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How big should my emergency generator be, and how do I power it?

Discussion in 'Preparedness & Survival' started by KidJavelin, Nov 9, 2012.

  1. KidJavelin

    KidJavelin Puget Sound Member

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    Hey all!

    I was thinking about cobbling up some sort of generator for when the lights go black, which from what I understand about my new neighborhood, happens quite a bit in the winter.

    It's your basic three bedroom house, but we have two referigerators, and will be using a pellet stove/w a battery bckup for emergency heating purposes. Any cooking will be done on camp stoves and the big grill, like we've done before.

    The major question I have is in the event a power outage lasts several days, as has happened in my area before, should I have a generator handy, and if I should, how big should I make it so that it can run some of the lights, the fridges, and possibly the hot water heater? I found a questionnaire thingy online, and according to that a 8kw generator would be fine for an emergency. I was thinking of getting a generator head in the 10-12kw range in the event of load increases and things.

    I've found a source for some pretty decently priced brushed gen heads, but I'm wondering what kind of motor should I use to turn them with? Gas, diesel, or propane. I'm also wondering where do I get said motor (15-29HP)?
     
  2. Modeler

    Modeler Molalla, Oregon Soccer Fan

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    If money is no object... something that runs on both gasoline and propane, with propane as your primary. Propane doesn't go bad like gasoline does. I'm stuck with a gasoline unit (for now) to run my well and refrigerator/freezer, but I'd love to get a propane-powered unit.

    Another thing regarding lights, do you have halogens and incandescent lights or CFL's? If you have CFL's then your energy requirements will be much lower.

    I could be wrong, but I think running the water heater is going to be the lion's share of your power requirements.
     
  3. Redcap

    Redcap Lewis County, WA Well-Known Member

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    I have a 20kw unit on a 3pt hitch mount I built. Has a gear case so I can power it with my smallest tractor at slightly off-idle.
     
  4. KidJavelin

    KidJavelin Puget Sound Member

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    I figure the water heater would be the biggest hog as well. Can't you swap back and forth between gas and propane with some effort? Where would I find a propane motor, or do I have to get propane parts and convert a gas one?

    Red, your genset sounds very cool.
     
  5. jawbone

    jawbone Western Washington Member

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    I have a PowerBoss 7000 watt gasoline generator. A 7-gallon tank produces 10 hours of electricity at 50% load. It has a Honda GX390 OHV Engine. I bought it for our local power outages, and it runs everything I need it to. It handles both 120/240V. I think I picked it up for around $900.00 at Costco 4 or 5 years ago when we lost power for 5 days. If I had to do it again though, I would've purchased one with an electric starter option instead of just a pull-crank.

    Here is a link to some estimated wattages: http://www.donrowe.com/inverters/usage_chart.html

    This should help you determine what size you need. Remember, you can plug your freezers in for an hour or so every 4-5 hours and be just fine.

    Also, I like the fact that it's portable so if I had to bug out it's possible to take it with me if I choose to (I have a small 6' trailer I plan on using).
     
  6. Modeler

    Modeler Molalla, Oregon Soccer Fan

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  7. Sling Blade

    Sling Blade Yamhill County Well-Known Member

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  8. hammertime

    hammertime Oregon Member

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    The bigger the generator the more fuel you burn. We run a 6500 Honda with electric start and water cooled. I uses 5 gallons of fuel in about 8 hours. Where we live it is also common to loose power for several days at a time. We had a switch installed in the house to disconnect from public power. That is must have or you will be in big trouble if you back feed power to the transformer.
     
  9. dolooper

    dolooper Coast Range, or thereabouts Well-Known Member

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    Got an electrician installing a transfer switch soon (as soon as the parts get in). I don't want to have to run extension cords to everything i want to power like the furnace motor and such. I certainly don't want to backfeed up the line and kill some some lineman who's just working to restore juice for everyone else in the neighborhood.

    I got a 7.5 kw unit. Should be enough to keep things warm, the pipes from freezing, the food from melting, some lights on, and charge a few batteries to hook up to an inverter when the generator's not running.
     
    mjbskwim and (deleted member) like this.
  10. ATCclears

    ATCclears Seattle area, WA Well-Known Member

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    As others have mentioned, 10K+ watts is large, likely louder, and will definitely burn more fuel.

    I've had the same 5000-watt generator from Costco since 1997 and been fine. The generator has a peak, temporary load of 6200 watts. I also have a transformer panel wired in, and it has 10 circuits and two watt meters so I can monitor load/pull. I had an electrician build me a (very) think 50-foot cable (220-volt plugs on each end) such that I have a single cable running from the generator into the transformer panel.

    I was into it for about $1500. It has saved us several times over the years and didn't require us to toss the contents of the fridge and freezer.

    Key questions to ask yourself:
    - is your furnace electric or gas?
    - is your hot-water tank electric or gas?
    - you likely won't be able to run high-amp appliances such as an electric oven, electric furnace, electric cooktop
    - how much do you really need to have concurrently running at the same time?
    - even the largest transformer panels will likely have a limit of 12 switches,
    meaning you can wire it in for up to 12 circuit breakers in your house,
    so which 12 would you chose?
    - can you keep enough fuel onhand in a shed or outbuilding?

    Get a certified electrician to do any wiring work for you. Ensure the 220-volt cable is long enough to run the generator away from the house - you don't want a fire in the generator to cause a fire in your house.

    Oh, run the generator about 3-4x per year for 15+ minutes each time, and change the oil every Fall. You'd be surprised how many people ignore the health of the engine and just expect it to magically start up.

    Peter
     
  11. Blitzkrieg

    Blitzkrieg WA Well-Known Member

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    Also consider getting one big enough to run a few 500 watt halogen stand lights so you can at least have some exterior lumination for security and work purposes.. just open a bit of the drapes and the front yard is lighted, or set one out on an extension cord for any required work
     
  12. Sgt Nambu

    Sgt Nambu Oregon Bronze Supporter Bronze Supporter

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    Hey Kid, if you are running a pellet stove can't you heat all the water you need?
     
  13. PDXSparky

    PDXSparky Keizer / Hillsboro Well-Known Member

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    Can't stress that point enough. Hearing a genset running makes the line crew very apprehensive about working on the lines.
     
  14. Blitzkrieg

    Blitzkrieg WA Well-Known Member

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    That is a very good idea.. I bet there's an automatic relay available for that. I worked for a utility once and you ALWAYS check for power even if you turn off a breaker.. but in this case it could come back suddenly from a generator
     
  15. mjbskwim

    mjbskwim Salmon,Idaho Well-Known Member

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    I am thinking towards a diesel generator for the fact it could run on veggy oil too.
    I do have an older gas generator that I got the conversion kit for propane,but a diesel would really make me happy. I do like the idea of using the tractor,as it would have duel purpose.
    Diesel equipment is expensive though.
     
  16. Thebastidge

    Thebastidge 10411 NE Fourth Plain Blvd Vancouver WA 98662 Well-Known Member

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    If you have to turn your generator off, then this is true, but if you're running your generator full time for other purposes, you should just leave your freezer/fridge plugged inall the time. It'll actually pull less juice over all if it stays cold rather than warming a it and cooling a bit.

    For the most part, I would look at purchasing a generator rather than building one, unless you have special purposes in mind. It'll probably cost you less over time, including maintenance. Particularly if you're looking at emergency power rather than an off-grid solution.
     
    mjbskwim and (deleted member) like this.
  17. knuckle Head

    knuckle Head southeast Well-Known Member

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    Has anyone with plenty of property considered or built an above or below ground hush house Hush house - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia to run their generator in??

    Hush house

    From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

    A hush house is an enclosed, noise suppressed, aircraft jet engine testing facility for the testing of installed or uninstalled jet engines under actual load conditions.

    Jet engines and aircraft can be tested either indoors or outdoors.
    Indoor engine test cells are facilities designed for testing engines removed from an aircraft (referred to as "uninstalled engines"). The engines in such facilities are generally suspended from overhead thrust frames.
    A hush house is wide enough to accommodate an entire aircraft so that the engine can be run while installed in the aircraft. Uninstalled engines secured to thrust frames can also be tested in most hush houses.
    Outdoor run-up areas are facilities where engines are tested outdoors while mounted on thrust stands, or where engines are tested outdoors while installed in an aircraft. They may, or may not, include provisions for noise control.

    The air intake and exhaust systems of indoor engine test cells and hush houses are designed to optimize the engine air flows, and to discharge the cooled jet exhaust through a vertical stack. The intake and exhaust systems have silencers to reduce noise transmitted to the surrounding outdoor area.
     
  18. Blitzkrieg

    Blitzkrieg WA Well-Known Member

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    Mine will be in the highest room of the tallest tower of ICF construction, along with all the off grid controllers and the water tank system. It will simply exhaust out of a small port in the wall