Portable Home Generator Questions

After last month's ice storm in North Carolina, I have decided to invest in
a portable generator. After some research at various sites, I am certain
that around 8 kw will fit my needs. However, I still have **many** very
basic questions about generator types, fuel storage, fuel consumption,
power cabling to the transfer switch, etc.
I know there are a lot of questions, and hopefully folks will comment or
advise on the ones about which they have knowledge or experience.
In terms of efficiency and fuel use, which generator type is best.....
gas, diesel, or
propane ?
Has anyone here used a tri-fuel generator, such as the one made by Northern
Industrial Tools ?
How can one safely and properly store 150 gallons of gas ? I figure this is
the maximum
amount that i would need in any severe storm. I am aware of the use of
Stabil, and I would
also "rotate" the gas at least once a year.
Has anyone here used a propane generator ? If so, how well did you like it
? What
model have you used ? If you have not used one, do you know of one on the
right now, in the 8 KW range ? (I find that all the propane ones I find
are much larger
generators, up to 12-15 kw or higher).
In terms of fuel usage, is a gallon of propane about the same as a gallon of
gas ?
I need 6 120 volt circuits, and two 240 circuits. The 240 circuits
are needed for
hot water, and water pump. Will this mean that I will need 3 distinct
power cables run
from my generator to the transfer switch in the house ? Are these
cables in given lengths, or will my electrician custom make cables ??
If I use a propane tank, it may well be 50 feet lower in elevation than my
generator, and
up to 100 feet away. Will the propane travel an uphill run like this ?
What is your favorite generator in the 7-8 KW range ?
Well, that should be enough questions for now !!
Thank you in advance for any comment or advice !!
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As far as the transfer switch and cord, the units generally come with twist lok outlets up to 50 amps. You can buy these pre built, or built to whatever length you like. You typically run one cord from the generator to a manual transfer switch
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RBM, thank you for the good comments !! I am looking for a portable generator, as the is the price class that I am in. I will have a transfer switch installed by a qualified electrician, but it will not be automatically engaged. If we lost power, I will start the generator and flip the transfer switch.
As to the power cord, I am confused......... on the units I have seen, they have one or more 120 volt outlets, and most have one or two 240 volt outlets..... I would not need cords for each of these outlets ??
Very good comments/comparisons of gas, diesel, and propane.
Thanks again !!
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On the larger portable units they'll typically have multiple outlets. Some standard 120 volt 20 amp, some 120/240 volt 30 amp, and in your case you'd want one that has a 120/240 volt 50 amp. You would buy a transfer switch that would be fed through a 50 amp 4 wire cord, providing both 120 volt and 240 volts to the switch. There is no need to use any additional cords.
Another thing to note: portable units typically have fairly small fuel tanks, often holding less fuel than you'd need to go through the night. Check the fuel consumption at full load and at half load, then do a calculation to determine if it's big enough for your needs. You can always use a fuel tank, not attached to the unit, but it becomes less portable, and potentially more dangerous.
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If you have Propane or Ng get a Tri fuel unit, gas goes bad and filling it and storage is a pain. a 3600 rpm gas unit of Honda motor quality is worth maybe 2-4000 hours, cheap motors you get much less life, the cheapest around 300 hours. How you load it will determine alot of its life. 10 days running full will wear out some units, the biggest life increase is low rpm 1800 and lower but those are alot more money commercial units.
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No, in a semi-pernanent installation you will have something like this next to your main breaker panel
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you only need one big 240VAC cord to make this work. sized for the total load that will be on the generator.
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The transfer switch that Nate links to is probably the cheapest, easiest method of connecting a generator to your electric service, and won't take an electrician more than an hour to connect. Note: the one shown has a thirty amp twist lok
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When you have a transfer switch installed, you run one cable to the generator. It will usually have 4 wires in it and they will all go into the 240 volt plug. The older unit will have a 3 wire plug. Two of the wires will be to the hot wires, one to the neutral, and the other one if used will be a chassies ground. The power will be split as needed at the box at the house.
Diesel will probably be the best. It lasts for many years unlike gas. Also you will probably want to run the generator for short periods of time every couple of weeks or so. Gas tends to wash the oil from the piston rings and get into the crankcase oil during the short run periods.
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Ralph Mowery
I have an inexpensive PowerBoss from HD with running watts of 5500 and starting 7350. Transfer box, as others point out, requires only one 240 plug and will power my furnace, well, refrigerator, 2 small freezers and some left over for some TV and lights. Big items like AC, electric stove and hot water heater were left off circuit. Unit is noisy but less than half price of a Honda but in the 4 years I've had it, it's probably been run less than 50 hours. I store the unit full with two 5 gal cans of standby gas. You don't need to run the generator full time, like when you are out of the house or asleep. Living in a state like Florida where gas stations may be out too, then you need to store a lot of gas but not here in Delaware. Guess it depends on where you are in NC.
If we had gas, a gas generator would probably be preferred as it would be cleaner and maybe get by with less frequent start-up intervals.
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In article , snipped-for-privacy@nospamfdn.com says...
Here is a site with excellent comparisons of different fuels:
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## See imbedded comments
## Money is easier to store than gasoline. Hurricane Yikes made a believer out of us regarding sufficient fuel on hand (every gas station for 60 miles was without power to pump fuel). We now have oodles of gas cans and plan, when the forecast is for bad weather (hurricanes for us, ice storms for you), to get them filled in advance of the storm. We figure, after the storm passes, we can use the gasoline for our vehicles.
## If you go for propane or diesel, you'll have to muster a different strategy.
## If your generator uses one gallon per hour of gasoline, I'd think 50 gallons would be sufficient. First, you won't be using the generator 24/7 - there will be times - like when you're sleeping - you'll shut it down or you can have 'roaming blackouts,' two hours on, one hour off, or other rationing techniques. Second, when you get down to your last five or six gallons, you can forage for more fuel.
## The number of circuits and so forth is handled by your transfer switch; there will be ONE cable from the generator to your distribution panel. You can have a cable custom made, but cables do come in standard lengths (10', 25', 50', etc.). They ain't cheap!
## The 120v outlets on the generator are for use at a construction site or similar where there is NO distribution panel. The builders plug their saws and compressors directly into the generator. For emergency power, as in your situation, these outlets on the generator are typically not used.
## Footnotes: 1. Plan on some method of anchoring your generator against theft. 2. A couple of 100' extension cords are nice so you can accommodate your neighbor's minimal electrical needs (refrigerator, TV,...). 3. Generators are generally louder than the hinges on the gates of Hell. If you DO pay a premium for a quiet one, its only advantage is that you can better hear your neighbors' loud generators. 4. In these difficult financial times, I see several ads for generators on Craigslist at substantial savings. People seemingly are turning their seldom used assets into cash. You might find a bargain. 5. You can dispense with the transfer switch by adding a double 50-amp circuit breaker to your panel and wiring it to an external plug. If you do this, you'll need an interlock (Google for) to fit your panel. The interlock switch prevents the mains to the pole from being energized by your generator.
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I have always wondered why states (especially those prone to hurricanes, storms, snow storms) do not require that ALL gas stations have a simple backup generator so they can pump the gas that is in their tanks. And, of course, once the generator is started they can use their own gas pumps to keep filling their generator gas tank to keep it running.
I always think how stupid it is in a natural disaster emergency that people who need to evacuate can't get gas because the gas at the gas stations is unavailable simply because the gas station doesn't have the power to pump its own gas.
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Most stations here in South Fl. have added there own generators. They learned a lesson after the 3 big ones a few years ago. I still have 40 gals. locked in my shed.
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Not only that but they dont make any money when they have no power.
It just seems like a no-brainer to me. Gasoline at gas stations is a vital commodity in a disaster and no-power situation. It could even apply in certain "homeland security" (what a joke that is) situations, so they could spend homeland security funds to help gas station owners pay for the initial generator setups.
And, the states could even impose certain no-gouging and even-distribution laws that they could put into effect in a declared emergency. They could authorize, for example, that in declared emergency situations the gas stations could charge an additional $1.00 or so per gallon as an incentive for them to stay open at least until they run out of gas, and re-open when they get more gas if the emergency still exists and the power is still out. And, the emergency regs could limit the size of the fill-up per vehicle to 5 or 10 gallons each. That would help prevent all of the gas stations at the very epicenter of the disaster from selling out all of their gas to too few people. By limiting the size of the fill-up, people would be dispersed at to a wider geographic area and could refill their tanks when they are perhaps 100 miles further away from the disaster center.
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On Fri, 22 Jan 2010 15:22:27 -0500, "James" wrote:
Diesel beats both gas and propane/lpg/nat-gas hands down. Diesel also stores more easily, and most diesel generators run just fine on home heating fuel. Down side? Diesels are a bit noiser perhaps. Upsides? Good storage on the fuel (doesn't degrade in storage, but may require an algicide).
Safely? Hard, you need a good/proper storage tank. Consider checking Northern Tools for tanks.
How are you going to rotage 150 gallons of gas? If it is stale, you sure you want to put it in your car?
No, a gallon of propane has less energy than a gallon of gas. And a gallon of gas has less energy than a gallon of diesel.
No, but your question says you need to talk to an electrican about hookups before you kill yourself or someone else.
Probably, but I doubt you will get away with that type of a setup. I don't think any gas company will fill a tank (150 gallons) feeding a 150 ft line to a generator.
The very best one you can afford. NO cheap Chinese crap!!!
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The legislature in Texas passed a law recently (in light of the highway confusion occasioned by people trying to flee Hurricane Rita), that gas stations on official evacuation routes had to top off their storage tanks to at least 80% capacity. The law made no mention of emergency power to run the pumps.
I've considered getting another generator, appropriate cables and tools, and just waiting for the next emergency. I'd then toot up to the biggest gas station that was just sitting there in the dark, the owner or manager weeping, and offering to power-up his business for, oh, say $50/hour.
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On Sat, 23 Jan 2010 00:42:51 -0500, "Jay-T" wrote:
Many states/locals do require certain key stations to have backup power. Not all stations, but some.
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