a reply to: ipsedixit
So, some things to consider:
- consider a dual-powered generator - that is, gas/propane - propane is safer to store, but should you run out, gas will be easier to obtain (in a
widespread power outage, many stores will be closed, and many people will buy up propane for cooking.)
- Watch the power outlets - my generator has 2x NEMA 5-15 120v plugs - fair enough - they're fused at 1500 watts each - so, if I only use the 120v AC
outlets, I can only draw 3000 watts max. It also has a L5-30A 120v outlet, with a 7500 watt fuse. If I want to draw more than 3000 watts, I need to
use this outlet - there are "splitter" cords for the 30A, which provide multiple fused outlets - so read the owner's manual, and be sure you can
draw the requisite power.
- They're heavier than they look - make sure you get a wheeled version
- Don't forget about your refrigerator/freezer - they run about 500-700w - but they also have a pretty significant / high startup cost - like 2000
watts to start the compressor. You'll want to run this intermittently - you'll need food.
- You'll also want some kind of communications - you'll laugh, but during a prolonged power outage here, I ran my internet router/modem and laptop,
and for awhile, my satellite receiver and television so I could watch a World Cup game. But minimally, a weather and news radio. If you're going
to run any sensitive electronics, run them off a smallish UPS with surge/noise suppression *and* an in-line surge suppressor - generator power is
- Read the owners manual - you'll likely have to change the oil quite a bit, so make sure you have oil on-hand.
- Since your budget doesn't allow for a bypass panel, you're gonna have to use extension cords. First, make sure they'll reach from your generator
to where you wish to power it. Second, have a place to run them into the house - little good having to leave a window open when it's below zero to
run your extension cords.
- If you can't get natural gas, I'd also recommend a propane stove (even a grill with side burner) for emergencies - both the generator and stove
used well-outside of course. Kettles draw a lot of power, and aren't useful for cooking very much.
- You have a multi-room house - being in Toronto, I'd plan for "two" space heaters - a 1500 watt space heater will, at best, heat one small room.
So, 2x1500w, 4x 60w lights, a 25w radio, cell phone charger - probably looking at about 4,000+ watts.
Here are some candidates (note you'll probably do better at a local home center or auto parts store - these are beastly heavy, so mail-order will
probably be more expensive):
(note the difference between how it's advertised - 4000w and running wattage - 3250 - so, for this, you'd probably want to only run your
refrigerator/ 1 space heater alternately.)
And one final thing - no matter how quiet your generator, when the power's out, everyone around will know you have it. Having some spare capacity in
your gennie to run your neighbor's fridge and lights is nice - and, uh, hate to say it, but you'll also want a way to chain the beastie up - during
Sandy, some people had their generators stolen.
If this was a "freak" occurrence, and probably won't happen again, these portables are enough. But if this an annual event, and your whole house
heating is "gas" and you just need to run the furnace fan, I'd consider a lower-end whole-house unit - could probably do a low-end unit for around
$2000 + an electrician to install.