standby generators

standby generators

This is a discussion on standby generators within the Off Topic & Humor Discussion forums, part of the The Back Porch category; We're taking a leap and getting a propane powered standby generator to hook up to the house. At first I started small and was looking ...

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  1. #1
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    standby generators

    We're taking a leap and getting a propane powered standby generator to hook up to the house. At first I started small and was looking for one of those wheeled portable types, and I decided to stay away from gas powered ones, since gas can be hard to get in an emergency panic. We've already got a 100 gallon propane tank that fuels a fireplace, and we plan on getting a second 100 gallon tank to fuel the generator, which meets the minimum requirements of the generator, and the propane co has a minimum 200 gallon delivery. The standby generator hooks right up to the electrical system of the house and is automatic, sensing when the power is out and then turns on. When the power is restored, it turns itself off. Maintenance looks straightforward, and it does a weekly test on itself, turning on in a low power mode for 12 minutes. I can bolt it down to a concrete pad so it's hard to steal.

    Factoring in budget and what we want powered on when the power goes out, we're looking at either the Generac CorePowerSeries 7kW or the 8kW/ version. The 7kW has much better user ratings on Amazon (I only take user reviews on a manufacturer's site with a grain of salt since they can remove negative reviews) and was rated a Consumer Reports best buy, and the 8kW price difference isn't too bad, doesn't suck much more gallons per hour than the 7kW, and gives us an extra 1000 watts, but the user ratings aren't as good.

    After some math, at full nonstop power on one 100 gal tank, we will have power for 3 days (7kW), and 3 more if we hook it up to the second tank. The longest I have been without power was 5 days, but that was many years ago when I was still in high school. We managed just fine with an old wood stove in the freezing weather. Mom boiled water on the stove, we cooked and went about our business. But I live in a suburb now with two little ones, and I've already lost the contents of our second freezer once (losing a full load of black angus steaks and burger meat, grrrr!). I want to keep some sense of normalcy for the kids, while being self-sufficient.

    Definitely want to power:
    - fridge/freezer
    - standalone freezer we keep in the garage

    Waffling some/either/or, depending on wattage and what the generator can sustain:
    - downstairs A/C unit (we have a two story house, each story powered by a separate unit)
    - range
    - water heater
    - maybe an outlet or two

    I don't care to power the lights. I already have that covered with flashlights and lanterns. We can do without tv and the computer. I can power up the laptop and iPad and iPhones on the USB ports on the dynamo lanterns.

    Any comments or advice from those who already have standalones are appreciated.
    "Americans have the will to resist because you have weapons. If you don't have a gun, freedom of speech has no power." - Yoshimi Ishikawa


  2. #2
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    Back 04 when two hurricanes hit my house in 3 weeks and 4 came thru before the season was over, I wisely grabbed a 5000 watt gas portable generator. Our power was out for 5-6 days It cost me @$500 at the time. I found that thru careful use of electrical systems it will power everything except the central A/C, although not everything at once. I open breakers on circuits not needed--the A/C, the water heater, etc. When it comes time for hot water, I operate the water heater (takes @ 20-25 to heat the tank) and shut it off when done. I bought a small window A/C unit for the bedroom so we can sleep comfortably at night, and overhead fans help keep the rest of the house bearable.

    A 7000-watt automatic unit should be ample, even with the A/C, an 8000-watt unit better but not necessary. Minimize the electrical load to extend the fuel supply. One thing I found that puts a real drag n my portable unit is the Mr. Coffee! Lights (minimal), TV. computers have little effect on generator load, it the heat/cold producing units that will create the load. Fridges/freezers are a must, water heaters don't need to operate 24/7, and A/C is not a necessity.

    A few days of "roughing it" isn't going to be a problem, but losing $100s in food is painful.
    Retired USAF E-8. Lighten up and enjoy life because:
    Paranoia strikes deep, into your heart it will creep. It starts when you're always afraid... "For What It's Worth" Buffalo Springfield

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    Distinguished Member Array Glock2201's Avatar
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    I have one very similar to this and have had it for about 6 years. I did a lot of research about what takes up wattage in your house. Are the AC units you have a central air type unit or window units? If they are central air more than likely they will take up a majority of the 7k wattage that you have in the generator. The fridge and the freezer probably take up a lot less than you would think. I also would not worry too much about leaving some of your lights on as well as they take up very little of your wattage. What you have for a water heater and kitchen stove will make a big difference as well. If they are both electric they will take up a lot your wattage as well but if they are propane it will help out a great deal. It should be easy to google it and get a list of what wattage things in your house takes. Things might surprise you like how much your coffee maker takes.

    Mine has worked awesome other than being on my third battery but I attribute a lot of that to our cold winters. It helps that we do not have central AC, heat our water with an outdoor wood boiler with propane for backup, and have a propane stove which leaves us with plenty of wattage for most everything in our house.

  4. #4
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    We have a 50 gallon electric water heater and it is giving me two numbers for wattage, the biggest is 5500, so I will go with that. We do have central AC. The AC powered on the generator would be a nice luxury, especially in the heat of the summer, but it is not mandatory. I have the Generac certified electrician coming out today, so we will see what he says.


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    Distinguished Member Array Glock2201's Avatar
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    I am pretty sure if you try to run the A/C with that water heater it will shut the generator off. You might want to consider switching to a propane water heater it will not take as much power and would probably be cheaper than upgrading to a bigger generator and also might put you in a better price bracket for propane.

    In your OP you mentioned maintenance being easy and you are right on that. I had to change my carb jets from gas to LP but it is possible your installer might do that. I believe you need to change the oil fairly soon after installation being a new motor. After that you have to change the oil every 6 months but after it was a couple years old I switched to synthetic and only do it once a year now(you might have to do that more often if you lose power a lot). I contacted NGK and they suggested gapping the spark plugs differently than a gas motor. The oil is easy to change as well as the air filter.

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    I'd reconsider which a/c unit you're powering. I'd do my upstairs unit and not the downstairs- cold air sinks and I'm assuming your bedrooms are upstairs.
    "Just blame Sixto"

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    Distinguished Member Array phreddy's Avatar
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    If you don't mind sharing, what is you budget for this? Just seeing if it is something I might do?

    Also, if the propane company has a minimum delivery of 200 gallons, wouldn;t both of your tanks have to be completely empty to get propane? I am wondering how often or inconveninet it would be for both tanks to be absolutely empty.

  8. #8
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    Quote Originally Posted by SIXTO View Post
    I'd reconsider which a/c unit you're powering. I'd do my upstairs unit and not the downstairs- cold air sinks and I'm assuming your bedrooms are upstairs.
    I figured I *might* be able to get only one of the two AC units on it, and the upstairs is harder to maintain in the summertime, even with the upstairs AC. Our master bedroom is downstairs, and the kids would be staying with us down there if we were on generator power during the blistering summer.
    "Americans have the will to resist because you have weapons. If you don't have a gun, freedom of speech has no power." - Yoshimi Ishikawa

  9. #9
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    Post-Hurricane Rita, we were without power for about three weeks. We had two gasoline generators; a 5600 W. + a little 2500 Watt unit.

    Between the two we were able to power:
    The refrigerator and a chest freezer,
    All the lights we needed,
    Two window unit A/C's totaling about a ton of capacity,
    Computer, phones, TV, etc.

    I had a shed full of gas cans that were filled in advance, and I refilled them at every opportunity. I guesstimate that we went through about 150 gallons of gas in the three weeks. We were in a pretty tight conservation mode - The only things that ran continuously were the refrigerator & freezer, with everything else shut off when we weren't using it.

    The two window units (5000 and 8000 BTU) were able to keep the bedroom & living room comfortable in 90-degree weather. I did not try to power the central A/C with the generators. Our water heater was gas, and the service was not interrupted so that wasn't an issue. Fluorescent and/or LED lights are a big plus; they not only use a lot less electricity themselves, but they also put less heat load on the A/C.

    The problem with A/C's on generators is the starting surge when the compressor kicks on. A good rule of thumb for the RUNNING load on an A/C is about a kW per ton, but the generator needs to be able to handle the starting surge. This can be 5kW per ton or more, so even a small central unit requires a pretty beefy generator. If you're planning to run a central unit, be sure and look REAL closely at the starting requirement of the unit AND the surge capacity of your generator.

    Hope this helps.
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  10. #10
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    Quote Originally Posted by phreddy View Post
    If you don't mind sharing, what is you budget for this? Just seeing if it is something I might do?

    Also, if the propane company has a minimum delivery of 200 gallons, wouldn;t both of your tanks have to be completely empty to get propane? I am wondering how often or inconveninet it would be for both tanks to be absolutely empty.
    I have a $4000 budget, so I need to factor in cost of unit ($1833 on Amazon with free shipping), electrician install cost (some reviewers said this was around $1500), second propane tank purchase and both tanks filled up (I have no idea about cost). I need to call the propane company again, I have not heard back from them.
    "Americans have the will to resist because you have weapons. If you don't have a gun, freedom of speech has no power." - Yoshimi Ishikawa

  11. #11
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    I'm not planning on running AC or my water heater on emergency power but I want one of these

    Portable Solar Generators Off-Grid Backup Clean Energy SUNRNR
    “You can sway a thousand men by appealing to their prejudices quicker than you can convince one man by logic.”

    ― Robert A. Heinlein,

  12. #12
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    The problem with A/C's on generators is the starting surge when the compressor kicks on. A good rule of thumb for the RUNNING load on an A/C is about a kW per ton, but the generator needs to be able to handle the starting surge. This can be 5kW per ton or more, so even a small central unit requires a pretty beefy generator. If you're planning to run a central unit, be sure and look REAL closely at the starting requirement of the unit AND the surge capacity of your generator.Hope this helps.
    The electrician just left a few minutes ago, looks like my best bet is going to be the fridge, the deep freeze, the lights and possibly the water heater. A/C is out. He usually installs the bigger Generac units, so he has to doublecheck the 7kW. It's a bit different than the others.
    "Americans have the will to resist because you have weapons. If you don't have a gun, freedom of speech has no power." - Yoshimi Ishikawa

  13. #13
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    pgrass101, I was looking at the solar generators for a while (not that brand, I hadn't come across them in my hunt), because I like the idea of quiet, discreet operation. What turned me off was the recharge time and the run time. The standbys, when I finally saw them, were a perfect compromise of power and convenience. If it's just me and the kids at home, I'm not wheeling a portable around and trying to crank it up and pulling the fridge and freezer out to reach for the cords and whatnot. Mine is the more expensive route, but I'll never forget coming back from a weekend away to find (literally) a bloody puddle around my freezer. Gahhhh!

    If I can get the water heater on it, that's great, if not, that's okay too. I'd like my big, sweaty husband to be able to take a nice hot shower to get himself ready for work. Of course, if it's zombie nuclear apocalype, a hot shower will be the least of our worries.
    "Americans have the will to resist because you have weapons. If you don't have a gun, freedom of speech has no power." - Yoshimi Ishikawa

  14. #14
    Distinguished Member Array Glock2201's Avatar
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    The prices for these have gone down a lot it 6 years. When I got ours installed it was a lot more than that but since then a lot more companies makes them which has driven the price down.

  15. #15
    Distinguished Member Array phreddy's Avatar
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    If whole house AC is too much draw, what about a window unit or one of those ventless jobs they advertise on TV. You might be able to keep one room cool for sleeping.

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