Author Topic: Anybody have good/bad experiences with generators?  (Read 6049 times)

Spork

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Anybody have good/bad experiences with generators?
« on: April 22, 2013, 02:10:53 PM »
I live in the boonies.  Our power sucks.  We get little blips all the time.  A few hours is not terribly uncommon.  We had one outage that was over a week.

I've been considering a generator for a long time, but big expenses for things you use every now and then are really hard for me to swallow.  However, I'm pretty sure the cost of what's in my freezer is more than the cost of a generator.

I'm okay with paying a little more if it lasts forever.  I'd really prefer a diesel.... but geez those are expensive.  I have considered a PTO driven gen to drive it off my tractor, but again: really pricey. 

Does anybody have experiences they could share on good/bad brands?  Generac seems the most reasonable outside of the no-name, made-in-China brands.

Also, any ideas on where to purchase?  I've not had a lot of luck so far looking on craigslist.  New units online seem competitively priced (and usually are sales tax free).

pbkmaine

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Re: Anybody have good/bad experiences with generators?
« Reply #1 on: April 22, 2013, 03:05:57 PM »
Hubs and I have a 13 kilowatt Generac that will run off propane or natural gas.  It is hooked into our electrical panel and starts up automatically when the power goes off. It also starts up and tests itself once a week. We live in Maine, a bit out of town, and power can go off here for a week at a time.  We love the thing. 

Welmoed

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Re: Anybody have good/bad experiences with generators?
« Reply #2 on: April 22, 2013, 03:25:07 PM »
We've got the same setup; it's hooked into our propane tank and tests itself once a week. It is very, very important to get a licensed electrician to install the transfer switch (and pull any necessary permits). The first generator we had (in our previous house) had the transfer switch and was tied to the propane tank as well, but you had to go outside and fire it up manually and throw the transfer switch manually (hubby didn't want to spend the $$ on the automatic system). The first time we had an outage when he was out of town on business and I was home with two small children, I had to go outside in a storm and start it up... I did NOT have pleasant thoughts about my husband at that time. I made sure we got the fully automatic system for the current house.

Spork

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Re: Anybody have good/bad experiences with generators?
« Reply #3 on: April 22, 2013, 05:04:58 PM »
I don't want to do whole house and I want something large, but portable.  I'm thinking in the 6-8kw range.  I think those product lines are a bit different.

I've considered propane (since I have a propane tank).  This would be fine for emergency home use... but I am not sure how well this works for the portable use part.  I'm sure it would run on a 20# tank, but not sure how long it would run.

I'd like to be able to run a small welder (so that this isn't totally a unitasker).

I've already wired the house and have a panel lockout so that generator supply and utility supply are mutually exclusive.  (I live in the country and we don't require permits for anything other than septic out here.)  It will me a manual transfer.  I plan to have the procedures printed nice and neat by the panel, just in case someone other than me has to throw it.

Sparky

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Re: Anybody have good/bad experiences with generators?
« Reply #4 on: April 22, 2013, 09:15:38 PM »
Diesel engines doesn't like the cold at all when starting, propane is better and gasoline is pretty tolerant to cold starting overall. Keep this in mind for where you live.

« Last Edit: April 22, 2013, 09:17:33 PM by Sparky »

Spork

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Re: Anybody have good/bad experiences with generators?
« Reply #5 on: April 23, 2013, 07:16:34 AM »

Diesel stores well and the engines last forever.  Plus, I generally have 50 gallons of the stuff on hand and can buy it tax free.  Gasoline doesn't store well at all.  That said, it will probably be gas or propane due to price. 

I live in the south... so even our cold weather doesn't really compare to some.  My tractor has never had starting issues in the cold.

GoStumpy

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Re: Anybody have good/bad experiences with generators?
« Reply #6 on: April 23, 2013, 07:48:21 AM »
I just sold my Honda EB5000X that was circa ~1995... It was in storage since 2004, started once in 2008, and fired up first pull in 2012.  4 years between starts, old gas, no matter, started right up every time.

For that reason, I highly recommend a used Honda Generator.  They're bullet proof, and you can get one for under a grand.  I sold mine for $800.

Spork

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Re: Anybody have good/bad experiences with generators?
« Reply #7 on: April 23, 2013, 08:22:23 AM »
I just sold my Honda EB5000X that was circa ~1995... It was in storage since 2004, started once in 2008, and fired up first pull in 2012.  4 years between starts, old gas, no matter, started right up every time.

For that reason, I highly recommend a used Honda Generator.  They're bullet proof, and you can get one for under a grand.  I sold mine for $800.

Good to know.  There's probably a good reason they cost 2x 3x the Generac if buying new.  I'll keep probing craigslist in the short term.

Edit: holy moly.  I said 2x.  I was wrong.
« Last Edit: April 23, 2013, 10:14:31 AM by Spork »

ace1224

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Re: Anybody have good/bad experiences with generators?
« Reply #8 on: April 23, 2013, 09:00:16 AM »
we have a honda one that we use every couple of years or so (hurricanes) old gas, no start ups between, works everytime.  i bought mine new at lowes about 7 years ago.  its still working fine.

superheropunk

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Re: Anybody have good/bad experiences with generators?
« Reply #9 on: April 23, 2013, 02:46:42 PM »
I live out in rural america too and the short power outages drove me crazy...

I installed a hard wired battery back up system and it works well but only last about a couple of hours or so.... But they could last much longer depending on your battery bank and can be even solar charged....

Battery Back Up systems are a good alternative if you don't need an extended power source and just don't want your TV, Computer, XBOX, etc. shutting down while you are in the middle of something.

Decided against the generator due to maint and having to keep fuel in it.

Spork

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Re: Anybody have good/bad experiences with generators?
« Reply #10 on: April 23, 2013, 03:19:47 PM »
I live out in rural america too and the short power outages drove me crazy...

I installed a hard wired battery back up system and it works well but only last about a couple of hours or so.... But they could last much longer depending on your battery bank and can be even solar charged....

Battery Back Up systems are a good alternative if you don't need an extended power source and just don't want your TV, Computer, XBOX, etc. shutting down while you are in the middle of something.

Decided against the generator due to maint and having to keep fuel in it.

I already have computers/Tivo on UPS.  I'm more worried about refrigerators and freezers.  In a pinch, the computers can be turned off.  Freezer.... not so much.

UPS's take maintenance, too.  Batteries have a pretty limited life and have to be replaced every couple of years.  They also catch on fire sometimes.  Ask me how I know.

Rural

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Re: Anybody have good/bad experiences with generators?
« Reply #11 on: April 23, 2013, 05:44:40 PM »

I already have computers/Tivo on UPS.  I'm more worried about refrigerators and freezers.  In a pinch, the computers can be turned off.  Freezer.... not so much.


Have you considered that canning and dehydrating are cheaper than freezing in the first place? Don't get me wrong, I'm not good about it myself, but rather than a generator I have a woodstove and a big canner. If an outage starts showing signs of lasting more than a day, I'll start cooking and processing the meat from the freezer.

Another possibility: I've never yet had to do that because our outages are generally due to ice storms, and my big chest freezer has always been on a covered porch. Generally the power has come back on about the same time the ambient temps have risen out of the 20s, so nothing thaws, and I can even move things from the house fridge to the deep freeze. I'm about to lose this advantage when we move into the house, where I have room for the freezer in the kitchen for the first time ever. I may go back when we actually have a covered porch!

Spork

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Re: Anybody have good/bad experiences with generators?
« Reply #12 on: April 24, 2013, 08:14:43 AM »

I already have computers/Tivo on UPS.  I'm more worried about refrigerators and freezers.  In a pinch, the computers can be turned off.  Freezer.... not so much.


Have you considered that canning and dehydrating are cheaper than freezing in the first place? Don't get me wrong, I'm not good about it myself, but rather than a generator I have a woodstove and a big canner. If an outage starts showing signs of lasting more than a day, I'll start cooking and processing the meat from the freezer.

It probably is cheaper...  but our freezer is mostly full of meat.  We try to buy large amounts of locally raised meats.  We have an entire pig we just put in there that my SIL raised.  I'd hate to have to process 300 lbs of pork on a 'do it now' schedule.   I am planning on sausigifying some portion of it, but unless I build myself a dry cure chamber, that will have to wait until winter.  It's already too warm to hang sausage around here.

On a previous week long outage, I just picked the freezer up with the front end loader, plopped it in my $25 pickup and drove it across town to my sister's house.  But back then the freezer was much more accessible.  Now that I've actually built a house, it's a little less easy to get at with a tractor.

Rural

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Re: Anybody have good/bad experiences with generators?
« Reply #13 on: April 24, 2013, 08:20:38 AM »

I already have computers/Tivo on UPS.  I'm more worried about refrigerators and freezers.  In a pinch, the computers can be turned off.  Freezer.... not so much.


Have you considered that canning and dehydrating are cheaper than freezing in the first place? Don't get me wrong, I'm not good about it myself, but rather than a generator I have a woodstove and a big canner. If an outage starts showing signs of lasting more than a day, I'll start cooking and processing the meat from the freezer.

It probably is cheaper...  but our freezer is mostly full of meat.  We try to buy large amounts of locally raised meats.  We have an entire pig we just put in there that my SIL raised.  I'd hate to have to process 300 lbs of pork on a 'do it now' schedule.   I am planning on sausigifying some portion of it, but unless I build myself a dry cure chamber, that will have to wait until winter.  It's already too warm to hang sausage around here.

On a previous week long outage, I just picked the freezer up with the front end loader, plopped it in my $25 pickup and drove it across town to my sister's house.  But back then the freezer was much more accessible.  Now that I've actually built a house, it's a little less easy to get at with a tractor.

All the more reason to keep the freezer on the porch! Now, if I only had a porch...

Not that I have a front end loader. My truck adventure would involve the backhoe and heavy chains. Can be done, but much more nervous-making on ice. Oh, and if there is ice, my driveway is completely impassible, even for the 4WD truck... Hmm. Let me know what generator you decide on!

Meantime, I guess I'll be on the 'do it now' schedule...

StarswirlTheMustached

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Re: Anybody have good/bad experiences with generators?
« Reply #14 on: April 24, 2013, 09:19:52 AM »
If it is just for the fridge/freezer, have you considered temperature storage as a backup rather than electricity?
I've seen some awesomely-insulated freezers with phase-change materials (okay, so it's packs of frozen brine or glycol) designed to go without power for extended periods, but something like that isn't as versatile as a genny. And if your freezer is already full of meat, you'd have to either get a bigger one to make room for buttloads of thermal mass, or somehow get your existing freezer's guts into a larger super-insulated box.
Short-term, it might be pricier than the Honda, but longer term you might win from maintenance/fuel, and it'd be an asset if you ever decided to take your home off-grid. (though you could say that about a generator, too.)

RadicalPersonalFinance

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Re: Anybody have good/bad experiences with generators?
« Reply #15 on: April 24, 2013, 01:55:13 PM »
If you want a really interesting and comprehensive overview of all your options:

http://www.thesurvivalpodcast.com/harris-on-generators-part-1-of-2

http://www.thesurvivalpodcast.com/episode-1005-steven-harris-on-everything-generators-part-2-of-2

You'll make an excellent decision if you listen to those two podcasts.