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Old 11-28-2011, 11:17 AM   #16
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Originally Posted by josall View Post
Just google "tri-fuel generator"
This has become my final plan. A propane standby generator on one half of our house and a tri-fuel portable for the other half. Under normal circumstances the tri-fuel would stay unused unless we are facing an outage exceeding one week or temps in that half of the house fall below freezing.

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Old 11-28-2011, 11:54 AM   #17
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This has become my final plan. A propane standby generator on one half of our house and a tri-fuel portable for the other half. Under normal circumstances the tri-fuel would stay unused unless we are facing an outage exceeding one week or temps in that half of the house fall below freezing.
So you're going to wire up 2 transfer switch panels?
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Old 11-28-2011, 12:46 PM   #18
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Originally Posted by Ron6519 View Post
So you're going to wire up 2 transfer switch panels?
Yeah...

one 2012 with genset, second 2013.

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Originally Posted by KE2KB View Post
Does anyone know how much more I would (should) need to spend to get a portable generator that will run on either gasoline or propane?

Thanks

FW
In my research tri-fuel is a little more. I think it was called Winco
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Old 11-29-2011, 07:52 PM   #19
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It looks like the tri-fuel generators are a lot more expensive. Like, $1800 compared to $900 for a 6KW generator.

Researching this, I have learned that propane does not have as many BTU per pound/gallon as gasoline, about 30% less for propane.
Considering that propane is not 30% cheaper than gasoline in our area (at least not during the off-season), getting a generator that runs only on propane would be a bad choice.
So it's either spend a lot more now to have the flexibility of using whatever fuel can be purchased, or just go with gasoline, and buy a siphon kit to take it from the car when the jugs run out.

That said, isn't there an anti-siphon device built into the fuel filler neck in all cars?
Is there still a way to siphon gas from your car if you need it for the generator?

FW

Edit: Just watched a YouTube video on why it is next to impossible to siphon gas from the tank of a newer car. My car(s) are no older than 2004, so I don't think that siphoning without much trouble is an option.
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Old 11-29-2011, 09:28 PM   #20
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Tri-fuel to me isn't really based on which is cheaper, it's more of being able to burn everything I'd have around the house. Worse case scenario and you get snowed in with 20+ inches of snow and can't get anymore gas, then you can use propane.

At some point I will need to install a propane connection outside of garage 6' feet from source of ignition...
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Old 11-29-2011, 10:19 PM   #21
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We researched generators for a while and finally got one after Irene knocked out power for a day and a half. Saved our butts when Lee came through (kept 3.5 ft of water out of the basement when the power went off) and used it again when the Snopocalypse in October knocked power out for a day. We got the 5500 watt unit from Harbor Freight. What I found is this:

1. Propane will kill you in running costs. You will be swapping the 20lb tanks quite frequently (2x a day or more) and availability could be an issue as propane is not as available as gas and you'll be competing with others who are using it for grills, space heaters, etc.

2. Natural gas is also expensive. I read quite a few stories of it costing $2-400+ a week to run a natural gas generator. This of course depends on the size but if you go this route you could end up with a large bill. You also may need to upgrade your NG service as the generators need a more powerful supply.

3. You will also have to change your oil at least every 2-3 days so be prepared for that. I've got a "log sheet" by the generator that I use to track runtimes so I know when I last did what and when it's time for maintenance.

4. No matter what you get, run the generator under load at least once a month. I've got a calendar entry in my iCal and I run it for 30 minutes hooked up to a space heater and a 500w shop light. This way you make sure the carb doesn't gum up and you know the genny will work.

5. Gas is important. I've got 2 5 gallon cans (may ad a 3rd) that are filled with gas and Sta-Bil, which is also very important. I date them and after 6 months will cycle that gas into the cars and refill with fresh. I also keep the generator with 1/3-1/2 tank. If we think there is a storm coming I'll fill the generator and the gas cans. This way I've got a while before I have to think about gas. Within 10 miles I have lots of gas stations. Within 30 even more. By 60 miles I'm at another major city in every direction so someone will have gas available. I've heard you can jumper the fuel pump on your car and with the appropriate adapter can use that to pump your tank out into a gas can if you can't siphon it.

6. Think safety - you will need properly rated extension cords for what you want to run. This is very important as overloading them is a fire hazard waiting to happen. I've got 25 and 50 footers that are rated for 15 amps so we can run a space heater if need be. Do not cheap out on them.

7. Do you need 220v? If you plan to run certain well pumps, an electric range, or some furnaces/AC you may need this. That pretty much bumps you up to a 5000-5500w unit. If not, you may be able to get by with a 3000 watt unit.

Runtime is important too. They claim ours will run 8 hours at 1/2 load and I think that's about right. During the snowpocalypse we were out most of the day and got in at 12:30am. Fired the generator up to power the fridges, freezer, and space heater - it had roughly a full tank of gas. So a decent load for the most part. Ran the space heater in the bedroom nonstop until about 7:30am when I got up. When I checked the gas after I shut it off I think there was about a gallon left. So that was about right. The space heater ran non stop the entire time and kept us nice and toasty in the bedroom.

Another important thing is to figure what you can and can't live without if power goes out. Fridge, freezer, lights are important - use CFL or LED lights to lessen the load on the generator (I have a 150w equivalent CFL that I use when on generator power and it lights up a room nicely and used very little wattage). I power the FIOS boxes and laptops as well; probably could do the TV without issue too. I've run the coffeemaker (very important) too. You may have to juggle loads to get things to work (like unplug the coffeemaker to watch tv, etc) but with a 5500w unit you should be able to run a decent portion of your house.

Also think of a plan to do if you are getting bad weather. I've got one that I have in my Google Docs. It lays out things to do prior to a storm (get gas, charge phones, laptops, rechargeable batteries, etc), things during, and afterwards. It helps so you don't forget to do something in the "heat of the moment".
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Old 11-30-2011, 09:44 PM   #22
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Generator question


Excellent post. I have advantage of a 1,000 gallon propane tank.

May all our outages be short ones...

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Old 12-01-2011, 12:18 PM   #23
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I did a bunch of research last fall before purchasing a portable backup generator. My main concern was getting one that wouldn't damage home electronics in HVAC, fridge, MW computers, etc.

You can check out "Clean Emergency Generator Power" at stonehavenlife.com for more on this.

In the end I bought a Generac XP6500 portable (gas) which has an Automatic Voltage Regulator (AVR) to keep the output stable and goes 100hrs between oil changes (first change 30hrs).

If we were near a natural gas line I would have considered a standby type.

Re: running 24/7

Fortunately we've only had to use it for a few hours so far, but even in the middle of a Canadian February I can't see needing to run it more than a couple of hours at a time to heat the house, run water, charge up batteries/send email, etc.

Unfortunately, I think we're all going to need to rely more on generators in the years to come.

Good Luck,

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Old 12-01-2011, 12:56 PM   #24
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Saved our butts when Lee came through (kept 3.5 ft of water out of the basement when the power went off)
Good Point itguy08. We live on high ground so continuously pumping water out was not a factor in our situation.

I kept several gas cans filled (with fuel stabilizer added) during last winter. I used the gas this spring/summer for mowing the lawn and replaced with fresh gas this fall.
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Old 12-01-2011, 03:45 PM   #25
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Thanks guys, especially itguy08 for your great post!
I've got a lot of good information to work with, so I should be able to make the right choice.

I have to agree about the extension cords. Too many people don't understand the first thing about wire size vs load; and even if they do know the cord's rating, do most people know how much different appliances draw?
Even though I am quite knowledgeable in electricity, I was not aware that the coffee percolator used 800 watts! I was able to make coffee while on generator power, but didn't give much thought to plugging it in.
I guess it would be best to have a (gas) stovetop percolator for these situations.

I would really like to go the transfer switch route, but first I'll get the generator, and see how much money is left in the bank.

As for running electronics on generator power;
I had the FIOS equipment, a bran-new iMac computer, and a TV running.
All were connected to good surge suppressors.
We had no issues at all, but now that I think about it, perhaps I should look into the "clean power" or inverter technology generators.

FW
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Old 12-03-2011, 07:42 AM   #26
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Yeah - the extension cords are a big deal should you go that route. You don't want to overload them and start a fire. What helped me was the tags on them at Home Depot. They say the maximum wattage and amps that you can run through it. I got ones rated for 15 amps so that I know if I plug in a heater I'll be OK and the rest of the stuff will go on a surge strip which has a 15a circuit breaker.

I got one of these cords too: http://www.homedepot.com/h_d1/N-5yc1...atalogId=10053

It takes the twist lock 240 and gives you 6 110 outlets. The nice thing about the twist lock is that it won't vibrate loose over time. Also makes balancing the generator load easy as you can plug 1 high draw into one side and another in the other. During the snow I had the heater in 1 side and the fridge and freezer in the other.

You do learn what uses power and what does not. When I make coffee, you can hear the generator work when the heating element is on so I tended to make coffee and then shut it off. But that was after I disconnected the fridges.

I wouldn't worry too much about power quality. IMHO that's a myth and not needed anymore. "Sensitive electronics" may be something like health care equipment or things like that. But any modern computer, tv, etc uses a switching power supply which is not that fussy about power. As long as the Hz and VAC is close it will run.

After the 1st hurricane blew through I ran the FIOS stuff, my Macbook, the wife's Macbook, my POS Dell work computer, and a little netbook and all was fine. On the Monday I worked from home and despite the noise from the generator there was no difference in the computers. They all worked like they usually did and it was nice to still have some semblance of "normal".

One other thing to not forget is if you have a propane grill you can cook on that. Or a camping stove. I made a nice breakfast on the grill the first morning we were without power. It was interesting making bacon on the grill but it worked. We cooked the eggs on a side burner in a pan. Reminded us of camping except we slept in our comfy bed vs a tent!
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Old 12-03-2011, 07:48 AM   #27
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Good Point itguy08. We live on high ground so continuously pumping water out was not a factor in our situation.
Luckilly we put a back flow vale on the sewer after that so it won't happen again. But it was "fun" - heard the shriek from the CO detector loosing power at 1am. Waited 5 mins to see if it would come back. Woke the wife and said - power's out, I'll get the generator you get the cords ready. Ran out to the shed, grabbed the generator, fired it up and plugged in the cords. Probably in 10 minutes we had the 3 pumps operational. Kept things in check and limited the "damage" (the basement was still at the studs from the previous flood.

Spoke with a neighbor later in the week who didn't get the sewer water but had pumps running. He said he set his alarm but when the power went out it didn't go off. He said he had 2 ft of water in his basement.

We were so thankful that our CO detector wakes us up when the power goes out and that we have a generator!
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Old 03-06-2012, 03:35 PM   #28
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I am now leaning toward a Miller Bobcat. Since half of our house will be on an ATS the second generator would sit unused unless there is a very long winter outage. This way it would at least serve some repair, fabrication use instead of collecting dust.
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Old 03-06-2012, 04:10 PM   #29
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The other variable besides heat of combustion is the efficiency of the engine/generator as a function of the electrical load on it. You might find generic data on this on the Web or you could test it yourself with a pint of fuel and fixed loads like an incand. bulb or a toaster.
The avg. US house uses a kw and last month we used about half that.


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