PTO or portable generator for whole house generator backup ?

   / PTO or portable generator for whole house generator backup ? #1  


Super Star Member
Dec 8, 2007
Kubota M7040, Kubota MX5100, Deere 790 TLB, Farmall Super C
Quick question...PTO or portable generator for whole house backup power? We're retired with basic electronics. Nothing special but we do have A/C.

I now have a 10,000 watt (12,000 surge) Generac commercial model portable generator. I've had it for 15 years and rarely use it. It's like new. Still I plan to replace it and am thinking I should have a PTO generator since I already have the tractor and lots of diesel to run it. I have a 50 amp full power receptacle on the house.

This Winco 15,000 watt Winco W15PTOS - 15 kW Tractor-Driven PTO Generator 515 RPM appeals to me but the 12,000 would run the house as well. I can't think of a better PTO brand to buy than Winco and I don't want off-brand or Chinese. Winco is OK, isn't it?

Here's the website I'm looking at PTO Generator 3-Point Hitches @ Electric Generators Direct

This topic has been beat to death and searching was painful so I figured to ask here. Any advice welcome.
   / PTO or portable generator for whole house generator backup ? #2  
Neither, in my view. Instead get a permanently installed unit running off natural gas or propane, with a properly installed transfer switch.

When do you have power outages? Like, here, in the winter during storms? How far would you have to go through the snow to get the tractor, hook up the generator and bring it back to the house? What else would you need the tractor for at such times? Who would be able to set it up if you were not available?

To me, the inconvenience of just turning the key on the generator and throwing the transfer switch, and not worrying about fuel, wins big time.

   / PTO or portable generator for whole house generator backup ? #3  
I have a 50kw Winpower/Winco PTO model. Works every time. No big deal hooking it up. Nice to have movable portable power. Price was $1000 at a farm auction. I also use a Honda EU6500IS inverter at the house. Our power is pretty stable here, it would have to be statewide to be more than an inconvenience. Transfer switch at the house only carries circuits the Honda can run: well, furnaces, modems, chargers and washer and garage opener(s). Costco sells the nat. gas units. Installation is the big expence.

Both your tractors will run a PTO model. Used ones on Craigslist.
   / PTO or portable generator for whole house generator backup ? #4  
You are going to get a lot of information and there are a TON of threads so let me help you cut through a lot of the mess.

Should you have a portable generator or not?
You are going to get a lot of people who will tell you that PTO generators are the best and a lot who will tell you otherwise, it really depends on use case.
  1. Model of usage
    What kind of power needs do you have? Are you one of those people who need to have power 24x7 or are you just going to need it for a couple of hours a day? If you need power all of the time a dedicated standby generator is better. You are not going to want to have a tractor running through the night if you can help it. While it will run 24x7 you ideally would want someone checking on it once in a while to make sure everything is OK. If you are going to use it a few or several hours a day and then have times you won't need power I think a PTO generator is a very cost effective way to get power. Some people obsess about having power all of the time and they want to not even know they are off of the grid except for a little LED that comes on and lets them know that the generator is running while others just need something once a day to run the refrigerator and freezer and other than that don't care the power is out. Most are in between but there is going to be delay hooking up the tractor and you are probably going to want to not even hook it up for a small power outage that lasts 30 minutes.​
  2. Need of tractor
    When the power is out are you going to need your tractor? This also falls into number 1 above. The tractor can't run the generator while you are out plowing snow, moving down trees or some other need. If you are OK with the power being down while you are using the tractor, if there is a need for the tractor, then it isn't an issue. Do you have more than one tractor? Maybe you have one that generates power while you are using the other. When I lived in South Dakota and the power was out after a blizzard, there wasn't any rush to plow the driveway to get to the road, it was going to take a few days for them to even plow the road and no where to go until then. Some places power goes out because of the grid itself and you won't have need of your tractor, or not very much during power outages.​
  3. Power requirements
    How much power do you need? PTO generators are a cost effective way to get a lot of clean power. People forget that with todays appliances and electronics that they want clean power. There are times when a HVAC unit won't run even though there is enough power but it isn't clean enough. Ovens, refrigerators and other things have microprocessors in them and they may or may not handle the power some generators put out. I always recommend to people to get a until that has "clean power". Power is considered clean if it has total harmonic distortion (THD) of less than 6% (<6%). The funny thing is with todays global market, lots of electronics can handle different voltages and frequencies, for example the power supply on the back of my PC can take power from 50-60Hz and voltage from 110-250v. It will automatically take care of it. I don't recommend running your generator different than the standard outlet specs of your house, I only bring up the example to show that THD is very important and it is glossed over by some generator makes even though I believe it is just as important as voltage and frequency in the context of home backup. If you were just going to use a generator to run some hand tools like a skill saw out in the field where there isn't power, then it isn't near as important. Those tools can take some pretty crappy power and run just fine. As a side note, most PTO generators provide clean power.​
  4. Ease of hookup
    How hard is it for you to hook up? Would you ever be away from home and your wife, daughter, son needs to hook it up? If there is a need of them to hook it up can they do it? Are there a bunch of things going to be in the way of the generator that need to be moved before you can get to the generator or can you back right in and hook up easily. My wife and son also love to drive the tractor so they wouldn't have any issues backing the tractor up and hooking up for example.​
  5. What do you already have
    Do you already have a tractor(s)? How are you setup for fuel? If you want a standby generator do you have a large propane tank or access to natural gas of the correct pressure? Natural gas generators are hungry machines and they need enough pressure to run. They can't just be hooked up to your existing line, you have to get with your gas company to find out if you have access to the volume and pressure needed before you buy a generator. Propane, do you have a large tank? How often do you get it filled? If it is only for the standby generator you might be low on the list of customers to fill since you are not a regular. I did a lot of research of people who had backup generators during major power outages and if you are not a regular propane customer then you might not get refilled if the power outage lasts that long. Gasoline doesn't store great but it has a lot of energy in a little package and there are known ways to keep stored gas fresh if you take the required steps. Diesel stores even better with more energy in a smaller package, though it also needs steps to keep it fresh and ready to use when needed.​
  6. Cost
    How much power do you need and does it need to be clean? If you are needing a lot of clean power the cheap big box store model isn't going to cut it. They are not designed for clean power and they don't always handle running hours and hours on end very well. If you look at the generators that are up to clean power with the amount that a PTO unit can put out, you are going to pay twice as much or more for a stand alone until with the same specs as a PTO unit. PTO units are pretty heavy duty and are rated from long hour usage up to almost prime (when a unit is considered to be prime power it can be used as your sole power source, 24x7, 365 days) If you get a standalone are you going to be OK with another motor to take care of? With a separate engine it needs to be run every so often and exercised to make sure the fuel doesn't gum up in it as well as keeping the generator end healthy and happy. You should exercise your PTO generator as well but a PTO unit is a little more forgiving, most people use their tractors all of the time so they are in good running condition. Even a standby unit that runs itself once a month from natural gas is going to still need care. People do say they hate the idea of putting hours on their tractor but I feel that is what the tractor is designed for. Very small diesel tractors are rated for thousands of hours before rebuild, say in the 5K range, now that is going to be very dependent on how well you keep up with your service intervals. But if you are crappy with your service on your tractor you are probably going to be crappy with your service on your stand alone and it isn't going to work well for you either. If you have a larger tractor you are looking at the 10K+ hours before rebuild. Point being 99.9% of the people with a PTO generator are not going to put a significant dent in their tractor service life.​
PTO generators and where are they made
This list is from what I have researched as of 2015, things could change, maybe already have.​
  1. BaumaLight
    These generators are Italian heads made by Mecc Alte. They have clean power.​
  2. Harbor Freight
    Chinese made, unknown power quality​
  3. IMD
    These generators are Italian heads made by Sincro. They have clean power.​
  4. Northstar
    These generators are Italian heads, unknown make. They have clean power.​
  5. Voltmaster
    These generators are Italian heads, unknown make. Unknown power quality.​
  6. Winco
    10Kw and 15Kw, these generators are Italian heads made by Mecc Alte. They have clean power. Special note, these want 515 RPM at the PTO and not the standard 540 RPM. Your tractor might not make as much HP at the lower RPM which may or may not be an issue depending on tractor/generator/power draw sizing.
    25Kw are made by Winco in the US, power quality unknown. (Winco talks about clean power on the smaller generators and doesn't on the 25Kw so I don't think it meets the specs, but I would write the factory if you are concerned.)​
  7. Most others
    If it isn't on the above list it is most likely made in China.​

From the ones I could find of the major brands, pretty much all of the smaller generators are made in Italy or China. Mecc Alte and Sincro are very highly regarded European brands and make from very small to extremely huge generators. The American made generators seem to be in the larger sizes and power quality isn't always clean. Though the large sizes are more for running more industrial type of loads where a lot of times power cleanliness isn't as important.

Standard operating procedure is an American/Canadian company buys a gearbox and generator head, puts them together, creates their own little power distribution box to go on top of the generator head and sells it.

I hope this has helped a little, it turned out a little longer than I thought it would.
   / PTO or portable generator for whole house generator backup ? #5  
Well, since you have a lot of diesel already, I'll throw in my $.02. My son & I bought government surplus generators out of Ft Meade in MD. Luckily he lives not too far from Meade so he was able to easily pick them up - they came on trailers. Both were reconditioned & had only a few hours on them (like 2), the trailers were brand new.

They are 4 cylinder air cooled Onans & rated at 10Kw. I sold my trailer for $500 which bought the generator price down to $1500 :) The gensets are built like tanks & weigh 1300lbs. I installed my in the garage & wired a transfer switch in for my whole house. After 3-1/2 years I finally got to use it a few days ago. A tree knocked out our power for 17 hours. Ran the whole house incl AC easy peasy. There is a video somewhere on the interwebby that shows one of these MEP-003A's running a 14Kw load for hours.

Because of it's weight my L3400 had no chance of lifting it off the trailer (safely) so. . .


   / PTO or portable generator for whole house generator backup ? #6  
I have a small, portable Honda unit that JUST manages my 3/4 hp jet pump. If I had my way, I'd have one of those Northern Lights units in a dedicated shed. Between your options, I'd go for the PTO unit - one less engine to maintain. No natural gas out where I am and the propane units that I'm familiar with are a thirsty lot. I also like the flexibility/versatility of diesel. And, I prefer a manual transfer switch as most of our power outages don't last longer than half an hour. I need to be able to run the well pump and keep the freezer freezing.
   / PTO or portable generator for whole house generator backup ? #7  
I have a Winco 15K PTO gen always works perfectly and I've had it many years...

Like me, it looks like you have more than one tractor, so you have choices to run one and I believe you will love having the extra power where and when ever you need it.

Over the years, i've had quite a few gensets, but for powering my home, I much prefer my PTO generator.

   / PTO or portable generator for whole house generator backup ? #8  
Just out of curiosity - what is the HP requirements for a 15kW PTO Generator?
   / PTO or portable generator for whole house generator backup ? #9  
You can run it with most any tractor, but to get "full power" out of it, you need at least 30 PTO HP...
   / PTO or portable generator for whole house generator backup ? #10  
You can run it with most any tractor, but to get "full power" out of it, you need at least 30 PTO HP...

thanks! Mine is a little on the small side with 24 PTO Hp but it will still run it.