A friend has a backup generator that runs off of natural gas, and I
always thought it would be nice to get one when I got a new house. Fast
forward - I have a new (old) house, but it heats by oil and there is no
The power has gone out several times this summer, so now I'm wondering
what the options are. Are there any generators that use oil? I know
there are propane generators, but was thinking it would be nice not to
worry about another tank and delivery schedule.
Any recommendations? I need something *simple* to use. So far the
outages have lasted around 6 hours. They are annoying in the summer, but
I'm a little concerned about more occurring in the winter.
A diesel generator will run off your #2 heating oil just fine. #2
heating oil and #2 diesel fuel are essentially the same other than
transportation fuel taxes. #2 heating oil is also known as "off road
diesel" and is commonly used in off road construction and logging
equipment that is exempt from transportation fuel taxes.
With your 275-300 gal fuel tank, you will have several days of fuel
supply for both heating and generator, just remember to call for an
extra delivery to top off after a long generator run.
The major suppliers all have small diesel standby generator packages,
they just don't promote them like the little NG units they sale in Depot
and Lowe's. Find your local Generac/Guardian, Onan or Kohler dealer and
have them quote you on a suitably sized (10-15KW typically) diesel
The diesel units will cost noticeably more than the cheap NG units in
the stores, but they also have a lot longer service life.
Well, it'll run fine on #1 fuel oil; not other numbers. #1 is actually
kerosene but with a little less filtering since it's not used in
automtives. You might have to clean the filter a little more often with
#1, gut it's an easy job.
If you heat with #2 fuel oil, do NOT use that unless the genset is
specifically designed FOR #2 fuel oil.
#2 fuel oil and #2 diesel are the same thing. #2 fuel oil gets red dye
and is exempt from transportation fuel taxes. #2 fuel oil is also known
as "off road diesel" as it is commonly used in construction and logging
equipment that doesn't operate on the public roads and is exempt from
the transportation fuel taxes.
Sorry, I checked, part of that is myth. You really need to check your oil
supplier, apparently in areas that have a lot of oil heat, heating oil is a
cheap low grade oil that they supply, as it doesn't take much to burn in a
furnace. Diesel fuel is more refined and has a specific cetane rating,
similar to gasoline's octane rating, so your engine will last longer and not
have ring/cylinder damage. The reason you need to check your fuel supplier
is because some areas actually use diesel fuel for heating oil, some areas
don't. I found this all out when I bought a diesel generator and checked
with several major oil companies.
Wow, this is all so foreign to me. I'd only ever had natural gas before
(turn on the stove and it was there... didn't have to worry about
deliveries or grades etc. I have no idea what number oil is in my
tank!). What I liked about my friend's generator was that it just kicked
in automatically, and she didn't have to do anything when the
electricity went off. Would an oil one work the same?
You also paid a service charge every month even when you used almost no
gas, and were locked into a single supplier. A backhoe working down the
street could knock out your supply for a day or more. A gas leak can
quite readily blow up your house. For a generator, many times the
service lines and meter need to be upgraded to handle the flow demands
of the generator.
With oil, you have an on-site supply that will last a month or more. You
have a choice of multiple suppliers, and if needed you can go to most
gas stations and fill a can or two of diesel in a pinch to keep the
furnace going without an emergency after hours delivery charge. Oil also
will not blow up your house as gas does regularly. You do have the small
concern of maintaining the tank, which if it's the usual 275-300 gal
tank in the basement isn't a big deal. Underground or outdoor tanks are
more of a concern.
Most suppliers do automatic delivery and rarely ever would you run out
unless you suddenly used a lot more fuel than normal. If you are feeding
a generator from your heating tank, you have to remember to call your
oil supplier for a non scheduled delivery to make up for the fuel you
used so you don't run out since their automatic delivery software can't
account for generator fuel usage, only daily temps and historical usage.
You can also install a second separate tank for the generator if you
want and have the same company fill it.
95% Probability it's #2.
Absolutely. Diesel powered automatic standby generators are the norm for
commercial use. Critical installations like hospitals and data canters
are always diesel since the fuel supply is kept on-site and not subject
to interruption like gas service is.
Some time back, I bought a duplex. I live on one side and the other is the
company's office. My commute time to work is about twenty seconds. Anyway...
Last year, I married the two gas services by connecting the office side to
the house side (with a valve just in case I ever want to separate them). I
then told the gas company to disconnect the house service. This saved me
$14.80/month which was the minimum charge with no gas being used (I don't
begrudge the gas company the minimum charge, they've got to read the meter
and send out bills).
As a bonus, whatever gas is used on the house side (some heating, hot water,
dryer), is now a business expense (shhh! don't tell anyone).
I'm sure they are available. They will need a starting battery, like a car.
Actually probably two batteries, diesels don't want to start very well.
Figure on spending a couple thousand dollars.
The installation will likely take a company with experience. Fuel, and
wiring to be done.
You can have convenient, or you can have inexpensive. But not both. Well, at
least not until it's been installed. For power outs at my adress, I have a
gasoline generator, and a gascan. Less cost, and also less convenient.
Uh, let's just say middle aged female who doesn't even like messing with
pilot lights, let alone pouring gasoline out of a can, LOL. I will check
with my oil company. My brother has a propane powered generator (too far
away for an extension cord, alas), so I knew that propane is an option.
I was mostly wondering if there was a way to reduce the number of tanks
I'd need sitting in the yard. My brother has these monster propane tanks
in his yard.
Oh well, this isn't about to happen anytime soon - at least until I've
sold the other house. I'm just starting my research.
(And fwiw, my oil tank is above ground, right beside the house).
Thanks for all of the information. It's a lot to digest.
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