Generator

jparker

New Member
Oct 17, 2019
30
PNW
I have read quite a few threads here that have had some great information on generators. I was looking into generators a few months back to ensure heat was available during a winter power outage as I am 100% electric (no LP or NG). Once my wood stove was installed, purchasing a generator was pushed to the back burner until this past week when I experienced a 10 hour power outage. Now I am thinking about the need to power the 3/4HP well pump (240V), septic pump, and refrigerator during an extended outage.

From my point of view, I see two options:

1) Buy a large standard portable generator (120V/240V) in order to be able to power everything (well pump would be powered on its own and only as needed to refill the pressure tank). The downside of this is that standard generators are very loud and large ones consume a lot of fuel (LP or gasoline).

2) Buy an inverter generator (120V) to power items in the house and buy a cheaper standard generator (120V/240V) to power just the well pump/water heater. That way I would have clean, quiet power with minimal fuel consumption for most of the run time and just have to deal with the loud, larger, fuel consuming generator when needing to power the well pump or heat pump based water heater.

I appreciate any feedback/recommendations.
 

jatoxico

Minister of Fire
Aug 8, 2011
4,218
Long Island NY
Option 2. Running a full size unit to power the frig and a couple lightbulbs is the worst. With the inverter i power ceiling fans when sleeping, use tv/dvd and run refrig while sipping gas.
 
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johneh

Minister of Fire
Dec 19, 2009
2,854
Eastern Ontario
I run a whole-house unit Totaly automatic
Power goes out unit turns on and powers everything in the house and shop
Hydro comes back online. The unit shuts down. Seamless
Last week we were out for 2 days or should I say the people around me were out for 2 days!
Around here it is the only way to go and what I have has paid for itself over the 5 years I have had it
I started with a portable after the ice storm of 98 got tired of extension cords. the cost to run it
is nothing peace of mind is everything
 
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peakbagger

Minister of Fire
Jul 11, 2008
5,346
Northern NH
What type of well do you have, deep well or shallow well?

Depending on what you have you could upgrade to variable speed drive pump and get rid of the startup surge.

Not sure what you have for water heater but rarely does anyone heat water with generator. Sure you can do it. Consider getting a heat pump hot water heater. far lower load. Unless you lose power frequently a bucket full of hot water heating on top of the wood stove will carry most folks through an outage.

If you get a gasoline generator realize unless you can get non ethanol gas that you will need to run it out of gas everytime you use it and even then it highly recomended that you run stabilizer through it.
 

jparker

New Member
Oct 17, 2019
30
PNW
Either way, I think that going LP is better than dealing with gas.

I am really just curious if those with well pumps and portable backup generators go with just one big generator or an inverter plus another generator big enough to power their well pump. I am leaning towards the latter.
 

DodgyNomad

Minister of Fire
Dec 19, 2009
547
West Michigan
Depending on how often you lose power, I can see advantages to both options. 2 gens, one larger, one smaller inverter style has merits. You always have a backup if one doesn't work. And, as you mentioned, you can run the small inverter on less fuel, managing and turning off your larger loads. I keep 2 larger portable gens always on hand, but currently have 5, but I buy/repair/sell them as a side hustle, and only personally use the cleaner power commercial grade gensets here on our property, one 13,000 continuous watts, 15000 surge, the other one a bit smaller. I'm partial to the Wanco Voltmaster portable gens personally. I'm in the same boat, live in the country, large well pump, sump pump, wood stove, and a huge electric water heater that draws 5000 watts when it's on. I also have a shop with a hoist, paint booth, etc, on my property.
Based on what you've listed, couple of thoughts: Your well pump will likely require about 3000 starting watts. I don't know the size of your septic pump. You're better buying a larger portable genset than you think you need. A slightly oversized unit will last longer, and use about the same amount of fuel if it's not running at full load and maxed out as a smaller unit that's running a larger % of max load and all stressed out. The modern ones are all pretty fuel efficient, especially when you run a lighter load on them. Consumption ratings are available if you do some research, but the newer gens are pretty good on fuel, especially if it's just for emergency use.

Startup amps/watts is of course where the real load/draw comes from. When your fridge first turns on, your well pump, the septic pump, that can be a perfect storm of high demand.

If cost is a factor, which it is for most of us, I'd buy your larger generator first. Then you can keep all your larger draw and lower demand stuff running if you lose power. You can't do that with a small inverter. If you're on a budget, I'd very seriously consider a Champion 9200/11,500 watt unit. Do a google search and look at the reviews on the various stores and sites that sell them. They are quite well made, especially for the cost. I have one as a backup to my backup currently, and that I loan out to neighbors and friends if they lose power, and can't recommend it strongly enough for several reasons. I installed one for a family member, and it has been a completely reliable workhouse that makes clean/measured power. It holds very close or slightly above 60 Hz at all load levels, and I have yet to see it dip below that at any demand level, large or small. And it's surprisingly fuel efficient and quiet for its size.

I think that size would run all of your things, especially if you did some load management with your well pump, keeping it off until needed if you're running everything else. Chances are, you'd be fine running everything you would need with that particular size.

I can tell you first hand that that particular generator makes very clean power, has a built in hour meter, load power meter, and even self reports the Hz as it's running.

If cost isn't a concern, I'd look into a Honda, or Winco, or a Wanco, or other premium generator, but I don't think it's necessary for what you're describing. Your electrical supply houses will be able to get you info on the higher end gens and inverters or make recommendations as well. I've owned all 3 of these better grade brands, as well as worked on and owned probably 20 or so other makes and models over the years.

Avoid the generic used 5000 watt coleman /devilbiss powerback/ variation gens, as they make dirty power from what I've experienced in many cases, and are gas hogs for their over rated output levels, and I'd avoid the majority of other Chinese variants, outside of the Champion. It's a lower priced unit with very good features and build quality from what I've seen, especially the model I mentioned.
 

DodgyNomad

Minister of Fire
Dec 19, 2009
547
West Michigan
Either way, I think that going LP is better than dealing with gas.

I am really just curious if those with well pumps and portable backup generators go with just one big generator or an inverter plus another generator big enough to power their well pump. I am leaning towards the latter.

I just saw your mention of LP as a fuel source, after my previous post. LP and NG are better fuel sources than petrol, run cleaner, etc. and if that's what you have access to, you can go that route.

I would first look at how often you think you'll lose power based on history, and if getting gasoline is a big hassle for you vs. plumbing a gas pipe to your unit.
 

DodgyNomad

Minister of Fire
Dec 19, 2009
547
West Michigan
I don't know your access to fuel sources, etc., or how often you are likely to lose power. I have a very stable power supply where we live, and in 30 years of home ownership, I've only been without power for a total of 4 days. We go years between outages, and they tend to be shorter durations. We have several gas stations within 10 miles also, if fuel runs low.
But, as a bit of a prepper, I keep about 60 gallons of ethanol free premium on hand at all times, as that is what I use in all of my machinery, except for our modern daily drivers. I use a portable 30 gallon fuel caddy, as well as several racing fuel jugs. I rotate the fuel out of my gens at least once a year if they aren't used, start them and run them 3x a year if not used, and always turn off the fuel petcock and run the carbs dry. Has worked well for me, and the alcohol free gas has completely eliminated fuel system related problems on my personal stuff for the past 15 years. I fix a lot of peoples motors, and old-cheap ethanol mixed gas is usually one of the problems I see regularly, especially on stuff that sits around a lot like gens, saws, tillers, blowers, and lots of small engines. If you have easy access to good quality ethanol free gas, I'd probably use that as a fuel source over LP, but you have to factor in your needs, etc.,
 
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firefighterjake

Minister of Fire
Jul 22, 2008
19,091
Unity/Bangor, Maine
I've read the pro-propane, anti-gas comments for several years when it comes to generators . . . yet I ran a cheapo Coleman gasoline powered generator for years with no issues other than the fact I would sometimes have to use a bit of ether on occasion to get it started. That said, I always used a stabilizing agent and would start it periodically.

When we decided to up grade from the smaller generator I opted to go with a larger Yamaha generator. I really liked the Honda generators and have loved Honda products over the years, but truthfully the economics (buying a very reliable generator at a much, much cheaper price for something which will hopefully only be used on occasion) made the Yamaha quite attractive.

We ended up hiring a buddy of mine to install an interlock for the electrical panel along with an outside plug. Now when we lose power it's not an automatic set up, but within 10 minutes I can roll out the generator, hook up the cord, flip the switches and fire up the generator and pretty much the whole house is set to go.

Fuel has not been an issue . . . and I suspect it will not be an issue. Like before I continue to fire it up periodically and I use stabilizer in the fuel, but unlike before I now also only use ethanol-free fuel which is sold locally. While propane would burn cleaner, I suspect it would be easier for me to get gasoline vs. propane tanks if there was a wide-spread, extended power outage.

 

DodgyNomad

Minister of Fire
Dec 19, 2009
547
West Michigan
I've read the pro-propane, anti-gas comments for several years when it comes to generators . . . yet I ran a cheapo Coleman gasoline powered generator for years with no issues other than the fact I would sometimes have to use a bit of ether on occasion to get it started. That said, I always used a stabilizing agent and would start it periodically.

When we decided to up grade from the smaller generator I opted to go with a larger Yamaha generator. I really liked the Honda generators and have loved Honda products over the years, but truthfully the economics (buying a very reliable generator at a much, much cheaper price for something which will hopefully only be used on occasion) made the Yamaha quite attractive.

We ended up hiring a buddy of mine to install an interlock for the electrical panel along with an outside plug. Now when we lose power it's not an automatic set up, but within 10 minutes I can roll out the generator, hook up the cord, flip the switches and fire up the generator and pretty much the whole house is set to go.

Fuel has not been an issue . . . and I suspect it will not be an issue. Like before I continue to fire it up periodically and I use stabilizer in the fuel, but unlike before I now also only use ethanol-free fuel which is sold locally. While propane would burn cleaner, I suspect it would be easier for me to get gasoline vs. propane tanks if there was a wide-spread, extended power outage.

Yamaha is certainly a premium brand of generator, absolutely right up there with Honda. I also agree on the gasoline option over LP personally, for a number of reasons, operating cost, availability and easy 24hr access are some of the reasons. The generators can burn any grade of gasoline available in the US, but it's the long term storage of aging gasoline that has ethanol in it that presents the problem, especially for these small engine fuel systems. If there's a long term outage, you can certainly burn the everyday unleaded fuel that you burn in your daily drivers, I just recommend getting it out of there within a few months at most if it's going to sit. And I don't completely trust fuel stabilizers and additives, although I use them as well regularly in certain equipment that sits around for extended periods.

Bottom line is the OP should use whatever fuel source works best for his needs, I just think that a little planning and attention on gasoline management makes bad gas and carb problems a thing of the past. You can set a reminder in your phone to change gas, or just use premium ethanol free with a stabilizer and run the carb dry every time and be good for up to a year without worrying about it breaking down. I shoot for 6 months, as that is the consensus on aging good gas, but I've seen a year many times with peoples stuff with no ill effects.
 
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Bad LP

Minister of Fire
Nov 28, 2014
1,177
Northern Maine
My 7kw Honda in MA is really quiet and the vacuum cleaner is louder than the stand alone Kohler. I've never had an issue with gasoline but I do rotate it thru my truck tank.
The Honda powers my well pump and a fair amount of the house that we actually live in so that's some TV's, boiler, master bedroom and bath, living room lights, sump (just in case but its always dry) fridge in kitchen and freezer in basement plus a couple of other small odds and ends like outlets that we plug in LED night lights when the power does go out. It has a manual transfer switch and a generator sub panel. Auto idle does not like the 220 well pump so if we are using water I must shut it off. Of course if it's a major outage I'm limited on my gas storage but there is a 24/7/365 station that does have a back up system.

The Kohler 14kw powers a good portion of the house and garage. The propane company does a good job keeping me full and I've never had a tank go below 200 gallons. It's a 500 gallon tank.
 

xman23

Minister of Fire
Oct 7, 2008
2,087
Lackawaxen PA
I'm all electric at my cabin. Being rural, we do have outages. Sometimes it can be days when storms take down a lot of lines. We have community water. The stove makes all the difference. A few years ago, christmas week, 5 degrees, we had all the kids at the cabin. The power was out overnight. People were evacuated to our community center. We were all toasty, telling stories by candlelight.
I now have a small inverter generator. It's setup to back feed the house. I can't run any 220V stuff. But it's big enough to run a single fridge. It's the cheapest to buy and run.
 

DodgyNomad

Minister of Fire
Dec 19, 2009
547
West Michigan
OP has gone completely silent, so guessing at this point, as he hasn't acknowledged everyone's input. Everyone's needs and necessities are different in an outage.
The one thing I've found around here time and time again is that people think they can rock and roll at their home like normal on a little inverter, and it ends up not being the case if there's a longer outage. When you can't run your well pump, sump pump, an air conditioner if it's 95 degrees outside etc., and have to load manage constantly, an outage becomes a royal pain in the arse. You can hardly run the microwave, coffee maker, etc., without turning everything else off. It's tedious.

On the other hand, I'll give you the experience I've seen lately with an efficient 10,000 watt gas genset. At night, with most everything turned off, and just the fridge, freezers, sump pump and tiny things running, it burns roughly 1/2 gallon per hour of premium, ethanol free fuel.

So, the gen will go up to 15 hours between fill-ups at that light load level, allowing you to sleep in, and live life as usual. The cost of fuel/operation is nominal, and becomes pretty insignificant, yet when I need to run more things, the big TV's, stereo, microwave, computers, coffee maker, etc, it's able to support that demand, and I'm not juggling back and forth between a little inverter and a larger gen. I can run the central air with it, when I manage the other loads.

If the OP is able to live comfortably with a low wattage inverter, then by all means, do that. But you still have to have 2 gens, often, if not most times 2 sets of wires, cords, and hookups to your home circuit, and the small inverter will only run the smallest of loads.

A Honda 2000 i holds less than a gallon of gas, and will only run about 3.5 hours when it's under a fullish load. So, you can't sleep through the night, or leave for work, etc..

In my case, the power goes out rarely, but it seems like it's been through the overnight if it does, and I like being able to leave and go to work, or sleep all night and not have to get up and fuel up the system at 3:00 in the morning. And, burning less than a gallon an hour with a managed small load means it's cheap in the big picture. I hate waiting to hear the power go off during the night. I don't sleep well if I'm worried about not having enough gas to get me through until the morning. Gas isn't that expensive that I'm concerned about a generator using less than a gallon an hour in an emergency outage.

If you're without power often, or for long durations without easy access to fuel, then a little gen makes a lot of sense. I have a honda 2000 inverter that we take to the racetrack and camping. It's quiet, but it can't handle anything on my property, with our setup.
 
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wahoowad

Minister of Fire
Dec 19, 2005
1,646
Virginia
Since the OP states he has no LP/NG then I also recommend gasoline. I have a 4000W Champion and can also vouch that this particular brand is well regarded within different communities (such as RV people who know small gensets).

My Champion is around 11 years old and still runs great. I keep two 5-gallon gas cans on hand filled with regular ethanol based gas and religiously add Stabil when refilling. The gas gets used in my riding lawnmower and chainsaw such that the cans usually get refilled with fresh gas every 6 to 12 months. If I get worried about it I pour it into one of my vehicles and refill it with fresh gas/stabil. My outages, which are occuring less and less frequently as the electrical supply improves, are usually short enough that this is more than enough gas to get by on.

I like OP's option 2 for his situation. The additional smaller inverter genny can be handy for other things as well so he'll probably find other uses that help justify having it (camping, etc).
 

blades

Minister of Fire
Nov 23, 2008
3,498
WI, Leroy
power goes out most gas pumps don't work either as well as the lpg or cng fill points. lpg or cng are best choice fuel wise, with lpg being more available than cng. tanks for same bottles 20,50.100 gal. are some what portable. 250 gal up are stationary. my small whole house gen set runs on lp it is close to 20 years old. lpg or cng no worries of fuel going bad- only thing that might give a hiccup would be the regulator . I will likely replace mine this summer just because it is 20 years old, wont toss it out though just because. any gen set can be had duel fuel- highly suggest that for portable units. note -31F for a couple days last winter no problems gen set did self start/check run during that spell.
 

DodgyNomad

Minister of Fire
Dec 19, 2009
547
West Michigan
power goes out most gas pumps don't work either as well as the lpg or cng fill points. lpg or cng are best choice fuel wise, with lpg being more available than cng. tanks for same bottles 20,50.100 gal. are some what portable. 250 gal up are stationary. my small whole house gen set runs on lp it is close to 20 years old. lpg or cng no worries of fuel going bad- only thing that might give a hiccup would be the regulator . I will likely replace mine this summer just because it is 20 years old, wont toss it out though just because. any gen set can be had duel fuel- highly suggest that for portable units. note -31F for a couple days last winter no problems gen set did self start/check run during that spell.
Depends on where you live and how far away from gas stations. 20 years ago, there were only a couple of gas stations within 15 miles of us. Now there are several. And around here, I've never seen more than 1 or 2 of them with the power out, and not for very long. I still keep a lot of fuel on hand, as it's not hard for my setup, but our outages tend to be pretty localized, and it seems when we've lost power here, it doesn't effect the gas stations that are 10 miles away.

As some have mentioned, the dual fuel option might be good one for the OP, would have the option of gasoline or lp. Again, the Champion 7500 watt dual fuel gets great reviews, and gives the option. You could buy a larger lp tank, etc.. and have gasoline as an option if you ran out of lp. Would be nice if the OP would check in and give us more info, but maybe his power's still out. _g
 

jparker

New Member
Oct 17, 2019
30
PNW
I appreciate all the feedback. I would have replied earlier but I have experienced two extended power outages this week alone. Large number of trees+a lot of snow+power lines above ground=power outages.

Good did come out of the outages as I have decided to move forward with a standby generator. A small inverter worked great during the outages but just too much to have to think about.
 

DodgyNomad

Minister of Fire
Dec 19, 2009
547
West Michigan
OP: When you get time, fill us in on your experience and more on the decision for a gen, and what you chose. I'd also be curious about the outage and how it went with the inverter, etc.. I'm curious how it went down, and how big your purchased, etc..
 

Rob711

Feeling the Heat
Oct 19, 2017
337
Long Island, ny
I have a big champion as well, and I’m happy with it 9 or 12 kw. It will power my whole house including one zone of central air, but it’s loud! Strongly thinking about a Honda 2000i. I’ve ran my fridge and chest freezer simultaneously on a borrowed Honda 2000. Wasn’t even full throttle, there eco idle is very good.
 
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jatoxico

Minister of Fire
Aug 8, 2011
4,218
Long Island NY
I have tried to sleep and cool a refrigerator with a 5500W beast running, it s lousy and I doubt the neighbors appreciate it. Besides the frig really needs to be on for extended amounts of time to mimic being on line current. The little invertor generator can't be heard so you can sleep and is efficient enough to run luxury items like fans and tv's for hours at a time while keeping the frig fully cooled down.
 

DodgyNomad

Minister of Fire
Dec 19, 2009
547
West Michigan
I have a big champion as well, and I’m happy with it 9 or 12 kw. It will power my whole house including one zone of central air, but it’s loud! Strongly thinking about a Honda 2000i. I’ve ran my fridge and chest freezer simultaneously on a borrowed Honda 2000. Wasn’t even full throttle, there eco idle is very good.

Do a quick google search on how to quiet a genset if you ever need too use it for an extended period. Making a cheap, simple enclosure knocks the sound down by a ton. I built one years ago when we were off grid in Canada, and it was very effective. You can make them pretty elaborate and very effective, or as simple as and quick and dirty as possible with a few pieces of plywood, and some foam or acoustic foam, etc.,
 

jparker

New Member
Oct 17, 2019
30
PNW
OP: When you get time, fill us in on your experience and more on the decision for a gen, and what you chose. I'd also be curious about the outage and how it went with the inverter, etc.. I'm curious how it went down, and how big your purchased, etc..
I was lucky during the power outages as I had borrowed an inverter from a friend earlier in the day as I needed portable power to take care of some chores on the property. I didn't try to power too much at once as all my heat was being provided by my wood stove so I was only really concerned with the refrigerator and some lights.

In dealing with the power outages, I found out that I don't like having to constantly think about everything related to backup power. How long has the generator has been running? Does it need fuel? How much fuel do I have left and do I need to start rationing? Do I need to switch from powering the refrigerator to powering something else? Should I set up the generator right away or wait and see if the power comes back on? If I wait, how long should I wait? etc, etc, etc.

These are all pretty simple things but it is just not worth it to me to have to think about them. Power outages impact my life enough without having to worry about back up power. I also realized that a portable generator does not solve the problem of being asleep when the power goes out or being away from the property. The first outage took place five minutes after I went to bed. If it wasn't for the beeping of my UPS, I would never had known it had gone out until the next morning.

So I am now in an odd position moving forward as I don't want to spend a lot on a portable generator that I will be replacing in the near future but I will need something until I am able to decide on a standby generator. I think I could get by on something similar to the small inverter I used this week as long as any future outages are similar in time (around 8 hours or less). That said, it is concerning that there are still large pockets of homes that have been without power since Monday. That is a long time to go without the well and hot water.
 

DodgyNomad

Minister of Fire
Dec 19, 2009
547
West Michigan
OP: If you lose power regularly, and don't want to fuss with a portable gen, a standby gen is the way to go, of course. Won't be cheap, especially after it's properly installed to code, and you'll need a constant large supply of fuel for it. Because you stated you have no NG or LP currently, you'd be looking at having a large supply of LP on hand and constantly plumbed to power it.

Don't get stressed with the choices. Read some of the previous suggestions in the posts above. Do the simple math on your total startup and running wattage needs. Look closely at the dual fuel options if you're still going to purchase a portable gen for the interim.

TONS and TONS of good information out on the net, and many sites that break down appliance wattages and talk about creating your own power at home.

Good luck with it.
 

Highbeam

Minister of Fire
Dec 28, 2006
17,299
Mt. Rainier Foothills, WA
Fun thread. I have suffered through many outages in the winter usually. I would never run the genset all night. There is just no need to waste the fuel, irritate neighbors, and attract thieves. The fridges stay cold since you aren't opening them.

If you need 24/7 power due to some sort of CPAP or life support system then sure.

I'm a champion generator fan too. Every bit as good as the red and blue but much cheaper. My primary genset now is an inverter 2800 which can run the RV air conditioner. Better power quality than the utility power!