Generator Recommendations and Advise

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I have a couple of questions for those who went down this path.
I am interested in purchasing a generator for "emergency" situations. I am looking for something that is strong enough that could power the heater, sump pump, Fridge, etc (also, it does not need to do this all at once). I am also looking for something that has 240 out in addition to 120 so I can backfeed the house.
1.) What are the good brands of generators? 2.) Is there anything I should specifically look for in a generator (warranty, serviceability, reliability, gas efficiency)? 3.) Would you ever purchase one online? If so what site have you used or heard of other using with good success?
Amy.
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Amy L wrote:

I have a Power Boss, Briggs and Stratton engine and generac generator unit from Home Depot. It is noisy but does the job. Honda's are said to be the best but cost nearly twice as much. It was the Honda dealer that told me to look for a generator with the generac unit and the Home Depot guys said that during high buying generator periods, they even get in off brands with Honda engines. Honda guys also told me to avoid Colemans. They are cheaper but hard to get spare parts.
You also want to talk to an electrician about installing a transfer box which will cost about as much as the generator to buy and have them install. Transfer box will wire in items you wish to control and cut out feedback to fuse box and line.
Frank
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Frank wrote:

The transfer interlock kit that transfers the entire house is an item I can install for two hundred including parts. If someone tries to charge five hundred or more for that work they are not an electrician they're a con artist.
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Tom Horne

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Well if you can only afford 300$ be happy , the good stuff costs 3000+ so count your days....
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Along with the transfer panel, I had the whole house panel replaced at advice of electrician. Whole job cost about $1,400. I did not do this lightly and relied also on advice of others, one a retired electical contractor supervisor, who said I was getting a good price. My 30+ year old panel was said to be undependable as breakers might not trip. Electrician was recommended by a neighbor whose generator panel was installed by. My job was actually cheaper since boxes are at end of garage and generator is kept there to wheel out just a few feet. Job was inspected by a County inspection dept. I know you can DIY cheaper, like one neighbor did, but I think transfer panels cost at least $200. I've used the unit 3 times since installed last January and it works fine.
Frank
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Picture:
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theres a main breaker lockout kit available for some panels.
either main breaker on or backup breaker on but never both. you have to use the main panel to manage the loads since everything can be powered, some advantages to that.
its under 30 bucks a real bargain and UL approved:)
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Member, Takoma Park Volunteer Fire Department wrote:

Perhaps you can install it for that, but where will you buy one for that? The transfer switch itself can cost three hundred (for a small,4 or 6 circuit) or more. Think about it, a manual transfer switch is basically two, interlocked, breaker panels in one box. Two breakers for each circuit transfered. Only busses on the generator side. Unique physical lay-out for the interlock device. Two pig-tails for each circuit, one from the main panel, and one to return to the circuit.
It is too bad that no one has built a main panel with provisions built in for this... It would be much easier to have redundant MAINS breakers, interlocked, and then power the breaker busses from the mains or the generator as required, than to put the mains breaker and the transfer breaker in series, and switch from the transfer breaker to the generator breaker in the transfer switch. Also, you would only need to flip one breaker, move the interlock, and flip the other breaker, instead of going down one side flipping one for each transfer circuit, move the interlock, and back up the other side, flipping one each again. Then repeat when mains power comes back on-line.
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(Husky) says...

A whole house transfer switch only has one switch to isolate the house circuit. Most people don't have large enough generators to run the whole house, so some circuits have to be turned off to manage the load.
$300 will buy you a nice, fancy, automatic transfer switch designed to work automatically with a standby power generator. I bought a 16- circuit, 60 amp panel for $110 that will handle the largest generator I am ever likely to have. I just need to flip one switch and turn off some breakers to load manage, when it is hooked to my 4400 watt generator.
I have a small tractor that would power a 16 kw PTO generator, which works out to 67 amps at full output. From my experiences in power outages, that amount of power would be unnecessary. My wife has commented on how effortless it is to do without power in this house, which has heat, water and light without electricity. We usually don't even bother to hook the generator up until the second day of an outage.
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I have a couple of questions for those who went down this path.
I am interested in purchasing a generator for "emergency" situations. CY: That's much different than a working generator for a farm or some other situation.
I am looking for something that is strong enough that could power the heater, sump pump, Fridge, etc (also, it does not need to do this all at once). I am also looking for something that has 240 out in addition to 120 so I can backfeed the house. CY: Please consider a unit that runs on natural gas.
1.) What are the good brands of generators? CY: Honda has the best reputation. Much truth the concept "you get about what you pay for".
2.) Is there anything I should specifically look for in a generator (warranty, serviceability, reliability, gas efficiency)? CY: All of those. For occasional use, the repairs are less of an issue. Gas efficiency should be about the same for em all. Worse for some.
3.) Would you ever purchase one online? If so what site have you used or heard of other using with good success? CY: I got a two cycle (mix gas and oil) generator from Ebay. Very pleased with it. Only run it once, but the one time I did it was quiet, and started on the third pull.
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First you have to decide if you want whole house automatic backup, or will be content to manually hook up the generator and transfer the loads when the power goes out. It sounds like you are thinking the latter.
Get a bigger unit than you think you will need. You don't say what kind of heat you have. If it's a gas furnace, it's not a big load. If it's electric or an electric heat pump, it's a *big* load. Well pumps are another big load, especially when they are starting.
Electric start is best on any but the smallest unit. My wife just could not start the 5k watt Honda unit I used to have (not that it was hard to start, I could start it on one pull every time, she just wasn't strong enough to pull the starter rope) the 7.5 kwatt unit I have now is electric start and it's no problem. Downside is you have to keep it where you can keep the charger plugged in.
Get a transfer switch.
A brushless alternator is best.
Don't ever let the generator sit with Gasoline in the carb. When shutting it off, instead of using the kill switch, turn off the fuel valve and let it run dry (disconnect the load first, of course) (assuming you buy a gas unit, not a diesel)
Use Stabil in the gas. Always.
Start it up every month or so, let it run for a few minutes, and shut ti down. You don't want find out at an inconvenient time that something is wrong.
Check out www.nooutage.com
I've not bought a generator there, but have bought other stuff. And they have lots of good info.
HTH,
Paul
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essentially a Honda...) People use Colemans and other crap all the time, but I sure wouldn't want one as an emergency device. 2) AVR, automatic voltage regulation. Without it you are endangering anything you plug in to it. Since only "better" generators have it, it is also sort of a seal of approval. Again, many people do without, but it just isn't worth the risk. The HVAC company I use had three furnaces burn out from cheap generators during the last big power outage.. 3) I bought my Honda from Mayberrys. I wouldn't worry much about buying on line.
If you are going to run the sump pump, you need something pretty big to start it. If possible I would get a battery powered backup for the sump pump so you can get a more reasonably sized generator; you can always charge the battery off the generator. Get an amp meter and test all the items you want to run; until you do that you won't know what you need. Buying gas during an emergency can be a real problem, so you don't want to need any more than necessary.
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Amy L wrote:

If you store the generator in the garage between uses, make sure it has wheels to be able to get it to wherever you want to attach.
In addition to the fuel, you'll be wise to keep a couple of quarts of oil on hand.
Keep a log book of when you use/test the machine.
A nice touch is a concrete pad next to the service panel for the generator to sit on (imagine the mud or snow during a storm). Further, a little shed over the pad will make things ever so much handier.
A bunch of heavy-duty extension cords might come in handy. Imagine the situation where power is not expected to be off for an extended time. An extension cord to the TV set may be all you need for an hour or two's down time. You could start up the gizmo in the garage and get back to watching American Idol in five minutes.
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HeyBub wrote:

it's placed to close to the house you have the possibility of carbon monoxide seeping into the house. Better to wake up cold than to NOT wake up at all.
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electric heat,??? Makes a big difference. How necessary is it that the sump pump run continuously? Basement flood? Could be a big item. There are work arounds for sump pumps. How long is the power out in worst case - hours, days??

Honda engines. The Northstar I have also has automatic voltage regulation and I have not hesitated to use my PCs, TV, etc when running this generator

want it to start. Now, mine has an electric start, and when I see a hurricane or n'oreaster coming I plug it in and let it recharge. I have run it daily for up to 8 days, hence gas efficiency, or at least a big tank on the generator is handy. Also, unless this is a permanent installation and you buy anything of size, get a wheel kit for it so you can move it around easily.

where you are, may also have a store near you) http://www.northerntool.com Ask them to mail you a catalog Can't tell you as to size, but there are sizing quides available online. Here is a typical day for Roy and his 5 KW Northstar, so you can get an idea of some of the considerations of using one. First, in my case, no hot water heater and no a/c-heat pump with this size. I have the originally installed boiler which can heat the house and/or hot water for showers if needed. Rise about 6 a.m. (x-military; it's when I get up).Wheel generator out of garage onto driveway, ensure power feed to house is still connected Check oil, gas up the gen. Ensure house is still off the power grid, and those circuits in the house I don't want on are off. See also last entry, as we don't want to start with the normal house generator load all on. Start the gen and then bring on the house load. I use microwave to cook, but do run TVs, the PCs and the coffee pot. Specifically cut off are the dryer, the water heater and the ac/heat pump. Boiler is off, but wife and I agree when we want a shower, turn the boiler on about a half hour before, take our showers and then secure the boiler. Small quantities of hot water come from the coffee pot and/or the micrwave. If power loss is in winter, then I leave the boiler on as it heats the house. An oil burner burns less electricity than a heat pump About 2-3 p.m., strip the house load and secure the generator. Check oil (change if required) and refill gas. Restart generator and add house load. About 11 p.m., after all are in bed, I take a flashlight out to the garage, strip the houseload, turn off the generator and wheel it back into the garage (total move is about 10'). We secure the generator at night so that we and the neighbors can sleep. I recommend a transfer switch installation. We have a neighbor lady who is in her 70s, who wheels her generator out each day as I do, connects it to her transfer switch, and is good for the day. YMMV, but if I can help with any questions, please feel free to write. There are lots of decisions you will need to make before you buy, as to what you want to do, and what you will be comfortable with.
http://www.popularmechanics.com/how_to_central/home_clinic/1275631.html
http://www.smps.us/home-generators.html ensure you go to the bottom of the page and click on interesting links
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home depot sells auto standby generators pretty affordably today:)
when the power fails it starts and transfers key loads to back up power automatically and will run forever quietely on natura gas or propane if you have either. requires no work and no one home. so if power quits and your not home your sump pump and furnace work normally even in sub zero temps.
requires professional installation..... for safety reasons. and yearly service, it exercises itself weekly starts and runs for a few minutes so its good to go in emergency.
really nice they were quoting under 4 grand for smaller ones installed but unsure if that price was accurate. seemed kinda low.........
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snipped-for-privacy@aol.com wrote:

Just make sure that you have plenty of gas pressure or a large, private supply of propane, and if on utility gas, none of your neighbors have the same idea. Lots of people with these type units in Western New York found out the hard way this fall when that freak early wet snow had some out of power over a week. When all those natural gas generators kicked on the pressure dropped so much that they couldn't run. My friends with the 8kW Generac gasoline power unit had power whenever they wanted it. To keep peace with the neighbors, and conserve gasoline (couldn't buy any with no power at the gas stations), they ran three hours in a.m. and three hours in p.m. They have a ten circuit manual transfer panel, and were able to watch TV, cook, run furnace, etc.
They were asking about a permanent installation model, which is how I found out about the pressure problems. I have also found out about a new Honda model that uses a DC generator, and an AC INVERTER (True Sine) to allow the engine rpm to vary with load. Most "generators" (really alternators) require 3600 rpm to produce 60Hz Alternating Current, so they run at near full output all the time, regardless of load. This new Honda varies the DC output to the AC INVERTER, which creates the 60Hz Alternating Current, voltage regulated to 120/240. The higher the load, the faster the engine runs up to max. The lower the load, the slower it runs, conserving fuel.

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wrote:

I have heard opinions on both sides of this issue as to whether natural gas supply and pressure actually drops in an area when a storm hits thus crippling emergency generators, or if gas pressure and supply actually improves since the vast majority of people without electricity cannot use their furnaces, dryers, ovens, etc. thereby leaving a greater supply for those who can draw natural gas. Our local gas company also claims that they manufacture gas powered electricity to run their distribution system to avoid dependency on local electrical supply. My experience being in the very heart of a recent extended outage in Amherst New York was that homes with natural gas generators including my next door neighbor ***had electricity*** but that gasoline was extremely difficult if not impossible to find on a continuing basis for those with gasoline powered generators.
What actual experiences have people encountered elsewhere?
Thanks,
Smarty
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I'm not sure what the budget limits are here, but I have to offer the option of considering a permanently installed, natural gas powered, automatic generator. The units I am suggesting start at 7KW power for around $1600 with careful shopping, and cost another $1000 to professionally install (or about $30 if you can do it yourself).
Unlike the complex sequence described below which fails to mention running to the gas station to buy fuel to replenish the generator (assuming the gas station has electricity to pump gas in the first place), the solution I suggest has no operational schedule.
If the power fails, the generator kicks in automatically, the house load is transferred, the fuel supply is immediately availalable, and not a finger is lifted. The switchover time is less than 30 seconds. Same thing in the opposite direction when power is restored.
The Generac Guardians (by far the largest selling brand) offer UltraQuiet units which are barely noticeable. I bought mine from Amazon and it showed up in less than a week with free delivery.
Frankly, I find the notion of gasoline powered backup generators to only make sense in areas where alternative fuel is not available. A recent 9 day power outage in my area, where over 400,000 people where left without electricity for well over a week, caused the local Home Depots to sell ***several thousand*** Generacs to a lot of our local residents including those who went to the gas stations locally hoping to find gas and all they came home with were empty gas cans.....
Smarty
wrote:

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Amy L wrote:

I don't think you need a 240V generator to backfeed the house. All you would need to do is connect the 120V output to both legs of the breaker box and make sure you turn off your 240V appliances. You would also need to make sure the neutral wire in the house is large enough to carry the current, but I doubt if that would be a problem since 120V generators don't put out much current anyway.
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