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Power outages can range from being annoying to downright catastrophic, depending on the circumstances. With the North American Electric Reliability Corporation estimating that a significant portion of the U.S. is at an elevated risk for power outages this summer, due to above-average temperatures and worsening drought conditions, you may be weighing your options for backup power, in the event it happens to you.

What is the difference between a generator and a backup battery?

The main options for backup sources of power are either installing a generator, which runs on fuel, or a backup battery, which stores electricity for when you might need it— and these two options vary in terms of upfront versus long-term costs.

The average cost for installing a generator that will power the entire house is about $15,000. Depending on the type you have installed, this generator will run on either natural gas, diesel, liquid propane, or gasoline.

Backup batteries can range in price from $10,000 to $20,000, plus the cost of installation. (If you want to calculate how much backup power you might need, Lowe’s has a handy worksheet that helps you factor in the total power required for your various appliances.)

The longterm costs of backup power sources

The long-term costs are where these two options differ the most. Although the upfront cost of buying and installing a generator is less than the cost of a battery, it requires fuel to run, which will need to be factored into the overall price. On the other hand, a battery will store power that either comes from the grid or was generated through solar panels.

The cost of running a generator will vary depending on its size and the type of fuel required. For example, a 5kW generator, which can power small appliances or one large appliance, such as the fridge or a clothes washer, consumes about 0.75 gallons of fuel per hour. With gas currently at an average of about $4 a gallon, this would cost about $72 dollars a day. Depending on how often you need to use the generator, that cost can add up.

  



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