost per hour?

    • it depends on the load – i was at 50% load on my 10.5W generator and used 1 gallon of gas per hour.

  6. What is the cost of the preventative maintenance plan, or a ballpark annual cost. Thanks for the informative article.

  7. I put a whole home generator in last Oct and when Ezee Fiber drilled through my main utility lines and cut the electricity to my home for three days, it was great to be worry-free since the backup generator kicked in and ran the whole time. I bought the 22kw generator and 200 amp transfer switch from Sams Club for $5400 including delivery, it was about the same price to get it installed by Rickman Services, so all in for $11,000. Worth every dollar.

  8. We had our Generac generator installed October 2021 (purchased in April but with the recent freeze everyone was running behind) and we also purchsed from Quality Home Products. We have the maintenance and we have been pleased with the company. Ours has only been on briefly during some storms and it’s nice to know it’s there when you need it! I love getting your daily posts and I appreciate the additional posts in bad weather!

  9. If only they could swim. Lost my first one in Harvey. I was scared to lose my second one in the recent storm.

  10. I purchased a portable generator after Hurricane IKE to provide minimum electricity for the 12-hours or so that we were without power. Fans only, no A/C. During the 2021 deep freeze when we lost power for several hours, my portable generator performed well again for our minimum requirements of lights, tv, gas fireplace with electric start, refrigerators, rechargeable items (phones, tablets), etc. However, that storm was the deciding factor in gettin a standby, whole-house generator. Fortunately, we have not had a great demand for it, but it did run for a few hours one evening a year or so ago, and has popped on several times here and there. It tests itself once a week (with no power transfer), is serviced twice a year, and automatically recovers power within about 10 seconds of it going off. Yes, it was a large investment expense for little actual use, but I considerate the expense the same way I buy insurance for my house and cars. My wife and I are 78 and I will do what I can to stay as comfortable and safe as possible. When electricity goes off and we are the only ones in our 8-house cul de sac with lights on and air conditioning and/or heating on….I’m happy with the decision to invest in a standby generator. It might even be a “good thing” when we have to sell the house.

  11. Good article Eric. Worth reminding readers that they need to replace their battery every two years. In the north, home installations come with a battery warmer for super cold conditions but they don’t put them in here. As the batteries naturally weaken they are most vulnerable during a cold snap. We had a three year old battery fail to crank the generator during the 20/21 cold snap and learned the hard way to spend $120 every two years for a fresh battery.

  12. You’ve confirmed what I’ve always thought about installing a whole home generator. First, they are a major investment – as you point out, 10 to 15 grand. Second, they require regular testing and maintenance and the associated expense. And, third, over a period of 1000 days, you’ve actually used the generator for 2/3rds of one day.

    If I can’t deal with that kind of electric service outage, I’ll go to a restaurant and motel for the night and save $14,750.

  13. We’ve had our Reliant/Quality Home Products since 2017 and wouldn’t be without it. Great folks to deal with!

  14. The collapse of the ERCOT grid (even tho I’m in Entergy’s grid that extends into Canada) was the last straw for me. Entergy was out about 8 hours – we were lucky / fortunate. Quality Home Products (QHP) did an exceptional job and continues to service our unit. In 2022, we had about a 4 hour outage, and the unit performed superbly.

    QHP also recommended a 3rd party engineer that was pre-approved by The Woodlands Covenants Dept. This allowed us to get a final permit approval very quickly.

    And QFP responds quickly to any concerns – the battery failed in 2023, fixed within a day.

    Having the generator provides peace of mind – just like homeowners insurance, even if you never need it.

  15. Can you tell us how many consecutive cloudy days since Jan 1st? Also how many cloudy days vs sunshine since Jan 1st?

  16. My parents use a Generac in west Texas and it turns on automatically once a week to make sure it’s functioning and whenever there are consecutive cloudy days. Their house is off grid and powered by solar panels and marine batteries with the Generac and a propane tank as back up. It has been reliable for years and any service is handled by a dealer in the area.

  17. I have such peace of mind since I got mine 2 years ago. That big freeze did it for me. It’s also a great plus for selling a house!!!

  18. After the Texas freeze, I bought a portable generator from Generac. From the comments here, sounds like I picked the best brand. It’s still in the box, never been taken out or used, and I have no idea how to use it other than I would be getting gas out of my car to run it so I bought a gas spout thing to get the gas. I’m figuring if I need to crank it up I’ll have my son-in-law come over and figure it out. I’m glad to have it in my back closet nevertheless.

  19. Great review, I am encouraged to get it. A neighbor has one (whole home) and it sits on the ground, so what happens when a flood, like Harvey, hits and the generator is immersed in flood waters? Will it still work? Makes more sense to elevate it. If that’s your home you’ve posted with your review, I see it sits on the ground. Thank you.

    • I installed the wiring to my breaker panel to plug a portable generator to my house with a 50amp power cord. The Westinghouse 9500W duel fuel unit is equipped for an optional automatic transfer switch to be used, but I can transfer power myself on the breaker panel. My generator is portable, but a 9500W one is heavy. Check your electric bill for average daily usage to see exactly what you NEED to power. A 5000W generator will power the basics. You will need to see if you have 2 open spaces in your breaker panel to allow for installation. My system, including generator, breakers, electric plug, 50 amp power cord, and 20lb propane tank was less than $1400. Some services will ultimately have to be done by an electrician in most situations, such as final power-up. New construction allows flexibility. The electrician simply verified my work. Purchase costs must outweigh lost dollars caused by power outages. My rural area suffers frequent outages. I have animals and can’t simply go to a motel. I store frozen food in bulk I don’t want to forfeit. Someone with medical issues can’t lose power at all. My money was well spent. Yours will be if you do your research.

  20. Another thought or two — what are the front-end electrical set-up needs for a whole house system in terms of wiring/cabling/and breaker panel replacement, etc? Does the installer handle this or is a licensed electrician needed initially to ensure there’s adequate electrical power to sustain the system? My townhome is 50 years old with almost 1800 sq ft of living space. When it’s installed and maintenance is needed, is this an additional cost after the grace period ends?

  21. We have a Generac installed by Quality Home Products with 5 year maintenance. It has been a life saver. Mother in law need to be on an Oxygen generator and this has been the best investment for her.

  22. We went with solar panels and batteries (3 Tesla battery packs). One advantage to batteries is that they let you avoid touching the grid at night and so lower your electricity delivery fee. They also cut in seamlessly – no blinking, no clocks resetting, no computer reboots. And silent. In the past year we have had 9 outages, all but one less than 5 minutes, and one that lasted an hour.

  23. We got one last year, and it’s reassuring to know it’s there even though we’ve only lost power once since we had it. But that was notable in that a squirrel knocked out our neighborhood power (and did worse to itself) during the Texans’ brief playoff adventure a few months ago. We gained popularity among neighbors who came over to watch the game.

  24. One thing we learned with our generator is to just install a new battery every 2-3 years. During the big freeze, our battery was dead. Why? Because they don’t put heaters around the battery in a generator in Texas. So, after 3 years the battery was low and that freeze was enough to make it go dead.

  25. We’ve had a Generac whole house generator since before the big freeze and my husband would not have survived that had we not had it. It has been great. As others have mentioned, it is tested weekly and on the very few occasions (2) that the red light came on Quality Home Products was wonderful. The first time they guided me through the fix and the second time they sent someone out the next day. Yes, they are expensive, but when the power goes out – especially for significant periopds of time – you’ll be glad you have it!

  26. I’m so sorry about the loss of your trees. Thank you for the review of the generator. I didn’t spring for one of those, but I do now have a portable gas genny with a battery backup and electric start that will sustain a portable AC unit or a space heater so we can have one room with a safe temperature for an older parent. That’s our table stakes requirement if we lose power.

  27. I’ve had generators since Sandy, presently a manual 8500 fei generac ( works great with lockout) in my retirement home I have a Briggs and Stratton 26 kw propane . 70 years old I wanted seamless system, let you know in the coming months. Duke is my supplier for electric.

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