Is it time to install a whole-house generator?

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Re: Is it time to install a whole-house generator?

Postby ataloss » Fri Nov 02, 2012 9:52 pm

We have a whole house generator running off natural gas. No fuel issues. $250/year maintenance. Runs 15 minutes a week automatically for exercise. Quiet enough.

I know some of you were saying Sandy was not a big issue but it looks bad enough to me.
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Re: Is it time to install a whole-house generator?

Postby linuxuser » Sat Nov 03, 2012 12:58 am

My power just came on this afternoon Friday Nov 3 about 3-4 hours shy of 4 full days without electricity.
Tuesday was okay, but by Wednesday I had had it. It got to 59F in the house.

I have a gas water heater and a gas furnace, but unfortunately, for them to function, electricity was required.

Used matches to light the gas stove to heat water.

If you don't have a gas stove or the natural gas is cut off, get one of those portable hot plates that run on the small propane cylinders.
You find these hotplates in Asian supermarkets.

Next time I'd get multiple ice bags and put them in the freezer and non-freezer sections of the refrigerator.
And get a portable generator just to run the refrigerator and the gas water heater for a few hours each day.

Thinking about propane or kerosene heater for warmth. I don't have a fireplace.

I was fortunate. I had running water the entire time.

I also had almost a full tank so I was able to get to work yesterday. Plenty of gas in PA where I worked.

The governor of NJ has signed an executive order rationing gas in some counties; mine is included.

This type of event is a lesson.
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Re: Is it time to install a whole-house generator?

Postby Van » Sat Nov 03, 2012 7:40 am

After loosing the sump pump twice after the battery backups (2) ran down, my wife and I decided that 2 episodes of flooding in the basement were more than enough.

We purchased a 20 kW generator that runs off propane. Propane is our backup heat for the heat pump hybrid system. Therefore, the tank was already in the ground. Installed, the total cost was $7000. It runs the whole house, our well pump (very important if you like having working toilets), and our barn (wife has EIP, equine induced psychosis). We have a service contract for about $250 per year.

Was it worth it? Oh my yes. What a relief to know that we had the generator as we watched the news showing hurricane Sandy bearing down on us. We live about 35 miles NW of Philadelphia. As it turned out, we were pretty lucky THIS TIME. We only lost power for 16 hours. Some folks only a few miles from us are still without power many days later.
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Re: Is it time to install a whole-house generator?

Postby zeusrock1 » Sat Nov 03, 2012 8:00 am

We got hit pretty good from Sandy and lost power for 3 days, last year during irene we lost power for 7 days. This storm was bad, I see the destruction on a different level than I saw from Katrina and other storms as this affected all the areas I grew up in and around. Most I know are still without power, outside temperature almost freezing, that is the big problem without power.

Fortunately I installed a transfer switch for the main panel bought a 5500 watt generator 3 weeks ago, talk about timing. For a little over $1K, I run the well pump, furnace, fridge, sump pump and misc outlets and lights throughout the house. Finding and getting gas was hard, but I see the portable generator and a transfer switch as a good compromise to a whole house generator. We were comfortable for the duration, but I'm so glad we were proactive in setting up for an emergency (a boglehead anniversary present to ourselves).
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Re: Is it time to install a whole-house generator?

Postby SteveB3005 » Sat Nov 03, 2012 8:06 am

I like the idea of having the fuel source on the property, whether it's propane or diesel. The natural gas option would seem to susceptible to interruptions just when you need it most.
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Re: Is it time to install a whole-house generator?

Postby linuxuser » Sat Nov 03, 2012 9:47 am

zeusrock1 wrote:We got hit pretty good from Sandy and lost power for 3 days, last year during irene we lost power for 7 days. This storm was bad, I see the destruction on a different level than I saw from Katrina and other storms as this affected all the areas I grew up in and around. Most I know are still without power, outside temperature almost freezing, that is the big problem without power.

Fortunately I installed a transfer switch for the main panel bought a 5500 watt generator 3 weeks ago, talk about timing. For a little over $1K, I run the well pump, furnace, fridge, sump pump and misc outlets and lights throughout the house. Finding and getting gas was hard, but I see the portable generator and a transfer switch as a good compromise to a whole house generator. We were comfortable for the duration, but I'm so glad we were proactive in setting up for an emergency (a boglehead anniversary present to ourselves).


Can you explain more what a transfer switch is.
I would like to be able to run the gas water heater and the gas furnace and the refrigerator.
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Re: Is it time to install a whole-house generator?

Postby LadyGeek » Sat Nov 03, 2012 9:56 am

Here's an article from the Home Despot: Buying Guide: Transfer Switches

It's for electric only. If you're asking what this is, you should get a qualified electrician to do the install.
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Re: Is it time to install a whole-house generator?

Postby linuxuser » Sat Nov 03, 2012 10:09 am

Ah, that is what I was thinking it was.
I was looking for a way to run the portable generator than snaking extentsion cords all over the place.
And, yes, most definitely will pay a qualified electrician to do it if I go that route.
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Re: Is it time to install a whole-house generator?

Postby Valuethinker » Sat Nov 03, 2012 12:40 pm

linuxuser wrote:Ah, that is what I was thinking it was.
I was looking for a way to run the portable generator than snaking extentsion cords all over the place.
And, yes, most definitely will pay a qualified electrician to do it if I go that route.


They are really important because, as I understand it, otherwise you can *kill* a utility line man reconnecting your power. Now that should not happen, but people make mistakes, even experienced people. You don't want the legal issues of that, but more importantly you don't want somebody widowed and some kids orphaned because you didn't properly install something.
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Re: Is it time to install a whole-house generator?

Postby TomatoTomahto » Sat Nov 03, 2012 1:08 pm

I'm at kids' school charging cell phones. Still no power at home. It's going to get really chilly next week. I have a quarter tank of gas left in my car; 3 - 6 hour waits at the few gas stations open.

Utility company says power will be restored in 2 to 7 days.

I signed up for a whole house generator yesterday. 20kw. I saw a friend's; it wasn't loud, not as loud as me groaning about the cold house overnight, anyway.

My only regret is not having done this a few years ago.
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Re: Is it time to install a whole-house generator?

Postby windaar » Sat Nov 03, 2012 1:15 pm

You don't have to spend $20K; you don't have to have a generator that powers every single appliance and outlet in your house. We got a 13KW natural gas generator that powers 10 circuits of our choice, cost $6K installed. During a power failure it powers essential appliances like the the fridge, furnace/AC, lights & plugs in the rooms we use the most, but not the dryer, oven, basement, garage, etc. It has been well worth the investment during several prolonged outages. Costs $150/year for an electrician to do scheduled maintenance.
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Re: Is it time to install a whole-house generator?

Postby Sam I Am » Sat Nov 03, 2012 1:18 pm

Message deleted.
Last edited by Sam I Am on Sun Oct 06, 2013 4:51 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Is it time to install a whole-house generator?

Postby TomatoTomahto » Sat Nov 03, 2012 1:28 pm

windaar wrote:You don't have to spend $20K; you don't have to have a generator that powers every single appliance and outlet in your house. We got a 13KW natural gas generator that powers 10 circuits of our choice, cost $6K installed. During a power failure it powers essential appliances like the the fridge, furnace/AC, lights & plugs in the rooms we use the most, but not the dryer, oven, basement, garage, etc. It has been well worth the investment during several prolonged outages. Costs $150/year for an electrician to do scheduled maintenance.

Our 20kw unit will not power EVERY appliance. Heat or 1 AC compressor at a time, no dryer, not all of the rooms, etc.
It's a large-ish house. Our local code increases the price quite a bit (separate trenches for gas and electric, some arcane requirement about coming above ground with the gas before going back underground, 20' setback from property line, 15' from any window or door, gas installation must be a "home run" to service (no piggybacking off the grill). Then there's the New Jersey graft and organized crime uptick, which seems to make everything 25-35% more expensive. Finally, 7% sales tax and permits, and before you know it, what should have cost $10k turns out to cost $20k.
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Re: Is it time to install a whole-house generator?

Postby linuxuser » Sat Nov 03, 2012 2:44 pm

TomatoTomahto wrote:I'm at kids' school charging cell phones. Still no power at home. It's going to get really chilly next week. I have a quarter tank of gas left in my car; 3 - 6 hour waits at the few gas stations open.

Utility company says power will be restored in 2 to 7 days.

I signed up for a whole house generator yesterday. 20kw. I saw a friend's; it wasn't loud, not as loud as me groaning about the cold house overnight, anyway.

My only regret is not having done this a few years ago.


Where are you?
It might be worth it to just get on a major highway and head into PA.
I work in Bristol, PA, just over the bridge on the PA Turnpike. No lines.
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Re: Is it time to install a whole-house generator?

Postby Valuethinker » Sat Nov 03, 2012 2:47 pm

TomatoTomahto wrote:I'm at kids' school charging cell phones. Still no power at home. It's going to get really chilly next week. I have a quarter tank of gas left in my car; 3 - 6 hour waits at the few gas stations open.

Utility company says power will be restored in 2 to 7 days.

I signed up for a whole house generator yesterday. 20kw. I saw a friend's; it wasn't loud, not as loud as me groaning about the cold house overnight, anyway.

My only regret is not having done this a few years ago.


Good luck and best thoughts.
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Re: Is it time to install a whole-house generator?

Postby jjg247 » Sat Nov 03, 2012 3:25 pm

I will second the suggestion to get a hydro powered backup sump. This was our first outage using one and it worked perfectly. No moving parts, no batteries. We also went with base pump and will recommend that brand to any and all. We have a Nat gas fireplace and water heater that worked perfectly during the outage. Using our grill to cook in the rain wasn't fun, so we will replace our electric range with a gas one. Looking at getting a small generator to run our fridge.
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Re: Is it time to install a whole-house generator?

Postby linuxuser » Sat Nov 03, 2012 3:30 pm

jjg247 wrote:I will second the suggestion to get a hydro powered backup sump. This was our first outage using one and it worked perfectly. No moving parts, no batteries. We also went with base pump and will recommend that brand to any and all.


Do you have a link to this brand?
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Re: Is it time to install a whole-house generator?

Postby dratkinson » Sat Nov 03, 2012 4:26 pm

linuxuser wrote:
jjg247 wrote:I will second the suggestion to get a hydro powered backup sump. This was our first outage using one and it worked perfectly. No moving parts, no batteries. We also went with base pump and will recommend that brand to any and all.


Do you have a link to this brand?


http://www.basepump.com/
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Re: Is it time to install a whole-house generator?

Postby scone » Sat Nov 03, 2012 5:01 pm

You can get a propane powered generator that uses the same type of tank as an outdoor gas grill, so changing it out is easy. It also uses a motorcycle battery for and instant push-button start. The one I'm looking at is $899. Even if it gets stolen, you could replace it many times before you equal a $20,000 whole house generator. Maybe you could consider a portable and a couple of big dogs from the pound.
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Re: Is it time to install a whole-house generator?

Postby SamB » Sat Nov 03, 2012 6:13 pm

TomatoTomahto wrote:
EDITED TO ASK THE QUESTION THAT WAS THE WHOLE POINT OF THE THREAD :oops: : How sensible or foolhardy, from a purely financial standpoint, do you think it would be to purchase a whole-house generator?


If you want to be able to deal with a power outage spanning 1-3 days why not just spend $75 on an inverter. If your refrigerator is a relatively new model, it may only require 150-200 watts plus a surge at motor startup. Your car's alternator will probably develop 400 watts at idle, and more as the engine speed is increased. Run the car for an hour once every five or six hours and you can delay food spoilage.

This only buys you several days, depending on how much gas you have in the tanks of your car(s). Of course if you have a whole house generator it will be useless without fuel, lots of fuel.

If you never have to use it, along with the flashlights, spare emergency cash, water, and tuna fish consider yourself lucky. It is a small price to pay. Trying to make your house a fully functional, standalone structure is probably unrealistic in a lot of situations. Parts of Staten Island look like Dresden during WWII.

Here is a link covering the pros and cons of emergency power solutions, and a lot of inexpensive stuff that may help bridge the outage. http://www.solar1234.com/
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Re: Is it time to install a whole-house generator?

Postby linuxuser » Sat Nov 03, 2012 6:58 pm

dratkinson wrote:
linuxuser wrote:
jjg247 wrote:I will second the suggestion to get a hydro powered backup sump. This was our first outage using one and it worked perfectly. No moving parts, no batteries. We also went with base pump and will recommend that brand to any and all.


Do you have a link to this brand?


http://www.basepump.com/


They claim that with their kit, I can do it myself.
Did you do it yourself or hire someone?
I am not at all competent in this sort of stuff.
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Re: Is it time to install a whole-house generator?

Postby jjg247 » Sat Nov 03, 2012 7:10 pm

linuxuser wrote:
dratkinson wrote:
linuxuser wrote:
jjg247 wrote:I will second the suggestion to get a hydro powered backup sump. This was our first outage using one and it worked perfectly. No moving parts, no batteries. We also went with base pump and will recommend that brand to any and all.


Do you have a link to this brand?


http://www.basepump.com/


They claim that with their kit, I can do it myself.
Did you do it yourself or hire someone?
I am not at all competent in this sort of stuff.


Hire someone. This install involves adding a new water pipe to your house. Look at their website and find your local supplier. I paid $350 to have it installed.
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Re: Is it time to install a whole-house generator?

Postby TomatoTomahto » Sat Nov 03, 2012 7:21 pm

TomatoTomahto wrote:EDITED TO ASK THE QUESTION THAT WAS THE WHOLE POINT OF THE THREAD :oops: : How sensible or foolhardy, from a purely financial standpoint, do you think it would be to purchase a whole-house generator?

I just got power back after a cold and uncomfortable 5 1/2 days in a house with my dear wife, two teenagers, 4 pets, and increasing cold. Just for laughs, I got a nasty head cold and cough.

I am retracting the financial aspect of my question. Not having this happen would be worth twice as much. My non-BH calculation is that we've spent this much and more on a vacation. Did we enjoy the vacation a lot more than we didn't enjoy the power outage? No. Install as soon as possible.

I hope we keep power during the winter storm expected next week. I have a feeling that the power was returned using duct tape and rubber bands.
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Re: Is it time to install a whole-house generator?

Postby htdrag11 » Sat Nov 03, 2012 10:43 pm

Well, I cheated, sort of.

Our house in central Jersey went out on Sunday night, but we were a bit better prepared than Irene (4.5 days powerless) in storing water since we've a well. House was doing fine with minimal plant damages. By Friday morning, the prospect of getting power was dim, utility company projecting November 7. With football coming up this Sunday, the two of us drove off to my in-law's place in Connecticut since there were power and internet on Friday morning, a 140 minute drive.

Power came back tonight, but still no cable/internet, so I made the right decision.

I've several alternative, after next week's northeaster:

- a cheap inverter for basic charging
- a low power portable gasoline generator
- a 5-7kw propane generator
- lastly, trying to unload the house next year and downsizing to a townhouse where there is more civilization, i.e., municipal water supply.

Looking at the destruction, I'm impressed by how fast we recovered based on Irene's record. Some of my friends and neighbors are still in the dark.
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Re: Is it time to install a whole-house generator?

Postby pshonore » Sun Nov 04, 2012 10:59 am

I think the simplest solution is a 5KW portable gasoline generator and three 5 gallon gas cans with a transfer switch. That will run your well pump, furnace, frig, some lights, TV, computer, etc (I would recommend a UPS/Battery backup for the PC to smooth out power fluctuations). Not sure there's an advanatge to Propane unless you have a large tank installed (100 gallons or more) for supply.
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Re: Is it time to install a whole-house generator?

Postby htdrag11 » Sun Nov 04, 2012 12:44 pm

Any particular brands your would recommend? I saw some of Amazon's listing but seemed most are not reliable and require maintenance, such as Generac or Briggs and Stratton.

It would be great if one comes with an electric start, knowing that battery is an extra cost option, such as the Sportsman 7000 as someone suggested earlier.

http://www.homedepot.com/webapp/wcs/sto ... %2d%5f%2dN

Thanks.
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Re: Is it time to install a whole-house generator?

Postby Epsilon Delta » Sun Nov 04, 2012 3:03 pm

pshonore wrote:I think the simplest solution is a 5KW portable gasoline generator and three 5 gallon gas cans with a transfer switch. That will run your well pump, furnace, frig, some lights, TV, computer, etc (I would recommend a UPS/Battery backup for the PC to smooth out power fluctuations). Not sure there's an advanatge to Propane unless you have a large tank installed (100 gallons or more) for supply.


Ideally you'd also run the TV and other electronics off a UPS or filter. You get significant spikes when a pump or compressor motor turns on.

The advantages of propane are that you can store it indefinitely and it burns cleaner, which means the generator requires less maintenance.
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Re: Is it time to install a whole-house generator?

Postby Grt2bOutdoors » Sun Nov 04, 2012 4:02 pm

pshonore wrote:I think the simplest solution is a 5KW portable gasoline generator and three 5 gallon gas cans with a transfer switch. That will run your well pump, furnace, frig, some lights, TV, computer, etc (I would recommend a UPS/Battery backup for the PC to smooth out power fluctuations). Not sure there's an advanatge to Propane unless you have a large tank installed (100 gallons or more) for supply.


This option wouldn't have worked for Sandy. I was out 4 whole days, as you may be aware there are 1970 style gas lines and even then, some stations are limiting the amount of gas sold - one station was limiting purchases to $20 cash only purchases with rates of $4+ being charged per gallon. I'm now contemplating putting in a whole house generator that runs on natural gas, my reasoning being power has become unreliable, every storm with winds over 35mph results in power outages lasting more than 1-2 days. One of my neighbors stockpiled over 40 gal gas - he ran out.
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Re: Is it time to install a whole-house generator?

Postby linuxuser » Sun Nov 04, 2012 4:32 pm

I guess the question is whether you want the whole shebang while the power is out.
For me, I just want to "get by".

Did your neighbor who had the 40 gallons run his generator 24/7?

For me, I am thinking 1 or 2 of indoor portable propane heaters.
Run it for an hour 3x a time.

2Kw gasoline generator just for the refrigerator and gas water heater fan.

UPS for computer.

one butane hotplate like those sold at Asian supermarkets in case natural gas is disrupted.
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Re: Is it time to install a whole-house generator?

Postby livesoft » Sun Nov 04, 2012 4:33 pm

In a couple of years we may see posts of folks having dual generator systems: gasoliine and natural gas. Then in 10 years it will be gasoline, natural gas, and wind. Then ... gasoline, natural gas, wind, and human powered.

Perhaps we need a poll to see how long folks could go without any power. I know I've done backcountry trips of more than a week, but could go indefinitely, so being at home without power would be much more comfortable.
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Re: Is it time to install a whole-house generator?

Postby htdrag11 » Sun Nov 04, 2012 5:07 pm

3 of my neighbors have generators and 1 runs it 7x24 due to his inventory of expensive medicines needing refrigernation. He got a 60 gallon tank.
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Re: Is it time to install a whole-house generator?

Postby johnny72 » Sun Nov 04, 2012 5:47 pm

I bought a generator on sale at Home Depot about 5 years ago for $250. I had 5 gallons of gasoline in my garage ready to go. Lost power 10/29 at about 9:00 pm and it came on 10/30 at about 7:00 pm so about 22 hours without power. I had the generator running on the side-back patio inside my kids plastic house. Fit perfectly in there and kept it out of the weather.

I ran the generator 4 hours then turned it off for 4 hours then repeated. Overnight I just left it off for 8 hours. Before the power went out I turned the heat up to 74 just to buy us some time. It was about 12 hours before the temperature got down to 65 at which time I turned on the propane fire place.

For my $250 investment, my generator again saved all the food in my refrigerator and freezer, kept my sump pump going, kept my Internet connection on, charged my notebook, charged my family's iPhones, etc. Used about 3 gallons of gas in the 21 hours - if I would've run out of my 5 gallons I had a siphon hose ready to tap the 34 gallons in our two cars - we made sure to fill up Monday night.

The water in the 40 gallon hot water heater stayed hot the entire time the power was out with no external source heating it up. I checked it literally right before the power came back on and it was still hot! We have public water so that wasn't an issue at all.

My current setup works great if the power is off for less than two days. Anything more than that and I'd be wishing I had a whole-house generator but would never pay $20,000 for it.
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Re: Is it time to install a whole-house generator?

Postby LadyGeek » Sun Nov 04, 2012 6:12 pm

johnny72 wrote:Used about 3 gallons of gas in the 21 hours - if I would've run out of my 5 gallons I had a siphon hose ready to tap the 34 gallons in our two cars - we made sure to fill up Monday night.

On a side note, try to see if you can actually do that. I also had fuel in my car planned as a backup - except that the siphon tube was blocked when I inserted it inside the tank, no go.
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Re: Is it time to install a whole-house generator?

Postby Bengineer » Sun Nov 04, 2012 6:20 pm

pshonore wrote:I think the simplest solution is a 5KW portable gasoline generator and three 5 gallon gas cans with a transfer switch. That will run your well pump, furnace, frig, some lights, TV, computer, etc (I would recommend a UPS/Battery backup for the PC to smooth out power fluctuations). Not sure there's an advanatge to Propane unless you have a large tank installed (100 gallons or more) for supply.


An alternative to a transfer switch is an generator interlock kit. They're a simple mechanical device that requires turing the main breaker off prior to switching on the generator breaker and v-v. Much cheaper than a transfer switch and permit powering any circuit in the house. They're specific to the main panel mfr and so might or might not be available for the panel in your house. The big box home improvement stores seem to have them available for GE panels.
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Re: Is it time to install a whole-house generator?

Postby Aptenodytes » Sun Nov 04, 2012 6:54 pm

Grt2bOutdoors wrote:
pshonore wrote:I think the simplest solution is a 5KW portable gasoline generator and three 5 gallon gas cans with a transfer switch. That will run your well pump, furnace, frig, some lights, TV, computer, etc (I would recommend a UPS/Battery backup for the PC to smooth out power fluctuations). Not sure there's an advanatge to Propane unless you have a large tank installed (100 gallons or more) for supply.


This option wouldn't have worked for Sandy. I was out 4 whole days, as you may be aware there are 1970 style gas lines and even then, some stations are limiting the amount of gas sold - one station was limiting purchases to $20 cash only purchases with rates of $4+ being charged per gallon. I'm now contemplating putting in a whole house generator that runs on natural gas, my reasoning being power has become unreliable, every storm with winds over 35mph results in power outages lasting more than 1-2 days. One of my neighbors stockpiled over 40 gal gas - he ran out.

I think with a little parsimony you can stretch the gas out pretty far. During Sandy we were without power for five full days. We used a 5kw generator to keep the fridge and freezer cold, in addition to providing some creature comforts -- charging laptops and phones / running a lamp / and when it got below 60 degrees in the house running a space heater for a little while. We also ran an extension cord to our next-door neighbor who used it in a similar manner. We ran the generator about one hour out of every five. At the end of five days, when the power came back on, we had used a total of 15 gallons of gas. Our generator's tank holds 7 gallons, so that plus 15 gallons in gas cans would have been fine.

Next time around I will stock up on bigger gas cans. Although 15 gallons of gas in addition to what's in the generator was enough this time, next time I'd prefer a bigger cushion.
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Re: Is it time to install a whole-house generator?

Postby Aptenodytes » Sun Nov 04, 2012 7:02 pm

TomatoTomahto wrote:
TomatoTomahto wrote:EDITED TO ASK THE QUESTION THAT WAS THE WHOLE POINT OF THE THREAD :oops: : How sensible or foolhardy, from a purely financial standpoint, do you think it would be to purchase a whole-house generator?

I just got power back after a cold and uncomfortable 5 1/2 days in a house with my dear wife, two teenagers, 4 pets, and increasing cold. Just for laughs, I got a nasty head cold and cough.

I am retracting the financial aspect of my question. Not having this happen would be worth twice as much. My non-BH calculation is that we've spent this much and more on a vacation. Did we enjoy the vacation a lot more than we didn't enjoy the power outage? No. Install as soon as possible.

I hope we keep power during the winter storm expected next week. I have a feeling that the power was returned using duct tape and rubber bands.

Go for it! I totally understand.

We are sticking with a small portable generator for now, but if this happens a few more times may head down the same path as you.

It is interesting that you compare to vacations. When we lost power for 7 days last October, and 5 days this time, I kept telling myself that the experience is very similar to what we get when we camp, and we pay money to do that.
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Re: Is it time to install a whole-house generator?

Postby livesoft » Sun Nov 04, 2012 7:08 pm

Speaking of vacations, some folks in our area went to Disney World as soon as the airport was open after Hurricane Ike. It was either stay at home with no power or go away. Since school was not in session due to the storm and it was off-season, it was one of the perfect times to go.
It's all about short-term opportunistic rebalancing due to a short-term change in one's asset allocation, uh, I mean opportunistic rebalancing, uh I mean rebalancing, uh I mean market timing.
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Re: Is it time to install a whole-house generator?

Postby TomatoTomahto » Sun Nov 04, 2012 7:09 pm

livesoft wrote:Perhaps we need a poll to see how long folks could go without any power. I know I've done backcountry trips of more than a week, but could go indefinitely, so being at home without power would be much more comfortable.


In http://www.bogleheads.org/forum/viewtopic.php?f=2&t=104939, username Confused likens becoming a home-maker to raise children as "a 20-year sabbatical from work." I find your likening the experience of being home without power and heat to going camping equally silly.
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Re: Is it time to install a whole-house generator?

Postby livesoft » Sun Nov 04, 2012 7:14 pm

^ I dunno. Installing a whole-house generator for $5K to $20K that would rarely be used instead of spending $5K to $20K on camping equipment (or RV) or a vacation is an interesting choice. Our neighbors put their motor home in their driveway in the aftermath of Ike. They also have a generator for the house (he is a master electrician by trade).
It's all about short-term opportunistic rebalancing due to a short-term change in one's asset allocation, uh, I mean opportunistic rebalancing, uh I mean rebalancing, uh I mean market timing.
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Re: Is it time to install a whole-house generator?

Postby statsguy » Sun Nov 04, 2012 7:21 pm

Our power was off for two days. The sump was not working and we got a foot of water in the basement. We were away and when we got home the power had returned the water was gone and now we are looking at about $25K damage (only $2000 out of pocket since the insurance is covering the rest). We had only bought the house in September and are in the process of installing a propane powered whole house backup. Too bad we had not completed the work on installing the generator. Now we need new hardwood, new plaster, new tile, in our media room, bar, game room and the rest of the basement. Right now the old wet stuff is sitting in my driveway and I have seven dehumidifiers and several fans running. This will take several months to replace.

As to the question of how long without power. We found two days was our limit. Since we have well water, we had to use bottled water to flush the toilets and after two days of that when it is about 95 outside with high humidity... well we found the $100 bucks for a hotel well worth it.

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Last edited by statsguy on Sun Nov 04, 2012 7:23 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Is it time to install a whole-house generator?

Postby TomatoTomahto » Sun Nov 04, 2012 7:22 pm

livesoft wrote:^ I dunno. Installing a whole-house generator for $5K to $10K that would rarely be used instead of spending $5K to $10K on camping equipment (or RV) or a vacation is an interesting choice.

While I've enjoyed camping, I can assure you that the past week had no similarity to camping... just as being a home-maker has no similarity to a 20-year sabbatical from work.

Anyway, I previously raised the point that I came to the conclusion that I did not enjoy a $10-$20k vacation more than I "un-enjoyed" last week. Financial considerations settled to my personal satisfaction. YMMV. Like porn, I might not be able to describe exactly what was so disagreeable about last week, but I know it when I've experienced it. Value, for me, $25k if necessary.
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Re: Is it time to install a whole-house generator?

Postby Jack » Sun Nov 04, 2012 7:40 pm

jjg247 wrote:
linuxuser wrote:
dratkinson wrote:
linuxuser wrote:
jjg247 wrote:I will second the suggestion to get a hydro powered backup sump. This was our first outage using one and it worked perfectly. No moving parts, no batteries. We also went with base pump and will recommend that brand to any and all.


Do you have a link to this brand?


http://www.basepump.com/


They claim that with their kit, I can do it myself.
Did you do it yourself or hire someone?
I am not at all competent in this sort of stuff.


Hire someone. This install involves adding a new water pipe to your house. Look at their website and find your local supplier. I paid $350 to have it installed.

Check your local building codes first. In most jurisdictions, water powered sump pumps require the installation of a Reduced Pressure Zone (RPZ) backflow preventer by a licensed plumber. The backflow preventer may require annual testing and certification. The backflow preventer keeps contaminated water from your sump from entering the water mains and endangering you and your neighbors.

Also consider that these pumps waste tens of thousands of gallons of treated drinking water while in operation. They may work if your power outage is localized to your neighborhood but not such a good idea if the outage is regional. In a regional outage, your city's water treatment plant and pumps may also be out or running on backup generators. If you and all your neighbors are using water for sump pumps, you may be straining the public water supply during an emergency or even compromising safety for firefighting. It would be worth considering alternatives.
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Re: Is it time to install a whole-house generator?

Postby 02sbxstr » Sun Nov 04, 2012 7:45 pm

After the Irene and Halloween events last year in Conn, my wife was pretty hardover for a standby generator for Christmas. I wasn't far behind her. Thanksgiving weekend we placed an order for an 11 kW standby generator fueled by CH4 that was eventually installed at the end of June. It will power the entire house, including the AC, perhaps with a little load management. All installation was about $11k. It's a sunk cost that we are very comfortable with. We don't care if we recover the investment. Get the generator for the peace of mind.
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Re: Is it time to install a whole-house generator?

Postby TomatoTomahto » Sun Nov 04, 2012 7:50 pm

02sbxstr wrote:After the Irene and Halloween events last year in Conn, my wife was pretty hardover for a standby generator for Christmas. I wasn't far behind her. Thanksgiving weekend we placed an order for an 11 kW standby generator fueled by CH4 that was eventually installed at the end of June. It will power the entire house, including the AC, perhaps with a little load management. All installation was about $11k. It's a sunk cost that we are very comfortable with. We don't care if we recover the investment. Get the generator for the peace of mind.

Kudos to you for making the wise decision after 2 events. Took us 3 :D Hope to have it installed within a few weeks. If you don't mind my asking, why did it take from Thanksgiving to June? Was it getting permits and inspections?
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Re: Is it time to install a whole-house generator?

Postby linuxuser » Sun Nov 04, 2012 8:39 pm

Bengineer wrote:
pshonore wrote:I think the simplest solution is a 5KW portable gasoline generator and three 5 gallon gas cans with a transfer switch. That will run your well pump, furnace, frig, some lights, TV, computer, etc (I would recommend a UPS/Battery backup for the PC to smooth out power fluctuations). Not sure there's an advanatge to Propane unless you have a large tank installed (100 gallons or more) for supply.


An alternative to a transfer switch is an generator interlock kit. They're a simple mechanical device that requires turing the main breaker off prior to switching on the generator breaker and v-v. Much cheaper than a transfer switch and permit powering any circuit in the house. They're specific to the main panel mfr and so might or might not be available for the panel in your house. The big box home improvement stores seem to have them available for GE panels.


Thanks for the excellent tip!

I will have to check to see who the panel manufacturer is. Is it clearly visible on the fuse box?
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Re: Is it time to install a whole-house generator?

Postby linuxuser » Sun Nov 04, 2012 8:42 pm

TomatoTomahto wrote:
livesoft wrote:^ I dunno. Installing a whole-house generator for $5K to $10K that would rarely be used instead of spending $5K to $10K on camping equipment (or RV) or a vacation is an interesting choice.

While I've enjoyed camping, I can assure you that the past week had no similarity to camping... just as being a home-maker has no similarity to a 20-year sabbatical from work.

Anyway, I previously raised the point that I came to the conclusion that I did not enjoy a $10-$20k vacation more than I "un-enjoyed" last week. Financial considerations settled to my personal satisfaction. YMMV. Like porn, I might not be able to describe exactly what was so disagreeable about last week, but I know it when I've experienced it. Value, for me, $25k if necessary.


So, you are saying you want to be the guy who has his entire house lit up with lights as if nothing is wrong, while the rest of your neighbors are stuck in the freezing cold?

Somehow, it seems rather wasteful if not arrogant.
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Re: Is it time to install a whole-house generator?

Postby linuxuser » Sun Nov 04, 2012 8:44 pm

Jack wrote: If you and all your neighbors are using water for sump pumps, you may be straining the public water supply during an emergency or even compromising safety for firefighting. It would be worth considering alternatives.


Thanks for that advice. Good point!
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Re: Is it time to install a whole-house generator?

Postby TomatoTomahto » Sun Nov 04, 2012 8:56 pm

linuxuser wrote:
TomatoTomahto wrote:
livesoft wrote:^ I dunno. Installing a whole-house generator for $5K to $10K that would rarely be used instead of spending $5K to $10K on camping equipment (or RV) or a vacation is an interesting choice.

While I've enjoyed camping, I can assure you that the past week had no similarity to camping... just as being a home-maker has no similarity to a 20-year sabbatical from work.

Anyway, I previously raised the point that I came to the conclusion that I did not enjoy a $10-$20k vacation more than I "un-enjoyed" last week. Financial considerations settled to my personal satisfaction. YMMV. Like porn, I might not be able to describe exactly what was so disagreeable about last week, but I know it when I've experienced it. Value, for me, $25k if necessary.


So, you are saying you want to be the guy who has his entire house lit up with lights as if nothing is wrong, while the rest of your neighbors are stuck in the freezing cold?

Somehow, it seems rather wasteful if not arrogant.
My guess would be that 10% of homes here have wholehouse generators, and an additional 15% or so have portable generators.

Why is being prepared arrogant? Are they arrogant for spending the money on an RV or vacation instead? I was wondering why it was taking so long for the cult-like "more frugal than thou, shame on thou" post to arrive.
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Re: Is it time to install a whole-house generator?

Postby Dan999 » Sun Nov 04, 2012 9:01 pm

Quote from Linuxuser:
"So, you are saying you want to be the guy who has his entire house lit up with lights as if nothing is wrong, while the rest of your neighbors are stuck in the freezing cold?
Somehow, it seems rather wasteful if not arrogant"

We have a whole house (moslty) generator in our small rancher. There are a few additional homes in our neighborhood with these generators.
Most do not, but all of them could afford the $5,000 that it cost to install one. We do not take big vacations or travel, we are homebodies.
So I don't think it is arrogant, and I loaned a neighbor a small portable generator to save his refrigerator and when his power came on, I loaned it to a coworker to save his freezer. I will help our my neighbors as much as I can, but making sure my family is warm during a blizzard or comfortable in a heat wave is not arrogant.
It is being prepared as best you can.
No offense taken to your comment, but how everyone spends their money is a matter of what is important to them.
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Re: Is it time to install a whole-house generator?

Postby htdrag11 » Sun Nov 04, 2012 9:09 pm

Well, I found one alternative for about $230 power inverter that could run my 1/3 hp sump pump and/or 1/2 hp well pump from my car's cigarette lighter:

http://www.powerbright.com/pw2300-12.html

PW2300-12 2300 watts continuous/4600 watts peak
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