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How to Tell You Have a Good Generator Installer

September 24th, 2009 Leave a comment Go to comments
This entry is part 3 of 9 in the series Generator

I was thinking back to my post about the installation of my whole house generator (which remains very popular) and I realized that I said my installer was good, but never gave a lot of detail about how I knew. So here’s a list of things you should look for.

  1. They show up on time. If an installer makes an appointment, they should keep it or have a damn good excuse why they miss it. Like a death of an immediate family member or a car wreck good. Missing appointments is the sign of either an over-extended contractor or an amateur that can’t schedule or run a business. This is especially true for the Sales call. Hell, that’s the time when they’re trying to convince you how good and reliable they are, so if they blow this, run away.
  2. Mike_holmes_picture

    Mike Holmes

    They aren’t immediately available. As Mike Holmes, Canadian contractor, TV Host,  and advocate for good contracting says, “Pros are busy.” Good contractors are always in demand, even in a down economy. Because there are always people and companies with enough money to do a job, and in a tight economy they want every dollar spent wisely, so they keep good pros busy. If your contractor quotes you and says they can start the next day, be very concerned.
  3. They seem knowledgeable. You know a bullshitter when you hear one. A good contractor not only has opinions but can give reasons for them. Why do they prefer one brand over another? What makes one company’s product superior? Why do they sell the brands they do?
  4. You receive a detailed itemized quote. A one-line price isn’t acceptable. This job is too small for a full, formal contract, so the quote will serve as the document of record for the work to be performed and the price. And it should spell it out in detail. Like how the site is to be prepped — with gravel? Concrete pad? What will they do for a transfer switch? Will they rewire existing circuits? How will the cables be run? The more detail the better.
  5. They will pull permits. Ask the question clearly — “Will you pull necessary permits?” If the answer is other than, “Yes,” walk away. The only exception is if you are fortunate enough to live in one of the few very rural unincorporated and/or unzoned townships left in the US (like I did growing up — as far as I know there is still a “farmstead” zoning exemption in Sterling Township, PA for landowners with over 50 acres of land). Good contractors don’t fear inspectors. (Note, the generator installer might ask for the gas company to handle the plumbing permits for the gas line — but again, the gas company should have NO problem with this.)
  6. They will show you the permits. It’s one thing to say you’ll pull the permits. It’s another thing entirely to do it. Ask to see them before work starts.
  7. The install looks durable and professional. Look — this is your home, your comfort, and your safety we’re talking about. A backup generator is asked to do a terrible job. Basically, to sit neglected and unused in the elements until some calamity happens, and then run reliably and flawlessly for potentially days or weeks without stopping, poisoning your family, blowing up your delicate electronics, or burning your house down. And the only way the generator will be ready to turn on when it’s ten degrees out after sitting through five years of rain is if all the connections are sealed well, if the gas is plumbed correctly, and the system is maintained. Look to make sure that all the cables run outside are in sealed conduit, that the generator is on a stable platform, that the plumbing is secure and supported, and the inside wiring is clean and neat.
  8. They clean up. After they’re done installing a generator your house should look like it did before they started. Only with a generator.

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