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Advice Please: Home Generator

Discussion in 'Off Topic Threads' started by Chango2, Feb 4, 2011.

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  1. Chango2

    Chango2 Active Member

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    Hi,

    (Firstly, I am very grateful to this forum for attracting helpful and active individuals...I mean this sincerely, not just to "kiss up" and get responses..but in reality, we are lucky to have this forum that offers a clearing house of information about a variety of topics...not only trapshooting..in some ways, a virtual around the cracker barrel gathering. Thanks David Van Elgort.)

    We just purchased a vacation home in the Central California Mtns. in Eldorado County/Placerville area. It is 1100 square feet. Sometimes, since it is at 3800 feet, we get cold weather and snow and power outages. Home has central heat and AC and we mostly used the pellet stove thus far for heat.

    Question: Home has aux. hookup for generator back up...plug in kind of thing, manual switch. Former owner used a portable Generac generator.

    Like to know: From others' experience, what is a reliable, "fair for the buck" and quality backup generator to use?

    Also, where to buy for a "good deal", and, perhaps, how many watts needed? Home is nicely insulated, gas stove, but electric oven. During outages, will not plan to use the 220 circuits anyway...

    Thanks, I'm a novice at this. I see generators from obviously cheapo and made in China and imported by who knows whom to what looks like a great for the buck Subaru powered Coleman 5000 watt to the popular Generac brand. All confusing thus far...

    David
     
  2. grntitan

    grntitan Well-Known Member

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    David--My in-laws have a Guardian. I don't have a pic of theirs installed but this pic below is what it looks like. Theirs is actually set-up outside next to their AC unit. It runs of Natural Gas and they do a system check once a month. It's seems they paid under $10,000 with the unit installed. I'm thinking the price was closer to $7000 but not positive on that. The install included all the wiring and the Electrical Box stuff including some sort of antiback-feed system. They have gotten good use out of theirs lately.---Matt

    Don't quote me on the prices. I have found the units online much cheaper than what i guessed.


    grntitan_2009_2503184.jpg
     
  3. 635 G

    635 G Well-Known Member

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    Honestly, I used to be an electrical contractor---one get a Honda Generator, set up an essential panel to control necessary loads, few lights, Refrig & heat---if propane is available thats the way to go--gasoline requires stabilizers & if not run on a regular basis will gum up the engine that drives the generator. You said its a vacation home, natural gas or propane is a must--the generator must be able to be a pull start;

    5000-6000w will get you thru if an emergency arises.

    Phil Berkowitz
     
  4. esoxhunter

    esoxhunter Well-Known Member

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    I agree with 635G. We have a smaller Dewalt generator equipped with a Honda engine. You can let that thing set for 6 months and pull the start cord and it will start immediately. You can easily get by with a 5000W unit. That will get you by until the power returns. No, you can't run 220; with that small of a unit. However, you can run the refrigerator, your TV and several lamps. Plus you won't have a fortune invested. But again, the Honda engine is king! Good Luck. Ed
     
  5. oz

    oz Active Member

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    you don't need to run 220 BUT you have to use the 220 setting BECAUSE 1/2 of your circuits are on one side and the other circuits are on the other side. If you use the 110 only 1/2 of your stuff will work. oz
     
  6. 635 G

    635 G Well-Known Member

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    Oz-that is why I said-et up a small panel where all your necessary loads are on the same phase 115v---its a very simple thing to do--maybe 4- 15 amp circuits fed by a 40 amp breaker.

    Phil Berkowitz
     
  7. dverna

    dverna Active Member

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    I have a 5000 Watt "cheapie" and a Transfer Panel I wired up myself (note: had the Building Dept inspect it just to be sure)

    I can run 6 separate 115V circuits. I have used it four times in 11 years. It could handle a long emergency although my longest was two days. I have 5 gallon cans for fuel and will fill a couple if the weather report is nasty.

    Must haves on the circuits include frig., freezer, furnace, TV, computer (or outlet for laptop), sump pump (if it runs in your house), select light circuits. Nice to have are garage door opener(s), microwave, reloaders that run on power (may as well use the time wisely LOL)

    Unless you use it a lot, a cheap unit will last many years of occasional use. I run the gas out of mine after using it and store it. It has never failed to start. The cheap ones are noisy. I do not care. The plus to hearing it run is if someone tries to steal it you will know about it. A recommended accessory is a Mossberg 500 or similar. Wheels are nice to move it from where it is stored to where the wire enters your home.

    Don Verna
     
  8. W.R.Buchanan

    W.R.Buchanan Member

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    I have a 8KW Generac unit that was installed by the previous owner. It automatically fires once a week to excersize. it runs on NG. It has some problems that are not easily fixed and as a result I would not recommend a Generac brand as they are nearly impossible to get anyone to work on. They are popular because they are relatively inexpensive and alot of places sell them. There is much better stuff available.

    If you are looking at a permanently installed unit then I'd look at Kohler, or Onan.

    If you are looking at a portable genset that you can just plug in as needed, which sounds like something that would work for you, then anything with the name HONDA on it is good stuff. You can get a Portable Honda Brand genset in the 6-8 KW range for under $1500, from many bigbox outlets. Beware of NON Name Brand Machines. they might look good and be attractively priced, but when they fail parts become and issue and they will usually fail when you need it the most. Being from SoCAl the worst it is ever going to get is not really that bad, but still, having the machine when you need it is kind of the whole idea here.

    Make sure to set it up so it can be plugged into your house's main circuit box after the main circuit breaker, and then you must trip the main breaker before you start the genset to isolate your sytem from the rest of the grid. Most people don't understand when the power is out and you start generating power, if you aren't isolated from the systemn, then YOU power the system!

    Fixed units usually have a "Transfer Switch" that automatically isolates the home from the rest of the grid, and lights the genset when power is interupted for more than 30 seconds, and then shuts it down and returns everything to mormal operation when power goes back on.

    My house is also set up so I can plug in a portable genset into a box in my B garage. By plugging in here I can run a small genset to run my freezer independently from the house, by tripping the circuit breaker that normally feeds the garage from the house.

    Also, and a very important point is to set up the genset so the exhaust and noise are directed away from the house. My main generator is way too loud to listen to for any length of time. It needs to be in an insulated out building if possible. And with an extra muffler and the outlet aimed at an uninhabitted area or strait up.

    You're doing the right thing by doing your homework on this subject. There is alot to learn and not knowing WTF, you are just setting yourself up for either an inadequate system or a needlessly expensive system you won't use that much, and won't get your moneys worth out of. good luck Randy
    wrbuchanan_2009_191236.jpg

    wrbuchanan_2009_191237.jpg

    wrbuchanan_2009_191238.jpg
     
  9. WYBOO WOOD

    WYBOO WOOD Member

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    Note to all. When a residential generator is connected to a house, it is absolutely critical that the house system is DISCONNECTED from the Power Co.by opening the MAIN BREAKER at the panel. If this is not done and the generator is backfeeding the Power Co. some lineman is potentialy injured of killed when he touches a wire he expects to be dead, but isn't. Automatic transfer equipment will do this as part if it's design.

    We have a 5500 watt gasoline gen. which has been more than adequate for 'frig (2), lights, tv. and one stove burner. We run it once in a while and keep Stabil in the tank to preserve the gasoline. Sone rural users should keep in mind their well, which may be 220v.

    You can spend a moderate amount or a lot, but standby generators give you peace of mind. We wouldn't be without ours.

    Dave Hunt in SC
     
  10. halfmile

    halfmile Well-Known Member

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    Kohler/Onan is the serious stuff with automatic startup/transfer. A friend had a remote cabin in Upper Michigan, with a well and pump setup. If you opened the water tap the generator would start automatically.

    A manual switch and a Honda would be good, don't fret the gas, just put a little Stabil in it.

    HM
     
  11. skeeljc

    skeeljc Supporting Vendor Supporting Vendor

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    I have a Coleman 5000 watt portable. It will run my TV, Dish, DSL modem and the blower on my wood burning fireplace. It will handle my freezer and my refrigerator one at a time. It will not handle my hot water heater. I have city water so no pump. It will handle the small window air conditioner in a spare bedroom. We went for 3 days without power in the middle of the summer once.

    We are retired so all we need is TV and INTERNET and the blower on my wood burning fireplace to get by.

    I would upgrade to a larger 8000 to 10000 watt unit if we thought we would be without power for an extended period.

    I keep Stabil in the gas and drain the carb float bowl when I shut it down.

    Jim Skeel
     
  12. WS-1

    WS-1 Banned User Banned

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    I checked out an installed price for a nice system about 15 years ago. 10 years ago, we lost power for 5 days. Several years ago, we had Ernesto and some other storm and we lost power for about 7 days. We went over to Richmond and stayed at a motel with an indoor pool. We ate good, hot food and swam in the pool and had a nice little "honeymoon" without any of the "honeydews" I'd have had at home. Momma was happy! Life is good.

    Kit
     
  13. Chango2

    Chango2 Active Member

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    Wow, this is really educational. I do know that the previous owner had a 5000W Generac that he took with him. The home does have a special box where the generator is to be plugged in. I am not sure what settings to use so I don't power the grid and hurt somebody working on the system. I am aware of that. There is already a seperate panel where the generator is designed to plug in; the outlet looks like a 30 amp kind of deal, or maybe 50 amp, I should have looked more carefully, as per an RV parking area.

    Two years ago, I owned a Coleman 5000 watt generator powered by Subaru. It seemed like a good deal at the time for RV use. But I sold that and bought a Yamaha inverter type at 2400 watts for RV use for the quiet and cleaner power.

    Question: Is "clean" power essential, or will a lot of watts minimize that problem? Or a surge protector at the computer end? Or...????

    Anyway, I need to narrow down what kind of generator to get; a basic one or one with an inverter for clean power and how many watts.

    More guidance appreciated; I do know I need to have an electrician over to the home to show me what switches to throw since no instructions were there; I think with electricity, "guesstimating" and using "reason" alone is not good enough!

    David
     
  14. W.R.Buchanan

    W.R.Buchanan Member

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    David: Clean power? this is not a requirement unless there is a bunch of touchy electronic stuff being ran. Clean power is power that doesn't deviate from 60 cycles per second any more than about .5%. Older generators would be all over the place +- 1-5 cycles/second, and they always dip dramatically when a new load is dropped onto the system. New ones, especially ones with electronic controls are much more precise in their output. Computers like clean power but they won't be harmed by small powersurges, and your surge protector will prevent that from happening anyway. The ultimate surge protector is a bank of batteries being charged by a generator and the output power being converted to AC thru an electronic invertor. The batteries act as a dampener/storage tank and the invertor acts as the entity that creates the cycles per second. And since it is computer controlled it is very accurate and updates its control of the output every millisecond. Very accurate control of the frequency, thus very clean power.

    However light bulbs, and motors don't really care about how clean the power is. Most of that stuff will run on just about anything fed to it. The brightness of a light bulb or speed of a motor might fluctuate a little but it will still run. Plus if you are looking at emergency power you need to have emergency power not perfect power. Most of your tv's computers and other basic electronic devices will run just fine on generator power. You wouldn't want to do it continuously, but it will get you through the bad times which is what emergency power is all about.

    Randy
     
  15. OldPshtr

    OldPshtr Member

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    I use a Lincoln WeldnPower. Has 8 KW generator.
    Plug into 220 outlet on welder and spare outlet in
    breaker box. Pull main switch to avoid backfeeding.
    Run whole house except central heat and stove. Ran
    for 21 days. Welder run about 9 hrs on tank fuel.

    Doyal
     
  16. Chango2

    Chango2 Active Member

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    Randy...thanks, I believe you may have saved me a good amount of bucks re. power. I did use the Coleman/Subaru once here in Los Angeles all night 'cause the winds took out the power one early spring. Kept the reefer going and we could watch tv etc. Also, one wonders how clean the power is from the grid during hot weather etc. anyway???

    I'm quite tempted to source a basic Honda, Subaru/Powermate or??? at about 5000 watts, no fancy inverter stuff yet. I did find a NIB 5000watt Generac for #600.00 which might be a good compromise...or???
     
  17. twopipe

    twopipe Member

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    No wonder linemen are scared sh..ss during a power outage ! what happens if 1 day you forget to turn off the main ? or someone else unwittingly turns it back on ?
     
  18. Chichay

    Chichay TS Supporters TS Supporters

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    If you have piped in NG, that would be your best bet as you'll practically never run out of fuel and requires no (fuel) storage. If not, LPG is 2nd best if you already have LPG for cooking and suppliers are reliable and relatively close. Gasoline powered generators have more drawbacks. Depending on how often you go to this vacation home, storing gasoline there can be a concern. Remember also that if you need a refill during prolonged electrical outage, the nearest gas station pump may have no power as well. I do not know how safe it is to refill a tank of a very hot generator that has been running for hours (depending on where the tank is in relation to the motor). At any rate a transfer switch is a MUST; an automated one greatly preferred.
     
  19. skeeljc

    skeeljc Supporting Vendor Supporting Vendor

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    The linemen I have watched always put a grounding clamp on the line before they touch anything. they know how to be safe. Still if you are going to use a backup power source invest in a transfer switch.

    I installed a sub panel and moved the circuits I want to use in an emergency to the sub panel. I feed the sub panel with a transfer switch. The circuits I put in the sub panel are my TV and Dish, wood burning fireplace blower, DSL modem and desk top computer, master bath, refrigerator, and microwave.

    My backup generator is a Coleman Powermate 5000 watt. It always starts on the first pull. I keep Stabil in the gas and drain the carb float bowl when I shut it off.

    Jim Skeel
     
  20. Recoil Sissy

    Recoil Sissy Well-Known Member

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    As has been mentioned several times, a backup genset that isn't properly isolated WILL backfeed into the grid and can get someone killed.

    Preventing such a tragedy is accomplished by installing the proper hardware NOT by a person remembering to do the "right" thing at the right time. The National Electric Code (NEC) covers the subject and any qualified electrician can handle the installation. Unless you know exactly what you're doing and why, this ISN'T a do it yourself project.

    Aside from life and limb issues, there's another little matter to consider...

    The U.S. power grid consists of three separate regions: west of the Rockies, Texas, and everything else (excluding Texas) east of the Rockies. Via their grids, power plants within each region are interconnected and their respective sine waves synchronized.

    If some goof's genset is connected to the system when grid power is restored, the two will be out of phase. Imagine a semi-tractor and a moped colliding head on at 100 mph. Game over.

    sissy
     
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