Back up Generators - finally looking.

repete

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I was under the impression California was doing away with internal combustion engines? Are they going to allow the use of these?
I find it interesting that a public utility would do this in light of the future no I/C motors shortly. Are they doing an "in your face" to the legislature there?
Have you considered running a 240 volt electric motor (that runs off the public supply) to power your 240 volt generator? I suspect your legislature there has....
 

ap0915

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Deutz
Personally my 7000/9000 portable generator does fine. I wired in an inlet plug to a 30amp breaker to back feed my panel, can run everything including well pump and mini split heat pump.

Procedure to run it is fill it with gas, start it up and let it warm up and plug it in to the inlet. Turn off main and all breakers, then turn on generator breaker. Lastly I turn on each individual breaker one at a time as to not put too much strain on the generator from surge wattage. I have to refuel about every 10-12 hours if running it constantly.
 

ap0915

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Consider your fuel source first.

Propane requires a large tank to provide long term generator operation. Gasoline gets "stale" and can't be stored for extended periods. It could also get scarce during a wide spread outage if gas stations can't pump. Diesel works best for me since I have a 1000 gal fuel oil tank for my furnace.

Non ethanol gas will last much longer. I’ve stored it for over a year with no problem.

I have several 5 gallon cans and a 10 gallon caddy, if a major storm is in the forecast I go fill them all up beforehand and beat the mob.
 

ultrarunner

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Maybe the new hybrid vehicles with power taps are in the future for more although some cities have a end date already set for the sale of new ICE passenger cars.

Expect these cities to lose chunks of auto sale revenue...
 

dmccarty

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....

The sanctioned remedy is massive solar with Battery Backup but the utility is fighting back asking solar owners to pay more in fixed costs even to offset natural gas customers as the infrastructure costs projected to be spread out by a shrinking user base.
Funny that you mentioned the battery backup solution.

We are thinking about using a battery backup instead of a generator. We have a generator setup for our DR Mower. When we needed to use it, the engine would not start, 🤬 due to ethanol destroying the carb. Had to fix two engines because of ethanol. 🤬 We have owned the DR Mower setup for many years and never needed to use the generator head. Then we needed it and the DR engine would not work.

Our power outages usually only last 8 hours or less. We have had a couple of hurricane and ice storm related outages that lasted days. A battery backup system would work for 95%ish of our power outages. Solar power with batteries would cover 100% of our outages.

We would use LiFePo or lead acid traction batteries not the Lithium power walls solutions that are on the market due to fire issues.

I would not have to worry about ethanol killing our backup power.

The problem of course with a battery back up system, much less solar panels, is the cost....

Later,
Dan
 

ericm979

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I was under the impression California was doing away with internal combustion engines?
No.
Are they going to allow the use of these?
Yes.

There's a lot of BS about California in the media. If you hear something that sounds outrageous it's probably wrong.


Beowulf for a whole home generator your county may want a load calc and load sheds for big loads that may exceed the generator's capacity. Ours does and I do not know if that's their add-on to the code or if it's state wide. Doing it that way will make the generator idiot-proof and make it work correctly if it comes on when you're not home so its not a bad idea. Most load sheds require low voltage wires to the generator but Generac has some that do not and will work with any generator.

I don't have the URL handy but there is a neat open source hw/sw package that lets you monitor a Generac without having to subscribe to their cloud service and have your data in a potentially vulnerable place.

Most people do propane because it's convenient and you usually have a tank already. You may want a larger one. Keep in mind that "full" on a propane tank is 80% and you don't want to run below 5%. 10% would be safer. That leaves only 70% of stated capacity. On average your outage would happen when the tank is at half of real capacity or 35% of rated. So if you have a 500 gal tank there'd be 175 gallons available on average when the outage happens. At 50% load a 16kw Generac burns about 1.5 gal/hr which gives 116 hours or 7.2 days if you're running 16 hours a day.
 

grsthegreat

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No.

Yes.

There's a lot of BS about California in the media. If you hear something that sounds outrageous it's probably wrong.


Beowulf for a whole home generator your county may want a load calc and load sheds for big loads that may exceed the generator's capacity. Ours does and I do not know if that's their add-on to the code or if it's state wide. Doing it that way will make the generator idiot-proof and make it work correctly if it comes on when you're not home so its not a bad idea. Most load sheds require low voltage wires to the generator but Generac has some that do not and will work with any generator.

I don't have the URL handy but there is a neat open source hw/sw package that lets you monitor a Generac without having to subscribe to their cloud service and have your data in a potentially vulnerable place.

Most people do propane because it's convenient and you usually have a tank already. You may want a larger one. Keep in mind that "full" on a propane tank is 80% and you don't want to run below 5%. 10% would be safer. That leaves only 70% of stated capacity. On average your outage would happen when the tank is at half of real capacity or 35% of rated. So if you have a 500 gal tank there'd be 175 gallons available on average when the outage happens. At 50% load a 16kw Generac burns about 1.5 gal/hr which gives 116 hours or 7.2 days if you're running 16 hours a day.

its a raspberry pi based device….way way better than generacs wifi unit.

gives real time data on generator. It also pushes thru text or email instantaneous when a change of state happens with the generator.

734CE6B7-F215-4756-8FBB-36E646BBED12.jpeg
 

ponytug

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We have backup generators, and recently installed batteries, subsidized by a statewide program for rural customers that have wells and had been previously cutoff due to wildfire prevention measures. Definitely batteries are pricey, without additional incentives.

We are running on batteries, with solar, at the moment, due to a local outage. It was a pretty seamless transition, with one light flickering, and that was about it.

I like the automatic rollover of the batteries, and the silence, but in the winter time, during storms, the batteries would only keep us running for a few days as our solar production is limited. If you do go for batteries, I would think about how you are going to recharge them during your worst case events.

All the best,

Peter
 

ultrarunner

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No.

Yes.

There's a lot of BS about California in the media. If you hear something that sounds outrageous it's probably wrong.


Beowulf for a whole home generator your county may want a load calc and load sheds for big loads that may exceed the generator's capacity. Ours does and I do not know if that's their add-on to the code or if it's state wide. Doing it that way will make the generator idiot-proof and make it work correctly if it comes on when you're not home so its not a bad idea. Most load sheds require low voltage wires to the generator but Generac has some that do not and will work with any generator.

I don't have the URL handy but there is a neat open source hw/sw package that lets you monitor a Generac without having to subscribe to their cloud service and have your data in a potentially vulnerable place.

Most people do propane because it's convenient and you usually have a tank already. You may want a larger one. Keep in mind that "full" on a propane tank is 80% and you don't want to run below 5%. 10% would be safer. That leaves only 70% of stated capacity. On average your outage would happen when the tank is at half of real capacity or 35% of rated. So if you have a 500 gal tank there'd be 175 gallons available on average when the outage happens. At 50% load a 16kw Generac burns about 1.5 gal/hr which gives 116 hours or 7.2 days if you're running 16 hours a day.
I hope you are right as it is already illegal in my city under penalty of law to use ICE blowers and brush cutters... even for Fire Suppression and believe me Fire Department is in opposition.

That law is well known in the SF Bay Area.

The Generator "Ban" is really a small engine ban with link below and is statewide... local jurisdictions are putting forward shorter time lines and more encompassing regs...

 
Last edited:

Larry Caldwell

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I get frequent questions in generators for home use probably since for decades I was the only one with one plus maintain Hospital standby gensets at work.

All want a fully automatic whole house that they never think about which I don't know of any because someone has to think about maintenance.

Rolling out a pull start, extension cords, pulling out the refrigerator from the wall, fueling, etc... are of no interest... except in a few cases after the fact when power was out for a week and the shock of the utility bill for propane or natural gas hit home...

Life is full of tradeoffs...

All I can say is those interested better get on the list as more internal combustion restrictions go into effect.

The sanctioned remedy is massive solar with Battery Backup but the utility is fighting back asking solar owners to pay more in fixed costs even to offset natural gas customers as the infrastructure costs projected to be spread out by a shrinking user base.
Certainly a genset requires some planning to be practical. For years I did what you describe. The generator lived in the barn. I would haul it out on the 2nd day of the outage. It was pull start, not too much of a hassle since I always ran it dry before putting it away. It was noisy, clunky, and OK for a young guy who couldn't afford anything better. I bought it on closeout in 1998, before the Y2K thing increased generator prices.

Over the years I have set up a more comprehensive installation. I picked the side of my attached garage as my utility area. That's where the heat pump compressor lives, and it also has the man door to the garage. I built a porch roof over that side of the garage and poured a concrete pad. I installed a transfer switch wired to an outdoor connecting point for a generator, then bought an electric start propane 7 kw unit that is connected to a 100 lb. tank at all times. I also have several 20 lb. tanks use for weed burning, shop forge, etc., so normally have about 200 lbs. of propane on hand. I quickly learned the motorcycle battery that shipped with the generator was worthless, so wired the electric start to a full sized deep cycle battery that I keep on a quality maintainer. Switching to generator power is as easy as turning on the propane, hitting the start on the generator, and flipping the transfer switch.

Having an outdoor utility area is nice. I put a small bench by the door where I can pull off muddy boots without tracking the mud into the house, and a mop sink inside where I can either drop stuff for a wash down or conveniently fill a 5 gallon bucket with hot water.

That said, I am anti-generator. I have kept the house 19th century tech in good operating condition, which means gravity feed water and wood heat. As long as I feed the wood stove (actually a fireplace insert), the comfort level of the house doesn't change. The generator is for heating a tank of water and taking a shower. It only needs to run for an hour or two a day.

This last outage I used a little 1000 watt camp generator just to run the FIOS router. I hadn't used it in a decade, and wanted to see if it still ran. I had to pour a little juice into the cylinder to get it started, but then it ran like a champ. And ran. And ran. It was rated at 4.5 hours on a gallon of gas at 50% load. Apparently it's really efficient at low load, because it took over 7 hours to run out of gas. I connected the power to a 1960s line stabilizer to clean up the power a bit. I picked that item up from a defunct photo shop that used it to keep power company fluctuations from wrecking their exposure levels.

This may seem pretty far afield, but I think it's a good idea to look at an integrated off-grid solution instead of just tacking a generator onto a house that is not built for it. If you are stuck with one of the all-electric monstrosities from 30 years ago, you may not have a choice. If one of those things doesn't have power, it's not a house.

I have neighbors who installed an all-electric triple wide years ago. Generally it's a decent place to live, until the power goes out. Then they live in the cold and dark without water or heat until the power comes back. They can't afford a whole house generator, and their only heat is a heat pump.

I don't have anything to say about the South, where staying habitable without AC is a trick, but in northern areas where outages happen with winter storms, I think putting some thought into an integrated solution is a good path. It doesn't take much of a generator to run a pellet stove. Even battery backup might be possible. The bedrooms may get chilly, but that same weenie generator will do fine running electric blankets. Depending on location, rooftop solar in combination with battery e-power might be a solution. I had a friend in northern Idaho who set up a small windmill generator, gravity feed water, and rooftop solar hot water. He said the solar worked well during really cold weather. He used the evacuated solar collector tubes and could get 100 degree water on a 20 below day.

My parents had an oil burning furnace, so we set up a small key-start diesel generator to run off the oil tank. My mother died in that house at 95, and was never cold or without a hot cup of coffee. She also had a propane insert in the fireplace, with a remote control, that would take the chill off the living room if she didn't want to listen to the generator.

People who live in a subdivision may be stuck with mass market solutions, but rural people have more options. How many do you know who use their gas powered welder for emergency power? I know a guy who has one mounted on his farm service truck. Any farmer or logger has provisions for field power. If you are young enough to deal with it, a PTO generator is a great way to get whole house power without a second mortgage. Another friend is a long haul trucker who built his own generator out of a 5 hp. B&S, a GM alternator, and a couple deep cycle batteries. He has a full spectrum of 12 volt appliances for his truck, and wired a couple low voltage circuits into the house. Some people move into their RV.

Everybody's choices will be different. As I see it, the essentials are:

1. It has to work. That means maintenance, and checking the generator in good weather, with the caveat that just because it starts on an 80 degree day does not mean it will start at 10 below. Just leaving stale gas in the tank can turn a generator into a pile of junk that takes hours to get started again.

2. People have to work it. Within limits, there is a trade-off between money and expertise. A whole house standby generator with auto exercise, auto transfer switch, and maintenance contract only requires a fuel supply and someone to check the oil. A 5000 watt portable requires somebody strong enough to pull the starter, load management, frequent fueling, and periodic home maintenance.

3. It has to be safe. Every disaster results in people dying from CO poisoning. Gasoline fires can leave people with no shelter at all. One of the riskiest things is no transfer switch. Back-feeding by just turning off the main breaker works as long as the person doing it knows the risks. The next guy may not know, or it may slip your mind with that extra shot of whisky antifreeze. In my area, shock a line crew once and you will not get your power back. They will shut you off, and not heat your house up again until you have brought the whole house to modern electrical code including a transfer switch.
 
 
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