Large portable generator vs. permanent natural gas generator for home

Non-investing personal finance issues including insurance, credit, real estate, taxes, employment and legal issues such as trusts and wills
smitcat
Posts: 2087
Joined: Mon Nov 07, 2016 10:51 am

Re: Large portable generator vs. permanent natural gas generator for home

Post by smitcat » Fri Sep 15, 2017 9:33 am

keaton wrote:
Thu Sep 14, 2017 7:13 pm
smitcat wrote:
Tue Sep 12, 2017 8:52 pm
Most folks cannot do well with diesels but since you have the knack perhaps you can say why you produce your own power since its is cheaper to pull it off the grid?
FWIW - spark plugs are quite easy - fresh gasoline is often plentiful for many of us and carbs never get dirty when they are run dry.
Adjusting governors, dealing with injectors and diesel fuel filters often trips up the garage diy crowd.
Boat and house both off grid...
It appears that your application is vastly different form selecting a backup genset for home use during the rare outage.
You costs for electric are about twice what they would be on the grid but that is likely one reason why you are saving for a home and that is a great goal.

Yes - I would select a diesel genset for full time power if I was off the grid and that was my requirement.
But 1,000#s of a loud genset that requires maintenance not typically found is not a reasonable choice for a backup.

smitcat
Posts: 2087
Joined: Mon Nov 07, 2016 10:51 am

Re: Large portable generator vs. permanent natural gas generator for home

Post by smitcat » Fri Sep 15, 2017 9:38 am

jdb wrote:
Thu Sep 14, 2017 9:03 pm
Interesting thread. Listening to our 27KW generator running outside the house as read this thread, it has been running now for over 5 days since (and during) Hurricane Irma, powering house including two a/c compressors. And not that noisy, far less than portable generators. Problem here in south Florida is there are no gas lines to homes so we rely on resupply from propane companies and they are very backed up, we are on a waiting list for resupply. Question is whether the power will come back on before propane fuel runs out, figure we have at most a couple days left of supply. But had portable generator after Andrew for the almost 3 weeks without power with extension cords throughout house and don't want to go through that again, great thing about whole house generator is that it runs the a/c, can't overestimate value during hot weather following hurricane.
Just another thought....
I think our choice will be to go to a nice hotel (if required) rather than install and maintain such a large power source in the home.
If we get to the point where we believe we would use it often we would not stay at that location.
And if we believe that we will not use it often than a small portable will suffice for short outrages and the hotel plan will work for the larger ones.

Broken Man 1999
Posts: 1578
Joined: Wed Apr 08, 2015 11:31 am

Re: Large portable generator vs. permanent natural gas generator for home

Post by Broken Man 1999 » Fri Sep 15, 2017 1:04 pm

Our transfer panel does NOT transfer automatically. With smaller generators like mine, it is recommended to add your load slowly. Now since we don't run our heat pumps or any 220v circuits, our generator doesn't struggle/bog down when a circuit is added....

Transferring the circuits is almost as easy as, well, flipping a light switch.

Sheepdog, I was able to get a top-off delivery on Friday, before the storm. Normally we use very little propane. We have gas-heads for the generator, the BBQ grill on our deck, and the gas fireplace logs. The grill and the generator have quick-release hoses, really nice wife doesn't have to hump little propane tanks, but in a pinch we could hook up easily to smaller tanks.

I agree with you, even as easy as my system is to set up and use, mobility issues could be a problem. In our case we have neighbors to help, our little subdivision is pretty tight, thankfully.

Now if I had my druthers, and a more rural lot, I would have an whole-house unit powered by propane with a gigormous tank.

Oh well, my little 8750 watt generator performed great. It was purchased in 2013, and other than tested a couple of times, and had never been connected to any circuits.

I'm thinking of getting a small window-banger AC unit that can be easily installed AFTER the storm has passed. It can get brutally hot after a storm. That way we could at least have a comfortable room we could all bunk down in and get a good night's sleep.

A nursing home somewhere on the west coast of FL had 8 deaths of seniors, seemed to be heat related.

Broken Man 1999
“If I cannot drink Bourbon and smoke cigars in Heaven than I shall not go. " -Mark Twain

User avatar
dm200
Posts: 18907
Joined: Mon Feb 26, 2007 2:21 pm
Location: Washington DC area

Re: Large portable generator vs. permanent natural gas generator for home

Post by dm200 » Fri Sep 15, 2017 1:22 pm

simple man wrote:
Tue Sep 12, 2017 12:22 pm
I want to have emergency power capability for my home and am considering a large portable generator (gasoline powered) or a fixed Generac style generator that I can connect to my natural gas pipeline. Both would have either a direct connection to a transfer switch or for the portable, be able to plug into it directly. Obviously, the pros to the portable is I can use it elsewhere. The con is I have to keep gasoline stocked. I am leaning towards the permanent style so I don't have to have fuel. Also, from stories I have heard, it is likely that if I sell the house, I would likely get most of the value back in the increased sales price. Anyone have experience to recommend either way?
As best I understand gasoline deteriorates with age if it is so stored - so I would evaluate that factor.

whomever
Posts: 784
Joined: Sat Apr 21, 2012 5:21 pm

Re: Large portable generator vs. permanent natural gas generator for home

Post by whomever » Fri Sep 15, 2017 2:01 pm

"As best I understand gasoline deteriorates with age if it is so stored"

True, but a manageable problem. Every fall I dump the gas can that holds the generator gas into the car tank, refill the can, and add Stabil. The car happily digests the old gas mixed in with the new, and I'm good to go for another year.

A propane powered generator would be cool in that you could skip the annual ritual. In a long outage, gasoline is probably more available (by getting it out of your car's tank, for example).

User avatar
Sheepdog
Posts: 5192
Joined: Tue Feb 27, 2007 3:05 pm
Location: Indiana, retired 1998 at age 65

Re: Large portable generator vs. permanent natural gas generator for home

Post by Sheepdog » Fri Sep 15, 2017 4:14 pm

ResearchMed wrote:
Fri Sep 15, 2017 9:31 am



This may be terminology (not sure) but a "transfer switch" (or panel?) can be automated.
Our transfer switch was installed to be automatically triggered by a power outage, and then almost instantly, the "switch" occurs, and the generator is powering everything it's supposed to.
(We didn't connect all circuits; that wasn't necessary for an emergency, and allowed us to get a smaller generator. The main thing not connected is the AC.)

RM
Yes, I do understand that. Thanks for trying. I want a complete automatic generator...nothing manual, so a portable generator, manual starting does not fit that bill. I can do that fine, as I am now, but if I someday am not able to do anything manual, I want automatic. And, my wife could not start one as she has mobility problems already.
It's not what you gather, but what you scatter which tells what kind of life you have lived---Helen Walton

User avatar
dratkinson
Posts: 4381
Joined: Thu Jul 26, 2007 6:23 pm
Location: Centennial CO

Re: Large portable generator vs. permanent natural gas generator for home

Post by dratkinson » Fri Sep 15, 2017 7:26 pm

whomever wrote:
Fri Sep 15, 2017 2:01 pm
... In a long outage, gasoline is probably more available (by getting it out of your car's tank, for example).
I investigated the option to use a vehicle as a gasoline tanker. The short answer: it's harder to do than first thought.
--An anti-siphon/rollover valve in the filler neck prevent easily putting a siphon hose into the tank.
--It is not advised to cut into newer high-pressure fuel lines.
--Dropping the tank to attach a new siphon hose connection would be a pain.

I did find YouTube videos of folks using a small diameter plastic tube (swamp cooler water supply line) to slip past the rollover valve and were then able to siphon gas. But have not yet tried that for myself, so don't know if it will work on my vehicle.

Bottom line. Don't expect to use a vehicle as a gasoline tanker without first learning how to get past its anti-siphon/rollover valve.



Disclosure. I made it easy to empty my old generator gas from its cans into my vehicle.
--I have a garage workbench (slightly higher than vehicle gas filler) that parallels my vehicle.
--I built a tilting platform to hold a gas can: 2"x4" diagonally mounted under 12"x18" plywood surface, 2 lower sides made of 2"x4" to cradle gas can on platform. (Used available scrap wood.)
--Tilting platform is set on workbench. A wood block under platform holds it temporarily level.
--Gas can is set on tilting platform. Full can held temporarily level until enough fuel drains that tilting is okay.
--Tubing runs from gas can lower corner to vehicle filler neck. Two pieces of copper wire are used to secure tubing to can and vehicle: one piece wrapped friction-tight around tubing and free end expanded in a circle around tube to wedge into gas can opening, and one piece wrapped friction-tight around tubing and free end hooked to filler door latch mechanism.
--To start gas flow. Blow into cupping hand covering gas can opening and tubing to pressurize can and start flow. After flow starts, release pressure slowly to prevent sudden pressure drop from blowing gas back into face. Been there, done that. Once.

In operation, it's easy to setup everything and start gas flowing. A 1/2" tube will drain a 6gal can in ~30min (*). The small-diameter (1/8" swamp cooler water supply) tube takes ~1hr (*) to drain can.

(*) Problem may be that tube is sitting flush on can bottom so slowing gas flow. May need to cut tube end at 45-degrees to prevent this problem. Have not tried this yet.
d.r.a, not dr.a. | I'm a novice investor, you are forewarned.

pshonore
Posts: 6429
Joined: Sun Jun 28, 2009 2:21 pm

Re: Large portable generator vs. permanent natural gas generator for home

Post by pshonore » Fri Sep 15, 2017 7:47 pm

dratkinson wrote:
Fri Sep 15, 2017 7:26 pm
whomever wrote:
Fri Sep 15, 2017 2:01 pm
... In a long outage, gasoline is probably more available (by getting it out of your car's tank, for example).
I investigated the option to use a vehicle as a gasoline tanker. The short answer: it's harder to do than first thought.
--An anti-siphon/rollover valve in the filler neck prevent easily putting a siphon hose into the tank.
--It is not advised to cut into newer high-pressure fuel lines.
--Dropping the tank to attach a new siphon hose connection would be a pain.

I did find YouTube videos of folks using a small diameter plastic tube (swamp cooler water supply line) to slip past the rollover valve and were then able to siphon gas. But have not yet tried that for myself, so don't know if it will work on my vehicle.
Interesting - I have a 2014 Ford Expedition that came with no gas cap (with a factory sticker noting that). There does appear to be a spring loaded flap about 1" into the filler pipe that is easily displaced by a gas pump nozzle. I haven't tried it but I think it can be displaced by a piece of 1/2" copper tubing and would allow siphoning. I'll have to give it a try.

whomever
Posts: 784
Joined: Sat Apr 21, 2012 5:21 pm

Re: Large portable generator vs. permanent natural gas generator for home

Post by whomever » Fri Sep 15, 2017 8:00 pm

dratkinson: I agree, and good point.

My theory is that by the time I'm raiding the vehicle tanks, I'll be desperate enough that damaging the car will be worth it if it comes to that :-)

Alternatively, ask neighbors to bring gas. During the last week long outage, neighbors were about willing to sell their children for a cell phone charge :-)

User avatar
Ged
Posts: 3635
Joined: Mon May 13, 2013 1:48 pm
Location: Roke

Re: Large portable generator vs. permanent natural gas generator for home

Post by Ged » Fri Sep 15, 2017 8:18 pm

FrugalConservative wrote:
Tue Sep 12, 2017 2:50 pm
5 years ago lots of people around my parts spent upwards of 10K for a whole house generator due to Sandy. Others spent close to a few grand on portables.
Lets just say that they havent gotten their moneys worth as they havent had to use them even once . For me it wasnt worth it now, then or in the future, and when you go to sell your house you wont make a dime back on the cost.
When Sandy went through I lost power for 2 weeks. It was early November and my house got down into the 40's at night. Since my wife and I are now into our late 60's early 70's I considered that a repeat of this would be serious (NOT just a loss of entertainment) and bought a portable plus had a transfer switch installed.

We haven't had a need to use it but I consider it a prudent safety precaution.

User avatar
dratkinson
Posts: 4381
Joined: Thu Jul 26, 2007 6:23 pm
Location: Centennial CO

Re: Large portable generator vs. permanent natural gas generator for home

Post by dratkinson » Fri Sep 15, 2017 8:27 pm

pshonore wrote:
Fri Sep 15, 2017 7:47 pm
dratkinson wrote:
Fri Sep 15, 2017 7:26 pm
whomever wrote:
Fri Sep 15, 2017 2:01 pm
... In a long outage, gasoline is probably more available (by getting it out of your car's tank, for example).
I investigated the option to use a vehicle as a gasoline tanker. The short answer: it's harder to do than first thought.
--An anti-siphon/rollover valve in the filler neck prevent easily putting a siphon hose into the tank.
--It is not advised to cut into newer high-pressure fuel lines.
--Dropping the tank to attach a new siphon hose connection would be a pain.

I did find YouTube videos of folks using a small diameter plastic tube (swamp cooler water supply line) to slip past the rollover valve and were then able to siphon gas. But have not yet tried that for myself, so don't know if it will work on my vehicle.
Interesting - I have a 2014 Ford Expedition that came with no gas cap (with a factory sticker noting that). There does appear to be a spring loaded flap about 1" into the filler pipe that is easily displaced by a gas pump nozzle. I haven't tried it but I think it can be displaced by a piece of 1/2" copper tubing and would allow siphoning. I'll have to give it a try.
That flap at the top of the filler neck is not the anti-siphon/rollover valve. The anti-siphon/rollover valve is mounted at the bottom of the filler tube near the actual gas tank.

Can search: http://www.google.com/search?q=siphon+gas+newer+vehicle
d.r.a, not dr.a. | I'm a novice investor, you are forewarned.

smitcat
Posts: 2087
Joined: Mon Nov 07, 2016 10:51 am

Re: Large portable generator vs. permanent natural gas generator for home

Post by smitcat » Sat Sep 16, 2017 7:39 am

dratkinson wrote:
Fri Sep 15, 2017 8:27 pm
pshonore wrote:
Fri Sep 15, 2017 7:47 pm
dratkinson wrote:
Fri Sep 15, 2017 7:26 pm
whomever wrote:
Fri Sep 15, 2017 2:01 pm
... In a long outage, gasoline is probably more available (by getting it out of your car's tank, for example).
I investigated the option to use a vehicle as a gasoline tanker. The short answer: it's harder to do than first thought.
--An anti-siphon/rollover valve in the filler neck prevent easily putting a siphon hose into the tank.
--It is not advised to cut into newer high-pressure fuel lines.
--Dropping the tank to attach a new siphon hose connection would be a pain.

I did find YouTube videos of folks using a small diameter plastic tube (swamp cooler water supply line) to slip past the rollover valve and were then able to siphon gas. But have not yet tried that for myself, so don't know if it will work on my vehicle.
Interesting - I have a 2014 Ford Expedition that came with no gas cap (with a factory sticker noting that). There does appear to be a spring loaded flap about 1" into the filler pipe that is easily displaced by a gas pump nozzle. I haven't tried it but I think it can be displaced by a piece of 1/2" copper tubing and would allow siphoning. I'll have to give it a try.
That flap at the top of the filler neck is not the anti-siphon/rollover valve. The anti-siphon/rollover valve is mounted at the bottom of the filler tube near the actual gas tank.

Can search: http://www.google.com/search?q=siphon+gas+newer+vehicle
FWIW - When necessary we do not pull fuel from the gas filler on our truck or boat. We tapped into the fuel supply line in the engine area and use a fuel pump designed for gasoline to pull the fuel out and down to our cans if needed.
Only needed to use this option once as we drained the boats fuel tank for use in our pickup truck after the 4th and 7th days without fuel during Sandy.
The 5 fuel cans of 5 gallons each were enough to power the portable inverter genset as it used about one gallon every 7 hours while it was running.
We did not run it every hour of every day we were out but did have it running about 75% of the time.

lazydavid
Posts: 1887
Joined: Wed Apr 06, 2016 1:37 pm

Re: Large portable generator vs. permanent natural gas generator for home

Post by lazydavid » Sat Sep 16, 2017 7:51 am

whomever wrote:
Fri Sep 15, 2017 2:01 pm
"As best I understand gasoline deteriorates with age if it is so stored"

True, but a manageable problem. Every fall I dump the gas can that holds the generator gas into the car tank, refill the can, and add Stabil. The car happily digests the old gas mixed in with the new, and I'm good to go for another year.
You may want to do this more often than annually. Though the old gas works fine in the car when mixed with a bunch more new fuel, the generator might not be so happy with 100% old fuel. The stabil definitely helps--and I'd use Marine stabil if you can find it--but I'd probably look to refresh my supply every 3-6 mos.

User avatar
dm200
Posts: 18907
Joined: Mon Feb 26, 2007 2:21 pm
Location: Washington DC area

Re: Large portable generator vs. permanent natural gas generator for home

Post by dm200 » Sat Sep 16, 2017 8:12 am

Storing gasoline in quantities needed (or potentially needed) is also a safety issue. In addition, how would you know how long the generator would be needed?

User avatar
dm200
Posts: 18907
Joined: Mon Feb 26, 2007 2:21 pm
Location: Washington DC area

Re: Large portable generator vs. permanent natural gas generator for home

Post by dm200 » Sat Sep 16, 2017 8:13 am

Might neighbors possibly share some of the costs of a generator? The neighbot could, possibly, tap into the generator power for some small, but very basic, power needs in an emergency?

whomever
Posts: 784
Joined: Sat Apr 21, 2012 5:21 pm

Re: Large portable generator vs. permanent natural gas generator for home

Post by whomever » Sat Sep 16, 2017 9:17 am

You may want to do this more often than annually. Though the old gas works fine in the car when mixed with a bunch more new fuel, the generator might not be so happy with 100% old fuel.
Perhaps. The Stabil manufacturer quotes 'up to 24 months', and I've never had a problem when using it out to 18 months or so, i.e. I get first pull starts.
Storing gasoline in quantities needed (or potentially needed) is also a safety issue. In addition, how would you know how long the generator would be needed?
One advantage of using a small generator is that you need less fuel. We only run the fridge and furnace (plus incidentals like charging the neighbor's cell phones :-) ), and only run those a few hours a day. We're used to camping, including winter camping; I don't need the furnace to stay comfortable, but to keep the pipes from freezing. I'm not really sure what our usage is, but I'd guess 1 to 2 quarts of gas a day. That means a 5 gallon can lasts 10 days plus. This is with one of the inverter generators - a Honda EU2000. They are much more economical (to run, as opposed to buy :-( ) than conventional generators. Years ago someone gave us a Briggs&Stratton powered 4000W generator of the type you see at construction sites. We used it only once. For the same load it consumed a few gallons a day, was heavy, and was noisy enough to rattle your fillings.

We actually have an electric mower now, but for years we had a gas can around for the mower/chainsaw/weedwacker/etc anyway, so the additional hazard seems fairly small.

There is no way to know how long the generator will be needed. I suspect the distribution of outage times has a high point at 3 days or so, and a tail that stretches to infinity (if you allow for the worst case Carrington Event scenarios - gaaaak). I don't really worry about that. I have enough gas to keep the house pipes from freezing for a week or two. After that I can drain the cars, find a gas station, whatever, for another few weeks. If we've gone a couple of months without power, then I won't feel bad about draining the pipes, because the city water won't be flowing anyway, or the natural gas for the furnace, and frozen pipes will be waaaaay down the list of pressing problems :-).

But the generator (and a propane campstove) sure makes riding out a week long outage nicer. We have spaghetti feeds for the freezing neighbors, charge lots of batteries, the house is 50 degrees or above, we can use the fridge sparingly, etc. It's a week long party!


(At the risk of stating the obvious, this fits our situation. Dinky intermittent use generators aren't so great if your outages come in hot summers and you need AC, or you have an O2 concentrator that has to run 24 hours or what have you.)

smitcat
Posts: 2087
Joined: Mon Nov 07, 2016 10:51 am

Re: Large portable generator vs. permanent natural gas generator for home

Post by smitcat » Sat Sep 16, 2017 9:45 am

dm200 wrote:
Sat Sep 16, 2017 8:12 am
Storing gasoline in quantities needed (or potentially needed) is also a safety issue. In addition, how would you know how long the generator would be needed?
We have stored enough fuel for 8-10 days as a worst case scenario and it has worked out well these past 30 years.
Anything that appears to cause issues for longer than that would be best attended to by vacating the area early if possible or vacating immediately after as a last resort.

smitcat
Posts: 2087
Joined: Mon Nov 07, 2016 10:51 am

Re: Large portable generator vs. permanent natural gas generator for home

Post by smitcat » Sat Sep 16, 2017 9:47 am

dm200 wrote:
Sat Sep 16, 2017 8:13 am
Might neighbors possibly share some of the costs of a generator? The neighbot could, possibly, tap into the generator power for some small, but very basic, power needs in an emergency?

Although we have shared some power in the past for the most part it is impractical , mostly difficult and possibly dangerous.

Post Reply