generator [Thinking about a generator]

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mouses
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generator [Thinking about a generator]

Post by mouses »

I've decided to get a generator. Too many power failures due to storms, too much freezing appendages off during a multi-day power outage, worrying about pipes freezing, and now it turns out that the advanced septic system state law requires I install in the next couple of years needs power to prevent backflow.

I think I should get one powered by natural gas and that goes on and off automatically. Gasoline and propane ones need frequent refilling, as I understand it, and I am too long in the tooth to be slogging out into the snow covered yard to mess with controls.

A relative has a Generac for his new house, but has not yet had it installed, so has no experience with it.

Any thoughts? Thank you.
Last edited by mouses on Tue Feb 09, 2016 1:15 am, edited 2 times in total.
ArmchairArchitect
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Re: generator

Post by ArmchairArchitect »

Look into the Tesla Home Battery.
wvmtnbkr
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Re: generator

Post by wvmtnbkr »

mouses wrote:I've decided to get a generator. Too many power failures due to storms, too much freezing appendages off during a multi-day power outage, worrying about pipes freezing, and now it turns out that the advanced septic system state law requires I install in the next couple of years needs power to prevent backflow.

I think I should get one powered by natural gas and that goes on and off automatically. Gasoline and propane ones need frequent refilling, as I understand it, and I am too long in the tooth to be slogging out into the yard to mess with controls.

A relative has a Generac for his new house, but has not yet had it installed, so has no experience with it.

Any thoughts? Thank you.
My former neighbor has a natural-gas powered genset and also installed them as a building contractor. My brother is also in the process of installing one as part of his house remodel/expansion. I've considered one for our house but, realistically, with my transfer switch I can run everything I need to with a largish gasoline-powered "portable" generator. I'm not an electrician, but here are some things to consider:

1. Appropriate sizing (capacity). The whole-house natural gas generators are nice, but consider if you really need to run "everything" in the house while on generator power. Qualified/experienced installer can help with this and ensure the load is properly balanced as necessary. For example, with my portable generator and my transfer switch/load balancing, I can power our kitchen, garage (where deep freeze and 2nd fridge reside) and (natural gas powered) furnace. I'm ok with that, as power outages are rarely longer than 12-24hrs here. Your situation may require the ability to run everything for several days.

2. Location near/adjacent to the house. Obviously, you want to site the generator in a location that is easy to install/service and can provide some protection from the weather and as close as practical to sufficient existing natural gas supply lines. Also, bear in mind that these generators can be loud, so the best site may not be adjacent to the bedroom. Also, want to make sure that the exhaust vents away from the house as much as possible.

3. Quality enclosure/protective housing. Again, want to provide protection, but also allow sufficient cooling/airflow during operation. A quality enclosure may also provide some level of noise attenuation.

4. Regularly-scheduled "exercise" program. For example, my neighbor's generator was programmed to start and run through a 20min operation cycle every Sunday morning @ 10am. This allowed time to get up to operating temp, perform self checks and then properly shut down.

5. Think about replacement cost. A generator is, at it's heart, simply an engine, and while it may not accumulate as many hours/miles as your car, it will still begin to deteriorate, especially if not maintained/exercised properly. THIS is a big reason why I haven't purchased one for our home. I can replace my portable generator for $500 if/when it dies and I'm also able to utilize it other places to run power tools/etc. if necessary. I can't justify paying $6K-$12K for something that will only be used intermittently and that I may need to replace/rebuild after 10 years.

Stephen
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tcassette
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Re: generator

Post by tcassette »

I too got tired of random power outages in our rural location. We have a well for water supply, so we needed enough electrical capacity to run the pump plus stuff in the house. We got a Generac 22kw installed last October, powered by LP gas since we have no natural gas lines nearby. We have had no power outages since then to "enjoy" it. I do have it set to do an exercise test once per month, which it has done automatically without problems. It is positioned so the engine exhaust points away from the house, resulting in a fairly low noise level when running. It has an automatic transfer switch, and it will automatically load-shed the heat pump HVAC system if too many other loads are on at the same time; the heat pump gets added back on automatically after a few minutes. All in all, I am glad we went with this solution versus a smaller gasoline powered portable generator which would have entailed keeping fresh fuel on hand, lots of extension cords, and insufficient capacity to run the HVAC. Just be sure to find an experienced contractor to provide sales and installation.
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BTDT
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Re: generator

Post by BTDT »

There is huge unknown benefit to purchasing a standby generator. I purchased a 16kw Generac seven years ago and my neighborhood has not had a power outage since. I have yet to convince my neighbors of their good fortune from my spending :oops:
If past history was all that is needed to play the game of money, the richest people would be librarians.
Ron
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Re: generator

Post by Ron »

BTDT wrote:There is huge unknown benefit to purchasing a standby generator. I purchased a 16kw Generac seven years ago and my neighborhood has not had a power outage since. I have yet to convince my neighbors of their good fortune from my spending :oops:
Funny (or sad?).

Yes, the same thing happened to me after having a Generac 20KW unit installed three years ago, along with six other homes in the neighborhood (that I know of).

We had been having outages on a consistent basis for years (and multi days on the 2011 Halloween nor'easter and then again the next year with Superstorm Sandy in 2012). After we had our genset installed in the spring of 2013, we recorded 10 outages the first 10 months (some a few minutes, some a few hours).

Since I now had a log of when/how long all the outages were, I contacted the local utility with the information. They checked their records and could only account for two of the ten I recorded but after reviewing more closely (they "threw out" the minor outages) they agreed that my records matched theirs.

They put measuring equipment on the line that fed our (and two other) developments and found that the auto-switching equipment (installed decades earlier) were not working correctly. The result was that they replaced the two switches and added a third (to provide additional redundancy).

Other than one 20-minute outage (unknown reason) and one planned outage (for line maintenance) since they replaced the failing switches, we have not had an outage :annoyed

Oh well, it's a sunk cost and it is like home/car insurance. Nice to have, but hope you don't need it...

FWIW,

- Ron
Broken Man 1999
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Re: generator

Post by Broken Man 1999 »

The "whole house" generators are great. Some are auto-starting, and "exercise" themselves periodically. As well, the prices can be attractive.

However, I have been reluctant to have one installed at my home because I worry that with the increased size and load, the fuel supply becomes problematic. So we have a portable generator that is fed by a line off a large LP tank that also feeds our grill and fireplace logs. The gas head is right where we stage the generator, plug it into our transfer electrical box, test system, and wait for the lights to go out.

Unless one has a gigormous LP tank or other fuel storage onsite, you run the risk of exhausting your fuel supply if your outage lasts more than a few days, the sooner the larger your generator.

If money was no object, and the various authorities permitted, I would bury a huge LP tank, install a whole house generator, and ride out any storm in comfort.

Broken Man 1999
“If I cannot drink Bourbon and smoke cigars in Heaven then I shall not go. " -Mark Twain
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jimb_fromATL
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Re: generator

Post by jimb_fromATL »

If you don't mind the money, it would be hard to beat a permanent installation with electric start and that runs on natural gas. It is inconvenient and tiresome -- and not outstandingly safe-- to have to refill the gas tank on portable generators every few hours of running time.

Plus, it's not safe or practical to store enough gas to get through several days of power outages, and the gas deteriorates with age. Then during prolonged area-wide power outages due to bad winter weather like ice-storms and heavy snowstorms that tear down the power lines, you may not be able to buy more gas. Even if you have 4WD to get to a gas station, they may be out of power (or sold out) and unable to pump gas either. Been there, done that.

If you do go with a portable unit of more than perhaps 3KW to 4KW, I'd suggest you get one with electric start. The bigger ones can be pretty hard to start when they're extremely cold.
ArmchairArchitect wrote:Look into the Tesla Home Battery.
A Tesla home battery and solar panels may be a nice gesture if you want to save the planet and don't mind the price or if you live in Hawaii where sun is plentiful and cheap but electricity is not, but it is virtually useless as a backup for anything except very short power outages. The choices are a storage capacity of 7KW or 10KW, which is about 2 to 3 hours of running time for an under-$300 3KW generator from someplace like Harbor Freight .. at probably at least 10 to 20 times the price by the time you pay for the inverter and installation. And that's if you come up with some way to charge it from the grid instead of spending many thousand dollars more for solar panels to charge it.

jimb
Last edited by jimb_fromATL on Mon Feb 08, 2016 12:52 pm, edited 1 time in total.
rgs92
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Re: generator

Post by rgs92 »

Get a Kohler natural gas whole house one. They work great. Pretty quiet too.
Remember there is maintenance. The installer (an electrician shop) charges about $780/year.
Worked great for days on end in 2 major storms. I consider it a necessity with all the new storms these days.
Last edited by rgs92 on Mon Feb 08, 2016 5:34 pm, edited 4 times in total.
samsmith
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Re: generator

Post by samsmith »

I got a Generax. Hooked into a natural gas line with auto start. And...

No power outages in the 12 months since the install
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Re: generator

Post by Ron »

Broken Man 1999 wrote:Unless one has a gigormous LP tank or other fuel storage onsite, you run the risk of exhausting your fuel supply if your outage lasts more than a few days, the sooner the larger your generator.
Since we don't have NG in our development, we had a 500gal propane (underground) tank installed. Depending on the load, we should be good for 4-7 days (x 24-hours) before needing any replacement propane.

FYI, propane allows the genset to run at its full rated capacity. If you hook it up to an NG line, you'll have a 10% reduction in output. For instance, our 20kw unit would run at 18kw rather than 20kw on propane as it does now. Additionally a 20kw will provide 83.3 amps on propane vs. 75 amps on NG. Does 2kw mean much? Only your application can determine that.

- Ron
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Re: generator

Post by whomever »

"Unless one has a gigormous LP tank or other fuel storage onsite, you run the risk of exhausting your fuel supply if your outage lasts more than a few days, the sooner the larger your generator."

All very true.

Nothing beats the nice permanent install, auto cutover whole house generator run off natural gas or the 1000 gallon diesel or propane tank. You barely notice when the power goes out, and you have large amounts of power for e.g. a deep well pump, or AC in a got climate.

But for the penny pinchers, one of the Honda (or similar) small generators is pretty slick. We have the 2000W one. The only loads we support are the 600W furnace blower and 400W fridge (and a CFL/LED lamp and chargers for all the neighbor's cell phones :-) ). Those are intermittent loads, and the inverter generators throttle waaaaay back when there isn't a load. In practice, we run the fridge and furnace on 1 to 2 quarts of gasoline a day. A pair of 5 gallon gas cans in the shed thus gives us a three week supply. It's quit enough you can't hear it 100 ft away, or inside the house. It weighs 40 some pounds; it's luggable like a suitcase.

You do have to mess with the generator a little - start it in the morning (we turn the heat off overnight), fill it with gas every day or two, etc.
It's not for everyone - no microwave, no electric water heater or oven, etc. We are inveterate backpackers, so cooking on the coleman stove and so on don't seem like a hardship to us. For the last outage here, we were doing neighborhood spaghetti feeds. YMMV, of course.

This is in sharp contrast to the 4 or 5KW 'contractor' type generators. We had one of those and gave it away. That weighed a couple hundred pounds and dragging it from the shed through the snow was an ordeal, it was way louder than a gas lawnmower, and it sucked gallons per day at any load
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bltkmt
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Re: generator

Post by bltkmt »

I went with a Kohler 20kW whole-house generator after Sandy swept through here a few years ago. My contractor recommended Kohler over Generac. Ours is a propane model and we have 4 100lb bottles in the yard, daisy-chained. Our kitchen and furnace run off propane as well, so I think we would only get 3-4 days of generator power during a winter outage. Like many abovers, we have not lost power since we installed the thing. :oops:
Call_Me_Op
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Re: generator

Post by Call_Me_Op »

My main concerns with one of these are:

1.) They tend to be noisy, getting neighbors up in arms.

2.) They need to be kept clear of snow. This would be very inconvenient in an area prone to blizzards - which is when you are likely to need the generator.

I think if you can house one in a shed with forced ventilation and an exhaust system, and you are not too close to neighbors, you may be OK. It won't be cheap, though.
Best regards, -Op | | "In the middle of difficulty lies opportunity." Einstein
user5027
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Re: generator

Post by user5027 »

Happy to share my thoughts.

We have a 8kw (13.5kw starting) Briggs & Stratton electric start, gasoline portable.

In July 2006 the area was subject to river flooding. We did not need to evacuate but when lower properties in the area are threatened the utility turns off circuits (including ours) in the area to avoid the water/electricity - burning down houses issue. After the flooding recedes, the utility inspects the properties, pulls the meters on the ones that are damaged and turns the circuit back on. Our power was already off for a day and was going to be off for a few more days so I went to Home Depot at 6am to buy a 5 kw. Figured I'd spend $600 and run a couple extension chords for bare essentials (fridge, lights, coffee maker and well pump). With my market timing skills, they had zero 5kw's left and only one like I bought priced at $1,250. The saleslady saw me pondering and said I can give you 10% off if you open a credit card. I did it and am glad I did. (I used that credit card to pay DD's college tuition with no fees and was rewarded a new fridge - I digress).

A few months later we decided to have an electrician put a generator disconnect/sub-panel in for key circuits, more than the bare essentials and a weatherproof twist lock hook-up for cable from generator on side of house near panels. Cost $975. Other quote was $1,600.

We use to keep the generator in the shed and wheel it 200 feet to use. Now I park it beside the plug on house next to AC with a tarp over it. When needed I move it 10 feet from house, open fuel valve, set choke, start it, plug in cable, flip breaker on generator after warmed up then go to basement and flip disconnect. My planned projects include building a lightweight "dog house" for it that can shelter it while running. I run it each month for 15 minutes and check oil. The battery does not hold a charge and I've not bothered replacing since the engine always starts on the second pull. If I did one thing different, I'd put a weatherproof outlet in beside the plug for the trickle charger that the generator came with. May add that later.

Fuel tank holds 7 gallons and will run about 10 hours full. I have 3 five gallon cans. We do not have natural gas in area so only alternate fuel would be an LP tank/service. Respect gasoline. We only fuel after generator has cooled. We do not run it while not home and fuel before starting when we return. Neighbors down the road burned their house down fueling a hot generator in the garage. We were trapped several hours that day. Road flooded north and fire apparatus blocked us south. I'm sure they had insurance. He is an actuary.

In contrast shortly after me, work put in a LP Kohler 30kw, automatic disconnect, two concrete pads (for unit and 500 gallon LP tank) and privacy fencing. Probably ran around $40k and they had a $600 annual service / emergency maintenance contract.

We have used ours about two dozen times in almost 10 years. My wife calls the generator Sparky. About $90 per use + fuel, so far. I only use it when power is off for several hours. We have a wood stove for heat. That is another topic.
ddurrett896
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Re: generator

Post by ddurrett896 »

mouses wrote: A relative has a Generac for his new house, but has not yet had it installed, so has no experience with it.
If your power doesn't go out but a few time a year,I would go with a portable Generac generator 8,000 watts+ and back feed you panel. Depending on the size of the generator and your house, you might not be able to use every breaker at once, but every break will be available when needed.

The generator and setup will run around $2,500 and buy a couple 5 gallon gas cans or a used water buffalo if your near a military base that auctions them.
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TomatoTomahto
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Re: generator

Post by TomatoTomahto »

jimb_fromATL wrote: -
ArmchairArchitect wrote:Look into the Tesla Home Battery.
A Tesla home battery and solar panels may be a nice gesture if you want to save the planet and don't mind the price or if you live in Hawaii where sun is plentiful and cheap but electricity is not, but it is virtually useless as a backup for anything except very short power outages. The choices are a storage capacity of 7KW or 10KW [snip]...
jimb
I should connect my Tesla automobile to the house; it's 90 KW. :D

Just kidding, I already have a generator, but wanted to recommend Kohler. After Superstorm Sandy, we'd had enough of week-long power outages. One neighbor had a Kohler, another had a Generac. Same vintage, same power. The Kohler was much quieter, and our electrician preferred that brand.
I get the FI part but not the RE part of FIRE.
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jimb_fromATL
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Re: generator

Post by jimb_fromATL »

whomever wrote:" ...But for the penny pinchers, one of the Honda (or similar) small generators is pretty slick. We have the 2000W one. The only loads we support are the 600W furnace blower and 400W fridge (and a CFL/LED lamp and chargers for all the neighbor's cell phones :-) ). Those are intermittent loads, and the inverter generators throttle waaaaay back when there isn't a load. In practice, we run the fridge and furnace on 1 to 2 quarts of gasoline a day. A pair of 5 gallon gas cans in the shed thus gives us a three week supply. It's quit enough you can't hear it 100 ft away, or inside the house. It weighs 40 some pounds; it's luggable like a suitcase.

You do have to mess with the generator a little - start it in the morning (we turn the heat off overnight), fill it with gas every day or two, etc.
It's not for everyone - no microwave, no electric water heater or oven, etc. We are inveterate backpackers, so cooking on the coleman stove and so on don't seem like a hardship to us. For the last outage here, we were doing neighborhood spaghetti feeds. YMMV, of course..."


Glad it works for you, and those little Honda generators --while very expensive-- are super-quiet and portable, and thus useful for a lot of other things.

However, lower-power generators like that can cause problems for folks who have anything more than very light and well controlled or coordinated loads. Motors like furnace air blowers (and combustion pumps in oil furnaces), refrigerators, and well pumps take a lot more power when the motor starts, and the smaller generators may not be able to keep the voltage high enough to avoid a "brown-out", especially if more than one motor happens to be starting up at the same instant.

It can be even worse with "spaghetti feeds" like you mention to a lot of different places that you can't control and balance the load. The voltage drop on a long extension cord or any other small-gauge electrical wiring during a motor startup, or the generator voltage drop when another motor tries to start while the generator is near maximum capacity, Is even more likely to cause a motor that can't get enough instantaneous power at start-up to possibly burn up.

To illustrate the problem of using a generator that is too small:

An elderly neighbor at our second home in NC had a 3500 watt or so generator wired to run his house with a cutover switch. It was in his garage/shop some distance from the house, with a big auxiliary gas tank so he didn't have to attend to it often.

When he installed it, he knew that he had to turn off most appliances and other devices in order to run others. Unfortunately he was becoming forgetful in his old age. A few years ago during a prolonged power outage due to ice storms, he left several things on instead of alternately unplugging various appliances. (He had known better in the past, but just plain forgot).

By the time the generator finally melted its windings, he had burned up his freezer, refrigerator, washing machine, microwave oven, furnace motor, and two TV sets from running them too long under low-voltage "brown out" conditions. Thousands of dollars in damage -- and none covered by homeowner’s insurance because it was his own negligence. :(

jimb
jpa
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Re: generator

Post by jpa »

I worked at a major national big box home improvement store in college, and we had a winter where sold hundreds to thousands of generators. I learned a couple things: 1) The brands are NOT all the same and 2) it's hard to beat a Generac. I'm not sure I could be convinced to buy anything else, if I ever decided to purchase one. Also, READ THE DIRECTIONS. Doing the first oil change per the directions is extremely important.
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mouses
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Re: generator

Post by mouses »

jimb_fromATL wrote:If you don't mind the money, it would be hard to beat a permanent installation with electric start and that runs on natural gas. It is inconvenient and tiresome -- and not outstandingly safe-- to have to refill the gas tank on portable generators every few hours of running time.
Electric start? But, uh, the idea is there is no electricity :D am I missing something here? How does a permanently installed natural gas generator start when the power goes out? Is there an automatically recharging battery dedicated to this?

ddurrett896 wrote:
If your power doesn't go out but a few time a year,I would go with a portable Generac generator 8,000 watts+ and back feed you panel. Depending on the size of the generator and your house, you might not be able to use every breaker at once, but every break will be available when needed.

The generator and setup will run around $2,500 and buy a couple 5 gallon gas cans or a used water buffalo if your near a military base that auctions them.
We lost power for several days a year or two ago. It was unbelievable in the house in New England in the winter. My understanding is a gasoline powered generator needs refilling every few hours, so either the garage is filled with enough gasoline to blow the neighborhood to kingdom come, or I'd be out of luck since gas stations have no way to pump gas with no electricity. Plus, roads snowed in and so forth.
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jimb_fromATL
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Re: generator

Post by jimb_fromATL »

mouses wrote:
jimb_fromATL wrote:If you don't mind the money, it would be hard to beat a permanent installation with electric start and that runs on natural gas. It is inconvenient and tiresome -- and not outstandingly safe-- to have to refill the gas tank on portable generators every few hours of running time.
Electric start? But, uh, the idea is there is no electricity :D am I missing something here? How does a permanently installed natural gas generator start when the power goes out? Is there an automatically recharging battery dedicated to this?
Electric start like your car or truck or lawn tractor, using its own 12 volt battery. The portable units that have them recharge their own battery just like your car. (A lot of them even have 12-volt outlets) And just like a car, if the battery is dead --which it probably will be if you don't leave it on a trickle charger-- you can start it with a battery jumper box or jumper cables. Lacking all of the above, you can still --hopefully-- start it with the pull cord.

The permanently installed ones maintain the battery level with trickle-charge, then recharge it more aggressively after it has been used to start the engine.

jimb
Last edited by jimb_fromATL on Mon Feb 08, 2016 3:36 pm, edited 2 times in total.
user5027
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Re: generator

Post by user5027 »

mouses wrote: Electric start? But, uh, the idea is there is no electricity :D am I missing something here? How does a permanently installed natural gas generator start when the power goes out? Is there an automatically recharging battery dedicated to this?

Yes. Part of why it self-runs every week. The generator recharges the battery.
FandangoDave5010
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Re: generator

Post by FandangoDave5010 »

We decided not to install a Generic propane generator when Solar City came out with its home battery/solar panel scheme in May, 2015. Now that Nevada's PUC has eliminated "net metering" which made the whole scheme feasible, our new plan is to forget about backup power and go to a nice hotel for the night.
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TomatoTomahto
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Re: generator

Post by TomatoTomahto »

FandangoDave5010 wrote:We decided not to install a Generic propane generator when Solar City came out with its home battery/solar panel scheme in May, 2015. Now that Nevada's PUC has eliminated "net metering" which made the whole scheme feasible, our new plan is to forget about backup power and go to a nice hotel for the night.
What we learned, during Superstorm Sandy, is that even if you can drive your car there, more than likely the hotel is fully booked with other people who made the same decision and don't have pets to bring along.
I get the FI part but not the RE part of FIRE.
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jimb_fromATL
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Re: generator

Post by jimb_fromATL »

FandangoDave5010 wrote:We decided not to install a Generic propane generator when Solar City came out with its home battery/solar panel scheme in May, 2015. Now that Nevada's PUC has eliminated "net metering" which made the whole scheme feasible, our new plan is to forget about backup power and go to a nice hotel for the night.
It's not always that easy. When we had no choice but to be in NC when an ice storm came in and destroyed the power for 10 days to two weeks in the Piedmont Triad area of NC a couple of years ago, the nearest hotel or motel we could find at any price that had any openings was over 70 miles away. Even if we did not have a compelling need to stay, we could not have left the area to go back to Georgia the first day or two because the highways in SC on the route were impassable.

I had made reservations online at a Motel 6 -- which was the only place with openings any closer-- that was only 35 miles away, only to find when we got there that their central reservation system didn't know that the motel was closed with no power -- because the computer and communications links were down.

I had passed by a Day's Inn several miles closer that like many others was closed and empty because of no electric power when I drove by it on the way to the Motel 6.

But when I came back by, I noticed that the office appeared to be open and there were a few cars in the parking lot. Turns out they had just gotten the power back on but their communications network (such as cable, internet and telephone) were still down. Since they could not process credit cards, they were accepting cash only, and not accepting reservations. Luckily we had the cash on hand for the first night. We got in with little time to spare, because they filled up within a few minutes with nothing but word-of-mouth advertising by people who lived in the area.

jimb
Ron
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Re: generator

Post by Ron »

Call_Me_Op wrote:My main concerns with one of these are:

1.) They tend to be noisy, getting neighbors up in arms.

2.) They need to be kept clear of snow. This would be very inconvenient in an area prone to blizzards - which is when you are likely to need the generator.
Some thoughts:

1. My neighbor has a 20kw unit - same as us. The larger units (ours included) have automotive mufflers, not the small mufflers found on most portables. I could hardly hear his when we were out during SS Sandy and the previous year's snow and the entire neighborhood was quiet. Now that we have one, we don't hear his at all and ours is hardly heard inside our home.

2. We just went through a 30" snowfall two weeks ago. I cleared the input/output engine and generator vents once during the storm (it never came on). During our numerous outages in the past, they occurred with no snow at all (Sandy, for instance), or during the middle of the summer heat. Sure, it may be a PIA to clear the vents during a heavy snow, but I would rather do that than be without power. Anyway, if the genset would start up during a heavy snow, you would only have to clear the input side vents - not the exhaust. The heat output would just melt the snow :mrgreen: ...

We replaced our 5500 portable with the 20kw unit. Believe me, the smaller portable does generate a lot more noise than the larger unit which is enclosed in a noise reducing case, along with the automotive muffler. Additionally, we don't have to worry about keeping the static unit out of the weather, which was a challenge with the smaller unit - let alone running all the extension cords. And of course, we now have enough "juice" to run all the 220v direct wired devices without concern of manually hooking up to a manual switch and only running certain devices.

For us, a main consideration is to have power to our (all electric) home at all times - even when we are away on travel for weeks at a time. It keeps the sump pump working and the fridge cold (with no spoilage of food). Two problem areas during our multi-day outages.

Another minor thing is that when we return from our trips, I can check the log to see if/when outages occured. It's good to know that we can leave the house for extended periods of time without worry about the "physical plant" as a house may be considered.

FWIW,

- Ron
Rattlesnake
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Re: generator

Post by Rattlesnake »

We have a 15KW Generac powered by NG.... It's nice to know that when we are away the pipes don't freeze, the sump pump does it's thing, the fridge and freezer don't go south, and if we are here; we have lights, heat, and the other comforts... Most of the neighbors do the same thing so noise is no issue....

No regrets going on 11 years....

Just my $0.02....
9th Infantry Division LRRP (Ranger) | 1968-69
whomever
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Re: generator

Post by whomever »

@jimb_fromATL:

"However, lower-power generators like that can cause problems for folks who have anything more than very light and well controlled or coordinated loads. Motors like furnace air blowers (and combustion pumps in oil furnaces), refrigerators, and well pumps take a lot more power when the motor starts"

Well, with a 600W+400W load, and those only if they run at the same time, and a 2000W generator, we haven't seen problems. The startup surges aren't large on our furnace or fridge; of course people should check theirs. You could run them alternately if desired.

"It can be even worse with "spaghetti feeds" like you mention..."

I don't see how the spaghetti feed affects the generator. It involves a big pot of water on the coleman (propane) stove, wine for the adults, and lots of neighbors glad for a hot meal. The only electricity involved was some AA batteries driving some of those LED fake candles :-)

I concur that generator hookups should not depend on complicated procedures; too easy to get wrong at the time.
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jimb_fromATL
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Re: generator

Post by jimb_fromATL »

whomever wrote:@jimb_fromATL:

"However, lower-power generators like that can cause problems for folks who have anything more than very light and well controlled or coordinated loads. Motors like furnace air blowers (and combustion pumps in oil furnaces), refrigerators, and well pumps take a lot more power when the motor starts"

Well, with a 600W+400W load, and those only if they run at the same time, and a 2000W generator, we haven't seen problems. The startup surges aren't large on our furnace or fridge; of course people should check theirs. You could run them alternately if desired.

"It can be even worse with "spaghetti feeds" like you mention..."

I don't see how the spaghetti feed affects the generator. It involves a big pot of water on the coleman (propane) stove, wine for the adults, and lots of neighbors glad for a hot meal. The only electricity involved was some AA batteries driving some of those LED fake candles :-)

I concur that generator hookups should not depend on complicated procedures; too easy to get wrong at the time.
Oh! that's different! Never mind.

In my business before I retired (which after 25 years my wife still refers to as "when you had a job") the term "spaghetti" in connection with electrical wiring meant a lot of wires going out in all directions in a tangle like spaghetti. So I thought you meant a "spaghetti " of feeder wires going to some nearby neighbor's houses to give them some electric lights too.

jimb
FoolStreet
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Re: generator [Thinking about a natural gas powered generator]

Post by FoolStreet »

Any experience or advice in using a Prius?
Beth*
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Re: generator [Thinking about a natural gas powered generator]

Post by Beth* »

I have a Generac generator which is run by natural gas. Before you get any estimates, think about what it is essential for you to power. The cost of the generator will depend upon the number of circuits you want to run and things like air conditioners or electric clothes dryers may require multiple circuits. We listed our electric appliances in order of importance: sump pump, fan for forced air gas heat, refrigerator, basic lights on first and second floor, computer, etc. and when we met with installers we went down our list. They were able to tell us where the cut point was on our list that would require a generator in the next size and therefore increase the cost. We got some things way down on our list because they happened to be on circuits that were a higher priority. For example, running the automatic garage door opener wasn't even on our list (it can be detached and the garage door can be opened manually). However, in our mid-20th century house it turned out to be on the same circuit as the refrigerator.
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jimb_fromATL
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Re: generator [Thinking about a natural gas powered generator]

Post by jimb_fromATL »

FoolStreet wrote:Any experience or advice in using a Prius?
If you're talking about using its traction battery as an energy source, even if it were possible it wouldn't be very useful. The Prius battery only stores about 1.3 KWH of energy. Plus, to make the battery last as long as it does, it is never charged to much if any over 80% of that capacity or discharged to less than about 20% to 40% of the capacity. So it would be lucky to run your refrigerator or furnace or a few lights for more than about an hour before the battery was discharged.

jimb
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mouses
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Re: generator

Post by mouses »

jimb_fromATL wrote:
Oh! that's different! Never mind.

In my business before I retired (which after 25 years my wife still refers to as "when you had a job") the term "spaghetti" in connection with electrical wiring meant a lot of wires going out in all directions in a tangle like spaghetti. So I thought you meant a "spaghetti " of feeder wires going to some nearby neighbor's houses to give them some electric lights too.

jimb
Me, too.
whomever
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Re: generator [Thinking about a generator]

Post by whomever »

"Any experience or advice in using a Prius?"

Again in the cheapskate department, you can get something like a 1500 to 2000 watt inverter in the $100 to $200 range, and use the car alternator as a generator. I know someone who does that (fairly warm climate, fairly infrequent power outages, only wants to run furnace intermittently).

Pro:
-it's really cheap
-your car usually stores a lot of gas :-)

Cons:
-check the sizing of your alternator; small cars might not have large enough alternators
-many of the cheap inverters don't produce a clean sine wave. Some motors, especially old ones, don't like that.

But, with a suitably sized alternator, it can be the cheapest option. If you only have very rare outages, don't want the hassle of storing gas, only have small loads, etc, it can work.
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dratkinson
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Re: generator [Thinking about a generator]

Post by dratkinson »

Search forum for past topic on using a Prius as a backup power source. Search some combination of: prius emergency generator power outage.

Recall owner used an inverter (1KW?) and extension cords to power home essentials for several days. Said Prius sensed battery depletion and gas engine auto-started to recharge battery. Recall Prius was parked in detached garage. Said it used little fuel and worked well.

Also recall reading internet article describing similar method.



Update. As an interesting concept (using a hybrid as a generator) went looking to see what was new and found this:

Plug-Out Kits: 2-5KW, 120-240v inverters powered from a Prius: http://www.converdant.biz/plug-out/

Now if only a Prius came in AWD, ground clearance for our unplowed streets, and sufficient headroom for a long torso, I would be interested in looking further at this multi-function solution. And while we are wishing, let's make it self-driving too. :)
Last edited by dratkinson on Sun Feb 14, 2016 10:35 am, edited 1 time in total.
d.r.a., not dr.a. | I'm a novice investor, you are forewarned.
c078342
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Re: generator [Thinking about a generator]

Post by c078342 »

We had a Gillette Sentry-Pro 12 kw unit installed a few years ago after the New England late fall storms that left us powerless for 3 or 4 days at a time. She who must be obeyed determined that a standby was required. (I agreed.) Total installation by a local supplier was about $12k, including the natural gas hook-up and transfer panel. This generator will pretty much power the whole house -- maybe we'd have to manage the load if we had the A/C on, was washing and drying, and had all the televisions on. We've had no long-term outage since (of course) but have had a few 2-3 hour outages. We're glad we have it -- maintenance (basically an oil change) is $200 / year (but I have 2 Porsches with $350 oil changes, so I'm oblivious). Of the 30 homes in out Association, about half have standby units. My only words of caution would be to build it up a foot or two if you live a a snow belt area, because it needs to be able to breathe (and exhaust).
UALflyer
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Re: generator

Post by UALflyer »

rgs92 wrote:Remember there is maintenance. The installer (an electrician shop) charges about $780/year.
What in the world do they do for that? We have a huge whole house natural gas powered permanently installed generator, which powers multiple a/c systems, etc... The only maintenance that it requires is an oil change once every two years (our handyman does it for us), plus $45 or so for a battery every 5 years or so.
Last edited by UALflyer on Sun Feb 14, 2016 6:04 pm, edited 1 time in total.
UALflyer
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Re: generator

Post by UALflyer »

wvmtnbkr wrote:I can't justify paying $6K-$12K for something that will only be used intermittently and that I may need to replace/rebuild after 10 years.
I have never heard of permanently installed natural gas generators that have to be replaced/rebuilt every 10 years. With minimal maintenance, they last virtually forever.
Dan999
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Re: generator [Thinking about a generator]

Post by Dan999 »

We have the installer come out 2 x a year for $300.
Change oil, inspect system including leaks, pressure and electrical system and test run.
Change battery every 3 years and air filter as needed. Last one lasted 5 years.
Somewhat on the high side, but I want it to be ready to run when I want it to. My form of an insurance premium.
Dan999
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