Whole Home Generator Advice

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aburntoutcase
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Whole Home Generator Advice

Post by aburntoutcase »

We are first time home owners moving into a Northern NJ suburb in July (home closing is actually in a couple of weeks this month) and want to get a whole home standby generator.

Regarding relevant details of the home it is a 4,300 sq ft home with the first floor being approx 2,400 sq ft. Second floor has 5 bedrooms but only 3 will be occupied. The kitchen oven is gas operated, not electric. Hot water is heated using gas too, the house is heated with a gas-fired steam boiler for some rooms and a gas-fired hot air furnace for others and has 3 Central AC systems. The inspection report says the main service disconnect has a capacity of 200 amperes, 240/120 volt electric service. Circuit breakers are in the basement. The basement also has two sump pumps which we might need to work if power outage coincides with a severe storm.

What capacity generator do we need to support normal functioning of the whole home? Will a 20,000 Watt generator be sufficient? Also can we get by with a cheaper air cooled generator or should we consider a liquid cooled generator? It is also not clear to me whether to spring for a three phase or if a single phase generator is sufficient. In the past few years Northern NJ suburbs have experienced power outages of 2-3 days in some cases after major storms.

Also what should one expect in terms of installation costs?

Thanks very much for your responses!
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Harry Livermore
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Re: Whole Home Generator Advice

Post by Harry Livermore »

I think you would be fine with a 20K or 22K. You should get a pro to spec it though.
We got a 27K but we are also running a well pump, hydronic baseboard heat/ oil burner, and central AC (outages/ hurricanes happen in all kinds of weather) and electric ovens and dryer. Your peak demand would likely be lower than ours, since you are running natural gas (for, I suspect, cooktop, maybe ovens, and maybe dryer; you indicated heat and hot water)
Ours is a Generac liquid-cooled QuietSource. It's basically a Mitsubishi 2.4L inline 4-cylinder car engine. Once it starts up, it does a quick diagnostic and settles into a steady 1800 RPM. MUCH quieter than an air-cooled. We installed an auto-transfer switch. It starts up every Wednesday at 2:00 pm and runs for 10 minutes or so. When there is an outage, the generator starts up, runs the diagnostic, and the ATS switches the power source from the grid to the generator. That process is literally under 15 seconds. When the computer senses line voltage on the grid, the ATS switches back, the generator runs for a short while and powers back down. That direction is seamless.
I do the annual maintenance, basically an oil & filter change, an air filter change, spark plugs every couple years, coolant flush every couple years. I had to replace the starter a couple years ago (in the dead of winter of course, and after purchasing it from the local dealer for top dollar rather than a generic one from Amazon)
We do not have natural gas in the street where we are, so I buried a 1,000 gallon propane tank. If we ever do a major home renovation, I might have a gas cooktop installed in the kitchen and/ or a spigot for the outdoor grill, so I figured go with a big tank.
If I had to guess the cost breakdown went something like this. The generator was $9000. The transfer switch to automatically switch it back-and-forth was probably $400. Electricians labor was probably $1000. I hired a guy to pour a concrete slab for $500. The cost of the tank was probably another $1500. The cost to fill it with propane was probably another $2500. The charge from the excavating firm was probably $1000. There were probably some other small charges, permits, car battery from AutoZone, etc.
All-in maybe $17K? That was a 2013 installation.
Hope that helps.
Cheers
Last edited by Harry Livermore on Fri Jun 04, 2021 4:43 pm, edited 5 times in total.
fabdog
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Re: Whole Home Generator Advice

Post by fabdog »

you'll get lots of answers... but to make sure you get what's important to you I'd contact 2-3 companies that install Kohler/Generac in your area, and have them come out and walk thru your situation. Do you need all circuits to run? All 3 AC's? or just some

We have a house about half your size and a 20KW generator. It covers everything except the stove and dryer. That was about $10K 5 years ago.

I think if you want everything to run, you'll need something bigger...

Pay extra for an auto transfer switch...

Mike
HomeStretch
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Re: Whole Home Generator Advice

Post by HomeStretch »

Given the size of your house, consider having a couple generator companies come by to give you a quote/equipment sizing. Don’t be surprised by an install date that is months out due to demand and equipment shortages. Brush up on your town’s generator code (and permit/inspection requirements) as it will impact your site location. If your trenching for electrical and gas has to be hand dug (due to existing in-ground items like gas, irrigation, lighting, drainage), that can add significantly to the cost and you may need to find a landscaper to do it.

We have a 4,000 sq foot house with 3 A/C systems and just installed a Generac 27kw QuietSource liquid cooled standby generator that will power the entire house (no load shed required). We already had a 500 gallon propane tank installed. The cost was ~$16k (Sept. 2020 pricing). That excludes the costs of the 75-foot hand dug trench for the electrical as the generator location is away from the house and the cost to restore a few items damaged by the trenching (irrigation, drainage pipe).

You may want to add for an additional cost a cold weather kit, heavy duty battery and MobileLink to the install. For an additional cost, you can also get a Generac 10-year extended warranty and/or a maintenance agreement from the installer.
teCh0010
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Re: Whole Home Generator Advice

Post by teCh0010 »

You want the brand that someone local to you will come out and service.

Natural Gas, 22Kw or larger, protect all your furnace blowers but you probably don’t need to protect all the ACs. Carrying all three ACs may require a larger generator so if you can hold up in part of the house on one AC that’s better.

To do this right you need a plumber, electrician, and someone to pour a small concrete pad.
123
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Re: Whole Home Generator Advice

Post by 123 »

You might also want to include a back-up generator in your plans. You can never be too careful. Gotta keep that wi-fi going...
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yatesd
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Re: Whole Home Generator Advice

Post by yatesd »

You could always buy a Ford Lightning. :wink:

https://www.roadandtrack.com/news/a3647 ... r-feature/
quantAndHold
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Re: Whole Home Generator Advice

Post by quantAndHold »

Asking because I really don’t know…how does the price for something like this compare to a solar install and a Tesla Powerwall?
Yes, I’m really that pedantic.
tomd37
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Re: Whole Home Generator Advice

Post by tomd37 »

We are coming up on the first year anniversary of the installation of our air-cooled Generac 22 Kw natural gas fired generator with an automatic transfer switch (ATS). We can run everything in our home during any outage. The two HVAC units come on at different times, but both can operate at the same time. For pricing purposes, expect the installation cost to be about the same as the price of the unit itself. We had an authorized Generac dealer install the unit. They took care of all the electrical and gas turn off/on for the installation as well as all the local permits. They started at 9am and left at 2pm after getting approvals from the two utility companies.

Having companies come out for an on-site evaluation of your needs is very important. There are certain restrictions as to where the unit can be placed in relation to doors, windows, and HVAC units. We were very fortunate in our location in that the unit was placed on the same side of the home where the gas and electric comes into the home. No additional costs for lengthy runs. Our unit came with a 4-inch concrete pad. I suspect the pricing for various brands (e.g., Generac, Kohler, Cummins) for similar sized units are going to be fairly close to each other.

As in many cases, our installation was started/completed about four months after our 162 home community suffered a 69-hour power outage. Our next door neighbor has the same unit and was the only one that had power during those almost three days and was the envy of the neighborhood. :wink:
Tom D.
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Gmt21
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Re: Whole Home Generator Advice

Post by Gmt21 »

From personal experience I’d try to stay away from Generac. My local dealer installs and services generac and Kohler. We have a generac and have unfortunately gotten to know our tech quite well. When asked what brand would he buy for himself he said kohler. Easier to work on and less problems was his experience. Also, think about if you plan on any additions or other future improvements that may require a bigger generator.
DarthSage
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Re: Whole Home Generator Advice

Post by DarthSage »

We're getting one installed next month. Ours is costing ~$14k, all-in, and will cover everything but possibly the clothes dryer (my heart is breaking!). We have a similar sized house as yours.

We had a guy come out and spec it. We live in coastal NC, hurricanes are real here. During Florence, we were out of power for 4 days while my husband was locked in at work for 5 days. I think he still feels guilty, hence the generator. We were okay, just bored and sweaty.

Ours will kick in within a second or two of a power outage, powered by natural gas (which already runs to our house for hot water). I wish I could get the same thing for internet, because I know my kids are going to whine about no internet. Luckily, we own a large supply of books.
Carguy85
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Re: Whole Home Generator Advice

Post by Carguy85 »

About 6700 sq ft air conditioned space (including 2500sq ft basement) 2 air transfer heat pumps, gas auxiliary heat, gas water heater and cooktop. 100% led lighting. Kohler 20kw powers the whole panel and we have never had any issues with breakers flipping. It has worked perfect in auto mode since install 5 years ago..very pleased. I would not buy generac due to past experience with the brand..but that’s just me. 20kw is of the largest air cooled gens...much less expensive, easier to maintain, and certainly less complicated/less to go wrong than liquid cooled. KISS principle. The 20KW Kohler was a little under $8k installed (2016)
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TomatoTomahto
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Re: Whole Home Generator Advice

Post by TomatoTomahto »

quantAndHold wrote: Fri Jun 04, 2021 7:21 pm Asking because I really don’t know…how does the price for something like this compare to a solar install and a Tesla Powerwall?
Not to be a wet blanket, but after installing batteries (which are more expensive that standby generators), I’m now installing more batteries and two additional standby generators.

I’m admittedly OCD about this, but if budget matters, just get a standby generator. If you want to be fine without the grid for extended periods, go solar/battery/generator.
I get the FI part but not the RE part of FIRE.
OldBallCoach
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Re: Whole Home Generator Advice

Post by OldBallCoach »

We have a 22K Generac natural gas. And we are 5400 sq feet on a slab on the beach. We are all natural gas appliances, boilers, Sub Zeros are about the only large electric draw really. In floor radiant heat so thats not much or a draw. Midwest Lake Michigan area...we just added a guest house and went with a Cummins Onan 20K natural gas from the same dealer that installed the Generac. The dealer said they are finding the Onan to be more reliable and much easier to deal with as a company Cummins and Onan have been around for years. Personally we have never had any issues with Generac but I tend to listen to the folks that install and service them and it is also what our GC advised and she put the same unit in her home...We paid about 8500 for each unit but they were installed and included in the wiring at the build so thats got to be a little cheaper I would think. I would buy a service company first and the product second.
OldBallCoach
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Re: Whole Home Generator Advice

Post by OldBallCoach »

TomatoTomahto wrote: Sat Jun 05, 2021 9:36 am
quantAndHold wrote: Fri Jun 04, 2021 7:21 pm Asking because I really don’t know…how does the price for something like this compare to a solar install and a Tesla Powerwall?
Not to be a wet blanket, but after installing batteries (which are more expensive that standby generators), I’m now installing more batteries and two additional standby generators.

I’m admittedly OCD about this, but if budget matters, just get a standby generator. If you want to be fine without the grid for extended periods, go solar/battery/generator.
How long do y'all plan on being off line?
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TomatoTomahto
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Re: Whole Home Generator Advice

Post by TomatoTomahto »

OldBallCoach wrote: Sat Jun 05, 2021 9:59 am
TomatoTomahto wrote: Sat Jun 05, 2021 9:36 am
quantAndHold wrote: Fri Jun 04, 2021 7:21 pm Asking because I really don’t know…how does the price for something like this compare to a solar install and a Tesla Powerwall?
Not to be a wet blanket, but after installing batteries (which are more expensive that standby generators), I’m now installing more batteries and two additional standby generators.
I’m admittedly OCD about this, but if budget matters, just get a standby generator. If you want to be fine without the grid for extended periods, go solar/battery/generator.
How long do y'all plan on being off line?
Until the ransom is paid. That’s a bit snarky, and I apologize, but . . .
I get the FI part but not the RE part of FIRE.
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willthrill81
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Re: Whole Home Generator Advice

Post by willthrill81 »

The gas appliances don't consume much power at all. Most gas furnaces consume under 1,000 watts while running. The only power hogs you've listed are the central AC units, and those likely consume around 8,000 watts each while running. But do you need to run more than one at a time? If not, a 10-15 kW unit might be sufficient and save you thousands of dollars.

You will find a lot of responses to a similar question in this thread from last year.
“Good and ill have not changed since yesteryear; nor are they one thing among Elves and Dwarves and another among Men.” J.R.R. Tolkien, The Lord of the Rings
OldBallCoach
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Re: Whole Home Generator Advice

Post by OldBallCoach »

TomatoTomahto wrote: Sat Jun 05, 2021 10:08 am
OldBallCoach wrote: Sat Jun 05, 2021 9:59 am
TomatoTomahto wrote: Sat Jun 05, 2021 9:36 am
quantAndHold wrote: Fri Jun 04, 2021 7:21 pm Asking because I really don’t know…how does the price for something like this compare to a solar install and a Tesla Powerwall?
Not to be a wet blanket, but after installing batteries (which are more expensive that standby generators), I’m now installing more batteries and two additional standby generators.
I’m admittedly OCD about this, but if budget matters, just get a standby generator. If you want to be fine without the grid for extended periods, go solar/battery/generator.
How long do y'all plan on being off line?
Until the ransom is paid. That’s a bit snarky, and I apologize, but . . .
Ya know based on some of these cyber attacks you might not be too far off base!!
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TomatoTomahto
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Re: Whole Home Generator Advice

Post by TomatoTomahto »

OldBallCoach wrote: Sat Jun 05, 2021 10:21 am Ya know based on some of these cyber attacks you might not be too far off base!!
I sent you a PM.
I get the FI part but not the RE part of FIRE.
Buckrodgerz
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Re: Whole Home Generator Advice

Post by Buckrodgerz »

We purchased a Generac 22K for 3300 Square feet. It seems to cover all whole house needs. To make sure, just don't run air conditioning and the oven at the same time. Made the purchase at Lowes on sale plus a 10% veterans discount. Installation averages about the cost of the unit - depending on the location of the gas line and the electric line. $9,100 total for us, five years ago. About $1.00 a day for a maintenance plan - two services per year. Most are noisier than a riding lawn mower - which could be a problem in our close maintenance provided homes. We have it test run every two weeks on a Wednesday at 2:00 p.m. for five minutes. We loose power about twice per year and only for short periods (so far) - SE suburb of Kansas City, MO.
Would I buy again? On the fence.
neilpilot
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Re: Whole Home Generator Advice

Post by neilpilot »

willthrill81 wrote: Sat Jun 05, 2021 10:11 am The gas appliances don't consume much power at all. Most gas furnaces consume under 1,000 watts while running. The only power hogs you've listed are the central AC units, and those likely consume around 8,000 watts each while running. But do you need to run more than one at a time? If not, a 10-15 kW unit might be sufficient and save you thousands of dollars.

You will find a lot of responses to a similar question in this thread from last year.
Frankly, I find it hard to see why AC is that much of a priority. OP is in NJ where I lived in a fairly new home that didn't even have AC, just an attic fan. Now that I'm in Memphis, even though it's hotter/humid, my plan does not include AC. In the winter, I want to be able to heat my home (gas furnace), maintain limited lights and wifi (if ISP remains online), and keep the refrigerator running. My summer plan represents even less electrical load, since the 2 furnaces are off line & I plan to just run 2 box fans.

My load is well under 5kw, and I easily manage our 5,000 sq ft home using a few extension cords to a generator.
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aburntoutcase
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Re: Whole Home Generator Advice

Post by aburntoutcase »

yatesd wrote: Fri Jun 04, 2021 7:02 pm You could always buy a Ford Lightning. :wink:

https://www.roadandtrack.com/news/a3647 ... r-feature/
That is pretty cool!
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aburntoutcase
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Re: Whole Home Generator Advice

Post by aburntoutcase »

tomd37 wrote: Fri Jun 04, 2021 9:07 pm We are coming up on the first year anniversary of the installation of our air-cooled Generac 22 Kw natural gas fired generator with an automatic transfer switch (ATS). We can run everything in our home during any outage. The two HVAC units come on at different times, but both can operate at the same time. For pricing purposes, expect the installation cost to be about the same as the price of the unit itself. We had an authorized Generac dealer install the unit. They took care of all the electrical and gas turn off/on for the installation as well as all the local permits. They started at 9am and left at 2pm after getting approvals from the two utility companies.
I have seen this rule of thumb on a couple of blogs, but going from air cooled to liquid cooled can double the cost of the generator unit while I suspect the amount of installation work required on site is independent of whether it is air cooled or liquid cooled. So is this rule of thumb really applicable if you are getting a liquid cooled generator or are getting say a 30 kW unit instead of a 20 kW unit?
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aburntoutcase
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Re: Whole Home Generator Advice

Post by aburntoutcase »

HomeStretch wrote: Fri Jun 04, 2021 4:23 pm We have a 4,000 sq foot house with 3 A/C systems and just installed a Generac 27kw QuietSource liquid cooled standby generator that will power the entire house (no load shed required). We already had a 500 gallon propane tank installed. The cost was ~$16k (Sept. 2020 pricing). That excludes the costs of the 75-foot hand dug trench for the electrical as the generator location is away from the house and the cost to restore a few items damaged by the trenching (irrigation, drainage pipe).
It seems the cost of the generator unit itself is around $11-$12K, so fair to say the installation cost was around $4-$5K?
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aburntoutcase
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Re: Whole Home Generator Advice

Post by aburntoutcase »

Gmt21 wrote: Fri Jun 04, 2021 9:17 pm From personal experience I’d try to stay away from Generac. My local dealer installs and services generac and Kohler. We have a generac and have unfortunately gotten to know our tech quite well. When asked what brand would he buy for himself he said kohler. Easier to work on and less problems was his experience. Also, think about if you plan on any additions or other future improvements that may require a bigger generator.
Thanks, I noticed that Kohler units were more expensive than Generac but it seems like the price differential is worth it.
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aburntoutcase
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Re: Whole Home Generator Advice

Post by aburntoutcase »

Carguy85 wrote: Sat Jun 05, 2021 9:18 am About 6700 sq ft air conditioned space (including 2500sq ft basement) 2 air transfer heat pumps, gas auxiliary heat, gas water heater and cooktop. 100% led lighting. Kohler 20kw powers the whole panel and we have never had any issues with breakers flipping. It has worked perfect in auto mode since install 5 years ago..very pleased. I would not buy generac due to past experience with the brand..but that’s just me. 20kw is of the largest air cooled gens...much less expensive, easier to maintain, and certainly less complicated/less to go wrong than liquid cooled. KISS principle. The 20KW Kohler was a little under $8k installed (2016)
Thanks is the main difference in terms of user experience between the air cooled and liquid cooled models is that the liquid cooled is quieter?
HomeStretch
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Re: Whole Home Generator Advice

Post by HomeStretch »

aburntoutcase wrote: Sat Jun 05, 2021 4:13 pm
HomeStretch wrote: Fri Jun 04, 2021 4:23 pm We have a 4,000 sq foot house with 3 A/C systems and just installed a Generac 27kw QuietSource liquid cooled standby generator that will power the entire house (no load shed required). We already had a 500 gallon propane tank installed. The cost was ~$16k (Sept. 2020 pricing). That excludes the costs of the 75-foot hand dug trench for the electrical as the generator location is away from the house and the cost to restore a few items damaged by the trenching (irrigation, drainage pipe).
It seems the cost of the generator unit itself is around $11-$12K, so fair to say the installation cost was around $4-$5K?
I did not ask for a break-out of labor, generator cost or and materials (conduit, cable, concrete/rebar, etc.).
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ResearchMed
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Re: Whole Home Generator Advice

Post by ResearchMed »

aburntoutcase wrote: Sat Jun 05, 2021 4:15 pm
Gmt21 wrote: Fri Jun 04, 2021 9:17 pm From personal experience I’d try to stay away from Generac. My local dealer installs and services generac and Kohler. We have a generac and have unfortunately gotten to know our tech quite well. When asked what brand would he buy for himself he said kohler. Easier to work on and less problems was his experience. Also, think about if you plan on any additions or other future improvements that may require a bigger generator.
Thanks, I noticed that Kohler units were more expensive than Generac but it seems like the price differential is worth it.
We put in a Generac several years ago, mostly because we didn't know any better and no one tried to upsell us.
I got a bit nervous after reading about possible quality issues here.

However, our trusty Generac has behaved beautifully. It self tests on schedule and notifies us (the wifi alerts are useful, especially if we aren't home), and maintenance has been minimal. And it kicks in immediately if the power goes off... just a few seconds.

The only "problem" is that all of the places it could be put, given the nat gas piping, are directly under a sloped roof. So... the snow comes thudding down and bam... covers the air-cooled generator if it's at all a heavy snow. And in serious snowstorms (there aren't many recently, at least), the Thuds keep coming.
We've arranged with our snow plow guy(s) that whenever they are here to plow, they will shovel a path around the side of the house to the generator, and then clear the top and especially both sides that have the vents.

We had put in little boxwood hedging around some of the unit, given that it's a nice bright white and hard to "not see" (not that there's anyone but one neighbor to see it).
I suppose there might be some sort of little shed, but we have a stone cottage type house, so I have no idea how it could be secured.

At this point, we've been very satisfied with the Generac, and each time it kicks in, we nod and smile to each other and ask ourselves again why we had waited so long (when there were more and longer power problems).

RM
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TomatoTomahto
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Re: Whole Home Generator Advice

Post by TomatoTomahto »

ResearchMed wrote: Sat Jun 05, 2021 4:44 pm The only "problem" is that all of the places it could be put, given the nat gas piping, are directly under a sloped roof. So... the snow comes thudding down and bam... covers the air-cooled generator if it's at all a heavy snow.
The previous owners did the same with our generator. They had a few acres to choose from, including an installation much closer to the utility room. The snow can clog the air inlet, but I also worry about deadly ice dropping on my head.

Our new generators are going on the other side of the house, with no overhead roof to drop snow or ice.
I get the FI part but not the RE part of FIRE.
Dontridetheindexdown
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Re: Whole Home Generator Advice

Post by Dontridetheindexdown »

No one has answered your question, "It is also not clear to me whether to spring for a three phase or if a single phase generator is sufficient?"

You are absolutely correct, a 3 phase generator is more efficient than a single phase generator.

However, the answer to your question is that for a single family home, you need a single phase generator.

Your new home is wired for single phase.

If you purchase a 3 phase generator, you need to install a second transfer switch, and you also need to separate your home loads into 3 circuits.

Three phase works well if you own a convenience store, a supermarket, or similar facility, where refrigeration and HVAC compressors use 3 phase motors, and the lighting is evenly divided among each of 3 phases.

For your home, where all rotating machinery is single phase, and all other loads are single phase, it is not practical to run a 3 phase generator.

Even if you were to separate your home loads into 3 circuits, they would not be balanced.

Our own main generator is re-connectable (3 phase or single phase) and we feed our home single phase because all of our loads are single phase.

It is less efficient to run a generator single phase, but definitely not worth the cost of separating out 3 single phase loads for home use.

Your mileage may vary, but based on more than 50 years experience in electric power generation, I strongly advise you to buy a single phase generator.

Feel free to PM me for additional discussion.
Zetorman
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Re: Whole Home Generator Advice

Post by Zetorman »

We had a Cummins 20kw unit installed last summer with transfer switch for $6300 all in. We used their preformed pad for the base. If anyone here is near Belpre, OH just look up the local Cummins dealer. He sells hundreds per year. Cummins RS20A. I only have one 5ton ac unit, but this generator will start and run it just fine.
mpnret
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Re: Whole Home Generator Advice

Post by mpnret »

I see you are in Northern NJ. Big Cummins dealer in Flanders. Cummins RS 20AC is very popular unit in the area. Installer said they were doing 2-3 a week when they did mine last year. You need to have dealer spec out what you need but 20K sounds about right from what you posted. Dealer will have automated program to figure this out.
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snackdog
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Re: Whole Home Generator Advice

Post by snackdog »

We have a Cummins and are quite happy with it. Older unit (ca. 2001) but very reliable. Powered by a natural gas V10 Ford engine, our gas bill jumps when the shore power is off for more than a day or two. Does provide 3 phase, which we are wired for, but we don’t currently operate any 3p equipment. I have Cummins service it annually, mostly to spot any emerging issues early. Otherwise, it is just oil changes, spark plugs, battery, etc.
Last edited by snackdog on Mon Jun 07, 2021 8:45 am, edited 1 time in total.
Olly
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Re: Whole Home Generator Advice

Post by Olly »

I live in Northern NJ and I had a 20kW air cooled Kohler installed in 2019.

If I could have my time again I wouldn't have bought it and would have gone for Tesla Powerwalls for multiple reasons...

The generator had a catastrophic failure last year after less than 50 run hours and it took months for it to be fixed. Almost every part was changed including the entire engine but eventually Kohler agreed to replace the entire unit - I am SO glad that I purchased the extended 5 year labor warranty because otherwise I would have been hugely out of pocket.

After the generator was installed PSE&G thought that the gas line to my house wasn't large enough and wanted me to pay $10k to upgrade it - in the end I managed to get them to agree to swap the meter for a larger one without doing this upgrade but it was touch and go.

It's noisy - the storm last year that knocked power out for days actually didn't knock our power out at the time, but they did turn it off at 2am for a few hours and of course the generator starting woke us up.

A purchase I most definitely regret.
Last edited by Olly on Sun Jun 06, 2021 12:32 pm, edited 1 time in total.
1moreyr
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Re: Whole Home Generator Advice

Post by 1moreyr »

neilpilot wrote: Sat Jun 05, 2021 12:01 pm
In the winter, I want to be able to heat my home (gas furnace), maintain limited lights and wifi (if ISP remains online), and keep the refrigerator running. My summer plan represents even less electrical load, since the 2 furnaces are off line & I plan to just run 2 box fans.

My load is well under 5kw, and I easily manage our 5,000 sq ft home using a few extension cords to a generator.
[/quote]

I know you may want whole house and that is your call. I lost power in an Ice storm for 2 weeks in 2008. I bought a generator and it gets used 2-3 days a year for the last decade. Power is usually lost in the winter storms or if someone hits an electric pole.

I have a portable pull start Briggs and Stratton 5K generator. It has served me well for the last 14 years.
An electrician put a power outlet int the garage that goes to the panel. I divert the panel from the main line and crank up my 5K generator. It is parked outside my closed garage door. ). It takes care of my well pump, wifi, TVs computers, oil heat, showers,coffee pot, toaster, 2 refrigerators and a freezer. Lights in every room, wife's hair dryer, blah blah....... The only think I don't use it for is AC (which i don't have) , microwave or the electric oven on the stove, i have easily used one burner on the stove or the gas grill on my deck. a small inconvenience but within 3 days I have power.

Cost of Generator? $799
Cost of electrician to wire and 40 foot electric cord to plug in? $2K
$20K in VTSAX less $2700? invested since 2008? Priceless :sharebeer (for those old enough to remember the old AMEX commercials)


Paying 2700 vs 20k for 2-3 days/ year and not being able to use my microwave or oven to me is a fair trade off. But of course,I am a boglehead.. :wink:

\
mpnret
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Re: Whole Home Generator Advice

Post by mpnret »

1moreyr wrote: Sun Jun 06, 2021 1:37 pm
neilpilot wrote: Sat Jun 05, 2021 12:01 pm
In the winter, I want to be able to heat my home (gas furnace), maintain limited lights and wifi (if ISP remains online), and keep the refrigerator running. My summer plan represents even less electrical load, since the 2 furnaces are off line & I plan to just run 2 box fans.

My load is well under 5kw, and I easily manage our 5,000 sq ft home using a few extension cords to a generator.
I know you may want whole house and that is your call. I lost power in an Ice storm for 2 weeks in 2008. I bought a generator and it gets used 2-3 days a year for the last decade. Power is usually lost in the winter storms or if someone hits an electric pole.

I have a portable pull start Briggs and Stratton 5K generator. It has served me well for the last 14 years.
An electrician put a power outlet int the garage that goes to the panel. I divert the panel from the main line and crank up my 5K generator. It is parked outside my closed garage door. ). It takes care of my well pump, wifi, TVs computers, oil heat, showers,coffee pot, toaster, 2 refrigerators and a freezer. Lights in every room, wife's hair dryer, blah blah....... The only think I don't use it for is AC (which i don't have) , microwave or the electric oven on the stove, i have easily used one burner on the stove or the gas grill on my deck. a small inconvenience but within 3 days I have power.

Cost of Generator? $799
Cost of electrician to wire and 40 foot electric cord to plug in? $2K
$20K in VTSAX less $2700? invested since 2008? Priceless :sharebeer (for those old enough to remember the old AMEX commercials)


Paying 2700 vs 20k for 2-3 days/ year and not being able to use my microwave or oven to me is a fair trade off. But of course,I am a boglehead.. :wink:

\
[/quote]

Did that for 30 years with my 5kw Honda. Now it’s Cummins 20kw and I couldn’t be happier. Cost was 10k which seems about average for most with natural gas available.
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aburntoutcase
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Re: Whole Home Generator Advice

Post by aburntoutcase »

Dontridetheindexdown wrote: Sat Jun 05, 2021 9:46 pm No one has answered your question, "It is also not clear to me whether to spring for a three phase or if a single phase generator is sufficient?"

:
:

Your mileage may vary, but based on more than 50 years experience in electric power generation, I strongly advise you to buy a single phase generator.
Thank you that was a great explanation!
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aburntoutcase
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Re: Whole Home Generator Advice

Post by aburntoutcase »

mpnret wrote: Sun Jun 06, 2021 6:06 am I see you are in Northern NJ. Big Cummins dealer in Flanders. Cummins RS 20AC is very popular unit in the area. Installer said they were doing 2-3 a week when they did mine last year. You need to have dealer spec out what you need but 20K sounds about right from what you posted. Dealer will have automated program to figure this out.
Thanks!
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aburntoutcase
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Re: Whole Home Generator Advice

Post by aburntoutcase »

Olly wrote: Sun Jun 06, 2021 12:29 pm I live in Northern NJ and I had a 20kW air cooled Kohler installed in 2019.

If I could have my time again I wouldn't have bought it and would have gone for Tesla Powerwalls for multiple reasons...
Interesting thought. The home actually has two arrays (4 panel and 13 panel arrays on different sections of the rood) of Tesla solar panels installed with a total capacity of 17x260 Watts or 4.42 kW. When I go to the Tesla Powerwall ordering page just to check, it insists on selling the Powerwall with a new Solar roof ($127K and 31.81 kW in solar panels) and 7 Powerwalls (which they only allow you to reduce to a minimum of 4). If you ignore the Solar Roof option, the only other option they allow is to buy at least 4.08kW solar panels together with a single Powerwall. There does not seem to be a way to order just the Powerwall. The Powerall itself is $10.5K and if you buy two it is $17K. But the minimum solar panels they will allow is 4.08 kW and that is $8.2K. Perhaps I should call Tesla after the closing and ask them if they would consider doing just a Powerwall install since I already have 4.42 kW of solar panels.
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aburntoutcase
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Re: Whole Home Generator Advice

Post by aburntoutcase »

neilpilot wrote: Sat Jun 05, 2021 12:01 pm Frankly, I find it hard to see why AC is that much of a priority. OP is in NJ where I lived in a fairly new home that didn't even have AC, just an attic fan. Now that I'm in Memphis, even though it's hotter/humid, my plan does not include AC. In the winter, I want to be able to heat my home (gas furnace), maintain limited lights and wifi (if ISP remains online), and keep the refrigerator running. My summer plan represents even less electrical load, since the 2 furnaces are off line & I plan to just run 2 box fans.

My load is well under 5kw, and I easily manage our 5,000 sq ft home using a few extension cords to a generator.
That is a good point I had not considered. We actually currently live in an apartment with very inefficient electrical heating and AC units and have gotten used to using space heaters from Lasko for heating and pedestal fans for cooling in the summer (turn on the AC on really scorching hot days). We can easily go a week without AC if needed and I have never seen outages of more than that duration.
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aburntoutcase
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Re: Whole Home Generator Advice

Post by aburntoutcase »

1moreyr wrote: Sun Jun 06, 2021 1:37 pm I know you may want whole house and that is your call. I lost power in an Ice storm for 2 weeks in 2008. I bought a generator and it gets used 2-3 days a year for the last decade. Power is usually lost in the winter storms or if someone hits an electric pole.

I have a portable pull start Briggs and Stratton 5K generator. It has served me well for the last 14 years.
An electrician put a power outlet int the garage that goes to the panel. I divert the panel from the main line and crank up my 5K generator. It is parked outside my closed garage door. ). It takes care of my well pump, wifi, TVs computers, oil heat, showers,coffee pot, toaster, 2 refrigerators and a freezer. Lights in every room, wife's hair dryer, blah blah....... The only think I don't use it for is AC (which i don't have) , microwave or the electric oven on the stove, i have easily used one burner on the stove or the gas grill on my deck. a small inconvenience but within 3 days I have power.

Cost of Generator? $799
Cost of electrician to wire and 40 foot electric cord to plug in? $2K
$20K in VTSAX less $2700? invested since 2008? Priceless :sharebeer (for those old enough to remember the old AMEX commercials)


Paying 2700 vs 20k for 2-3 days/ year and not being able to use my microwave or oven to me is a fair trade off. But of course,I am a boglehead.. :wink:
I am beginning to consider this route. But could you please explain what you mean by diverting the panel from the main line? From the home inspection report I see where the inlet service wire connects to the meter panel. Would I need to run a power cable from the garage to this panel? It will be some distance as the garage is standalone away from the main house, not connected to it.
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aburntoutcase
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Re: Whole Home Generator Advice

Post by aburntoutcase »

Also @1moreyr how loud is your portable 5kW generator? My neighbors on either side are reasonably close. Would not want to get into a tiff with them over a noisy generator going on for a couple of days. Is there a decibel rating on your unit?
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aburntoutcase
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Re: Whole Home Generator Advice

Post by aburntoutcase »

I am also seeing inverter generators advertised as being much quieter than portable generators. The 4,000 Watt versions seem fairly cheap at $600 to $1,000. On the larger capacity inverter generators above 5,000 Watts there seems to be a huge variance in prices.
smectym
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Re: Whole Home Generator Advice

Post by smectym »

teCh0010 wrote: Fri Jun 04, 2021 4:36 pm You want the brand that someone local to you will come out and service.

Natural Gas, 22Kw or larger, protect all your furnace blowers but you probably don’t need to protect all the ACs. Carrying all three ACs may require a larger generator so if you can hold up in part of the house on one AC that’s better.

To do this right you need a plumber, electrician, and someone to pour a small concrete pad.
>You want the brand that someone local to you will come out and service

This is an excellent point. At our home in the northwest we had a Cummins generator with a 500-gallon underground propane tank. I developed the bias that Cummins was the generator to get. Then last year we moved to the south. And I kept saying to our contractor, “let’s get in a Cummins generator!” and all I got was blank stares. Around here, all the dealers seem to have contracts and service agreements and other deals all with Generac.

Eventually I got the message, and now we have a Generac that, we are told, should run the home for 30 days in the event of an outage that lasts that long. Let’s hope that doesn’t get put to the test, but at least the backup is in place. There has been one small outage, and the unit did what it’s supposed to do.
smectym
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Re: Whole Home Generator Advice

Post by smectym »

1moreyr wrote: Sun Jun 06, 2021 1:37 pm
neilpilot wrote: Sat Jun 05, 2021 12:01 pm
In the winter, I want to be able to heat my home (gas furnace), maintain limited lights and wifi (if ISP remains online), and keep the refrigerator running. My summer plan represents even less electrical load, since the 2 furnaces are off line & I plan to just run 2 box fans.

My load is well under 5kw, and I easily manage our 5,000 sq ft home using a few extension cords to a generator.
I know you may want whole house and that is your call. I lost power in an Ice storm for 2 weeks in 2008. I bought a generator and it gets used 2-3 days a year for the last decade. Power is usually lost in the winter storms or if someone hits an electric pole.

I have a portable pull start Briggs and Stratton 5K generator. It has served me well for the last 14 years.
An electrician put a power outlet int the garage that goes to the panel. I divert the panel from the main line and crank up my 5K generator. It is parked outside my closed garage door. ). It takes care of my well pump, wifi, TVs computers, oil heat, showers,coffee pot, toaster, 2 refrigerators and a freezer. Lights in every room, wife's hair dryer, blah blah....... The only think I don't use it for is AC (which i don't have) , microwave or the electric oven on the stove, i have easily used one burner on the stove or the gas grill on my deck. a small inconvenience but within 3 days I have power.

Cost of Generator? $799
Cost of electrician to wire and 40 foot electric cord to plug in? $2K
$20K in VTSAX less $2700? invested since 2008? Priceless :sharebeer (for those old enough to remember the old AMEX commercials)


Paying 2700 vs 20k for 2-3 days/ year and not being able to use my microwave or oven to me is a fair trade off. But of course,I am a boglehead.. :wink:

\
[/quote]

In my experience you can buy a back-up generator at a reasonable price that will power the whole house: even a big house with multiple heat and AC zones. If you’re going to make the investment, I’d counsel against skimping and planning to shut down part of your home in the event of a protracted outage. Instead, get the generator that will allow your household to continue functioning during even a prolonged outage as per usual, with no second-guessing about taking a hot bath, cooling or heating a floor, using the oven and so on. That’s really the whole point behind making this kind of investment.
1moreyr
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Re: Whole Home Generator Advice

Post by 1moreyr »

aburntoutcase wrote: Sun Jun 06, 2021 6:13 pm
1moreyr wrote: Sun Jun 06, 2021 1:37 pm
Cost of Generator? $799
Cost of electrician to wire and 40 foot electric cord to plug in? $2K
$20K in VTSAX less $2700? invested since 2008? Priceless :sharebeer (for those old enough to remember the old AMEX commercials)
Paying 2700 vs 20k for 2-3 days/ year and not being able to use my microwave or oven to me is a fair trade off. But of course,I am a boglehead.. :wink:
I am beginning to consider this route. But could you please explain what you mean by diverting the panel from the main line? From the home inspection report I see where the inlet service wire connects to the meter panel. Would I need to run a power cable from the garage to this panel? It will be some distance as the garage is standalone away from the main house, not connected to it.
There is a safety feature that cuts the power from the public supply (main) so you run your generator. when the public power is back you can switch back over. after you shut off your generator. This stops power from going back up the line while the employees are fixing it. the whole house does this automatically.

I get the caution from some one talking about limiting what you have and the whole idea is to have a full functioning house. I see it differently. I have the ability to shower, cook, work from home with Wifi , watch TV and keep my food from spoiling. I can also stay warm in the winter. there is probably a month a year when I really need an AC and i will take that chance that I don't lose power for 2-3 days out of that month. I have gone 4-5 days this way when we had an Ice storm that wiped out the region. It was doable and I surely didn't feel very inconvenienced.

I see you are starting out with your first house. There are a lot of costs in the beginning with things you need/want to do to make it yours. My system had to balance the risk of an outage with what I was willing to do/accept vs doing other house things and saving money for college for 2 kids, vacations etc.. Now that my kids are gone and mortgage is paid, I may have a different outlook if I needed a system. Only you can judge your finances on this one and where it fits in priorities vs convenience. For me it was the best $2700 I ever spent for the 20-25 days it's been used since 2008. At 20K it would have been $1K cost per use day! As I said, it depends on where you are in your life.

you are also on the Boglehead forum where many work for FAANG, or are physicians or other Highly compensated employees and 2 comma club members to boot. Many are at a point in life where 20K is a blink of an eye... If you are not there yet or are overwhelmed on all the things you want to do to your house,,,, this is just a different option

I provided a link below. you can buy a regular generator from Lowes/home depot but I like this site for comparison shopping as it has many to choose from and you can see the myriad of options. the decibels are listed in the specs for each one. I bought mine at Sam's club. it was a Briggs and Stratton storm responder or something like that. 5KW and 8K surge

Mine isn't much louder than a large lawn mower. You have more on propane than me so 5KW will probably do it. There are sites that help you calculate what you need for KW based on what you plan to run. There are also models listed for $999 with 10K or twice my power. if you are so inclined. The one I looked at was 67 decibles vs 90 for a lawn mower

I keep a 3X5 card on the wall with the date to remind me of last time I ran it. every 3 months or so, i start it up and let it run for 15 minutes while i clean the garage or wash my car. Other than changing the oil (about 5 times) I have done nothing to it in the last 13 years. now that the wiring is installed I can also replace /upgrade my whole system now for another $800 generator. ($1000-$1200 for a bigger model) I don't have a clue what repairs and service will cost you over 13 years on a whole house system. I am guessing more than $800.

honestly, I shut mine down when I go to bed so I conserve fuel. with 3 5 gallon cans (and what is in the generator) I can go 3 days without running to get more gas at the gas station. The house stays warm over night and the 2 refrigerators and freezer easily make the 6-8 hours. I also use no propane so going your route would require a propane tank on my property and someone to come fill it. For me, I am much more independent this way. I only need a gas station By shutting it down, it's not a neighborhood concern and portable generators where i am are also quite common. it's nothing to hear a couple running when I start mine.

There is no wrong answer here. it's your cash, risk and level of convenience you choose. It's much like people that put $250 deductibles on their house insurance vs $1000 deductible ..what are you willing to pay for? . :D

good luck on your decision

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HomeStretch
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Re: Whole Home Generator Advice

Post by HomeStretch »

If a whole house generator is cost-prohibitive for you, a portable generator set-up is a good lower-cost alternative to keep the heat on in the winter, take hot showers, refrigerator running and have a few lights/electronics. We used a portable generator for ~15 years (we have 3/4 outages per year, most are 1 day or less) and just recently installed a whole house generator after a 5-day outage because we don’t want to deal with the portable generator routine any more.

Some suggestions regarding a portable generator set-up:
1) first understand your town’s generator code/regulations.
2) you may not be able to hook-up your portable generator to gas (our town doesn’t allow it).
3) we are required to have a manual transfer switch and an interlock plug for the generator cable on the outside of the house. We had a licensed electrician familiar with code install ours.
4) get a long cable with appropriate connector ends. Code will specify that the generator needs to be xx feet from doors and windows to prevent CO from the exhaust from entering your house. Our town requires 25 feet. If it’s summer, be careful opening windows nearest the generator as wind can cause the fumes to drift.
5) have a good location picked out for the generator when in use and make sure plant material and flammable structures are code-required distance away. consider cementing an eye-bolt into the ground where you will put the generator so that you can secure the generator against theft. During Superstorm Sandy, there were a lot of late night generator thefts in our state.
6) portable gas generators are loud
7) in an extended outage, it may be difficult to obtain gas. Buy some extra storage containers and fill up before a storm. Store/cycle the gas properly.
8) service your generator annually and be sure to test start it and prep before the storm hits. Check your cable to make sure the connector ends are secure. You may also want to write down the steps involved (and store it with the generator and cable) with running the generator so you have a cheat sheet when you need it.
9) edit - have working COs in your house. Put an extra one in the area nearest the generator site.
Last edited by HomeStretch on Mon Jun 07, 2021 8:56 am, edited 1 time in total.
mpnret
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Re: Whole Home Generator Advice

Post by mpnret »

aburntoutcase wrote: Sun Jun 06, 2021 6:13 pm
1moreyr wrote: Sun Jun 06, 2021 1:37 pm I know you may want whole house and that is your call. I lost power in an Ice storm for 2 weeks in 2008. I bought a generator and it gets used 2-3 days a year for the last decade. Power is usually lost in the winter storms or if someone hits an electric pole.

I have a portable pull start Briggs and Stratton 5K generator. It has served me well for the last 14 years.
An electrician put a power outlet int the garage that goes to the panel. I divert the panel from the main line and crank up my 5K generator. It is parked outside my closed garage door. ). It takes care of my well pump, wifi, TVs computers, oil heat, showers,coffee pot, toaster, 2 refrigerators and a freezer. Lights in every room, wife's hair dryer, blah blah....... The only think I don't use it for is AC (which i don't have) , microwave or the electric oven on the stove, i have easily used one burner on the stove or the gas grill on my deck. a small inconvenience but within 3 days I have power.

Cost of Generator? $799
Cost of electrician to wire and 40 foot electric cord to plug in? $2K
$20K in VTSAX less $2700? invested since 2008? Priceless :sharebeer (for those old enough to remember the old AMEX commercials)


Paying 2700 vs 20k for 2-3 days/ year and not being able to use my microwave or oven to me is a fair trade off. But of course,I am a boglehead.. :wink:
I am beginning to consider this route. But could you please explain what you mean by diverting the panel from the main line? From the home inspection report I see where the inlet service wire connects to the meter panel. Would I need to run a power cable from the garage to this panel? It will be some distance as the garage is standalone away from the main house, not connected to it.
It depends on your setup but most of the time this is done at the main panel in your garage (the one with all the breakers in it). A couple of options here. One would be a transfer panel next to your existing panel with breakers in it for the circuits you pre-selected or just a inlet connector to your main panel which includes a safety switch which requires you to switch main breaker off which disconnects you from the utility then you switch on breakers in your existing panel for the circuits you want to power with generator. Then when power goes out you roll your generator out into the storm, plug a cable from the generator to the connector and start it up. Another option is a plug in unit where your meter gets removed, this unit plugs into that spot and then the meter gets plugged into it. This unit has a generator connector. All these options are very location specific so you need to see what is approved for your area.
Just some tips from what to expect from a northern NJ guy who's done this for 30 years on a portable generator and finally the last year on a Cummins 20kw whole house generator. In NJ there's not always a storm when the power goes out but there usually is. My normal routine was roll the generator out from the garage to the driveway a safe distance from the house. Make sure it's protected from the weather. Lots of options here. Plug in the cable from the transfer switch to the generator. Now hope the generator starts. At least mine was a Honda which was quite reliable. But stale gas can get you with any brand which did get me once and required a carburetor rebuild. So make sure generator is always filled with fresh gas with stabilizer and rotate that gas out every year. Also have enough gas cans on hand to last through a storm and stabilize and rotate that. One time I didn't have enough gas to last through a longer outage and all NJ gas stations were down so I had to drive out of state with the back of my Outback loaded with 5 gallon cans. I had to be home to do all this. My wife couldn't handle it or if we were on vacation critical items like sump pumps didn't run. The generator was only capable of powering items on my transfer panel. So not all lights and other items in certain areas of the house. No central A/C but that's OK or so I thought. I had a electric range so cooking was done with a hotplate, microwave and my outdoor grill. All this was doable and saved me a couple of bucks but not worth it to me. I finally went with the Cummins after 30 years of doing the portable generator dance. Now when the power goes out it takes exactly 9 seconds before generator restores it. If we're not home everything works as it should. Cost was 10k. One call does it all (permits, pad, everything). Local dealer is a large one that has techs, installers, electricians, and plumbers on staff. Being you are in northern NJ this won't be hard for you to find for any brand. As someone above said get someone who is familiar and can service your unit quickly if needed. Most electricians in the area install them and may save you a couple of bucks but if a problem arises you want someone with techs familiar with your unit that stock parts. After all my research I prefer Cummins. Others have reported good things about others.
Olly
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Re: Whole Home Generator Advice

Post by Olly »

aburntoutcase wrote: Sun Jun 06, 2021 6:01 pmInteresting thought. The home actually has two arrays (4 panel and 13 panel arrays on different sections of the rood) of Tesla solar panels installed with a total capacity of 17x260 Watts or 4.42 kW. When I go to the Tesla Powerwall ordering page just to check, it insists on selling the Powerwall with a new Solar roof ($127K and 31.81 kW in solar panels) and 7 Powerwalls (which they only allow you to reduce to a minimum of 4). If you ignore the Solar Roof option, the only other option they allow is to buy at least 4.08kW solar panels together with a single Powerwall. There does not seem to be a way to order just the Powerwall. The Powerall itself is $10.5K and if you buy two it is $17K. But the minimum solar panels they will allow is 4.08 kW and that is $8.2K. Perhaps I should call Tesla after the closing and ask them if they would consider doing just a Powerwall install since I already have 4.42 kW of solar panels.
Tesla don't sell solar and PowerWalls separately any more unfortunately, you have to order both. You can get Powerwalls from third parties but they are often a lot more expensive than direct from Tesla.
CurlyDave
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Re: Whole Home Generator Advice

Post by CurlyDave »

TomatoTomahto wrote: Sat Jun 05, 2021 5:02 pm
...Our new generators are going on the other side of the house, with no overhead roof to drop snow or ice.
Now wait a minute here. If you have no roof, what keeps the rain out of your living room?
Answering a question is easy -- asking the right question is the hard part.
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