Discussion in 'Energy & Electricity' started by Asatrur, May 8, 2010.

  1. Asatrur

    Asatrur Well-Known Member

    Please forgive me if this is already somewhere, but a quick glance at the search results for generators did not produce much. I am looking at purchasing a backup generator for our home and was looking for advice. We would only want key systems i.e. frig, freezer, and I need to research if the hot water heater and boiler need electricity.
  2. justintime

    justintime Member

    There is some info in the Energy & Electricity section, I my self did a bit of research before I spent my hard earn money, Q you need to ask yourself
    1) how much of a investment you wish to make . if you only want to spend a few hundred dollars then forget about standby gen and look at portables.
    2) what is the load of what you want to run?That will let you know what size
    how many watts.

    I live in a rural area were my water comes from a well so running my well pump was my number 1 concern . I priced all diff sizes and fuel req. I went with propane as my fuel source because I work for a propane company plus propane stores forever and I buried a 1000 gallon tank in my yard with a burried tank very hard for someone to steal or shoot bullets.

    I have also read more then one story were out of sight out of mind, because you dont think about emergency power till you need it to many people would buy a portable gen and then just leave it in there garage when it came time to use them they would have bad gas or old gas and the gen would not work.

    I like thing simple yes if you do maintence your gen would be ok but I have many other things to do. So with all that in mind I decided on a 12000 watt centurion standby gen from Lowes It comes with a self contain trasfer switch and power panel I installed it myself wich was not that hard It allso comes with a battery tender and runs itself evey week for self test LOVE IT


  3. mosquitomountainman

    mosquitomountainman I invented the internet. :rofl:

    This is parts of an article I wrote that was published in the Feb/Mar 2010 issue of Modern Survival Magazine. (It an online survival magazine published by Jim Benson, the former editor of the now defunct American Survival Guide Magazine.) It should answer most of your questions. I have one in the current issue of Modern Survival on the subject of setting up a basic solar power system.

    Generators come in all sizes and prices ranging from $100.00 for new 1,000 watt portable units to thousands of dollars for large generators mounted permanently with automatic transfer switches. With these you don’t even have to be home when the power goes out. Everything is automatic from turning the unit on when the grid goes down to turning it back off when things are back to normal. But, before you rush out to purchase a standby generator there are some things to consider.


    Begin by taking an inventory of what your generator will need to power. If you just want to power emergency essentials you need to find the volt and watt rating for each item and add them up.

    If you want to power the entire house you can either add up the watt requirements of everything in the house (including surge watts) or simply purchase a generator with the same rating as your home’s main breaker. Note: If you’re hooking your back-up generator into your home’s existing wiring you should have a competent electrician do the wiring for you.

    So, for your first step take a sheet of paper and divide it into four columns. At the head of the first column write “appliance.” On the second column write “surge watts.” On the third, “running watts.” And on the fourth write, “voltage.” Now go through the house and garage and list those items and their power requirements that you’re going to want to operate with your standby generator. Don’t forget to add in electric lights. Ten 100 watt light bulbs add up to 1,000 watts of power.

    When you begin looking at generators you’ll notice right away that they have two watt ratings. The lower number is “running watts.” This is what the generator can be expected to produce as long as it’s running. The higher number will be the “surge watts.” This is what the generator can produce for a short length of time (a few seconds) without overheating or damaging the unit. Be absolutely sure that your generator can handle the highest surge load you have listed.

    Don’t be discouraged when you add up the totals. You may be able to get by with a smaller generator by using different appliances in “shifts.” For example, under normal times refrigerators only run about thirty-percent of the time. Plug the fridge in for a couple of hours to cool things down then use the generator for other things awhile. (Or shut the generator off and conserve the fuel.) If you have an electric range use your microwave or a camping stove to prepare food. Microwave ovens use a lot of juice but run for only a few minutes. Run the sump pump only as needed. Get a portable propane heater for emergency use and heat only one or two rooms in winter power outages. In the evenings, instead of powering every light in the house use the generator to run the DVD player, television and lights and keep everyone in the same room until it‘s time to go to bed. Use the generator to keep refrigerated food from spoiling and essential medical equipment operating when the grid is down. Using a small generator is like living on a budget. You have to be selective in what you use and when you use it.

    In my experience it’s better to have a generator that’s slightly larger than you think you’ll need than one that’s just barely adequate. You may need extra power to overcome resistance in any extension cords you’re using. An older appliance may use more power than it did in it’s prime. Likewise, as a generator ages it may not be as powerful as it was in its youth. It might be a good idea to estimate your needs then add another twenty-five percent to that number to get the generator that will serve you best.

    Why not just buy a big generator and not worry about watt ratings? Big generators produce more power but use more fuel. (A serious consideration if you’re going to run it more than a few hours!) Larger generators usually cost more than similarly equipped smaller units. Finally, smaller (portable) generators are, (obviously!) easier to transport.


    Outlets should be convenient to use where they won’t be subjected to fuel spills or oil leakage and where you won’t get burned by the exhaust.


    If you plan on using a generator at a secluded retreat noise is definitely a concern. The only thing that will advertise to the world that you have power and they don’t faster than a loud generator is a brightly lit house at night. Even with temporary power outages in the suburbs you’re going to have neighbors calling to use your generator.


    Most portable generators use gasoline. Other fuel options include propane, natural gas, and diesel fuel. Each has good and bad points. Whatever fuel you need be sure to have an adequate supply on hand for emergency use.


    Gasoline is easily obtained now and can be stored in large or small containers. You’ll have to take some precautions to store it long term. It’s the most common fuel choice on portable units. You’re going to have to refuel the generator after a few hours of run time.


    Propane has a long shelf life and can be easily stored in small or large tanks. It’s not as available as gasoline but is still easy to get. If you use a bulk tank you’ll have to have a propane company fill the tank. (But you won’t need to buy any for a while either!) Most propane generators are permanently mounted.

    Natural Gas

    Natural gas is clean burning and as long as the gas lines are functioning you have an unlimited supply of fuel piped to your home. It’s usually available in times of crisis. Earthquakes are the most dangerous threat to natural gas lines. These units are permanently mounted.

    Note: Some natural gas powered generators require higher gas pressure than that used by your home’s supplier. If this is the case find out before you buy if your NG supplier can install a meter with the higher line pressure. If they will you’ll need a separate gas regulator to reduce the pressure for the other appliances that use NG for fuel.

    Diesel Fuel

    Diesel fuel is easily obtained and the least flammable (safer to store) of the four. Bulk delivery is available if you have a large enough tank (talk to the nearest supplier). Diesel generators are usually large and may be either portable (usually mounted on a trailer) or stationary. You can use red-dye fuel for off road use and bypass some of the taxes applied to automotive fuels.

    A note on fuel consumption: most generator manufacturer’s list a fuel consumption rate at fifty-percent load. Just remember that the higher the load the more fuel it will consume and plan your fuel reserves accordingly.

    Portable or Stationary?

    Stationary generators are usually mounted on cement pads and wired directly into the home’s electrical system through a transfer switch. Transfer switches (available in either manual or automatic) allow the electrical load to be connected to either the generator or the grid but prevent simultaneous connection. Permanent installations are easy to use; you flip the transfer switch (or it’s done automatically) and keep using your household outlets instead of running extension cords all over the place. Also, most stationary units have bulk tanks so you don’t have to refuel every few hours. The disadvantages include expense (these are usually large and pricey), and you can’t take it with you if you need to bug out.

    Portable units are, well, portable. You can take them with you if you leave or take them where the power is needed. If the weather’s extremely cold you can bring them in the house to warm them up prior to trying to start them. (Something to think about when it’s twenty-five-below outside!) Portable units are also much cheaper to purchase. Some disadvantages include small fuel tanks that will need frequent refueling and extension cords must be run from the generator to the appliance(s). Make sure extension cords are properly sized to carry the electric load, as overloaded cords can overheat and cause fires.

    Small units (under fifty pounds) can be moved by carrying. Mid-size generators usually have wheel kits available to roll them to new locations by hand. Large generators can be mounted on trailers to pull behind a vehicle.

    It is possible to wire portable units into your house through a transfer switch and large connectible cord (like older mobile homes that were plugged into pole mounted electrical jacks), but you need to be careful to not overload the generator or exceed the capacity of the cord or connector. Overloading may cause a fire and/or low voltage conditions that can damage electrical appliances. If your generator is not large enough to power your entire house you should shut off the breakers supplying current to high-draw or non-essential loads.

    Any generator used in an enclosed area may cause a build-up of carbon monoxide or other harmful gases. Set them up outdoors in a well-ventilated area away from living quarters.

    Liquid or Air Cooled?

    Liquid cooled engines run at a more consistent temperature for longer engine life and better performance. These are usually large, permanently mounted generators designed to run non-stop for days, weeks or months at a time. Almost all portable gasoline generators are air cooled. They function quite well for emergency or occasional use.
  4. UncleJoe

    UncleJoe Well-Known Member

    Great post. Very informative :2thumb:
  5. sailaway

    sailaway Well-Known Member

    For bugging in, the people with the best gennerators are using natural gas, and have them piped into the natural gas line in their house. Next are the residents who use diesel, they are set up to run the whole home. Then there are those of us who have gasoline and throw the switch to the grid and wire our gennerators to an out let in the house.
  6. bunkerbob

    bunkerbob Supporting Member

    My stationary 12kw genset runs on propane, piped in from the house system. Very clean, and quiet, built a block enclosure around it for security and noise abatement. If necessary the whole house propane system can run on a 5gal propane bottle.
    We decided years ago to use 25gal propane bottles for the gas supply, two are always hooked up and one in reserve, this gives me the flexibility to purchase propane where it is the cheapest rather than from a propane service company.
    By the way our automatic system has only run the genset once a week for 15 min this winter, this is a maintainence only run.
  7. HozayBuck

    HozayBuck Well-Known Member

    When I bought my travel trailer with thoughts of being a full time RV'r I bought 2 2000 watt Honda gens, with the gear to run them in tandem to make 4 K... which would run everything including my AC and microwave..

    I really like them because they are so quiet, I don't really know just what all they would run in a whole house situation but I'd say most everything..

    I like Bunker Bobs set up and figure if and when I get my cabin in the woods up I might go for the Propane set up.

    I always thought they would be really kinda loud but very dependable and propane is a forever fuel , or so I was told... I liked the idea of a thousand gal underground tank, once there and full, it's done and while I have no idea how long in hours a 1000 gals would last running it a few hours a day for the freezers etc I'll bet ol BB knows to the 1/2 hour!...

    I would almost guess a propane gen set would be more maintenance free the gas or diesel... cleaner burning etc...
  8. justintime

    justintime Member

    The 12 kw that I have for my house uses app. 1.53 gallons of propane per hour at 1/2 load or 2.08 gph at full load so if I were to run the gen at 1/2 load which would more then cover all my needs and run it 24 hours a day using a 1000 gal tank which by the way is only filled to 80% or 800 gallons I could run it none stop for 22 days.

    I could break it down even further for I know I would not be running it 24 hours a day . It also serves as just a step for off grid power once you have the gen. The next step for me is solar and batteries to go with a total power system.