Is Installing a Generator Right for My New Home?

timber frame ski home in winter

The power outage that occurred during the Super Bowl this past Sunday  had us thinking about how unpredictable, and sometimes unreliable, our own electricity can be. There are a lot of considerations when it comes to building a new timber frame home and one detail which impacts our daily lives, but that we often take for granted, is electricity.  And since timber frame homes are often built in remote areas of the country in close proximity to pristine wilderness, electricity isn’t always a constant.  Snow storms set in, hurricanes come ashore and sometimes the power goes out.  But never fear, proper planning can keep you safe and comfortable and when the decision has been made early, it won't break the bank. Installing an automatic transfer switch and generator can make a power outage feel like a temporary nuisance rather than a crippling catastrophe.  Typically it’s wise to only put household essentials on the generator, not everything.  But transfer switches are available to provide power to the whole house.  These are the basics we recommend:

The Furnace

Obviously keeping warm during inclement weather conditions is imperative.  Make sure your furnace system is one of the first items on your list to back up.  Even if your main heating source is from natural gas or propane, it still will need electricity to function.  A fireplace or a wood stove can provide some heat to your home, but you need to be there to feed it.  So if a power outage happens while you're away, you could be coming home to a very cold house.

Well Pump

Keeping a source of fresh water available is crucial.  So if your home relies on a well, make sure the well pump is one of the items powered by a generator


timber frame kitchen with bar counter and granite

It's important to keep food safe during a power outage.  If the weather conditions prevent you from getting to the store for several days, you'll definitely appreciate being able to keep the milk and eggs fresh until you're able to venture out again safely.  One nice feature of an automatic transfer switch is that it will automatically switch to the generator even if you're away on vacation.  That means you won't be coming home from a relaxing cruise to find a refrigerator full of rotten goods.

Some Basic Lighting

timber frame entry with wide front door

While it may not be necessary to power every light in your home, it is ideal to include basic illumination.  Consider including overhead lights for bathrooms, main living spaces, bedrooms and entries such as the front foyer and mudroom.

Phone Communications/Internet Router

With many new phone systems operating over the internet, keeping the connection with the outside world can be crucial.  For that reason, cordless phone and internet routers should be included as well (particularly in areas with poor cell phone reception)

Security System

A security system is also an item that should be included on the backup list.  With many new security systems, they communicate automatically with the local authorities to alert them of break-ins or fire.  This can be an incredible peace of mind, especially for those who may be traveling or away from home for extended periods of time.

The Stove

timber frame kitchen with gas stove

A typical gas powered stove will remain functional during a power outage.  An electric stove can draw 50 amps, putting a big drain on a generator.  So a gas stove is ideal in remote areas with unpredictable power.  Not to mention, a gas stove is preferred by most cooking enthusiasts  for its agile ability to quickly change temperatures on the fly and provide high heat quickly.  But if you prefer to cook with an electric stove, you should also consider adding it to your list of items to back up.

Wine Room Controls

timber frame wine room in chagrin falls, OH

This item is definitely not for everyone's emergency list.  However if you are a homeowner who is seriously invested in their wine collection, then adding the climate control system for your cellar room to the back up power system can be important.  Should power go out while you're on vacation and temperatures fall below freezing it could have a serious negative impact on your inventory.

Aquarium Equipment

timber frame barn home with aquarium

This is another item that's likely not on most homeowner's lists.  But, if you have invested in an aquarium system and don't want to risk upsetting the delicate ecosystem of your tank and losing your investment, consider including the pump systems for your aquarium on the generator as well. While you may not be planning to build in a remote area, it still may make sense to install a transfer switch when your home is initially being wired.  The cost of a whole house transfer switch which can automatically detect when the grid loses power, costs roughly $600 and can very easily be installed when your home is being wired.  If you decide to have one installed a few years in, after you’ve experienced an outage, the cost can be much higher for an electrician to obtain the permit, cut into your main and install the switch.  We feel for most new homes, it's better to have it installed from the very beginning, just in case, regardless of whether you're going to commit to owning the generator.  Once the transfer switch is in place, it's very easy to install a generator after the fact.  So, with a transfer switch in place from the start, you can weather a few storms before deciding if the generator is right for your new timber frame home.

barn home with snow and clouds

If you're interested in learning more about building a timber frame or post and beam home or have a question about any of the homes you see here, don't hesitate to contact us directly.