We've sat through another extended (16 hr) power outage, and some around
here (north Jersey/NYC area) are still without power. This time it wasn't
hot or cold, but who knows what the next time will bring. Therefore I'd
like to buy a generator that can handle the fridge, a TV and the heating
system, or perhaps the A/C. This is a smallish single family home, ~1800
sq feet. I do realize that the heating system (natural gas-fired baseboard
hot water) and/or the A/C need special switching that I'd need an
electrician to install. A close friend used to work for an electrician, so
I could get expert advice and inspection for this.
Because this generator wouldn't be needed very often at all, I am thinking
of a propane system, not gasoline, but I'm open to all. Any recommendations
for brands/models from the cabal??
It's all about what you are willing to spend. Take a look at
generators on the northen tool site. They are as good a price as
If you do not want gasoline and you have nat gas you can get
generators that run on nat gas. The main convenience of gasoline is
that your generator is completely independent of your house. You need
it somewhere else move it. You move take it with you. Propane or
gasoline, you're still dealing with manual supply. Gasoline packs
more energy per unit and is easier to find after the storm that
Just to run the house excluding high resistive heating such as
electric stove/dryer and central ac you can get by with 4-5 kw. That
probably will run your nat gas heat too presuming all you have is
circulation pumps to contend with. If you have a gas dryer that will
work too. You can run an electric dryer on the no heat setting.
Figure $500 to $700 for a generator.
If you want to run the central ac and/or big resistive heat loads
you're closer to the 8-10kw range. You need some pretty serious surge
capacity to start the ac. Surge startup on a central ac can be 60 amps
or more. Look for units with a lot of surge. Unfortunately that
usually means more steady state amps than you will need. Downside of
that is higher fuel consuption at lower usage rates because the unit
is simply bigger. Figure $1200 to $2k.
Really good generators will run at 1800rpm instead of 3600rpm. These
last a lot longer. Often they are diesel instead of gas since it's
hard to get much hp out of gas engines at 1800rpm. Most of these will
be over $2k.
Transfer solutions also range in price. Auto start auto transfer is
pretty expensive. Grand or more. Manual transfer with a mechancal
lockout on the breaker panel can be as little as $150.
Personally I could not justify the several grand for a little more
convenience. I have a 4400w gasoline generator and it will run my
forced air gas heat but not my central ac. Not my electric oven or
dryer heat coils either. Runs most of the rest of the house fine
including the microwave. Cost was about $500.
I can't recommend a generator, but I've looked into powering my
furnace with one and there can be problems with the generator sine
wave being incompatible with the furnace control board.
So look hard at that before you pop for a generator.
And at NG powered since you have NG.
I had a 71 hour and a 12 hour outage this year, so I've given it some
thought. Severe wind storms.
Like your experience, it wasn't hot or cold.
My house 1200 sq ft, 2400 if you include the basement.
I thought about generators, inverters that run from the car, etc.
Just didn't like the expense and maintenance for something I'll hardly
Since I became somewhat of a veteran of outages this year, here's what
I concluded. Just my ideas, and you're welcome to reject them all.
Might not fit your circumstances.
If you're dead set on a generator stop reading now.
First off the 71 hour outage only happened once.
Even the 12 hour was next longest we've experienced.
And they're very rare here.
So I figure that in.
Spring, summer, fall.
If outage goes long enough, cook up any steak or shrimp you have and
feast. The rest will spoil. That's all easy to judge.
Happened with the 71 hour outage, all fine with the 12 hour.
But we can only lose about $50 from the fridge most times.
Make sure you have the usual flashlights, candles, and battery radios.
I missed TV news the most, so I'm going to get one of these.
Good for a while if you nurse its usage, then you can plug it into the
car lighter. Not sure if that will recharge it.
But I found the worse part of a long outage is the uncertainty of when
power will be restored.
By the second day me and the wife were both getting edgy.
If she was another broad there might have been violence.
I've decided to get out and get to a motel where they have power as
soon as the edginess gets to me. I'm sure she'll want to tag along.
Fridge is a non-issue.
I've got two 23,000 BTU kerosene heaters and about 10 gallons of K-1.
Sometimes use them in the garage doing car work.
One in the basement and one upstairs will keep the house barely
livable and protect the plumbing in cold weather.
Or just one in the basement and keep the range burners on upstairs.
But I don't much like kerosene heaters in the house, or fetching fuel
if I have to, so I'm going to get one of these.
I'll switch a water heater gas el to a T and add a nipple and valve.
Plenty of room on the floor next to the water heater and most of the
plumbing is on that wall.
Leave the basement door open and run the range burners upstairs.
CO alarms are on batteries
Should do the job until power is restored.
But I have to babysit the heat and can't go to a motel.
So I'm in about $320 deep with the TV and heater.
Maybe I won't get the TV. Haven't yet.
Maybe I won't get the heater. Haven't yet.
Talk is cheap.
I think having the kero heaters handy has kept me from pulling the
trigger on both, but I feel my finger itching.
I don't know about gas generators and have a gasoline one but would
prefer the convience of not having to start and run it now and then
and inventory gasoline and make sure it is stabilized and fresh but
there is no gas service in my area. Gasoline is normally not in short
supply after as storm with exceptions like when most of Florida was
knocked out and gas station pumps had no electricity. Unlikely to
happen in NJ.
I got my generator guidance from the mower shop I go to that
specializes in Hondas. I would love a Honda as they are quiet
compared to my gas model but cost twice as much. A couple of things
they pointed out were that really cheap units like Coleman or stuff
from Harbor Freight may be difficult to get replacement parts for.
They also recommended that the generator part be a good brand like
Generac and some brands, like the one I bought at Home Depot have a
Generac unit but a BS motor. Even an off brand could contain a Honda
motor and a Generac or Honda generator part.
Your needs sound modest and as other responder pointed out, generators
normally are sold out after a big storm but you can get a returned
unit at half price afterwards.
Generac can be good or not. The line that is sold at places like home
depot is of lower quality than the line they sell at equipment places.
Three friends have "real" generac generators and two have the home depot
version. All look the same externally and are connected to auto transfer
switches. The home depot versions are screaming loud. You can barely
hear the "real" ones. One friend went through months of service calls
because their home depot version wasn't working properly. The service
place had trouble getting correct parts and showed him the parts list
and breakdown which shows the home depot version is much different than
the normal version.
Years ago, I installed a lot of Generac gensets, most were the 8kw
version with the Briggs&Stratton Vanguard V-twin engine running on
natural gas. Some were 10-25kw gensets using Turkish Fiat 4 cylinder
1.6L engines. The 10kw ran at 1800rpm and was the one that would
probably last the longest. I think all the rest ran at 3600rpm.
The last Generac I installed used the newer Generac designed and built
big honkin air cooled V-twin. Those things are great.
I would look at Tri Fuel conversions www.propane-generators.com
They are propane Ng gasolene conversion kits, run what you have. The
cleanest power are inverter types that honda and yamaha have, Northern
tool should have them already done for sale and shipping, then its as
easy as getting a Ng line outside which is easy and cheap to do.
I agree on the "post irene" sales. Lots of good stuff cheap in a few
I disagree on the power "quality" posts. Today's appliances can
handle just about anything. I run my 48" sony bravia, my gas furnace,
my computers, microwave, you name it off my el cheapo 4400 watt
generator. Never had a problem with any of it. Done it at least a
dozen times in the past 12 years.
It can be done safely, I wasnt clear, its really a different issue
that of calibration, ive seen new units sold that put out about 140v,
if you check and adjust your unit once in a while, any unit should do
well for you
Most of the generators say they can be used for forced air fans, but
they stop short of saying they can be used on a relatively new
That control board is very vulnerable. And running it off of an
battery combo, which would be less vulnerable to voltage fluctuations
and generator spikes may also be an issue.
They're not any more vunerable that any other piece of electronics.
They handle reasonable voltage and frequency variations. Since most
are powered from the 24 volt transformer, voltage variations are
reduced by a factor of 5. I've run both my forced air gas unts many
times from my generator. Many of my neighbors do as well.
Inverters are worse than generators for inductive loads. Most
inverters do not produce a true sine wave.
A big box trucks that said "GeneratorsRus or similar was at
a small local shopping plaza right after the storm here in NJ.
They were loaded with generators just like you suggest.
A neighbor bought a 5000Watt generator for $1400. It's
a no name Chinese that goes for $400 normally.
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