How To Look At A House
McGarry and Madsen's home inspection blog for buyers of
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What is the average life expectancy of a whole-house standby emergency generator?
Thursday, September 27, 2018
We are going to divide our lifespan estimate into two categories: “rated hours of running time based on regular maintenance” and “years of sitting outside in the weather.” The generator engines of residential emergency generators that use propane or natural gas for fuel are designed for about 3,000 hours of total running time. Allowing for regularly scheduled brief exercise of the units, professional maintenance, and a couple of power outages a year, that translates into about a 30 year life expectancy.
However, the International Association of Certified Home Inspectors (InterNACHI) rates a standby generator lifespan at 12 years in their Standard Estimated Life Expectancy Chart and, based on our inspection experience, we agree. Our judgement is based on the numerous standby generators installed in 2005, many of which are still sitting—mostly forgotten—in backyards today.
Four major hurricanes hit Florida the year before. First Charley, then Frances, Ivan, and Jeanne followed in quick succession between August 13th and September 25th of 2004. A boom in standby generator sales occurred in late 2005, and none of the ones from that era we see today are still functional.
There are probably a few carefully babied generators out there still able to crank up in a power outage, but we haven’t come across one. Corrosion from Florida’s humid weather speeds up deterioration. Plus, several years of mild hurricane seasons and homeowners tend to forget about backup generator maintenance. The photo above is a 2005 generator that we examined yesterday in Gainesville. The base of the cabinet is beginning to corrode away and it did not respond to testing.
And here’s a graph comparing the life expectancy of standby whole-house generators to other electrical components in a home.
Go to our blog post What is the average lifespan of the parts of a house? for rating of other house components. To understand the basis, potential use, and limitations of lifespan ratings, see our blog post ”How accurate are the average life expectancy ratings of home components? Are they actually useful?”
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