​​​​​​​​​​FAQ's: Natural Gas Generators

Get answers to questions about natural gas standby generators – including sizing, permitting, installation and operating costs. ​

 

 

How much does it cost to install a generator?

Cost is an important consideration but the real question is can you afford to be without electricity? What value do you place on the security, comfort and peace of mind that comes from 24/7 control over electric outages, especially longer duration outages associated with the severe weather in our Gulf Coast area?

Costs can vary widely because of the many factors involved in the generator purchase and installation process.

  • What are my kilowatt (KW) power needs? Do I want to back up a few essential circuits or the whole house?
  • Where do I want to place the generator? Is it close to the gas and electric meter?
  • Are permits required?
  • Do I want to install a second natural gas service line and meter to serve just the generator or simply upgrade the existing meter?
  • Where is your gas and electric meter located? The lowest cost installation can be obtained if the electric meter and gas meter are next to each other Installation costs range a bit higher when the location of the meters require longer runs of gas pipe or electrical conductors.
  • One general rule of thumb is that the installation costs will closely approximate the cost of the generator equipment. This isn’t always true but it’s a starting point for budgeting.
Can you give an example of the costs of a typical installation?

A standard whole-house installation package for a 2,000 square-foot home usually requires a 16 to 17 kilowatt (KW) generator, which costs approximately $8,500 to $12,000 installed and typically includes six feet of electric and six feet of gas line, city permits and licenses required for the installation. As noted before, larger generators and/or more feet of gas and electric lines will increase the installation cost. The dealer will help you determine the most cost-effective solution for you.

What about the cost of generators at home improvement stores?

You’ve probably seen generators for sale at some of the larger home improvement stores. Often the listed prices reflect the purchase cost of the generator and not the total installed cost. 

Are financing options available?

Yes. Financing, service and maintenance contracts and other options that make owning a generator easier and more affordable are available through dealers. Ask the dealer for details.

Can I pay for the generator on my CenterPoint Energy natural gas bill?

No. All billing and payment arrangements are strictly between the customer purchasing the generator and the participating dealer.

How much does it cost to operate the generator?

Operating costs will vary depending on the size of the generator, duration of an outage and the cost of natural gas. Assume you have a 20 KW natural gas generator operating at half-load, running for one hour, and hooked up to your existing natural gas service from CenterPoint Energy. The generator will typically use 1.61 CCFH (hundred cubic feet per hour) x $0.62 - (CenterPoint Energy Houston natural gas rate per CCF as of March 2016). Your natural gas cost for one hour of use is $1. At full load, the cost is $1.74 per hour. See current natural gas prices for your area.

What does it cost to run a portable gasoline generator?

Assume you have a 12KW portable gasoline generator. At half-load, the gasoline generator will use about 9 gallons over a ten-hour period before refueling is required. At .9 gallons per hour x $2.48* per gallon, your cost for one hour of operation is $2.23. That’s nearly three times the operating cost of a comparable natural gas standby generator ($1) plus you never have to worry about refueling. A gasoline generator will need to be refilled at least twice in a 24-hour period assuming you can find an open gas station.

*AAA TX April average cost per gallon of unleaded gasoline.

Can I install my own natural gas standby generator?

Installing a standby generator is a complex job best left to trained and licensed professionals.

How long will it take for my standby generator to be installed?

The installation time can range from several days to several weeks or more. Installation times vary based on the complexity of the installation. Factors that can add time to the installation process include:

  • acquisition of permits
  • homeowner’s association approval
  • amount of wiring and piping to connect the generator to your home’s natural gas supply and electric service panel.

Generator sales and installations peak during periods of severe weather, such as hurricane season, so it’s best to plan ahead as much as reasonably possible.

Will I need a permit to install the generator?

If your property is within the city limits, you will likely require certain permits and inspections as part of the installation process. 

Will CenterPoint Energy install my generator?

No. CenterPoint Energy only provides the reliable supply of natural gas that fuels your generator. The dealers handle the turnkey installation from initial site visit to final testing of the unit.

I already have a natural gas meter, what else do I need from CenterPoint Energy before my generator can be installed?

Generators require a steady supply of natural gas at a specific pressure to operate properly.


In most cases, this will require an upgrade of your existing meter to serve your generator and other natural gas appliances or an additional service line and meter. Your dealer will make this assessment along with the assistance of a trained CenterPoint Energy representative, if necessary.

What if I want a second gas service line and meter from CenterPoint Energy for the generator?

If CenterPoint Energy installs an additional natural gas service line and meter, each month you will receive a separate bill for your second meter.

Do I need approvals for the generator installation and transfer switch from CenterPoint Energy Houston Electric?

Yes. For your safety and that of CenterPoint Energy line crews, part of the process for connecting all the wiring is the approval of the transfer switch and the temporary disconnection and subsequent re-connection of electric service delivered by CenterPoint Energy. Your dealer can assist with this process by submitting the transfer switch one-line for approval and by contacting your Retail Electric Provider and CenterPoint Energy to perform the disconnection/reconnection. For more details on the process, please click here.

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