Advice--Generators: Built-in/Town Gas VS. Portable/Gasoline

I can calculate the wattage needed by my house (including surges for the water pump, etc.), but I'm stuck on the fundamentals.
1. Is there ever a power outage where the town gas itself is shut off? It seems to have survived (was always on) during the recent uber- blackout here in central mass.
2. Any words of wisdom of a house generator running on town gas / propane (permanently installed outside box) vs. a portable one on a cart running on gasoline?
3. Are there brands more likely than not to remain functional year after year without maintenance?
THANKS!!!!!!!!!
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Natural gas is almost always unaffected by electrical power outages. And it doesn't take a lot of electrical power to run a forced air natural gas furnace. I run both of mine plus other stuff with a 4400 portable generator.
There is a big price difference to having the convenience of a built in natural gas generator verses a portable you hook up yourself. You have to decide if it's worth it to you.
Just about all the portable ones need to have their gas treated if it's left in them. I also recomend turning the gas off and letting the float bowl run dry when you are finished with the generator.

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That's among the problems. I need something fairly maintenance free, because I am not very good at keeping to a yearly maintenance. If all there is to do is put Stabil or some other storage product into the fuel, then I suppose I can handle it.
How long does the tank of gas in your portable? I'm considering a run of the mill 5kW (don't know the surge rating), and am pondering how often I'll have to run out there and fill it up.
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Another question: Is it safe to quickly run the thing into a 20 amp outlet (so long as I keep it below 2Kw usage) assuming that I shut off the main circuit-breaker to the outside?
This is something that concerns me. I may need to loan such a device to unfortunate relatives in NH sometime who most likely will not have invested in a power transfer switch.
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Thomas G. Marshall wrote:

No, transfer switches aren't that complicated for what you want to run. You can get small ones that support a few circuits and have a male plug where you can plug in your extension cord from the generator.

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You will need to put stabil in it and if it does not get used for an entire year you will want to get the gas out of it. Like I said before, run the carb dry by leaving it on and tunring off the fuel valve.
I get about a day or so out of the 5 gallon tank on my 4400 watt one. I try to make sure the family understands to turn stuff off when they are not using it. It basically runs the entire house except the electric dryer, electric oven, and central ac. We have a gas cooktop and a microwave so we use those for cooking. Two gas furnaces in the winter. Everything else works ok, computers, tvs, etc. You can tell when it's working hard though and if you run a lot of stuff you will be adding gas more often. I keep some gas in the generator and a 5 gallon can full with stabil already added. I rotate it through my lawn equipment gas supply. I have a boat that also usually has a bunch of gas in it and if we're going to be down for days and the roadways are a problem I syphon from the boat.
You will not be able to run central air with anything smaller than 8kw or so depending on the size of your ac. The startup currrent for central ac is huge.
Mine lives in my shed which has 220 run to it on a pair of 30 amp breakers. Hole in the shed wall where the exhaust comes out. I have a patch cord and 220 outlet in the shed that I backfeed the generator to the house on. Totally against code and you absolutely need to make sure that the main is off.
There is a little lockout plate for some brands of circuit breaker panels that will lockout the first pair of breakers on one side if the main is on. And locks out the main if those breakers are on. That is code in some locations. That allows you to backfeed with those breakers.
I made up dryer/generator patch cords for some of my neighbors. The dryer circuot is big enough to backfeed up to about 5k or so. That is a pretty easy way to go. You can often run the cord out the dryer vent when you use it. Again, totally not code and dangerous if you are not careful.
If you do somehow forget to turn off the main you will pop the breakers on the generator pretty fast. But you could kill a lineman somewhere trying to fix the power cause he thinks it off. Most of them know they need to be careful when they hear generators running around where they are working but you can't count on that.
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On Dec 17, 11:50am, snipped-for-privacy@gmail.com wrote:

Here's that interlock from square d. Only works with their panels I think but might be adaptable if you're clever.
http://www.squared.com/us/applications/residential.nsf/unid/FD8CBE7A9E1445D085256D1A00538807 /$file/GenIntKit.pdf
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On Dec 17, 11:56am, snipped-for-privacy@gmail.com wrote:

These guys have a bunch of them.
http://www.interlockkit.com /
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If you dont want to maintain it every time you use it you really dont qualify to own one from several perspectives. Its not a car, its doesnt cut grass, it makes electricity that can kill and ruin everything in your home and may not work when you need it. It makes 220v. 60hz at 3600 rpm. My friend an electrician didnt check his new unit, he turned it on and it blew his new tv in minutes, it was out putting near 145v-290v. Its rpm was simply to high. You must know no load, full load output and know and adjust it. Oil has to be checked and changed by hours, not when you "feel like it" Gas goes bad even with "Stabil" Portables should be grounded, checked for output, oil, and have a transfer switch. If you are set on no active participation its not for you, its not cutting the lawn, its creating something you take to much for granted that you want to ignore. A whole house unit needs maintenance, and monitoring, its just a cheap machine, so to recommend anything to you would be to only not get anything until you are commited to knowing, and taking care of what you get before deciding on a unit. Talk to any heating contractor in a week, he will be telling you of all the heating plants that has circuit boards fried from generators, alot of bad things happen to careless operators that are not covered by insurance.
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I think you're over reacting. Thousands of people use portable generators without problems. And routine maintenance is no more complicated that a lawn mower.
wrote:

If you dont want to maintain it every time you use it you really dont qualify to own one from several perspectives. Its not a car, its doesnt cut grass, it makes electricity that can kill and ruin everything in your home and may not work when you need it. It makes 220v. 60hz at 3600 rpm. My friend an electrician didnt check his new unit, he turned it on and it blew his new tv in minutes, it was out putting near 145v-290v. Its rpm was simply to high. You must know no load, full load output and know and adjust it. Oil has to be checked and changed by hours, not when you "feel like it" Gas goes bad even with "Stabil" Portables should be grounded, checked for output, oil, and have a transfer switch. If you are set on no active participation its not for you, its not cutting the lawn, its creating something you take to much for granted that you want to ignore. A whole house unit needs maintenance, and monitoring, its just a cheap machine, so to recommend anything to you would be to only not get anything until you are commited to knowing, and taking care of what you get before deciding on a unit. Talk to any heating contractor in a week, he will be telling you of all the heating plants that has circuit boards fried from generators, alot of bad things happen to careless operators that are not covered by insurance.
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Over react, no , talk to heating an insurance folks. Honda you can feel fairly safe is calibrated before shipped, I have seen a few of these from factory that are off enough to damage equipment. Sure alot of folks use them, alot of folks take to much for granted.
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Just about everything these days can take considerable variation in voltages. Some stuff even works on 220 without changing a switch. I agree that you need to make sure the voltage is reasonably close but they are calibrated at the factory. An extreme overvoltage is obvious when you connect an incandesent light to it.
Hvac people just like to find reasons to blame things, I've never met a more full of themselves field. The fan motor in an air handler can take a voltage variation of 10 to 15% either way. The control board is powered by a low voltage circuit. If the manufacturer's engineer was any good at all he put a voltage regulator in the pwoer supply circuit. They are a dime a dozen. Even if he didn't, the transfomer is going to reduce the overvoltage by a factor of 10. 10 volts over will be 1 volt over on the low voltage side. Hardly a catastrophy. The rest of the parts on the board should also be rated for at least 30% over the working voltage or again you had a moron for an engineer.
Most modern electronics today use switching power supplies because they are cheaper and ligher that a suitably sized transformer. Switching power supplies can take huge input voltage variations.
Admittedly you need a little common sense and a basic understanding of electricity to use a portable generator. But again, thousands of people use them all the time without problems.
wrote:

Over react, no , talk to heating an insurance folks. Honda you can feel fairly safe is calibrated before shipped, I have seen a few of these from factory that are off enough to damage equipment. Sure alot of folks use them, alot of folks take to much for granted.
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Yes. Besides, there is a fundamental flaw in quoting results seen by the insurance and HVAC bunch. Statistically, *THEY* will be the ones to see the trouble and have the troublesome stories. The vast majority of cases where there was no incident remains under the statistical radar.
It's like asking someone who works in the ER if there are a lot of motorcycle accidents. Of course they will see that.
There is an implication to be further cleared up as a result of ransley's post too. The reason that I am looking for as low a maintenance item as possible is because as a stay-at-home dad my time is limited. I cannot be burdened with something that only works if I twice a year run to the hardware store to get the items I need to service the thing.
Regarding this: From most people I've spoken to, Honda engines maintain a nifty magic to it that makes it "start of the first pull" (non-electric starters) almost regardless of the amount of time it has been left alone with old gas or stabil'd. Empirically, My Honda motorcycle was meticulously kept so it's ability to always start was understood. But my honda snow blower had that one-pull magic to it and I rarely use it and never did anything except change the oil once.
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Honda generally makes an excellent product. You will pay a fair bit more for a honda generator that a more "generic" one that is simply an 8 to 10 horse techumsen with a generator bolted onto it like mine.
Gas deterioration is a problem no matter what generator you get. Gas eventually goes bad. With treatment it can stay good sometimes even for a couple years. I just got a like new wood chipper for $100 that basically had nothing wrong with it but a tank of bad gas. The trouble with the generators as compared to other things is that you have no idea how much longer you're going to need it or when you will need it again. That's why I always put additive in mine. I have still had to drain the gas a couple times because it had been over a year since I used it.
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The point is its not a lawnmower "Under the radar" Then why have the only 3 Ive seen been set up poorly, because nodody checks these things and maybe that "tester" at Co.X is hung over or quiting in a week and doesnt care. Knowing it means simply putting a volt meter on it before you first turn it on and see how it operates under no load load. That is the basics all need to follow. Once you know what it does its not something to test or fix every time. Leaving gas in it even with stabil will eventualy crud up the carb, so go propane or Ng. 3600 rpm is needed for 60hz 120v most units have govenors that easily go off, Do what you wish.
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I've messed with about a half dozen of the cheaper ones and every one of them worked just fine out of the box and continued to work years later. Even with electronics.
The carb crudding up is why I recommend to people that after disconnecting the power lines they shut the gas off and let the engine run until it quits. That gets a lot of the gas out of the float bowl. SImple instructions.
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Thomas G. Marshall wrote:

I would have thought so but recently my brothers natural gas and power were shut off for many days. He lives next to a low lying area that occasionally floods. Last winter there was flooding and the gas and electric utilities simply turned off both the gas and electric to a pretty wide area.

Like any mechanical device you need to exercise/maintain it if you want reasonable assurance it will work when you need it.

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59 died frpm Co from generators last year, thats also Under your Radar.
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Yes, as it should be. What could possibly be the interpretation of this? Are you defending your point by now saying that I don't qualify to own a generator because 59 people died from CO? *HUH*?
Your posts seem emotionally charged.
An unweighted statistic devoid of population context is meaningless. How many generators are out there *without* incident? How many of the CO deaths were because of ignorance? How many of the CO deaths were because of faulty equipment?
There are simply *no* facts that speak entirely for themselves without interpretation. And statistical interpretation REQUIRES the context of the sampling population and the resulting interpretation.
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We have way more co deaths around here because people take charcoal grills into their house when the power is out. Maybe we should limit the use of charcoal grills to experts?
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