Home Generator Help

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#1 Wed, Jun 15, 2011 - 2:04pm
Silver Monkey
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Home Generator Help

Next on my list of preparedness is a home generator. I really am not sure where to start on my research?

What is going to be the best fuel to power my home generator? I'm looking to be able to safely store enough to get me through hairy times and/or have access to more when TSHF.

Are there any reputable companies out there that you would recommend for buying and installing a home generator?

A smaller question would be what sections of my house should I have wired to receive power from said generator?

Any and all help is much appreciated.

Thanks Turdites!

Edited by: Silver Monkey on Nov 8, 2014 - 5:07am
Wed, Jun 15, 2011 - 2:26pm
obiwan
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generator

I bought an almost new Honda generator on craigslist. Then I found an installer on Craigslist. You may call a Honda dealer and ask for a referral of an installer. I also converted it from gasoline to natural gas and propane. Had it har wired to my circuit breakers. Hope this helps.

Wed, Jun 15, 2011 - 3:39pm
Poor Boy
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That's a tough question

Think about possible fuel sources. The best fuel is what you can get that is affordable and available for your area.

Do you have natural gas and what are the possibilities that there would be an interruption of service or that it would be cost prohibitive. You can also apply the same thought to propane and gasoline.

You will probably want to examine your actual power needs. Sure you could refer to prior electric bills to determine your actual consumption. 

Next on the thinking list is what do you really need and determine actual power needs. Do you have an electric range? Electric heat? Need air conditioning? Electric hot water heater? A well? Computer, TV, lights, frig, freezer? How many of these do need to have running at the same time? What are the actual power requirements to run those items. Computing the load need will assist you in determining the size of your backup power source. Un-restrained, you may need from 6 to 15 kwh capacity. 

Then there are off the grid power systems like solar, wind and hydro. Solar and wind are neat because the fuel is free. They are also the subject to unique problems. No wind, no power. No sun, no power. If not enough of either you are impacted. Then there is the cost factor. Solar and wind are really not cheap. You will need high capacity storage batteries, a charging system and of course, a power inverter. 

The best system is complex, requires lots of money and planning.

Lots of web sites discussing this. Try google. Lots of companies selling their solutions. Remembe, they want your money. There are also consultants that are willing to help you (for a price) and it's only just a little money.

Wed, Jun 15, 2011 - 3:41pm
MrSteed
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Probably not on the scale

Probably not on the scale you're thinking, but... I've purchased a couple of Xantek (I think that's the name, google solar power generator systems). Basically it's like a large car battery with all the necessary AC/DC plugs and wiring. It comes with a solar panel. I keep mine plugged in (they also charge from house current) and GTG. You're not going to run your house on these things, but in a pinch it will run some appliances for a bit. I also didn't want to rely on any fuel (although I also have a small gas powered generator).

Wed, Jun 15, 2011 - 4:36pm
Warp10
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8K Watt Generac Generator

I bought, and installed, this Natural Gas generator in 2008. It was $1900 back then.

Ziller Electric

I choose Natural Gas because it's already in my house, fuel will never run out. I live in Vermont and simply didn't want to store LP gas, and have to worry about a truck being able to get to my house to refill it if necessary. No telling what kind of emergency would cause power to go out. Did want some delivery truck trying to get here if it was an ice storm that causes roads to be blocked.

I didn't want gasoline or diesel and also have to worry about storage and delivery.

It auto starts after 15 seconds of power loss. It also performs a weekly self-test automatically by starting and running for 15 minutes. It doesn't do power switching during the self test.

If you can do normal household electrical work you can wiring it up yourself, though it will require a lot of rewiring include it into your house wiring.

In the 3 years I've had it, it's been needed about 4 times. Have to tell, you, it's wonderful to have full house power and look at all the other houses on the block pitch black.

The longest need so far was for about 3 hours this spring when lightning blow out a substation.

With it being always wiring in, and auto-starting, I nice not having to go out in dark, cold weather to start it up and manually connect it to the house wiring.

It's not cheap to buy, but once it's purchased, you soon forget all about the initial expense, especially when it delivers that first time it's needed.

Terry I started of with nothing...I still have most of it left.
Wed, Jun 15, 2011 - 5:17pm
Poor Boy
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Terry, Yours is probebly the cleanest solution.

Did you also install a power transfer switch to keep from sending juice back down the line?

https://www.electricgeneratorsdirect.com/stories/10-How-to-Pick-the-Perf...

I'm not trying to plug any commercial web site, however this link does address the danger and identifies solutions.

Wed, Jun 15, 2011 - 6:30pm (Reply to #6)
Warp10
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Yes I did. That's the smaller

Yes I did. That's the smaller box to the left of the generator in the picture. It's included with the generator. Also, the transfer switch is pre-wired with about a 15 foot of conduit for easy attachment to the generator.

Terry I started of with nothing...I still have most of it left.
Wed, Jun 15, 2011 - 6:35pm
Silver Monkey
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Thanks Warp!  Did you explore

Thanks Warp! Did you explore the security of your NG supplier when you decided to go Natural Gas? Guessing if TSHF, people aren't going to be storming the NG supplier? But if the dollar goes to zero, what motivation would the NG supplier have to continue to supply fuel? Pay them in silver? HA!

Wed, Jun 15, 2011 - 8:03pm
tmosley
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If you are thinking of a

If you are thinking of a generator, consider solar. For not too terribly much more, you not only get security, but you get a reduced electric bill every month.

I like to send people to sunelec.com. Their prices are totally unbeatable. When I am finally ready to pile out of silver, I will use a portion of the proceeds to pick up a complete system. Grid tie is quite cheap, with a payback time of about two and a half years if you install it yourself (and have an electrician check it over and install the grid tie inverter to the meter), less if you have higher rates.

Best part is, you don't have to provide fuel. With a grid tie system, you don't even need batteries. You can get an off grid inverter for dirt cheap, and accumulate batteries in the meantime, and you will be fully self sufficient.

Edit: Note the payback time is less with the federal tax credit, though you have to wait to get that, of course.

Thu, Jun 16, 2011 - 2:10pm (Reply to #8)
Warp10
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I pretty much had to make a

I pretty much had to make a calculated risk decision on which fuel to use.

Besides the ease-of-use of using natural gas, I came to the conclusion if it ever reached the point that I couldn't get natural gas, getting any other form of fuel would be just as difficult. No matter which fuel, I'd still have to buy it some how.

Also, propane, gasoline, and diesel would also have to be purchased by the local distributors. What would they buy it with? I doubt they have gold and silver lying around. Will their delivery trucks also run out of fuel if they can't buy?

Terry I started of with nothing...I still have most of it left.
Thu, Jun 16, 2011 - 2:25pm (Reply to #9)
Warp10
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Being originally from

Being originally from California, I'm a big solar buff. I had build a tracking collector on my house back in early 1980's. I came very close to building a solar system here in Vermont this last year. I finally concluded that it wasn't worth the effort for 1 major reason: IT'S SO DAMN CLOUDY HERE ALL THE DAMN TIME.

However, I did acquire a whole bunch of used glass panels from a school that remodeled. Excellent purchase. I used the glass to build a passive hot air solar system on the whole south facing wall of my second floor. So when the sun does happen to shine, I can get direct heat in the house.

I also used some to build a greenhouse.

I'm not self-sufficient, but at least a lot better prepared than 99.9% of others in my area.

Yes, I have a weapon.

I've also been buying emergency food from eGlobalFoods.com just to be prepared short-term to give me time to re-organize into a longer term mode if necessary.

Is it enough? I pray it is, and hope I never need to find out.

Terry I started of with nothing...I still have most of it left.
Thu, Jun 16, 2011 - 2:48pm
RobD
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I'm getting ready to install

I'm getting ready to install a propane powered generator at my cabin. I already have the generator and I pre-installed the transfer switch when I built the cabin so it should be a one/two day job to run the wire and propane and hook up the generator. I chose propane because it is the only fuel that I would be able to store safely on the property in a large enough quantity(500 gal tank). The cabin is small and the largest draw on the propane will be the generator as the only other large draw is the on-demand water heater. I also am looking at adding a solar/grid battery charging system to reduce the load on the generator if the SHTF and the grid goes down for a extended period of time. One thing to look at as far a solar is that if you have any large motors to run like a well pump you will need a true sine wave inverter and they are a lot more expensive then the non-true sine wave types. My generator system cost me less then $3000 but a solar system with an equal amount of output along with the batteries looks like it will be run over $5000.

Thu, Jun 16, 2011 - 3:06pm
Poor Boy
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Solar isn't cheap, it is an alternative with limitations.

You don't have to worry about suppliers. Capacity is limited to how much you are willing to spend and how much sun you get. Some vendors discuss how to supplement solar with wind turbines. Interesting.

A few sources:

www.backwoodssolar.com some cost information, knowledge base and sizing parameters

www.wholesolar.com/starthere/starthere.html pretty good site, lots of information, sizing information and costs

www.homedepot.com not a lot of information, but they will help you via contractors

www.mysolarbackup.com as seen on TV, interesting products some are portable. Cost information.

There's a lot of information out there. Use your Google. Be careful, mishandled electricity can kill.

Thu, Jun 16, 2011 - 4:10pm (Reply to #12)
Silver Monkey
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Thanks Rob!  This is the way

Thanks Rob! This is the way I was leaning. If I can safely store the propane on my property, I will have enough of a supply to last me X amount of time and I will know how long I will need to go before it needs to be refilled. I know I can Google and eventually find out my answers, but since you have already done the research, can you point me to a site that speaks to:

1) how much propane a typical family would use on a daily basis.

2) The safety issues involved in locating a propane tank on your property

THANKS!

Silver Monkey

Thu, Jun 16, 2011 - 5:33pm (Reply to #14)
RobD
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Well I don't have the

Well I don't have the research on how much the average family would use but at my main house in Reno we also have propane(not a good thing at current prices) and during the winter we use about 200 gallons a month. That is with an old tank style water heater and forced air central heat. We have five in the family, me and the wife, our teenage niece and two preteens so the hot water heater gets used quite a bit. Up at the cabin I had the tank filled in August and was up there almost every weekend and only used about 10% of the tank.

As for safety, our county code requires the tank that size to be at least 10 feet away from the house. The best thing would be to get a tank that you can put in the ground but they don't rent those and a tank is pretty pricey.

Thu, Jun 16, 2011 - 6:52pm
Gunrunner
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Home generator

I recently purchased a new Subaru 8800 watt generator for my house. After the earthquake and tsunami in Japan, and realizing that they are one of the leading exporters of generators, I decided on getting a new one. We live in the Houston area and with the threat of hurricanes I thought it would be wise to have a new one on hand before something happened and there were none to be had. We were without power for two weeks following Ike and the little 5500 watt generator I had was not enough. I have now had install near my breaker box an outlet with a twistlock 220v outlet that ties directly to my house. When the lights go out, you shut the main breaker to the house off as well as the AC breaker, plug in the generator to this outlet and walla, power throughout the house. No AC of course. But it will keep both my freezers and refrigerator cold, as well as having the ability to turn lights on at will (just remember to shut them off as to not over load the system) and can still watch tv or use the washer or micro wave when needed. I have too much game meat to lose without having the generator. Oh yea. Lets not forget about the wife that requires that usb cable plugged into her arm so she wont go through withdrawals.

Another idea for those survivalists out there. All this talk about solar panels for power in the event of SHTF. That's great if you have the money. But you can see by my avatar that I am a cyclist. At my cabin at the ranch there is a bicycle set up with an 130amp alternator powered by a belt from the rear wheel. I have four batteries tied together parallel to provide 12v to run the 12v lights and also to power the inverter. It also provides great exercise. Something to think about...:)

Bang Bang
Thu, Jun 16, 2011 - 7:04pm (Reply to #15)
Poor Boy
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Rob, That's pretty rough. 

Rob,

That's pretty rough. Propane in the western part of Va is almost $4 a gallon with tax. Just filled up my spare 5 gallon grilling tank this afternoon. $19.10 including tax and that's with me going to them. I hope that you are getting some kind of quantity discount.

Thu, Jun 16, 2011 - 7:29pm
Silver Monkey
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Wow - Is there a generator

Wow - Is there a generator out there that can run on propane OR Natural Gas? Hook the sucker to NG and then have a spare propane tank just in case.

Thu, Jun 16, 2011 - 7:39pm (Reply to #18)
Maguyver
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Dual fuel genset

Silver Monkey wrote:

Wow - Is there a generator out there that can run on propane OR Natural Gas? Hook the sucker to NG and then have a spare propane tank just in case.

Short answer...yes.

I'm in the generator business; don't do much on the residential side, but on the commercial/industrial side, this is quite common. The primary fuel will be NG with propane as a backup. You are adding a second fuel system over the top of the primary one, so costs are significant.

I bet with a little searching and ingenuity, this would be fairly easy to do on a smaller genset. Search LE Klein, we get a lot of fuel components from them. They are in Dallas, I think.

Cheers!

Thu, Jun 16, 2011 - 8:53pm (Reply to #19)
Thu, Jun 16, 2011 - 11:43pm (Reply to #18)
burntoastman
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Duel Fuel Generator

I have a Generac 22kw backup that is duel fuel. I have it hooked up to NG and Propane is my back up.

My backup to my backup is a wood stove for heat and I am looking into Steam boiler (can burn anything) for backup power.

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