After Choosing and Preparing a Location, you need to coordinate gas and electric utilities for your new generator installation.
Utility connections: gas choices, connections, and electrical installation
In Step 4, we’ll share some specifics to help you better understand why utility connections are such an important part of the installation of your new standby generator. Also, please note that the homeowner should be prepared to be present for all inspections. First, let’s compare power sources, natural gas and LP gas.
As we’ve noted throughout this blog, all standby power generators require a fuel source to generate electricity for your home. These powerful generators can’t just be removed from a box and fired up. They require complex installation that requires a stable, reliable power source - either natural gas or liquid propane (LP) gas.
You might say, “But I already have existing gas service.”
Great! But keep in mind that although your residence may already have existing natural gas meters, underground gas service lines, LP tanks, or LP regulators, they may need to be altered to accommodate the new connection of your generator system. If a determination is made that one of these items may need to be updated, you will need to contact your gas provider and request this alteration. There may be an additional charge for this service.The length of time required for a gas installation and connection depends on your local municipality and permitting processes.
Natural gas is provided and metered by a public utility. A typical gas connection requires the installation of the gas piping from the gas source to the approximate location of your generator unit.
A new natural gas line requires a pressure test and initial inspection by your local Municipal Gas Inspection Office. In some cases, you may be asked to meet a Gas Inspector on a specific date for access to your home.
After the gas line has been installed and inspected, the final connection of the gas piping to the generator unit and gas source will require a second final inspection from the Municipal Gas Inspection Office. If you are providing the gas connection, the same process and inspection requirements will still apply.
Natural gas prices
If you don’t already use natural gas in your home, you may wonder how much natural gas will cost. Prices for natural gas vary from city to city and state to state, based on a variety of factors. According to the US Energy Information Administration, natural gas prices are a function of market supply and demand. Increases in natural gas supply generally result in lower natural gas prices and decreases in supply tend to lead to higher prices. Increases in demand generally lead to higher prices and decreases in demand tend to lead to lower prices. In turn, higher prices tend to moderate or reduce demand and encourage production, and lower prices tend to have the opposite effects.*
Because natural gas is not available in all areas, liquid propane is the only alternative. Liquid propane requires professionally installed, truck-filled storage tanks refilled as needed by the provider of your choice. LP options are buried, above ground, lease, own, one large tank as space permits, or multiple smaller tanks for tight spaces.
LP gas requires a storage tank on your property. LP tanks can be either above ground or buried. Local ordinances, deeded covenants of trust or homeowners associations (HOAs) might have restrictions on which type of tank you can install on your property. LP companies all offer a variety of service choices. These choices range from buried or above ground tanks, lease vs. purchase, fuel fill plans, etc.
Why are propane prices so different among propane dealers?
Unlike utility companies, propane dealers are private businesses that do not operate as public monopolies. In addition to overall market factors like the weather and the balance between supply and demand, the retail price you pay for propane is heavily influenced by how strong the competition is in your area.
Buying propane is similar to going shopping for food, clothing, or other essentials: you can always count on paying different amounts for the same products in various stores. You may want to secure multiple prices from several of your local LP dealers. If you lease the LP tank, you will be required to purchase all future LP gas from that supplier. If you purchase your LP tank, you can purchase your LP fuel from any LP fuel provider.
You will need a minimum of a 250-gallon tank (or multiple tanks with a minimum capacity of 350 gallons) to properly operate a generator system. However, we strongly recommend at least a 500-gallon tank to maintain enough fuel for a multi-day power outage
LP gas tank installation and connections
Once you have selected the company that will install your LP gas system, the company will make a site visit to determine the scope of work to be performed. They will discuss with you the schedule for obtaining required permits and completing all related work.
Once you have selected a LP supplier, the supplier begins the permitting process and will install and connect the fuel supply to the generator unit. The process of setting up and connecting the LP gas connection can take weeks or longer depending on the company’s schedule, so begin this process as soon as possible.
Electrical connection and inspection
If the gas connection and inspection has already been completed before the electrical installation begins, arrange a convenient time to have the electrical installation for your generator system completed. A review of the electrical components that you have chosen to be connected to your generator system should take place prior to the installation work.
Typically, an electrical installation will take place over the course of one day. However, in some cases, the installation may take more than one day to complete. If your installation cannot be completed before the end of the day, all unfinished work should be made safe and secure before the electrician’s departure.
Because the electrical connection first requires an electrical service disconnection, there will always be some amount of time that there will be no power in the home. The exact amount of time there will be no power varies based upon the electrician performing the connection and even which electrical utility company you are using.
As an example: some electrical utilities require that all disconnections be performed by their own electrical service crews and these service connections can sometimes be as long as 6 hours. In most cases, the homeowner will be required to be at home for these connections.
The benefits of planning and patience
As you can see, a lot of work and planning goes into the steps of securing your utility connections. Permitting and the work of gas and electrical installation takes some time. But once this step in the process is completed, you can be sure that your new home generator has been installed according to code and will work safely and securely when you need it.
Once gas and electric is complete, the last step is to have a Final inspection and maintenance. If you haven't done so already, make sure to checkout our Free Buyer's Guide for a deep dive on the generator installation process.
*From the US Energy Information Administration, Natural Gas Explained