Portable Generator Setup: Home Backup for $2,500

This post shares how we prepared our home to be power ready during an outage with a portable generator and generator inlet.

Portable Generator Setup: Home Backup for $2,500
We’re using this Westinghouse Tri-Fuel WGen8500TFc as a home power backup solution.


It’s hurricane season for us on the Gulf Coast, and this year, we finally made some moves to prepare our home for backup power during an outage. In this post, I'm going to talk about the backup generator option we went with, what we considered, and why we decided on the portable generator option. I'll include our costs, which may vary, and what I would have chosen in different living situations.

DISCLAIMER: This is not a DIY guide. I am not a professional electrician and hired certified professionals to complete the job. I am sharing my experience so you can understand what it takes to implement a home backup power solution. If you are uncomfortable performing any of these activities, you should consult a professional.

Why We Needed a Backup Solution

2021 Texas Freeze

I've lived in Houston my entire life and am no stranger to hurricanes and power outages. However, the freeze in 2021 was the last straw. It was the first time my family had gone through an extended outage with a newborn. Not having access to power, water (our apartment used electric water pumps), and losing hundreds of dollars in food and my wife's oversupply of frozen breast milk for our one-month-old made me feel pretty helpless.

2024 Houston Tornadoes

It didn't even have to be hurricane season for a storm to brew up in a matter of days, resulting in actual tornadoes touching down in Houston and causing massive outages across the city for almost a week. No longer in an apartment, the responsibility fell on me to ensure we didn't have to go days without power, so I did some research, reached out to electricians and plumbers and got things moving.

Our Portable Home Backup Solution

Westinghouse Tri-Fuel Home Backup Generator


We went with this Westinghouse Tri-Fuel Backup Generator. The tri-fuel option gives you flexibility between gasoline, liquid propane gas (LPG), and natural gas. Our natural gas line is located near the electrical box, so we had a plumber add an additional valve that we could use to connect the generator directly, providing continuous power to our home during an outage and eliminating the need to shut off the generator to refuel. Everyday Home Repair covered this exact generator in his video Running An Entire House On An Amazon Generator.

50-Amp Power Inlet Box


The inlet box lets us run a 50-Amp cable from the generator directly to the inlet box to power the circuits in our electrical panel. DIY folks might be inclined to install this themselves. I hired an electrician to install this.

Generator Interlock Kit


This part is crucial as it prevents you from back-feeding power from your generator into your electrical panel, which can be dangerous to workers fixing power lines during outages. It allows you to turn on the generator breaker only when the main breaker is powered off. My electrician installed this part as well at the same time they installed the generator inlet. Again, something experienced DIYers may feel comfortable doing themselves. Not me, though.

All together, these items allow us to disconnect from the main grid and power our 1,800 sq ft home with our generator.

Why We Chose a Portable Generator and Not a Standby Generator

There are a few reasons we went with a portable generator solution instead of a permanent standby generator.


All in, the cost of this our portable generator solution was around $2,580 and almost half of it was because I hired electricians and plumbers to complete the installation. The cost could be much lower for those who are comfortable and experienced DIYers.

  • Generator: $1,200
  • 50-Amp Cable: $80
  • Electrician to install the interlock kit, generator breaker and generator inlet: $800
  • Plumber to install the additional gas valve: $500

This is still a lot of money, but affordable compared to the $15,000 we were quoted to install a standby generator, the $5,000-10,000 we could spend on home battery storage or $50,000+ one could spend on a solar panel array and home battery solution to be completely off the grid.


We're approaching hurricane season in Houston, and I wanted to install something quickly so that we'd be prepared. This option made it possible to be up and running within a matter of weeks. Most of the time was spent waiting for the generator to arrive and coordinating times with the electrician and plumber. The actual work itself could have been done in less than a day.

Ease of Use

Ideally, the switch to portable backup power would be automated and I wouldn’t have to do anything. This is one of the compromises I made but all things considered, it could have been worse. Having the generator inlet and interlock kit means all I need to do is turn off the main power breaker, plug in the generator into the inlet, turn on the generator breaker and fire up the generator. I’m not dealing extension cords because the generator is powering the panel directly.


Our home does not have much exterior space, so it didn't make sense to install something that would be outside permanently. We also weren’t sure if something like a Generac Standby Generator would even fit. This plus the timing constraint made anything bigger a no-go.


A portable solution also means we can take it with us when we're no longer in this house. While the electrical and gas lines would stay (obviously), we will be able to take our portable generator with us to our next home and use it for other outdoor activities as well. We weren't ready or wanting to invest $15,000 for a portable standby generator that would require such an upfront investment, a long time to install, and take up most of our available outdoor space.

This generator inlet will let us connect our Westinghouse generator.

What I Really Wanted

In an ideal world, my home backup solution is an array of solar panels and a home battery backup. For most folks, this looks like Tesla Solar + Powerwalls: an array of solar panels that generate energy and a set of batteries that can store them.


I occasionally peruse the Tesla website and price out a system for my home, but for obvious reasons, like the $80,000 cost, timeline (it takes a while to get them installed), permitting, and the fact that we don't expect to stay in this home long enough to break even, that wasn't an option for us. Perhaps for our next home!

Future Battery Plans

While the Tesla Solar + Powerwall system is out of the question right now, I am still really intrigued by home standby batteries, like the ones from Ecoflow and Anker.


Large home batteries like this have a few benefits, even if you don’t have solar:

  • They integrate with your home if you use their smart panels, meaning you can toggle between using the batteries and the grid to power your home, which is a great use case if your energy rate is based on time of use (more expensive during certain parts of the day).
  • These larger batteries are eligible for a 30% federal tax credit, so while the batteries may be more expensive than a traditional generator, the one-time tax credit + the benefit of being able to use the batteries outside of outages can make economic sense for some folks.
  • The batteries are much quieter than portable generators.
  • You can still use a portable generator to keep the batteries charged during an extended outage.

Ideally, I’d like to have some solar input, even if it’s a smaller array, so that I could power the batteries while I’m completely off the grid. However, the setup that makes the most sense would be the home backup batteries and then using the portable generator we already have to keep the batteries charged during an outage.

Why Add Batteries at All?

The main benefit of having these batteries is that we could still use them even if there’s not an outage. While the portable generator would come in handy, it’s only going to be used when it’s needed. The batteries, on the other hand, would always be available and, while heavy, could be rolled around the house, front yard, or backyard to power things. If we installed the Ecoflow smart panel, we could even integrate it into our home system and have an automated transfer during backups. They even qualify for a 30% tax credit.


At the end of the day, it’s important to do something to prepare for extended power outages, especially if you live in an area prone to severe weather. As I publish this post, Hurricane Beryl is making its way through the Caribbean and while we still don’t know if it will hit Houston, I have peace of mind that should the power go out again, we’ll be okay for a few days.

While this post is not intended to be a guide, I do hope it’s informative, shows you what options are possible, and, if you decide to connect with a professional, gives you confidence in knowing what to ask for.