With hurricane Harvey and now Irma. I am sure some are thinking about generators.

If you wire your generator  into the house . Make sure you use a proper transfer switch to.make.sure you are isolated from the power grid.

If not, you risk.the lives of those working to restore power to your community. A young man lost his life earlier today from what is being speculated  was a generator backfeed. 

Electricty doesn't.Stop.at your house if you are not isolated. That transformer.outside  that  steps.the primary 7200v down to 240v does not care where the power is comming from.   And will happily  take the power from your generator and step it up to 7200v.


Original Post

I have been considering upgrading my secondary power supply source.   Right now I have a  4000 watt gas generator.  I forget what brand it is, but after doing a lot of reading, it appears most of the cheap gas powered portable electrical generators, whether they are branded as a Predator, Champion, etc, are  all made in the same Chinese factory.  The weak link is the power generation part of the unit. The gas engines will run relatively reliably, but not so much as far as actually making electricity.  I think an Onan taken out of a motor home is the best, most reliable way to go.  

Now that illumination can be done with LED, what used to take several hundred watts of power can now be done with way less than 100 watts.   That frees up available power to use for maybe a refrigerator, possibly a water/sump pump, etc.  In my case I need to heat my house (wood is not an option in my case) so most of my "wattage" will be for heat.  

I made a neat little self-contained unit over the last few years which is comprised of that 4000 watt gas generator,  a Harbor Freight solar panel,  and two car batteries mounted on a small axle.   It is a trailer I guess, but I wouldn't want to drag it much farther than around town.  I made a little board with 110VAC, 12VDC cigarette outlet, and even a USB dedicated plug.  I can run small stuff off the batteries-such as charging phones, handheld ham radio, etc.  off the solar/car battery half,   (I also mounted a GI pioneer kit and several 5 gallon can mounts.)    Sooner than later I will build a "sound-deadening" enclosure around the generator.    I made my own custom exhaust system that in addition to not being a loud a  stock, has a heating plate kind of thing so once it is up to operating temp, I can heat water for cooking. (A nice little comfort.)

   I have been looking around on the web for ideas to replace the current generator with something water-cooled, so I can use the heated coolant and somehow utilize that to circulate through a radiator -and force that heated air into my house, therefore taking advantage of a otherwise wasted source of energy.    Using a medium sized (water-cooled) motorcycle engine would be an option, but I don't know what I would spin to make my electrical power.  

 My house is totally electric, so if the power goes out, I am screwed.   I thought about putting a wood burning stove outside on the back porch, and running a heat exchanger. I thought I could then push heated air inside via some insulated tubing.   I found out installing a wood burning stone inside my house doubles my homeowners insurance(!).  I then learned even if I have the actual stove outside, as soon as I connect the hot air inlet to the house, it is then "technically" part of the house.               So much for that idea.

 As for connecting to the power grid, yeah, that ain't gonna happen.   If things are bad enough that I need to make my own power,   I will fend for myself.  

heating with electricity is very inefficient try propane space heaters or kerosene space heater.



They are much safer then they used to be and very efficient. Trying to power an electric furnace is very energy intensive as is just a space heater.

As far as wood stoves you can build a structure then pipe heated water in from the stove and use that to heat the floors and base board heat exchange. I have seen that done the structure is a shed and is connected by insulated pipes, it is pretty efficient.

If anyone is considering buying a generator, I would highly recommend a propane one. Nothing worse than trying to start your generator and find out the gas went bad. Propane stores indefinitely, burns cleaner.

CAE5 posted:

If anyone is considering buying a generator, I would highly recommend a propane one. Nothing worse than trying to start your generator and find out the gas went bad. Propane stores indefinitely, burns cleaner.

how are propane generators with noise? One thing I'd be worried about during a major incident is your noise signature from a gas generator. That could attract unwelcome attention to your house and family.

If it is a small generator similar to a gasoline powered one, there will be no difference in noise with propane.  A vast majority of the noise from a generator is from the electrical part, not the engine exhaust. 

Aren't most of those little Honda "suitcase" ones powered by propane? I've seen them for use with food trucks or at shows and sporting events and they seem pretty quiet. 

How come multifuel generators aren't the THING to have? Flexibility would be a plus in my view, since no matter what you have you might run out of that and have a ton of something else. 

As far as gasoline, a small amount of planning would probably negate the going bad issue. If you can remember to dump the "generator" stash into the lawnmower/snowblower/truck every month or two and refill it, I'd think you'd be good. Even moreso if adding Sta-bil to it when filling the can(s). 


DAQ - I know we shouldn't keep generators inside due to carbon monoxide poisoning, but for security sake, can you keep in the garage and run hose (not garden, something larger bore like automotive) to the outside and run a fan to pull air out of the garage (negative pressure)?

We have a GENRERAC 22KW generator that is propane. It kicks on if power goes out for 30 seconds. We have a 500 gallon tank and two years later it is still 3/4th full. As to sound you know when it kicks in but not bad running and it is outside our dinning room window. It runs the entire house and detached garage. 

LobsterClaw207 posted:

Aren't most of those little Honda "suitcase" ones powered by propane? I've seen them for use with food trucks or at shows and sporting events and they seem pretty quiet. 

How come multifuel generators aren't the THING to have? Flexibility would be a plus in my view, since no matter what you have you might run out of that and have a ton of something else. 

As far as gasoline, a small amount of planning would probably negate the going bad issue. If you can remember to dump the "generator" stash into the lawnmower/snowblower/truck every month or two and refill it, I'd think you'd be good. Even moreso if adding Sta-bil to it when filling the can(s). 


The EU2000 suitcase is gasoline standard from Honda. They can be converted though, to run on either natural gas or propane.  They are very quiet.  If the natural gas supply is not interrupted, I can run on that for very long term. I store 10 of the standard 5 gallon propane tanks. Storing that much gasoline is difficult. When we move to our place in NV our heat will be propane with a large tank that could be used for generators. Gasoline or propane, no difference in noise level.

This is an area that I'd love to get some education on. My level of preparedness here is probably lacking. I currently have a couple of the small 2000 watt Generac generators that can be piggy backed to create 4000'ish watts. These were the quietest option I could find to power refrigerators/ freezers and still provide a bit of extra juice should I need it. I researched a bunch and the best option I could find was either the small Honda's or the Generac's. I was very familiar with the Honda options because we used them extensively where I worked in the army. When I called the guys up to ask about long term reliability, since I've been gone for a couple years, they told me they switched to Generac after testing proved them to be quieter than the Honda's. Reliability seemed about the same to them with no major issues reported. 

I did the dual option rather than a single for a couple of different reasons:

- Quiet. I'd rather not have the generator drawing attention to my house when everyone else is quiet. I also use it for other things like camping where I don't want it making a shitload of noise and ruining my zen. 

- Just enough power for the fridge/ freezer without burning a bunch of fuel.

- Very efficient for the size/ weight.

- I can split them up and loan one out to a neighbor or friend should they need to cool a freezer down or to make ice. More versatile than a single generator option. 

- Can be used for camping or other outdoor activities without a huge footprint or bunch of drama. 


Now that I am in a house with natural gas, I have been wondering about getting a whole house generator. The cost is kind of steep at around $7K for one to power my whole house but it seems like a decent deal if I could pretty much function with everything in the house as normal, especially during an extended power outage. We had a storm here a couple years ago that left people without power for more than 2 weeks in my neighborhood. The biggest threat from power loss is probably tornados and I hate not having air conditioning when it's hot. Maybe I'm a pussy but I'm too old to sweat through the night. Now for my questions:

- Does anyone else have experience with one of the whole house options? Does anyone have experience with natural gas being shut off 

- Does anyone have experience with natural gas being shut off during a major power outage? I'm  kind of skeptical about gas being shut off with the electricity in the case of a tornado. Snow and ice worry me less in this regard. 

- I do have a gas fireplace and other options to stay warm during the winter so am I just wasting money on convenience rather than necessity? 

Last edited by Community Member

I have a Honda 2k that is gas-only at present.  I am considering getting a tri-fuel adapter, so I can run propane on my boat and NG at my house.

However, I am planning a small NG generator for the house, to power selected circuits.  I plan to power the garage (door, lights, tools and freezer), hot water heater and furnace (both are NG, but have electrical control units and for the furnace, a circulating fan), kitchen, living room and dining room (microwave, fridge, and a bunch of lights and small outlets for fans and cell chargers, plus the option of a window-unit AC).  Smallest unit is likely a GE 8k generator.  Permanently installed, in my quiet neighborhood, I don't think it will attract too much unwanted attention. 


You need to hear an inverter small generator ( i.e. Honda, Yamaha, Generac) to understand how quiet they are.  The Honda 2000 is 56 dBA.  This is quieter than a normal conversation. The downside is that the small Honda inverter generator is over  nine hundred dollars  

I have a very old Kawasaki that is extremely loud but reliable.  I would not try to run any generator in a garage with a jury-rigged exhaust.  Better to lock it with cables and chains outside.  I lock mine to a cyclone fence post and a friend of mine put a concreted steel ring in his garage to anchor the cable and chain.  If you price the little Honda, they offer a metal handle reinforcing kit to help secure it. Without that kit, the plastic handle can be cut. That generator is so small and light a young teenager could carry it off. 

Whole house generators are the ultimate, but expensive when properly installed. Generac seem to be the most popular in Florida.  We don't have natural gas, so propane is the fuel of choice here. 

For those of you worried about the noise, as FREDBART said above, I can literally carry on a normal conversation while standing next to my generators. They are very quiet. I think the quiet nature of them adds to the security. I also have my house setup so the generators are protected from the street and I can post a sentry if needed. From my front door, you literally can't hear the two generators running on my back porch. 

Having just shut our generator off, I can contribute here.

Regular generators run at a fixed RPM (typically 3600 RPM) and have a fairly loud generator head (part that produces A/C power).  Inverter generators do this differently, and it allows the engine to vary the RPM to meet the power demand.  Also, the inverter part is a LOT quieter than the regular generator, as mentioned above.  I'm looking at getting one for night time/low-pro use, just for the quiet.

Get a big chain and keep the generator outside.  People die every year because of CO poisoning because they ran the generator in the garage.  A headline earlier this week was about a lady and two children dead from CO poisoning.  I won't bet my family's life on a cobbled together system - this is a "I know what I don't know" issue.  Mine was chained to my back porch where I could see it, but far enough away that fumes didn't get in.  I  couldn't open the back porch door though - fumes still came in so we had to run the power cables to another window further away.  I do keep a CO alarm out in the room nearest the genny.

I keep non-ethanol fuel in NATO "jerry" fuel cans.  They don't allow fuel to evaporate out, unlike some of the plastic cans, and they seal better so they don't stink up the SUV coming back from the gas station.  I do use stabil, and rotate annually, pouring the old stuff into my car or lawn mower. 

E10 ethanol fuel will do a number on small gas engines, so only use it in an emergency and run your carb dry each time you shut it off if you do use it.  Also run your carb dry when you store your generator too as non-ethanol will gum up the carb as the lighter elements of the gas mix evaporate off. A tri-fuel adapter allowing you to run off of propane would make this problem go away I understand.  I don't know how the fuel consumption varies from gas though.

On natural gas - it is pumped down the lines and fed from a pipeline.  It can go away, although I've never personally seen it happen.  When I lived in WA, a good friend and fellow vet worked at PSE.  After a rare snowstorm in the Puget Sound/FT Lewis (then) area, he told me we almost lost gas as demand was higher than their capability to supply, and we were towards the end of the line.  They were ready to shut off our portion of the line to conserve what pressure they had.  That was an eyeopener to me.

Generator Alternative:
For people who happen to live in Condo's or Apartments, having a generator is often not an option.

A workable solution is to get a deep discharge marine battery or two, and a good power inverter.  If you're not good with electrical stuff or if the wife & kids might have to set it up, you'll want an inverter with reverse polarity protection and short circuit protection.  Make sure your inverter has a continuous power rating with enough wattage to run your essential items/appliances.  Also, make sure it has a peak power rating that is double the continuous rating so you can avoid having a surge current from your appliance exceeding the peak power rating of your inverter (oh and use 0-awg sized power cables).

This condo/apartment "DIY" generator solution can also work as an emergency backup plan for home owners in the event the primary generator is damaged or stolen. 

Eagle46 posted:

Having just shut our generator off, I can contribute here.


. A tri-fuel adapter allowing you to run off of propane would make this problem go away I understand.  I don't know how the fuel consumption varies from gas though.

On natural gas - it is pumped down the lines and fed from a pipeline.  It can go away, although I've never personally seen it happen. 


Or natural gas.  Depends on your location.  

If the situation is so dire natural gas supply fails, it's time to leave unless you have a tertiary system in place.  

Think about it.  If a natural disaster can disrupt the propane or natural gas delivery system, will your house be standing?

We have the house wired for a generator circuit and a connection outside plumbed for gas. As we are getting ready to pick a solution... Consider maintenance. Generac recommends every two years or 200 hr oil/filter changes (after break-in). More if you are running it for extended periods, like during a disaster-caused outage. I've been reading that if you've been running for 48 hours, you should shut down, let it cool, and consider checking/changing oil and filter again. Other periodic maintenance items will need accelerated attention if you are running it constantly during an extended outage.  Have parts on hand and know how to do your own work as needed. Filters, spark plugs, fluids.

I have the battery setup that M_6 described as a backup to my generator. I keep the battery, inverter, cables, a solar charger with deep cycle setting and directions all together on a shelf in the garage.  The solar charger takes a while to charge the battery but when grid power and generator fail it gives me an option. 

Huh, new sub-forum, hadn't noticed but I hope something here is helpful...  Long post because I have dealt with this a few times, and well, I haven't posted anything useful in a while so I'm trying to make up for it...

Mission = gear.  I live in Michigan.  Not so much for hurricanes, every now and again a wind event (and in the last some decades, significant tornadic activity, but it's not a "regular" thing like in the Plains states) and pretty much every winter at least ah blizzard or few.  I have natural gas to the house; there's never been an indication it was in short supply or about to be shut off.  I have a well for water and a septic system.  I have overhead power feed to the house and the neighborhood grid is all overhead, with mature trees.  This electrical architecture plays havoc.  I'm not the immediate response area, so if The Man says "Customers will be restored within the next 8 days" I'm probably looking at 7 days...

So... A/C?  Whatevah, not a problem.  Heat?  Probably going to want that, candles don't keep up at 10F and 40mph wind.  Keeping frozen stuff frozen?  Easy if it's winter, just set it outside in a cooler with the lid open... but important during some summer outages.  Water?  This is usually the biggest hurdle.

The inverter generators are the cat's pajamas - quiet, low fuel consumption, man (or wife, I'll come back to this point...) portable, easy to set up, easy to store, pretty easy to maintain (see above posts about cycling fuel, using stabilizer, and avoiding ethanol blends if possible.)

Water.  Again, I have a well.  It's 220VAC, I need a means to fire the pump, or I need to literally truck in water from elsewhere.  I have a few drums dedicated to water, keep one full in the basement with a wife friendly 12V transfer pump, deep cycle battery, short hoses, and some buckets - this is just fine for a day or two outage.  For the truck and other drums I've got some wood blocks and straps for that occasion, and I can head to someplace with movable water to top off drums such that I can cook, wash dishes, flush the toilets, take a camp shower (Zodi shower, like a stainless steel garden sprayer, easy to heat on a natural gas stove with nothing more than a Bic for ignition) and so on...  But regardless water is a hassle.  Much easier to just cycle the well pump - IF I'm home.  Invariably this type of event happens when the wife is home, but I'm not, or worse I'm stuck elsewhere for the same reason the house is without electricity. 

Water, continued:  Hooking up my "little" generator (3500W Generac - nice little unit, I can pick it up but not be happy about it, but she can wheel it around no problem, and pull start it no problem) to my well requires re-wiring.  See the initial post about NOT frying a line worker.  This is not a place to guess.  I do not have a "wife friendly" transfer switch (yet) and thus the only way the well is going to pump is if I'm home and re-wire out of the panel so that the pump is on the generator and off the house grid.  Functional, safe, but not fool proof, so neither she nor friends are even considered to accomplish such.  It's everything that generator has to offer to run the pump (220VAC * 15amp start = 3300W, not counting inefficiencies around 85%... it struggles.)

Heat.  I wired an extra box at my furnace.  The switch and fuse power a single outlet adjacent, but not electrically connected.  The furnace and freezer leads are short plug ends, not connected electrically to the outlet unless the plugs are plugged into the outlet.  Ordinary operation, leave the plug ends in the plug outlet, no drama.  Power failure, unplug the plugs, plug them into the three socket extension cord I leave on the generator, furnace turns on, freezer stays frozen.  No risk of her inadvertently whapping somebody with backfed voltage as the plug and plug end are electrically isolated.  (upon review, I've said that three times... that electrical isolation bit is the important part.)  I don't know what NEC would say, but they aren't trying to heat the house above freezing when I'm stranded someplace else in a blizzard.  I did this after the second time I had to lean on a buddy to come "hotwire" my furnace while I was out of town so the house could stay above freezing.

Heat.  Pellet stove.  It needs 110VAC to operate (and will smoke out the basement if the voltage disappears, say, in a power outage...)  This can run AFTER the furnace and freezer have cycled, by swapping what's plugged into the generator cord.  It's nowhere near as effective as the furnace, but it beats nothing by a lot.

Heat, again...  a tank top burner and/ or Buddy heater can take the edge off.  Good to have a few 20lb propane tanks (you keep more than one for your propane grill anyway, right?  Even though charcoal tastes better?)  Propane will make your house soaking wet, condensation running/ freezing on the windows wet, on the inside during a long burn.  Avoid if feasible.

Light.  Small LED flashlights, a drawer full of batteries, LED lanterns, and my new favorite are the Milwaukee M18 LED work site lights - a few options, they're all slick.  Plus I have an M18 radio, in the event there's anything useful (doubtful) being broadcast.  Kids enjoy flashlight tag, even if the adults are sick of shagging extension cords and shuttling water.

Food prep.  See natural gas stove + Bic.  Propane grill.  Charcoal grill.  Not mentioned, but a good campfire is fun if it's not 1) 50mph driving wind and 2) at least a layer of clothes warmer than 10F.

Inverter-off-a-car generation.  Mostly already mentioned, but my $0.02.  3000W inverter + car battery (must leave the car running - outside! - so the alternator is at least trying... or it'll kill the battery... right... now...) can run my furnace.  Or freezer.  Or fridge.  Not "and."  It can't cycle the well with 110VAC output.  This approach got us through a number of dark (no electricity) times before I decided I had the scratch to buy a generator.  (Parts considered, cost is near same-same...)  This unit has battery clamps, I leave the wrenches in the box, the wife has done this without drama.

Inverter-off-a-car generation, small scale.  You've seen or own the 300-500W units sold at truck stops.  These can charge your phone, maybe cordless tool batteries, but not much else - my laptop gets all bitchy if I try to use a small inverter.  Again be conscious what it's pulling from your car (110V output at 500W at 85% efficiency = still over 5 amps draw on your 12V battery...  If I did that right, it's late... if not, it's still a lot.  Don't draw down the vehicle battery where the vehicle won't start.) 

Ventilation - I run anything gas powered outside, in a breeze if I can find it.  (If the power is out, I have a breeze.)  DO NOT RUN A GAS ENGINE IN AN ENCLOSED SPACE WHERE YOU AND YOURS BREATHE.  EVER.

Propane.  Cool if you can swing it.  I have a propane genset, not even mentioned, because I haven't used it.  If the whole town is dark, I'm driving a long way to get my tanks filled, or hoping that exchange tanks are available.  Gasoline is easy.  Just different maintenance.

Generators.  Most run at 3600rpm.  Propane or gas.  Some have higher torque engines (maybe diesel at that...) and run at 1800rpm (like the Onan in somebody's land or water yacht.)  The lower speed engines last longer.  The higher speed engines get the job done, but at higher fuel consumption, more noise perhaps, and comparatively limited service life.  My "go-to" is the small 3600rpm machine mentioned at the beginning.  I shrug.

Security.  My neighbor has a screaming meany that he fires up as soon as the lights go dim.  Probably powering a bedroom nightlight off a transfer switch, but whatevah, that's his gig.  This little generator is inaudible from the front of my house with it running in the back, especially if the neighbor(s) have theirs screaming.  But I can chain it to something, like the truck that's parked right next to it.

Safety.  Do not poison yourself.  Or dead yourself by poisoning yourself.  Do not fry a line worker.  Do not fry yourself.  If you have any doubt about any of these points, stop, ask somebody who knows how to not do these things on purpose.

Fun.  Knock yourself offline once in a while when you don't have to be offline.  "Kids, bride, we're going dark tonight, how's this going to play out?"  Practice makes PITA less painful, and it can be fun... for a day or two anyway.

Stay safe.




Linz posted:

Any reason no one has said the word 'diesel' yet?

Only reason I can think of is over here at least the price of diesel is now essentially  the same or more expensive than refined gasoline.  I'm sure there are more logical rational reasons than that but that's all I could come up with off the top of my head and I could be seriously wrong. 


+ thermodynamic efficiency = less fuel consumption = less fuel to store / organize = less often to fuel up the tank

+ longevity in service life (but I have no experience in “modern” China made diesel engines)

+ longevity in sustained operations (personal longest non stop Operation 70 hours, with a German made professional grade device 6 kW electrical power in the 1990ies)

+ high torque = less rpm= sound more bassish, not so annoying high pitched whine

+diesel fuel not high flammable, so can be fueled up while running / safer to store and handle

+ runs on furnace fuel oil in an emergency (not generally allowed in Germany due to taxation of traffic fuels, but in an emergency an option)

+ no sparkplug and ignition parts needed

+ most professional devices are also capable of generating three-phase power for operating pumps / heavy circular saws and so on.


- high compression

      = more metal used in engine = more expensive and heavier than a gasoline engine of same output

- a bitch to hand start, mostly by a crank, especially when it was sometime not in use

    (have some starter spray or ethyl ether at hand). Check with your lady(s), a lot are not able or willing to start the beast.

 - fuel injection pump is really fine mechanics not as easy to work on DIY as on a carburetor.


 I have no experience with LPG/natural gas devices


my advice:

Your mission drives the gear train 

 If for further emergency use only

wait half a year, then buy one or two „as new” gas or gasoline powered generators from craigslist as „after Irma sales” (test run them before you buy!) Buy some maintaining part sets also while the model is still made. Run it/them until dry with a pint of fuel every 3 month.

 If you use a generator more frequently and are not shy moving a heavy around, cry once/ buy once get a professional grade diesel powered, (may be a not so fucked up one in a liquidation sale) use it at least once a month, be happy 

When I was active in the local American Red Cross chapter, a wealthy area resident donated a large wheeled Caterpillar generator set, typically found on large remote construction sites. The unit had not been used for several years, so we had the old fuel drained and all filters replaced. The engine had only 30 hours on it.  The Red Cross had it for several years, then probably sold it  

The place to buy one of these would be at a used construction equipment auction. I don't see any use for most LF members for a unit like this.  It would be much cheaper and better to install a whole-house generator running on LP or Natural Gas.  That is what the wealthy donor did. 

Diesel is wonderful for many applications, but without the addition of specialty biocide chemicals to the fuel, it is not suitable for long term storage for years between hurricanes.  

On diesel generators - expensive, and fuel storage can be a real issue.  The best ones from a boating perspective are the ones from Northern Lights.  Super reliable, quiet, but $$$.

I view those not as emergency backup power for a house, but for off-the-grid backup power or regular usage as a primary power source.


When we built our house, a generator was one of the first thing I put on the wish list. We settled for a 22KW Generac whole house. I live in the country and we need propane. So I got a 1000 gallon tank just in case we had to run it for several days. Several of my neighbors also had them before we built. I have been extremely happy with it. It has only come on three times for less than four hours each time. We are able to run the a/c and pool pump with no issues on the generator.

I also wired the heater to be run off a portable generator in case the Generac did not start. We also have a fireplace. I would do in a pinch if all else fails, plus I have three cords of wood in various stages of split/drying/ ready to cut. Plus I have several acres of woods if it came to that.

I highly recommend a whole house generator. Makes life a lot nicer.


Trajan Aurelius posted:
Eagle46 posted:
On natural gas - it is pumped down the lines and fed from a pipeline.  It can go away, although I've never personally seen it happen. 

Or natural gas.  Depends on your location.  

If the situation is so dire natural gas supply fails, it's time to leave unless you have a tertiary system in place. 

Think about it.  If a natural disaster can disrupt the propane or natural gas delivery system, will your house be standing?

This was a relatively mild winter storm in western WA.  Maybe we had snowfall and temperatures below +30 degrees Fahrenheit.  In other words - it didn't take much.  Just enough demand to overwhelm the system.  My house wasn't affected.

That time, my NG supply wasn't lost either, and I'd have never known that it was close, if not for a well connected friend who had been sitting inside the room while decisions were being made.  I do regularly lose power (in another part of the country) despite having underground lines.  Why?  For the same reason I almost lost gas - I'm at the end of the line (for power). 

Sometimes it gets cut by the company, and during a major event, it is often the last to come back on.  Three houses down is on a different circuit - they are typically back up much more quickly.

ds posted:


 If you use a generator more frequently and are not shy moving a heavy around, cry once/ buy once get a professional grade diesel powered, (may be a not so fucked up one in a liquidation sale) use it at least once a month, be happy 


Well, my vehicle is a diesel & I stock a tank refuel (4x 20l ex-Bundes jerry cans: thanks again.) for it: rotated regularly thru the vehicle.

Plus...in a pinch I might be able to make fuel- a cottage industry in the UK.

Now, I'll bet there is a storage solution.

Here's a short primer on different types of generators.

Does it make a difference which one you get?  Maybe.



Generators – Standby vs. Prime

A reliable generator, also known as a generator set or gen set, is one of the most important pieces of equipment that a commercial business, healthcare organization, educational institution or any organization that serves a large number of people can purchase. After all, a loss of power for even a short period of time can severely impact the organization’s ability to function. In the case of a hospital, a power outage could jeopardize the safety and even the lives of its patients. Before purchasing a generator for your organization, however, it is essential to have at least a basic understanding of its power rating, particularly in terms of standby vs. prime generators.

What Are Generator Power Ratings?

Generator ratings are established by gen set manufacturers to guide purchasers and end-users in the generator selection process. Essentially, ratings are defined in terms of factors such as hours of usage on an annual basis, maximum available power, average load factors and the type of applications that best suit the generator’s capabilities. ISO 8528 is the international standard that was developed to ensure consistency among gas and diesel generator gen set ratings; although, the manufacturers have the final say in determining the ratings for their particular products.

Gen Set Rating Classifications

ISO 8528 identifies four different generator rating classifications: continuous, prime, limited-time power, and emergency standby. Caterpillar® employs two additional classifications to further define the ratings for its generator products.

Continuous – As the term implies, continuous power generators are designed to provide power on an ongoing basis throughout the year. The average output of a continuous power gen set is 70 to 100 percent of the rating and is designed to provide 100-percent power for every operating hour during the year. Continuous power gen sets are best used in situations where a limited amount of power load fluctuation occurs.

Prime – Prime gen sets also provide ongoing power, but unlike continuous generators that are designed for limited load fluctuations, prime generators can accommodate varying loads on an unlimited basis throughout the year. However, the average load factor cannot exceed 70 percent of the prime rating.

Limited-Time – Gen sets with a limited-time power rating are designed to operate at a maximum of 500 hours per year, although they can effectively manage an average load factor of up to 100 percent.

Mission Critical Standby – This Caterpillar-specific rating is intended to comply with the higher standby power requirements that apply to entities such as data centers. Cat® MSP gen sets provide an average load factor of 85 percent, as opposed to the 70 percent offered by ESP generators.

Emergency Standby – ESP gen sets are designed to provide a short-term power solution when an unexpected loss of a continuous or prime power source occurs. ESP-rated generators are generally intended to operate at a maximum of 200 hours per year at an average load factor of 70 percent. Additionally, the average power output should not exceed 70 percent in any 24-hour period.

Standby – Cat standby gen sets differ from ESP units in that they are designed to provide emergency power for the duration of an outage. The average load factor of these gen sets is 70 percent, with a maximum operating time of 500 hours per year.

Comparing Standby vs. Prime Generators

As you can see, a significant difference in standby vs. prime generators is that the former are intended to provide emergency power on a short-term basis, while the latter can meet an organization’s year round power needs.






Let me elaborate a bit on my particular Genset installation... it may help out a member or two, since I did much of it myself (at least the parts that didn't require the gas company or an electrician).

First of all, I assessed my electrical loads.  My home is biggish, and has multiple AC units.  I sized the generator to easily start my largest AC compressor, since those are often the largest electrical load in the home (my largest one was about 75 theoretical Locked-rotor-Amps max).  It can't start them all simultaneously, but they never all start at the same time anyway, so it works out.   They pull FAR less current once they are running, leaving enough residual electrical oomph in the genset to start the other compressor (it will carry them all simultaneously, once they are running).   This required a 24kw genset.  

I got some estimates, and Holy.  Moses.  They wanted stupid money to do the whole job (like, nearly $30k+ stupid)... so I set out to do it myself, as much as possible.  

I bought the generator online, and had it drop-shipped to my home.  They took it off the truck with a pallet jack (make sure you request lift-gate delivery, because if you don't, they're coming in a semi, and they're expecting a loading dock to back up to).   I had them wheel it to the back corner of my driveway, where it sat for a few months while I did the rest of the site prep.   

The genset itself was a Kohler light-commercial unit, water-cooled, 1800 RPM, and mounted to a steel skid.  I skipped the cheaper, 3600-RPM standard residential-grade air-cooled models, because I like my stuff heavy-duty... and I don't mind paying extra to get it.   It's got a 4-cyl engine, and runs off NG or Propane.  I bought an automatic transfer-switch with it, to match the amperage of my home's electrical service entrance.  By code, they must match... so if you have 200-Amp service at your home, you need a 200-Amp transfer switch.  A 100-Amp service needs a 100-Amp switch, and so forth.  

I had the gas company trench over to that side of the house (because the gas meter was on the opposite side from the electrical entrance... which is worst-case), and run a big gas line.  That cost a couple thousand.  They also had to upsize my meter, though they didn't charge me for the bigger meter.    Make sure you tell them how much NG the genset needs... a too-small line will cause your genset to starve for fuel, and it won't make maximum power.  

I looked into getting a concrete pad poured, but nobody would do a small job like that.  I literally couldn't get anybody interested (which is maddening, but whatever), and I HATE doing concrete.  This led me to buy a pre-cast concrete pad, and have it shipped to the house.  I managed to move it into position with a large appliance dolly, and put down a bunch of paver-base (and leveled that) before putting the pad in place.   

The bottom of the generator requires holes in the pad (called stub-ups) for the wiring to come in (the wiring comes into the enclosure through the bottom), so I used a concrete hole-saw to drill the pad in the proper spots, and dug a trench for conduit over to the house.  I didn't have to do this for the NG feed, since that comes in through the side of the skid.   I also mounted the transfer switch on the wall, next to the electrical service-entrance box.

 Now I had to figure out how to get the genset over to that side of the house (opposite side from the driveway).   Some of the local generator companies had talked about bringing in a large CRANE, and lifting the genset OVER my house, and cutting down some trees in the process.   Umm... no.  I like my trees (and I could just picture the genset crashing through my roof).... so I looked for another way.  I looked at my big gun safe, and had an idea... so I contacted the safe-movers who had moved it for me when we bought our house.  I explained what I wanted to do, and the main guy said "how heavy is it?"  I said "about 1300 pounds," at which point he laughed, and said "we move vault doors that weigh four and five TONS... I think we can handle it."

And they did.  For about 500 bucks, they brought out dollies, ramps, wheeled pry-bars, etc and got the genset right where it needed to go.  No crane, no lumberjacks  (I saved about $1500-2000 compared to using a crane).

Then I needed an electrician to hook it up.  Again... I couldn't get anybody interested in the job.   Nobody wanted to do the hookup unless they had ALSO sold you the generator.   Half of them wouldn't even call me back.  I went through 6-8 electricians before I found a local guy through word-of-mouth, and he agreed to do it.  He pulled the permit, had the power shut off one day (because nobody does "hot work" if they can avoid it), and hooked it all up.  That cost me about $1600.

So all told, I probably spent about $15k... which is pretty good considering the original price tag I was quoted.  

Another suggestion I'll make is to pay attention to your maintenance intervals, and have spare parts on hand.   If you read your manual, it will tell you how many running hours you can go between oil/filter-change, spark-plugs, air-filter, etc.   An air-cooled, 3600 RPM genset might need that done every 50 hours or so (eg. every two days during a prolonged outage).   An 1800 RPM genset will have longer intervals (mine is 120 hours, IIRC).  That's every five days during a prolonged outage... which is far fewer spare parts to stockpile.

Anyway, I learned quite a bit during the process... which took the better part of 6-8 months to accomplish.   

I'm sure it could have been done in 2-3 days... but I wasn't willing to pay another $15k to get that.  Your mileage may vary.  

Re Maintenance.  During FEMA declared emergencies we make our contactor perform preventive maintenance (filter and fluid change) every 250 hrs of run time on diesel generators.  They range in size from 20kw to 2Mw.  

Also if you run your generator once a month/quarter/year etc as part of your maintenance program make sure it has a load.  Running with no load just runs the engine and does not exercise the generator portion. Which will eventually cause problems.

wadejm posted:

Re Maintenance.  During FEMA declared emergencies we make our contactor perform preventive maintenance (filter and fluid change) every 250 hrs of run time on diesel generators.  They range in size from 20kw to 2Mw.  

Also if you run your generator once a month/quarter/year etc as part of your maintenance program make sure it has a load.  Running with no load just runs the engine and does not exercise the generator portion. Which will eventually cause problems.

Yes... periodic testing is important, especially if your genset is liquid-fueled (gasoline or diesel).   One of the nice things about the one I bought is that it runs itself once per-week, under load, then shuts itself off.  You can set the date/time/etc on the little controller panel inside the enclosure, or through software (the generator has an ethernet connection, and you can actually manage it, and see how it's doing remotely, in real-time)

Kohler remote generator monitoring is called OnCue, and requires a yearly subscription.  I think it can also attach to your home network by wifi, with an optional wifi dongle.  

It's actually pretty slick.  

I've seen natural gas go away.  5 or 6 years ago (maybe more) there was a huge freeze in Texas and New Mexico.  When my thermometer started working,  it was 21.6 degrees below zero Fahrenheit.  We aren't used to this level of cold.   The natural gas for Albuquerque and much of central NM is piped in from Texas.  The pumping stations there lost power and the gas flow was cut off for a week or so.    It was rough for some people.

With hurricane season expected to be worse than last year. I want to remind everyone. Transfer switches save lives.  

The transformer feeding your house doesn't  care where the power come from. It will take.and convert the 120/240 from your generator and step it up to primary voltage levels.  This has the potential  to be deadly, to the lineman working to restore power.


We just went through this a few weeks ago.

A thunderstorm with winds took out a tree into the wires, and finally brought down the pole. We fired up the generator, and went through the process of the switches.

When the power company came out in the middle of the night, we told him that we had isolated with the switches, but the neighbor probably wasn't, as he talked about plugging his generator into his 220 plug for his dryer, back-feeding power into his house.

What YAKC130 (edit - and PYROTECH) said...  Yeah... just because you can... doesn't mean you should.

Is there a means of driving your at-home electrical devices with a little trickery/ rewiring/ suicide cord/ male male plug action?  Sure.  Is it functional?  Sure.  Is it smart, knowing what you don't know...?  Well... most people (I'm not talking to "you" specifically, but "you" generally...) do not know, which means it's dumb.  And dangerous.

That innocuous generator back-feeding a dryer plug (lots of people do this, and done right it's functional, but...) will certainly pump voltage back into your house.  If the mains are still connected, it's hitting that transformer on the street too, and sending 10,000V (at a guess depending how your local grid works, but regardless the step down is the inverse step up) back through the lines.  What was a dead power line is now live, thanks to that little generator.  And it can be deadly - i.e. that little generator can kill somebody.

Don't fuck around.  Know what you don't know and set yourself up to act accordingly.  Shame your friends/ neighbors/ relatives that tell you "eh, good enough, it gets me by" if they're setting themselves up to fry anyone.

I'm a strong proponent of "unplug it from the wall, plug it into the extension cord from the generator, and wait for the other stuff to magically turn back on" whenever anyone suggests a suicide cord back-feeding a dryer plug.  Most folks don't follow the circuit far enough to know that it keeps going if it's not interrupted, and that's bad ju-ju.

Stay safe.



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After Hurricane Irma last year we lost our power for 3 days.  I have an 8kw gas powered, electric start generator that was more than enough to power a window air conditioner, some lights, TVs, a refrigerator and a second freezer in the garage.  We ran an extension cord to the neighbor for their fridge, TV, a fan and their fish tank pump.  (They're good people, our kids are pals and I had no reservations about helping.)  I ran extension cords for everything which is a huge pain. 

The other neighbor in the cul-de-sac bought a generator but only had 5 gallons of gas.  He asked me if he could run an extension cord to my generator so he didn't have to take his out of the box (so he would be able to return it).  He's a general pain in the ass and I wasn't powering the entire neighborhood.  (Furthermore, he wanted to borrow the extension cord.)  I offered to give him one 5 gallon can of gas and he walked away mad.  The moral of that story is be prepared for the neighbors who want to mooch off of your preparations.  Decide ahead of time who you are willing to help and to what extent.  This storm for us was only a nuisance and an inconvenience.  But if it was worse and power was out for weeks rather than days, does the neighbors' fish tank get priority over my freezer full of meat?   Maybe this year they need to buy some gas cans and be ready to add to the fuel cache.

My neighbor on the other side has a class A motorhome that he parked in his driveway and had AC, satellite TV, internet, etc.   Not a bad way to hang out after a storm....

Overall, the generator ran 24 hours a day except for fueling time - it was at about 50% load and used about 6-8 gallons of gas every 12 hours.  I have a bunch of Jerry cans and some of the Home Depot plastic specials.  I think I stored about 75 gallons of gas in preparation for the storm.  I usually keep 20 gallons of ethanol free gas in the Jerry cans with Sta-Bil added and rotate 2 of the cans into my truck every other month.  It worked for the storm but one downside is that I don't have a way to store gas outside of our attached garage.   I was uneasy about having that much fuel on the other side of the wall from our living room, but I didn't have a plan B.  I don't want a permanent structure outside just for gas - maybe one of those big pool boxes that looks like a foot locker/trunk would work?

After the storm was over we got a couple of quotes to have a whole house, natural gas generator installed with an automatic transfer switch.  Our home is about 3000 square feet with central A/C and nothing out of the ordinary, power wise.   All in for an installed 22kw Generac was $13,700 and a 20kw Kohler was $14,900.  Another company has the Kohler at $12,891 plus permits.  Also included was one year of the mobile monitoring app. 

In 12 years there have only been a few instances when we lost power for more than 30 minutes.  Only twice have I used the generator for prolonged power outages.  So, I'm not sure the $13-$15k is worth it for us.  Natural gas service at our house is very reliable.  We've only lost service once in the same 12 years - it was about a 24 hour gas outage.

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