It would seem that the switching equipment required would far outweigh
the generator cost. Were you looking for natural gas? I would think
that would be hard to find in that size as would something with a
large enough fuel tank to make this an extended use item.
Not fully knowing your issue I would suggest considering a battery
system sized to run your items for the immediate term (a few hours at
best) supported with a standard portable generator that you would have
plenty of time to set up in the event of a power outage. However, if
this is for something that you are going to be absent from for days on
end this isn't going to be an answer, but neither is a non-natural gas
generator. If the battery system backed by a generator seems like a
possibility, then you might take it further and look into whether
capacitor banks exist that will run the pump and fan for the immediate
term (2 to 3 hours maybe?). I don't know if they make those for a
residential purpose, but I know that where I work we installed a
capacitor bank to run all of the site lighting (many street lights and
pole lights) for emergency egress of an 8,000 person stadium as it was
less expensive than a hard piped generator sufficeient for the same
I appreciate your thoughtful comments.
Please see my response to Doug.
The main issue I confront is time. We have had 4 day
outages, and were we away, we would be in a tough spot.
Not sure about the automatic part, but Honda might have the answers.
They make damn good generators:
Also, I saw a water powered sump pump as backup on "This Old House"
several months ago. The house water supply pressure drove the thing
when the power was out for the regular sump pump. Wouldn't solve the
fan issue though - I'm guessing you're trying to prevent a possible
freezing problem? Do a google on "water powered sump pump" and you'll
get lots of sources.
On Tue, 20 Nov 2007 16:35:32 -0700, Doug Winterburn
Yes, freezing is (half) the issue.
I have a second (unused) flue in our chimney and could
easily install a gas heater using it, but...
It is my understanding that those heaters must have
electricity (to run the fan).
The water powered sump pump confuses me though:
If we had an extended outage, we would not have any water
pressure (or at least would not have it for very long.)
If I had electricity to pressurize our water supply, I would
just use it to power the pump I now have (unless I am
misinterpreting your comment about water pressure.)
You will see other issues elsewhere in the thread.
I misunderstood - I thought the sump pump was to prevent flooding. It
sounds like the pump is for a well, not a sump? The water powered pumps
work if you have city water and therefore water pressure independent of
your power. They are a solution to prevent flooding of a basement for
example if the power is out for the electric sump pump.
On Tue, 20 Nov 2007 17:04:14 -0700, Doug Winterburn
My desire for backup electric power IS for a sump pump, to
prevent flooding. I regret any confusion. We are in a rural
setting, and have our own well. So, no electricity means no
It sounds to me like you need an alternative. Would a passive drain of
some sort be feasable? If you can keep water from entering your
basement, you don't have to pump it out.
How about a neighbor? His power's likely to be out at the same time as
yours, so he could start your generator and switch the sump pump over.
(You'll probably have to bake him a cake now and again or something.)
How much water are we talking about anyway? Does the pump run constantly
as it's raining, or does it run maybe 4 times a day? You could enlarge
your sump pit and size it to fit your longer average outages.
How about... I just thought of this: A pump that's turned by water
coming down your down spout. When it starts to rain, the pump starts
going and drawing water out of your basement. You might even be able to
use a water powered sump pump by directing the water from your roof
Solar electricity is getting better. You might be able to charge a bank
of batteries during the day and have them run your sump pump.
You could just go for a whole house generator and enjoy the extra power
it can provide while you're there. It's sure nice to not have to reset
all those clocks.
Keep thinking and asking, someone's bound to come to a workable solution.
Wise is the man who attempts to answer his question before asking it.
To email me directly, send a message to puckdropper (at) fastmail.fm
I don't have the link right handy but for whatever generator you end up
with, you can get a converter for it that allows the generator to run on
gasoline, propane or natural gas. I have the converter on my 8550W unit and
it works but it is a bit hard to start on propane when it's cold. So I start
it on gas, then switch to propane. Reason I bring that up is you'll get a
longer run time than what you get on 5 gal of gas on the typical home
generator. That gets you about 12hrs of run time with a 50% load. a 20lb
bottle of propane gives you a little less run time but.... You can get
larger propane tanks that would give you plenty of run time.
You could get one like this that has an LP option - with electric start
capability http://www.duropower.com/item.asp?PID 0&FID&level=1
Now, all you need is a trunk monkey that jumps out to hit the start button
when the electricty goes out..... You can find SCADA type of equipment that
will do that by sensing when the power goes out and trips a relay to close a
contact that starts the electric starter on the gen. But it needs to be
smart. Needs to stop "pushing the starter button" so to speak, once it
senses the engine starts. Plus, what will it do if it doesn't sense the
engine started plus, how long does it wait when the house power is lost
before starting the generator and what does it do when it senses the power
is restored. So you probably could jerry-rig several items together but may
be best just to bite the bullet and get a small whole house unit with the
all the bells and whistles (LP, gas, natural gas capable), auto-start,
auto-sensing / switchover. Plus, even when you are home and the power goes
out - you will have power instead of getting your flashlight out.
A battery backup sump pump with a battery to give you days of run time (on /
off cycling) will probably go for about $3k. One house in our neighborhood
has one - and it did work while she was out of town last year for a week, so
it was money well spent according to her. Only to have her basement flooded
(us too...) a month later.
Justify the cost by esitimating the damage caused if the sump pump doesn't
work while you're gone. Add in freezing pipes, lost food in the fridge and
freezer and whatever else your losses could be if you're not around.
I wonder if an RV heater(s) would fit your needs. These are designed to run
on propane and have a 12v electrical system. You could use batteries
recharged with solar cells to keep the batteries going. The heater dosent
have to keep the place toasty warm...just above 32 degrees most of the time.
I'm not sure that their auto transfer switch units are available below 7kw,
but do a search for Cutler Hammer generators. They have partnered with
Briggs and Stratton, C-H handles the auto switching and the load center and
Briggs powers the generator, either natural gas or propane. Take a look at
this site, it might recommend a unit. Good Luck.
The 7KW Generac is as small as I know. I am reasonably sure no manufacturer
bothers with any thing smaller. It gets to a point where the actual
manufacturing costs are pretty much the same the smaller units. Say you
could find a 4KW unit. Everything for the 4KW would pretty much be the same
as the 7KW that is available. The cost for the smaller generator head and
engine would only affect the manufacturing cost by a small margin. You still
need a cabinet to put it all in, plus a transfer switch. My bet is the
manufacturing cost would be $100 less than the available 7KW unit, so the
manufacturer does not bother to build them. So you want to buy a 4KW for
$1800, versus a 7KW for $2000? Buck up and buy the 7KW and put a few more
circuits on the transfer, and enjoy!
In another perspective, I work as a service tech for a company that sells
standby Generac, standby generators. In 10 years we have never sold a unit
less than 10KW. 10 years ago Generac built a 6KW unit. We had two in stock,
and they sat in stock until my boss built a new home. He put both 6KW units
on his home to get rid of them! There is virtually no market for the small
units, in fact our main sellers are 13-16KW units.
On Tue, 20 Nov 2007 20:31:56 -0700, Doug Winterburn
A battery backup and inverter is a possibility, but we have
had outages as long as four days, and also have had
situations in which our pump cycled on and off every thirty
seconds or so for a week.
If those two situations were to coincide, I would need quite
a pile of batteries to stay dry.
Sincere thanks, as before,
How about going for the smallest automatic generator that you can find and
then allowing your neighbor to tap into it during a power failure, right
after he checks your sump pump? That sounds like a win-win situation to me.
Your neighbor may have to do some leg work at his house, but he should be
able to run his circulating pump for heat, his well pump (assume he is on
well water as you are), and maybe a light or two. Granted, not all at the
same time, but it does offer him some incentive. Just a thought.
As long as the neighbor is connecting to a receptacle, that's fine. If the
connection to the neighbor's house is hard-wired, then you have both Code and
safety issues. So install a GFCI-protected outdoor outlet on the side facing
the neighbor, and all is well.
Doug Miller (alphageek at milmac dot com)
On Wed, 21 Nov 2007 10:06:32 -0500, "Peter Bogiatzidis"
Indeed, it would be a win-win, but...
My closest neighbor is on the order of a half mile. If I
could afford that cord, I could afford a big automatic
All the best, and thanks for thinking about it,
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