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Feel the Power (of a Backup Generator)

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David Ashton
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Tornadoes
David Ashton   6/19/2014 10:58:22 PM
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Off-topic but one thing I wonder about when I see things like this - you have posted a couple Max - would be what it would be like to have your home utterly devastated as in your first pic.  To come back - or crawl out of your cellar - and find your home gone or utterly trashed must be one of the most awful experiences there is.

I guess when it happens as often and as near to you as this, you probably get a bit blase about it, like people who live in earthquake zones - do you?

And can you get insurance to cover you if it happens?

 

jimwilliams57
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Re: Not as elegant, but does the job
jimwilliams57   6/19/2014 1:50:28 PM
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Correction: I have 90 gallons in storage.  So change that from 100 hours to 150.

Max The Magnificent
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Re: Not as elegant, but does the job
Max The Magnificent   6/19/2014 1:48:24 PM
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@jimwilliams57: Fortunately, I haven't needed it and hopefully never will.

Amen to that -- but you must admit that it's a good feeling having it available "just in case."

jimwilliams57
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Re: Not as elegant, but does the job
jimwilliams57   6/19/2014 1:46:11 PM
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@Max: So, do you cycle through the gas to make sure it doesn't go stale? Also, how long will 60 gallons of gas last if you are running your generaor at full whack?

I burn about 3-5 gals/week in my mower about 7-8 months a year.  So I usually cycle through all of the containers each year.  As the mowing season nears its end, I start adding a fuel stabilizer to the remaining containers.

According to the documentation, the generator will run for about 10 hours at 70% load on the 6 gallon tank.  Based on that, I have about 100 hours of fuel in reserve.  Fortunately, I haven't needed it and hopefully never will.

Max The Magnificent
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Re: Not as elegant, but does the job
Max The Magnificent   6/19/2014 1:33:03 PM
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@jimwilliams57: But what was I to do with over 60 gallons of gas while I solved the problem?

So, do you cycle through the gas to make sure it doesn't go stale? Also, how long will 60 gallons of gas last if you are running your generaor at full whack?

 

Max The Magnificent
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Re: Not as elegant, but does the job
Max The Magnificent   6/19/2014 1:31:15 PM
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@jimwilliams57: In the end, I'm sure that I spent more than Max and have a smaller generator that doesn't start automatically and is not hardwired into my house. But I had fun.

LOL

Max The Magnificent
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Re: Niiice....
Max The Magnificent   6/19/2014 1:29:03 PM
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@lakehermit: The real problem is that you never know when the power will go out and consequently when it does, with a small generator, you have to run around switching stuff on and off or switching extension cords.

The way it works with us is that we already had two fuse panels (I can't recall if the guys from H.C.Blake said each was 100A or 200A).

They installed a third panel that supports 12 circuits -- it was up to me to choose what each of those circuits did. In the case of the HVAC system, this required two of the circuits. I'm not sure of the stovetop also required two circuits or not.

The thing is that you could have every single thing in the house up and running. When the power cuts out -- the generator fires up -- then the automatic switch crosses over from the everyday panels (where were powering everything) to the new generator panel (which is only powering the specified subset of circuits -- which have been selected such that even if all of them are active thsi is inside the generator's capabilities to handle) ... so no need to run around turning anything off.

jimwilliams57
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Not as elegant, but does the job
jimwilliams57   6/19/2014 1:17:33 PM
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A couple of years ago I decided to take the plunge and get a backup generator. Natural gas isn't available on my property and my wife (as well as the neighbors) wouldn't have a large LP tank visible from the road.  (I live on a corner lot, so even the back is completely visible.) So, I was left to choose between gas or diesel.

Since I already burn about 5 gallons of gas each week to mow 3 acres, it seemed clear that a little more gas wouldn't be a problem.  So, I constructed a heavy duty steel shelving unit and ordered several 15 gallon steel fuel tanks to put on it.  I put everyhting in the garage.

After purchasing a 12KW portable generator, I proceeded to fill the tanks.  No more than half a day later the entire house smelled like gasoline.  Clearly this storage method wouldn't work.  But what was I to do with over 60 gallons of gas while I solved the problem?  I moved everything to the concrete slab beneath our back deck (visible from the road) and then pondered the situation.

Out-buildings are forbidden (I hate HOAs) so I decided to build a shop/storage room under the deck.  But what about ventilation?  Since I work in the industrial autmation industry, whatever I did had to include a PLC.  I ordered an explosion proof exhaust fan and used a hermetically sealed relay to control the fan.  So far, nothing that would ignite gas fumes.  I investigated gas fume detectors, but only found alarms for boats.  I managed to get the specs on the detector portion of the boat alarm and installed a couple in the room.

As all this was being done, my wife complained about smelling gas fumes in the driveway.  So, I decided to replace the leaky tanks with plastic 5 gallon containers.

So, what I have now is a great fuel storage location, complete with an automatic exhaust fan that has never been used because the plastic containers don't leak. (But if they ever do, I'm prepared.)

Now, what about generator theives?  When I use the generator, I use it to power the fan so I can keep it in a locked room while it's running.  Another problem solved.

In the end, I'm sure that I spent more than Max and have a smaller generator that doesn't start automatically and is not hardwired into my house. But I had fun.

lakehermit
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Re: Niiice....
lakehermit   6/19/2014 1:14:22 PM
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That's a great observation. House electrical systems must by code be designed to supply power to everything in the house running simultaneously. But, how often does that actually happen? The real problem is that you never know when the power will go out and consequently when it does, with a small generator, you have to run around switching stuff on and off or switching extension cords. For example if the power goes out in the winter you want to run a cord to the heating system and in the summer to the AC. I have a system that is permanently installed but is not capable of running the AC and the microwave oven simultaneously. It seems that the extra 10 amps or so for the microwave puts the generator just into overload and trips the breaker. It would be really nice if someone would provide a wireless control center where I could select the high wattage thing(s) I want to run so I don't have to scurry from room to room turning things off so I can turn something else on. If it could do that automatically it would be even better.

Rcurl
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Re: The Neighbors
Rcurl   6/19/2014 12:19:46 PM
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@Hankwalker: I would save some circuits for any neighbors living within extension cord distance

I agree with you.  Our nearest neighbor's house is about 300 feet away, but he has several heavy 100 foot extension cords.  We showed him the receptacle on a light post in the yard nearest his house and offered to let him connect to it.  He was very grateful (but hasn't taken us up on our offer yet).

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