Help buying a generator for power outages

Discussion in 'Electrical Forum discussion & Blog' started by alleycat, Apr 18, 2009.

  1. alleycat

    alleycat New Member

    Messages:
    72
    Location:
    Illinois
    Greetings

    After the last ice storm here in the Northeast, we are in the market for a generator. We had an electrician come out and install a Reliance transfer switch. Now, what do we buy to hook up to it....

    Looks like these are the options:

    1. Buy a propane-fueled generator. We already have a propane tank that runs a decorative gas stove in the living room, so we could tap into that existing tank. We like this idea because it avoids the need for storing gasoline, but we cannot find a propane generator at any local stores. We've found two on the internet, one called "JD-tek" and one called "All Power America" (both made in China). We're not too comfortable with buying something online from a company we've never heard of.

    2. Buy a gas generator from, say, Honda, and convert it to propane.

    3. Buy a gas generator and forget the propane option.

    We need 6000 watts, which will enable us to run the bare essentials (well pump and furnace). We probably get one or two outages a year - the longest was 3+ days.

    If anyone has any tips, pros / cons or other suggestions, we would appreciate hearing them...

    Thanks in advance.
  2. msgale

    msgale New Member

    Messages:
    90
    Location:
    Ohio
    i just went thru the same process.

    Gasoline is unworkable. Did you calculate how many gallons per 24 hrs you would need? where do you store it? how do you keep it fresh? And you are refilling the gas tank a few times per day.

    propane is OK if you have a giant tank-not one of those 20#.
    you then will need a propane conversion kit for a gas engine, or a generator made for propane. i do believe yamaha has their own conversion kit, if you dont want a no-name.

    I have city natural gas, so i chose a generac made for nat gas, and it's worked fine so far
  3. Bill Arden

    Bill Arden Computer Programmer

    Messages:
    584
    Location:
    MN, USA
    I now have 4 generators thanks to auctions. :D

    My one diesel is the easiest to start since it does not get shelacked up like the gasoline one does, however the latest generator I picked up is really hard to start since the inlet valve leaks. ((I'll have to order some parts))

    A gasoline one is better than nothing and you can add an additive to them, on the other hand... I had to take the carburetor apart on mine and clean it out just to get it to start the last time I needed to use it. Carburetor cleaning by Colman lantern light is not fun.

    Some people have good luck with gasoline generators as long as they either leave them empty or keep adding additive and running them once a year.

    So... If you are ok with tools and willing to futz with it then go cheep...
    if you want something that's automatic go with diesel, propane or nat gas
  4. Speedy Petey

    Speedy Petey Licensed Electrical Contractor

    Messages:
    996
    Location:
    NY State, USA
    Goodbye A-HOLE!
  5. Thatguy

    Thatguy Homeowner

    Messages:
    1,459
    Location:
    MD
  6. drick

    drick In the Trades

    Messages:
    392
    A gasoline generator is doable IMO if you are only planning on using it once a year. I have a 10 year old 7000 watt Generac which hardly saw any use before the ice storm. I ran if for almost 150 hours during the Northeast storm with no real issues -house was warm, toilets flushed, and the christmas lights were on. Getting gas was no problem (it was a daily event however). It went through about 10 gallons a day and that was with the idle control on when sleeping at night and only the furnace connected. My generator has a 7 gallon tank so it ran all day on 1 fill up in the morning and one at night.

    A couple of things to remember if you go gas:
    1.Keep the fuel tank empty when not in use.
    2.Keep a spare oil filter on hand. They become scarce real quick when half the state decides they need one in the same week.
    3. Gas generators are relatively inexpensive. However you get what you pay for. The power is LOW QUALITY and they are noisy. They will run your lights and motors just fine but sensitive electronics may not work or may be damaged. My furnace, well, dishwasher, CFL lights had no problems with it. However my computer UPS displayed various warnings, refused to charge and refused to allow the computer to start. The power frequency from the generator ranged from 55Hz to 65Hz depending on the load. The voltage was moderately stable, 117/235volts + or - 3/5 volts again depending on the load. You can get a high quality gas generator, but you will pay 2-3 times as much for it.
    4. You don't necessarily have to store the gas, or at least not much. Some of the service stations near me had backup power so I was able to buy gas as I needed it. Also, you can add fuel stabilizer to it if you feel the need to store it.

    Good Luck!
    -rick
  7. alternety

    alternety Like an engineer

    Messages:
    671
    Location:
    Washington
    Buy a Honda or other generator with the inverter based output. This decouples the engine speed from the frequency of generated power and provides a very clean output. The result of decoupling is that the engine can vary in speed based on demand rather than having to run at 3600 rpm no matter what the load is.

    They can be converted to propane with a third party kit. If you don't have natural gas available, this is my preferred fuel. Stores forever, cold does not bother it.

    Re: Redwood - have you checked on the effect of the fuel oil without the engine additives probably added to diesel fuel.
    Last edited: Apr 21, 2009
  8. Redwood

    Redwood Master Plumber

    Messages:
    7,450
    Location:
    Connecticut
    I do like my diesel generator... Auto start, auto transfer, and plumbed to the #2 heating oil tank in my basement...

    Always plenty of fresh on hand!
  9. beekerc

    beekerc IT Consultant / Network Engineer

    Messages:
    94
    Location:
    Seattle
    generator

    i'm with msgale. i went with the natural gas powered generac.

    1) it stays outside - no issues with carbon monoxide posioning
    2) it's fed by my natural gas service - no having to refill any tanks
    3) it weighs about 600 pounds - no having to worry about anyone stealing it

    one suggestion i would make is once you determine your need - look into the next model up. i got the 13kv unit and was able to service 80% of the circuits - not "whole house" but (at the time) looked good enough. now i'm playing the "i wish i had included that circuit run" game. it would have only cost me $600 to step up to the 16kv. lesson learned, at least for my next house.
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