Q: In your column about generators last month, you mentioned that the plumbing and electrical work for your standby generator was around $1,000. What generator did you get? And do you think it was worth it?
A: The $1,000 I cited was an estimate for installation work that I never had done. I got the estimate because, at the time, I thought a permanently installed standby generator was the only way to provide electricity to a good part of the house and power my electronics safely. That changed with the Briggs & Stratton QuietPower Q6500 Inverter Generator (briggsandstratton.com). I found its price, performance and capabilities are what I have been waiting for to make the leap to implement a backup power solution.
Inverter generators are the best portable generators available. They have a clean, electronics-safe power output, better fuel efficiency leading to longer run times per tank and quieter operation. The expense is what has kept this superior technology from taking over. An inverter with enough power for several rooms and a furnace fan (5,000-6,000 watts) typically has sold for around $4,000. Getting all this capability in the Q6500 for $1,499 is a game-changer, and it makes conventional generators look much less attractive.
The Q6500 has a decidedly nonindustrial look and is quite small for the amount of power it provides. The cleanly designed, smooth-sided enclosure keeps noise low. Even at full power, it is quieter than the typical lawn mower, plus, it has a deeper, less intrusive sonic tone. In short, overall noise levels are nothing like the earsplitting racket typically associated with a portable generator.
A suitcase-style telescoping handle makes it easy to move around, and two USB ports are built in for charging portable devices. It comes fully assembled; all you have to do is add oil (included) and gasoline. Because the generator is portable, it can be used for tasks besides emergency backup, such as powering electric leaf blowers and hedge trimmers far from a household outlet. This was another deciding factor for me.
With its 5,000-watt continuous output and 6,500 starting watts, it provides almost the same amount of clean power as a $2,000 natural-gas standby generator. The only item requiring a professional electrician is the installation of a manual transfer switch with an outdoor inlet box. Once that's in, just connect the generator to the outdoor inlet and flip the switch to send power through your home.
One caveat: It is manual-start only. If you find it difficult to pull-start power equipment, you should consider a generator with electric start. Another factor to keep in mind is that you need to put the generator online; it won't come on automatically. If you're like me and rely on a sump pump, that could be an issue if the power goes out while you're not home. My compromise solution is a pump with battery backup, which should cover things until I can set up the generator or power is restored.
For me, the Q6500's biggest advantage is the peace of mind it provides. Many generators fall victim to voltage surges that can fry sensitive circuits in TVs and computers. But I can use this with confidence that it won't damage any electronic circuitry.
Send questions to Don Lindich at email@example.com. Get recommendations and read past columns at soundadvicenews.com.