I live in East Texas, and I lost the contents of my refrigerator and freezer
for the second time in 2 years (this time from Hurricane Rita -- which also
caused a power outage for 1 week, so air conditioning was off in all this
heat). Can anyone give me some advice about home generators -- cost,
safety, ease of use, etc.? I would need to set it up myself if I ever lost
power, and I have some arthritis in my fingers. Therefore, I think I would
need to get one with an electric (battery-powered) switch instead of one
that has to be "cranked up." I read about several deaths from carbon
monoxide poisoning caused by an generator, so I know it would need to be
wheeled outside, and I understand that appliances would have to be connected
to it by long extension cords.
How heavy are they and how difficult to wheel around? (There are *none*
available in this community right now, so I haven't had a chance to actually
look at one, but I would like to be prepared "next time.") I know they come
in different sizes. I was thinking of one that would handle an upright
freezer, a large double-door refrigerator, a lamp, and a fan. The house has
central air, so that is out of the question, but I would like to get a fan
that is powerful enough to make life more livable if I lose power for an
extended period again.
Thanks for any help!
Welcome to the club, fellow Texan, I just went thru the same ordeal,
(actually no power yet for me) and just finished searching into
generators to be better prepared next time.
Yes Some models have a push button starter, similar to what was on old
Not necessarily. An electrician can connect all the circuits that have
to be on during an outage to switches between the breaker panel from
the electric co and the generator's.
Typical portable generators are around 200 pounds. Home Depot has a
15000 Watts (should power a 4 ton AC, they say) that is just over 400
pounds. has also a starter and a switching panel for about $2,400.
Any model, $600 and up should handle that load, but you should also
consider how much noise you can handle. Usually smaller = noisier.
If budget allow, you can have installed a permanent unit sized to
support also your air conditioning unit. They are a bit pricey, $3.500
and up, depending on the load, plus the cost of an external tank for
propane or diesel (unless you already have one, plus the installation
Some come up automatically when there is an outage and test themselves
automatically once a month. If it's within budget go with one of these.
Check out some here: http://www.generac.com /
Fuel is another thing to consider. Small portable units run on
gasoline. A thank last perhaps 10hours, then you have to let the unit
cool down completely and refuel.
Storing gasoline is a pain: it's dangerous and gets stale quickly, so
you can only store little quantity.
Propane is much easier to store and doesn't go bad. Plus can be
delivered, so that you don't have to lug heavy containers.
Hope this helps some, but for more info do a google search on
newsgroups: the generators topics has been discussed over and over in
Whatever you choose, the first step should be to hire an electrician to
quantify the load and check if any re-wiring is needed.
I ran some numbers, from the Northern Tools catalog. They list how long the
generator runs, gas tank size, and watts of the generators. What worked out
is that a galon of gasoline supplies about 2200 watts, for one hour.
That seems high. Gasoline has an energy density of 9700Wh/l or about
2500Wh/gallon. At 2200Wh/g that means an efficiency of 88%, which seems way
high for an engine+generator. ...maybe I missed something though.
This is the best generator in the world if you only need 110V and not
too much power. Its 47 dB at 1/4 power. That's really like a whipser.
And its commercial engine too. I like its idle control, which means its
only as fast as it needs to go, which makes it quiet, and it has a very
long run time on one tank.
Did you slip a decimal point?
Gasoline has 127613 BTU/ gallon
and there are 3412 BTU/kWh
which comes to 37 kWh per gallon at 100% efficiency
At 10% eficency that would be 3.7 kWh per gallon which seems about
The reference I gave says 9.7kWh/l, which at 3.78l/gal is:
9.7kWh/l * 3.8l/Gal = 37kWh/gal
Shit! I divided instead of multiplying! (actually the other way around,
but...) Oops! (good thing for disclaimers ;-)
I seem to remember that number from somewhere. ...now! ;-)
You are right. 10% is much more believable.
Thanks for correcting me. <blush>
YOu can get the same number. Or, if I'm mistaken, you can get a difrfernet
number (and please tell me the correct number). How I got em was:
Read catalog, determine for a particular generator, how many watts the
generator. How many gals gasoline. The ad usually lists "hours run time at
Formula is something like:
(generator wattage / 2) x hours of run time
-------------------------------------------------------- = watt-hr/gal
tank capacity gals
It's been awhile since I ran the figures. If I'm mistaken, please tell me so
that I can know what's right.
You may want to post this to alt.energy.homepower.
That said: Look up the nameplate ratings for your refrigerator
and freezer. These will tell you the opperating power
needed. The generator needs to be able to supply at least
that much power. Size it a bit larger to account for starting surge
and a bit more for a few lights and fans.
Just my $0.02 worth. Hope it helps
If I had the money I would go with one of those natural gas models that
kick in automatically when the electric goes out. No fuel handling or
storage necessary. Of course, if you suffer from natural gas outages
in East Texas this may not be an option.
Exactly how much food did you lose in your refrigerator vs how much you
are going to spend on this?
Consider solar cells that could run your refrigerator for at least a
What is the cost of a solar cell bank, a set of deep cycle batteries
and an inverter to handle his refrigerator and even a minimal number
of small items during an outage? The generator is cheaper and
While a generator large enough to run a central a/c would be fairly
expensive both to purchase and also to operate, you can buy a 5K window
unit -large enough to cool a bedroom- for $79 that will operate on a
2000 watt generator and leave plenty of capacity left for lights,
refrigerator, freezer etc. In HVAC, Turtle said his generator (I think
he recently said it was 4500 watt) was costing $30/day to run last week
after Rita. That would equal to about 10 gal/day, so I think Stormin is
mistaken about the 1 gal/hr, unless he is talking about a huge machine.
Pretty bad when using a half gallon of gas an hour for a week will cost
$200 or more. Larry
I'm using stats from the Northern Tools catalog. If anyone has practical
experience, I'd sure love to hear from you.
Of course, the price of gas in Louisiana is got to be different than the
rest of the world.
My Coleman 2200 watt generator will run my 10,000 BTU AC, which draws about
9 amps when running.
On 10/3/2005 10:36 PM US(ET), MaryL took fingers to keyboard, and typed
I live in upstate NY and I have a Generac 5500 generator that runs the
whole 2000 sq ft house, including refrigerator/freezers (2), TVs,
computers (if the cable company hasn't lost power), and a 3/4 hp well
pump. The only difference between it and the electric utility noted is
when the well pump kicks in. There is a momentary dimming of the lights.
I've had it since Hurricane Floyd in Sept. 1999 and only used it about 4
times since. I got it in Home Depot and it cost less than $1000 (It is a
pull start and I forgot the exact amount).
Those Generacs went for about $499 at BJs for awhile. My sister and her
husband got one. After a while, it wouldn't stay running. So, they gave it
to me and bought another one. I found the problem, got it running. traded it
with my Dad, for a smaller one (I don't need 5500 watts, and 220 volts, the
one he traded me was a lot easier to carry, and more convenient). Then one
power cut, it wouldn't start. The "helpful" neighbor sprayed ether in the
spark plug hole, and it locked up solid and threw a piston rod. Probably had
less than 25 hours of actual run time.
Hint: It's OK to spray ether on the air filter, but not in the spark hole.
I've used my smaller generator a couple times since then. For running
furnace during power cuts. has come in really handy.
Since you are just beginning your search, go here
http://www.northerntool.com/ and send for their free catalog. Use it
as a reference. Use can also then click on the "Generator" section on
the left side and get and idea. If you can get to a Northern store,
you can actually see and discuss. But, generators will be scarce and
expensive for a while
I have had one of their electric starting, Honda powered, North Star
generators for several years. I keep it on a trickle charger when not
in use. I also got a wheel kit for it, so I can move it around.
I would not buy without it being either Honda powered or a Honda
generator. You want it to start each and every time
You can have an electrician set up a transfer panel for you so that
all you have to do is move the generator outside, plug it in and start
We had a tree on the house and no power for 10 days during Isabel.
The generator worked like a champ. Ran everything but the AC and
Thanks for the help, everyone. I also posted the message to
alt.energy.homepower, as someone on this group suggested. The information I
obtained from both newsgroups has been *very* useful, even though the end
result is that I have now decided that a generator really would not be very
practical for me. I had not considered maintenance, the necessity to keep
fuel available, etc., and I am also concerned about safety and whether I
could physically handle the process since I would not have anyone to help
me. The cost is a big factor in practicality. I have lost the contents of
my refrigerator and freezer twice in two years. Before that, I had not had
a power outage long enough to cause loss of food for about 12 years. So, I
really could afford to lose the amount of food I store (for one person)
several times over before paying for a generator. The extreme discomfort
from lack of air conditioning is another factor, but a generator that I
would have bought would not be large enough to take care of that, anyway
(although I would have been able to run a fan). Two years ago, I simply
packed up and moved to a motel for a couple of days! This time, I was
without power for a week, but there were no motel/hotel rooms available for
many miles because of hurricane evacuees. However, a friend learned that I
still didn't have power and invited me to stay with them. Their power was
back on, and they had air conditining. So, I spent the last two days in
relative comfort ("relative" only because it is never quite the same when
staying at someone else's home -- but they were wonderful to think of me).
Thanks, again. All of you have been extremely helpful.
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