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Old 11-09-2012, 08:02 PM   #1 (permalink)
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Default Backup Generator ?

Do any of you guys have a backup generator? What do you recommend? I was told Generac "is the best". A guy at work tells me they are China junk, tells me to look at Yamaha, I looked into that, it seems the new Yamaha's are coming out of China too. Honda's are more than I wanted to spend. I'm thinking about 7500 watts. Don't plan on it seeing alot of use. We never used to get blackouts at all, now we're getting a couple a year.
Also would you(did you) wire you're own transfer switch? I was a bit worried about burning down my house with my kid(and swmbo) in it. I read the install manuals on a few different ones, seems pretty simple.
Thanks,
George
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Old 11-09-2012, 08:30 PM   #2 (permalink)
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I have a 5500W (7500W starting surge) Troy Bilt that I got at Lowes. It's got a 10 HP Briggs & Stratton engine. So far, it has powered me for 7 days following Hurricane Irene and 4 days following Hurricane Sandy. It's done just fine so far. Obviously, it won't run the biggest loads in my house, but it runs the essential loads. It handles my well pump, furnace support items (i.e. exhaust fan, burner ignitor, etc.), all the lights in the house, the refrigerator, and I even used the oven to bake a pizza. It is plenty to provide me with all the hot & cold water I need, the oven or microwave for cooking (with my gas grill as a backup), and the refrigerator to keep the beer (and food) cold. I'm sure my washing machine would trip it on the starting surge. Don't really need a dryer as long as it's warm and dry enough to hang clothes outside.

I do not have a transfer switch. What I do (yes, I know it's not in compliance with the electrical code) is back-feed my panel. I have a 220V 50A range outlet in my garage that I normally have my big air compressor plugged into (or, on occasion, my powdercoating oven). I have about 100 feet of 6AWG wire with a twist-lock plug for the generator on one end and a 50A range plug on the other. I open the main 200A breaker on the panel and then back-feed the panel through the 50A plug in my garage. I must stress that it's absolutely VITAL that you open your panel's main breaker. If you don't, you'll back-feed the lines coming to your house and potentially shock line workers that are trying to restore power. Also, if your main breaker is shut and utility power comes back, you run a great risk of serious damage to your generator or your home's electrical system. What I am doing is the exact same thing that a generator transfer switch does, except that the transfer switch has a mechanical interlock that prevents you from shutting the normal supply breaker and the generator supply breaker at the same time (for the reasons I already mentioned).

A transfer switch is definitely the right & legal way to do it, but what I have described works fine. A lot of times, the generator transfer switch is a sub-panel that has the breakers for all your essential loads (refrigerator, lights, etc.) which will also keep you from accidentally overloading your generator. This is not a concern for me since I don't have a wife & kids that would try to watch TV with all the lights in the house on while cooking dinner, washing & drying clothes, and blasting the A/C all at the same time. You can also just open those breakers on the panel when you are on the generator to keep those loads from being used.

When I first bought it, my mom asked me why in the world I bought a generator. After Irene & Sandy, I was able to say "I told you so" and she now agrees it was a great idea.

I've heard good things about Generac. As far as China junk, that's pretty much anything these days. Sometimes you just have to take your chances.
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Old 11-09-2012, 09:28 PM   #3 (permalink)
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Hey Greg, Thanks for the detailed reply. Yeah, that back feed thing worries me a little, and I don't have anything to backfeed through. I can wire a twistlock directly to a 30 amp breaker in the box and run it that way. They also sell Interlock kits, so that you can't turn on the "backfeed breaker" without turning off the main. Even with the "China junk" comment a co worker made, I'm still leaning towards the Generac 7500 watt. I'll keep googl'ing around and see if I get other opinions from VMF folks. Thanks again, George
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Old 11-09-2012, 09:42 PM   #4 (permalink)
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I have a generac 5500 (6750 surge) that has a total of 210 hours between Irene and Sandy. Powers everything I need to run as long as you don't go crazy. I seen no need to go larger. I get 10 hours for 7 gallons. Sometimes forgot I was on generator power. Larger generators will use more gas. Bought it from www.electricgeneratorsdirect.com
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Old 11-09-2012, 10:14 PM   #5 (permalink)
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Nothing to worry about with back-feeding as long as you do it right. The back-feed could also be done through the plug for an electric dryer or range - if you have one of those. If your house is all gas, well I guess you are out of luck.

I did not have a 50A range plug to put on the end of my cord following Hurricance Irene. All the stores were sold out. During that time, I wired the generator into my panel through one of the 2 pole breakers for the "hot" wires, and I wired the neutral & ground straight to the bus bars in the panel. If you don't know your way around the inside of a main service panel, I highly recommend that you NOT do this. I would also not do it with one of the older 3 wire 220V outlets.
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Old 11-09-2012, 10:36 PM   #6 (permalink)
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I bought a POWERBOSS 7000 from Costco a few years ago for $900. It is made by Briggs and Stratton but uses a Honda 13HP GX390 engine. I use it every year and never have had a problem.

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Old 11-09-2012, 11:07 PM   #7 (permalink)
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Greg'66 5.0 View Post
I have a 5500W (7500W starting surge) Troy Bilt that I got at Lowes. It's got a 10 HP Briggs & Stratton engine. So far, it has powered me for 7 days following Hurricane Irene and 4 days following Hurricane Sandy. It's done just fine so far. Obviously, it won't run the biggest loads in my house, but it runs the essential loads. It handles my well pump, furnace support items (i.e. exhaust fan, burner ignitor, etc.), all the lights in the house, the refrigerator, and I even used the oven to bake a pizza. It is plenty to provide me with all the hot & cold water I need, the oven or microwave for cooking (with my gas grill as a backup), and the refrigerator to keep the beer (and food) cold. I'm sure my washing machine would trip it on the starting surge. Don't really need a dryer as long as it's warm and dry enough to hang clothes outside.

I do not have a transfer switch. What I do (yes, I know it's not in compliance with the electrical code) is back-feed my panel. I have a 220V 50A range outlet in my garage that I normally have my big air compressor plugged into (or, on occasion, my powdercoating oven). I have about 100 feet of 6AWG wire with a twist-lock plug for the generator on one end and a 50A range plug on the other. I open the main 200A breaker on the panel and then back-feed the panel through the 50A plug in my garage. I must stress that it's absolutely VITAL that you open your panel's main breaker. If you don't, you'll back-feed the lines coming to your house and potentially shock line workers that are trying to restore power. Also, if your main breaker is shut and utility power comes back, you run a great risk of serious damage to your generator or your home's electrical system. What I am doing is the exact same thing that a generator transfer switch does, except that the transfer switch has a mechanical interlock that prevents you from shutting the normal supply breaker and the generator supply breaker at the same time (for the reasons I already mentioned).

A transfer switch is definitely the right & legal way to do it, but what I have described works fine. A lot of times, the generator transfer switch is a sub-panel that has the breakers for all your essential loads (refrigerator, lights, etc.) which will also keep you from accidentally overloading your generator. This is not a concern for me since I don't have a wife & kids that would try to watch TV with all the lights in the house on while cooking dinner, washing & drying clothes, and blasting the A/C all at the same time. You can also just open those breakers on the panel when you are on the generator to keep those loads from being used.

When I first bought it, my mom asked me why in the world I bought a generator. After Irene & Sandy, I was able to say "I told you so" and she now agrees it was a great idea.

I've heard good things about Generac. As far as China junk, that's pretty much anything these days. Sometimes you just have to take your chances.
++++1 The only thing I can add is that IF you have natural gas at your home, convert the generator to run on it. John--Las Vegas
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Old 11-09-2012, 11:23 PM   #8 (permalink)
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No natural gas at my place. It would be nice if there was because heating oil is so dang expensive. I'm in a somewhat rural area, so it's probably not worth it for the utility companies to lay gas lines. My best alternative for natural gas is propane.
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Old 11-10-2012, 09:49 AM   #9 (permalink)
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Thanks guys, good ideas, gives me more food for thought...
Yeah, we have a gas dryer, can't go that route.
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Old 11-13-2012, 07:47 PM   #10 (permalink)
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The size of your panel will determine how big you nered to go with a generator. Most average size homes will be fine with something around 7 to 10kva. Since I bought my generator, which is a Generac 15kva, I have never used it, go figure But I wired mine to a seperate set of breakers that are always in the OFF position, that go to a outdoor, 50 amp weather proof plug on the back of my house. When the power goes out, I will shut off my mains, turn on the generator breakers, and fire it up No worries
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Old 11-13-2012, 10:56 PM   #11 (permalink)
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I have a 5.5KW generator I bought from Lowes a number of years back. Luckily I didn't need it with Sandy. A transfer switch is real easy to install, it's the right and safe way to do it. I installed a 200 amp service in a house that had a 120 volt, 30 amp service years back just before Xmas. The family was home, had all the light in the house on, TV, heat, Xmas tree lights and outside lights on. I powered the whole house like that off my 5.5KW only using 120 volts @ 30 amps in addition to running my drills. I had no problems. I have a #10 gauge cord.

Unless you have an all electric house, that size will be more then sufficient. Do a search on line and you will find you can get natural gas/propane conversion kits to run these generators in addition to gasoline. That is what I'm going to do! Basically you get what you pay for. While the generator that I have was cheap, it's noisy. Can you except the noise or the expense of a quiet unit? The Generac is quiet, has an automatic start and does periodic exercising. No muss, no fuss. Another advantage of a high end unit is clean electric running @ 60hz. Mine? definitely not clean power and I don't think it runs exactly at 60 hz. This will effect electronic equipment, luckily my tv seems to run on it.

On units like Generac and others running off your natural gas, you need to check with your gas company that your meter has enough capacity to run both your heat and generator for cold weather operation. On gasoline units, the more power they produce, the more gasoline they use! How often do you want to be filling it up and buying gas? Here in NJ, after the storm gas was in short to non existent in the first few days. It will be hard to keep a gas swilling unit fed. My brother has a small Honda, 120 volt, 30 amp he used to keep the heat on, refrig and tv for him and our 94 yo mom. That Honda has an inverter for clean power for electronic equipment, was very quiet and ran for 10 hours on 1.5 gals of gas! That was a blessing during the storm.
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Old 11-14-2012, 06:52 AM   #12 (permalink)
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Thanks for the info guys. I'm going to use the transfer switch, 10 or 12 circuits. I can run my whole house except for the central air and microwave if I get the 12 circuit. Yeah, I'm in NJ too, I saw those mile plus gas lines. I'm going to start with a gas unit, and look into the natural gas conversion in the future. My panel is on the far side of the garage away from the house, going to need a long run to get Natural gas over there.
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Old 11-14-2012, 08:28 AM   #13 (permalink)
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The noise is probably the only thing I don't like about my generator, although I can barely hear it when I am in my house. I put the generator outside my garage so that I have the garage as a noise buffer. If I am in my basement, I don't even hear it. It's probably more of a nuisance to my neighbors, but there are only a few houses near me and they are 100-200 feet away. As a courtesy to them, I don't run the generator between 9 p.m. and 7 a.m., unless I have to work that day, then I'll start it up around 6:30 so I can have light and water for the morning routine. In the interest of saving gas, I don't run more than about 10 hours a day. The refrigerator is really my biggest concern, but it will easily keep things cool for about 10 hours.

If I fill up the generator and my gas cans, I'll have about 15 gallons of gas on hand. At about 10 hours of runtime a day, 15 gallons will last me at least 5 days. By then, there is usually a gas station nearby that has power restored. Luckily for me, the Naval submarine base that I work at is a priority customer, so they always get power restored first and I can get gas on the base (unless they run out, of course).

I know we all like to complain about how much electricity costs, but after seeing what it costs me in gas to make my own power to run minimal stuff in the house for a week, I don't feel so bad about paying my normal electric bill.

Since my generator is portable, I chain it to an immovable object to minimize the chances of someone "borrowing" it on a permanent basis. People get really stupid during disasters and will steal anything - I'd rather not lose my generator.
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Old 11-14-2012, 10:35 AM   #14 (permalink)
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if it were me all id worry about is the boiler and maybe 1 outlet for the fridge.
I def wouldnt run it 24/7 only just as needed to keep house warm and fridge cool.
prob a 1/2 hour 5 or 6 times a day is all youll need.

you can run a DPDT or on/on switch off the boiler to avoid any back feeding.

or just hard wire in an ext cord into the exsisting boiler service switch and close the breaker that feeds the boiler when the gen is on.

imho Honda is the abolute best and if I were to buy one that would be it.

was looking into it but we have a FP so as long as I can find wood I s/b Ok.

SWMBO dont belive in spending $1000 to save $300 worth of food.

I kind of agree and with this storm it was basically once in a lifetime thing for the NE so the means prob dont justify the cost.
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Old 11-14-2012, 05:00 PM   #15 (permalink)
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Buying something new from the big box stores is not needed. If you feel you don't want to drop $1000 to save $400 of food, I agree. I looked for a good 6 months over the internet, comparing, size, price, noise levels until my head was ready to explode ! I finally ended up bidding on e-bay for one that said "used" in the add. It is way more generator than I will ever use at 15KVA-23KVA peak. I checked the price of a new one and it was over $4500. It is a generac unit. When the bidding was over, i was the winner at $950 plus shipping. The thing arrived at my house and I was shocked to see that it was brand new It looked to be used maybe 2 times. There are great deals out there if you are patient. If your not in a hurry to buy, this is the way I would recommend it.
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