If you experience regular power outages, you may want to install a whole house generator. Buying one will ensure that you won’t have to stop your daily routine because of the lack of electrical power. And if you’ve decided on getting a whole house generator, it would be best if you’re prepared to obtain permits because you will likely need them.
Whole house generators require installation permits because the process interferes with your electrical and plumbing systems. Electricians and plumbers installing your whole house generator must apply for these permits, so it’s best to sort out any authorization issues before beginning the project.
This article discusses several aspects of permits for whole house generators. These include what installations make them necessary and the estimated costs. In addition, this article provides tips that will make it easier to get permits when installing a whole-home generator.
Why You Need a Permit for a Whole House Generator
Whole house generators involve extensive installation projects. So, by their size, they are likely to interfere with the functionality of your electrical and plumbing systems. As a result, standby generators necessitate permits.
Below are some of the reasons why you will need a permit for a whole house generator:
1. Often Requires a Natural Gas Line Connection
Natural gas is one of the primary sources of fuel for standby generators. And to tap into it so you can connect your generator requires permission from relevant authorities. It is also worth noting you will need a contractor to work on the installation and be responsible for obtaining the required permits in most cases.
You may need a permit if you intend to:
- Install new gas piping to ensure a continuous source of fuel for the whole-home generator
- Extend existing gas piping so your standby generator can access it
- Relocate your gas piping so you can connect it to the new whole house generator
- Replacing existing gas piping with new parts or larger capacity piping to accommodate the whole house generator.
When plumbers or gas contractors apply for a separate permit, they will have to wait anywhere from one day to two weeks to obtain it. Everything depends on the municipality you are in. But remember that some of them categorize this permit under the mechanical permit category.
For example, in Alamance County, NC, a mechanical permit for fuel gas installations will cost you $50. But generally, expect to pay anywhere from $50 to $350 for an electrical permit.
The cost of a permit for gas line installations will vary depending on your location. And you may need to factor in the price of inspections that may be necessary for your locale too.
You could also consider hiring a permit service company to take care of the application process for you. If you opt for that, expect to pay anywhere from 35 to $70 per hour.
2. May Require Big Changes to Your Existing Electrical System
You can engage in minor electrical DIY projects like changing bulbs and replacing sockets without paying for permits as a homeowner. However, when you engage in significant electrical system changes, you require professional electricians and need to pay for them.
You may need an electrical permit to do the following:
- Install or change permanent wiring or electrical devices
- Install or alter low-voltage systems like security alarm systems
- Installing a new electrical outlet
The transfer switch is one of the most crucial components of any home that uses a standby generator. It works as a miniature version of a circuit breaker panel that draws power from the whole house generator instead of your primary electrical source. And once you’ve installed it, it can automatically or manually switch your home to the backup power source when the electricity is off.
Transfer switches are next to the main circuit breaker panel. And they enable you to connect your electrical gadgets without the need for a dedicated high-capacity extension code.
But because they help you switch on everything to your alternative fuel source, including gadgets hardwired into your electrical system, transfer switches involve a lot of work. So, they permanently change your electrical wiring.
In addition, they act as a permanent device installed into the home. For these reasons, they require a permit, which your electrical contractor will get, separately from the gas or mechanical permit.
If you intend to install a whole-home generator, it would be best to budget anywhere from $10 to $500 for an electrical permit. However, in the end, the cost will depend on your local building codes, the set fees in your locale, and how much an electrical contractor charges if they provide permit application services.
3. Needs Fuel Tank Installation Which May Require Special Permission
If you opt for LP or propane gas whole house generators, you will need to factor in the storage tanks. Some of these tanks are stored above ground, while others are usually stored underground.
But in all cases, you will need to observe the safety regulations during the installation process. Step one of the process is getting the appropriate authorization to put the fuel tanks on your property.
Concerning fuel tanks for a whole-home generator, your gas supplier may be responsible for getting the permits. These permits will also cater to the gas yard lines that most properties have.
However, some local regulations may combine the fuel tank permits with something else, such as plumbing. In that case, your plumbing contractor will be responsible for getting the permit before you install the whole-home generator.
For example, in the City of Coppell, you will require a plumbing permit to install a propane gas tank to supply your whole house generator. And that permit will fall under the “miscellaneous” and “tank” categories.
If you intend to install a propane gas tank, expect to pay $25 to $50 for an underground storage container.
4. You Must Adhere to Fire Prevention Standards
In some areas of the country, installing a whole-home generator may also require a fire permit. But that is not surprising since it may cause explosions, electrocutions, fires, and burns. In addition, the wrong installation of generators can cause carbon monoxide poisoning.
Due to the fire-related dangers posed by generators, you may need to prove you have planned carefully to prevent fires. And that would necessitate the fire permit, which you may need to apply for individually or as part of a plumbing or gas tank permit. It depends on where you live and the local rules in that area.
So, if you intend to put in a new tank, it would be wise to prepare for the possibility of a fire permit and inspection by a fire department representative.
For example, if you live in Denver and want to install a whole-home generator, you need to get a Denver Fire Department (DFD) Generator Installation Permit, regardless of which fuel you opt to use. And that authorization is separate from other mechanical, zoning, and electrical permits you may need to obtain.
5. May Interfere with Local Zoning and Homeowners’ Association Rules
Usually, zoning laws regulate how people can use land within each municipality. And if you intend to make any significant changes, such as installing a whole house generator, constructing an enclosure, and adapting the existing utility lines, you would need to answer to the local zoning authorities.
Another possible nightmare is your local homeowners’ association (HOA). The members of your community have a stake in what goes on in your property. For example, if you buy a noisy generator, those nearby won’t get any sleep. And if you direct the exhaust end of your generator directly to your next-door neighbor’s home, you may end up killing someone from carbon monoxide poisoning.
Therefore, your HOA has the right to block your attempts to interfere with your neighborhood or how people live. And it would be easier for them to do so if you do not adhere to the zoning regulations. So, it would be best to tackle the zoning restrictions first before taking on your neighbors. And that is where zoning permits come in.
A zoning permit shows that any of the proposed changes you intend to make when installing a whole house generator align with the local zoning regulations. You can get help applying for that permit via your local office of public works, city hall’s zoning office, board of permits and inspections, or building and zoning board.
Typically, zoning permits vary, depending on locations and the type and size of the project you intend to embark on. It would be best if you planned to spend an average of $100 to $250 to get one.
6. May Negatively Impact the Environment You Live In
The bigger and more powerful a generator is, the more impact it has on the environment. Generally, whole-home generators tend to cause some air and noise pollution. But the pollution levels depend on the installation process, how noisy the generator is, and the fuel used to power it.
And it is due to the standby generator’s impact on the environment that you may need to obtain an environmental or air quality permit of some kind.
For example, the Alabama Department of Environmental Management (ADEM) requires you to obtain a permit for stationary combustion engines that meet or do not meet specified thresholds.
And within the Bay Area, the Bay Area Air Quality Management District (BAAQMD) will issue permits for any whole house or industrial generators exceeding 50 horsepower (HP). In the latter case, if your generator does not meet the nitrogen oxide (NOx), particulate matter (PM), and carbon monoxide (CO) emissions standards, you will not be able to install or operate it within your property.
7. Can Require Additional Construction On Your Property
A standby generator is not a small thing. It is a large engine that will likely necessitate some construction on your property. And that kind of project almost always requires permits of some sort.
For that reason, you need to prepare to apply for a building permit. According to your local zoning and environmental laws, such authorization will enable you and your contractors to engage in construction or renovation.
The price of a building permit will vary depending on what you intend to construct and where you are. But you should budget anywhere from $427 and $2,234 on average. For example, in Westerville, Ohio, a building permit for standby generators usually costs $75.75.
Now, suppose you need an enclosure for your standby generator, and you opt to construct a shed. In that case, you will pay $250 to $2,000 for the shed permit. That is separate from other permit costs you must pay when installing a whole house generator.
However, if you opt for an above-grade concrete base to place your whole house generator, you may not need a building permit. On the other hand, you will likely need a building permit to reroute utility lines or run new ones and intend to pour a concrete base at least 30 inches above grade.
Tips to Easily Get Permits for a Whole House Generator
It will be easier to get the permits necessary for a whole house generator if you consider the following factors:
- Air Quality: Before you buy a whole house generator, it helps to determine the air quality laws within your area. The specified emission levels, which vary by state, will enable you to choose the right standby generator for your locale right from the start.
- Engineering Drawings: Many permits require you to submit engineering drawings that show your plans, including existing structures and where you intend to install the whole house generator. Therefore, you will need to provide survey documentation showing your property and its location relative to other properties in the neighborhood. In addition, you may need to include gas and electrical line schematics so the regulatory authorities can determine whether you have considered all the rules and safety issues.
- Contractor Services: Where possible, it would be best to let the contractors you hire worry about the permits you need for the whole house installation. In any case, many local authorities will only give the required permits to a licensed contractor instead of the homeowner. So, working with professionals, or companies specializing in acquiring permits, is the best way to hasten the approval process.
- Timing: Generally, it takes about two weeks or less to obtain the necessary permits. But sometimes, it may take as long as 30 days or even more. So, it would be wise to allow for additional time to cater for delays, digging, the elements, and inspections. Thus, the earlier your contractors begin the permit application process, the better off you will be.
- Inspection: Do not skip the inspection process. Doing so may come back to haunt you later. So, schedule the necessary checks to ensure that your electrical, plumbing, and construction projects are up to par before and after installing your standby generator.
- Utility Location: If you intend to tap into existing utility lines and when installing your whole house generators, you need to locate them first. You need to contact your local utility locators via the local 811 number to identify, and mark the position of the existing utility lines on your property. That way, you can make proper plans before submitting them when applying for permits. Also, doing so will enable you to prevent accidents in the future when you begin installing a whole-home generator on your property.
- Budget: It would be best to factor in the cost of all the required permits before applying for them. If you don’t know how much they will cost, research online from your local building regulator’s website. Alternatively, you can choose to work with affordable contractors who include the permit application costs within their service fees.
So long as you intend to install a whole house generator, it would be best to budget for permits. It is better to set aside money for them and not need them than not factor in the permit costs and dig deeper into your pocket to cater to them.
In addition, it would be wise to prepare all the documentation you need beforehand. That way, you can hasten the permit approval process. And then, you can install the standby generator you need as fast as possible.