Generator Recommendations and Advise

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Is it just me, or has this question been answered at great length? How about Googling "generator recommendations and advise" and getting back more good information than one could ever hope for?
Anyway........
One thing that is rarely mentioned is how much gas is needed to run a generator, assuming you're not paying out thousands for a diesel unit. If an ice storm hits the northeast and there's a massive power outage, where's all that gas going to come from to power all those appliances you wish to power?
We went without power for 15 days after Hurricane Charlie tore our place apart. I ran a 10 hp coleman and could only get 5 hours out of 5 gallons of gas, so we ran it 5 hours and roughed it until the next evening. If you plan on getting gas out of your vehicles, invest in a good quality siphon pump. I bought a cheap $10 one and it leaked badly.
What most people don't consider is that during these times of emergency, not only is gas scarce or not available, but if there are some gas stations open, everybody and his brother is there trying to get gas. It was a major pain getting gas in our area during that time.
I know people who have big generators properly set to be switched into the house breaker box, all set for that big disaster.......but they are lucky to have 2 1/2 gallons of gas hanging around! It's like whistling through through the graveyard.
After the 3 major hurricane's (Charlie, Frances and Jean) passed us by within a few weeks and caused all kinds of havoc, I went out and bought a smaller, more quality Honda 2500 watt unit that will run much longer on scarce gas. In a real emergency you'd be surprised how much power you _really_ need. I've been there/done that and would rather have 12 hours of 2500 watts than 5 hours of 5000 watts assuming gas is precious.
If you go without power for days in a real emergency, A generator is just part of your need. Plan on storing a lot of gas. Keep yourself stocked with food and water. ' If a disaster strikes, trust me- there will be no food, water, batteries or any other related necessities available on any store shelf, assuming any store will be open. You had better have those things beforehand.
One thing that was helpful to us during many days of power outage was the many rechargable flashlights and batteries I had (from my dewalt and makita tool kits). They give you great light for many hours, and can be charged during the time the generator is running.
An important investment for anyone wanting a generator would be the great rechargable flashlights that go with cordless drill kits. You can buy these flashlights separately and the batteries separately if you don't want the drill. I have the Craftsman, Makita and Dewalt flashlights and they were priceless when we needed light during those 15 days without power we had.
I know I've spouted out too much but only because I "lived" this generator question in a real life disaster, with my home and property badly trashed on top of it, along with my part of the state.
A generator is great, but it's only a part of the survival puzzle.
thetiler
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thetiler wrote:

Glad I got interested in this thread because it sent me out to crank mine up to test it.
http://www.dol.net/~frank.logullo/generate.jpg
Took about 10 tries. It had probably been about 4 months since used in an outage in the summer and that is too long to let sit. Someone told me his son put in one of those large automatic units since he lives out in the country and is often away on business and wants wife and kids to be comfortable. First power failure, he was away, wife and kids home, and unit failed to work.
Absolutely right with comments on fuel. Those in the path of hurricane need be concerned with availability of gasoline. I do not have that problem but have no natural gas line in neighborhood. I keep generator full and have two 5 gal tanks. Would use 10 gal/day but turning off and using judiciously can get by with 5 gal/day. My big concerns are heat and well water. Coleman gasoline lantern, gas stove, flashlights etc also needed.
Frank
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I doubt natural gas troubles upon a storm, and have NEVER seen a report like that!
Having a variety of back ups is good.
main generator preferably on natural gas. along with a decent sized inverter to convert 12 volts from vehicle to 120 plus some 12 volt bulbs, home depot sells 40 watt 12 volt bulbs, put in trouble light with adapter cord to converty 120 to 12 volt battery clips. flashlights, batteries, hand crank radio, wood stove or fireplace with some firewood. and a supply of bottled water. power failures can cause water shortages. in hot areas a smnall window AC unit can provide comfy shared space if needed where even a large generator might have trouble running a whole house AC
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Frank wrote:

I recently bought a Honda EU2000i. After testing it, I put in some gas mixed with STA-BIL and then let it operate until it ran out of gas. About a month later, I added a little bit of mixed gas and tried to start it. It took at least 10 tries to start it, maybe more, and I was almost ready to give up.
I suppose the moral of the story is that generators that have been ran out of gas can be hard to start and one shouldn't give up trying to soon.
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snipped-for-privacy@juno.com (thetiler) says...

It's fairly easy to store more gas than that. I store about 20 gallons, and once every month or so I pour 5 gallons into the pickup gas tank and take the can into town to refill with fresh gas. The gas is stored in the garden shed, away from the house.
I assume you wanted the generator running all the time to run the AC. If you shut the generator down after an hour, you can easily go for 2-3 hours before the heat builds up inside the house. At my house, power outages are a winter phenomenon, and the wood stove means electricity is not necessary for heat or cooking. It takes about an hour to heat a tank of water and take showers, and the refrigerator and freezer can run at the same time. Aladdin lamps, oil lamps and candles provide plenty of light, with the addition of a fluorescent light for reading and flashlights for moving around. 12 volt TV sets are cheap and common, 12 volt radios are even less expensive.
For long term power, like running a computer or TV set, the little 1200 watt 2-cycle generators will run about 4.5 hours on a gallon of gas, and they don't make as much noise as the big sets. 1200 watts is plenty to run most furnaces with 1/8 hp blower motors. Some people buy a GM alternator, hook it to a couple deep cycle batteries and an inverter, power it up with an old 3.5 hp lawnmower motor, and have silent power for low power applications late into the night.
The first mistake people make is buying huge generators. You don't have to be the power company. The second mistake people make is trying to run the generator continuously. Four hours of power a day should be plenty, unless you have to run a furnace to keep from freezing to death. If the weather is too hot for you, go sit in the bathtub and read a book. Running AC off of a generator is not practical. It takes too much power, which, as you discovered, translates to too much fuel.
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We got an 11Kw on-demand propane-powered Coleman generator with a HONDA engine for the beach house. It fires weekly & runs 12 minutes at a time - we keep check of the runnings. We upgraded our propane tank to 250 pounder (from twin 75s for stove) & feel comfortable we will be comfortable for a week or so at a time with judicious use of utilities. I like the 2 year warranty that came with the Coleman & feel fortunate to have found a reliable & responsive company to install & service generator & transfer switch. They stand behind all their work to date. Good luck in your search.
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Amy L wrote:

Hi Amy,
I live in the NorthEast and last year went through 5 days without power. A tree knocked out the power lines. No water (we are on a well) and no heat. After the recovery we had burst pipes and mashed HVAC units. All the copper coils were broken.
One way of looking at the generator and instalation is cost pricing points. I sort of think of three price breakdowns:
1) Gasoline powered portable units $US 700 to about $US 2700 for Honda i7000AB then add maybe $1,000 for a transfer switch and professional electrician to install and hookup. 2) Fixed units up to the 12Kw range. e.g. Generacs from home depot. These are essentially air cooled lawn mower type engines, running at 3,600 rpm. They cost about $US 2,700 to $US 3,500 for the unit and maybe $US 2,000 to $US 3,000 for transfer switch and installation. I was quoted $US 11,000 for one here in New York. But I needed quite a bit done. The units are liftable by 4 men, and they can be installed on gravel foundations, saving cost in avoiding concrete foundations (local building code dependent). 3) Fixed units 15Kw and up, runs at 1,800 rpm, water cooled with oil filter. These units are based on car / truck engines. Cost is about $US 8,000 to $US 14,000 with installation at about $US 8,000 and up. There is a sigificant jump between this and type 2 mainly because of weight. You will need a concrete pad and a back-hoe type machine to life the generator which weighs about 1,200 lbs and up.
Most people I know around me went for type 2. I have a type 3 installation. I bought the generator from Costco, an older model Cummins Onan RS2000 about a year ago. The cost of the generator was $US 9,000 including a 200 AMP automatic transfer switch. Total cost was $US 21,000. I also had a 400 gallon propane tank installed. My units burns though about 3 gallons of propane per hour.
The unit I have is quite nice in that it is quieter than other units, will power up my central AC and about 50% of my house. I have well pump, ejector pump, furnace, fridge, HVAC air handlers, centeral air and lighting circuits connected up. Big power users such as double ovens and dryer are not connected. In case of a power outage everything is automatic and lights come back on in 20 seconds. The generator is keeped warm all year long with its own thermostatically controlled water heater.
I also know alot of people who have type 1 installation because of cost. This is a good way to go if you are prepared for some work arounds.
a) You need to have alot of gasoline stored. In may area a 20 gallon limit is enforced due to fire hazard. You need to put in a fuel stabilizer such as STABIL (Home Depot), and refresh your gasoline stock every autumn. I think 20 gallons will give you approx 24 hours constant run time on a portable unit.
b) You need to have a good place to put your generator while it is running. This has to be outside because of carbon monoxide poisioning risks to you and some distance say 5 feet from your house because of fire risk. The place needs to be sheltered from wind, snow and falling tree limbs. This is because you do not want your power outlets on your portable generator to get wet, and possibly electicute you if you touch it by accident.
c) You need to be prepared to refill your power generator with gasoline every five hours or so. Be careful because a hot generator and gasoline poses a fire risk. Keep you generator therefore some distance from your house. If you have 5 gallon plastic gas tanks, it may be easier to have a small hand pump. 5 gallons of gas is quite heavy, and most generator fill caps are on top of the generator, hence you need to lift the gas to that height.
d) Although back feeding your house can be done via a "Suicide power cord". It is dangerours and is illegal. There is a risk to you and to utility repair people. You can avoid having a transfer switch if you are prepared to have long extension cords snaking around your house and connect appliances directly to your generator.
I think the best solution for you will depend on who is in your familly. If you have older / younger (children) people who cannot move around portable units then a type 2 or type 3 is recomended. If you have younger people around who understand and are prepared to move about gasoline, and wheel abnout generators, then type 1 solution is a good way to go.
Warmest regards, Mike.
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snipped-for-privacy@yahoo.com ( snipped-for-privacy@yahoo.com) says...

I bought a no-name B&S powered 4400 watt continuous/5000 watt surge reconditioned generator from Harbor Freight in 1998 for $279. I got a 60 amp 16-circuit sub-panel style transfer switch from the same place for $110, and paid an electrician $200 to wire it in, moving all the critical circuits to the transfer panel. With the expense of buying a few breakers, the total price came to about $650. It has run me through 3 extended outages, and the generator still fires off on the second pull. I run it empty, change the oil, fog the cylinder, bag the exhaust, wrap the whole thing in and industrial plastic bag with 5 pounds of silica gel, and stick it back in its shipping carton. It still looks and runs like new after 8 years.
It is not necessary to spend a fortune to have emergency power.
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