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  1. #1
    Join Date
    Apr 2014
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    30

    Default Back up generator - choosing and how to connect them?

    I've been trying to figure out what type of back up generator to get for occasional power outages. I researched on the internet and asked friends. All I ended up was more confused. I'm looking for reliable resource for information on generators. I'm not looking for a whole house one. Basically I want something to keep the refrigerator running and my pellet stove running (during the cold months) as well. I think running the central AC would require a much bigger generator so I'm willing to live without during an outage. I know the basics of generators but got so confused trying to pick out one that I just gave up on it. We don't have many outages but when we do they can be long lasting. I just want to keep the food in the refrigerator from spoiling and the house warm if needed. Price range is huge on these things and most have both good and bad ****** reviews. So any advice on where to research portable generators?

    Once I get a generator - how do you hook it up? Is it something that an electrician does or do you simply run an extension cord outside?

    If you can't tell - I just sat thru an 18 hr power outage. So that's why I'm thinking of power generators again.

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Jun 2007
    Location
    Fayette County, Ohio
    Posts
    5,773

    Default Re: Back up generator - choosing and how to connect them?

    I have a 5kw generator that gets us through power outages. It runs a microwave, family room power inc TV and lights, well pump (necessary when you have livestock), furnace, and refrigerator and is never overloaded. It will not however handle the AC unit. I have a Reliant transfer switch which is very easy to install. I would recommend getting a biger transfer switch than you need, that way you can switch circuits as needed.

    Jack
    Be sure you live your life, because you are a long time dead.-Scottish Proverb

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Aug 2007
    Posts
    6,936

    Default Re: Back up generator - choosing and how to connect them?

    If you are looking to power a portion of the house with the generator, then you must have a disconnect installed between the generator and the house main. The disconnect will protect the generator and the house when the municipal power comes back. If you simply run a few things off an extension cord, then no disconnect is needed, which will save you quite a bit of money.

    As for generators, most of them, regardless of price, but particularly the cheaper models/brands, provide "dirty" power. Dirty power is full of spikes and drops in voltage, which will destroy anything electronic, and let's face it, few things made today aren't full of computer chips, whether it's a refrigerator, tv, microwave, or even a toaster or coffee pot. There might be a filter that will clean up the power supply, for that you'd have to talk to an electrician or someone who knows generators.

    If you want a plug and play generator, look into the Honda EU series. These units are not only quiet, they produce clean power. They are a bit more expensive than a run of the mill generator, though, with the alternative of frying one of your beloved electronics, the safety of clean power will pay for itself.
    I suffer from CDO ... Its like OCD, but in alphabetical order, LIKE IT SHOULD BE!!!

  4. #4
    Join Date
    Jul 2010
    Location
    SoCal
    Posts
    6,302

    Default Re: Back up generator - choosing and how to connect them?

    "If you want a plug and play generator, look into the Honda EU series. These units are not only quiet, they produce clean power. They are a bit more expensive than a run of the mill generator, though, with the alternative of frying one of your beloved electronics, the safety of clean power will pay for itself."

    That's the one to get IMHO.

    I used to have a Kawasaki 5000 and one day it was stolen. Now I have a Honda 2000. It's lighter, smaller, gas sipper and much quieter. It runs about 10 hours on a gallon of gas. The price? around $1,000.

    Remember that even a Honda is not maintenance free. Gasoline has to be maintained too. Also, when disaster strikes, will you be able to get additional gas?

  5. #5
    Join Date
    Dec 2010
    Location
    Houston Texas
    Posts
    2,916

    Default Re: Back up generator - choosing and how to connect them?

    Here in hurricane alley its common to have a portable generator and the rich folks have whole house generators. I'm on the portable side. Mine is 5500 kw, which runs everything but the AC. Occasionally we use it on the jobsite.

    I installed a giant receptlcle which is wired between the fuse panel and the outside disconnect. When the power fails, I hit the disconnect and cut myself off from the street power. fire up the generator and plug myself in. When the power returns, I shut down the generator, unplug the generator, then turn the disconnect back on which connects me back to city power. This method is cheaper, but requires paying a little more attention than the automatic switch.

    I wish I had an automatic governor on mine, instead it runs at full tilt all the time. About 12 hours on 1 tank.

    We keep 5 or 6 five gallon gas tanks handy for then the big one strikes. When the threat of storm has passed, the stored gas gets used in the family veehickles.

  6. #6
    Join Date
    Aug 2007
    Posts
    6,936

    Default Re: Back up generator - choosing and how to connect them?

    Quote Originally Posted by HoustonRemodeler View Post
    We keep 5 or 6 five gallon gas tanks handy for then the big one strikes. When the threat of storm has passed, the stored gas gets used in the family veehickles.
    This is how all gas should be handled. With the introduction of ethanol to gasoline, the shelf life of gas is greatly diminished, 30 days or less, by some accounts. Rather than using "gas extender" additives, just pour any unadulterated gasoline into your car every few weeks and refill your back-up supply. If you've got 2-cycle fuel, this can be run through a lawn mower or just about any other small engine without any harm, so that you can keep your 2-cycle fuel fresh too. With 2-cycle fuel, try to mix the smallest amount that you can use within a short time frame, I never mix more than a gallon at a time for this reason.
    I suffer from CDO ... Its like OCD, but in alphabetical order, LIKE IT SHOULD BE!!!

  7. #7
    Join Date
    Dec 2012
    Location
    New London County, CT
    Posts
    117

    Default Re: Back up generator - choosing and how to connect them?

    When we moved to this current house a generator was a must have. Without the well pump you cannot stay in the house very long.

    I choose a 6Kw propane model that will supply 220. I have wired the well pump and furnace as plug in items that can be unplugged and connected to the generator. All other as needed items are run with a series of the proper size extension cords.

    I keep on hand 2 spare full 20Lb propane tanks, plus the in use grill tank if needed. We run the generator for 2 hours to supply water & heating (when needed) then off for 4 hours. The longest run was 9.5 hours on 1 propane tank during storm Irene in 2011.

  8. #8
    Join Date
    Jan 2008
    Posts
    1,897

    Default Re: Back up generator - choosing and how to connect them?

    For the OP a smaller gasoline portable with extension cords is probably the best way to go. Agreed with going Honda- they are simply the best which is why they cost a little more. I use a cheaper one but the main distributor is just a few miles from here with parts in stock, something most folks won't encounter. Be sure the cords are heavy enough for the loads and are run safely. Of course the generator will be outdoors so if security is an issue chain or cable it to something substantial- lots of these get swiped while in use!

    Today's gas is crap and must be dealt with differently than traditional lore says. If left alone it will gum up the small orifices and openings in the generators carb in a few months time. A gas stabilizer is a must- I use "StaBil". Don't run the system dry- it will gum much faster with exposure to air. Keep the tank partially filled so you can 'grab and go' if you must, and run the machine with a load applied every couple months till it's completely warmed up- this helps wash the gum out of the fuel system, spread the oil around in the engine and evaporate any condensation in there, and keeps the generators magnetic parts in order. I use a 500W worklight for that. Add some fresh gas (with stabilizer) to help keep it all fresh when you shut down. When the tank gets full either drain it during the next exercising or let it run till it's used up then start the process again. Old gas gets put in the car just before you fill the car up to dilute it. Stored gas gets rotated similarly. Always keep a minimum reserve of gas stored in case the unexpected outage precludes you from buying gas. And it you see it coming, fill all your storage well ahead of time and think about how you'll re-supply if it's a long term event.

    Trouble planned and prepared for well is not trouble when it arrives, just an inconvenience at worst.

    Phil

  9. #9
    Join Date
    Dec 2007
    Location
    Tennessee
    Posts
    1,681

    Default Re: Back up generator - choosing and how to connect them?

    The small portable generators were originally made for camping trailers, not power outages. Their use in power outages can be very dangerous in may ways.

    You must throw the main circuit breaker in or house to OFF before you plug in a generator. If you don't, you could kill a lineman who is out trying to restore your power for you. Of course, the generator will not work very well if you don't turn off the main breaker because it will try to power the whole neighborhood, which it can't do, but the initial surge could hurt someone working on the power lines before the generator bogs down.

    But the most dangerous part is that these generators make a lot of carbon monoxide (CO) and CO kills. People often put them in a garage to keep them from being stolen or put them too close to a door or window of the house and end up dying from CO poisoning. Seem like a couple times each year, you hear of a family dying during a power outage from CO poisoning due to a portable generator either in the garage or too close to a window or door.

    If you simply cannot live for a few hours without power they way we used to do a generation ago, then get a permanent generator with propane or natural gas piped to it and wired up properly with the proper relay boxes. It is quite expensive, but it is a lot safer. Plan on including a privacy fence around your yard to deter thieves.

  10. #10
    Join Date
    Jan 2011
    Location
    Columbiana, Alabama
    Posts
    690

    Default Re: Back up generator - choosing and how to connect them?

    As already mentioned, it's very dangerous to try and hook up a generator to a home without a transfer switch.

    And that's a job best left to an electrician.

    I have a 10KW generator I bought on sale for under $1000. It can power everything in my home, but not everything at once.

    Before a storm I fill every car, truck and can with gas.

    I've even hooked up a generator to a gas station so they could sell gas when every other station was closed. Same for a post office.
    Good Luck from Columbiana, Alabama
    Maurice Turgeon, Hidden Content

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