Whole House Backup Power

I've had a pretty rough year for electricity at my house. Seems like after every rain shower, someting elecronic stopped working. In addition, about once a month, power flicks off just long enought to set every piece of gear with a clock a-blinking. After hurricane Isabel knocked out my power for 15 hours, I've decided to finally look for a whole-house backup system.
To take care of the momentary outages and brownouts, a huge battery-type UPS that was connected to the whole house would be ideal (it seems.) There is actually a company (Banner Electric - www.bannerbackup.com) that makes such a system and actually markets it as replacements to generators - but I'm not sure exactly how long they would keep a house running (even with loads minimized) plus there is reference to a system costing $20,000 on their web site (ouch...)
I'd like to get the thoughts of anyone out there about the wisdom of connecting the whole house to a big UPS. It seems to me like the ideal system would have an automatic generator for extended outages but a battery to handle short outages and to keep power flowing while the generator started.
Add pictures here
<% if( /^image/.test(type) ){ %>
<% } %>
<%-name%>
Add image file
Upload
Well it is clear they are not advertising the time. That would make me suspect that it is measured in minutes, at best.
--
Joseph E. Meehan

26 + 6 = 1 It's Irish Math
  Click to see the full signature.
Add pictures here
<% if( /^image/.test(type) ){ %>
<% } %>
<%-name%>
Add image file
Upload

This is not a new idea, just new marketing. We have been running computer rooms and other facilities that can not tolerate any power outages on systems such as this for 20+ years. It works well, but it is not cheap. Besides the initial cost, the batteries have to be replaced every few years, the inefficiencies inherent in the system will raise your electric bill, and the system itself can fail and require repairs. The amount of time you get on a system depends on the power required and the number and size of the batteries. There are all sorts of variations, but some of the facilities I am familiar with have 20-30 minutes of battery power, which is sufficient to start the backup generator or to shut down the equipment gracefully. It does not seem to make sense for the average homeowner.
Add pictures here
<% if( /^image/.test(type) ){ %>
<% } %>
<%-name%>
Add image file
Upload
I am building a house as we speak. This is what I am doing:
- Additional panel that switches over and powers a portion of the house - Yet to be decided: "auto switchover and generator that autostarts", or "manual switchover and generator htat needs to be kicked". - Propane powered generator (500 gallon tank of propane feeds our heating - this is rural so no natural gas, plus I like the independence) - A big UPS for the X10 controller, fridge, and a light in each room - Ham radio (VA3MVW) for comms
Michael
Add pictures here
<% if( /^image/.test(type) ){ %>
<% } %>
<%-name%>
Add image file
Upload
On Sat, 20 Sep 2003 19:29:00 -0400, "Michael Willems"

-
Last I knew, propane-powered generators still used carburetors. (This may have changed in the last decade). Propane-powered generators may need more than 1.5 times the rated steady-state KW of a generator powered by a diesel or other fuel-injected engine to have the same resistance to voltage sags from the start-up of heavy loads like refrigerators, AC, heaters and so on. These sags can cause your electronic gear to reset.
My experience was that this problem was not solved for continuous use by conventional, small UPS's because the sensitivity of UPS's was such that they tripped excessively and wore down their batteries more quickly than they could be recharged.
The solution in my case was to use a diesel generator with a large flywheel and UPS's with built-in magnetic conditioning (Ferrupps) and adjustable sensitivity to voltage and (especially) frequency variations.
A different solution, which I would implement now, would be the one I suggested in another post to this thread, viz: fit PC's and HA and other electronic equipment with DC->DC power supplies.
HTH ... Marc snipped-for-privacy@nothydrologistnot.com www.ECOntrol.com
Add pictures here
<% if( /^image/.test(type) ){ %>
<% } %>
<%-name%>
Add image file
Upload
snipped-for-privacy@nothydrologistnot.com ruminated:

What makes gasoline-powered generators such a PITA is the fact that they have a float bowl from whence gasoline is drawn up by vacuum pressure, rather than having a simple jet where already-pressurized propane can be fed into the carburetor. The float bowl and associated jet immersed in said float bowl is the primary culprit in reliability problems caused by old fuel oxidizing into varnish. Propane does away with that problem. In addition, propane burns more cleanly than gasoline, making the oil last longer.

Propane-powered generators are also a helluva lot cheaper than diesel, though. If you don't expect to run electronic gear during an outage, that may be a major factor in choosing propane over diesel.
--
Eric Lee Green mailto: snipped-for-privacy@badtux.org


-----= Posted via Newsfeeds.Com, Uncensored Usenet News =-----
  Click to see the full signature.
Add pictures here
<% if( /^image/.test(type) ){ %>
<% } %>
<%-name%>
Add image file
Upload
Michael Willems wrote:

The best way to save money on power is not to add solar panels or wind or hydro - it's to reduce usage first.
This is relevant here because I'll presume, before you power a house, that the fridge is a highly efficient fridge. Not perhaps propane (virtually mandatory for off-grid setups), but very highly rated per energy star and installed well (heat can escape, etc).
I'm told that empty is less efficient than full. We used to keep milk gallons of water in a spare fridge at some point. Keeps all the cold when from leaving open the door? I dunno.
That light you'll be powering in every room? I presume it's fluorescent. Perhaps 48VDC for direct powering from batteries?
The TV, for best power use, should be an LCD.
Computers? Absolutely laptops! Macs are lower power than PCs (Intel chips suck power, where PPCs are relatively efficient.
In work places, an LCD monitor will pay for itself over a CRT monitor in under a year in power and cooling requirements (not to mention disposal - anyone need some 14" monitors?).
For clocks and not resetting them: self setting clocks are no longer a novelty (and my VCR finally started taht). And most clocks radios of the last 15 years take a battery. $2 for a battery is a lot cheaper than wiring a genny in to power every circuit in the house. And it's a lot cheaper than getting a genny that large.
If you are BUILDING the house, you get to run low voltage DC power for some of the lights. I live in earthquake land, so there are a couple (fluoresent) flashlights that plug into the walls (with wall warts) that go on automatically if power goes. They tend to last many many hours. For long outages, they take a 12VDC input to recharge and stay on.
Using DC: bulbs supposedly last longer, 48VDC doesn't require the fat wires that 12VDC wants, batteries and solar can easily provide 48VDC. AC can be derived from the batteries with an inverter.
You can do the whole house thing, but the money best spent is spent lowering consumption FIRST. In emergencies, you can just leave things off, not hit the fridge often, etc.
Additional note: At least in calif, off grid installs are NOT eligable for the rebates. And the rebate is lowered if you self install. One of the goals is to jump start the businesses and contractors; I can't really disagree.
Add pictures here
<% if( /^image/.test(type) ){ %>
<% } %>
<%-name%>
Add image file
Upload

My suggestion for most homeowners is a partial cutover panel. Only certain circuits are brought over. DIY it could be as low as $1000 including the right sized generator. Professional install should not take it over $1600-$2000. Its fairly easy to retrofit. With that you end up with a portable gas generator. The local wire jocks have been installing this one http://www.connecticut-electric.com/switch.asp And http://www.finitesite.com/transferswitch/ gives you some idea of prices of it and others. Home Depot/Lowes also carries them. The meters are a very useful feature. I installed the 7500 model in my home
Next step up is a whole house cutover. That is done at the mains level. A bit more expensive and installation really should be done by a pro. Generator cost is now much higher or you really have to watch consumption. You be surprised how much devices you forget about can draw (think about the old freezer in the basement when it starts up). There are some nice units in this market designed for permanent outdoor installation. Fuel source is also a consideration. People who I know who have these tend to have an autostart in case of a power failure with critical hardware on dedicated UPS boxes. Costs are really elastic based on type of generator used. This would tend to make more sense in an more remote areas where power outages are more common and more prolonged, or is there are some sort of critical systems in the home (oxygen generators come to mind).
When I finally retire, I may go with the latter kind of system. Either that or an electric start generator. I've pulled way too many starter cords today.
Add pictures here
<% if( /^image/.test(type) ){ %>
<% } %>
<%-name%>
Add image file
Upload

telephone central offices have 2 separate banks of batteries and a (diesel generator). they are setup to stay functional for at least 8 hours during a complete power loss.
for home use, you may google (hydrogen) fuel cells.
Add pictures here
<% if( /^image/.test(type) ){ %>
<% } %>
<%-name%>
Add image file
Upload
Rob Patrick wrote: ...

Whole house would likely be prohibitive. On my smaller clocks, they often take a 9V battery. Or I just suck it up and reprogram the time (the new clocks set themselves - handy for a guest room where I'll sometimes move the clock around and put it back when guests come.
...

I've also done very very large power systems. For data centers. We lose power and it will take easy 24 hrs to get machines up and recovered right. UPSs cover us for maybe an hour, then the generator gets kicked on. A second mortgage, and you'll be set :) It's uncheap.
Go for a reasonable in between. mom (in ma) loses power for 2-3 days at a time. Between the gas stove for cooking, wood stove for heat (not a special purchase, just more useful in when the icestorms take down 4 miles of power and the main furance fails), she charges flashlights and a flourescent lantern at work.
She and a friend of mine both got smallish generators. They power the circuit with the fridge, kitchen lights, the well pump (showers) and have enough to run an extension cord from the kitchen ciruit to the TV and DVD (cable usually dies with the power. stupid trees). That means she's not lost power since she got this :)
A friend has many solar panels. They charge a pair of excessively large batteries. Said batteries can power the important parts of the house for a couple days of no power and no sun. His meter usually runs backwards in the day and forwards at night. Net metering means his annual power bill costs a bit less than a nice dinner.
Bottom line: You likely don't need the whole house "on". If you live with essencials and perhaps want to ponder generating your own power for extras (think how much a windmill would have done yesterday!), you can do the generator thing. It's not even that rare in homes to have a cutover for a critical couple ciruits. A small generator can be affordable (tho loud and smelly). They were pretty cheap after y2k didn't pan out as a crisis.
Add pictures here
<% if( /^image/.test(type) ){ %>
<% } %>
<%-name%>
Add image file
Upload
You must live in the DC area....
I think after the dust settles, I am going to look into a generator in the 3500 to 5000 watt range. Porter Cable makes one with a Honda engine and brushless generator for under a grand.
At least that will allow me to alternatively run the fridge, or laptop, or TV, to keep from going crazy.
Might be useful for blackouts or terrorism-related stuff, too.
Add pictures here
<% if( /^image/.test(type) ){ %>
<% } %>
<%-name%>
Add image file
Upload
Yikes!! whole house on batt backup?? way too expensive. The install, batteries, replacing them every 4 years would kill your wallet! and even with that.. how long would the batts last??
If you have natual gas there are nat gas powered generators whcih will eliminate fuel storage tanks too. that can run for days if necessary
Add pictures here
<% if( /^image/.test(type) ){ %>
<% } %>
<%-name%>
Add image file
Upload
Natural gas gens work great as long as there is natural gas. What would it take for the source of natural gas in your area to loose pressure in the pipe? I agree, battery backup for the house will be in the 10's of $1,000.

Add pictures here
<% if( /^image/.test(type) ){ %>
<% } %>
<%-name%>
Add image file
Upload
On 19 Sep 2003 17:36:21 -0700, snipped-for-privacy@hotmail.com (Rob Patrick) wrote in

Rather than connecting the entire house to yet another monolithic system that may create yet another single point of vulnerability, consider a carefully designed, _distributed_ backup system.
Consider each power need separately and creatively. For example, it is much less expensive to replace an electric range/stove with a natural gas or LP range/stove than to provide battery backed UPS for an electric range/stove as you seem to be entertaining.
One part of that system could consist in a DC power network for devices that intrinsically run on DC and have AC->DC converters built such as computers.
I have set for myself the goal of an independent 48vdc whole-house wiring system, using an off-the-grid supply with battery and 120VAC "backup", to power the ever-growing number of PC's, SBC, subsystems, and other HA accoutrements.
The motivation stems partly by the need to improve the grounding system for these devices so that they don't fail during lightning events, and partly out of embarrassment of how little truly _necessary_ function these devices provide for the amount of electrical energy and other resources they consume ...
There are many sources of 12vdc- 24vdc- and 48vdc-input ATX-style supplies for computers.
http://www.icpamerica.com/power.php http://www.aristaipc.com/others.htm http://en.ieiworld.com/products/index.asp?CMD=LIST&firmodelname=INDUSTIAL%20POWER%20SUPPLY http://www.amtrade.com/pc_power/switching_power_supplies_lg_pix.htm http://www.kontron.com/techlib/whitepapers/5007.pdf http://www.boser.com.tw/products/power/bpw830v.htm http://www.magtechind.com/__DC___DC_Converter/__dc___dc_converter.html
to name a few
HTH .. Marc snipped-for-privacy@nothydrologistnot.com www.ECOntrol.org
Add pictures here
<% if( /^image/.test(type) ){ %>
<% } %>
<%-name%>
Add image file
Upload
It occurs to me that some thing in the middle would work. A couple of UPS for the clocks and computer, and then a generator you can hook up if the power cut lasts longer.
You've had some great advice from the other writers.
--

Christopher A. Young
Learn more about Jesus
  Click to see the full signature.
Add pictures here
<% if( /^image/.test(type) ){ %>
<% } %>
<%-name%>
Add image file
Upload

Hi Rob,
Perhaps my experience will prove somewhat instructive in this. In my previous home /office in Connecticut I installed a Winco 8kW auto-start generator. Ours ran on natural gas from the street so we didn't need a gas storage tank -- a major plus. The Winco had an automatic transfer switch and a timed auto-start function. Any time power went out for more than 15 seconds the engine would start. As soon as it reached 220VAC the transfer switch would throw.
A timer kicked the generator on every Friday morning for fifteen minutes to keep the bearings and cylinders lubricated. This is critically important. Without it the engine and carburetor might clog from deposits that tend to precipitate out of unspent fuel and oil, not to mention rust.
To keep things ticking or rather, to keep things from flashing 12:00 until the genset kicked in I installed a 3kW UPS. Critical things like PCs and network goodies plus the telephone system, alarm receivers and such were connected to the UPS. This worked fine for us for about 18 years until I moved. IIRC the Winco cost about $3-4K retail when I bought it. I forget what I spent on the UPS.
There were a few minor problems and one major one. The start timer was a plug-in affair mounted within the shroud covering the various controls. It would overheat and fail every couple of years. There were very few companies that could service Winco gensets in our area. One tried to charge me $190 for an unauthorized service visit even though I specifically said to just ship me the timer. They also wanted over $100 for the timer. I looked up the maker in the manufacturer's "blue book" and ordered a replacement timer for less than $20. To solve the problem I installed a gem box with a multi-conductor socket for the timer outside the generator room (more on that in a moment) and ran a cable through the wall to a home-brew plug.
The Winco was **loud** when it ran. The noise was unacceptable in a residential neighborhood. I had to build a sound proof room within my garage for the genset. I also hired a bricklayer to build a 22-foot tall chimney to enclose the muffler. To provide cooling air for the engine room I ran two ducts to the outside. To keep carbon monoxide out of the house I maintained a negative pressure within the generator room. This was far easier than trying to make an air-tight seal around the room. An exhaust fan kicked in as soon as the generator started, drawing hot air out through a louver. Replacement air entered through a balanced damper.
Other than the added expense of building the room and chimney the system was pretty much flawless for many years. When we lost power throughout the area due to ice storms, various T-storms and at least one hurricane I had continuous power for as much as a week while everyone around was without. We also ran cables to power our two immediate neighbors' refrigerators and TV sets (about all you *really* need).
There are quieter, more efficient models available today so perhaps you won't need to go to such extremes. Winco is fine but there are lots of other good names around. Best of luck.
Regards, Robert
=============================> Bass Home Electronics, Inc 2291 Pine View Circle Sarasota Florida 34231 877-722-8900 Sales & Tech Support 941-925-9747 Fax 941-232-0791 Wireless Nextel Private ID - 161*21755*1 http://www.bass-home.com =============================>
Add pictures here
<% if( /^image/.test(type) ){ %>
<% } %>
<%-name%>
Add image file
Upload

Related Threads

    HomeOwnersHub.com is a website for homeowners and building and maintenance pros. It is not affiliated with any of the manufacturers or service providers discussed here. All logos and trade names are the property of their respective owners.