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Gas Powered Generator Advice

Post in 'DIY and General non-hearth advice' started by k3c4forlife, Dec 10, 2009.

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  1. k3c4forlife

    k3c4forlife Member

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    Hey all,

    I am looking to purchase a gas powered electric generator for backup electricity for my house. I own a smaller ranch-style house, 1300sf. I would like the generator to be able to run 2-3 space heaters, my elec. hot water heater and maybe a tv/surround sound set up in my living room. I am great with the wood stove but have very limited knowledge in this area... What size generator am I looking at to run this much equipment? What cost am I looking at?

    Thanks,
    Kevin

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  2. daveswoodhauler

    daveswoodhauler Minister of Fire

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    Hey Kevin - Can you post the specs (wattage/Amps) of the space heaters you are running?
    Also, I was talking with my electrician the other day, and he recommended "not" to power up expensive electronic equipment, such as computers, tv's etc...to prevent any damage to the units...I'm guessing due to fluctuations in power coming from the generator.
    On a side note, I have a 5500 (running) and 8350 start up generator, and when hooked into the panel it basically can run everything in the house except for the clothes dryer, and stove. (runs the furnace, well pump, all lights tv, etc)
  3. k3c4forlife

    k3c4forlife Member

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    Ill have to go and look at what everything is pulling...
  4. Highbeam

    Highbeam Minister of Fire

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    The space heaters are going to be 1500 watts each, the water heater will be a 30 amp circuit so 6600 more watts. Both of these are simple resistance loads so you're already up to an 11,100 watt genset which is HUGE. Have you considered your refrigerator/freezer? You are way above normal hardware store gensets and the fuel consumption alone makes this a bad idea. Try to imagine shuttling more than a gallon per hour to this genset, I used a gallon per hour in my old 6850 watt genset so a 12KW genset might be closer to two GPH.

    If you are clever and willing to alternate the use of these items, for instance run the water heater only when nothing else is on, then your wattage needs drop significantly. Do you really need hot water? Do you really need space heaters? You have your stove to run.

    For reference, I have an all electric house and run my home during an outage with a 3500 watt continuous rated gas genset that consumes less than 5 gallons of gas in 12 hours. I run all lights, the microwave, entertainment center, both refers, and a range burner easily with this genset. I do not run the water heater, hot tub, dryer, or space heaters since this is sort of an emergency thing and those items are not critical.
  5. k3c4forlife

    k3c4forlife Member

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    Alright, so if I cut the electric heaters and the water heater but try to hit the fridge, + lights, tv, a 5000 would be enough?
  6. daveswoodhauler

    daveswoodhauler Minister of Fire

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    5000 should be more than enough for your fridge, tv and lights.
  7. Cowboy Billy

    Cowboy Billy Minister of Fire

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    I am not a fan of gas generators. They are fuel inefficient. And you have to have a lot of gas on hand if the power is out for a extended time. Even with stabil the gas does not last long. With a diesel the fuel is good for 2-3 years. We have a off grid place in michigan's UP. We have a diesel with low speed generator head. We can run two electric heaters on microwave, tv, furnace for about six gallons in 24 hrs. This summer we went with a big battery and power inverter. We can run off of that for a day or two then fire up the generator and charge the battery back up. Right now I am working on hooking up a 10 diesel engine with a big alternator and aircompersser. And I am going to use that to charge the battery.

    For home I am building a 14hp lister diesel generator setup. Its big but the engine is awesome. It will run on diesel vegetable oil or even used and filtered motor oil which I can get free.

    Lister diesel with low speed 12000 watt generator head

    [​IMG]

    Billy
  8. k3c4forlife

    k3c4forlife Member

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    I dont need anything near that elaborate. The most we have power out for is 24 hours... I will look into smaller diesel though if they exist.
  9. Highbeam

    Highbeam Minister of Fire

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    Gas will serve you fine then. Despite the rumors, gasoline lasts a long time. I treat with sta-bil and have never ever had a fuel system go bad from year old fuel. For the fridge, tv, and some lights you can get by with a small genset like I have. A 6HP honda clone engine is easy on fuel, relatively quiet, and very easy to start. They sell the champion brand generators at most autoparts chain stores for about 300$. The most common size is 3500 watts and is plenty for your needs. You can even run one of those space heaters along with your other needs. Plan on running extension cords to each device or figuring out a transfer switch system.

    Note that your water heater will be full of hot water that will stay hot for more than 24 hours unless you drain it with a shower.

    Note also that the best way to maintain a dependable genset of any type is to use it. plan on running it once a month under 50% load for a half hour. This keeps everything lubed, dry, and functional.

    I sure like those listers. It would make a great hobby. The sound is wonderful.
  10. k3c4forlife

    k3c4forlife Member

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    Ha, ill probably end up buying something 5x more powerful than I need... 10000 here I come... I have posted a bunch on here about just buying my first house. Having heat when I lose power isnt enough. I need to be that guy that has a wood stove cooking and is watching the football game when there's no power.

    Good point on the water heater retaining its hot water... One really quick shower for the wife and I in a 24 hour period would be fine. There really isnt a reason that I would need to be actually heating new water during the length of our standard power outage.

    Just need to make sure I have enough gas on hand.
  11. Cowboy Billy

    Cowboy Billy Minister of Fire

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    If you run it like Highbeam said they can be dependable. But 99% of the time they might get run once a year and no care taken of them. And the cheep home owner ones like the 5000 watt one I had have no auto idle and are loud vibrate and the bearings in the generator don't hold up.

    They do make little diesel generators that look just like the gas ones. But because they have more torque handle load surges better than gas ones and that is what I was suggesting. The lister is a big project and takes up a lot of space. But I do not have to worry about anyone stealing it unless they have a tow truck as it weighs about 1800lbs the way it is setup now.

    Thanks Highbeam. You got it right it is a hobby! And a big project. The plan is to use the lister in the winter. The engine is water cooled and we are going to water cool the exhust. Pipe the heat into the house to help heat the house and get all my electric power too. The project started when my brother and I were talking about how much it cost to heat a house with heating oil. We came up with the idea of burning the heating oil in the in a diesel engine getting the same amount of heat and all our electric. We also have a seed press to press the oil out of soybeans or sunflowers if we can ever get this growing thing down to where we can get a crop off. So far all we have done is feed the deer. Hard to belive how fast they can eat 15 acres of sunflowers!

    Billy
  12. EatenByLimestone

    EatenByLimestone Minister of Fire

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    If you use the sunflowers to feed the deer, which is used to fill the lister powered freezer....
  13. Fi-Q

    Fi-Q Feeling the Heat

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    Yep, the sercret of any combustion engine is to maintain them and make them run... Like if you'Re ever buying a use RV wich is 4 years old and the generator on it only have 2 hour. You will have problems with that generator.

    Eventually, I want to build myself a Lister generator.... but I'm not there yet...........
  14. btuser

    btuser Minister of Fire

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    Cowboy,

    How's that Lister coming? I was looking a small one, in the neighborhood of 1,000 lbs and only 5kw. I don't know if I have the room or the time or the money, but if I'm going to spend 2k+ on a genset I like the idea of being able to use it forever.
  15. Deere10

    Deere10 New Member

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    One thing I do is when I am done running the gen is to shut gas off and let carb run dry. This way the new ethanol gas does not sit in the carb bowl and mess with any rubber or plastic parts of the carb. This new fuel will cause damage to those parts. I run a 55oo w 6500 peak. Again try not to run computers,expensive tv s. Keep the draw low if possible.
  16. fbelec

    fbelec Minister of Fire

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    for you guys that want to run a computer( got to check on the forum) or large tv find yourself a ups. doesn't have to be to big because you'll have your generator running anyway. ups is the best thing for smoothing out power from a generator. it smoothes out voltage highs and lows. i would suggest it for anything that has a electronic board in it. last year i was being stupid again and thought i could run my police scanner on the generator. WRONG blew that out quick.
  17. billb3

    billb3 Minister of Fire

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    Ships use gen sets for A/C power.
    They use UPS with AVR for glitches on the A/C. Any glitches are usually related to big hydraulic pumps turning on and off.
    Usually just on computers and sometimes the satellite dishes.
  18. fbelec

    fbelec Minister of Fire

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    cowboy nice setup. that is way more versatile, it burns anything but gasoline. love it. i'm a big fan of compression.
  19. woodsman23

    woodsman23 Minister of Fire

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    A very simply solution is to buy a propane generator. Fuel never goes bad, burns cleaner, never gums up the carb and man they start right up every time....
  20. firefighterjake

    firefighterjake Minister of Fire

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    K3 . . . can't help you much with the size of the generator . . . but I can say I've been relatively happy with my own small generator that I purchased back in 1998 during our Ice Storm that left us without power for 14 days (and this was pre-woodstove). It is a relatively small, gasoline-powered generator . . . ran the oil boiler, a few lights and the TV (since I was right in middle of playing TombRaider back then and that was one of the first things I got going). I start it up each month and run it for a bit just to make sure it's good to go when I need it . . . I treat the gas with Star Tron for long term storage and occasionally have to use a squirt of ether for the initial start up.

    If I had the time, inclination and money I would go with a larger generator and have one that is set up to automatically come on and run a few things in the house . . . a co-worker who lives downeast on a peninsula that is always losing power has a stand-by generator that does this . . . and it automatically kicks on every month to stay in working order.
  21. Adios Pantalones

    Adios Pantalones Minister of Fire

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    Startup power for a well is usually the big draw! I have a 5000W Honda and it got it's first couple days of real use this weekend- it ran the boiler, the fan on my insert, fridge, my 72 gal fish tank, coffee pot, 42" flatscreen with my PS3, couple lights... no problems and never really stressed.
  22. Highbeam

    Highbeam Minister of Fire

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    You ran the 42" and the PS3 on a 5000 genset? Is it a fancy inverter genset?

    I have some very good surge protectors now but am afraid of running fancy electronics on genset power. These UPS systems that you folks, fbelec, speak of. Are these the super expensive type or do you have any suggestions for good value versions of a UPS device that will simply shave the peaks and fill in the low voltage occurrences?

    I would like to be able to run TVs and computers but I don't want to fry them and I would need several UPS systems around the house to do this.
  23. Adios Pantalones

    Adios Pantalones Minister of Fire

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    The Honda generators are pretty good, and I have one of those crazy power strips with filtering of sorts. Not worried- worked great.
  24. Stevebass4

    Stevebass4 Minister of Fire

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    very clean power from Honda gensets - although i have never lost power since i bought my genset
  25. thewoodlands

    thewoodlands Minister of Fire

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    We bought a 4500 watt generator from Sears in 1998 before the ice storm and are running it when power goes out. On the generator panel we have the furnace,pump for the well, lights in the garage,microwave,outlets on the island,lights in 1 bathroom, fan on the propane fireplace plus the fan on the wood stove. Also some electrical outlets in the living room.

    We never had a problem yet.

    Zap
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