Generator musings

I suppose I should figure out precisely what my needs are in terms of a generator.

I’m on city water, so a well pump isn’t an issue. Although, it would be nice to help out frieds who did have pumps.

All my major appliances (stove, furnace, hot water heater) run on natural gas. For heating, I have a pair of kerosene heaters and about 60 gallons of kero in storage. For cooking I can cook on top of the kerosene heaters or use any of several camp stoves that run on multifuels. If for somer eason there’s no gas or no water, then hot water comes from heating it up on top of the kerosene heater or camp stoves. Not great for taking a shower, but a basin and a washcloth will probably do in a pinch. Lighting is accomplished through kerosene and propane lamps, supplemented with some minor 12v lighting.

So, really, where is the need for electricity? Well, there’s the fridge and the freezer. Those are pretty much the only things that are mission-critical. It’s sounding like something like the EU2000 or EU3000 would be enough to take care of those and perhaps charge up a small 12v bank for lighting. If thats the case, the more expensive EU generator, with it’s smaller output and greatly reduced fuel requirements might be the way to go. In a crisis, I don’t need to have every room in the house lit up, and since the internet will most likely be down the computers arent a high priority. so I guess really an EU would be the most practical choice.

Someone mentioned in comments that another option would be to play both sides of it. Get the fuel-sipping EU for running the freezer and a few small lights, and have the big generator for heavy-duty uses that might arise. Certainly, that makes a lot of sense to me, the problem is it isn’t a very economical way to go. Of course, sometimes economy is trounced by the need to cover all the bases.

This is one of those things I’m still going to have to weigh and think about. I’m tempted to go the less expensive (up front)  route and get the larger genny first…then start socking away greenbacks until a good used EU turns up on craigslist.

Also, what I really, really need to do is talk to one of the ‘alternative energy’ vendors in town and explain to them I want a simple battery system for running 12v lighting, charging AA and D batts, and running radios. Since that would all be 12v there’d be no need for an inverter and no resultant power loss in the conversion from DC to AC. Man, thats something I really, really need to get busy on.

And, of course, there’s always ballistic things that need purchasing…..

19 thoughts on “Generator musings

  1. In a power outage, a house that has lights on is a prime target for hordes of Zombies, let alone the noise, looking to loot.

  2. Check the surge on both as newer appliances use a lot of power when they start and might be too much when they both kick in at same time which does happen if u have them both plugged in at same time

  3. I was in the same predicament you are in about 3 years ago. . .I had bought a DeWalt 6000W generator (w/Honda engine), had an electrician install an inlet in the back of my house, and then run wiring to my panel. . . He installed a very simple but effective fail/safe transfer switch–(email me and I can send you pictures), so I can run the DeWalt without the possibility of back feeding to the pole, managing the power via my breakers. . .Works very well. . But when I had to use it some years ago, a couple of things occurred to me:
    1- That gennie is loud–even though it’s supposed to be one of the “quietest in it’s class”. .
    2- Five gallons of fuel only lasts about 8 hrs of runtime. . .
    3-In the warmer months (April–October), I really only need power to keep the fridge going. . we can live with LED/kerosene lanterns, headlights and candles. .

    So I decided to save up and get a Honda 2000. . .that’s what I used during/after Sandy. . we were only out 2-1/2 days, but I ran that for 38 hours and only used 5 gals. . . ran it overnight, never lost any food in the fridge, and in the morning I ran the coffee maker on it as well. . .yes. . .I got both!

    In the winter, since my gas furnace is hard wired, I would need to run the DeWalt to power that. . .but I could also run the fridge, and at least a couple of rooms worth of lights, or my Verizon FIOS gear/wireless router. . .

    Since this last episode, I can now see that gas supply is, or can be, an issue. . .I keep several gals of treated gas on hand all the time, cycling it as you do when it gets about 10 mos old, but in a large outage, that would not last long. . .So now I’m looking at getting a “tri-fuel” gennie—( that runs on gasoline, NG, or propane. . . I just have to make sure my gas inflow is sufficient to power the gennie and still have enough capacity to run the furnace, water heater and at least one stove top ring. . .

  4. Commander, you mentioned kerosene heaters. Can you tell me what you use, or steer me in the right direction? Any advice on Carbon monoxide with these things? Thanks.

    • I use the Toyostove and Kerosun brands which were discontinued from import into the US. (I forget why.) When we use our kerosene heater we always keep a large(!) fire extinguisher handy as well as a couple battery powered CO detectors. My experience has been to set the heater on the porch, light it, wait a couple minutes, and bring it indoors. To shut it off, put it outdoors on the porch and then turn it off. This avoids the startup/shutoff smell that people find disturbing.

  5. I have lived through multiple power outage events in FL (hurricanes) and in MI (winter storms). I have a 6500 watt generator and it has served me well in both situations. The main consideration is noise for me now. My generator is a Briggs and Stratton engine and man is it loud. I chained it outside my house in FL and ran it besides the garage when living in MI.

    Both times we used it for over a week as our primary power source. Besides having plenty of consumables you need a way of securing it and a way to connect it to your house power. I have it wired right into my panel box in FL. Big thing if you wire it in is to make sure and pull your main fuse so you don’t send power back into the grid and injure a lineman. In MI we ran extension cords to the items we were powering.

    I still have the 6500 but am seriously considering a smaller one to keep the fridge cold without running the big one. I think I will start searching Craigslist. Thanks for getting me started thinking down this path.

  6. Solar loses a lot of its reliability when you convert it to ac. So going the 12v dc route is not a bad idea.

    One item I have learned, is that the low powered 12v dc refrigerators do not have enough umph to keep things cold in the summer. Unless maybe be dug a whole and put them in the equivelant of an old fashioned cold cellar.

    • The ARB and Engle brand portable fridge/freezers are compressor based and have more than enough oomph to freeze things and stay frozen – even when I was out in the desert in the Arizona summer..

      They also run on both 12v AND 120V. Not cheap though.

      • Here is my solution to the over priced fridge/freezers.

        I also set the truck up with a couple of 50 watt solar panels a Morninstar Sunsaver charge controller and wiring with Anderson power pole connectors to tap my 12V.

        I nice by product is that my two 12v starter batteries (Dodge Cummins) are always being charged. I ran the battery down when I was out camping and 3 or 4 hours after the sun came up the battery was up enough to start the truck. Nice feeling that you can’t be stuck by a flat battery.

        The truck is also convenient for charging all the little stuff (AA bat, cell phones etc.) if needed.

  7. You should only need a few deep cycle batteries for your needs. You can often find them cheap or free from various sources that replace them frequently. You also need something to maintain them.

    My plan is to use a cheap generator for larger loads and recharging the batteries. My APC Smart UPS 2200 to maintain the batteries and provide AC power ($150 on Craig’s List), and my MH-C777Plus-II to charge NiMH, lithium ion, and lead acid batteries. I also have a few other UPS units ($20 on Craig’s list without their batteries) and other battery chargers for spares.

    The larger Uninterruptable Power Supply systems can run off of and maintain a small bank of large 12v batteries, but often in sets of 24v.

  8. My informal amazon looking earlier today said a pretty nice Goal 0 setup with a 30 watt panel, a bank and a couple of their low use lights will run somewhere around $400. Also it doesn’t require gas. If you are talking serious generators then a small solar setup is an easy decision.

  9. One option you may have overlooked: An engine driven welder. Some are dual use, ie: an 8k-13k watt generator. Others have a separate small generator, maybe 3k. Having a welding setup might be very useful during bad times! Other times, you can loan it to friends, or rent it out. Make it pay for itself, perhaps.
    Check Craigslist. You might find it mounted on it’s own trailer. Gas or diesel, although gasoline is most common.

    You can add additional automotive type mufflers to these things to get them real quiet. Plus, being bigger, and often liquid cooled, they don’t sound like a typical generator. Also, a thief can’t just pick it up and run it over to his car.

    I see a local to me unit for $500. Needs work. Towable. Flat head straight 6! No gen output listed. Another for $700.

    Generally, they go for $2k to $4k ready to use. Example: a Miller Bobcat 250 w/10k gen for $3k.

    If you don’t know how to weld, you can probably find a local class to learn. Useful hobby or sideline employment. Still, you don’t have to know how, to own one.

  10. I have a large noisy 3600 starting watt generator (I use for hurricanes) in a Zombie Fest, I would use no generator.

    I would save my money for the Honda EU genny. Get some solar and batteries for a small room to room lighting system. I know people who live off the grid and the lights are all portable DC system and most items that require power are also DC so there is very little power loss.
    I think you would be suprised at how little power you will need if you off the grid and weened yourself from gadgets and gizmo’s.
    I beleive that having a source of clean water is a bigger concern. Cooking and heating water are the other real priorities.

    The human race did pretty good without elecity for a long, long time.

  11. I have a EU2000, can’t say enough good things about it. A little pricey, but worth every penny IMHO.

    Top requirements for me: had to be easy to move so the SO can handle it if needed, and it needed to be quiet. There’s nothing that spoils OPSEC better than a really loud genny yammering away all night. I live in the suburbs of a major city, maybe if you are out in the country a loud generator is no big deal but where I live all a loud generator does is yell “come steal me” to anyone who can hear it.

    I’m considering making the EU2000 a tri-fuel with the kit you can buy online but I’m not entirely sold that it will be better or more convenient than just gas. I have plenty of gas stored to run it for weeks if need be.

  12. Like you said, unless you have a well pump to power you are FAR better off with a smaller inverter model gennie. I have a Champion brand inverter gennie and it was one of the best things I ever bought. Combine that with a few deep cycle batteries and you are good to go.
    Although the upfront costs is much higher the benefits outweigh the costs. When the dericho hit last summer here in ohio I used my gennie to power my fridge, upright freezer and my neighbors fridge all in the middle of a heat wave. All on less than a gallon of gas a day. These things are miserly on fuel. This combined with the low noise make them worth the extra cost. HTH

  13. My brother works for a very large utility that handles both electric and gas. He told me they were going to convert the gas pipelines from natural gas powered emergency backup pumps to electric powered pumps to save money. So when the electrical grid has problems, those electric emergency pumps won’t pump. No natural gas after the pressure drops. Something to watch our for. I have five 20lb picnic size tanks but I am in the process of getting a pair of 100lb tanks that will be in the back yard. I can run the house Dearborn heaters and a connection for a stove top two burner. Should last quite a while.

  14. Went to Home Depot and bought a generator today. Small one (3k W I think), but since I had nothing (and my power supplies are pretty low), it’s a start.

    This thread inspired me.

  15. After the ‘derecho’ in VA last summer, all I had on hand was a 900W power inverter that hooks to the car battery. Surprisingly, it was sufficient to power our refrigerator, though nothing else. It did spike a couple of times requiring me to reset it but basically for the two and a half days I was able to keep things cool. I would run it (the car) for a couple hours then shut it down for an hour or so and restart. Admittedly not ideal but it did work at least during this relatively short time period. Used a little over 10 gallons of fuel and it gave me a good idea of what wattage I would need for a longer term solution. Personally, I would go with something like the EU2000 because of the fuel efficiency.

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