Considering a Residential Generator? Start Here.

california-home-generator2Having a permanent stationery generator installed at your home used to be a simple matter some ten years ago, but now California cities have adopted the full requirements of the National Fire Protection Association, standard 110 and the rules, regulations, and costs are quite extensive. People who have large parcels of land will have an easier time complying with the rules and regulations, because setback rules and noise ordinances can be a problem if your neighbor is close by.

If a residential generator is one of your priorities, here are some of the requirements you should consider before calling out a generator company, like CD & Power.

Determine the Size You Need

The first step is to determine the size generator you need to run the critical functions of your home. This is a process of deciding which of the items in your home you would like the new generator to run during a utility outage. Some people want everything to be up and running, and others want just critical items like HVAC and the refrigerator.   Check the owner’s manual for the items you want to power and add up the power level that each one requires.  That will give you an idea of the size of the generator you need. Use this Generator-Sizing-Calculator as a reference.

Placement & Noise

Next, you should consider where the generator will be placed.  Some cities require the generator to be out of sight, or in an enclosed space.  Most of the time, it will require a setback of at least 5 feet from the property line, and a concrete pad with electrical wiring and hook-ups for the generator and transfer switch. Noise ordinances allow for a maximum sound level of 45dB at your neighbor’s property line. With large generators in residential subdivisions, noise is a limiting factor.

Air Quality

If the generator you need is 50 horsepower or greater, you will need to apply for a permit from your local Air Quality District.  There are 35 AQDs in California. Find yours here:  Map of California Air Quality Boards

Natural Gas or Propane?

You should also consider the fuel source for your generator. If it will be natural gas, you’ll need plumbing; and if it is propane, you should think about where the tank will be located.

Engineering Drawings

Next you will need several engineering drawings to submit to the city planning and building departments.  The engineering drawings will show property lines, the location of the generator in relation to your home and adjacent buildings, clearance around the unit and from windows and combustibles, installation plans, fueling exhaust systems, and electrical single line diagrams for the generator and transfer switch along with the electrical connections to the main circuit breaker in your home.  The city will also need information about the location of your home. Is it near a school, hospital, or operation where exhaust and/or noise will affect children or a large population?


Once your engineering drawings are complete, you are ready to apply for permits.  You will need a Building Permit, a Fire Permit, and an Electrical Permit.  Each of these has associated fees, and may be denied, granted, or granted with conditions.

Time to Buy the Generator!

When you have approved permits, it’s time to buy your generator and transfer switch; and then hire an electrician and concrete company to install the pad.  Generator installation comes next followed by a final inspection by the city and the fire department before you can start it up. The last step is to fuel the generator.

CD & Power Will Manage the Process

The process will take between two and three months to complete.  CD & Power can help you manage the process – from helping you determine the right size generator to suit your needs, to finding a certified engineer to make the drawings. We manage the city permit process and work with electrical, plumbing and concrete contractors, inspectors, procure the generator and switch, and manage the installation.


Usually, the minimum cost for a residential stationery generator starts between $10,000 and $20,000 and includes the generator, transfer switch, concrete pad, electrical work and installation.  Permits and fees vary city by city.  Some cities, like Berkeley, Tiburon, and Mill Valley have more stringent guidelines and have special requirements that may add to the cost.

CD & Power has installed generators for commercial and residential customers since 1985. We also offer generator maintenance and repair service, fueling, and compliance services throughout Northern California.  We are a family-owned and operated, certified woman-owned business headquartered in Martinez. For additional information, please give us a call at 866-468-7697.

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