What Kind of Generator Do you Use for your Home Backup?

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lstone19
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Re: What Kind of Generator Do you Use for your Home Backup?

Post by lstone19 »

A lot of interesting comments. One thing that needs to be considered is just what risks are you getting the generator to protect against. Different risks need a different solution. We have a natural gas whole-house automatic generator. Someone mentioned but what if the natural gas supply is interrupted. That's possible but given in the 23 years we've lived here we've had many electric outages (above ground lines) but no natural gas outages, natural gas outage is way down the risks. Another mentioned is after four days of running continuously, it needs service. True but I don't think we've ever had an outage over 8 hours. But if it looks like it will be long, I have time to contact the company that services it. Another comment was about fuel cost. Just because you have a whole-house generator does not mean you need to live normally while on the generator; you are allowed to do what you can to reduce the load.

Now if I lived in a remote area, my view of the risks might be very different. My parents for a number of years lived in a remote area. When there power went out and they manually switched to the generator (whole house but no automatic transfer), they had a new problem which is no way to know utility power had been restored except to shut down the generator and switch back to utility to see if it was back.

If you want to guard against all risks, maybe you need two generators - a natural gas automatic plus a portable with other fuel in case the main one becomes unusable (despite having the generator, I still have a battery backup sump pump as in addition to power outages, the batter backup pump also guards against failure of the main pump (more than once, I've found the backup pump "pump activated" light on when there was no reason for it to have run whereupon a quick test showed the main pump was dead)).
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queso
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Re: What Kind of Generator Do you Use for your Home Backup?

Post by queso »

lstone19 wrote: Wed Jan 20, 2021 6:36 pm A lot of interesting comments. One thing that needs to be considered is just what risks are you getting the generator to protect against. Different risks need a different solution. We have a natural gas whole-house automatic generator. Someone mentioned but what if the natural gas supply is interrupted. That's possible but given in the 23 years we've lived here we've had many electric outages (above ground lines) but no natural gas outages, natural gas outage is way down the risks. Another mentioned is after four days of running continuously, it needs service. True but I don't think we've ever had an outage over 8 hours. But if it looks like it will be long, I have time to contact the company that services it. Another comment was about fuel cost. Just because you have a whole-house generator does not mean you need to live normally while on the generator; you are allowed to do what you can to reduce the load.

Now if I lived in a remote area, my view of the risks might be very different. My parents for a number of years lived in a remote area. When there power went out and they manually switched to the generator (whole house but no automatic transfer), they had a new problem which is no way to know utility power had been restored except to shut down the generator and switch back to utility to see if it was back.

If you want to guard against all risks, maybe you need two generators - a natural gas automatic plus a portable with other fuel in case the main one becomes unusable (despite having the generator, I still have a battery backup sump pump as in addition to power outages, the batter backup pump also guards against failure of the main pump (more than once, I've found the backup pump "pump activated" light on when there was no reason for it to have run whereupon a quick test showed the main pump was dead)).
I hedge against this two ways. One, I have 3-4 service kits in stock at all times and do all the maintenance on the unit myself. That should cover any long runtimes. Honestly, the plugs and air filter always look to be in pretty good shape to me and I only switch them annually because they come in the kit. It uses run of the mill synthetic oil (also in the kit) so in an extended outage I just wouldn't switch out the plugs and air filter, but would keep them until they were truly needed. I've got plenty of other oil and filters lying around so even if I ran out of "Kohler oil" I could keep it running quite a while as long as natural gas is pumping.

Two, I have a gasoline powered portable that I had before we bought the whole house genset that has been relegated to shed duty. I exercise it once a month, store it dry and keep 10-20 gallons of treated gas around for yard equipment. If natural gas stopped flowing I'd use it to power the freezer, charge phones, etc. and pray the natural gas comes back on since 20 gallons give or take wouldn't last me that long. If push came to shove, I could drain all the yard equipment and our vehicles and keep it going for quite a bit longer, but at some point I'd probably give up and use the gas and one of the vehicles to get me out of dodge. :happy
Freetime76
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Re: What Kind of Generator Do you Use for your Home Backup?

Post by Freetime76 »

Hello. Thank you for starting this thread. Before it gets locked, I wanted to add that I appreciate the different perspectives and facts, insights, and experiences in the thread, and I don’t think there is a “right” answer. So nobody wins or loses, okay? :D

Perfect. I’m sharing some of the info with my mom (thanks whoever it was), about the oil changes/maintenance on the whole house, such as Generac.

:wink: All her friends have a Generac, so her brand choice is a done-deal.
1. I’ll ask her who is doing the maintenance, including if the power is out for a week. She needs it overnight for medical equipment, plus humidity control/A/C and heat, well/septic (glad someone mentioned septic pump!). (She would like to have tv news and her electric cordless phone...priorities :oops: ) I don’t want the darn thing to crap out when she’s on her O2 machine, asleep.
2. It will run on propane, and she may add a tank for extra capacity- a truck may not be able to get to her for a timely refill. Although I remember propane being over $5/gallon at one point, for now, it’s cheap and she can afford it. Her friends quoted her about 25 gallons/day in FL, FWIW.
3. I’ll also tell her to look at the usage lifetime of the unit (she has a running list to check on).
4. Very important- she lives alone, isolated spot but folks around would hear it for sure in her little valley. She may get a visitor, so we’re going to need a plan for that (it will be dead quiet, and her closest friendly neighbor is also a senior couple. She’s not a prepper, but it’s a real concern.

Anyway, thanks!

P.S. Lest we offend anyone, we’re more in the be extra prepared camp. :sharebeer Ya’ never know!
hudson
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Re: What Kind of Generator Do you Use for your Home Backup?

Post by hudson »

Great discussion! Useful info...just like the last thread on the same subject.
I started leaning towards a portable Honda generator. I talked with my brother who has one; he lives in a place where he's got to have a generator several times a year. He grumbled about pulling it out of his shed in the middle of the night in a storm. That got me thinking. I'm 73, and I believe that I would have no problem using a portable generator...even at 2 AM in a storm. I want my purchase to last 10 years. Will I want to pull out the generator at 83? I want my wife to be able to use it if I'm not a home.
Therefore, I'm going with a standby generator. I sent my quote to my brother, and he is seriously looking at getting the same thing.

Noise: The Generac 22 is listed at 68 decibels. The installer said that the sound was somewhat directional in that he would face the unit towards an area with no houses.
Last edited by hudson on Thu Jan 21, 2021 5:19 am, edited 1 time in total.
Starfish
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Re: What Kind of Generator Do you Use for your Home Backup?

Post by Starfish »

I bought yesterday a DeWalt generator from HD. I put around 6h or so on it.
My conclusions:
1. if you do it first time it is not that easy to put everything together in the dark.
2. if you don't use a transfer switch you will have to keep a door/window cracked for the cables and then have cables in the entire house. Even in California this is not great in January. Of course there is no heat, the furnace needs electricity for the fan.
3. It's a lot noisier than I expected (of course, smelly too). Do yourself a favor a spend double for a quitter inverter generator (like Honda). It's very loud even from inside because the houses don't have good sound insulation. I have neighbors so I cannot keep it on after 10pm. It's good to have some space to keep it as far as possible from the house, doors etc.
I bought a 4000W generator but I think I could easily get away with 2000W.
iamlucky13
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Re: What Kind of Generator Do you Use for your Home Backup?

Post by iamlucky13 »

Freetime76 wrote: Wed Jan 20, 2021 7:02 pm1. I’ll ask her who is doing the maintenance, including if the power is out for a week. She needs it overnight for medical equipment, plus humidity control/A/C and heat, well/septic (glad someone mentioned septic pump!).
Maybe someone has different experiences, but I would plan to be unable to get maintenance if power is out for a week. It's unlikely to simply run for 100 hours and then fail, but also it could hypothetically fail in less than 100 hours. If it's life critical, and there is a significant risk of an extended outage, some additional level of backup should be considered. From a quick search, it does not appear oxygen concentrators have very high power needs, so a self-contained battery system like the Goal Zero Yeti's (pricey, but convenient) might be an option as a backup for a couple days.

Additionally, if she has life critical needs, I would encourage her to coordinate with a neighbor on a planned check-in schedule in case of an extended outage. Hopefully they would do it anyways (There are at least 2 neighbors I would check on myself in case of an extended outage), but I wouldn't want to just assume.
IMO
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Re: What Kind of Generator Do you Use for your Home Backup?

Post by IMO »

posting to follow
hudson
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How loud?

Post by hudson »

noise:
Generac 22KW - 68 decibels
Honda EU7000iS 7000 watt 120/240V inverter generator - 58 decibels
My 2 1/2 ton heat pump - 70 decibels

I've heard that the noise is directional, or it's louder in one direction. You could "point" the generator away from other houses.
smitcat
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Re: What Kind of Generator Do you Use for your Home Backup?

Post by smitcat »

aquaman wrote: Wed Jan 20, 2021 6:08 pm
smitcat wrote: Wed Jan 20, 2021 4:15 pm
aquaman wrote: Wed Jan 20, 2021 3:36 pm
iamlucky13 wrote: Wed Jan 20, 2021 2:10 pm In any case, I'd expect it to be rare for a whole-house generator user to see fuel being the dominant cost instead of purchase and installation, probably followed by maintenance if done under a service contract.
That's exactly right. Given the fact that we are talking about backup generators, fuel costs tend to be a tiny consideration.

Fuel reliability and its availability tend to be a more important consideration. As we've discussed in prior threads, for instance, while natural gas disruptions aren't unprecedented (smitcat, for instance, has pointed out that his area experienced natural gas supply disruptions after Sandy), natural gas is generally a much more reliable source than gasoline, plus you don't have to run out to replenish the former.
I've got far different needs and expectations than someone on the Gulf coast who wants to keep their air conditioner running after a hurricane.
That's exactly right. Family situations and needs are all very different, which call for different solutions.

We know a lot of people who travel, or at least used to before Covid, and whose elderly parents live there or routinely stay there. Elderly parents may not be in a position to roll out a portable, connect it and power it up, particularly during inclement weather. The same may be true if you've got a wife with young kids, or people with disabilities, etc... Lots of people work from home and need to keep multiple a/c's and other systems going, which can't be easily accomplished with a portable generator, and in terms of lost productivity, the downtime can be quite expensive.

There's also the convenience factor of not having to worry about manually exercising a portable on a regular basis, etc...

"We know a lot of people who travel, or at least used to before Covid, and whose elderly parents live there or routinely stay there. Elderly parents may not be in a position to roll out a portable, connect it and power it up, particularly during inclement weather. The same may be true if you've got a wife with young kids, or people with disabilities, etc... Lots of people work from home and need to keep multiple a/c's and other systems going, which can't be easily accomplished with a portable generator, and in terms of lost productivity, the downtime can be quite expensive."

In critical and semi-critical situations where movement and options are limted I would strongly suggest a permanent home genset with auto tranfer switch and load shedding capabilities if required.
One that also includes a maintainence schedule performed by a factory mechanic and maybe online checks as well as an alternate fuel option.
Right, I completely agree. It's also used in situations where convenience is a huge factor and where there's a need and a desire to obtain more power than a portable one can realistically provide (this 17.5 kw portable (https://www.homedepot.com/p/Generac-17- ... /100662531) is 390 lbs and burns through 16 gallons of gas in 10 hours at only half load, so these huge portables are simply not viable whole house solutions).

I also think that the summary that you posted in this linked thread (viewtopic.php?f=11&t=286826&start=50) summarizing the reasons that caused you to go with a portable, as well as your specific setup, made perfect sense.

Your practical pointers, both in this thread as well as in the one I linked above, were also excellent and should be looked at closely by the owners of all types of generators (both permanent and portable).
FWIW - we have 3 portable gensets , the oldest is maybe 15 years now and last I checked it was over 2,000 of use (likely much more).
during Sandy it was used for 11 days with about an 80% run time vs overall time. Run time hours were tracked and the fuel usage was just under 7 hours run time per gallon of fuel - they are all inverter gensets. That portable ran the home heat, hot water, refrigerator, more than half a dozen lights and another half dozen outlets for charging and devices.
- even with the unusual 'Sandy' event and 'Irene' and a host of other very short power outtages the hours of usage from 'power outs' comes to like 400hrs over 15+ years.
- the other 1600+ hours were utlized when we moved the portable and used it for boats, tailgating, camping ,etc

For a permanent home genset where relaibility is important my thoughts are these:
- have a service provider for regular maintainance and commited repair
- have a backup fuel supply
- have robust spare parts accumulated on hand
- prepare to replace or refurbish the main unit in XXX years dependent upon location and usage
In critical use situations I would have a backup to the backup for sure...
As example ,say you need to have an oxygen concentrator running at all times - a backup genset alone is not a solution. I would suggest a 'stores' of oxygen or a battery backup able to create a stores of oxygen equal to the ability to reach or recieve emergency care during an event. Dependent upon where you are that might be 8 hours of backup or much more.

I also think that most folks do not concieve the most likely secnarios that trigger a power backup event, in our experince they can fall into some general categories.
1. power intermittent out for 2 to 12 hours , most common in number of outtages with the higher frequecy of events being the lowest hours of lineal time. Car accidents, unamed wind storms, utility failures etc typically feed these events.
2. power out for 2-3 days , very uncommon mostly caused by a fairly localized event more severe then #1. These have become extremely uncommon in the past 10 years or so in the few areas we are familiar with.
3. power out for 4-12+ days, most typically from a major event which has some notice of impact (fire, floods, hurricane, snow/ice storms). These cases typically have a much larger geographic affect with local infrastructure compromised.

In our experience we would want a plan to flee/retreat from events that were in a #3 category. If we had a critical need for "power on" at all times we would find the need to retreat from any potential event like #3 even more important.
nigel_ht
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Re: What Kind of Generator Do you Use for your Home Backup?

Post by nigel_ht »

willthrill81 wrote: Wed Jan 20, 2021 12:57 pm
aquaman wrote: Wed Jan 20, 2021 12:39 pm
willthrill81 wrote: Wed Jan 20, 2021 11:31 am - They are usually very loud. This is annoying to you unless you can position it where you won't hear the sound much, and it will be even more annoying to your neighbors, especially since they aren't benefiting from the power.
They are definitely not quiet, but are designed for emergency backup power. Hence, when your power goes out and they kick in, most people aren't troubled by the sound and are just thrilled to have them.

In practice, most portable generator end up being just as loud.
Inverter generators are far quieter.
Well they are smaller so it makes sense. A Honda EU7000i is rated at 58db while the Champion 14kW is 63.5dBA (at 25 feet).

Now you can get two EU7000i and combine them for 14kW but a single EU7000i is $5K whereas the Champion is $4.5K...so you do pay for the noise reduction.
aquaman wrote: Wed Jan 20, 2021 12:39 pm
During a long-term power outage, the noise is also a beacon alerting everyone within earshot that someone has power and probably other desirable things, potentially making you a target.
This is a pretty bizarre statement. You can just as easily say, for instance, that the presence of a standby generator means that the security system is likely to remain on even during an extended power outage, and the house is a lot more likely to remain occupied, thereby making it less likely to be a target.
I don't think that most people would think it's a 'bizarre statement' at all.
Well, it doesn't matter unless you're in a longer outage which most aren't. At which point even grilling outdoors is going to draw unwanted attention.

In our rural location, everyone has a generator.

In our urban location, in a non-covid environment, we'll have our neighbors over...we might be more of a target but there would be a lot more friendly adults around too.

Surviving a significant crisis is easier as a larger group than as a solo family...YMMV depending on your neighbors.
aquaman wrote: Wed Jan 20, 2021 12:39 pm
- They consume a lot of fuel. Being that a standby generator is providing you with around-the-clock power, it will consume a lot of fuel. If it's being powered by natural gas, this just means that you'll get a big bill at the end of the month...
That's simply incorrect. A 20 kw air cooled natural gas powered generator running at full load would consume approximately 262 cu ft/hr, which translates into 2.62 therms. It's very common to pay roughly 40 cents per therm (plus tax, plus fixed charges), so at this rate of consumption, it actually ends up being cheaper than electricity.
In most areas, it's not possible to generate electricity yourself via natural gas at a lower cost than what you buy from the grid.
Short term cost doesn't matter. Fuel consumption does matter.

With a 1000 gal tank and 2.6gal/hour at full load I have 384 hours of run time...at half load it's 1.6 gal/hour. Probably also around 300 hours with because I'm not going to assume my tank is full.

Can portables run off NG or Propane? Yes but most are gas. Unfortunately for the Honda you can't convert to propane without killing the warranty.
Standby generators are perfectly fine options in certain situations, but my big point was that they have some potentially significant cons.
Not really. They are both generators doing the same thing except standbys are cheaper than the highest quality (and quietest) inverter generators for the same rating.

The nice thing about a standby for a vacation home is that I don't need to be there when the power is out. Since we go a lot, but we're not there every day, I don't winterize it.

If we lived there full time I may have gone the EU7000 route with trickle charger and remote start...it IS quieter. But around there everyone has a generator so noise isn't a big deal.
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willthrill81
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Re: What Kind of Generator Do you Use for your Home Backup?

Post by willthrill81 »

iamlucky13 wrote: Wed Jan 20, 2021 2:10 pmSome sump pumps have to deal with thousands of gallons of seepage a day, and ultimately, it comes down to what you want to run, and how involved you want to be in keeping it running. My own decision is going to come down to a small, quiet inverter generator or a 12V inverter and 1-2 deep cycle batteries. I've got far different needs and expectations than someone on the Gulf coast who wants to keep their air conditioner running after a hurricane.
This is back-of-the-envelope math, but a 1/4 HP sump pump running for 1/3 of the time will draw about 1,600 watt hours of power per day. Running a generator 24/7 to mainly keep such a load going isn't a great use of fuel, especially if your fuel source is finite. That's a situation where a battery backup system such as I described in detail in this thread would be very useful.

1,600 watts is close to the capacity of a pair of GC2 golf cart batteries, and a pair will run about $300 at a big box store. An inverter big enough to handle the load would be $150 or less. And you could recharge the batteries using another inverter connected to a vehicle kept idling when charging the batteries. If you didn't want to charge the batteries from your vehicle, you could opt for a relatively inexpensive 1 kw inverter generator. You can sometimes get decent little units of that size for under $200.

So the question then becomes how long you would expect to have to run the sump pump in this manner, knowing that every additional day of running solely from battery power adds about $300 to the cost.
“It's a dangerous business, Frodo, going out your door. You step onto the road, and if you don't keep your feet, there's no knowing where you might be swept off to.” J.R.R. Tolkien,The Lord of the Rings
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willthrill81
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Re: What Kind of Generator Do you Use for your Home Backup?

Post by willthrill81 »

lstone19 wrote: Wed Jan 20, 2021 6:36 pmSomeone mentioned but what if the natural gas supply is interrupted. That's possible but given in the 23 years we've lived here we've had many electric outages (above ground lines) but no natural gas outages, natural gas outage is way down the risks.
It's certainly true that natural gas is the most reliable of all utility services in most areas. Where they are less reliable is in areas with earthquakes, where the system is designed to automatically cut the gas supply to prevent fires after a quake.
lstone19 wrote: Wed Jan 20, 2021 6:36 pmAnother mentioned is after four days of running continuously, it needs service. True but I don't think we've ever had an outage over 8 hours. But if it looks like it will be long, I have time to contact the company that services it.
If it's a widespread outage, I wouldn't bet on a company being able to change the oil in my generator every four days. Anecdotal evidence I've heard from those who service these units indicates that there just isn't enough manpower to do that in most areas. If you go with a standby generator, you need to at least know how to change the oil yourself. It's not difficult, but there is a process to follow.
lstone19 wrote: Wed Jan 20, 2021 6:36 pmAnother comment was about fuel cost. Just because you have a whole-house generator does not mean you need to live normally while on the generator; you are allowed to do what you can to reduce the load.
I wouldn't be worried about fuel cost. I'd be concerned with running out of fuel. If your standby generator runs on natural gas, then that's not an issue. But many, including a number of posters on this thread, are running their standby generator from propane, which is finite. A 22 kW generator, one of the more popular Generac models, burns 2.1 gallons of propane per hour at 1/2 load and 3.6 gallons at full load. So at half load, you can expect to go through 50 gallons of propane per day. Yes, you can get a large enough propane tank to go 10 days or longer without being refilled. It's just a factor that some considering standby generators aren't aware of.
“It's a dangerous business, Frodo, going out your door. You step onto the road, and if you don't keep your feet, there's no knowing where you might be swept off to.” J.R.R. Tolkien,The Lord of the Rings
smitcat
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Re: What Kind of Generator Do you Use for your Home Backup?

Post by smitcat »

willthrill81 wrote: Thu Jan 21, 2021 11:28 am
lstone19 wrote: Wed Jan 20, 2021 6:36 pmSomeone mentioned but what if the natural gas supply is interrupted. That's possible but given in the 23 years we've lived here we've had many electric outages (above ground lines) but no natural gas outages, natural gas outage is way down the risks.
It's certainly true that natural gas is the most reliable of all utility services in most areas. Where they are less reliable is in areas with earthquakes, where the system is designed to automatically cut the gas supply to prevent fires after a quake.
lstone19 wrote: Wed Jan 20, 2021 6:36 pmAnother mentioned is after four days of running continuously, it needs service. True but I don't think we've ever had an outage over 8 hours. But if it looks like it will be long, I have time to contact the company that services it.
If it's a widespread outage, I wouldn't bet on a company being able to change the oil in my generator every four days. Anecdotal evidence I've heard from those who service these units indicates that there just isn't enough manpower to do that in most areas. If you go with a standby generator, you need to at least know how to change the oil yourself. It's not difficult, but there is a process to follow.
lstone19 wrote: Wed Jan 20, 2021 6:36 pmAnother comment was about fuel cost. Just because you have a whole-house generator does not mean you need to live normally while on the generator; you are allowed to do what you can to reduce the load.
I wouldn't be worried about fuel cost. I'd be concerned with running out of fuel. If your standby generator runs on natural gas, then that's not an issue. But many, including a number of posters on this thread, are running their standby generator from propane, which is finite. A 22 kW generator, one of the more popular Generac models, burns 2.1 gallons of propane per hour at 1/2 load and 3.6 gallons at full load. So at half load, you can expect to go through 50 gallons of propane per day. Yes, you can get a large enough propane tank to go 10 days or longer without being refilled. It's just a factor that some considering standby generators aren't aware of.
"It's certainly true that natural gas is the most reliable of all utility services in most areas. Where they are less reliable is in areas with earthquakes, where the system is designed to automatically cut the gas supply to prevent fires after a quake."
Natural gas has been extremely reliable in our area as well - except for the one time where we experienced a long term power outtage that was fairly widespread (Sandy). The lack or power affected the gas sub stations that maintain proper pressure and also allowed moisture/water into the lines causing many failures. If planning for long term outtages consider the backup fuel(s) you might require.

"If it's a widespread outage, I wouldn't bet on a company being able to change the oil in my generator every four days. Anecdotal evidence I've heard from those who service these units indicates that there just isn't enough manpower to do that in most areas. If you go with a standby generator, you need to at least know how to change the oil yourself. It's not difficult, but there is a process to follow."
Again this is exactly what happened - the availability of people to keep the gensets running past the first few days was very limited. That along with the fact that the spare parts inventoried in the area was mostly depleted within the first two days left many units unusable.
We know this as our daughters boyfriend is a factory trained Generac tech who does this as a sideline - he as well as others had some real challenges of his own during Sandy but even when he was available to work on other peoples gensets the parts became an early problem.
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willthrill81
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Re: What Kind of Generator Do you Use for your Home Backup?

Post by willthrill81 »

smitcat wrote: Thu Jan 21, 2021 11:59 am "If it's a widespread outage, I wouldn't bet on a company being able to change the oil in my generator every four days. Anecdotal evidence I've heard from those who service these units indicates that there just isn't enough manpower to do that in most areas. If you go with a standby generator, you need to at least know how to change the oil yourself. It's not difficult, but there is a process to follow."
Again this is exactly what happened - the availability of people to keep the gensets running past the first few days was very limited. That along with the fact that the spare parts inventoried in the area was mostly depleted within the first two days left many units unusable.
We know this as our daughters boyfriend is a factory trained Generac tech who does this as a sideline - he as well as others had some real challenges of his own during Sandy but even when he was available to work on other peoples gensets the parts became an early problem.
That's why I keep enough supplies on hand to do several oil changes on our portable generator (and our vehicle).
“It's a dangerous business, Frodo, going out your door. You step onto the road, and if you don't keep your feet, there's no knowing where you might be swept off to.” J.R.R. Tolkien,The Lord of the Rings
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Re: What Kind of Generator Do you Use for your Home Backup?

Post by smitcat »

hudson wrote: Wed Jan 20, 2021 8:01 pm Great discussion! Useful info...just like the last thread on the same subject.
I started leaning towards a portable Honda generator. I talked with my brother who has one; he lives in a place where he's got to have a generator several times a year. He grumbled about pulling it out of his shed in the middle of the night in a storm. That got me thinking. I'm 73, and I believe that I would have no problem using a portable generator...even at 2 AM in a storm. I want my purchase to last 10 years. Will I want to pull out the generator at 83? I want my wife to be able to use it if I'm not a home.
Therefore, I'm going with a standby generator. I sent my quote to my brother, and he is seriously looking at getting the same thing.

Noise: The Generac 22 is listed at 68 decibels. The installer said that the sound was somewhat directional in that he would face the unit towards an area with no houses.
Seems to make sense for a permanent standby setup - based on your post what are your anticipated costs for the unit over 10 years or whatever your plans are?
- cost of genset
- cost of transfer switching and load shedding
- install costs for concrete slab, genset, wiring, utility license, fuel connects, local permits etc
- costs for any fuel storage / backup fuel/ pipes or routing
- yearly costs for testing (monthly run, remote feedback, any extended warrantee)
- average yearly costs for maintenance , repairs , replacements (oil changes, battery , fuel/air, sensors , starter ,etc)
- best guess life cylcle estimate of new Generac 22 unit before replacement
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Re: What Kind of Generator Do you Use for your Home Backup?

Post by smitcat »

willthrill81 wrote: Thu Jan 21, 2021 12:03 pm
smitcat wrote: Thu Jan 21, 2021 11:59 am "If it's a widespread outage, I wouldn't bet on a company being able to change the oil in my generator every four days. Anecdotal evidence I've heard from those who service these units indicates that there just isn't enough manpower to do that in most areas. If you go with a standby generator, you need to at least know how to change the oil yourself. It's not difficult, but there is a process to follow."
Again this is exactly what happened - the availability of people to keep the gensets running past the first few days was very limited. That along with the fact that the spare parts inventoried in the area was mostly depleted within the first two days left many units unusable.
We know this as our daughters boyfriend is a factory trained Generac tech who does this as a sideline - he as well as others had some real challenges of his own during Sandy but even when he was available to work on other peoples gensets the parts became an early problem.
That's why I keep enough supplies on hand to do several oil changes on our portable generator (and our vehicle).
I know and I agree.
lstone19
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Re: What Kind of Generator Do you Use for your Home Backup?

Post by lstone19 »

willthrill81 wrote: Thu Jan 21, 2021 11:28 am
lstone19 wrote: Wed Jan 20, 2021 6:36 pmAnother mentioned is after four days of running continuously, it needs service. True but I don't think we've ever had an outage over 8 hours. But if it looks like it will be long, I have time to contact the company that services it.
If it's a widespread outage, I wouldn't bet on a company being able to change the oil in my generator every four days. Anecdotal evidence I've heard from those who service these units indicates that there just isn't enough manpower to do that in most areas. If you go with a standby generator, you need to at least know how to change the oil yourself. It's not difficult, but there is a process to follow.
Then maybe after four days, we'd just have to shut it down. Meanwhile, that will have bought me four days to make alternative plans. You can't guard against all risks - otherwise, you'd have a 1,000 generators in case the first 999 all failed (but then if the 1,000th failed, you should have had 1,001). Same for sump pumps. My goal is to reduce the chance of a being overtaken by a disaster; not eliminate it completely.

Where you live is a factor: urban vs. suburban vs. rural makes a big difference. Also what the outage history is. In my 23 years here, we've never had an outage exceeding eight hours. OTOH, a couple of blocks of homes very nearby were out for a few days after a tree branch came down in the overhead power lines serving just those two blocks (the main reason we were even aware of it was a cable distribution amp serving us was affected - it had battery backup but that wasn't enough (cable company brought a generator after a few hours)). So, I admit, long outages can occur but they tend to be very localized. So our generator tech may very well have been able to service us if needed.
iamlucky13
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Re: What Kind of Generator Do you Use for your Home Backup?

Post by iamlucky13 »

willthrill81 wrote: Thu Jan 21, 2021 11:12 am
iamlucky13 wrote: Wed Jan 20, 2021 2:10 pmSome sump pumps have to deal with thousands of gallons of seepage a day, and ultimately, it comes down to what you want to run, and how involved you want to be in keeping it running. My own decision is going to come down to a small, quiet inverter generator or a 12V inverter and 1-2 deep cycle batteries. I've got far different needs and expectations than someone on the Gulf coast who wants to keep their air conditioner running after a hurricane.
This is back-of-the-envelope math, but a 1/4 HP sump pump running for 1/3 of the time will draw about 1,600 watt hours of power per day. Running a generator 24/7 to mainly keep such a load going isn't a great use of fuel, especially if your fuel source is finite. That's a situation where a battery backup system such as I described in detail in this thread would be very useful.

1,600 watts is close to the capacity of a pair of GC2 golf cart batteries, and a pair will run about $300 at a big box store. An inverter big enough to handle the load would be $150 or less. And you could recharge the batteries using another inverter connected to a vehicle kept idling when charging the batteries. If you didn't want to charge the batteries from your vehicle, you could opt for a relatively inexpensive 1 kw inverter generator. You can sometimes get decent little units of that size for under $200.

So the question then becomes how long you would expect to have to run the sump pump in this manner, knowing that every additional day of running solely from battery power adds about $300 to the cost.
I followed that thread and it helped confirm some of my thoughts on battery vs. generator, in addition to bringing my attention to the Bestek inverters as a cheaper option than the Samlex and similar brands I had been considering.

In my case, it's a septic pump, not a sump pump, so the usage should be consistent and I won't need to wait for a storm to figure that out. I haven't finalized the wiring yet, so in the meantime, it has been plugged into a Kill-a-Watt meter to check actual comsumption. As of this morning it had been 0.6 kWh after 9 days, and I've observed that I need to run the pump twice a day to prevent the pump tank from overflowing. Rated draw is 1100W, but as installed it actually draws 625W, so I'm hoping a 1000W pure sine wave inverter can handle the startup draw.

In a nutshell, the septic pump parameters are well-defined and seem easy to cover. The considerations around a generator come down to how long I want to also keep the fridge and stove blower running, and how much I feel like managing a rotating gasoline supply.
ychuck46
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Re: What Kind of Generator Do you Use for your Home Backup?

Post by ychuck46 »

We have a whole house 20Kw Generac. Have it tied into the natural gas line so we don't have to worry about refueling. At the time that was the biggest we could get but because we have a large house as well as a lot of outdoor security lights, we weren't able to tie both electrical boxes into a single generator. Kinda sucks because who would ever have every single light, etc on at the same time, but codes are codes. I believe at this point they are making at least 25Kw models if not bigger. Bottom line - great to have the peace of mind. The longest we were ever without was 2-1/2 days, btw.
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willthrill81
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Re: What Kind of Generator Do you Use for your Home Backup?

Post by willthrill81 »

iamlucky13 wrote: Thu Jan 21, 2021 12:59 pm
willthrill81 wrote: Thu Jan 21, 2021 11:12 am
iamlucky13 wrote: Wed Jan 20, 2021 2:10 pmSome sump pumps have to deal with thousands of gallons of seepage a day, and ultimately, it comes down to what you want to run, and how involved you want to be in keeping it running. My own decision is going to come down to a small, quiet inverter generator or a 12V inverter and 1-2 deep cycle batteries. I've got far different needs and expectations than someone on the Gulf coast who wants to keep their air conditioner running after a hurricane.
This is back-of-the-envelope math, but a 1/4 HP sump pump running for 1/3 of the time will draw about 1,600 watt hours of power per day. Running a generator 24/7 to mainly keep such a load going isn't a great use of fuel, especially if your fuel source is finite. That's a situation where a battery backup system such as I described in detail in this thread would be very useful.

1,600 watts is close to the capacity of a pair of GC2 golf cart batteries, and a pair will run about $300 at a big box store. An inverter big enough to handle the load would be $150 or less. And you could recharge the batteries using another inverter connected to a vehicle kept idling when charging the batteries. If you didn't want to charge the batteries from your vehicle, you could opt for a relatively inexpensive 1 kw inverter generator. You can sometimes get decent little units of that size for under $200.

So the question then becomes how long you would expect to have to run the sump pump in this manner, knowing that every additional day of running solely from battery power adds about $300 to the cost.
I followed that thread and it helped confirm some of my thoughts on battery vs. generator, in addition to bringing my attention to the Bestek inverters as a cheaper option than the Samlex and similar brands I had been considering.

In my case, it's a septic pump, not a sump pump, so the usage should be consistent and I won't need to wait for a storm to figure that out. I haven't finalized the wiring yet, so in the meantime, it has been plugged into a Kill-a-Watt meter to check actual comsumption. As of this morning it had been 0.6 kWh after 9 days, and I've observed that I need to run the pump twice a day to prevent the pump tank from overflowing. Rated draw is 1100W, but as installed it actually draws 625W, so I'm hoping a 1000W pure sine wave inverter can handle the startup draw.

In a nutshell, the septic pump parameters are well-defined and seem easy to cover. The considerations around a generator come down to how long I want to also keep the fridge and stove blower running, and how much I feel like managing a rotating gasoline supply.
600 watt hours (.6 kWh) over 9 days is not a big draw at all. Considering that a pair of GC2 batteries has 1,800 watt hours of capacity, you could power that load at that rate for almost a month. In that situation, I would really question whether a generator is needed at all unless you have a number of other items you would want to power, such as a refrigerator.

And yes, a 1,000 watt inverter should be able to power a motor drawing 625 watts while running. Virtually all of the inverters out there can handle double their rated load for some amount of time, ranging from a fraction of a second to up to 10 seconds. But you would definitely want to test it before the power goes out.
“It's a dangerous business, Frodo, going out your door. You step onto the road, and if you don't keep your feet, there's no knowing where you might be swept off to.” J.R.R. Tolkien,The Lord of the Rings
hudson
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Re: What Kind of Generator Do you Use for your Home Backup?

Post by hudson »

smitcat wrote: Thu Jan 21, 2021 12:09 pm
hudson wrote: Wed Jan 20, 2021 8:01 pm Great discussion! Useful info...just like the last thread on the same subject.
I started leaning towards a portable Honda generator. I talked with my brother who has one; he lives in a place where he's got to have a generator several times a year. He grumbled about pulling it out of his shed in the middle of the night in a storm. That got me thinking. I'm 73, and I believe that I would have no problem using a portable generator...even at 2 AM in a storm. I want my purchase to last 10 years. Will I want to pull out the generator at 83? I want my wife to be able to use it if I'm not a home.
Therefore, I'm going with a standby generator. I sent my quote to my brother, and he is seriously looking at getting the same thing.

Noise: The Generac 22 is listed at 68 decibels. The installer said that the sound was somewhat directional in that he would face the unit towards an area with no houses.
Seems to make sense for a permanent standby setup - based on your post what are your anticipated costs for the unit over 10 years or whatever your plans are?
- cost of genset
- cost of transfer switching and load shedding
- install costs for concrete slab, genset, wiring, utility license, fuel connects, local permits etc
- costs for any fuel storage / backup fuel/ pipes or routing
- yearly costs for testing (monthly run, remote feedback, any extended warrantee)
- average yearly costs for maintenance , repairs , replacements (oil changes, battery , fuel/air, sensors , starter ,etc)
- best guess life cycle estimate of new Generac 22 unit before replacement
Great questions smitcat!
I'll answer some of them...

Generac 22kw
26R battery
3 smart management modules
200 amp transfer switch
225 (EDIT...IT's a 325 gallon propane tank above ground with regulators)
all digging, piping, electrical
$11K out the door

I don't know about other costs.
I don't know about the lifespan; I just picked 10 years because I get at least that many years out of vehicles, mowers, tillers, hot water heaters, etc. I can do my own maintenance now; sometimes I hire it out to a retired friend that is younger than I am.

I'm interested in knowing what to keep on the shelf for maintenance and spare parts. What parts go first?
Last edited by hudson on Thu Jan 21, 2021 5:43 pm, edited 1 time in total.
smitcat
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Re: What Kind of Generator Do you Use for your Home Backup?

Post by smitcat »

hudson wrote: Thu Jan 21, 2021 1:25 pm
smitcat wrote: Thu Jan 21, 2021 12:09 pm
hudson wrote: Wed Jan 20, 2021 8:01 pm Great discussion! Useful info...just like the last thread on the same subject.
I started leaning towards a portable Honda generator. I talked with my brother who has one; he lives in a place where he's got to have a generator several times a year. He grumbled about pulling it out of his shed in the middle of the night in a storm. That got me thinking. I'm 73, and I believe that I would have no problem using a portable generator...even at 2 AM in a storm. I want my purchase to last 10 years. Will I want to pull out the generator at 83? I want my wife to be able to use it if I'm not a home.
Therefore, I'm going with a standby generator. I sent my quote to my brother, and he is seriously looking at getting the same thing.

Noise: The Generac 22 is listed at 68 decibels. The installer said that the sound was somewhat directional in that he would face the unit towards an area with no houses.
Seems to make sense for a permanent standby setup - based on your post what are your anticipated costs for the unit over 10 years or whatever your plans are?
- cost of genset
- cost of transfer switching and load shedding
- install costs for concrete slab, genset, wiring, utility license, fuel connects, local permits etc
- costs for any fuel storage / backup fuel/ pipes or routing
- yearly costs for testing (monthly run, remote feedback, any extended warrantee)
- average yearly costs for maintenance , repairs , replacements (oil changes, battery , fuel/air, sensors , starter ,etc)
- best guess life cycle estimate of new Generac 22 unit before replacement
Great questions smitcat!
I'll answer some of them...

Generac 22kw
26R battery
3 smart management modules
200 amp transfer switch
225 gallon propane tank above ground with regulators
all digging, piping, electrical
$11K out the door

I don't know about other costs.
I don't know about the lifespan; I just picked 10 years because I get at least that many years out of vehicles, mowers, tillers, hot water heaters, etc. I can do my own maintenance now; sometimes I hire it out to a retired friend that is younger than I am.

I'm interested in knowing what to keep on the shelf for maintenance and spare parts. What parts go first?
Your propane tank will likely run your genset for about 3 days - are you also connecting to NG?
With lifespan my guess is that they will be typically be similar or less than the life of HVAC equipment intalled outdoors in that area.
Typically the Generac guys supply a list of most used parts depening upon the exact unit purchased - as you likely know a 22kw size unit can be purchased at many different price points depending upon the exact unit chosen.
Most folks would take a maintenance contract out with the Generac installers to avoid any potential issues with the Generator limited guarantee, affects that could occurr from any gas issues, and affects that could come from any electrical issues.
Often folks check with their insurance conpanies to see if any changes/inspections are required as well.
aquaman
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Re: What Kind of Generator Do you Use for your Home Backup?

Post by aquaman »

willthrill81 wrote: Thu Jan 21, 2021 11:12 amThis is back-of-the-envelope math, but a 1/4 HP sump pump running for 1/3 of the time will draw about 1,600 watt hours of power per day. Running a generator 24/7 to mainly keep such a load going isn't a great use of fuel, especially if your fuel source is finite. That's a situation where a battery backup system such as I described in detail in this thread would be very useful.
It obviously depends on the pumping distance, depth and volume, but around here, there isn't a single company that installs 1/4 hp sump pumps. The weakest sump pumps that get installed are 1/3 hp, and 1/2 hp sump pumps are quite common. With a larger house, it is very common to have two or three such sump pumps and each requires backup power.

You can easily spend several thousand dollars on battery backups for your sump pumps. It can be especially expensive if you have to retrofit an existing system that doesn't have a backup, as doing so can require you to change the configuration of your sump pits, which is quite pricey.

Standby generators modulate their output, so if you're using half load, for instance, their fuel usage will be lower. So, if you do have a finite amount of fuel and are concerned about an extended outage, reducing your energy usage will make them use less fuel, so it'll last longer.

I don't think that too many people out there with sump pumps buy standby generators just for their sump pumps. They do so because they need power backups anyway, so when you compare the costs, especially for multiple large sump pumps, the additional cost of a standby generator isn't that much higher, but with a standby generator they get a lot better protection, can use it to power the whole house or at least most of it, and get about half of the initial investment back at resale.
lstone19 wrote: Thu Jan 21, 2021 12:54 pm
willthrill81 wrote: Thu Jan 21, 2021 11:28 am
lstone19 wrote: Wed Jan 20, 2021 6:36 pmAnother mentioned is after four days of running continuously, it needs service. True but I don't think we've ever had an outage over 8 hours. But if it looks like it will be long, I have time to contact the company that services it.
If it's a widespread outage, I wouldn't bet on a company being able to change the oil in my generator every four days. Anecdotal evidence I've heard from those who service these units indicates that there just isn't enough manpower to do that in most areas. If you go with a standby generator, you need to at least know how to change the oil yourself. It's not difficult, but there is a process to follow.
Then maybe after four days, we'd just have to shut it down. Meanwhile, that will have bought me four days to make alternative plans. You can't guard against all risks - otherwise, you'd have a 1,000 generators in case the first 999 all failed (but then if the 1,000th failed, you should have had 1,001). Same for sump pumps. My goal is to reduce the chance of a being overtaken by a disaster; not eliminate it completely.

Where you live is a factor: urban vs. suburban vs. rural makes a big difference. Also what the outage history is. In my 23 years here, we've never had an outage exceeding eight hours. OTOH, a couple of blocks of homes very nearby were out for a few days after a tree branch came down in the overhead power lines serving just those two blocks (the main reason we were even aware of it was a cable distribution amp serving us was affected - it had battery backup but that wasn't enough (cable company brought a generator after a few hours)). So, I admit, long outages can occur but they tend to be very localized. So our generator tech may very well have been able to service us if needed.
The whole 100 hour oil change interval isn't nearly as big of a deal as it has been made to sound here. Your generator motor does not suddenly seize when it hits 101 hours. It's just like a car engine, where the recommended oil change intervals have substantial built in safety buffers, and the oil change intervals are set up that way not so much because the oil itself will have completely broken down, but because more frequent oil changes also give the technicians more opportunities to look over the other parts of your equipment and spot problems... a more cynical view is that it also gives them an opportunity to make more money, as they can't charge you for things that they don't get an opportunity to look at.

If you look around, you'll see frequent references to 150 hours (https://www.protectingyourpower.com/gen ... intenance/), etc..., which is 6 full days of 24 hour operation, particularly if you've checked your oil level and made sure that it's not low.

Standby generators use standard synthetic oil and I do fully agree that it's a good idea to keep some fresh oil on hand, plus other inexpensive spare parts, which otherwise may not be readily available in a longer outage. I also agree that in the event of truly catastrophic and extended outages, your ability to get your generator serviced is likely to be compromised. As you and others have appropriately pointed out above, the vast majority of the outages are far shorter than 4+ days but can still be extremely disruptive, which is what a standby generator will protect you against.

None of the solutions discussed here are designed to protect people against the end of the world scenarios.
Last edited by aquaman on Thu Jan 21, 2021 3:28 pm, edited 2 times in total.
whomever
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Re: What Kind of Generator Do you Use for your Home Backup?

Post by whomever »

"Standby generators modulate their output, so if you're using half load, for instance, their fuel usage will be lower. So, if you do have a finite amount of fuel and are concerned about an extended outage, reducing your energy usage will make them use less fuel, so it'll last longer. "

Lower, but still significant, for larger generators.

Here is a chart of gallons of diesel per hour by load:

https://www.generatorsource.com/Diesel_ ... ption.aspx [1]

Unfortunately, they don't list idle loads, but if you assume a linear function, that is maybe 0.3 gallons/hr at idle, and relative to sump pump loads, that's where a 20kw generator will be. And 0.3 gal/hr is 7 gallons a day. 7 gallons a day is 70 gallons for a ten day outage ... that's a lot of gas cans,

I think the bottom line is ... using a 20kw generator just to run sump pumps is very inefficient. A 2000w inverter generator could do the same on a gallon or less. Solar is an option, depending on weather. Or a bigger generator charging a battery periodically.

======== start philosophical ramble ================

These discussions always remind me of the story about the blind men describing the elephant - one encounters the tail, one a leg, one a trunk, and they report very different things about the elephant. People's circumstances are very different, and one size fits all solutions aren't right for everyone. Should you have life insurance? Yes! say the 40 year olds with children. No! say the financially secure 80 year olds. Both are right *for them*.

What's your generator use case? If you want the AC to work in a Florida summer for two weeks after a hurricane, you need a big generator and a lot of fuel, of NG.

Or you're off grid and have a 700 ft deep well that has a three phase 7.5 hp well pump that needs a 25kw three phase generator to start the pump ... well, that's the generator you need.

We have occasional multi day outages in winter and don't want the pipes to freeze, and out municipality discourages wood stoves for air quality reasons ... we want a tiny generator just to run the furnace. We're used to camping, so we just set up the coleman stove on the patio to cook spaghetti dinners for the neighborhood ... works for us, and we can do that on a couple of quarts of gas a day.

If a neighbor wants their hot tub to keep working during outages and wants a big generator, bully for them.

Just because something is the optimal solution for Alice doesn't mean the same solution is optimal for Bob.

============================================


[1]if you'd rather do propane: https://www.generatorsource.com/Natural ... ption.aspx
Cope
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Re: What Kind of Generator Do you Use for your Home Backup?

Post by Cope »

I used to use a gasoline portable generator and we got by during outages just fine, but couldn’t by any means run everything in the house. We would experience outages for 2-3 days once or twice a year routinely there for awhile. Storing enough gas and my wife's nervousness with getting everything going and managing it if I wasn’t home became problematic. A year and a half ago I upgraded to home standby. I looked into a larger liquid cooled unit to power everything, but during that process discovered some things that weren’t originally wired in the safest manner. Long story short I added a new NG and electric service (400 amp with 2 200 disconnects) and everything was then rewired to essentially make 3 circuits on my property. I put a 20kw Cummins NG generator on each of them. Now I kind of enjoy it when the power goes out. I can run everything and even swim in my heated pool. :sharebeer
hudson
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Re: What Kind of Generator Do you Use for your Home Backup?

Post by hudson »

smitcat wrote: Thu Jan 21, 2021 2:22 pm
Your propane tank will likely run your genset for about 3 days - are you also connecting to NG?
With lifespan my guess is that they will be typically be similar or less than the life of HVAC equipment intalled outdoors in that area.
Typically the Generac guys supply a list of most used parts depending upon the exact unit purchased - as you likely know a 22kw size unit can be purchased at many different price points depending upon the exact unit chosen.
Most folks would take a maintenance contract out with the Generac installers to avoid any potential issues with the Generator limited guarantee, affects that could occur from any gas issues, and affects that could come from any electrical issues.
Often folks check with their insurance companies to see if any changes/inspections are required as well.
Thanks smitcat!
UPDATE...IT'S A 325 GALLON TANK...not 225 gallons.
No to natural gas. I agree....three or 4 days of propane....depending; I have no experience except reading the brochure. The company said that they would do their best to keep me in propane; but I know how that works. I have a plan B. I understand that it'll take a building permit, and it will be inspected.
I'll check with my homeowners company.
Last edited by hudson on Thu Jan 21, 2021 5:44 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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wander
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Re: What Kind of Generator Do you Use for your Home Backup?

Post by wander »

I use Tesla Powerwall. It produces zero noise and always avalable.
whomever
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Re: What Kind of Generator Do you Use for your Home Backup?

Post by whomever »

"I use Tesla Powerwall. It produces zero noise and always avalable."

My googling says the bigger Powerwalls hold about 13.5kwh. On one hand, that's a lot of battery ... it's roughly the equivalent of 22 100AH lead acid batteries (because you can only discharge lead acid batteries to 50% w/o damaging them). FWIW, that many lead acid batteries cost close to $5000.

On the other hand, that's running an EU2200 at rated load (1800W) for 7.5 hours, which will take roughly 2 gallons of gas, or to put it another way, a 5 gallon gas can stores the same electricity as 2.5 Powerwalls. An EU2200 costs about $1100 and a Powerwall costs around $6000.

To be clear - there isn't anything wrong with a Powerwall, for outages that use less than 13.5 kwh. Horses for courses!
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TomatoTomahto
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Re: What Kind of Generator Do you Use for your Home Backup?

Post by TomatoTomahto »

whomever wrote: Thu Jan 21, 2021 8:43 pm To be clear - there isn't anything wrong with a Powerwall, for outages that use less than 13.5 kwh. Horses for courses!
I have battery backup, but for those belt and suspenders days, I kept the 8kw propane generator to back up the back up. If the battery drains past a preset point, and the sun isn’t shining on my solar panels, the generator will charge the battery.
I get the FI part but not the RE part of FIRE.
523HRR
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Re: What Kind of Generator Do you Use for your Home Backup?

Post by 523HRR »

22kW Generac. Runs on 1000 gal propane tank buried in the ground.
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windaar
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Re: What Kind of Generator Do you Use for your Home Backup?

Post by windaar »

10 KW Generac, runs off natural gas. Powers 12 essential circuits. Has worked great for 15 years, once ran for 6 straight days. The Tech says it still has many more years to go.
Nobody knows nothing.
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wander
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Re: What Kind of Generator Do you Use for your Home Backup?

Post by wander »

whomever wrote: Thu Jan 21, 2021 8:43 pm To be clear - there isn't anything wrong with a Powerwall, for outages that use less than 13.5 kwh. Horses for courses!
It's the convenience I paid. I have not had to worry about maintenaince like deal with a generator, it just works. I am lazy. If you have a Tesla, you also use it to charge the car.
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willthrill81
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Re: What Kind of Generator Do you Use for your Home Backup?

Post by willthrill81 »

whomever wrote: Thu Jan 21, 2021 3:28 pm "Standby generators modulate their output, so if you're using half load, for instance, their fuel usage will be lower. So, if you do have a finite amount of fuel and are concerned about an extended outage, reducing your energy usage will make them use less fuel, so it'll last longer. "

Lower, but still significant, for larger generators.

Here is a chart of gallons of diesel per hour by load:

https://www.generatorsource.com/Diesel_ ... ption.aspx [1]

Unfortunately, they don't list idle loads, but if you assume a linear function, that is maybe 0.3 gallons/hr at idle, and relative to sump pump loads, that's where a 20kw generator will be. And 0.3 gal/hr is 7 gallons a day. 7 gallons a day is 70 gallons for a ten day outage ... that's a lot of gas cans,

I think the bottom line is ... using a 20kw generator just to run sump pumps is very inefficient. A 2000w inverter generator could do the same on a gallon or less. Solar is an option, depending on weather. Or a bigger generator charging a battery periodically.

======== start philosophical ramble ================

These discussions always remind me of the story about the blind men describing the elephant - one encounters the tail, one a leg, one a trunk, and they report very different things about the elephant. People's circumstances are very different, and one size fits all solutions aren't right for everyone. Should you have life insurance? Yes! say the 40 year olds with children. No! say the financially secure 80 year olds. Both are right *for them*.

What's your generator use case? If you want the AC to work in a Florida summer for two weeks after a hurricane, you need a big generator and a lot of fuel, of NG.

Or you're off grid and have a 700 ft deep well that has a three phase 7.5 hp well pump that needs a 25kw three phase generator to start the pump ... well, that's the generator you need.

We have occasional multi day outages in winter and don't want the pipes to freeze, and out municipality discourages wood stoves for air quality reasons ... we want a tiny generator just to run the furnace. We're used to camping, so we just set up the coleman stove on the patio to cook spaghetti dinners for the neighborhood ... works for us, and we can do that on a couple of quarts of gas a day.

If a neighbor wants their hot tub to keep working during outages and wants a big generator, bully for them.

Just because something is the optimal solution for Alice doesn't mean the same solution is optimal for Bob.

============================================


[1]if you'd rather do propane: https://www.generatorsource.com/Natural ... ption.aspx
Very well said.

Some here wrongly think that I'm just a basher of standby generators. I'm not. They have their place. But there seems to be a view among some that they are the best solution when there actually isn't such a thing. Standby generators are perfect for some people, but others can manage just fine with a 2 kW inverter generator (we basically do, and yes, it runs our gas furnace very nicely).
“It's a dangerous business, Frodo, going out your door. You step onto the road, and if you don't keep your feet, there's no knowing where you might be swept off to.” J.R.R. Tolkien,The Lord of the Rings
iamlucky13
Posts: 2365
Joined: Sat Mar 04, 2017 5:28 pm
Location: Western Washington

Re: What Kind of Generator Do you Use for your Home Backup?

Post by iamlucky13 »

whomever wrote: Thu Jan 21, 2021 8:43 pmMy googling says the bigger Powerwalls hold about 13.5kwh. On one hand, that's a lot of battery ... it's roughly the equivalent of 22 100AH lead acid batteries (because you can only discharge lead acid batteries to 50% w/o damaging them). FWIW, that many lead acid batteries cost close to $5000.
I've seen the 50% claim posted in battery discussions here numerous times, but it is incorrect. Lead acid batteries do not have a specific level at which they undergo sudden damage. Rather, the deeper the the discharge, the fewer cycles they will last, and the more time spent dwelling at reduced states of charge, the more they age.

See, for example, the "Typical Cycle Life in a Stationary Application" graph on page 2 below. This is a high end battery with a long life. Most batteries will not last as many cycles, but the shape of the curve is similar:
http://www.spsystems.net/applications/d ... 1-agm/file

Generally, designing for a 50% average discharge is regarded as the preferred balance of total delivered energy over the life of the system against size and cost of your battery system.

Cost varies. You can get 13.5 kWh of deep cycle marine batteries for less than $2000. Nicer batteries like the Trojans can cost double that and last well over twice as long. A Tesla Powerwall is twice that again, but it includes its own charger, inverter, and controller, and should have a significantly longer useful life, meaning it could be good for an off-grid application. There also have started to be some really aggressive time-of-use net metering programs start to be available that could reduce the effective total cost of a battery backup in high cost power markets. There was an interesting discussion of that here:
viewtopic.php?t=323642
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willthrill81
Posts: 24112
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Location: USA

Re: What Kind of Generator Do you Use for your Home Backup?

Post by willthrill81 »

iamlucky13 wrote: Fri Jan 22, 2021 6:28 am
whomever wrote: Thu Jan 21, 2021 8:43 pmMy googling says the bigger Powerwalls hold about 13.5kwh. On one hand, that's a lot of battery ... it's roughly the equivalent of 22 100AH lead acid batteries (because you can only discharge lead acid batteries to 50% w/o damaging them). FWIW, that many lead acid batteries cost close to $5000.
I've seen the 50% claim posted in battery discussions here numerous times, but it is incorrect. Lead acid batteries do not have a specific level at which they undergo sudden damage. Rather, the deeper the the discharge, the fewer cycles they will last, and the more time spent dwelling at reduced states of charge, the more they age.
Correct. The total amount of power that can be pulled from a lead acid battery over its lifetime is pretty consistent across most depths of discharge, assuming that the battery is immediately recharged after being discharged. The 50% number is just a level that many believe is a good mix between the number of cycles and the frequency of replacing the battery.

I'm not sure about how the pricing of Tesla Powerwalls play into this, but for batteries that are not used often, as is the case in home backup situations, lead acid batteries will be significantly cheaper than lithium-ion batteries over their lifespan. But if the batteries are used often, especially daily, lithium-ion batteries are already far less costly and gaining more ground.
“It's a dangerous business, Frodo, going out your door. You step onto the road, and if you don't keep your feet, there's no knowing where you might be swept off to.” J.R.R. Tolkien,The Lord of the Rings
jasonrecite25
Posts: 90
Joined: Tue Apr 11, 2017 1:16 pm

Re: What Kind of Generator Do you Use for your Home Backup?

Post by jasonrecite25 »

Love the consumer/homeowner intel shared on this forum. We recently moved to a new area of our city and have a new electric utility. Unlike our prior utility provider, power outages are guaranteed to happen. I'm completely new to this topic, but after doing a lot of reading on this thread and a couple of others, I was hoping to ask about my planned setup, along with some new guy questions. Appreciate the help!

Background/Need:
-5,200 sq. ft. home, 2 levels, 4 distinct HVAC systems (both furnace and AC), all LED lights, all new energy efficient appliances (1 main fridge, 3 mini fridges, 1 deep freezer)
-2 adults, both work from home so need laptop and internet up
-2 kids, are either in school or at home depending on time of year
-Just yesterday, I looked at my electric meter, here is what I observed:
1) 300w with most everything off except numerous routers, tvs on standby, computers were turned on, various small electronics that are always
on, Wifi security, thermostats, etc. - i.e., 300w seems to be my minimum of usage possible
2) 350w, same as #1, but I forced the main fridge and deep freeze to cycle on to test this.
3) 1,100w same as #2, but also turned on a gas fireplace (electric built in blower fan), the main level furnace, 2 TVs, a few kitchen lights, etc. to
simulate "max convenience" in the winter. I recognize this isn't "surge wattage" when the furnace came on, but continuous.

Environmental Variables:
-Environment is Northern CA so we have hot summers and mild winters. For our family and our living style, we definitely can get buy in a power out emergency scenario without running any HVAC systems. Yes the summer would be hot, but nobody is going to die. The coldest the winter would likely get is in the 40s inside, but most of the winter would be 50s inside. I.e., we can bundle up or strip down in a emergency. We also have multiple family members and homes in the area that are on separate utility providers and can be a place for the kids, etc.
-We have asked a lot of our neighbors about historical outages. They're mainly preventive wildfire outages, but also sometimes with nasty rain/wind weather in the winter. The electric and gas utility is otherwise very stable. Generally planning for 3-4 outages a year, ranging from 1 hour to 2-3 days max (this is neighbor input, anecdotally they say "about a day" when it happens).

I think I want/need:
-I have a 1004kwh Jackery right now that I can use to keep the modem, router and laptops going for work. I also have the main modem and router on a UPS.
-I think I would prefer a portable inverter unit for noise and cleanliness of power (total harmonic distortion). I also like the portability of the unit vs. a built in standby. I have a convenient place right next to the main panel where I can set it so don't need to "wheel it out" - can just start it up and hit the transfer switch.
-I think I want to buy 5-6 20 gallon propane tanks since I have a easily accessible place to store them, they're portability with the generator, etc.
-We are looking at rooftop solar panels right now, so could consider a Powerwall to handle short term outages for convenience, but feels like a lot of expense and install headache when, based on our projected outage scenarios, I would still need to fire up the standby portable generator anyway (unless I put in 5 Powerwall units).

Questions:
1. Do all portable generators, or just inverter units, only pull the power they need, up to the generators output capacity?
2. Am I correct that, theoretically, based on #2 and #3 living scenario above, I "need/want" somewhere between 300-1100W available for emergencies. And maybe I want up that to 1,500W to be safe? AND I should double that in "generator supplied power" for fuel efficiency, etc.? So try and find something that can put out 3,000W+?
3. If the portable inverter unit is the right move, what do I really need? The EU7000iS looks to put out 5,500W. The EU3000iS looks to put out 2,800W. But the Honda units only run on gasoline? I see there is a Champion inverter unit (model 100263, duel fuel) that puts out 2,790 running watts, and will run for 14.5 hours at 25% load when using a 20-pound propane tank. So if I ran it at 50% load, I'd go through about 2 tanks a day. If I could keep energy use down and use at 25% load, then would be more like 1.5 tanks per day. Is that logic correct in how it uses fuel?
4. Pretty sure I need something CARB compliant for CA? I can drive to NV if needed, probably 3 hour round trip if worthwhile.
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willthrill81
Posts: 24112
Joined: Thu Jan 26, 2017 3:17 pm
Location: USA

Re: What Kind of Generator Do you Use for your Home Backup?

Post by willthrill81 »

jasonrecite25 wrote: Mon Feb 01, 2021 5:04 pm Love the consumer/homeowner intel shared on this forum. We recently moved to a new area of our city and have a new electric utility. Unlike our prior utility provider, power outages are guaranteed to happen. I'm completely new to this topic, but after doing a lot of reading on this thread and a couple of others, I was hoping to ask about my planned setup, along with some new guy questions. Appreciate the help!

Background/Need:
-5,200 sq. ft. home, 2 levels, 4 distinct HVAC systems (both furnace and AC), all LED lights, all new energy efficient appliances (1 main fridge, 3 mini fridges, 1 deep freezer)
-2 adults, both work from home so need laptop and internet up
-2 kids, are either in school or at home depending on time of year
-Just yesterday, I looked at my electric meter, here is what I observed:
1) 300w with most everything off except numerous routers, tvs on standby, computers were turned on, various small electronics that are always
on, Wifi security, thermostats, etc. - i.e., 300w seems to be my minimum of usage possible
2) 350w, same as #1, but I forced the main fridge and deep freeze to cycle on to test this.
3) 1,100w same as #2, but also turned on a gas fireplace (electric built in blower fan), the main level furnace, 2 TVs, a few kitchen lights, etc. to
simulate "max convenience" in the winter. I recognize this isn't "surge wattage" when the furnace came on, but continuous.

Environmental Variables:
-Environment is Northern CA so we have hot summers and mild winters. For our family and our living style, we definitely can get buy in a power out emergency scenario without running any HVAC systems. Yes the summer would be hot, but nobody is going to die. The coldest the winter would likely get is in the 40s inside, but most of the winter would be 50s inside. I.e., we can bundle up or strip down in a emergency. We also have multiple family members and homes in the area that are on separate utility providers and can be a place for the kids, etc.
-We have asked a lot of our neighbors about historical outages. They're mainly preventive wildfire outages, but also sometimes with nasty rain/wind weather in the winter. The electric and gas utility is otherwise very stable. Generally planning for 3-4 outages a year, ranging from 1 hour to 2-3 days max (this is neighbor input, anecdotally they say "about a day" when it happens).

I think I want/need:
-I have a 1004kwh Jackery right now that I can use to keep the modem, router and laptops going for work. I also have the main modem and router on a UPS.
-I think I would prefer a portable inverter unit for noise and cleanliness of power (total harmonic distortion). I also like the portability of the unit vs. a built in standby. I have a convenient place right next to the main panel where I can set it so don't need to "wheel it out" - can just start it up and hit the transfer switch.
-I think I want to buy 5-6 20 gallon propane tanks since I have a easily accessible place to store them, they're portability with the generator, etc.
-We are looking at rooftop solar panels right now, so could consider a Powerwall to handle short term outages for convenience, but feels like a lot of expense and install headache when, based on our projected outage scenarios, I would still need to fire up the standby portable generator anyway (unless I put in 5 Powerwall units).

Questions:
1. Do all portable generators, or just inverter units, only pull the power they need, up to the generators output capacity?
2. Am I correct that, theoretically, based on #2 and #3 living scenario above, I "need/want" somewhere between 300-1100W available for emergencies. And maybe I want up that to 1,500W to be safe? AND I should double that in "generator supplied power" for fuel efficiency, etc.? So try and find something that can put out 3,000W+?
3. If the portable inverter unit is the right move, what do I really need? The EU7000iS looks to put out 5,500W. The EU3000iS looks to put out 2,800W. But the Honda units only run on gasoline? I see there is a Champion inverter unit (model 100263, duel fuel) that puts out 2,790 running watts, and will run for 14.5 hours at 25% load when using a 20-pound propane tank. So if I ran it at 50% load, I'd go through about 2 tanks a day. If I could keep energy use down and use at 25% load, then would be more like 1.5 tanks per day. Is that logic correct in how it uses fuel?
4. Pretty sure I need something CARB compliant for CA? I can drive to NV if needed, probably 3 hour round trip if worthwhile.
Yes, it sounds like a portable generator would be a great source of backup power for you. I'll do my best to answer your questions.

1. Standard generators have a turndown ratio of about 4 to 1. This means that a 4,000 watt generator running at the slowest possible speed is still going to output about 1,000 watts of power. If you don't use all of that power, it is just wasted. Inverter generators have a higher turndown ratio, probably closer to 6 to 1, maybe higher.

2. About the smallest generator that I would recommend in your situation is a 2,000-2,200 watt generator. It's better to buy a little more than you need, and you also need to account for startup draws on certain items, like a furnace. You could certainly get a 3kW or larger unit if you desire, but you may just not need the power.

3. Honda and Yamaha have been renowned for making the best generators for homeowners for decades, but Champion is a strong contender as well, and I have heard almost nothing but positive feedback from those who own them. They seem to be almost as popular in the RV community as Honda and Yamaha, and Champion generators will be around half the cost. And as long as you don't mind the price, I would definitely recommend an inverter generator. They are more fuel efficient, especially at slower speeds, are far quieter, and produce very clean power. I would also recommend that you get a bi-fuel inverter generator so that you can run it off gasoline or propane and don't need any modifications to switch between the two. There's no reason to not have that flexibility. The Champion 2800/3100 watt bi-fuel generator with electric start would satisfy all of these criteria and can be purchased for $600-700.

4. I haven't seen an inverter generator that wasn't CARB compliant; pretty much every 4 cycle generator out there will be CARB compliant these days.

The 'best practice' in the preparedness community for operating a generator at maximum efficiency, flexibility, and redundancy is to use the generator in conjunction with battery system, as discussed extensively in this thread. You already have a Jackery, so you can do this easily already: run your generator when you need to run bigger loads (~100 watts or more) and recharge your Jackery at the same time, then stop the generator and run your small loads (e.g., modem, laptop, lights) from your Jackery. You can also recharge the Jackery from a vehicle if needed, as long as you have the appropriate equipment to do so. This process is analogous to a hybrid vehicle and works very well.
“It's a dangerous business, Frodo, going out your door. You step onto the road, and if you don't keep your feet, there's no knowing where you might be swept off to.” J.R.R. Tolkien,The Lord of the Rings
jasonrecite25
Posts: 90
Joined: Tue Apr 11, 2017 1:16 pm

Re: What Kind of Generator Do you Use for your Home Backup?

Post by jasonrecite25 »

willthrill81 wrote: Tue Feb 02, 2021 11:17 am
jasonrecite25 wrote: Mon Feb 01, 2021 5:04 pm Love the consumer/homeowner intel shared on this forum. We recently moved to a new area of our city and have a new electric utility. Unlike our prior utility provider, power outages are guaranteed to happen. I'm completely new to this topic, but after doing a lot of reading on this thread and a couple of others, I was hoping to ask about my planned setup, along with some new guy questions. Appreciate the help!

Background/Need:
-5,200 sq. ft. home, 2 levels, 4 distinct HVAC systems (both furnace and AC), all LED lights, all new energy efficient appliances (1 main fridge, 3 mini fridges, 1 deep freezer)
-2 adults, both work from home so need laptop and internet up
-2 kids, are either in school or at home depending on time of year
-Just yesterday, I looked at my electric meter, here is what I observed:
1) 300w with most everything off except numerous routers, tvs on standby, computers were turned on, various small electronics that are always
on, Wifi security, thermostats, etc. - i.e., 300w seems to be my minimum of usage possible
2) 350w, same as #1, but I forced the main fridge and deep freeze to cycle on to test this.
3) 1,100w same as #2, but also turned on a gas fireplace (electric built in blower fan), the main level furnace, 2 TVs, a few kitchen lights, etc. to
simulate "max convenience" in the winter. I recognize this isn't "surge wattage" when the furnace came on, but continuous.

Environmental Variables:
-Environment is Northern CA so we have hot summers and mild winters. For our family and our living style, we definitely can get buy in a power out emergency scenario without running any HVAC systems. Yes the summer would be hot, but nobody is going to die. The coldest the winter would likely get is in the 40s inside, but most of the winter would be 50s inside. I.e., we can bundle up or strip down in a emergency. We also have multiple family members and homes in the area that are on separate utility providers and can be a place for the kids, etc.
-We have asked a lot of our neighbors about historical outages. They're mainly preventive wildfire outages, but also sometimes with nasty rain/wind weather in the winter. The electric and gas utility is otherwise very stable. Generally planning for 3-4 outages a year, ranging from 1 hour to 2-3 days max (this is neighbor input, anecdotally they say "about a day" when it happens).

I think I want/need:
-I have a 1004kwh Jackery right now that I can use to keep the modem, router and laptops going for work. I also have the main modem and router on a UPS.
-I think I would prefer a portable inverter unit for noise and cleanliness of power (total harmonic distortion). I also like the portability of the unit vs. a built in standby. I have a convenient place right next to the main panel where I can set it so don't need to "wheel it out" - can just start it up and hit the transfer switch.
-I think I want to buy 5-6 20 gallon propane tanks since I have a easily accessible place to store them, they're portability with the generator, etc.
-We are looking at rooftop solar panels right now, so could consider a Powerwall to handle short term outages for convenience, but feels like a lot of expense and install headache when, based on our projected outage scenarios, I would still need to fire up the standby portable generator anyway (unless I put in 5 Powerwall units).

Questions:
1. Do all portable generators, or just inverter units, only pull the power they need, up to the generators output capacity?
2. Am I correct that, theoretically, based on #2 and #3 living scenario above, I "need/want" somewhere between 300-1100W available for emergencies. And maybe I want up that to 1,500W to be safe? AND I should double that in "generator supplied power" for fuel efficiency, etc.? So try and find something that can put out 3,000W+?
3. If the portable inverter unit is the right move, what do I really need? The EU7000iS looks to put out 5,500W. The EU3000iS looks to put out 2,800W. But the Honda units only run on gasoline? I see there is a Champion inverter unit (model 100263, duel fuel) that puts out 2,790 running watts, and will run for 14.5 hours at 25% load when using a 20-pound propane tank. So if I ran it at 50% load, I'd go through about 2 tanks a day. If I could keep energy use down and use at 25% load, then would be more like 1.5 tanks per day. Is that logic correct in how it uses fuel?
4. Pretty sure I need something CARB compliant for CA? I can drive to NV if needed, probably 3 hour round trip if worthwhile.
Yes, it sounds like a portable generator would be a great source of backup power for you. I'll do my best to answer your questions.

1. Standard generators have a turndown ratio of about 4 to 1. This means that a 4,000 watt generator running at the slowest possible speed is still going to output about 1,000 watts of power. If you don't use all of that power, it is just wasted. Inverter generators have a higher turndown ratio, probably closer to 6 to 1, maybe higher.

2. About the smallest generator that I would recommend in your situation is a 2,000-2,200 watt generator. It's better to buy a little more than you need, and you also need to account for startup draws on certain items, like a furnace. You could certainly get a 3kW or larger unit if you desire, but you may just not need the power.

3. Honda and Yamaha have been renowned for making the best generators for homeowners for decades, but Champion is a strong contender as well, and I have heard almost nothing but positive feedback from those who own them. They seem to be almost as popular in the RV community as Honda and Yamaha, and Champion generators will be around half the cost. And as long as you don't mind the price, I would definitely recommend an inverter generator. They are more fuel efficient, especially at slower speeds, are far quieter, and produce very clean power. I would also recommend that you get a bi-fuel inverter generator so that you can run it off gasoline or propane and don't need any modifications to switch between the two. There's no reason to not have that flexibility. The Champion 2800/3100 watt bi-fuel generator with electric start would satisfy all of these criteria and can be purchased for $600-700.

4. I haven't seen an inverter generator that wasn't CARB compliant; pretty much every 4 cycle generator out there will be CARB compliant these days.

The 'best practice' in the preparedness community for operating a generator at maximum efficiency, flexibility, and redundancy is to use the generator in conjunction with battery system, as discussed extensively in this thread. You already have a Jackery, so you can do this easily already: run your generator when you need to run bigger loads (~100 watts or more) and recharge your Jackery at the same time, then stop the generator and run your small loads (e.g., modem, laptop, lights) from your Jackery. You can also recharge the Jackery from a vehicle if needed, as long as you have the appropriate equipment to do so. This process is analogous to a hybrid vehicle and works very well.
Thanks for the info. - sincerely appreciated on these questions and all of the useful info. in this and other threads. Currently have my eye on this one:

Champion Power Equipment 200914 4250-Watt Open Frame Inverter Generator, Dual Fuel Technology
https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B08L9 ... 0DER&psc=1

But there are no reviews on that model and I can't find it on the Champion hosted product site. Perhaps a new product or discontinued product. If so, then likely would go with this one:

Champion Power Equipment 100574 4000-Watt RV Ready Digital Hybrid Inverter Generator with Dual Fuel Technology
https://www.amazon.com/dp/B083LFYJB9/re ... UTF8&psc=1

Open to any other suggestions on a duel fuel inverter product in the 3000-4000 running watts range.
User avatar
willthrill81
Posts: 24112
Joined: Thu Jan 26, 2017 3:17 pm
Location: USA

Re: What Kind of Generator Do you Use for your Home Backup?

Post by willthrill81 »

jasonrecite25 wrote: Tue Feb 02, 2021 12:15 pm
willthrill81 wrote: Tue Feb 02, 2021 11:17 am
jasonrecite25 wrote: Mon Feb 01, 2021 5:04 pm Love the consumer/homeowner intel shared on this forum. We recently moved to a new area of our city and have a new electric utility. Unlike our prior utility provider, power outages are guaranteed to happen. I'm completely new to this topic, but after doing a lot of reading on this thread and a couple of others, I was hoping to ask about my planned setup, along with some new guy questions. Appreciate the help!

Background/Need:
-5,200 sq. ft. home, 2 levels, 4 distinct HVAC systems (both furnace and AC), all LED lights, all new energy efficient appliances (1 main fridge, 3 mini fridges, 1 deep freezer)
-2 adults, both work from home so need laptop and internet up
-2 kids, are either in school or at home depending on time of year
-Just yesterday, I looked at my electric meter, here is what I observed:
1) 300w with most everything off except numerous routers, tvs on standby, computers were turned on, various small electronics that are always
on, Wifi security, thermostats, etc. - i.e., 300w seems to be my minimum of usage possible
2) 350w, same as #1, but I forced the main fridge and deep freeze to cycle on to test this.
3) 1,100w same as #2, but also turned on a gas fireplace (electric built in blower fan), the main level furnace, 2 TVs, a few kitchen lights, etc. to
simulate "max convenience" in the winter. I recognize this isn't "surge wattage" when the furnace came on, but continuous.

Environmental Variables:
-Environment is Northern CA so we have hot summers and mild winters. For our family and our living style, we definitely can get buy in a power out emergency scenario without running any HVAC systems. Yes the summer would be hot, but nobody is going to die. The coldest the winter would likely get is in the 40s inside, but most of the winter would be 50s inside. I.e., we can bundle up or strip down in a emergency. We also have multiple family members and homes in the area that are on separate utility providers and can be a place for the kids, etc.
-We have asked a lot of our neighbors about historical outages. They're mainly preventive wildfire outages, but also sometimes with nasty rain/wind weather in the winter. The electric and gas utility is otherwise very stable. Generally planning for 3-4 outages a year, ranging from 1 hour to 2-3 days max (this is neighbor input, anecdotally they say "about a day" when it happens).

I think I want/need:
-I have a 1004kwh Jackery right now that I can use to keep the modem, router and laptops going for work. I also have the main modem and router on a UPS.
-I think I would prefer a portable inverter unit for noise and cleanliness of power (total harmonic distortion). I also like the portability of the unit vs. a built in standby. I have a convenient place right next to the main panel where I can set it so don't need to "wheel it out" - can just start it up and hit the transfer switch.
-I think I want to buy 5-6 20 gallon propane tanks since I have a easily accessible place to store them, they're portability with the generator, etc.
-We are looking at rooftop solar panels right now, so could consider a Powerwall to handle short term outages for convenience, but feels like a lot of expense and install headache when, based on our projected outage scenarios, I would still need to fire up the standby portable generator anyway (unless I put in 5 Powerwall units).

Questions:
1. Do all portable generators, or just inverter units, only pull the power they need, up to the generators output capacity?
2. Am I correct that, theoretically, based on #2 and #3 living scenario above, I "need/want" somewhere between 300-1100W available for emergencies. And maybe I want up that to 1,500W to be safe? AND I should double that in "generator supplied power" for fuel efficiency, etc.? So try and find something that can put out 3,000W+?
3. If the portable inverter unit is the right move, what do I really need? The EU7000iS looks to put out 5,500W. The EU3000iS looks to put out 2,800W. But the Honda units only run on gasoline? I see there is a Champion inverter unit (model 100263, duel fuel) that puts out 2,790 running watts, and will run for 14.5 hours at 25% load when using a 20-pound propane tank. So if I ran it at 50% load, I'd go through about 2 tanks a day. If I could keep energy use down and use at 25% load, then would be more like 1.5 tanks per day. Is that logic correct in how it uses fuel?
4. Pretty sure I need something CARB compliant for CA? I can drive to NV if needed, probably 3 hour round trip if worthwhile.
Yes, it sounds like a portable generator would be a great source of backup power for you. I'll do my best to answer your questions.

1. Standard generators have a turndown ratio of about 4 to 1. This means that a 4,000 watt generator running at the slowest possible speed is still going to output about 1,000 watts of power. If you don't use all of that power, it is just wasted. Inverter generators have a higher turndown ratio, probably closer to 6 to 1, maybe higher.

2. About the smallest generator that I would recommend in your situation is a 2,000-2,200 watt generator. It's better to buy a little more than you need, and you also need to account for startup draws on certain items, like a furnace. You could certainly get a 3kW or larger unit if you desire, but you may just not need the power.

3. Honda and Yamaha have been renowned for making the best generators for homeowners for decades, but Champion is a strong contender as well, and I have heard almost nothing but positive feedback from those who own them. They seem to be almost as popular in the RV community as Honda and Yamaha, and Champion generators will be around half the cost. And as long as you don't mind the price, I would definitely recommend an inverter generator. They are more fuel efficient, especially at slower speeds, are far quieter, and produce very clean power. I would also recommend that you get a bi-fuel inverter generator so that you can run it off gasoline or propane and don't need any modifications to switch between the two. There's no reason to not have that flexibility. The Champion 2800/3100 watt bi-fuel generator with electric start would satisfy all of these criteria and can be purchased for $600-700.

4. I haven't seen an inverter generator that wasn't CARB compliant; pretty much every 4 cycle generator out there will be CARB compliant these days.

The 'best practice' in the preparedness community for operating a generator at maximum efficiency, flexibility, and redundancy is to use the generator in conjunction with battery system, as discussed extensively in this thread. You already have a Jackery, so you can do this easily already: run your generator when you need to run bigger loads (~100 watts or more) and recharge your Jackery at the same time, then stop the generator and run your small loads (e.g., modem, laptop, lights) from your Jackery. You can also recharge the Jackery from a vehicle if needed, as long as you have the appropriate equipment to do so. This process is analogous to a hybrid vehicle and works very well.
Thanks for the info. - sincerely appreciated on these questions and all of the useful info. in this and other threads. Currently have my eye on this one:

Champion Power Equipment 200914 4250-Watt Open Frame Inverter Generator, Dual Fuel Technology
https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B08L9 ... 0DER&psc=1

But there are no reviews on that model and I can't find it on the Champion hosted product site. Perhaps a new product or discontinued product. If so, then likely would go with this one:

Champion Power Equipment 100574 4000-Watt RV Ready Digital Hybrid Inverter Generator with Dual Fuel Technology
https://www.amazon.com/dp/B083LFYJB9/re ... UTF8&psc=1

Open to any other suggestions on a duel fuel inverter product in the 3000-4000 running watts range.
I wouldn't have an issue with any of Champion's inverter generators. They should all do a good job for you.
“It's a dangerous business, Frodo, going out your door. You step onto the road, and if you don't keep your feet, there's no knowing where you might be swept off to.” J.R.R. Tolkien,The Lord of the Rings
BatBuckeye
Posts: 42
Joined: Fri Jul 10, 2020 6:15 pm

Re: What Kind of Generator Do you Use for your Home Backup?

Post by BatBuckeye »

Here's a tip if you have an outdoor generator. ANTS!
My son purchased a house with a Generac. About this time last year the OK light changed from green to red. He noticed that the weekly automated test was failing. A quick Internet search pointed out that ants may inundate the electronic control board so much the generator will not run.
Right now, March, is probably a good time to spray for ants around your generator.
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