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Home Generators
Old 09-04-2007, 07:07 AM   #1
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Home Generators

Anyone have a home generator, the stationary air-cooled type. The Lowe's guy says they're pretty good when the power goes out. They carry the Centurion (least expensive) and Kohler(much more expensive) brands.They recommended a 12,000-14,000 watt sytem for a 2,000 sf home. A friend of mine has a Generac model, which he's only had to use once in 10 years but it worked beautifully in a ice storm.

What are the pros/cons? What brand did you buy? Would you buy the same brand again or go with someting different...and most important, are they worth the few thousand dollar outlay?
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Old 09-04-2007, 08:12 AM   #2
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ferco, you just missed a thread on this. Search "generators" in the Forum search engine.
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Old 09-04-2007, 08:14 AM   #3
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IMO, if you are going to buy one, consider buying the permanently wired standby type that performs turns on automatically when needed, and off when the power comes on - also make sure it does the automatic weekly self-tests (where it turns on and runs itself on a regular schedule).

Nothing worse than having a generator that you can't get going when you finally need it (especially if sump-pumps are an issue for you).

I have a permanately wired one, 8KW runs on propane, but I need to manually start and stop depending on need. I also am not as good as I should be about doing the regular startups/shutdowns etc, so I often struggle with it when its time to use it.

I am considering upgrading to this one:

Guardian Generator

We travel, sometimes for 1-2 months at a time, so having an "auto-on/auto-off" would give some peace of mind.
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Old 09-08-2007, 12:19 AM   #4
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12000 watts would be fine if you want to simultaneously cook a roast in the oven, have the laundry going, use your hair dryer, microwave, and toaster with all of the christmas lights on, but most folks find that around 8kw continuous duty will do fine. If you are using it for standby purposes and want to save a few bucks get a gasoline powered one. A gas engine will not outlast a diesel one if you are using it a lot, but if you are just using it as a standby, it'll last pretty much forever. It will also start easier (especially in cold climates), and save you a ton on initial purchase price.

You'll need a transfer switch as well. If you aren't 100% certain about your electrical skills, hire a pro to install it.

Many folks forget that they should store a significant amount of fuel for those longer term outages.
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Old 09-08-2007, 12:56 PM   #5
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We put in a 15 KW Generac shortly after building the house. As we live in the country power outages have been more frequent than city life. We're scheduled for a 6 hour outage tonight for switch yard maintenance. The generator provides power for well. septic pump, one hot water heater, garage doors, well house heater, kitchen appilances, back up heating system, and power in the great room. Tempatures in the winter get to -20 or so and not having power and supplying back up heat could be an issue. Ours is propane powered with an automatic transfer switch. Since we used propane for the stove and heatalator fire place adding the extra tap for the generator was not too expensive.

Run time in the last three years or so except for the automatic weekly test has been in the 20 - 50 hours per year.
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Old 09-08-2007, 02:17 PM   #6
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I considered the purchase of a generator, but felt they were too expensive. Also concerned about noise and storing gasoline for it.

My concern was loss of heating during a cold spell. My furnace is natural gas with electrically forced air flow. My solution was a natural gas fireplace log that doesn't require venting as it has an oxygen sensor. I've tried it out when the temperatures were around 0 degrees and it will warm the house.
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Old 09-10-2007, 02:39 PM   #7
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The problem with any piece of emergency equipment is whether the cost is worth the emergency it's covering, and whether you can count on it to run when you need it.

You can't just set these in a store room for ten years and expect them to run. Gasoline gets old and gums up the fuel system as it does so. This is called "varnishing". You need to cyle several tanks of fuel through it per year. Even diesel will spoil if left stagnant long enough.

Once you factor in keeping up with the thing so it will run when you need it, then factor in the purchase price and wiring mods, one need in ten years would seem pretty low to me. But I'm in the South and even 2-3 days of no power is probably more inconvenience than dangerous. Add a gas water heater, fireplace and a Coleman stove and it's no biggie. If I was in the North and it was below zero.... might be more attractve.
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Old 09-14-2007, 03:09 PM   #8
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[QUOTE=USK Coastie;554258]We put in a 15 KW Generac shortly after building the house.

Are you happy with Generac? I priced one about six or seven years ago and didn't want o drop the near 10k it was going to cost me then to get it in (hooked to natural gas utility, cost of wiring, transfer switch, etc. etc.). An ice storm is the biggest conern around here. We had a couple three years ago that were localized so there were no wide outages. But a medium ice storm would put us off the grid for a couple day at least. In the winter, that's long enough to create concern with frozen pipes, no well water and melting freezer contents. Anybody know if there is anything in the less than six k range that would be durable and reliable?
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Old 09-14-2007, 03:34 PM   #9
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OK, if the whole country goes black for a couple of weeks, I'm in trouble. You see, our plan is, if the power fails we are taking a trip. That's one of the joys of being retired. For the price of a home generator, I figure I could stay in a nice hotel somewhere for several weeks. As to what I would loose in the house. What's in the freezer. Besides we get a nice vacation. During hurricane Rita, that is exactly what we did. Power was out for a week.
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Old 09-14-2007, 05:23 PM   #10
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Quote:
Originally Posted by USK Coastie View Post
....... Anybody know if there is anything in the less than six k range that would be durable and reliable?
If you want something automatic and natural gas powered it is going to cost you. Would you be happy with an high quality electric starting generator like a Honda that you could plug into to power essentials? You can do that for a lot less.

As I stated in a previous thread on this, for $500 bucks I have a Coleman generator that rope starts and powers my well, furnace, etc off extension cords. I use a gasoline stabilizer when I store it and it always starts right up. But that is the el cheapo way to go......
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Old 09-15-2007, 02:20 PM   #11
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To me, the hassles of maintaining a gasoline engine for a device like a generator that will only see occasional use doesn't pass the "worth it" test.

I'd be more inclined to go with a propane generator, especially one that can use the ubiquitous barbecue canisters already on-hand.
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Old 09-15-2007, 03:01 PM   #12
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My understanding is that the generators powered by gas (whether propane or natural gas such as what I am contemplating) also require significant periodic maintenance such as regular startups, crank case oil changes and the like. The elegant part is that they sit on a little pad in an obscure spot next to the house like an air conditioner unit and oe does not need to store large quantities of gasoline (don't the gasoline models go through several gallons for a day of use? There are tradeoffs either way.
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Old 09-15-2007, 03:41 PM   #13
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I like the idea of taking a trip when the power goes out. Unless I needed the power for survival, there are so many more fun things I would like to do with thousands of dollars than pay for the obligation to do maintenance every few months on a generator.

One thing to consider is just buying a cheap inverter and powering small appliances off your automobile during an emergency. I think most car alternators can put out 400-800 watts which is plenty for your communication electronics including TV or home computer. That solution is always ready to go with no maintenance and saves the environmental costs of manufacturing, installing, using, and disposing of several hundred pounds of generator.
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Old 09-16-2007, 02:30 AM   #14
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It is funny that one of the engineers at work is responsible for the back up systems for a lot of our 'critical sites' (data centers)... they have huge batteries and generators (talking a million dollars a pop and some place have 4 of them)....

He said, something is always going wrong with these systems and they are maintained to the highest quality as it costs us business if the center goes down...

I asked him if he had a home generator.. he said 'no', to much trouble and how often would you use one... I can say that over the last 20 years I could have used one 3 times... and only once because of a hurricane... the other two were earlier this year when the transformer blew out and it took them 8 hours to fix both times...

I have thought of one of those quiet cheap ones just to run the refrig or a TV... but... can't pull the plug..
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Old 09-16-2007, 01:18 PM   #15
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My neighbor got a generator last year. Hooked it into the propane tank we each have for home heating. I'll admit their timing was impeccable, as we had more outages this year than we've had in the past 7 years I've been there, including a 12 hour outage. I know they keep their fridge/freezers well-stocked because they entertain a lot and have family visit often. But aside from the initial cost, just the fuel to run it isn't cheap. And I laugh because among other things they have plugged into it is the hot tub. He explained if we had a long power outage in the winter he didn't want the water to freeze and burst a pipe somewhere difficult to repair.

They have it run weekly for maintenance on Wednesday mornings. I can hear it well when my windows are open, even though there is another house and a wooded lot between us. I know they like windows open too, so that has to be a nuisance. Maybe they have it scheduled to run when they know they plan to be away most weeks.

But they're happy that they have most of their house still running during these power outages. It just doesn't sound at all cost effective for me and I can live with some inconvenience for awhile or go away for long outages.
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