[Generators]/ supplemental power generation

Questions on how we spend our money and our time - consumer goods and services, home and vehicle, leisure and recreational activities
Topic Author
JBTX
Posts: 7994
Joined: Wed Jul 26, 2017 12:46 pm

[Generators]/ supplemental power generation

Post by JBTX »

I'm one of the lucky ones in TX who has enjoyed single digit temperatures with almost no power for 2-3 days. Started out Sunday 30 minutes- 1 hour on to 6-8 hours off. Getting better today, house finally got back to normal temperature.

Outages have generally been rare, although seems to be coming more frequent. We live in a suburban neighborhood, house about 2600 Sq feet, electric power plus gas heat hot water. We have an HOA, so windmill in the backyard is probably non starter! :wink: Ironically many here have gas heat, but it doesn't work without electricity , so they cut off grid to all these homes that likely use little electric power

I've never considered a generator before, but wondering if I should. Obviously this would cost some money, but may be worth the assurance of having a backup plan. I really know nothing in this area.

What are the options?

- gasoline or other fuel based generator
- natural gas powered generator (I looked this up, you can get these)
- Batteries?
- other?

If I did somethjng I'd want it to be able to run a heater or central air. Is that feasible?

I've never been big on the idea of solar panels, I'm not sure how effective that would be for this issue.


Just looking for ideas, power requirements, approximate costs, feasibility in a suburban neighborhood.

Thanks.
Teague
Posts: 2202
Joined: Wed Nov 04, 2015 6:15 pm

Re: Venerators/ supplemental power generation

Post by Teague »

Well, the thread title says you're looking for Venerators, so I'd always suggest a dog as the best bet. But as far as generators (to keep the dog warm maybe) how often do you experience outages, and how long do they typically last? I know you said they're rare, but if rare and brief it seems hard to justify a full standby setup. Maybe a modest portable unit and a couple of indoor-safe propane space heaters could work?
Semper Augustus
tibbitts
Posts: 13506
Joined: Tue Feb 27, 2007 6:50 pm

Re: Venerators/ supplemental power generation

Post by tibbitts »

This is kind of a perfect storm situation where some people may end up without electricity, natural gas, or municipal water. Normally natural gas would be a good fuel for a generator because you wouldn't have to worry about running out of fuel in a prolonged outage, but sometimes you have to accept not being prepared for every possibility.

You can get a generator to run however much of your house requirements you want, but generators can get expensive. And depending on how close your neighbors are, and circumstances, they may not be thrilled with you running your generator.

Even the new battery systems that occupy entire walls of your house will be relatively limited compared to a generator in how long they can operate, and solar is obviously ineffective for the kind of situation you have now.
tomd37
Posts: 3588
Joined: Thu Mar 01, 2007 10:39 pm
Location: Middle Tennessee

Re: Venerators/ supplemental power generation

Post by tomd37 »

Based on previous posts on this site, you are going to get all sorts of answers from permanently installed expensive units that provide enough power to run everything at one time if you so desire down to portable generators that you have to move outside, hook up, and run on gasoline to provide enough power to run selected amounts of items.

That said, as an 84 year-old couple, we recently permanently installed a 22KwH Generac, natural gas powered whole house generator with an automatic transfer switch which will allow us to run everything in our 2200 sq ft home, including the two HVAC systems, at the same time whether the temperature is 99 degrees outside as it is routinely here during most of the summer or whether it is 9 degrees outside as it is tonight with the ice and snow storm we are experiencing for five days.

We had talked about such a generator not too long ago but did not get to have it installed until shortly after we experienced a 69-hour total power outage in May of 2020 after a very severe two-day storm ravaged this part of the state. We watched out our dark rooms to see our neighbor's unit running constantly during those 69 hours. He was the envy of our 162-home community! :wink: We may, however, get to use ours for the first time if these snow/ice storms continue for the next three days!

You have to weigh the pros and cons and the costs involved in your decision. Great sense of security though when you have it.
Tom D.
Topic Author
JBTX
Posts: 7994
Joined: Wed Jul 26, 2017 12:46 pm

Re: Generators/ supplemental power generation

Post by JBTX »

tomd37 wrote: Tue Feb 16, 2021 11:00 pm Based on previous posts on this site, you are going to get all sorts of answers from permanently installed expensive units that provide enough power to run everything at one time if you so desire down to portable generators that you have to move outside, hook up, and run on gasoline to provide enough power to run selected amounts of items.

That said, as an 84 year-old couple, we recently permanently installed a 22KwH Generac, natural gas powered whole house generator with an automatic transfer switch which will allow us to run everything in our 2200 sq ft home, including the two HVAC systems, at the same time whether the temperature is 99 degrees outside as it is routinely here during most of the summer or whether it is 9 degrees outside as it is tonight with the ice and snow storm we are experiencing for five days.

We had talked about such a generator not too long ago but did not get to have it installed until shortly after we experienced a 69-hour total power outage in May of 2020 after a very severe two-day storm ravaged this part of the state. We watched out our dark rooms to see our neighbor's unit running constantly during those 69 hours. He was the envy of our 162-home community! :wink: We may, however, get to use ours for the first time if these snow/ice storms continue for the next three days!

You have to weigh the pros and cons and the costs involved in your decision. Great sense of security though when you have it.
Thanks. I actually saw the Generac when I Googled natural gas generators. Seems like they run around $5k to $6k, plus I'm guessing installation? While a seemingly a costly solution, I'd view it as peace of mind.

My main question would be, what is the possibility in such an event that not only is electric disrupted by gas too? I don't recall in 25 years ever experiencing as gas disruption. I do occasionally hear about gas line breaks or gas leaks but seems pretty rare.
Last edited by JBTX on Wed Feb 17, 2021 2:33 am, edited 1 time in total.
tibbitts
Posts: 13506
Joined: Tue Feb 27, 2007 6:50 pm

Re: Venerators/ supplemental power generation

Post by tibbitts »

JBTX wrote: Tue Feb 16, 2021 11:16 pm My main question would be, what is the possibility in such an event that not only is electric disrupted by gas too? I don't recall in 25 years ever experiencing as gas disruption. I do occasionally hear about gas line breaks or gas leaks but seems pretty rare.
The answer will probably be local to you, partly depending on factors like whether electricity in your area is underground, but generally I believe gas will be more reliable than electricity. However you also have to consider the impact of an electrical failure vs. a gas failure. At least where I live, any widespread disruption in gas takes forever to recover from, because the gas company has to visit each individual customer. It's not like electricity where the power is usually restored without intervention at each customer (as long as your home infrastructure is intact.) The current problem with gas isn't due to line breaks or gas leaks, it's due to a supply disruption. I've only had gas for about twenty years and have only had two disruptions that required a visit from the gas company to recover from. Those were not extremely widespread outages, so there wasn't a long wait for the gas company to restore service. I've only personally experienced a few electrical disruptions of more than an hour or so in the past fifty years or so, but some of that was luck, in that longer-term disruptions occurred in some of the places I lived, but not while I lived there. Of course some of my positive gas experience was luck too. Of course the alternative to a natural gas generator will usually involve fuel that has a shelf life, so you have to deal with that one way or another.
CurlyDave
Posts: 2555
Joined: Thu Jul 28, 2016 11:37 am

Re: [Generators]/ supplemental power generation

Post by CurlyDave »

JBTX wrote: Tue Feb 16, 2021 10:17 pm
...If I did somethjng I'd want it to be able to run a heater or central air. Is that feasible?

I've never been big on the idea of solar panels, I'm not sure how effective that would be for this issue.
Providing enough electricity to run a gas heating system is well within the capabilities of most reasonably-priced generators.

Running an A/C system is beginning to get into much higher power.

To be effective at all solar panels would also need storage batteries or they will not work at night.

We live in a rural area and have a generator. We do not have natural gas, so ours runs on propane. It can power lights, the garage door opener, microwave, computers, tv, refrigerator and freezer, and a few small electric heaters. We consider it an emergency back up.

If you want something that will power every appliance in your house, including washer, dryer, etc. you are looking a a very expensive set up.

Ours has electric start, but I have to walk out to the shed to turn it on and start it. We have a manual transfer switch to power the house from the generator. An automatic one is a lot more expensive.

If you want to be able to pretend that nothing happened when the power goes out that is expensive. If you are willing to accept a few limitations a few thousand will get you going.
toast0
Posts: 195
Joined: Fri Dec 12, 2014 1:41 am
Location: Puget Sound

Re: [Generators]/ supplemental power generation

Post by toast0 »

I'm in the pacific northwest, and we have a propane fueled automatic standby generator that supplies the house (and was installed by the previous owner), but our well is on a different meter, and we have a portable generator for that. I'm going to put a bunch of stuff for you to think about, but I don't think I'll help you decide. :)

Around here, with no natural gas utility, all (or most) of the permanent standby generators run on propane. A 500 gallon tank goes a long way, but it also takes up a lot of space. From what I've read, because of the cold in Texas, it looks like some people are seeing outages of natural gas and electricity, so if you're trying to avoid a repeat of this event, I would look to another fuel, but that does mean stockpiling fuel onsite. I prefer handling propane over gasoline and diesel fuel myself, but the liquid fuels are easier to transport and obtain. If you go with an installed propane tank, keep in mind the propane delivery service probably won't come out until the roads are safe, so it's important to keep an eye on the tank and make sure it's got enough to last a reasonable outage. Your HOA may have opinions on fuel storage and generator noise and size.

Some portable generators are dual fuel, gasoline and propane; this might be an option for a permanent generator (maybe even gasoline and natural gas?), but the rated power is significantly less when running from propane; so that's something to keep in mind as well. If you have electric heat or want to run your AC during an outage in the summer, those are usually pretty large loads, and it might be hard to find a portable generator that's big enough to properly handle them. If you have multiple HVAC systems, you might want to consider if it makes sense to power selected circuits plus one HVAC at a time (manual selection), maybe bottom floor heating and top floor cooling. My main generator is large enough to run all the HVAC, but not all the HVAC and the oven and the washer and dryer; I usually adjust the thermostats targets manually during a sizable outage to reduce the chance that they'll all run simultaneously. Even if you have a big automatic generator, you may want to get a load shedding transfer switch and declare some circuits (refrigerator, lights, smoke alarms if wired) as critical systems that always get power, and other circuits as non-critical that will be turned off if you go above the capacity of your generator; and special handling for HVAC (delay start, allow only one to be powered at a time).

Something not entirely obvious with a standby generator is you're still going to have around 5-10 seconds of power loss. The control system will wait a couple seconds in case of a brief blip style outage, then it needs to start the engine and wait for it to be ready, then it transfers the load. When utility power comes back, it will also wait a few seconds for the utility power to be stable before it transfers it back, and then a configurable wait before it turns off the engine.

My standby generator has an add-on to heat and circulate the coolant when it's cold to ensure it's easy to start. Seems like a nice thing to have, given you do have occasional cold weather. I store the portable in the garage which stays warmer than outside anyway (it's also small enough to be air cooled). The standby generator gets a professional annual oil change and inspection and does a self-test weekly (but, sadly, has no reporting function, so if you don't notice, you might find out the battery charger died because the generator didn't start during an outage; modern units probably do all the iot stuff). For the portable, I run it for 30 minutes monthly, and I change the oil annually, but haven't had it professionally serviced.

Another thing that looks interesting is EV or plug-in hybrid as a backup source. From what I've seen, these are all aftermarket, and the maximum load isn't that much, maybe 1-2 kW; that's not going to run your AC or electric heat. But the concept of parking your car outside, plugging it in, and letting it run the engine as needed to power your home, and then driving to get some more gas if needed seems perfect to me. Would have been an easy pick over a dedicated generator for my well, if the capacity was there, and if they didn't look quite so dodgy.
Topic Author
JBTX
Posts: 7994
Joined: Wed Jul 26, 2017 12:46 pm

Re: [Generators]/ supplemental power generation

Post by JBTX »

toast0 wrote: Wed Feb 17, 2021 2:03 am I'm in the pacific northwest, and we have a propane fueled automatic standby generator that supplies the house (and was installed by the previous owner), but our well is on a different meter, and we have a portable generator for that. I'm going to put a bunch of stuff for you to think about, but I don't think I'll help you decide. :)

Around here, with no natural gas utility, all (or most) of the permanent standby generators run on propane. A 500 gallon tank goes a long way, but it also takes up a lot of space. From what I've read, because of the cold in Texas, it looks like some people are seeing outages of natural gas and electricity, so if you're trying to avoid a repeat of this event, I would look to another fuel, but that does mean stockpiling fuel onsite. I prefer handling propane over gasoline and diesel fuel myself, but the liquid fuels are easier to transport and obtain. If you go with an installed propane tank, keep in mind the propane delivery service probably won't come out until the roads are safe, so it's important to keep an eye on the tank and make sure it's got enough to last a reasonable outage. Your HOA may have opinions on fuel storage and generator noise and size.

Some portable generators are dual fuel, gasoline and propane; this might be an option for a permanent generator (maybe even gasoline and natural gas?), but the rated power is significantly less when running from propane; so that's something to keep in mind as well. If you have electric heat or want to run your AC during an outage in the summer, those are usually pretty large loads, and it might be hard to find a portable generator that's big enough to properly handle them. If you have multiple HVAC systems, you might want to consider if it makes sense to power selected circuits plus one HVAC at a time (manual selection), maybe bottom floor heating and top floor cooling. My main generator is large enough to run all the HVAC, but not all the HVAC and the oven and the washer and dryer; I usually adjust the thermostats targets manually during a sizable outage to reduce the chance that they'll all run simultaneously. Even if you have a big automatic generator, you may want to get a load shedding transfer switch and declare some circuits (refrigerator, lights, smoke alarms if wired) as critical systems that always get power, and other circuits as non-critical that will be turned off if you go above the capacity of your generator; and special handling for HVAC (delay start, allow only one to be powered at a time).

Something not entirely obvious with a standby generator is you're still going to have around 5-10 seconds of power loss. The control system will wait a couple seconds in case of a brief blip style outage, then it needs to start the engine and wait for it to be ready, then it transfers the load. When utility power comes back, it will also wait a few seconds for the utility power to be stable before it transfers it back, and then a configurable wait before it turns off the engine.

My standby generator has an add-on to heat and circulate the coolant when it's cold to ensure it's easy to start. Seems like a nice thing to have, given you do have occasional cold weather. I store the portable in the garage which stays warmer than outside anyway (it's also small enough to be air cooled). The standby generator gets a professional annual oil change and inspection and does a self-test weekly (but, sadly, has no reporting function, so if you don't notice, you might find out the battery charger died because the generator didn't start during an outage; modern units probably do all the iot stuff). For the portable, I run it for 30 minutes monthly, and I change the oil annually, but haven't had it professionally serviced.

Another thing that looks interesting is EV or plug-in hybrid as a backup source. From what I've seen, these are all aftermarket, and the maximum load isn't that much, maybe 1-2 kW; that's not going to run your AC or electric heat. But the concept of parking your car outside, plugging it in, and letting it run the engine as needed to power your home, and then driving to get some more gas if needed seems perfect to me. Would have been an easy pick over a dedicated generator for my well, if the capacity was there, and if they didn't look quite so dodgy.
Thanks. A lot to process!

As to the natural gas, my understanding is the natural gas problems were with gas run power plants. As far as I know there havent been issues delivering natural gas to homes.
toast0
Posts: 195
Joined: Fri Dec 12, 2014 1:41 am
Location: Puget Sound

Re: [Generators]/ supplemental power generation

Post by toast0 »

JBTX wrote: Wed Feb 17, 2021 2:20 amAs to the natural gas, my understanding is the natural gas problems were with gas run power plants. As far as I know there havent been issues delivering natural gas to homes.
I imagine you've got a better handle on the conditions than I do; if natural gas is reliable enough, it's seems a whole lot more convenient. It's very hard (and usually not cost effective) to make a 100% bulletproof system, so you might be willing to accept the risk of a extended power and natural gas outage at the same time.
livesoft
Posts: 76063
Joined: Thu Mar 01, 2007 8:00 pm

Re: [Generators]/ supplemental power generation

Post by livesoft »

JBTX wrote: Tue Feb 16, 2021 10:17 pmJust looking for ideas, power requirements, approximate costs, feasibility in a suburban neighborhood.
We did something completely different. We learned about winter camping and have the equipment to allow us to live for a week or more outdoors in the snow without any electricity, natural gas, and even water from a pipe or bottle. We are not preppers, but do enjoy the outdoors. So that means a camping stove, fuel for it, water disinfection skills, and clothing and sleeping bags/quilts for staying warm with a passive approach.

So a home without power and heat is a luxury compared to a tent on the side of a snowy mountain.

I realize that almost everyone else will think it is crazy, no fun, and even inhumane to go without modern conveniences on purpose. But the resources and skills on how to use a hot water bottle to stay toasty warm at night can be priceless. Plus these skills can come in handy when your generator fails.
Wiki This signature message sponsored by sscritic: Learn to fish.
whomever
Posts: 1081
Joined: Sat Apr 21, 2012 5:21 pm

Re: [Generators]/ supplemental power generation

Post by whomever »

"We learned about winter camping"

Sure, we have spent many a happy weeks camping in snow caves in subzero weather. But we have a little generator, too, because we live in suburbia, and it's a little awkward to be digging slit trenches in the yard, and the flush toilets don't work once the pipes freeze.

As far as the OP, running an air conditioner takes a fairly large generator, that uses a lot of fuel, so you're looking at either one that runs on natural gas (and hope that keeps working ... it is pretty reliable, but there were outages in Hurricane Sandy) or storing a fair amount of propane/gasoline/diesel.

Just running a natural gas furnace or fridge only requires a small generator. That's the sweet spot for us, but YMMV.

Solar isn't usually the right choice for emergency use to keep a furnace going. The common grid-tied solar systems don't work when the grid is down. If you get one that can operate standalone, the battery cost is likely going to compare unfavorably with a generator. Solar can make a lot of sense for places that are off grid, and grid tied systems can make a lot of sense for that application, but IMHO probably won't pencil out for the occasional emergency use case that generators fill.

Wood stoves are probably the ultimate reliable heat, but are more expensive than a small generator, and won't charge your phone.

There isn't one right solution. If you live in a rural area, you might want a generator big enough to run the well pump. If you have a cabin with a woodstove and water from a spring, maybe you only want a tiny solar setup for a little lighting and phone charging. A 40 year old might not mind dragging a generator out of the shed, while a 90 year old might want a permanent install that autostarts. Like a lot of things, it's all tradeoffs.
neilpilot
Posts: 3745
Joined: Fri Dec 04, 2015 1:46 pm
Location: Memphis area

Re: [Generators]/ supplemental power generation

Post by neilpilot »

viewtopic.php?p=5783570#p5783570

There are several recent discussions OP can reference.
ddurrett896
Posts: 1522
Joined: Wed Nov 05, 2014 3:23 pm

Re: [Generators]/ supplemental power generation

Post by ddurrett896 »

Start with an gasoline generator. I'd skip propane all together unless you have a huge tank at your house since the small 20lb tanks only last around 5 hours.

I prefer the brand Champion for value and ability to buy parts. Also, for get about AC unless you buy a huge generator that drinks tons of gas.

Option 1: This will power your house minus AC. You can run the water heater, range or dryer just one at a time.
https://www.homedepot.com/p/CHAMPION-PO ... /314296998

Option 2: This will power all 120v outlets and lights in your house. No AC, WH (unless it's gas), range or dryer.
https://www.homedepot.com/p/CHAMPION-PO ... /300576762

Option 1 gets you up and running with the lowest cost. It's not an inverter (clean power), but it works and we've never had issues with standard generators. Longest power outage I recall is around 2 weeks.

Buy 12 five gallons cans that will run that generator for a week running 24/7 or 2 weeks if you shut on/off to conserve gas. Rotate gas every 6 months to a year and ONLY BUY NON ETHANOL FUEL. You're in TX and should has somewhere within an hour. Check pure-gas.org for your closest station. I've had luck with ethanol fuel using Star Tron, but prefer non ethanol when available.
https://www.amazon.com/Star-Tron-Enzyme ... 5232&psc=1

Option 2 is a good backup for short outages that last a couple hours or the tail end of a long outrage where fuel is low and you really need to conserve gas.

They also make natural gas conversion gives for Option 1 for around $150. My plan looks something like this and includes three generators (Option 1, Option 1 with Natural gas conversion, Option 2)

Power goes out..
Day 1: turn on Option 2 generator to get lights, WIFI, fridges and 120v lights working.
Day 2: I need to shower so switch to Option 1.
Day 3-4: run Option 1 24/7. I've got about 30 gallons of gas left.
Day 5-12: switch back to Option 2 to save gas. Run this all day, then switch to Option 1 for a few hours to use range and heat water heater.
Day 13: switch to Option 1 with Natural gas conversion and run 24/7 on natural gas.

Option 1: $750
Option 2: $550
Option 1 with Natural gas conversion kit added: $900
(12) five gallons gas cans: $300

Buy one of these and run 10/3 wire to a new 30 amp breaker in your panel. When you use generator, turn off main, turn on generator 30 amp breaker.

https://www.amazon.com/BougeRV-Generato ... s9dHJ1ZQ==
anna.day
Posts: 52
Joined: Mon Sep 14, 2020 12:22 pm

Re: [Generators]/ supplemental power generation

Post by anna.day »

I live in New England, and we routinely lose power during the winter due to ice/snow snapping trees and bringing down power lines. I have spent many winter days without power - my longest was 6 days (with a baby and toddler at home) watching the internal thermometer of the house drop to 12 degrees at its lowest.

My personal opinion is the first most important thing to do is really understand what to do in this type of emergency. My top priority is avoiding burst pipes, either by ensuring water keeps running through the pipes by running the taps or - if that’s not enough - draining water out of the pipes by cutting water to the house and then opening up all the faucets. We also keep a 7 day store of non-perishables around in winter, and understand the basics of how to keep warm (get everyone in the smallest room, keep your head warm, etc. etc.).

Many, many of my neighbors own generators : they are noisy but they get the job done. I finally opted for a more old-fashioned solution: I had a wood burning stove installed and have a cord+ of wood delivered each winter. Kids love it, and it’ll keep the house warm enough when the power goes out. I don’t use it full time in winter, but it’s a huge peace of mind to have a reliable technology that doesn’t depend on anything to work but the wood pile I can see in my backyard. Just my two cents. Generators are great, but you need fuel to run ‘em, and if you run out during a long enough emergency... you are out.
gogleheads.orb
Posts: 157
Joined: Fri Oct 18, 2013 12:34 pm

Re: [Generators]/ supplemental power generation

Post by gogleheads.orb »

We just installed a natural gas 16kW Generac whole house generator. it cost 10k installed in the Boston area. It is expensive, but in our town pretty common. We have a lot of trees in town that overhang the powerlines. Any time it is windy you might lose power. It is a pain to lose heat, water and have all of your food rot.
Jack FFR1846
Posts: 13545
Joined: Tue Dec 31, 2013 7:05 am
Location: 26 miles, 385 yards west of Copley Square

Re: [Generators]/ supplemental power generation

Post by Jack FFR1846 »

As another New Englander, I've watched the news reports about the Texas outages and wondered why such a mild winter event is crippling the power grid there. I guess it's some incompetence on the part of the overseeing organization and the lack of any back up both from the power company and on the part of citizens. And of course, the heating systems in Texas are far different than in New England, where our natural gas and electric rates are 3 to 4 times what they cost in Texas. So aside from wood to heat my house, the backup system is oil. I do have a Generac 5500 that'll easily run our refrigerators, sump pump, internet, water heater (oil) and oil furnace along with lights, tv and computers throughout the house. I would recommend that if you're going to buy a small gas generator like this, you'd better get looking for one right now. There's a good chance that every store within 300 miles are sold out. This is NOT going to be enough to run electric heat. It'll run 4 hair dryers on full blast. That's about it. Going forward, you might want to look into an alternate heat source. A couple hundred gallon propane tanks to run a backup home heating system? Do you have fuel oil in Texas? (I'd think so as Texas exports lots of oil). Another problem I've heard from the news is that with some homes running on natural gas, the pressure has dropped, limiting what's available for power plants. So look into more independence. What can you set up that will get you though anything? Now I'm saying this without the strangle hold of stupid HOA restrictions. I don't have one of those ridiculous organizations telling me what to do, so I can run a generator and install propane all I want without having to get permission from the kings of the neighborhood.
Bogle: Smart Beta is stupid
smitcat
Posts: 7637
Joined: Mon Nov 07, 2016 10:51 am

Re: [Generators]/ supplemental power generation

Post by smitcat »

gogleheads.orb wrote: Wed Feb 17, 2021 8:41 am We just installed a natural gas 16kW Generac whole house generator. it cost 10k installed in the Boston area. It is expensive, but in our town pretty common. We have a lot of trees in town that overhang the powerlines. Any time it is windy you might lose power. It is a pain to lose heat, water and have all of your food rot.
Why natural gas lines have gone offline in Texas this week....
https://www.texastribune.org/2021/02/16 ... wer-storm/

Similar to what happened near us in the NE during Sandy.
ScoobyDoo
Posts: 122
Joined: Wed Jan 23, 2008 12:51 am
Location: Dallas

Re: [Generators]/ supplemental power generation

Post by ScoobyDoo »

JBTX wrote: Tue Feb 16, 2021 10:17 pm I'm one of the lucky ones in TX who has enjoyed single digit temperatures with almost no power for 2-3 days. Started out Sunday 30 minutes- 1 hour on to 6-8 hours off. Getting better today, house finally got back to normal temperature.

Outages have generally been rare, although seems to be coming more frequent. We live in a suburban neighborhood, house about 2600 Sq feet, electric power plus gas heat hot water. We have an HOA, so windmill in the backyard is probably non starter! :wink: Ironically many here have gas heat, but it doesn't work without electricity , so they cut off grid to all these homes that likely use little electric power

I've never considered a generator before, but wondering if I should. Obviously this would cost some money, but may be worth the assurance of having a backup plan. I really know nothing in this area.

What are the options?

- gasoline or other fuel based generator
- natural gas powered generator (I looked this up, you can get these)
- Batteries?
- other?

If I did somethjng I'd want it to be able to run a heater or central air. Is that feasible?

I've never been big on the idea of solar panels, I'm not sure how effective that would be for this issue.


Just looking for ideas, power requirements, approximate costs, feasibility in a suburban neighborhood.

Thanks.
I, too, am in Texas suburb. No issues with electricity, must be on a critical grid line or something. Although ONCoR said if rolling blackouts w/o critical grids bot included didn’t help, blacking out those areas would be next! Internet out! Still not understanding that!!!!????? Really scary.

On the investing/market side (though not really bogle-like) seems like alternative energy sources and other ‘zombie apocalypse’ preparation supplies/markets should experience an uptick in the future. Another bitcoin like bubble? With the pandemic, lockdowns, fires, multiple climate related major incidents this last year, what stocks or sectors might see an insurgence? 🤔
ScoobyDoo!
aquaman
Posts: 170
Joined: Thu Jul 28, 2016 2:13 pm

Re: [Generators]/ supplemental power generation

Post by aquaman »

smitcat wrote: Wed Feb 17, 2021 8:54 am
gogleheads.orb wrote: Wed Feb 17, 2021 8:41 am We just installed a natural gas 16kW Generac whole house generator. it cost 10k installed in the Boston area. It is expensive, but in our town pretty common. We have a lot of trees in town that overhang the powerlines. Any time it is windy you might lose power. It is a pain to lose heat, water and have all of your food rot.
Why natural gas lines have gone offline in Texas this week....
https://www.texastribune.org/2021/02/16 ... wer-storm/

Similar to what happened near us in the NE during Sandy.
Have any residential customers lost natural gas in Texas? Natural gas run power plants have experienced issues, but I haven't read about any residential customers experiencing it.
smitcat
Posts: 7637
Joined: Mon Nov 07, 2016 10:51 am

Re: [Generators]/ supplemental power generation

Post by smitcat »

aquaman wrote: Wed Feb 17, 2021 9:18 am
smitcat wrote: Wed Feb 17, 2021 8:54 am
gogleheads.orb wrote: Wed Feb 17, 2021 8:41 am We just installed a natural gas 16kW Generac whole house generator. it cost 10k installed in the Boston area. It is expensive, but in our town pretty common. We have a lot of trees in town that overhang the powerlines. Any time it is windy you might lose power. It is a pain to lose heat, water and have all of your food rot.
Why natural gas lines have gone offline in Texas this week....
https://www.texastribune.org/2021/02/16 ... wer-storm/

Similar to what happened near us in the NE during Sandy.
Have any residential customers lost natural gas in Texas? Natural gas run power plants have experienced issues, but I haven't read about any residential customers experiencing it.
Plenty of articles but I have not read most of them....
https://www.kxan.com/news/local/travis- ... ral-texas/
neilpilot
Posts: 3745
Joined: Fri Dec 04, 2015 1:46 pm
Location: Memphis area

Re: [Generators]/ supplemental power generation

Post by neilpilot »

aquaman wrote: Wed Feb 17, 2021 9:18 am
smitcat wrote: Wed Feb 17, 2021 8:54 am
gogleheads.orb wrote: Wed Feb 17, 2021 8:41 am We just installed a natural gas 16kW Generac whole house generator. it cost 10k installed in the Boston area. It is expensive, but in our town pretty common. We have a lot of trees in town that overhang the powerlines. Any time it is windy you might lose power. It is a pain to lose heat, water and have all of your food rot.
Why natural gas lines have gone offline in Texas this week....
https://www.texastribune.org/2021/02/16 ... wer-storm/

Similar to what happened near us in the NE during Sandy.
Have any residential customers lost natural gas in Texas? Natural gas run power plants have experienced issues, but I haven't read about any residential customers experiencing it.
One theory is that the electrical grid outages have prevented residential gas interruption. This article implies that residential gas usage is lower than normal since customers w/o electricity cannot consume the normal amount of NG.
https://www.kvue.com/article/news/local ... 8c64cdea6c
aquaman
Posts: 170
Joined: Thu Jul 28, 2016 2:13 pm

Re: [Generators]/ supplemental power generation

Post by aquaman »

smitcat wrote: Wed Feb 17, 2021 9:28 am
aquaman wrote: Wed Feb 17, 2021 9:18 am
smitcat wrote: Wed Feb 17, 2021 8:54 am
gogleheads.orb wrote: Wed Feb 17, 2021 8:41 am We just installed a natural gas 16kW Generac whole house generator. it cost 10k installed in the Boston area. It is expensive, but in our town pretty common. We have a lot of trees in town that overhang the powerlines. Any time it is windy you might lose power. It is a pain to lose heat, water and have all of your food rot.
Why natural gas lines have gone offline in Texas this week....
https://www.texastribune.org/2021/02/16 ... wer-storm/

Similar to what happened near us in the NE during Sandy.
Have any residential customers lost natural gas in Texas? Natural gas run power plants have experienced issues, but I haven't read about any residential customers experiencing it.
Plenty of articles but I have not read most of them....
https://www.kxan.com/news/local/travis- ... ral-texas/
Your article talks about issues with propane, not natural gas. It mentions a warning that there could be natural gas disruptions, and I've seen the same warnings elsewhere as well, but it doesn't say that this has actually happened. Are there residential (not commercial) natural gas (not propane) customers in Texas who've lost service?
SciurusVulgaris
Posts: 81
Joined: Sat Sep 26, 2015 7:48 pm

Re: [Generators]/ supplemental power generation

Post by SciurusVulgaris »

Before running out to buy a generator, or booking an install for a whole-house generator, I'd suggest thinking about the tradeoffs.

Where I live, generator use is common due to heavy snows every winter. I've had three over the years. Now I don't have one. Things to consider:
  • How much time do you have to maintain a generator? Gas generators need fresh gas (and/or gas stabilizer), new plugs, a new battery, an oil change, and other maintenance. It's like owning another small car. If you don't commit to this, your generator won't work when you want it to. Ask my neighbor last winter.
  • How much will you spend to maintain it? A whole-house generator is expensive to install, and somewhat expensive to maintain. Another neighbor has one, they are very convenient, but you pay for it.
  • Will your generator create electricity that is compatible with your home? Some of the cheaper generators don't create clean electricity, or the voltage may be higher than household items expect. Those cheap generators were created for portable power tools, and they may generate higher voltage than, say, a power strip can handle. I've seen a power strip go up in smoke. Another neighbor had the electronics in his furnace get fried due to the generator. I've personally seen a furnace refuse to turn on because the power was too "dirty".
  • Will your neighbors appreciate it? These things are loud.
  • Is it safe? Do you have children or pets that might get into it while it's running?
  • Lastly, the cheap ones are tempermental. For instance, if you start the generator while the load is connected, it will melt the coils and become useless. Some will need to be flashed to get them started if they haven't been used in a while.
It might be that all the negatives of ownership outweigh the negatives of a once in a century storm. If you do get one and are sure to use it for a long time, I'd suggest a whole-house generator if you can afford it, or if you opt for a portable one, a Honda.
random_walker_77
Posts: 1521
Joined: Tue May 21, 2013 8:49 pm

Re: [Generators]/ supplemental power generation

Post by random_walker_77 »

aquaman wrote: Wed Feb 17, 2021 9:33 am Your article talks about issues with propane, not natural gas. It mentions a warning that there could be natural gas disruptions, and I've seen the same warnings elsewhere as well, but it doesn't say that this has actually happened. Are there residential (not commercial) natural gas (not propane) customers in Texas who've lost service?
Don't know for sure, but Texas Gas sent me an email asking for conservation, w/ the dire warning that if there isn't enough conservation, then service may be disrupted. And that if service is disrupted, they have to go door to door to turn it back on, so it'll take a long time to restore service. (Given the current conditions, one can only imagine how long that'd take)

It makes sense, since gas meters will turn off if the pressure is too low, and with gas lines potentially open and pilot lights extinguished, they have to go through a careful procedure to safely turn on the gas, to avoid gas leaks and/or house explosions.
smitcat
Posts: 7637
Joined: Mon Nov 07, 2016 10:51 am

Re: [Generators]/ supplemental power generation

Post by smitcat »

aquaman wrote: Wed Feb 17, 2021 9:33 am
smitcat wrote: Wed Feb 17, 2021 9:28 am
aquaman wrote: Wed Feb 17, 2021 9:18 am
smitcat wrote: Wed Feb 17, 2021 8:54 am
gogleheads.orb wrote: Wed Feb 17, 2021 8:41 am We just installed a natural gas 16kW Generac whole house generator. it cost 10k installed in the Boston area. It is expensive, but in our town pretty common. We have a lot of trees in town that overhang the powerlines. Any time it is windy you might lose power. It is a pain to lose heat, water and have all of your food rot.
Why natural gas lines have gone offline in Texas this week....
https://www.texastribune.org/2021/02/16 ... wer-storm/

Similar to what happened near us in the NE during Sandy.
Have any residential customers lost natural gas in Texas? Natural gas run power plants have experienced issues, but I haven't read about any residential customers experiencing it.
Plenty of articles but I have not read most of them....
https://www.kxan.com/news/local/travis- ... ral-texas/
Your article talks about issues with propane, not natural gas. It mentions a warning that there could be natural gas disruptions, and I've seen the same warnings elsewhere as well, but it doesn't say that this has actually happened. Are there residential (not commercial) natural gas (not propane) customers in Texas who've lost service?
"Failures across Texas’ natural gas operations and supply chains due to extreme temperatures are the most significant cause of the power crisis that has left millions of Texans without heat and electricity during the winter storm sweeping the U.S.

From frozen natural gas wells to frozen wind turbines, all sources of power generation have faced difficulties during the winter storm. But Texans largely rely on natural gas for power and heat generation, especially during peak usage, experts said."
aquaman
Posts: 170
Joined: Thu Jul 28, 2016 2:13 pm

Re: [Generators]/ supplemental power generation

Post by aquaman »

SciurusVulgaris wrote: Wed Feb 17, 2021 9:40 am [*] How much will you spend to maintain it? A whole-house generator is expensive to install, and somewhat expensive to maintain. Another neighbor has one, they are very convenient, but you pay for it.
Standby generators require service every 100 to 150 hours, which for most homeowners means once a year or two. As I've previously posted, I purchase an OEM service kit online for roughly $50 and then pay my handyman another $50 to install it (it's a simple oil change, spark plug and air filter replacement). Most standby generator owners in our area do the same thing.

My homeowner's insurance company gives a discount for having a standby generator, which more than makes up for the above cost.
random_walker_77
Posts: 1521
Joined: Tue May 21, 2013 8:49 pm

Re: [Generators]/ supplemental power generation

Post by random_walker_77 »

ddurrett896 wrote: Wed Feb 17, 2021 8:02 am Buy one of these and run 10/3 wire to a new 30 amp breaker in your panel. When you use generator, turn off main, turn on generator 30 amp breaker.

https://www.amazon.com/BougeRV-Generato ... s9dHJ1ZQ==
Yikes!!! Please don't do it this away. It's highly illegal and could get some poor lineman killed. If you're going to diy like this, at the very least, install a manual transfer switch. Your approach relies on a person to do things in proper order to not backfeed electricity to the lines. A manual transfer switch (or an interlock) makes it idiot proof, which is the only way needed to make this reliably safe.

I know you're not an idiot. But, if you are extra-tired, or are in a hurry in the dark, or maybe had a couple glasses of wine an hour prior, or you're talking your spouse through the process, or you've sold the house to a naive user etc, then you could get someone killed. Humans make mistakes. We don't allow safety systems that work only if thousands of people all follow a procedure properly without mistake. Put in the transfer switch -- you don't want that on your conscience, and you don't want that kind of trouble.
Last edited by random_walker_77 on Thu Feb 18, 2021 4:52 pm, edited 1 time in total.
User avatar
galving
Posts: 230
Joined: Wed Oct 07, 2009 12:47 pm
Location: US Gulf Coast

Re: [Generators]/ supplemental power generation

Post by galving »

Jack FFR1846 wrote: Wed Feb 17, 2021 8:53 am As another New Englander, I've watched the news reports about the Texas outages and wondered why such a mild winter event is crippling the power grid there. I guess it's some incompetence on the part of the overseeing organization and the lack of any back up both from the power company and on the part of citizens. And of course, the heating systems in Texas are far different than in New England, where our natural gas and electric rates are 3 to 4 times what they cost in Texas. So aside from wood to heat my house, the backup system is oil. I do have a Generac 5500 that'll easily run our refrigerators, sump pump, internet, water heater (oil) and oil furnace along with lights, tv and computers throughout the house. I would recommend that if you're going to buy a small gas generator like this, you'd better get looking for one right now. There's a good chance that every store within 300 miles are sold out. This is NOT going to be enough to run electric heat. It'll run 4 hair dryers on full blast. That's about it. Going forward, you might want to look into an alternate heat source. A couple hundred gallon propane tanks to run a backup home heating system? Do you have fuel oil in Texas? (I'd think so as Texas exports lots of oil). Another problem I've heard from the news is that with some homes running on natural gas, the pressure has dropped, limiting what's available for power plants. So look into more independence. What can you set up that will get you though anything? Now I'm saying this without the strangle hold of stupid HOA restrictions. I don't have one of those ridiculous organizations telling me what to do, so I can run a generator and install propane all I want without having to get permission from the kings of the neighborhood.
"mild winter event" from a Boston perspective.
It hasn't been this cold in 200 years in this part of Texas.

While incompetence is usually a good bet with anything involving humans. . . it's probably not the root cause.
The power generation plants (Natural gas fired, Wind farms, even nuclear plants) have had items (likely instruments) that froze that took them off line. While TX produces a lot of crude oil, oil fired heating systems are not common.
aquaman
Posts: 170
Joined: Thu Jul 28, 2016 2:13 pm

Re: [Generators]/ supplemental power generation

Post by aquaman »

smitcat wrote: Wed Feb 17, 2021 9:47 am
aquaman wrote: Wed Feb 17, 2021 9:33 am
smitcat wrote: Wed Feb 17, 2021 9:28 am
aquaman wrote: Wed Feb 17, 2021 9:18 am
smitcat wrote: Wed Feb 17, 2021 8:54 am

Why natural gas lines have gone offline in Texas this week....
https://www.texastribune.org/2021/02/16 ... wer-storm/

Similar to what happened near us in the NE during Sandy.
Have any residential customers lost natural gas in Texas? Natural gas run power plants have experienced issues, but I haven't read about any residential customers experiencing it.
Plenty of articles but I have not read most of them....
https://www.kxan.com/news/local/travis- ... ral-texas/
Your article talks about issues with propane, not natural gas. It mentions a warning that there could be natural gas disruptions, and I've seen the same warnings elsewhere as well, but it doesn't say that this has actually happened. Are there residential (not commercial) natural gas (not propane) customers in Texas who've lost service?
"Failures across Texas’ natural gas operations and supply chains due to extreme temperatures are the most significant cause of the power crisis that has left millions of Texans without heat and electricity during the winter storm sweeping the U.S.

From frozen natural gas wells to frozen wind turbines, all sources of power generation have faced difficulties during the winter storm. But Texans largely rely on natural gas for power and heat generation, especially during peak usage, experts said."
What it's saying is that commercial power plants in Texas rely on natural gas to generate electricity. There have been widely reported natural gas supply disruptions to those commercial power plants, which has caused a lot of residential customers to lose electricity, which then caused them to lose heat (natural gas furnaces need electricity to operate their blowers). Likewise, there have been propane disruptions.

So, my question is whether there are residential (not commercial) natural gas (not propane) customers in Texas who've lost service? I've seen warnings that say that it's a possibility, which makes sense, but has it actually happened?
Last edited by aquaman on Wed Feb 17, 2021 10:02 am, edited 1 time in total.
Kkgbear
Posts: 2
Joined: Wed Nov 07, 2018 7:30 am

Re: [Generators]/ supplemental power generation

Post by Kkgbear »

I live 15 miles south of Dallas. We have not had any power or gas outages in my neighborhood during this latest cold streak. I've been here 29 years and have never lost my natural gas supply. Fireplace is loaded and ready, in any case.
smitcat
Posts: 7637
Joined: Mon Nov 07, 2016 10:51 am

Re: [Generators]/ supplemental power generation

Post by smitcat »

aquaman wrote: Wed Feb 17, 2021 9:57 am
smitcat wrote: Wed Feb 17, 2021 9:47 am
aquaman wrote: Wed Feb 17, 2021 9:33 am
smitcat wrote: Wed Feb 17, 2021 9:28 am
aquaman wrote: Wed Feb 17, 2021 9:18 am Have any residential customers lost natural gas in Texas? Natural gas run power plants have experienced issues, but I haven't read about any residential customers experiencing it.
Plenty of articles but I have not read most of them....
https://www.kxan.com/news/local/travis- ... ral-texas/
Your article talks about issues with propane, not natural gas. It mentions a warning that there could be natural gas disruptions, and I've seen the same warnings elsewhere as well, but it doesn't say that this has actually happened. Are there residential (not commercial) natural gas (not propane) customers in Texas who've lost service?
"Failures across Texas’ natural gas operations and supply chains due to extreme temperatures are the most significant cause of the power crisis that has left millions of Texans without heat and electricity during the winter storm sweeping the U.S.

From frozen natural gas wells to frozen wind turbines, all sources of power generation have faced difficulties during the winter storm. But Texans largely rely on natural gas for power and heat generation, especially during peak usage, experts said."
What it's saying is that commercial power plants in Texas rely on natural gas to generate electricity. There have been widely reported natural gas supply disruptions to those commercial power plants, which has translated into loss of electricity to residential customers, as well as loss of heat (natural gas furnaces need electricity to operate their blowers). Likewise, there have been propane disruptions.

So, my question is whether there are residential (not commercial) natural gas (not propane) customers in Texas who've lost service? I've seen warnings that say that it's a possibility, which makes sense, but has it actually happened?
If you really want to know then keep searching , I do not live there....
You won't know the numbers for weeks if at all - its only been cold for a few days so far and they do not collect these figures as a general rule.
With Sandy all of this data was suppressed for quite some time , similar to the crime that occured after a few days of outages.
smitcat
Posts: 7637
Joined: Mon Nov 07, 2016 10:51 am

Re: [Generators]/ supplemental power generation

Post by smitcat »

aquaman wrote: Wed Feb 17, 2021 9:47 am
SciurusVulgaris wrote: Wed Feb 17, 2021 9:40 am [*] How much will you spend to maintain it? A whole-house generator is expensive to install, and somewhat expensive to maintain. Another neighbor has one, they are very convenient, but you pay for it.
Standby generators require service every 100 to 150 hours, which for most homeowners means once a year or two. As I've previously posted, I purchase an OEM service kit online for roughly $50 and then pay my handyman another $50 to install it (it's a simple oil change, spark plug and air filter replacement). Most standby generator owners in our area do the same thing.

My homeowner's insurance company gives a discount for having a standby generator, which more than makes up for the above cost.
"As I've previously posted, I purchase an OEM service kit online for roughly $50 and then pay my handyman another $50 to install it (it's a simple oil change, spark plug and air filter replacement)."
I believe the best approach would be with a service plan in place - that way when the unit eventually has a problem they cannot deny the service or claim.
Another approach would be to do it yourself if you have all the skills needed to check and maintan the unit. That would be the best since then you would not be relying on others during an emergency when the resources will not be readily available.
livesoft
Posts: 76063
Joined: Thu Mar 01, 2007 8:00 pm

Re: [Generators]/ supplemental power generation

Post by livesoft »

whomever wrote: Wed Feb 17, 2021 7:28 am "We learned about winter camping"

Sure, we have spent many a happy weeks camping in snow caves in subzero weather. But we have a little generator, too, because we live in suburbia, and it's a little awkward to be digging slit trenches in the yard, and the flush toilets don't work once the pipes freeze.
I'm laughing that you mention slit trenches and flush toilets which are totally unnecessary for the circumstances. I remember going on a tour of Teddy Roosevelt's home at Sagamore Hill on Long Island. Every bedroom had a chamber pot.

I also toured Walnut Canyon National Monument and noticed that the earlier inhabitants had chamber pots as well.

But unless one's toilets back up, they will work without power as long as one has some liquid water around.

I guess as always some people have too little imagination and some people have too much imagination.
Last edited by livesoft on Wed Feb 17, 2021 10:10 am, edited 1 time in total.
Wiki This signature message sponsored by sscritic: Learn to fish.
smitcat
Posts: 7637
Joined: Mon Nov 07, 2016 10:51 am

Re: [Generators]/ supplemental power generation

Post by smitcat »

smitcat wrote: Wed Feb 17, 2021 10:01 am
aquaman wrote: Wed Feb 17, 2021 9:57 am
smitcat wrote: Wed Feb 17, 2021 9:47 am
aquaman wrote: Wed Feb 17, 2021 9:33 am
smitcat wrote: Wed Feb 17, 2021 9:28 am

Plenty of articles but I have not read most of them....
https://www.kxan.com/news/local/travis- ... ral-texas/
Your article talks about issues with propane, not natural gas. It mentions a warning that there could be natural gas disruptions, and I've seen the same warnings elsewhere as well, but it doesn't say that this has actually happened. Are there residential (not commercial) natural gas (not propane) customers in Texas who've lost service?
"Failures across Texas’ natural gas operations and supply chains due to extreme temperatures are the most significant cause of the power crisis that has left millions of Texans without heat and electricity during the winter storm sweeping the U.S.

From frozen natural gas wells to frozen wind turbines, all sources of power generation have faced difficulties during the winter storm. But Texans largely rely on natural gas for power and heat generation, especially during peak usage, experts said."
What it's saying is that commercial power plants in Texas rely on natural gas to generate electricity. There have been widely reported natural gas supply disruptions to those commercial power plants, which has translated into loss of electricity to residential customers, as well as loss of heat (natural gas furnaces need electricity to operate their blowers). Likewise, there have been propane disruptions.

So, my question is whether there are residential (not commercial) natural gas (not propane) customers in Texas who've lost service? I've seen warnings that say that it's a possibility, which makes sense, but has it actually happened?
If you really want to know then keep searching , I do not live there....
You won't know the numbers for weeks if at all - its only been cold for a few days so far and they do not collect these figures as a general rule.
With Sandy all of this data was suppressed for quite some time , similar to the crime that occured after a few days of outages.
One fairly recent update ...."real possibility of 250,000 losing gas services in austin"
https://www.kvue.com/article/news/local ... 8c64cdea6c
aquaman
Posts: 170
Joined: Thu Jul 28, 2016 2:13 pm

Re: [Generators]/ supplemental power generation

Post by aquaman »

smitcat wrote: Wed Feb 17, 2021 10:01 am If you really want to know then keep searching , I do not live there....
You won't know the numbers for weeks if at all - its only been cold for a few days so far and they do not collect these figures as a general rule.
With Sandy all of this data was suppressed for quite some time , similar to the crime that occured after a few days of outages.
Fair enough. My point is that I have been looking into it and have not yet come across any reports of residential customers in Texas losing natural gas. There are a lot of warnings that it's a possibility, and it may still happen, but it doesn't look like it has happened.

So, a standby natural gas powered generator would've continued to operate just fine. I do hear you in that you experienced natural gas supply disruptions during Sandy, and completely agree that there is no single source of energy out there that is completely bulletproof. In most areas, however, if you have access to natural gas, it tends to be one of the most reliable sources of energy, so in most parts of the country a natural gas powered standby generator is likely to get you through the vast majority of these types of events.
smitcat wrote: Wed Feb 17, 2021 10:09 amOne fairly recent update ...."real possibility of 250,000 losing gas services in austin"
https://www.kvue.com/article/news/local ... 8c64cdea6c
Right, which means that it hasn't happened. If it does happen, those with natural gas powered generators are still a lot better off than those without them, as the former have had uninterrupted electricity and heat for the last several days.
cpumechanic
Posts: 156
Joined: Tue Dec 21, 2010 11:42 pm

Re: [Generators]/ supplemental power generation

Post by cpumechanic »

Suggestions that work for me

1.0 Wood stove in Basement with 3 cords of split hardwood outside basement sliding door.
2.0 800 gallons of propane at 0.99 cents per gallon sitting awating use in tank in side yard.
3.0 Ability to transfer liquid propane to smaller tanks to use to power propane heaters, grill, stove and generator to run home well pump and pump water.

4.0 Small RV in driveway to use in extreme emergency for cooling if absolutely needed.

Summary :

I can survive in 100F weather fairly easily, but I don't want to worry about freezing to death.

Best of luck to you, who knew 42% of the electricity in Texas was supplied by now frozen windmills (per WSJ this AM). [OT comment removed by admin LadyGeek]

Best of luck

CPU
smitcat
Posts: 7637
Joined: Mon Nov 07, 2016 10:51 am

Re: [Generators]/ supplemental power generation

Post by smitcat »

aquaman wrote: Wed Feb 17, 2021 10:13 am
smitcat wrote: Wed Feb 17, 2021 10:01 am If you really want to know then keep searching , I do not live there....
You won't know the numbers for weeks if at all - its only been cold for a few days so far and they do not collect these figures as a general rule.
With Sandy all of this data was suppressed for quite some time , similar to the crime that occured after a few days of outages.
Fair enough. My point is that I have been looking into it and have not yet come across any reports of residential customers in Texas losing natural gas. There are a lot of warnings that it's a possibility, and it may still happen, but it doesn't look like it has happened.

So, a standby natural gas powered generator would've continued to operate just fine. I do hear you in that you experienced natural gas supply disruptions during Sandy, and completely agree that there is no single source of energy out there that is completely bulletproof. In most areas, however, if you have access to natural gas, it tends to be one of the most reliable sources of energy, so in most parts of the country a natural gas powered standby generator is likely to get you through the vast majority of these types of events.
I do not know where you live or why you seem very concerned abouty Texas but here is a few thoughts....
Here are some real life experiences when the outage crosses more than a couple of days - the gas infrastucture losses a number of its draw and pumping stations affecting line pressure and dryers. When the line pressure drops and dryers are intermittent the lines have moisture and then get some small 'globs' of water in the line which gets transmitted to a home. That water then interupts any reasonable sized device even if the gas supply iteslf is still available. In our case there were also many areas where the gas lines did not remain 'up' at all. When these issues happen the gas utility shuts down the section for safety reasons and brings them up in a controlled manner which requires a home to home visit.

These issues in Texas have come on quickly with very little duration in adverse weather - really not that severe of a 'test' so far.

In our case we did not purchase a backup power source to cover a short term event - it seemed to us that if we were to purchase a backup that it would need to cover at least a week of time if not more otherwise what would be the point? (our goal, not others).

And one last observation that I think is very important - during and after the 11 day event we had with Sandy we heard very little from the media (written or TV) about the real losses in residential power. Others in our area were out for many more days then 11 and it appeared to us that these facts were mostly ignored. Similarly there were numeorus instances of home and business break ins that were not reported during or after Sandy.

If you think your specific plan may be robust enough I would consider what might really occurr with power/gas/water/cell towers in your area with a real stress test that lasts more than a couple of days.
aquaman
Posts: 170
Joined: Thu Jul 28, 2016 2:13 pm

Re: [Generators]/ supplemental power generation

Post by aquaman »

smitcat wrote: Wed Feb 17, 2021 10:31 amI do not know where you live or why you seem very concerned abouty Texas but here is a few thoughts....
Here are some real life experiences when the outage crosses more than a couple of days - the gas infrastucture losses a number of its draw and pumping stations affecting line pressure and dryers. When the line pressure drops and dryers are intermittent the lines have moisture and then get some small 'globs' of water in the line which gets transmitted to a home. That water then interupts any reasonable sized device even if the gas supply iteslf is still available. In our case there were also many areas where the gas lines did not remain 'up' at all. When these issues happen the gas utility shuts down the section for safety reasons and brings them up in a controlled manner which requires a home to home visit.

These issues in Texas have come on quickly with very little duration in adverse weather - really not that severe of a 'test' so far.

In our case we did not purchase a backup power source to cover a short term event - it seemed to us that if we were to purchase a backup that it would need to cover at least a week of time if not more otherwise what would be the point? (our goal, not others).

And one last observation that I think is very important - during and after the 11 day event we had with Sandy we heard very little from the media (written or TV) about the real losses in residential power. Others in our area were out for many more days then 11 and it appeared to us that these facts were mostly ignored. Similarly there were numeorus instances of home and business break ins that were not reported during or after Sandy.

If you think your specific plan may be robust enough I would consider what might really occurr with power/gas/water/cell towers in your area with a real stress test that lasts more than a couple of days.
I don't live in Texas. I am paying close attention to it because I have colleagues there and because all these real live situations give a glimpse into the way that theoretical emergency preparations end up working out in practice.

Personally, I have been through various outages in my area, including some fairly major ones, but have never seen a residential natural gas supply disruption. The same remains true for most areas of the country, at least based on what has been reported. Hence, the reason that I continue to feel comfortable relying on my natural gas powered standby generator and do not feel the need to supplement it with anything else.

I have seen you post the above, which happened during Sandy. It's a fair point and a fair warning, but fortunately, at least in my area, experience tells me that the likelihood of the same thing happening here remains infinitely low, so that no additional precautions are called for. Even if it does happen, it is especially unlikely to happen at the early stages of an outage, so we'd have the time cushion to make additional arrangements.
Last edited by aquaman on Wed Feb 17, 2021 11:01 am, edited 2 times in total.
User avatar
TomatoTomahto
Posts: 12366
Joined: Mon Apr 11, 2011 1:48 pm

Re: [Generators]/ supplemental power generation

Post by TomatoTomahto »

In MA, many homes lost natural gas for an extended period due to explosions
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Merrimack ... explosions.

Although explosions are rare (above is a first for me), but earthquakes can force gas utility to shut down as a safety precaution.

What I’m doing is not a Boglehead recommended approach, but it (will soon) work for us. Our house is electric, and the only fossil fuels are outside the house. I am not suggesting that this is a cost effective way to provide backup, so please don’t flame me. We have 2 16kwh batteries which can power the house for a day or so, depending on the temperature and usage. The upfront cost for geothermal pays off since we can heat and cool the house with very small electrical load. If the batteries drain, they can be recharged by the grid if it’s back, by solar if the sun is out, and if the stuff has really hit the fan, by a 8kw Koehler propane generator for each battery (there are inside baseball reasons for preferring two separate generators over one larger one to recharge batteries).

I am also researching batteries for the remaining circuits. I am not a doomsday prepper, but I don’t think I’m imagining things when I observe that the stuff hits the fan more and more often, and the competence of the utilities is less and less reassuring.
I get the FI part but not the RE part of FIRE.
random_walker_77
Posts: 1521
Joined: Tue May 21, 2013 8:49 pm

Re: [Generators]/ supplemental power generation

Post by random_walker_77 »

cpumechanic wrote: Wed Feb 17, 2021 10:28 am Suggestions that work for me

1.0 Wood stove in Basement with 3 cords of split hardwood outside basement sliding door.
2.0 800 gallons of propane at 0.99 cents per gallon sitting awating use in tank in side yard.
3.0 Ability to transfer liquid propane to smaller tanks to use to power propane heaters, grill, stove and generator to run home well pump and pump water.

4.0 Small RV in driveway to use in extreme emergency for cooling if absolutely needed.

Summary :

I can survive in 100F weather fairly easily, but I don't want to worry about freezing to death.

Best of luck to you, who knew 42% of the electricity in Texas was supplied by now frozen windmills (per WSJ this AM). [OT comment removed by admin LadyGeek]

Best of luck

CPU
Just to be clear, the windmill thing is overblown. There was even some news on (Saturday?) that, even with a sizeable fraction offline, it was extra windy and the remaining ones were delivering a little more electricity than would normally be expected from the farm.

Blaming windmills makes for good politics, but at this time of year, wind is a small fraction, and the bigger problems are the natural gas and nuclear plants that are down. All 3 could've been insulated and winterized, but prior to now, there was no economic justification. It also sucks that we have our own grid and can't borrow electricity from neighboring states.

https://www.texastribune.org/2021/02/16 ... es-frozen/
https://fortune.com/2021/02/16/texas-po ... -turbines/
https://www.texastribune.org/2021/02/16 ... wer-storm/
smitcat
Posts: 7637
Joined: Mon Nov 07, 2016 10:51 am

Re: [Generators]/ supplemental power generation

Post by smitcat »

aquaman wrote: Wed Feb 17, 2021 10:48 am
smitcat wrote: Wed Feb 17, 2021 10:31 amI do not know where you live or why you seem very concerned abouty Texas but here is a few thoughts....
Here are some real life experiences when the outage crosses more than a couple of days - the gas infrastucture losses a number of its draw and pumping stations affecting line pressure and dryers. When the line pressure drops and dryers are intermittent the lines have moisture and then get some small 'globs' of water in the line which gets transmitted to a home. That water then interupts any reasonable sized device even if the gas supply iteslf is still available. In our case there were also many areas where the gas lines did not remain 'up' at all. When these issues happen the gas utility shuts down the section for safety reasons and brings them up in a controlled manner which requires a home to home visit.

These issues in Texas have come on quickly with very little duration in adverse weather - really not that severe of a 'test' so far.

In our case we did not purchase a backup power source to cover a short term event - it seemed to us that if we were to purchase a backup that it would need to cover at least a week of time if not more otherwise what would be the point? (our goal, not others).

And one last observation that I think is very important - during and after the 11 day event we had with Sandy we heard very little from the media (written or TV) about the real losses in residential power. Others in our area were out for many more days then 11 and it appeared to us that these facts were mostly ignored. Similarly there were numeorus instances of home and business break ins that were not reported during or after Sandy.

If you think your specific plan may be robust enough I would consider what might really occurr with power/gas/water/cell towers in your area with a real stress test that lasts more than a couple of days.
I don't live in Texas. I am paying close attention to it because I have colleagues there and because all these real live situations give a glimpse into the way that theoretical emergency preparations end up working out in practice.

Personally, I have been through various outages in my area, including some fairly major ones, but have never seen a residential natural gas supply disruption. The same remains true for most areas of the country, at least based on what has been reported. Hence, the reason that I continue to feel comfortable relying on my natural gas powered standby generator and do not feel the need to supplement it with anything else.

I have seen you post the above, which happened during Sandy. It's a fair point and a fair warning, but fortunately, at least in my area, experience tells me that the likelihood of the same thing happening here remains infinitely low, so that no additional precautions are called for. Even if it does happen, it is especially unlikely to happen at the early stages of an outage, so we'd have the time cushion to make additional arrangements.
You are happy with your plan - I trust it will be fine.
User avatar
TomatoTomahto
Posts: 12366
Joined: Mon Apr 11, 2011 1:48 pm

Re: [Generators]/ supplemental power generation

Post by TomatoTomahto »

random_walker_77 wrote: Wed Feb 17, 2021 11:12 am Just to be clear, the windmill thing is overblown.
I see what you did there 😁
I get the FI part but not the RE part of FIRE.
Luke Duke
Posts: 1120
Joined: Tue Jun 18, 2013 11:44 am
Location: Texas

Re: [Generators]/ supplemental power generation

Post by Luke Duke »

I live in Texas and I've had this generator for about 8-10 years. In the winter I am able to run my gas furnace, entertainment center, modem/router, kitchen refrigerator, and some lights. In the summer I obviously don't run the furnace, but I run a couple of fans, the garage refrigerator and chest freezer. If I need A/C, I either go to a family member's house or use the generator to run my travel trailer. It requires a little work to run extension cords, but this setup has saved me numerous times.

I believe that the particular generator that I have is the best balance between power output and portability. I won't even consider a non-inverter style generator due to noise and fuel efficiency. The more powerful inverter generators can't be carried by one person and the lighter less powerful generators will have trouble handling surges (refrigerator compressors kicking on while other things are plugged in) without overloading.
Luke Duke
Posts: 1120
Joined: Tue Jun 18, 2013 11:44 am
Location: Texas

Re: [Generators]/ supplemental power generation

Post by Luke Duke »

random_walker_77 wrote: Wed Feb 17, 2021 11:12 am
cpumechanic wrote: Wed Feb 17, 2021 10:28 am Suggestions that work for me

1.0 Wood stove in Basement with 3 cords of split hardwood outside basement sliding door.
2.0 800 gallons of propane at 0.99 cents per gallon sitting awating use in tank in side yard.
3.0 Ability to transfer liquid propane to smaller tanks to use to power propane heaters, grill, stove and generator to run home well pump and pump water.

4.0 Small RV in driveway to use in extreme emergency for cooling if absolutely needed.

Summary :

I can survive in 100F weather fairly easily, but I don't want to worry about freezing to death.

Best of luck to you, who knew 42% of the electricity in Texas was supplied by now frozen windmills (per WSJ this AM). [OT comment removed by admin LadyGeek]

Best of luck

CPU
Just to be clear, the windmill thing is overblown. There was even some news on (Saturday?) that, even with a sizeable fraction offline, it was extra windy and the remaining ones were delivering a little more electricity than would normally be expected from the farm.

Blaming windmills makes for good politics, but at this time of year, wind is a small fraction, and the bigger problems are the natural gas and nuclear plants that are down. All 3 could've been insulated and winterized, but prior to now, there was no economic justification. It also sucks that we have our own grid and can't borrow electricity from neighboring states.

https://www.texastribune.org/2021/02/16 ... es-frozen/
https://fortune.com/2021/02/16/texas-po ... -turbines/
https://www.texastribune.org/2021/02/16 ... wer-storm/
Let's not let the facts get in the way of an argument.
whomever
Posts: 1081
Joined: Sat Apr 21, 2012 5:21 pm

Re: [Generators]/ supplemental power generation

Post by whomever »

"I'm laughing that you mention slit trenches and flush toilets which are totally unnecessary for the circumstances. I remember going on a tour of Teddy Roosevelt's home at Sagamore Hill on Long Island. Every bedroom had a chamber pot.

...

But unless one's toilets back up, they will work without power as long as one has some liquid water around."

And they had an outhouse to empty the chamberpot into, I'd expect?

Re: "as long as one has some liquid water around" - indeed so. We did just that a few weeks ago for a few days during a plumbing problem. However, the incident du jour is occurring in single digit temps, in houses without a working heat source. You don't have running water in those circumstances, because your pipes are drained or frozen (and, in this incident, there seem to be some failures of municipal water systems - dunno if something froze or pumps are without power or what).

Now, if there is snow on the ground, one could say 'melt snow over the stove you use for winter camping'. As a matter of fact, I've done that quite a bit - when you are winter mountaineering in the Rockies, that's the only water source you have. And we had a pretty good winter stove - an Optimus 00. And melting enough drinking/cooking water for two people took, I dunno, 3 hours a day. That's what, 2 gallons, perhaps? Even with a pretty low flow toilet, you're going to be pretty busy melting enough snow to flush the toilets regularly.

If you happen to live near a river that flows all year, that's great, but I fear that's a small subset of houses. The nearest winter water source for us (if the city water is off) is a 5 mile-ish walk. I don't think carrying water from there to flush is very practical.
User avatar
cheese_breath
Posts: 10388
Joined: Wed Sep 14, 2011 7:08 pm

Re: [Generators]/ supplemental power generation

Post by cheese_breath »

I'm in TX too, and we get rotating power supply. Mine's on now but will go off soon. Then it will come back on sometime later. I'm satisfied with this.

As far as a generator, this weather is probably a once in a lifetime event. Tough it out and get on with your life after that. Even when I lived in Michigan I didn't have a generator. Found it less expensive to just go a hotel for extended outages.
The surest way to know the future is when it becomes the past.
User avatar
LadyGeek
Site Admin
Posts: 71824
Joined: Sat Dec 20, 2008 5:34 pm
Location: Philadelphia
Contact:

Re: [Generators]/ supplemental power generation

Post by LadyGeek »

I removed an off-topic comment. As a reminder, see: Politics and Religion
In order to avoid the inevitable frictions that arise from these topics, political or religious posts and comments are prohibited. The only exceptions to this rule are:
  • Common religious expressions such as sending your prayers to an ailing member.
  • Usage of factual and non-derogatory political labels when necessary to the discussion at hand.
  • Discussions about enacted laws or regulations that affect the individual investor. Note that discussions of proposed legislation are prohibited.
  • Proposed regulations that are directly related to investing may be discussed if and when they are published for public comments.[/li
st]
Wiki To some, the glass is half full. To others, the glass is half empty. To an engineer, it's twice the size it needs to be.
SueG5123
Posts: 184
Joined: Fri Jan 01, 2016 8:41 pm

Re: [Generators]/ supplemental power generation

Post by SueG5123 »

Explaining our rationale for why we installed a generator in 2020 would likely get me slapped by the moderators. I will say that we did not foresee a four day ice storm in Texas without power — nor are we unduly worried by hurricanes, although we are near the gulf coast.

Regardless of our motivation, our Gererac generator proved itself well worth the investment during 60 hours off the grid. The whole house had power, seamlessly, while entire housing developments nearby have been in the dark. We have sheltered and fed neighbors. We had heat to keep interior pipes from freezing.

Peace of mind. priceless!

If you afford it, I’d recommend it highly.
User avatar
TomatoTomahto
Posts: 12366
Joined: Mon Apr 11, 2011 1:48 pm

Re: [Generators]/ supplemental power generation

Post by TomatoTomahto »

SueG5123 wrote: Wed Feb 17, 2021 2:46 pm Peace of mind. priceless!
You don’t happen to live near Colorado City, TX do you?
I get the FI part but not the RE part of FIRE.
Post Reply