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Generator......oh the choices

Post in 'DIY and General non-hearth advice' started by Coog, May 11, 2013.

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  1. Coog

    Coog Member

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    I live out in the country as many of you do. So I need a generator that can power a 220 volt 1/2 horse well pump motor. I think a 4000 or 5000 watt generator would do but it seams silly to buy such a large generator for 4 or 5 lights, a refrigerator, freezer, CD player, and fireplace fan (if it is winter time). A 2000 watt generator could power the house if it were not for the well. Wondering if any one else is in this same predicament.

    I would also like to have the propane option and the larger units get pretty expensive with the conversion kits (and consume a lot more unnecessary fuel). The small units like the Honda 2000i and Yamaha 2000 watt comparable are pretty reasonable and sip the fuel.

    I was thinking a cheaper 6500 watt Generac and a Honda or Yamaha 2000 watt generator. But that means two generators.

    Anyone else in the same predicament that can lend assistance.

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  2. Descending sparky

    Descending sparky Member

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    Well I am a licensed electrician so this is right up my alley! So the questions are, you looking for a portable unit, do you want a gas powered or propane powered, do you have propane at your place if you do intend on using propane, how often would you typically have outages and for how long? I just moved into a home in the country and after our first large storm I said enough is enough and installed a 7kw generac propane generator with auto transfer switch! Don't regret it one bit, gives me a peace of mind to know I can go to work and know my basement isn't filling with water, food is going bad, house is going cold, etc! It's a must have where I live everything there's is an outage here I have a grin from ear to ear on my face as I always hear the local horror stories associated with now power in a freezing cold night or a nasty rain storm etc! One thing you should consider when looking at any generator that is portable is the receptacles that are on the unit! I had my eye in a great Honda generator but when I went to purchase it the twist lock receptacle was only a 20 amp 250/125v! I would go for a 30amp Which should be on most units 6000 watts and above! Glad I went with the generac anyways installed many of these units had no problems and its all self sufficient! Hope you make out ok with your hunt for power!
  3. nate379

    nate379 Guest

    I use a 4000 watt gen set for powering my house and I'd really need to go a bit larger.

    The 4kw will power the usual stuff (fridge, freezer, couple fans, lights) but that's about it. If the water heater kicks on (indirect off my boiler) it sometimes stalls the generator or trips the breaker. Also same for using the washing machine and gas dryer, or the microwave.
    Also it's loud as heck. It doesn't have the idle down feature so it runs at full bore even if almost nothing is on.

    I do need to fix my wiring for it, I think that may help. I used my welding cord as the power cable (6 gauge SOOJW cord) but I don't have neutral hooked up (welder circuit is just 2 hots and a ground) I probably need to buy a 4 wire cable.

    I'd really love to get a diesel model since I have a 300 gal tank at home and most of my vehicles and equipment is diesel. About the only thing I use regularly that runs on gas is my ZTR mower, garden tractor with a snowblower and the chainsaws.
  4. woodgeek

    woodgeek Minister of Fire

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    I would get a big (cheap) 220V mother for the well, and a $100 Harbor Freight genny for 'standby' use. While the HF is only rated 800W, I ran all my needed loads in my 4 person house for 5 days during Sandy, on about 1 gal/day. That included fridge, stove blower, cfl lights, portable electronics and wifi router. Rotated some loads a little, popped the breaker only 2X.
  5. Ehouse

    Ehouse Minister of Fire

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    One way around the well pump problem; use an ample storage tank in the basement with a small booster pump to the pressure tank, or place tank in the attic for gravity feed.
  6. jebatty

    jebatty Minister of Fire

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    Faced the same question. First solution was a 5500W 240V generator and 10 circuit manual transfer switch. The genny is outside with a plug-in to the switch. Works great, handles the well pump as needed, and most lighting circuits and a couple of other key circuits (microwave, computer, TV etc). But like you, this was overkill yet needed for the pump. I now have added a 2000W inverter generator for "normal" use, and only start the 240V for brief periods to run the well pump. Works great. Plus the inverter generator is very portable and I use it camping, for work on power tools away from extension cord range, etc. Double plus is that the 5500W 240V also powers my MIG welder, so now I also have a portable welder to use anywhere. Think multiple use opportunities as you make your decision.
  7. Ehouse

    Ehouse Minister of Fire

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    Would the small genny start and run the well pump if needed or is it just 110?
  8. Redbarn

    Redbarn Member

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    I faced the exact same problem. The 2 generator solution is best.

    We use our old 5500 watt B&S to run the well pump for 1 hour in the morning to run showers etc.
    Then shut it down and use the Yamaha 2000 watt for the rest of the day. No Genny at night.
    Use 3 galls of fuel per day max and with 30 galls on store, can last 10 days easily before having to look for fuel.
    Thats before even considering draining the 40 gall gas tank in our old Suburban.
    Have minimal loss of conveniences and comfort using this setup.

    Besides, if 1 genny breaks, can still use the other.

    I have researched using propane but is not cost effective for us.
    Very seriously considered getting solar panels, battery bank and inverter but again, not cost effective.
    Gasoline powered devices are the most cost effective for occasional power outages of up to 1 week.
  9. Retired Guy

    Retired Guy Feeling the Heat

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    Before we installed a stationary Generac 10KW, we used a Generac EXL4000 portable. The portable handled the well, gas furnace, refrigerator, and a few lights. We would use the microwave when the well pump was off. Worked fairly well except the issue of storing gas. I have learned to treat all gas with Stabil as soon as I buy it and keep it for no longer than 6 months. I still run the portable once a month even though we don't use it.
  10. Highbeam

    Highbeam Minister of Fire

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    The only real way to go is the two genny solution, a big, cheap, contractor, 240 unit and a small inverter genny. Running a big set full time sucks way too much fuel, is way too loud, and is way too expensive up front.

    Let me add a few thoughts.

    1) The well pump must not be powered up anytime you need water. Your bladder tank or tanks have a compressed air bladder in them that is are made to be charged up with water pressure and expand to expel the water into the home. You can get quite a lot of water from the tanks before pressure drops and then it is a slow drop. Adding tanks to the system is better for your well pump and also better in a power outage since you will have more pressurized water available before having to run the genset again. Set up the system so that the big genny only runs the well and so that you may simultaneously run the small genset to backfeed the house.

    2) The small genny running the house should be an inverter set of low wattage. Low fuel consumption, high power quality, and low noise. Those inverter sets are awesome.

    3) Don't worry about the plugs. Any electrician will know that you can adapt as necessary.
    fbelec and Redbarn like this.
  11. jebatty

    jebatty Minister of Fire

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    When our original bladder pressure tank failed, I replaced it with a much larger capacity pressure tank. Better pressure longer, and the well pump runs much less often, but a little longer each time the pressure switch calls the pump for water. Again, I agree with the others that the two generator solution is the best.
  12. Coog

    Coog Member

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    Wow, thanks for all the great responses and yes I am looking at the portable units.

    Jebatty and redbarn confirmed my hunch. Get a larger, cheaper, generator and a smaller 2000 watt for the long haul. I may go with the Yamaha 2400 watt unit for some extra juice since I may be using propane. I have a thousand gallon tank which stays pretty full during the winter. Plus Propane is cheaper than gas where I live, by over half. That should run a ref/freezer, chest freezer, four or five lights and my fireplace blower.

    Most all 4000 watt generators and smaller do not allow for 220 and 240 volt power and my well pump is 220. My well pump is a half house motor though. If it were not 220 the 2000 watt generator may have been able to pull it. Really do not want to tax my pump and damage it though. The money I saved in the generator would have been lost if I had to replace a well pump. Good thinking though.

    High beam, I like your idea of having the both big and small generator set to feed the house with only the big capable of running the well pump. I have heard though that the big noisy portables can run very unclean power. Not sure how much truth there is in that.

    Honestly, it has been 15 years since we have had more than a 24 hour power outage but we get the occasional 6 to 8 hour outage and boy would it be nice to have something. I am a bit extreme when it comes to emergency management. When the bottom falls out, I really do not want to stand there and say to myself, "if only".

    Thanks for all the insight.
  13. nate379

    nate379 Guest

    Your well pump should be 240v.

  14. Redbarn

    Redbarn Member

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    I did borrow a big 120 V to 240v transformer and tried running the well pump off the 120V from the Yamaha 2000 using the transformer.
    However, the start up surge current of the well pump was way too high and popped the breaker on the Genny.
    There are "soft start up" well pumps available but retrofitting a well is way more expensive than buying a 2nd Genny.
  15. velvetfoot

    velvetfoot Minister of Fire

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    We also have large and small generators.
    When a storm is coming we run water into the bathtubs, and so can hold out for a couple of days before breaking out the big one.

    This thread is good because it reminds me to start them up and see if they still crank out the watts.
  16. mywaynow

    mywaynow Minister of Fire

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    I run the 8k unit with push to start. Use it sparingly during the day. Don't need to run it constant.
  17. Bad Wolf

    Bad Wolf Feeling the Heat

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    Add another vote for the two gen set up. I used to think it was overthinking since we never lost power for more than 8 hrs. Then BANG! Irene (6 days), an October snow storm (lucked out), Sandy (4 days) and a blizzard (dodged the bullet again) all within 18 months. I was lucky, some folks got wacked with outages for all four events.

    I also have a battery backup for the Tarm.
    Redbarn likes this.
  18. maple1

    maple1 Minister of Fire

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    Honestly, it has been 15 years since we have had more than a 24 hour power outage but we get the occasional 6 to 8 hour outage and boy would it be nice to have something.

    I think if that were my situation, I would just increase my bladder tank capacity, maybe run some water off in the face of bad weather in case you need to flush a toilet real bad, and forget about the bigger genny.
  19. Redbarn

    Redbarn Member

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    I thought I was overthinking it too until Irene & Sandy proved the value of 2 Gennys to me.
  20. Highbeam

    Highbeam Minister of Fire

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    Oh no, you absolutely want to be capable of pumping water. Water is critical, water is life. If you could only have one genset it would be one large enough to run the well.

    Have water, have food, have heat, you can live a long time.
  21. bmblank

    bmblank Minister of Fire

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    It doesn't necessarily need to pump water at the same time as running everything else. I grew up turning everything off and switching breakers to charge up the expansion tank, then switching back. This doesn't particularly work if you have a small expansion tank.
  22. mywaynow

    mywaynow Minister of Fire

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    fI was out 34 days from Irene through Sandy. I don't need power 24/7, so I switch the gen off when not needed. Stretched a tank for almost 3 days that way. Power outages are not vacations, so dealing with sacrifices is fine.
  23. BrotherBart

    BrotherBart Hearth.com LLC Mid-Atlantic Division Staff Member

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    I am up to my ears in generators but one of the 3250/2500 lil imports ends up carrying the freight every time. Through two week long and many one and two day outages.

    Sips gas and keeps everything but the well pump and water heater ticking right along. For the kitchen and cooking I fire the one just like it sitting next to it and then shut it down when I am done.

    Every six months I rotate the cans of gas into the truck and refill the thirty gallons of filtered water in the basement.
  24. semipro

    semipro Minister of Fire

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    Somewhat along the lines of other advice here:
    I'd go with a larger inexpensive generator and a small, quiet, clean, efficient generator.
    We ran our larger generator last summer during the 7 outage days after the derecho and the smell, noise, and fuel usage were really a bother.
  25. BrotherBart

    BrotherBart Hearth.com LLC Mid-Atlantic Division Staff Member

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