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Old 11-01-2012, 02:59 PM   #1
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Planning for a home generator


I'm in the market to buy a generator before winter. I have a salt water aquarium system I need to be able to power. I've been looking at 3000 watt range, that would provide avg 8 amps at about $300.

But then at the store I found a product that would fit on my Homeline breaker box, a Generator Interlock Kit. this is it here.

It claims to be able to add the generator power as a backup right at the main panel. I assume this provides a simple, manual, way to disconnect utility power and change to generator power? Anybody provide insight? it's certainly designed to not allow connection of both at the same time within the panel.

I understand that by providing backup power to the entire house means I will have to expect more usage demands on it than if it were a standalone option. But this provides for the advantage of being able to build an outdoor box, permanently house the generator there and then since I wouldn't be moving it weight wouldn't be an issue. I would probably spend more and get a larger one.

Is it really that "easy"?

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Old 11-01-2012, 04:00 PM   #2
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Planning for a home generator


No, it's not that easy. A 3,000 watt (3kw) generator will not possibly power your entire house; not even close. And a transfer switch is needed regardless of what size you get, to ensure you don't ever backfeed the electrical grid and possibly electrocute a lineman trying to restore power.

To back up your whole house, you'd likely need 20kw or more. If you have gas heat, stove, and water heater, you might get by with 10kw. But most people only back up essential loads like refrigerator, freezer, well pump, and such. Even at that, a portable generator isn't usually enough.

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Old 11-01-2012, 04:05 PM   #3
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Planning for a home generator


My question is about using that particular product. The size of the generator is not what I'm unfamiliar with. I understand how to calculate required load/usage.

Edit : found my answer here http://m.youtube.com/#/watch?v=n7Dka...?v=n7DkaorEQPQ

Last edited by schatzi; 11-01-2012 at 04:44 PM.
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Old 11-01-2012, 05:48 PM   #4
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Planning for a home generator


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Originally Posted by md2lgyk View Post
And a transfer switch is needed regardless of what size you get, to ensure you don't ever backfeed the electrical grid and possibly electrocute a lineman trying to restore power.
A transfer switch is not the only way to legally enable a generator to power a home safely.

The interlock kit that he specified does prevent the generator from backfeeding power to the main grid, as long as it fits his panel. These are legal and code compliant. The interlock ensures that the generator is completely isolated from the main grid, and prevents the main from being turned on when the generator is energizing the panel. The panel is backfed by the generator, but when it is backfed, the main circuit breaker cannot be turned on, so there is no way that the power can kill a linesman.

This video demonstrates how these work: This company's interlock kit is not UL listed (which doesn't mean that it isn't safe, or that it is illegal, although some areas do require UL listing for code compliance), but there many other interlock kits that are UL listed.

***

By the way, $300 generators have a habit of not lasting long, or of not being functional when you need them. I had one of those during Hurricane Irene, and even though I had barely used it after buying it two years before, had performed all the maintenance and had test run it monthly, when Irene hit, it barely ran. It kept conking out, and stopped working completely by the 5th day. I bought one with a more reliable engine (Robin Subaru), and its 6700 watts powers my well pump, fridge, freezer, lights and two furnaces, as long as I start up each appliance one at a time and monitor the power usage closely.

Last edited by Arnold Ziffel; 11-01-2012 at 07:32 PM.
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Old 11-01-2012, 06:01 PM   #5
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Planning for a home generator


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...I bought one with a more reliable engine (Robin Subaru), and its 6700 watts powers my well pump, fridge, freezer, lights and two furnaces, as long as I start up each appliance one at a time and monitor the power usage closely.
I think this is basically going to be my plan. Ignoring reliability for just a moment any size generator will "work", you just have to monitor how much demand you allow. But I believe in "you get what you pay for" thus a bit more $ for a better quality (and more power) is the better idea. I have many thousands in the aquarium, I'm not going to quibble over hundreds when planning emergency backup.
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Old 11-01-2012, 06:18 PM   #6
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Planning for a home generator


Sounds like a good plan. Just be aware that 6700 watts is pretty skimpy in itself. I was very surprised I was able to run both of my furnaces and my well at the same time, and usually turn off one or both furnaces (we have a woodstove) when using my generator to make sure I don't overload it.

Also, check to see how sensitive the electronics are in your aquarium equipment if you intend to use the generator to power it. The cheaper generators provide dirty power, which can burn out sensitive electronics.
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Old 11-01-2012, 07:15 PM   #7
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Planning for a home generator


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Originally Posted by schatzi View Post
I'm in the market to buy a generator before winter. I have a salt water aquarium system I need to be able to power. I've been looking at 3000 watt range, that would provide avg 8 amps at about $300.

But then at the store I found a product that would fit on my Homeline breaker box, a Generator Interlock Kit. this is it here.

It claims to be able to add the generator power as a backup right at the main panel. I assume this provides a simple, manual, way to disconnect utility power and change to generator power? Anybody provide insight? it's certainly designed to not allow connection of both at the same time within the panel.

I understand that by providing backup power to the entire house means I will have to expect more usage demands on it than if it were a standalone option. But this provides for the advantage of being able to build an outdoor box, permanently house the generator there and then since I wouldn't be moving it weight wouldn't be an issue. I would probably spend more and get a larger one.

Is it really that "easy"?
I have that same kit for my Square D QO panel. The way it works is, you will need to install a double pole breaker in the panel and that will go to the generator inlet. Due to this design, you'd need a generator capable of outputting 240v and a lot higher wattage than 3000w if you want to power your refridgerator, furnace, etc...
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Old 11-01-2012, 07:22 PM   #8
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Planning for a home generator


Buy the biggest and best generator you can afford. Make sure you buy a generator inlet. This is where you plug in the generator outside the house.
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Old 11-01-2012, 08:38 PM   #9
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Planning for a home generator


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Buy the biggest and best generator you can afford. Make sure you buy a generator inlet. This is where you plug in the generator outside the house.
I disagree. The people who did what you said have been waiting on line for hours and hours and hours to get more gas to fuel up their 8,000w+ generators while the people who bought the modest 5,500w or smaller generators have what they need while using half the fuel.

Buy what YOU need, going too big will be inefficient.
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Old 11-01-2012, 09:06 PM   #10
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Planning for a home generator


Quote:
Originally Posted by schatzi View Post
I'm in the market to buy a generator before winter. I have a salt water aquarium system I need to be able to power. I've been looking at 3000 watt range, that would provide avg 8 amps at about $300.


Is it really that "easy"?
Most people would just buy the biggest they can afford.
It all depends on what you expect to power with it.
If you can only afford a 3Kva, then you wont be able to power everything, but you could keep the basic escentuals going,
Such as lights, refrigerator, tv, even some aquarium pumps too !
The rest of the big loads would be turned off at the breakers,
If you have to go to the panel to operate the interlock,
then turning off some breakers is not difficult.

So what would you like to power ???
What are you happy to spend ???
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Old 11-01-2012, 09:17 PM   #11
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Planning for a home generator


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Originally Posted by J. V. View Post
... Make sure you buy a generator inlet. This is where you plug in the generator outside the house.
Does this need to be a 240V or will 1-120v be fine? I've run the numbers, I could keep the max draw under 20amps at 120v.
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Old 11-01-2012, 09:18 PM   #12
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Planning for a home generator


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Originally Posted by schatzi View Post
Does this need to be a 240V or will 1-120v be fine? I've run the numbers, I could keep the max draw under 20amps at 120v.
It needs to be 120/240V for your purpose.
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Old 11-01-2012, 09:19 PM   #13
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Planning for a home generator


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Originally Posted by dmxtothemax View Post
Most people would just buy the biggest they can afford.
It all depends on what you expect to power with it.
If you can only afford a 3Kva, then you wont be able to power everything, but you could keep the basic escentuals going,
Such as lights, refrigerator, tv, even some aquarium pumps too !
The rest of the big loads would be turned off at the breakers,
If you have to go to the panel to operate the interlock,
then turning off some breakers is not difficult.

So what would you like to power ???
What are you happy to spend ???
Most outages here are no more than a day. So I could get by with staggering use of things like fridge, microwave, heat, fish tank, etc... Avg current draw is about 8. Hows $400 sound for a 3750w peak?
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Old 11-01-2012, 09:32 PM   #14
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Planning for a home generator


If you are careful in what you use,
Then it will be ok,
How ever most other people tend to go bigger,
But if money is tight, do what you can afford.
You can always upgrade in the future.
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Old 11-01-2012, 09:48 PM   #15
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Planning for a home generator


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Originally Posted by Arnold Ziffel View Post
Sounds like a good plan. Just be aware that 6700 watts is pretty skimpy in itself.

Although 6700 watts is not usually a whole house generator, it's far from skimpy. Gas homes with no electric appliances can easily run on less, with the exception of air conditioning.

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