I plan to buy a generator to use in emergency situations (outages etc)
for my house, or at least for some of the appliances etc therein.
I see great price differences for same wattages. I'm thinking 8K -
9K, but that may be overkill. At a minimum, I want to be able to run
two reefers, one freezer, one TV, one computer, a few lamps.
I could use some opinions as to what I should be concerned about and
should not. Like what features are a must and what can be ignored.
Anything I should avoid and why?
Check the wattages but "comsumer" freezers and "reefers" just aren't much of
We have a nominal 5kW/6.5 peak generator we got from Wally World. It's the
type than reduces speed when the load is light so we always try to load it
above that point.
Anyway, we power the ice box, the well pump, and all normal lighting (we use
mostly compact flourescent lamps) in the house. We leave the water bed
heater connected and use the TV and computers as usual. "Extra" loads
include one room air conditioner (which causes the lights to blink and
computers to shut down when it powers up), the microwave, toaster, coffee
maker OR one element on the electric stove.
As a morale booster we sometimes heat half a tank of hot water for a quick
shower but that takes some "power management" (shutting down just about
every other load).
SAFETY is your first concern. There are short cuts to connecting the
generator to your home wiring and there are legal and perfectly safe
methods. Some power companies offer a transfer switch assembly that tied
into your meter base with the connection being an adaptor between the meter
and your meter base. I will not describe the "less safe" alternatives but
they include using what is often called a "Suicide Cord."
The other part of safety is GROUNDING the generator. I put in an addtional
ground rod and connected that rod to both the household ground and the
generator with #6 bare copper cable.
If you have a lawnmower you will have fresh gas most of the time. I don't
store gas in the generator but, rather, let it run out of gas. In cold
weather you might want to use starter fluid although this is NOT recommended
by the generator maker.
Only add fuel when the generator is cool. We usually only run a half tank
or less at a time. When it runs out of gas at night we go to bed. In the
morning, we got to work or find something else to do that doesn't require
We lose power for at least 24 hours several times each year. We only run
the generator about 1/4th of the time.
The Power Saving "feature" on a cheap generator is just a PITA. It keep
you from using it when it's lightly loaded.
You have three refigeration units that you want to be powererd. These
refigeration units I think will be you greatest power draw. The other
items have relatively lower power requirements
1) Refigeration units have compressors and large electric motors to
drive them. These motors have significant starting current. Make sure
you get a generator which will start your refrigeration units.
Typically starting currents can be between 4 to 8 times normal running
currents. Depending on the generator there is a certain amount of
surge current that is available for a short amount of time, usually
just a few A/C cycles, fractions of a second. But this may be
sufficient to start your refigeration units.
2) Fuel storage. Gasoline powered generator sets use about a gallon
of fuel an hour for a 7.5 kw unit. Gasoline can only be kept for about
a year with the addition of a fuel stabilizer like Stabil. Propane is
a better fuel in that in can be stored almost indefinately and you can
store alot of it. I have a 400 gallon tank. Gasoline store is usuallyu
restricted to 20 gallons because of fire codes.
3) Do you live in a cold climate? I would definately add you heating
furnace blower to the list of items. And if you can your air handler
units. Note Central Air conditioning requires lots of power. Some
people therefore do not use it in a power black out and just have a
small window A/C to cool one room in case of a power outage.
4) Do you have well water? Well pump is a must have I found. Note
these have large starting currrents.
4b) Do you have any sump pumps? Put these on
4c) Do you have any sewage ejector pumps? Put these on
5) Depending on your house 9kw may not be over kill. I have a 20 kw
The way I see it the three genset catagories break down as follows:
a) cheap, gasoline powered up to 7.5 kw, portable. Prices $US 700 -
$US 2400. And perhaps $US 1000 to $US 2000 for transfer switch
b) mid price, propane fueled, 3,600 rpm, not portable. Lawnmore engine
based, air cooled. $US 2500-$3500 for the gen set puls maybe $US 3,000
c) delux price, propane fueled, 1,800 rpm. Car or truck motor based,
liquid cooled. $US 10,000 and up for the unit, with $US 6,000 for
instalation. Note these units are heavy and require a concrete pad and
some sort of heavy lift for instalation, e.g. a small Catapillar,
Hydrulic Excavator or crane
9kw to 12 kw is relavtively small. There is a big jump in cost if you
go north of 12 kw and need something larger because of the instalation
costs and gen set costs. These 12 kw units can be installed without
heavy lift, and without the need for a concrete pad. A gravel bed will
do. They are propane powered and will auto start on power fail. I
think for this route expect to pay perhaps $US 6,000 to $US 10,000 all
Good advice. On my 7,350 starting watts, 5,500 running, I can run
refrigerator, 2 freezers, well, furnace and few lights and TV. Well
and furnace are a must for me and freezers or refrigerators don't have
to be constantly plugged in as most will maintain adequate cold for
several hours. Only complaint I have about my cheap, Home Depot unit
is noise but when power fails here, whole neighborhood gets noisey.
Your responses were very thoughtful and helpful. I learned some
things. I appreciate it.
One thing, I do have a submersible well pump, and am wondering how
best to change the wiring so as to have it pick up power from a
Also - I have propane heat (double-wide), I wonder if the propane
part would even run during an outage. I might do better with a space
Finally - my neighbor runs his every month he says because his manual
says to do so. What do you think of that? BTW - his 9KW gen uses
about a gallon of gasoline per hour, and will run 9 hours total on a
change the wiring so as to have it pick up power from a generator?
There's a safety issue with regard to power line workers. The pump is hard
wired into the house wiring and a power feed-back through the lines could
injure or kill someone working on the lines. You should use a gen-set
switching device to isolate the house from the power grid. The switch is
going to go $400- 500 and the electrician will be the same. This is a
guesstimate - I did this 8 years ago so my pricing isn't up to date. It
ain't cheap but it's how you should do this responsibly. Now, if you plan
to disconnect the pump from the wiring and reconnect them to a plug you
could run an extension to the 220Vac plug on the generator. But, even that
requires proper wire size for the distance of the run. Do this the right
way and talk with an electrician. I ended up with an outside plug which was
wired through the wall to the ge-set switch. He also made a connector wire
from the generator to that plug for me. He traced circuits and asked what
appliances and circuits I needed. All said and done I was not able to use
two of the gen-set circuits because I had exceeded the 5K rating of the
Also - I have propane heat (double-wide), I wonder if the propane part
would even run during an outage. I might do better with a space heater?
I believe that there is an issue with 'dirty' (unrectified) current
potentially wrecking your furnace circuit boards. You'll have to check
through the manufacturer about that. Even if it does work you have the same
situation as the well pump.
Finally - my neighbor runs his every month he says because his manual says
to do so. What do you think of that?
I think that he's wise. I only do it once or twice a year. My biggest
issue is that the tank has a tiny fuel line connection and draining that
bugger is a pain. I have contemplated putting a connection on the bottom of
a coffee can just for testing. One other thing is keeping the battery
charged. I use a trickle charger and don't have to worry. I connect the
one battery lead and test it every month or two. Best of luck and please do
it right for everyone's safety.
BTW - his 9KW gen uses about a gallon of gasoline per hour, and will run 9
hours total on a tankful.
Good point. I had forgotten that the pump was 220V! I do realize
about the required wire gauge for that due to the length. The
generator would be some 60 feet from the access point of the pump.
I don't think I will do that after all. A full bathtub is a good
choice if and only if I have a storm-warning.
I don't think I will worry about the furnace either. A space heater
is the probable answer at least for me.
Yeh - my rider mower has similar problem. I already have a trickle
charger with an automatic cut-off when charge is full. I use it on my
To repeat - thanks again
I hired an electrician to wire in through a transfer box. You start the
generator, flip a switch in the transfer box which isolates house from
line (as you do not want to be pumping electricity into wiring that
power company may be repairing) and then plug in box to generator.
Fortunately my electrical panels are at end of garage. I keep generator
there and just pull out under overhang to run and can even close garage.
If I had natural gas service or propane, I would use it. You do not
have to worry about inventorying and stabilizing gasoline. In places
like Florida when power outages are wide spread, gasoline pumps are
often not working.
Your neighbor is correct that you should check running of generator
occasionally. Maybe not every month but this thread tweaked me to try
mine today. Started with first pull. Did not sound too load but then I
realized that I had ear plugs in from finishing cutting the grass. The
Power Boss Home Depot unit is probably no more noisy than my mower.
Makes sense. Right now I am thinking of supporting one reefer, one
freezer, one 6000BTU widow A/C, one TV, a few lights. I have been
considering a Pep Boys $900 generator that offers 9500 'surge' watts.
10 gallons of gasoline should cover 10 months of 'backup' support.
I could re-plenish each gallon I would use monthly for one-hour's
Delaware. Furnace is a good idea, I use propane now. I have no idea
how I would 'switch-in' a generator source to keep the furnace
running. Same concern form our 220V submersed water pump. Since wife
and I are 'senior' senior citizens, it is a major concern for us to
stay warm. The window A/C can sustain us in the summer, obviating a
need for central air.
just a small note to Franks comment above. I live in S.Florida and run my
Central A/C using just a small 5500w honda generator. in addition to the
Central A/C, it also runs refrigerator, lights, TV, fans, computer, one
burner on stove
this is all possible since the AC uses dual compressors, variable speed
blower and I have the ability to turn off the larger compressor when running
on generator. power consumption for just the AC is only 1200w and starting
load is under 2.2kw, easily handled by the capacitor inside the AC
Sounds like you have a good set up. I already have a window A/C on an
enclosed sun porch, and so we can migrate into that room to stay cool
if need be. Power to that A/C is 110V and wattage is only 6K I think,
Furnace heat though is another matter. I can't simply plug that into
the generator - no plug.
Do I understand you live in Delaware too? I and two other neighbors used
Paul Nickel electricians to put in transfer boxes. His price and
service is good. He also put in a new main panel for me as old panel was
not a good unit and prone to not flipping breakers when you needed to.
Retired electrical supervisor I know agreed with him and said price was
good. Not sure how big his service area is if you live downstate.
Transfer box hooks into main box and circuits like well, furnace and
freezer plugs are wired to it. When you use the generator you flip a
switch in the transfer box, turn on the generator and just plug it in
from box plug.
Yep! Rehoboth as a matter of fact.
I am guessing your man is 'way up north?
I hadn't thought about a complete transfer set up from generator to
circuit breaker box, but maybe that is affordable? I doubt it, but
I also wondered about moving the breakers in the box so that the
essentials were on same buss, and then that buss could be activated by
the generator without the rest. I move said breakers myself. That
might take more than a 9500W generator could handle however -
especially if it included the elec stove and H/W heater.
Thanks for response.
units are they are the loudest thing I have ever heard. It was actually
painful to be near the thing and you can easily hear it a block away.
The units that look the same but you get through a normal supplier have
about 10% of the noise.
Thanks - but of course I don't know how I can do a test to see how
noisy a given generator is before I buy it. You are right though. My
neighbor's is loud. You know when it is running 1000 feet away (my
When purchasing be sure to get a quality engine that has a reputation of
easy starting and long life, and also get one that has a quality generator
mounted on that engine, one that provides a good sine wave without noise
that could damage electronics.
Cheap generators have neither.
Speaking of generators, another bunch of idiots managed to kill a 17
year old on Long Island, NY. Power company shutoff service for non-
payment and they put a generator in the basement. Killed the kid and
sent several others to the hospital. Same thing happened here in NJ
last year. This isn't rocket science, it;s amazing how dumb some
people can be.
Three people in our extended family here in Las Vegas were killed by CO
poisoning about three years ago. They were affluent people. They were not
stupid. For some reason, they did not pay their power bill. They brought a
generator into the garage, and the rest is history. Several of the
circumstances are still a mystery to us.
Sometimes it doesn't have anything to do with dumb. Smart people die. Dumb
people die. Smart people do silly things.
I hope your superiority complex improves.
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