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Offline Wilbur

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Generator questions
« on: September 15, 2016, 12:42:46 PM »
So a few years ago we had a nice big blizzard that hit the NE. I was heading for a business trip to SF when we lost power at 2AM. I called the power company and they said it would be back on in an hour or two so said good....left a note for the wife and I left. (yeah....you know what's coming.... ::)) Um....they lied. Power was not on for the entire 5 days I was on the west coast. The wife was not to *bleeping* happy with that one. The kids loved it....they all moved into the FR and my son kept the fires burning all day every day (it was February after all) to stay warm.

But since then I knew I needed to get a backup generator for the place. I just haven't been able to of yet. But I am now looking at them and here's my question(s)- I've looked at my electric bill and the "high water" mark over the past few years for usage was 2044 kWh for a month. That was a 32 day month (didn't know we had those didja!  ??? ya me either....) So that gave me an average of 2.66 kWh....a lot of what I have read suggests adding 5 to that # as the "avg" doesn't tell the "peak use" #. Okay so now I'm at 7.66.

I have looked at Generac standby units and can get an 8kw Standby unit for $2400 but that has a 50 amp pre-wired transfer switch. If I go with the 11kw Standby it comes with a 200 amp transfer switch. Both of these run on LP which works as I am switching my stove from elec to LP and will have a tank put in anyhoo.

But as an alternative to this I can also get a portable generator that has 12.5K surge and 10K rated gas powered unit for $2100. With that I would need to buy my own transfer switch ($460), plug in box ($100) and I am guessing a higher electrician bill to wire it all versus the pre-wired unit that comes with the standby generator.

I am confused about one thing with the portable unit if I was going to use it to run the whole house- the outputs on the side of the generator are 4- 20A 120 plugs, 2- 30A 120 plugs and 1- 50A 120/240. But is the 50A 120/240 enough if I am running a house? I get that 240 volts x 50 Amps = 12,000 watts so in theory it is. But if my service panel is 100 Amp (or 200?) is that just bc home service panels are always oversized? Or do I need a way to transfer 100 Amps in which case the outlet may not be large enough? 

On the one hand I like the idea of the portable one as I could use it anywhere for a variety of purposes - but at 350 lbs this is not as "portable" as some and its not like I have a tremendous need for a portable one now anyway so may be overkill. At the same time its gas versus LP, would require me to be there to get it going and throw the switch to isolate the house.

The true standby units self test 1x per month and automatically isolate the house and fire up when needed.

Just curious what you guys would do or think. I'm definitely having this installed by an electrician so no worries I will kill myself, burn down my house or backload the grid....or all of the above at once.  :o 

ETA- These prices are at Northern Tool....I use them for comparison purposes here but haven't shopped around as of yet....

« Last Edit: September 15, 2016, 12:44:33 PM by Wilbur »

Offline rpar86

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Re: Generator questions
« Reply #1 on: September 15, 2016, 01:11:58 PM »
Wilber,
The first thing to ask yourself is, what do I absolutely need to power during an outage? Fridge, freezer, heat, a few lights. You wouldn't probably want to run a stove or clothes dryer off a genset.

No, you do not need to supply a full 100 (or 200) amp just because that is what the house has. It is always about what you're actually going to connect and use at any given time. Keep in mind having some 'reserve' space so you can turn on a few extra lights, or when the fridge compressor kicks in.

The 8kw standby unit is a nice choice for no reason other than it is automatic -- easy for the wife (not knowing how technical she is). Portable is nice if you need to use it elsewhere at times.

Transfer switches are not hard to wire in if you are comfortable working on electrical (though you plan to have an electrician do it anyway) -- you select the 6-8 circuits you want to power and re-route those wires to the transfer panel. The transfer panel then connects to the main panel with a 50 or 60amp breaker, maybe larger (essentially becomes a subpanel), that you turn off when using the genny. There is some degree of know-how needed here to make sure the correct breakers are shut off as to not back-feed to the power lines. A step-by-step document posted next to the panel is a good idea. **Automatic transfer switches make this a lot simpler.**

FWIW, i'd almost go with two smaller units, like the Honda, that can run parallel to provide mo-power. Quiet, easier to start (bigger ones have electric start so this becomes a moot point), easier to move, etc.

With all the low wattage bulbs and more efficient appliances today, you COULD probably run an entire house off of 8000W no problem. I had a 5500W that ran my furnace fan, two fridges, microwave at times and various lights no problem. Water heater, range, and furnace heat are all NG though.

If you're having an electrician do the install anyway, you may ask if he can provide a pre-install recommendation for what you need.

I would NOT recommend running sensitive electronics (TV, computers, etc) off of a generator unless it were an inverter style generator.



Ryan
2006 GMC 3500 6.6 CCLB SRW 4x4

Online Bear9350

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Re: Generator questions
« Reply #2 on: September 15, 2016, 01:43:35 PM »
I've been starting to think about doing this also.  It seems like every winter there is a snow/ice storm coupled with winds that could potentially knock a large section of the grid out.  To this point I have always lucked out and never had an issue.  Up until now it has also only been me and the wife.  With my baby girl being here now I am thinking it might be time to invest in a generator.  Something to run some lights, fridges, freezers, etc..  If power is going to be out for an extended period it would be nice to run the oven/ cooktop.  Not sure if that would be ok though.  The cooktop seems relatively dumb, but there is a lot going on with the oven.  The dryer wouldn't be needed though.

Offline rpar86

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Re: Generator questions
« Reply #3 on: September 15, 2016, 01:52:16 PM »
You would probably be OK running a burner or two on a cooktop. I've never tried it though.
Ryan
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Offline Flyin6

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Re: Generator questions
« Reply #4 on: September 15, 2016, 02:56:34 PM »
From strictly a fuel perspective, it's hard to make an argument against Propane.
Last forever, multiple uses, you can store large amounts which you'd buy during the warm months...

Diesel would be a decent second choice assuming you had a good storage system and you added to it every once in awhile to keep the mixture a bit fresher.

Gas, well, I think it's a no-go for survival purposes because the gas goes away too fast, and with today's crappy alcohol/gas blends the stuff doesn't last very long at all...Just ask the mikuni carb on my DR-650!

Size wise, I concur with the above. Transfer panel with just the essentials makes good sense. Then sizing a unit from as low as your 8K, upward to maybe a 16KW unit if your needs are higher (Electric heater, essential life support equipment, or things like that)
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Offline Wilbur

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Re: Generator questions
« Reply #5 on: September 15, 2016, 03:23:46 PM »
Wilber,
The first thing to ask yourself is, what do I absolutely need to power during an outage? Fridge, freezer, heat, a few lights. You wouldn't probably want to run a stove or clothes dryer off a genset.

No, you do not need to supply a full 100 (or 200) amp just because that is what the house has. It is always about what you're actually going to connect and use at any given time. Keep in mind having some 'reserve' space so you can turn on a few extra lights, or when the fridge compressor kicks in.

The 8kw standby unit is a nice choice for no reason other than it is automatic -- easy for the wife (not knowing how technical she is). Portable is nice if you need to use it elsewhere at times.

Transfer switches are not hard to wire in if you are comfortable working on electrical (though you plan to have an electrician do it anyway) -- you select the 6-8 circuits you want to power and re-route those wires to the transfer panel. The transfer panel then connects to the main panel with a 50 or 60amp breaker, maybe larger (essentially becomes a subpanel), that you turn off when using the genny. There is some degree of know-how needed here to make sure the correct breakers are shut off as to not back-feed to the power lines. A step-by-step document posted next to the panel is a good idea. **Automatic transfer switches make this a lot simpler.**

FWIW, i'd almost go with two smaller units, like the Honda, that can run parallel to provide mo-power. Quiet, easier to start (bigger ones have electric start so this becomes a moot point), easier to move, etc.

With all the low wattage bulbs and more efficient appliances today, you COULD probably run an entire house off of 8000W no problem. I had a 5500W that ran my furnace fan, two fridges, microwave at times and various lights no problem. Water heater, range, and furnace heat are all NG though.

If you're having an electrician do the install anyway, you may ask if he can provide a pre-install recommendation for what you need.

I would NOT recommend running sensitive electronics (TV, computers, etc) off of a generator unless it were an inverter style generator.

Thanks Ryan- this is very helpful. A big piece of this is that I want it easy for the wife in case I am not home for some reason. So the autostart feature of the true stand by makes sense to me.

This series of standby has (according to Generac) less than 5% harmonic distortion (see how I said that like I knew what the he** it means?  ::) ) and is suitable for electronics etc. I did know that issue existed with "regular" generators that the power spikes can be problematic unless you get an inverter generator.

Add to that what Don said about fuel and that's another plus for the LP fired standby.

I would/should be able to run the stove with it as I am converting to gas stove and the "high water" mark I used for calcs was with an electric stove so shouldn't be a worry there. 

Ironically I have been in this house since 95 and this was only the 2nd power outage we ever had. We had one that lasted about two or three hours but other than that I have not lost power even one time. Course that one time was a bitch. Well.....not for me I was in a hotel in SF! ha. (My wife doesn't come to this forum or I'd be on the couch tonight....haha.  8) )

Thanks everyone I do appreciate the feedback!

Offline EL TATE

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Re: Generator questions
« Reply #6 on: September 15, 2016, 04:35:15 PM »
I've got a briggs-stratton 5500 http://www.searsoutlet.com/Storm-Responder-5500-Watt-Generator-Non-CA/d/product_details.jsp?pid=8487 that I've been running since 2008. Had the gen-tran panel wired so HH6 can simply flip the main off, and turn on the 5 selected circuits for stove, fridge a few outlets and the electric blower on the gas fireplace. She just rolls it out the garage to the driveway and it fires up on the first pull every time. (lots of trees and wind in November. we've got buried cables but the surrounding neighborhoods don't) couldn't complain about it for nothing.
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Offline DDS

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Re: Generator questions
« Reply #7 on: September 16, 2016, 07:31:20 AM »
I'd search CL for a generator. I have a Kohler 12KW lp generator I purchased slightly used off of CL for $2K. My house is 1300 sq/ft. I can(& have tried for testing) turn on every possible thing in the house & it doesn't skip a beat. Keep in mind, just a hair dryer & iron uses about 2.3KW when turned on. I wasn't going to tell her she can't use that stuff when the generator is running, not worth the argument.

Offline kampfitt

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Re: Generator questions
« Reply #8 on: September 16, 2016, 08:20:26 AM »
If you want it for backup when your not home then only way to go is the true standby. You can get down to 8kw and a auto transfer switch for the whole house, uses less propane but costs more I've found 11kw with 200 amp whole house transfer switch to be about the best price combo.
Here are some of the ones I looked at
http://www.norwall.com/products/11kW-Generac-Guardian-7033-Home-Standby-Generator-with-200-Amp-Whole-House-ATS
http://www.norwall.com/products/10kW-Home-Generator-NGLP-and-200-Amp-Service-Rated-ATS-with-Symphony-II-Power-Management-by-Briggs-and-Stratton-40450
The Briggs uses a little less fuel 1.82 gph , Generac 2.01 gph
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Offline Wilbur

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Re: Generator questions
« Reply #9 on: September 16, 2016, 11:53:47 AM »
thanks for the comments guys.....a friend recommended this to me:

http://www.generlink.com/about_generlink.cfm

Its a unit that gets wired behind the meter and provides the isolation. Then he just flips the breakers he wants to run based on his needs and he's GTG. No wiring of a sub-panel etc. Sounded good but the website doesn't tell the cost of it (or if it does I couldn't find it).....so I called them...the 30 amp non-surge is $550 and the 40 amp non-surge is $650. Buuuuut....my local power company won't allow its installation.  >:(

So I'm back to looking at true standby's or something.

kampfit thanks for the links.....the price is the same as Northern Tool's....good to double check prices on something like this. Still not sure which way I'm going to go yet....

Offline Bob/OlallaWa

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Re: Generator questions
« Reply #10 on: September 16, 2016, 08:56:32 PM »
Wow, so many choices. If you were home no big deal lots of options. If you are gone, what does she want/need and how dependent is she? How often would you need this thing to provide the comfort level she would need? Around here maybe twice a year we are without power for more than an hour. What is her stress level and how long till she explodes? Can she do the switch over and the stuff that goes with it?
I have wood stove for heat and some cooking, RV with gas hot water, gas heat, and gas stove, only need a small generator or solar to keep the batteries up. You/she can use the same small genset to keep the freezer/fridge in the house cold too. Just have to have water tank full to make it through most storms or be on public water that keeps the flow going.
Do you have a gas BBQ on the patio, even a camp stove can  get you by. A couple lanterns or good flashlights are better than candles for sure. Keep batteries in stock and she is good to go.
If you decide permanent genset, good going but lots of maintenance to be sure it works when needed. Portable genset, great if small enough that you can move it around and lift it. No sure answer for sure but lots of options. If you use a smaller genset, turn stuff off when you need to turn other stuff on, throw the 220 breakers off except if you really need some, then a bigger genset will be needed for the 220 stuff. Good luck, aren't storms fun...

Offline Mrwoody

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Re: Generator questions
« Reply #11 on: September 16, 2016, 11:06:25 PM »
  I have a Generac 26K peak / 17500 continuous portable that i keep in a shed and roll out when we lose power ( usually about 3-4 times a year).  we have used it for 8 days at the longest  usually running for a couple hrs in the morning before work and  6-10 hrs after work. I use a 50A welder plug in and backfeed the panel, just have to make sure and flip the main to unhook us from the power company. It usually averages about a gallon an hour using it like this and will run the AC or the water heater or the dryer but not all at once ( ask my wife how i know). Its too big for my wife to move out to use it so the neighbor has to help her set it up and 50% of the power outages happen when I'm out of town working.  if i had to do it again i would go with an 11K or 15K  whole house stand by and let it do its job.
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Offline kampfitt

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Re: Generator questions
« Reply #12 on: September 17, 2016, 09:32:34 AM »
Yea that's the main thing will your wife want to go hook it all up and flip breakers? Not mine so its me or the whole house auto route is the only way to go.  BTW my Dad has the Generac 11 kw whole house when we out 2 yrs ago for 5 days after a big storm I'm on a portable gen filling up every 7-8 hrs going to gas stations 10 miles away to get gas and I stop bye His house the first night and his yard light, porch light and darn near every light in the house is on!! Looked like a UFO in the dark!! Told him he better turn off some of the lights, some of the neighbors might not like them too much sitting there in the dark for days!!
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Offline stlaser

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Re: Generator questions
« Reply #13 on: September 17, 2016, 01:16:15 PM »
I've never lived (as an adult anyhow) anywhere that the power was off for days. Couple big snow / ice storms that had it off for a day at most. So I've always been the more is less philosophy. Meaning enough to get me by and use less fuel. At the farm we had a 7kw portable which was setup for tri fuel & back fed it from shop into housE. Here in hippy land I've downgraded to a portable LP unit that is 3250 watts as I'm mainly concerned about keeping the freezer cold, maybe running sump as we have had flash floods here in the past etc. I can also take it on camping trips etc as it is light enough & can just run propane for it & camp chef cooktop.......
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Offline OldKooT

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Re: Generator questions
« Reply #14 on: November 22, 2016, 09:16:40 AM »
My Mom's house has a 6.5kw Onan NG run unit that easily keeps her furnace fans and her fancy talking fridge running. Her home is also set up with NG for the stove and water heater. It's proven useful in a cpl week long outages over the years. She's 30 miles from us so the concept of the gen set was prudent. That said, she has fireplaces and a cord of wood always ready..just in case. But I think it illustrates a simple point.... who uses more electricity than "need" requires in a extended outage?

Our home we spend so much time without power we took a different approach. We just don't use much electricity.

We are rural so we have a well pump that's fairly large (25gpm) It takes a fair amount of juice to run that bad boy so we don't use it when the powers out. At the moment of grid power loss the water system consisting of two 125 gallon pressure tanks, large 1.5" copper mains and 3/4" feeders hold a considerable amount of water. Add to that the two 120 gal hot water heaters, and the 80 gallon solar heated water heater and we have plenty of water at hand to get us past the initial issue. If it extends I have a wind mill and a cistern yet that can be filled if required. (we keep it dry normally)

My wife keeps the freezers full, she always has a years supply of meat. They can go many days without running even in the summer. The sub basement never gets much above 50 degrees. Keeping them full is the key. I have ran the freezers once every few days in extended summer outages on the inverter. In the winter the basement room they are in has a external door...so I can chill the room down and have done that when needed.

We have multiple sources of heat...they all can either stand alone or run off the inverter and the forklift batteries. The batteries are charged by a propane powered 1940's Light plant. With LED light bulbs in the home and the fact we aren't afraid to use my wife's massive collection of ornate oil lamps...we just don't need electricity to speak of.  When the power goes out...we just adjust and go on being comfortable.

I even have a double redundancy set up... I can power an inverter off a few large group 31 batteries...a 00 lead from the old Cummins Dodge to the batteries and we have juice again...assuming the old Kholer's gen head dies or something. But.... it's easier just to not need the juice I figure.

Now that said, I have a 30KW Unit I can light a few miles of grid with if I was so inclined. But that's for the farm stuff...

One nice thing about how we have set our home up...we use so little electricity daily that our bill is rarely over $60a month...and I bet a lot of that is the hot tub LoL So it's preparedness that pays daily, by not costing.

I'd size my home standby unit if I was so inclined by a 20% safety margin over what I absolutely had to run. My Moms 6.5kw  has never even strained.


Norm

Are you a prepper?  "No, whats a prepper? I am just a mildly OCD farmer"

Offline Wilbur

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Re: Generator questions
« Reply #15 on: December 13, 2016, 05:46:46 PM »
koot I think the key is having redundancy and its easier to get it with lower use to begin with. As a kid we always filled the bathtubs when a storm was coming so we could flush. Always had enough food and wood for heat. My wife grew up in the suburbs and grew up going to the store almost every day. She always rolled her eyes when I come home from Sam's and load the shelves down cellar. But funny thing....I did get the portable Generac and am adding more fuel stockpiles....she asked me how much we will have on hand. I told her enough for a week or more. She asked me if that was enough or shouldn't we get more? It's rubbing off! Ha!   

Offline TexasRedNeck

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Re: Generator questions
« Reply #16 on: December 13, 2016, 06:47:01 PM »
Here it's never about heat. It's about cooling and AC's take a ton of juice. I need a subterranean home.....


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Offline moto123

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Re: Generator questions
« Reply #17 on: December 14, 2016, 02:55:19 PM »
My vote would be for the propane and automatic transfer.  But another solution that it appears no one has suggested, although even I don't actually recommend it.  I have a Miller Bobcat 225 gas engine driven stick welder.  You know, the ones that are mounted on all the heavy equipment service trucks.  It has about 8kw generator capacity and a 50 amp plug.  So I have a corresponding 220V outlet in my garage near the welder and a totally non-code compliant male to male cordset available.  I can back feed the house through the outlet, of course after disconnecting from the main service and turning all the breakers off.  Then I selectively turn on only the handful that I need.  The downside?  If you do it wrong, bad things happen.  So you need to be careful, not something I would let anyone else do while I am gone.  But the upside?  The rest of the year I have an extra 220V outlet in my garage for the occasional borrowed tablesaw or tool.  And I have a heavy duty welder when I need it.

Offline Wilbur

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Re: Generator questions
« Reply #18 on: December 14, 2016, 03:00:05 PM »
yeah moto someone suggested the backfeed somewhere (I forget now where) but I don't trust myself....Im going to get the lockout switch from the main feed and then the outlet back to the panel. I will ask the electrician though as if its hooked up to "feed" the panel from the generator then wouldn't it be fed with power when the street electric is in the system? (Unless there is some sort of disconnect already "built in".

If Generac had called me back I would have gone with the standby and propane. But they didn't so I have a "portable" one of theirs on gas. I want the security of having something just in case.