Author Topic: Whole House Generator  (Read 859 times)

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Offline Icepick15

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Whole House Generator
« on: February 17, 2021, 04:42:24 PM »
I am on the verge of purchasing a whole house generator.  My central heat and hot water heater are natural gas.
 So, I am going to have it hooked up to the natural gas.  That way I won't have to worry about keeping a propane tank or diesel tank topped off, or worrying about diesel fuel going bad.

I understand that they can be programmed to auto start during a power outage and auto shut off when power is restored.  Also, they will auto start periodically, say once a week, and run for about 10 minutes to keep everything lubed up and in working order.

I'm thinking a 20KW or 22KW unit should power my house and I believe that I can get into one for about $10K.  I am on the Mississippi Gulf Coast and I want to get it installed and running before the beginning of hurricane season.

I only know one person locally (a former co-worker) who has one.  (There are probably others, but I don't know of them.)  I spoke to him, and he is in love with his.  He has a total electric house, so his runs on a propane tank which is buried in his yard.  He told me that where he got his, the company which installs the generator only installs the generator.  You have to hire a separate electric company to do the wiring, and the generator company has a list of electric companies who do this work.

I am asking for input from those of you who have one, and what your experience(s) is (are).  Fuel consumption, upkeep, reliability, etc.

Thank you in advance.
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Offline crashdive123

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Re: Whole House Generator
« Reply #1 on: February 17, 2021, 07:08:16 PM »
I don't have one, but had quite a few customers that did when I was working (pest control business).  All of them used large (300 to 500 pound) propane tanks for power (one had four tanks).  From my inquiries, they operated pretty much as you stated with auto on and off functions and periodic pre-programmed testing cycles.  My only concern about hooking up to your local utility fed natural gas would be it that were interrupted.

Online wsdstan

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Re: Whole House Generator
« Reply #2 on: February 17, 2021, 09:04:33 PM »
We don't have natural gas in the area I live so most of the folks with backup generators use propane.  They are usually fed by a 500 gallon tank and it is cheaper to operate than gasoline or diesel. 

I would think natural gas is  cheaper than propane by quite a bit.  There are quite a few websites that let you calculate the amount of time a generator will run given the hp, load, and so forth.   

My preference is a portable generator as we use it for lots of other things as well.  Running electrical equipment in remote locations for one and it is big enough to run a air compressor for the use of air tools.  When our power is out we are only concerned with running a few lights and one wall mounted radiant heater.  Outages longer than a week would be a problem for us as gasoline generators use a lot of fuel.
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Offline imnukensc

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Re: Whole House Generator
« Reply #3 on: February 17, 2021, 09:12:04 PM »
Had a 22KW Generac installed about 2 years ago.  Mine is propane since nat. gas isn't available in my neighborhood.  It operates pretty much exactly as you described, Icepick.  Installation was almost exactly as described, also.  Local heating and air company installed the generator, used a sub for the electrical work, and the gas company hooked up the gas to it.  It'll run everything in the house except one of my HVAC units. It's come in handy quite a few times.  I'm on a well.  If the electricity goes out, I can still flush more than once! 
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Offline Pete Bog

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Re: Whole House Generator
« Reply #4 on: February 17, 2021, 09:45:12 PM »
Service after the sale, so choose an established dealer.
Know that the auto switch over is not instantaneous. It takes a few seconds for the generator to crank, start and stabilize RPM before you get switched over. If you have power sensitive devices like computers or video security systems you'll want to use an uninterruptible power supply for those critical items.
   The Start battery needs to be renewed every few years, regardless if the generator is used or not. Don't let it go beyond the dealers recommendation. This is just the ongoing cost of peace of mind.
   Don't set the timer to switch back to grid power to quickly. Sometimes the power will blink a few times before it comes on and stays on.
   A good dealer will guide you along. I have no experience with hurricanes, but I would expect a good dealer to install it in a manner that protects it from flooding, wind and flying debris damage.
   I maintained backup generators for remote radio tower sites for years. The failures we had were dead start batteries and no notification of being on standby power. A couple of times the generator ran for days until it used up up all the fuel. Then we were back to having a dead radio tower site.
   We learned to tie a transmitted alarm into the radio transmitter to denote standby power in use. Probably not an issue for a home, Unless you have evacuated or are on vacation when the event happens.
    The last thing is neighbors. They see lights or hear the engine and they want to run an extension cord to power their house. Most have no idea of the limits of a generator and think they can run their whole house from an extension cord. AND, they probably don't disconnect from the grid and pose a danger to the electrical workers trying to restore power.
     Wessington Springs South Dakota has community wide generators capable of supplying the entire town. They pay for it with a monthly surcharge on thier monthly water bill. If you're in a small gated community, it might be something to look into on a community wide basis.

Offline Icepick15

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Re: Whole House Generator
« Reply #5 on: February 17, 2021, 10:48:56 PM »
Thank you all for your replies.

Crash---I take note of what you said about gas utilities being disrupted.  I live, in a straight line, just about a mile and a half north of the Gulf of Mexico.  Natural gas lines nearer to the coastline were ripped up when the houses they were connected to got blown/washed (whichever happened first) away in hurricane Katrina.  There were open and broken gas lines (and water lines) all over the debris field where houses and businesses used to be which had to be dealt with.  I was working, of course, and didn't get to my house immediately.  I still had gas to the house.  Historically, electricity and phone are the first to be knocked out.  Water can be knocked out if the city well pumps lose power and the backup generators are damaged.  Natural gas usually doesn't go out unless damage is pretty severe.  Hopefully, when next time happens, the house will still be livable and I'll still have gas.  Notice I said "when"....around here, hurricanes aren't an "if" kind of thing.

Pete---my understanding is that when the power goes down, the generator doesn't kick in immediately.  What I have heard so far is that the generator won't kick on until the power has been out for 15 seconds to avoid it kicking on if the power just blinks.  (That's the time frame I have been told, and I don't know how accurate that info is.)  Also, in the most recent hurricane, my buddy's generator kicked in as stated.  When his power was restored, he didn't even know it.  He said that the switchover back to grid power was so seamless that he didn't know his power was back until he walked outside and saw lights on in the neighborhood, and noticed that he didn't hear his generator.  My next door neighbor has COPD pretty bad.  He lives hooked up to an oxygen generator.  Last time the power went down in a thunderstorm he had to switch to an oxygen bottle, and he said it's not nearly as good for him as the O2 generator.  I wouldn't have a problem running an extension cord for his O2 generator, but of course not all his appliances.  By the way, the power company has a list of residences where someone is on an O2 generator or some other kind of electric powered medical apparatus.  Those houses are given priority when restoring power.  Luckily for me, when the power company energized his line, they energized my line, too.  But, like I said, the outage was from a thunderstorm.  Power outage from a hurricane will almost certainly take much longer to restore.
I will have to research service after the sale.  If I buy the unit from Blossman, will they service it if it's not being fed propane from a Blossman tank which is filled with propane bought from Blossman?  I don't have that answer right now.

Nuke---Generac is the one my buddy has.  He bought his generator from Blossman Gas company.  They have been in business in this area for many years.  He said that Blossman installed the generator, but, he's on propane, and they sell propane, and buried his tank and hooked it up to the generator.  I don't know if they would hook it up to the gas utility or not.

Stan---I don't think a portable generator is the answer for me.  If it was just me, I could do it with a portable unit.  But, my wife has had a series of strokes and can't walk.  I take care of her 24/7.  It's way harder to care for her in the dark.  Plus, I need electricity to cook for her and keep her food preserved.  Besides the strokes, her health isn't 100%.  Not only is it cold in the winter (cold for here, not as bad as some of y'all), often the weather after a hurricane is unbearably hot.  I want her to have heat and air.

Again, thank all of you for your replies.  I very much appreciate it.
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Offline Mannlicher

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Re: Whole House Generator
« Reply #6 on: February 18, 2021, 08:57:04 AM »
they always cost more to operate than buying electricity from the local utility.  Unless you are constantly losing power, I personally would not bother.

Offline Icepick15

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Re: Whole House Generator
« Reply #7 on: February 18, 2021, 11:15:00 AM »
they always cost more to operate than buying electricity from the local utility.  Unless you are constantly losing power, I personally would not bother.

It's not that it's a "constant" thing.  But, it does happen.

Sometimes it's a lightning strike on a transformer during a thunderstorm, or a tree falls and takes out a line or a utility pole.  That usually doesn't last longer than several hours.  Sometimes it's from storm damage in a hurricane.  That can last for several days and longer.

Hurricane Katrina wreaked havoc on utilities.  No electricity, no telephone, no TV cable, cell phone towers out.  I had natural gas.  Electricity was out for a month or so.

Thank you for your response.  I understand what you're saying, and I don't necessarily disagree with you, But.....Like I said previously, it's not just a matter of convenience.  It's not so much for me as it is for my wife's health.  I realize that it will be more expensive than the local utility, but it is what it is.
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Offline wolfy

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Re: Whole House Generator
« Reply #8 on: February 18, 2021, 12:11:57 PM »
We've considered installing a whole-house generator, but have decided against it....mainly because of the cost.  We live in the 'settled' part of Nebraska....in the eastern portion, but an old friend of mine moved to the sparsely populated Sandhills region to take over the family cattle ranch after his folks passed.  The first year after he moved there, we had a huge Spring blizzard that knocked out power all over the state.  We lost power for less than 12 hours, but all through the Sandhills there were MILES of power line poles that were snapped off.  It only took him around 4 MONTHS to get back on the grid. 
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Offline Mannlicher

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Re: Whole House Generator
« Reply #9 on: February 19, 2021, 06:10:44 AM »
icepick,  I fully understand your position.  I was in Miami for katrina and Wilma.  Back to back hits.  All of Dade County was without power for up to two weeks.  I had a 5KW generator, and that proved to be enough for us.  Since then, and that was in 2005,  South Florida has not seen a hurricane that did that much damage.  I just won't part with a lot of money to insure against a seldom seen event.

Offline madmaxine

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Re: Whole House Generator
« Reply #10 on: February 19, 2021, 08:44:31 AM »
We put in a house gen for Kelly's mom.  It really relieves her anxiety over losing power.

Kelly and I don't need it currently.  Maybe later.  We live "off the grid" 3-4 months a year anyway.

Offline xj35s

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Re: Whole House Generator
« Reply #11 on: February 20, 2021, 08:00:54 AM »
I found it interesting and kind of awesome that folks were using their f150's for power. the newer trucks have built in generators for running power equipment from the back of the bed.
pessimist complain about the wind. optimist expect the wind to change. realist adjusts the sails.

Offline Icepick15

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Re: Whole House Generator
« Reply #12 on: February 20, 2021, 12:47:41 PM »
icepick,  I fully understand your position.  I was in Miami for katrina and Wilma.  Back to back hits.  All of Dade County was without power for up to two weeks.  I had a 5KW generator, and that proved to be enough for us.  Since then, and that was in 2005,  South Florida has not seen a hurricane that did that much damage.  I just won't part with a lot of money to insure against a seldom seen event.

Thank you for your response.

Part of it is kind of like what Madmaxine said...it will relieve some anxiety over losing power.

When I was younger, hurricanes were an adventure.  School closed.  My paternal grandparents lived in a neighboring town about a mile and a half north of the beach, and high enough to not worry about storm surge. So we'd pack up and stay there for the storm.  Then, in 1969, enter hurricane Camille.  My family lost literally everything we owned except for my Mom and Dad's two cars.  We were at my grandparents house when it fell down around us.  Nineteen of us inside.  I have a flat spot on the back of my head to this day from getting hit by a flying door.  By some miracle, besides a couple of bruises, nobody was hurt.  When we were able to make it back to our property, which was not quite a block north of the beach, it was a vacant lot.  Vacant.  Not even any debris.  Well, the front and back steps were concrete, and they were there.  There was nothing between them.  So much for adventure.

In 1975, I got into law enforcement.  On the job for 40 years.  I worked every tropical depression, tropical storm, hurricane, and rainstorm flood for all those years.  During hurricane Katrina, all the officers were quartered in the police department.  During the storm, part of the back wall collapsed and took out the generator house enough to kill the generator.  Then the roof started to peel.  More wall fell.  It was kind of damp (OK, half the building was wet), but nobody got hurt.  My wife stayed with her father at his house for that one.  She stayed there for several days afterwards.  I saw her not too long after the storm abated, but didn't see her again for a few days.  Managed to get to my house.  Couple of holes in the roof.  A couple of my cousins, knowing that I would have to be working, put tarps over the holes while I was at work without being asked.  That's family for you.  About $55K damage to the house.

So, you see that the "adventurous" part of hurricanes is long gone.  I'm too old and beat up for this crap.  I really hate hurricanes.  A lot.  Anything I can do to mitigate the misery is just a plus.  And like I said in an earlier post, the main reason is that I need to keep my wife as comfortable as possible.  I can cook for myself over an open fire, or a Coleman stove, or a BBQ grill, and I can eat soup or beans out of a can.  But I need to cook actual meals for her.  And she has asthma and COPD.  In hot/humid weather the A/C helps her breathe easier.

I guess that was a pretty long winded roundabout way to reply to your statement and say that I'm willing to part with the money for the reasons stated.

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Online wsdstan

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Re: Whole House Generator
« Reply #13 on: February 20, 2021, 12:50:01 PM »
I saw a post on FB about that Xj.  A 2020 Ford with its invertor/generator puts out 7.3 KW and can run 32 hours on a full tank and full electrical load.  Worth having in a lot of ways, maybe more so that a stand alone 6kw unit like the one we have.  Darn sight easier that loading mine in the back of the truck too.
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Offline madmaxine

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Re: Whole House Generator
« Reply #14 on: February 20, 2021, 01:06:45 PM »
Icepick,  I know folks that have had their entire lives blown away around them.  And uniforms that stood helpless in the aftermath.  Camille was horrible.  Andrew was horrible.  There is no prepping for that.  We're inland.  The damage is done by wind and debris.  Hunker down and pray.

Offline Icepick15

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Re: Whole House Generator
« Reply #15 on: February 24, 2021, 04:05:40 PM »
Icepick,  I know folks that have had their entire lives blown away around them.  And uniforms that stood helpless in the aftermath.  Camille was horrible.  Andrew was horrible.  There is no prepping for that.  We're inland.  The damage is done by wind and debris.  Hunker down and pray.

I hear you.  I'm one of those folks (Camille).  I'm also one of the uniforms who stood in and looked around at a barren landscape that was once a beachfront subdivision.  Hell, a beachfront town.  After Katrina there were only two houses left standing along the beach highway.  Both of those were badly damaged, and one was made of concrete.  Four miles of nothing.

Yeah, there's a lot of praying going on during hurricane season.
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Offline Phaedrus

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Re: Whole House Generator
« Reply #16 on: February 25, 2021, 01:59:30 PM »
It seems like a wise investment, Icepick15!  To echo a few other comments, if it were me I'd be more confortable having a propane tank in case the flow of gas is interrupted but you know your area better than I do.  Is it possible to do both or is it an either/or situation?  In any event I'd say it makes a lot of sense given your wife's medical issues.  A lot of folks don't stop to consider how dangerous some medical conditions are without modern medicine.  There have been deaths in places where folks couldn't keep their insulin from spoiling, and I think at least a couple of folks in Texas died this last storm when they couldn't keep their O2 going.  A sad situation to be sure.

Offline Icepick15

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Re: Whole House Generator
« Reply #17 on: February 25, 2021, 07:03:42 PM »
It seems like a wise investment, Icepick15!  To echo a few other comments, if it were me I'd be more confortable having a propane tank in case the flow of gas is interrupted but you know your area better than I do.  Is it possible to do both or is it an either/or situation?  In any event I'd say it makes a lot of sense given your wife's medical issues.  A lot of folks don't stop to consider how dangerous some medical conditions are without modern medicine.  There have been deaths in places where folks couldn't keep their insulin from spoiling, and I think at least a couple of folks in Texas died this last storm when they couldn't keep their O2 going.  A sad situation to be sure.

I'm not sure, but I think---operative word think---that it's possible to switch over from natural gas to propane by changing a few parts.  Regulator?  Carburetor jets?  I'm not sure.  I think natural gas and propane operate at different pressure levels.  I've been told that operating cost is more with propane than natural gas, but ya gotta do what ya gotta do.  I hadn't thought of that....thanks for the suggestion.  I'll have to ask the company if it's possible and what it entails.

In regards to my wife's condition, it's not just the strokes.  I could take care of her even if I had to cook on a Coleman stove or my gas grill.  But, she has asthma, COPD, and allergies.  She has trouble breathing in hot and humid conditions, especially long term.  That's why I'm concerned about keeping the A/C going.  Besides, I just want to keep her comfortable.  And then there's the matter of laundry.  I'm not close enough to a river to go beat the clothes on a rock.

Thank you for your response.  And, thank all of you other folks who have responded.  You've been very helpful.  If anybody else comes up with anything, feel free to post.
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Offline crashdive123

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Re: Whole House Generator
« Reply #18 on: February 26, 2021, 04:58:40 AM »
Sounds like you are on the right track and for a good reason.

Offline greyhound352

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Re: Whole House Generator
« Reply #19 on: March 06, 2021, 05:40:42 PM »
I understand that they can be programmed to auto start during a power outage and auto shut off when power is restored.  Also, they will auto start periodically, say once a week, and run for about 10 minutes to keep everything lubed up and in working order.
That is how all of our generators at the landfill work. The programming I believe is in the transfer switch, our generators are also set to run for 20 minute for cool down with no load. All of our generators have a built in diesel tank in the base minimal 500 gallons, our larger generator has a 1000 gallon tank. Also they are setup for 480 volt transfer.
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Offline hayshaker

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Re: Whole House Generator
« Reply #20 on: April 14, 2021, 03:53:01 PM »
my heart goes out to ya buddy take care and prep.