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Thread: Need advice on emergency power generator purchase

  1. #1
    Flashaholic* CroMAGnet's Avatar
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    Default Need advice on emergency power generator purchase

    Hi all. My wife asked me to get us an emergency power generator . She mentioned that a propane model might be better than a gas model for storage purposes and ability to use the left over BBQ propane. Nawt sure if they even exist. All I've heard of is the Honda power generators. I think they're gas.

    Anyway, we need to get one to last a couple of weeks to power some... hmmm what the heck will we power? rechargable flashlights, lamps, microwave , mini fridge is all I can think of plugging in at the moment. We were talking about being able to use the furnace and water heater if the gas is still able to be turned on. This sounds a lot more involved that I first thought.

    Anyone care to share some idea's or experience?

  2. #2
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    Default Re: Need advice on emergency power generator purch

    After last summer's hurricanes here in Florida, I'm also putting in a few generators for emergency power. I've researched the project and found out a few important issues.
    First, I wanted a "whole house" propane powered 15kW (or 20 kW) generator. After talking to the few propane dealers here (not much propane used in FL), not one of them could gaurantee delivery at peak usage times (hurricanes). No propane means no power, and it's over $2.50 a gallon here. Check on the propane usage per hour on the big generators, you won't believe it - with 200 gallons of storage (maximum allowed by the county code in my area) I would need a delivery every 2 days if I used the generator at 50%. So that killed that idea.
    Second, I realized that nothing can replace the electric service from the utility company, so I started to look at small effiecient models. My decision was to buy 2 Honda generator/inverters (2kW) for lighting, TV, and a portable A/C in the mother-in-law house on the property. The honda units are cheap to run, easy to service, and very quiet. Because they use an inverter, they throttle down when the load decreases, unlike a traditional gas generator that runs continuously at 3600 rpm to maintain a 60 Hz power source. The third unit will be a noisy, ugly, heavy, cheap Coleman 5kW, only run for 2 hours in the morning and 2 hours in the evening to power the deep well pump and possibly one hot water heater for showers and filling buckets for flushing the toilets. The rest of the time it will be turned off. They are impractical for any long term use, gas guzzlers and very frequent oil changes.

    You mentioned you have natural gas - if it's still turned on. That can power the large "propane" generators (at a reduced kW output), but the cost is very high, and depending on the "disaster" that you are preparing for, if there is no gas or a pipeline is broken, you're dead in the water.

    I made it through last summer's hurricanes (total 11 days w/o power) with a 700 watt 12V to 120VAC inverter hooked to my wife's SUV. At least I had a fan, TV, coffee maker and minimal lighting. I charged AA's for flashlights with a Maha charger with a cigarette lighter adapter in my car. We used a lot of gas idling the SUV, but better than having no power.

    Good luck! Look at the Honda EU2000i, less than 50 lbs, quiet, inverter type generator, up to 15 hours on a gallon of gas with light usage. Under $1000.

    Rob

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    Default Re: Need advice on emergency power generator purch

    I forgot to mention the propane unit that I almost bought was a Generac Guardian, sold by Harbor Freight and others. Auto switch-over, nice unit, but like I mentioned, unless you've got fuel, it's not worth much.
    Rob

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    Flashaholic* powernoodle's Avatar
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    Default Re: Need advice on emergency power generator purch

    I have a Craftsman 7.8HP 4200 Watt generator similar to this one, with about 40 gallons of gas on hand. You could always get some gas out of a vehicle if you need more. If you really need a generator (ice storm, hurricane, etc.), you likely won't be able to go and get some gas quickly. I have a little port installed in a basement window thru which I can run a cord from the generator to the inside of the house. 4200 watts is plenty to keep a space heater or two going, plus a few lights and a small tv, and I can cycle the fridge and freezer as needed. Since 09/01, I've become somewhat of a survivalist nut. A generator is part of that equation, but its much more likely to be needed after severe weather.

    best regards

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    *Flashaholic* Rothrandir's Avatar
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    Default Re: Need advice on emergency power generator purch

    theres quite a lot of information out there about building your own generator, even using "alternative" fuels...
    might be something to look into [img]/ubbthreads/images/graemlins/icon3.gif[/img]

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    Default Re: Need advice on emergency power generator purch

    I would strongly suggest the Honda EU2000i for the size, weight and noise issues; I think it is actually rated about 1600w continuous. You can parallel two of them for or double the power. If Diesel Dave chimes in he will tell you all about them.

    It really depends on your needs though, 2kw will get you basically one full power outlet, 4kw is better, 15kw to 20kw to do a regular sized house as normal. I have a 5kw 240vac battery/inverter system with a 4kw gas genset feeding that, with a 120v 1000w older Yamaha and a 12v 600w genset and finally a connection to the front of the garage to charge my battery bank in a pinch from an idling car.

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    Flashaholic* Pydpiper's Avatar
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    Default Re: Need advice on emergency power generator purch

    I have a 5000 watt Honda in my garage, I Installed an rv plug on the outside wall. My circuit panel is wired so I can input my generator into specific circuits and power them up.
    I isolated my furnace fan(gas), my fridge, main kitchen light,2 chest freezers and livingroom (tv, sattellite, stereo)
    When the power goes out there is an override beside my circuit panel that insures I don't backfeed power back onto the grid (very important), fire up the generator, plug it into the wall and enjoy. Home Depot carries a good line of manual override switches, and there are others out there that have some pretty cool stuff.
    If you plan on hooking it to your Circuit panel and you arn't 100% sure what your doing then hire an electrician..
    The only thing I have to do different when I use the generator is switch my furnace fan to "on" instead of "auto" Starting a motor (fan, fridge, freezer) requires a lot more power than it does to run, so once its going its fine.
    Smaller generators offer a portability option too..

  8. #8

    Default Re: Need advice on emergency power generator purch

    Running an electric heater from a gas powered generator is woefully fuel-inefficient. Better to just get a gas powered heater.

    Trying to keep 20 kw of electric appliances running through a hurricane also sounds like asking a bit much. There's likely to be a fuel shortage going on too. Best to just use what you need to. I'd say that includes powering the fridge so the food doesn't spoil; a few lamps (CF bulbs preferred); the TV set to keep up with current news and/or keep the kids pacified; battery chargers for your flashlights, furnace starter if you're in a cold climate; another thing or two like that and you're set. Hot water should come from bottled propane if possible. A/C is mostly a creature comfort unless required for health reasons, especially A/C for the whole house. When I was a kid we had A/C in one room in the house so we all gathered there on very hot days; that worked out fine. That doesn't seem like too big a problem in a hurricane.

    I think of getting a generator sometimes, and go back and forth between wanting a very portable 1kw unit, or a somewhat less portable 2kw unit. I rarely use more than 2kw when the power is working, so I certainly shouldn't need more than that in an outage. I can live without my microwave til the power comes back on.

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    Flashaholic* LitFuse's Avatar
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    Default Re: Need advice on emergency power generator purch

    Honda EU series all the way... The 2000 is the best unit in my opinion. Trying to run your whole house from a genset is really not very practical, unless money is no object. Whole house solutions are very expensive, both in inital outlay, and also in the fuel to keep them running.

    For all practical purposes, the run of the mill 5kW unit from the local big box store, is a loud, crude, gas guzzling POS. If you can afford a nice 1800RPM diesel unit, well that's a different story.

    You're much better off using one or two of the EU Hondas to power the stuff that you really "need". These generators are super quiet, and super efficient. I used these with great results for the 2+ weeks that I was without power this summer due to hurricane Charley. Gas was hard to come by, and lots of people with the guzzlers could not find the fuel to run them. The Hondas are not cheap, but they are worth the price.

    It's all a matter of perspective I've found. When the power is on, people would crap themselves at the mention of what the 2kW Honda cost. When the power has been off for a couple of days (and gas is as scarce as gold) these same people would have happily paid twice as much for the Honda. [img]/ubbthreads/images/graemlins/smile.gif[/img]

    Peter

  10. #10

    Default Re: Need advice on emergency power generator purch

    Yeah, I like those Hondas too. I just am not sure of needing 2kw instead of the lower cost and easier portability of the 1kw version.

    Right now I'm running two 25 watt CF bulbs, the laptop computer I'm typing on plus the DSL modem and router connected to it, a laser printer on standby, and a second laptop that I was using earlier and should power off now. This is probably about 120 watts total, about 100 if I shut off the other laptop. I do have a Peltier fridge that uses around 50 watts but it's not plugged in right now. A typical household fridge (I don't use mine) might need 100 watts when running. A full sized TV set or a NiMH high speed battery charger, might add another 50 watts.

    A multi-person household might want to run a few more lights and appliances than I do, but it still looks like 1kw covers all the essentials. 2kw makes it possible to use a microwave, which I guess would be a real convenience, but not a necessity. I guess it could also run an A/C, but I probably would avoid that in a potentially long outage, unless I had unlimited fuel.

  11. #11
    Flashaholic* LitFuse's Avatar
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    Default Re: Need advice on emergency power generator purch

    Hey Paul, do you like coffee? [img]/ubbthreads/images/graemlins/smile.gif[/img]

    Peter

  12. #12

    Default Re: Need advice on emergency power generator purch

    Peter, yeah, I don't have an electric coffee pot though, so a big generator wouldn't help with that [img]/ubbthreads/images/graemlins/smile.gif[/img]. If the gas is out I currently have no way to cook. I figure I'll get a camp stove sooner or later.

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    Flashaholic* LitFuse's Avatar
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    Default Re: Need advice on emergency power generator purch

    Paul- for the cost difference (about $250) and the weight difference ( around 15# ) I'd recommend going with the EU2000 over the 1000. It just gives you more options and flexibility. That full size fridge uses about 1.5A when running, but needs about 15A to "start". Since the EU's throttle up to meet the load, there is no gas consumption penalty to the 2000 either, which is really cool.

    Peter

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    Default Re: Need advice on emergency power generator purch

    running 5700 Honda w/11hp intelligent controls for whole house operation. 1,000 watt Yamaha for small jobs w/long runtimes.

    We've got huge trees in my neighborhood, which translates into frequent power outages during storms.

    Seems to me if you need a small portable unit, then the $1,000 price tag for 2,000 watt Honda may be justified. but for most home backup use a slightly heavier 2,500 watt unit may cost 1/2 that with a good overhead valve motor.

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    *Flashaholic* James S's Avatar
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    Default Re: Need advice on emergency power generator purch

    At some point I hope to have it in the budget to do this on a big scale too.

    I also really like the idea of a propane generator. The propane doesn't go bad, you can bury the tanks, you can start with a couple of grill tanks which are cheap and as budget allows in the future you can add more larger tanks under ground. i like that idea. There are big problems with long term storage of gas or diesel that propane doesn't suffer from. But a grill tank wont run a big one for very long at all.

    The other place really not to skimp on is the wiring and transfer switch. Frankly I am surprised at how expensive the transfer switch is! But the electric company is very very picky about how you connect a generator up.

    Something to consider also is that a big enough generator that will let you run an AC unit or 2 will keep your home from filling with black mold if there is some flooding. If you actually get hit and can run the AC you will save back your original investment in a larger system and then some.

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    Default Re: Need advice on emergency power generator purchase

    Ok.. Here is my opinion on this stuff...

    If you want an automatic backup with very low maintenance then LP/NG is the only way to go.

    If you don't mind being frugal on power then a portable inverter based generator will be the best overall value and by far more fuel efficient over the LP/NG.

    If cost is no object, Diesel...

    Here is how it breaks down and why..

    LP and NG - This is the best option if you don't like maintenance and such. LP/NG burns very cleanly and there is no residual fuel in a carb to gunk up everything. Changing the oil is about the extent of the maintenance. The down side is fuel cost. They will cost much more per unit of electricity to run in comparison to gasoline or diesel. They will be medium on the equipment cost scale.

    Diesel - This is the best option if you expect to need it regularly. The fuel cost is the lowest of the bunch per unit of electricity. The more you run it the cheaper this one will be. Diesel fuel is also more stable than gasoline so its not as likely to gunk up everything. If you get a good water cooled diesel setup it will last a lifetime. Equipment cost will be the highest of any of the other options. If you are in a freezing area be sure to get the cold weather kit or the fuel can gel on you.

    Portable inverter based generators - For the average home owner this is the best compromise of equipment cost and operating cost. You can connect 2 of these generators together to get more output. They are very fuel efficient and quiet. They generally come in only the 120v flavor but if you really need 240v it can be arranged via a transformer. The equipment cost will be less than LP/NG or Diesel. Automatic changeover is possible but not recommended. If you need something only every year or so this one would get my vote. Gas can be a problem if left in the generator so be sure to have a way to drain it between uses or use a good fuel stabilizer.

  17. #17
    Flashaholic* CroMAGnet's Avatar
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    Default Re: Need advice on emergency power generator purch

    Wow. Thanks for all the great advice. really! [img]/ubbthreads/images/graemlins/grin.gif[/img]
    I will print all of this stuff and figure out the options for us. Thanks everyone [img]/ubbthreads/images/graemlins/grouphug.gif[/img]

  18. #18

    Default Re: Need advice on emergency power generator purch

    Chris, yes, thanks for the excellent post. Good point about fuel gunking up.

    I don't feel really likely to buy a generator unless I have some non-emergency use for it. I have enough flashlights and batteries in this place to go without AC-powered lighting for a long long time, and I have a few portable radios which can get news updates. I don't use a TV or fridge (but that's just me), and in a prolonged power outage my internet connection will probably be out too, and I can survive without using the computer. In a prolonged-outage situation I might think about getting one of those 15 minute NiMH chargers with a 12VDC power cord, so I could charge the batteries in a vehicle.

  19. #19

    Default Re: Need advice on emergency power generator purch

    Anyone have an idea of how many pounds of desiccant that I would need to open per day to compensate for a lack of AC and therefore the lack of dehumidification for a 2000 sq. ft. home in Tampa if I only ran the frig, ceiling fans and lights on the generator [img]/ubbthreads/images/graemlins/confused.gif[/img]?

  20. #20
    *Flashaholic* KevinL's Avatar
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    Default Re: Need advice on emergency power generator purch

    Sorry for the off topic.. what problems does humidity cause?

    I live in the tropics, and it's 90-100% relative humidity all year round, and don't run climate control most of the day (leave the windows open, let the breeze in). Nothing seems to have suffered from that, mold only grows on bread if you leave it out too long.

  21. #21

    Default Re: Need advice on emergency power generator purch

    id guess rust kevin.i used to live in fla man everything rust bad down there i live in ga now we have very little rust.

  22. #22
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    Default Re: Need advice on emergency power generator purch

    been seeing Chinese 3,000 watt, Honda clones w/ overhead valve engines. chinese generators

    Coleman's pulse 1850 watt, very simular in size to Honda's nice 2,000 watt unit. coleman pulse 1850 for $499

    anyone have experience with these?

  23. #23
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    Default Re: Need advice on emergency power generator purch

    Oh.. I meant to add that I have a Honda EU1000 and EU3000. I use them primarily for my camper. In fact I lived in the camper for 1.5 years without electricity (long story). The EU1000 ran every day to charge up the batteries on the RV and the EU3000 ran on the days I wanted AC. They are both still kicking. The EU1000 is starting to use a little oil but I figure it has much more than 500 hours on it. I also use synthetic oil and air cooled engines usually consume some of that stuff. Neither one has ever given any trouble. I am pretty anal about running them completely out of fuel if I intend to store them though. I can't stress enough how quickly gasoline goes bad and messes everything up. [img]/ubbthreads/images/graemlins/frown.gif[/img]

    On the home front - we had ice storms in this area a couple of winters ago we were without power for about 10 days. I took the EU1000 around to the neighbors houses and let them run their fridges for a couple of hours each. It kept them cold enough to be safe for food. It used about 1 gallon of gas a day doing this. That little thing has been such a trooper... [img]/ubbthreads/images/graemlins/happy14.gif[/img]

  24. #24
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    Default Re: Need advice on emergency power generator purch

    I have my 88 year old grandfathers 6 kilowatt generator.

    it needed a new electronic ignition(upgrade - no points)

    and a carbeurator rebuild kit.

    and there was a problem with the solid state voltage regulator but it was a simple fix.

    I think he bought it used in the late 70's

    I store it completely drained of fuel.

    you put gas in it and it starts on the first pull.

    you would think it would take a pull or two to get gas flowing to the carb.

    my oil furnace and oil hot water heater plug into an outlet - they have power cords so if the power fails I can plug them in to my generator with an extension cord.(my mom had 2 brand new 12 guage super heavy duty power cords she was throwing out so I modded my oil burners)

  25. #25

    Default Re: Need advice on emergency power generator purch

    >what's the problem with humidity?

    Mold can be a big problem here in Florida. Wet drywall + heat = mold that doesn't go away.

  26. #26
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    Default Re: Need advice on emergency power generator purch

    If you have a truck with the PTO option, have you considered realacpower.com ? it is a generator that runs off your trucks pto and uses its idle speed to generate 12kw of power.

    I agree with the above. My parents had considered one, but a house one would be large and consume a lot of fuel and we would get little use out of it. A small generator we would need to rotate loads like the freezer, refigerator, winder ac heater, space heater depending on the season, house hold appliances to cook not to mention fuel for the little generator. We used two keroscene heaters during a 2 week freeze with no power and found we used a gallon ever 12 hours per heater. THat ment are 5 gallon jug would last 2 1/2 days. We thought one jug was more than enough til we had to use it.

    We now days just keep plenty of food on hand that does not need to be froze and ice or used bottles with water in them as ice packs in both the fridge and freezer.

  27. #27

    Default Re: Need advice on emergency power generator purch

    That PTO thing is interesting. I'd been wondering for a while if it was feasible to run a large (e.g. 20kw) generator from a salvaged car engine. I didn't realize PTO existed. Cool.

  28. #28
    Flashaholic* watt4's Avatar
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    Default Re: Need advice on emergency power generator purch

    CJR,

    instead of dessicant, consider running some dehumidifiers

  29. #29
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    Default Re: Need advice on emergency power generator purch

    I was thrilled with the performance of the Honda EU2000's. Paralleling them, if you have two, is essential. Run time under load was a consistent 6.5 hours (1Gal) I will build the 5 gal fuel tank mod for them before the next hurricane, it's another must. A bigger and cheaper 5-8k unit as a backup for big work during the day is a plus.

    Wiring directly into your house is a great idea. A couple of my friends did it with portable units with great success. You turn off all the breakers and just turn on what you need. This eliminates all the stinking extension cords running all over the house. In my case this wouldn't have worked because I had so much water in the house I wouldn't have dared plug into a wall.

    Bottom line if you go with the Honda EU2000's and plan to power more than just a fridge and a couple of fans then buy two. Paralleling them is a must if you plan to run more than one large item. They will not run all night unless you do the gas tank mod. The 5 gal tank mod would run both of them for a whopping 22-23 hours under load. Getting gas can be a problem for up to about 10 days after a hurricane and possible longer for a snowstorm or other. That's a lot of gas so plan accordingly. I now have (8) 5 gal. cans plus another 10 gals in my lawnmower so I am good for at least a week. I will fill them all up early if a threat is approaching. If it misses me I will immediately begin to use the fuel in my vehicles until all tanks are empty. I will leave them open to dry out then put them away for the next event. I keep one gen. in usable condition year around and the other two have been treated for long-term storage. The long-term treatment is a pain but I know they will work when they are needed. Buy one 25'-50' super heavy duty cord for each gen. You run that cord in the house then feed off it with smaller cords. I used a heavy duty 6 plug surge protector at the end of each one. Don't forget to have a couple of quarts of oil around. The Brigs motors may use oil and the Honda's need changing. A dog carrier would make a great shelter for the gen. if it's raining or snowing. You already know the gen. stays outside, so I won't say it, oops, I said it. Be safe.

    At some point I will replace my very old 4k-5k Coleman. That sucker has an 11HP B&S and uses a quart of oil every 15-20 hours. I know the thing has to be at least 10 years old. I bought it used from a friend back several years ago and it had seen quite a bit of use when I bought it. It had white paint over spray on it which means it was used for construction. I will buy a run of the mill 5k-7k cheapie for about $600-$700. One that size fits nicely in my garden trailer I pull with my mower.

    If I lived in an area that had frequent power loss of 1-4 hours I would own a single Honda EU2000. If the power losses were often more than 12 hours AND hurricanes weren't a threat then I would buy a built in whole house unit that ran off my natural gas or LP and had the feature where it started itself every week. I would also have one of the EU2000's just in case. The problem with the whole house unit in my area is that water damage may preclude you from using it. Lot's of people in the area had the whole house unit but I haven't talked to anyone that used it after the storm.

    OBTW: Another plug for the Honda. My wife just happened walked in the room a few minutes ago and said she needed to use the Honda next month and wanted to know if it was ready to go. I asked her why and she said she was going to shoot some people photos on the beach at sunset and thought she might need her photography lights. They are 300 watts each. She couldn't do it with a larger unit.

    Happy shopping

  30. #30

    Default Re: Need advice on emergency power generator purch

    I've never understood why those Hondas have such small fuel tanks. Can you fuel them while they're running? What's the story with the 5 gal mod? 5 gal is more like it.

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