Generators for Home Emergencies from Basic to Elaborate.
March 4, 2018 at 3:31 pm #90976
This will be the place to discuss personal experiences with your backup power sources.
Generators are the priority, but basic reasonable alternatives are acceptable.
March 4, 2018 at 5:45 pm #90977RoadkillParticipant
Cheapest and easiest is to backfeed a double male cord from your generator to a 220 outlet. Make sure you shut your main breaker in the off position. I realize this does not break the ground. I’ve even seen it done with a single extension cord, but only one side of your breaker box will be charged, so anything like well pumps would have to be turned off. I have a Honda 6500 and it’s enough to keep my well and frig running, along with a few lights. If you get an inverter type it will give you cleaner power for electronics but they are more expensive.
March 4, 2018 at 5:46 pm #90978
The first consideration for a engine driven generator is fuel.
Gasoline powered generators are plentiful in a variety of sizes and are relatively inexpensive. If you go with higher quality name brands such as Honda they are relatively light on maintenance requirements and good to go after filling the various fluids. Though require proper storage after use to avoid carburetor problems of not used for extended periods.
Some of the off brand generators such as those sold by Harbor Freight can be excellent bargains with proper research and extra preparations prior to use. These preparations can be found online. Do not mistake this to be a recommendation to go cheap, but any generator is better than none when on a tight budget.
Lastly gasoline powered generators can be adapted to alternative fuels such as Gasification, though the details of which are beyond the introduction.
Diesel driven generators are a excellent choice if you already have other diesel requirements such as vehicles or tractors. Diesel stores far superior to gasoline, but still must be treated if not rotated.
As Rotorhead mentioned finding quality diesel generators in the sizes appropriate for this use can be difficult. The many Foreign manufactured diesel generators are fairly reasonable, but require significant preparation to make ready in order to have a long service life. Since most Chinese diesel generators are copies of other products there is nothing wrong with the designs, but the execution can be rough and require detailed breakins and/or modifications to make ready. Again this information can be found online for the mechanically inclined on a budget.
Lastly propane/natural gas generators are great if you already use them for other devices. Propane has a virtual unlimited storage life and no problems with carburators becoming gummed up after use without post use maintenance to be stored for extended periods.
I currently have various gasoline generators and a propane Generac. I have nothing against diesel, but I don’t have any other diesel requirements.
Obviously there are many pros and cons to various choices that need to be weighed against your unique requirements.
March 5, 2018 at 6:04 am #90979LittleBigBillParticipant
One consideration to back feeding your electrical system with the generator is that if anything goes wrong and you burn your house down your insurance most likely will not cover the damage or loss. So only use this method if you don’t carry insurance, don’t mind losing your house and not being covered for it, or it’s truly a life-threatening situation.
March 5, 2018 at 10:52 am #90980trailmanParticipant
I got some comments later to add to what I posted in the other thread. But for now I DO have a Honda Generator and had some gas problems with it setting even with the Stabil. Tank drain and carb clean later its running again. We used it during the wind storm. Going forward I’m storing and using ethanol free gas for that application. Everything else I get enough rotation out of my gas stock that I don’t think it matters. I got some on the way back from Romney last weekend using
Stuffs a little more expensive but i think worth it.
March 5, 2018 at 1:40 pm #90981
March 5, 2018 at 2:30 pm #90982Scott GParticipant
I have been considering a generator for a while. When we moved into the house the previous owners stated that they rarely lost power. Even when the derecho came through and people in our area were powerless for a week or more, we had power back in about 24 hours. This recent wind storm saw the power flicker multiple times and the longest outage was about 30 seconds.
I know it could happen, but with so many other things needed, such as handguns for wife and self, am AR for myself, etc. it is hard to determine where in the order of priority a generator falls.
Will to listen to input/advice.
March 5, 2018 at 11:58 pm #90983AnonymousInactive
Having been in Syria the bulk of last year we almost always used generators for power. There were gasoline generators but they were cheap Chinese ones (Kaka-branded) and we frequently had issues with failing spark plugs. Diesel was cheaper and easier for us to use, they were basically the standard issue in SDF. Each tabur usually had a diesel generator assigned to them, we also bought a gas one because it was more portable but it had too many problems.
While you can’t power a house with one I’ll also mention that the folding portable solar panels were a godsend when you had access to one, even if you don’t have a generator up and running you could at least keep your phone charged.
March 6, 2018 at 8:06 am #90984RotorHeadParticipant
You actually need to ask yourself two or three questions before you can make an informed decision on “type”. First question is what is its primary purpose? Short term outages (lights and refrigerator running) or some longer term outage. The second question is then “what do I need to power”? This will determine what size you need. The third question is “what can I afford” or need to spend on it/them? You “pay” for reliability. My personal choice is “only if it has a Honda motor”, but that is my choice.
So what kind of fuel? Gas is usually the easiest to get (except in a power out), but gas has a number of problems with the ethanol and small carburetors. There are additives to help alleviate some of the issues but not all and it raises the cost per gallon. Diesel is a good choice, particularly if you have a vehicle that uses it, but small quality diesels are hard to come by. Propane, is available, is an excellent choice. Clean burning, so no motor fouling and an infinite shelf life. Within the last few years a number of small generators that run on propane have hit the market. Since none had “my” Honda motor requirement I converted a Honda 2000i to run on propane (an easy to install kit).
As mentioned in an earlier post, do not forget the benefits of solar for some of your power needs. It cost more per watt than a traditional full generators, but has several important advantages, like being “quiet” and having unlimited “fuel”.
If you are looking at something for long term and not just the temporary power outages that occur in your area, then a combination of these starts to make sense, but can be budget busters.
March 6, 2018 at 9:36 am #90985RoadkillParticipant
I agree with RotorHead. Stick with Honda. Buy nice or buy twice.
March 7, 2018 at 12:25 pm #90986RotorHeadParticipant
Another consideration when looking at power/charging needs is if the application requires “clean” power or not. Most whole house generators provide “clean” power (sine-wave vs modified sine-wave), while most portable generators are modified sine-wave (cost). There are a few exceptions, like the Honda 2000i, but unless it says “clean” power it is a modified sine wave. The issue is some motors, compressors and such don’t really like modified sine-wave power (it looks like a square vs the gentle arch of a sine-wave). I know from experience that some of the early small battery “smart” chargers did not like my portable generator (Honda 8.5Kw) and burnt out the power conversion unit of the charger. Not sure about the chargers today, since I no longer use that generator. A direct 12 volt solar system does not have this issue, it is a DC vs an AC issue, but if you are converting solar to AC then you will have to chose between a modified sine-wave inverter or a sine-wave inverter and of course the cost is significant between the two.
For most short term applications of a few days the modified sine wave is not a real issue, but longer term use is. During a 3 week outage in California (the 1989 Loma Prieta earthquake) running a no-name generator, it cost us a new refrigerator and two small battery smart chargers. The generator ran for 8-10 hours per day, but fuel was almost impossible to get by week two and was only available because I abused my job position.
So it was a lesson learned.
March 7, 2018 at 1:14 pm #90987RobertParticipant
We used a 12KW China Diesel genset as part of our alternate energy system for years. The first 9 or so years at the homestead we ran only 1,600 watts of solar. So occasionally we had to fire up the genset to run a bulk charge into the battery bank. Some years back we added about couple KW of solar, so we rarely ever use the genset any more.
Diesel stores well, we still have some off road from 99 that was put up with PRI-D that fires well in a tractor, excavator, backhoe and dozer.
Also diesel being less flammable than gas, it’s better to store quantities of this from a security standpoint.
The big thing to remember is that your not trying to run your house off the generator- as in running the generator all the time.
If you have a genset already, the addition of a small battery bank and a real inverter/charger allows you to fire up the genset as use that as your main AC power source. Run your heavy loads like well pump, etc. (pump to an elevated tank on a hill or use small RV pressure pump) and meanwhile the excess power routes into your battery bank via your inverter charger. So you run the genset for maybe only 30 minutes, pump your water tank full and top off your battery bank. Versus running the genset 24 hours or multiple times during the day. Better for security.
March 12, 2018 at 9:31 am #90988
I just picked up this Generac 31 KW natural gas powered generator for $1500. I will convert it to propane and it will make a great whole house backup. Gotta love craigslist.
March 12, 2018 at 10:17 am #90989
March 12, 2018 at 11:19 am #90990
March 12, 2018 at 2:08 pm #90991
I just picked up this Generac 31 KW natural gas powered generator for $1500.
Consider a battery bank at some point to reduce runtime and possible entry to solar at a later date.
Get biggest tank zoning allows and buy propane when prices are low, I cook with propane and it’s such a little amount that unless I needed generator for several weeks I never have to consider buying when prices are higher.
March 12, 2018 at 2:20 pm #90992
Great thing about where I live is there is no zoning. No codes.
March 12, 2018 at 2:46 pm #90993
Great thing about where I live is there is no zoning. No codes.
That’s good, but you still want tank a safe distance from anything you don’t want destroyed in worse case.
Options include underground or berm protected, if berm make sure tank has ventilation and slightly higher than ground so any leaks don’t pool and create fire/explosion hazard.
Don’t forget ease of tank fueling.
March 12, 2018 at 9:39 pm #90994RobertParticipant
With LP you want to BUY your tank, not lease it.
When you call the gas company they will want you to LEASE a tank from them at $10-20. per month (or less). The problem with that is then you can only buy gas from them.
When you own your own tank, you can buy gas from whoever the hell you want. We save on average $.25 to .40 per gallon that way. On a 500 gallon tank, the price of the tank gets paid back in a couple fill ups.
Make sure you get and keep the receipt for payment of buying the tank. We bought our tank from FERAL gas and about 5 years later, started receiving bills from the bastards for leasing a tank. Called them and no way they believed that we owned this, well why the hell haven’t you been billing me for the last 5 years then? “Oh that was an accounting error.” So I had to dig through and find the original invoice for the paid for tank, get copies and mail certified to their home office with bill and letter. Month later got a “we are real sorry what can we do to make it up to you” BS call from a local rep. My reply “give me a fill up for such and such price per gallon (about $.20 cents lower than best quote I got). “Oh we can’t do that!” So you were just talking crap huh? Thanks bye. Come to find out they did the same thing (billing for lease on owned tanks) to several dozen people in our area!!! Keep your receipts!
March 12, 2018 at 10:25 pm #90995
I’m planning to go underground and buy the tank. This thread is another great example of the value of the forum. Thanks guys!
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