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Small Emergency Generator Help / Recommendations

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posted on Oct, 14 2009 @ 08:42 PM
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Good Evening ATS,

I need some help selecting a small generator for a home emergency (electrical power outage for a few days due to ice-storm or high winds that take out power for days). I want to spend about $600.00 or less (preferably less) on something rated 3000 watts or more. (diesel or gas)

Since there is so much junk out there now, I need some help finding a quality product. So far this is the best match but I know nothing about "civilian" small generators and what is good and what is junk.

My needs are residential, I have 2 natural gas fireplaces for heat and back-up kerosene heaters so this is really for just for the TV or radio, Kitchen fridge, and a couple of drop cord lights (compact florescent) and a few battery chargers.

So far, this model looks OK but then again I do not know what is reliable or not anymore since so many "name brands" are the same China junk as the no names these days.

I do not want something that will burn up or break down on me on day 2 of an ice storm if you know what I mean. A warranty doesn't help if I am iced in. So best reliability possible for the best possible price is the goal.

www.lowes.com...

Please give me some "informed" choices.

Thanks for the feedback!




posted on Oct, 14 2009 @ 09:17 PM
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looks cheap. I'd upgrade to at least 5000 watts. It may cost you about $600 and maybe a little more, but it will be worth it.
I know a warranty isn't worth much in the middle of an ice storm, but hang with it. Once you get the generator, make sure you have treated the gas, since it will be standing for awhile, but I would try to remember to start it at least once a month. That guarntees you're working. When it gets cold, make sure you have 15 to 20 gallons of treated gasoline SAFELY stored, before the ice storm hits.
When we were hit last year, people couldn't even get out of McDonald's, which was located inside a Shell station.
All the generators in the world ain't no good if you don't have fuel ahead of time.



posted on Oct, 14 2009 @ 09:35 PM
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Norther Tool + Equipment has some 6000 watt generators within your price range, they carry some brands you haven't heard of but if the warranty is decent I wouldn't worry too much about that.



Harbor Freight has some some good deals but they do carry all ranges of quality, there are some Chinese sourced solutions which are cheap and still have comparable quality.

I prefer solar power, personally. If you have the skills and tools you can purchase bulk lots of loose solar cells and build your own panels much cheaper than buying a prefabricated system.

There are some individuals working on new solar power solutions which may be open sourced. One solution used a Stirling engine on a parabolic reflector or a Fresnel lens to covert heat to energy (the Stirling drives a linear alternator which makes AC power and is more efficient than PV solar).

Another neat solution I've seen used solar heat capture (water or oil in a black, semi-parabolic shape). The heat is piped through TEG (Thermo-electric generator) devices which are like a Peltier cooler in reverse. They convert heat to electricity. The inventor was able to source some pretty high output TEGs from Sweden and then had them copied in China. The result is able to generate more power than a rooftop full of solar panels in a package about 3 foot square and can be built easily for less than 300 dollars. I haven't checked on that project in a long time but it may be up and running now with all the parts for sale on line.

ETA:
You should purchase a UPS or a couple of deep cycle batteries and an inverter also to charge off the generator and use to power some of the smaller items. When you power everything direct off the genset it will run and use fuel for any load no matter how small and the efficiency is very poor. With a power storage solution for the various chargers and even the drop lights you will get more usable power for the amount of fuel burned. A large enough array of batteries and inverter and you could run everything off the battery pack and use the generator just to charge it up. Since the rpms of the motor will be steady you will end up coming out better on fuel use than the direct to generator method.


Lastly, you should look into a LP gas supply tank and a conversion kit for the generator or look into one for natural gas. After a number of hurricane seasons I've found the gas will almost always remain on even if the power and water go out. With LP or gas you will have enough fuel to run your power indefinitely or for weeks depending on the size of the LP tank (if you don't go with natural gas from a pipeline). It's much cheaper than gas or diesel as well.

[edit on 14-10-2009 by ecoparity]



posted on Oct, 14 2009 @ 09:52 PM
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I work in the outdoor power equipment service and repair field. We are seeing a lot of generators coming out of China that you can not get parts for at all. 3 weeks just for an air filter for one we had a few weeks back. A few months ago had a unit in that gas had been left sitting in the unit and we need a carb kit for it. Could not get a carb kit or even a new carb. $800 shoot to H***. Get something you can get parts for and get worked on when the time comes and it will sooner or later. And get the highest wattage have money for. You will be surprised how fast the wattage can add up. And I have found out that you never get the wattage on the label any way. You can really only count on getting 70 to 80% of the "rated output before the voltage drop becomes a real problem. That 3000 watt unit you were talking about. At best if you were luckly you may get 2200 to 2400 before the voltdrop started to burn up your stuff.



posted on Oct, 14 2009 @ 09:52 PM
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Do the math.

What will you actually run all at one time? ?

Fridge?
Lights?
A fan or two in the hall to move the heat from those fireplaces?
TV?
Computer? (Newer ones do pull some juice.)

Look at the amp ratings on each appliance and add them up.
Multiply by 120v (assuming all are single phase) and there is your maximum wattage.

Your 3500 watt generac should handle about 30 amps in a perfect world but figure a 60-85% load so that you aren't overloading the generator (reduced generator life) and aren't underusing the generated potential.(wasting fuel)

Generac brand is used in a lot of stand alone automated backup residential systems so you should be ok on quality but shop price as much as you can.

A membership with a consumer reporting site can save you a lot of money on large purchases like appliances, generators and tools so don't be afraid to throw 20 or so dollars down to get a membership. You will get it back with one purchase.



posted on Oct, 14 2009 @ 09:59 PM
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Originally posted by fixer1967
I work in the outdoor power equipment service and repair field. We are seeing a lot of generators coming out of China that you can not get parts for at all. 3 weeks just for an air filter for one we had a few weeks back. A few months ago had a unit in that gas had been left sitting in the unit and we need a carb kit for it. Could not get a carb kit or even a new carb. $800 shoot to H***. Get something you can get parts for and get worked on when the time comes and it will sooner or later. And get the highest wattage have money for. You will be surprised how fast the wattage can add up. And I have found out that you never get the wattage on the label any way. You can really only count on getting 70 to 80% of the "rated output before the voltage drop becomes a real problem. That 3000 watt unit you were talking about. At best if you were luckly you may get 2200 to 2400 before the voltdrop started to burn up your stuff.


Do you have a recommendation on good brands that are both quality and have available spare parts? Or can you list the "crap brands" to avoid?



posted on Oct, 14 2009 @ 10:03 PM
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If you are just intending to run simple household appliances there are alot of cheap options out there, but beware when plugging in fragile electronics such as laptops, lcd/plasma tv's, newer dvd/bluray players. Conventional generators are only intended to supply raw power and do tend to surge a little which is no good for sensitive electronics. Get a digital generator if you plan on using any sensitive electronics. Digital generators are much more quiet than conventional, and the power they put out is regulated. Just my .02



posted on Oct, 14 2009 @ 10:06 PM
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Hey, this cost a little bit more but appears to be a better deal. Anyone have one of these?

www.northerntool.com...



posted on Oct, 14 2009 @ 10:13 PM
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I would opt for a diesel model. I dont believe it will "sour" as gas will. The only thing would be if its too cold you would need to keep the fuel where ever you are to keep it usable. Diesel has a very low flash point so safety will be a plus versus gas which can have bad things happen.



posted on Oct, 14 2009 @ 10:14 PM
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reply to post by infolurker
 


I know a guy that has a very similar model of coleman generator, and it works great. We use it on job sites and run multiple halogen work lights off of it as well as multiple power tools.



posted on Oct, 14 2009 @ 10:14 PM
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reply to post by infolurker
 


The one you posted the link to is OK but go up a bit on the wattage if you can. A unit with a Briggs engine is a good bet. A Kohler is even better but out of the price range you stated. Just stay clear of brand names you have never heard of. Get some model numbers and do some checking on line to see about getting parts and service when needed. A little research now will save you down the road. Do not buy off the "traveling tool trucks" or "tent sales" or other places you can not take it back to if needed. Remember, everything breaks sooner or later



posted on Oct, 14 2009 @ 10:17 PM
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reply to post by ecoparity
 


I like your idea with the batteries and inverter. Unfortunately for the residential house, I cannot do (fixed) solar due to "association" rules but the battery / inverter idea I will use. Same with Propane tanks, besides small units used for gas grills, I cannot have a tank deployed.

I would love to have a natural gas generator but I would need one under a thousand dollars and I have not seen one that cheap.



posted on Oct, 14 2009 @ 10:31 PM
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reply to post by infolurker
 


In Europe they have these cogeneration units now that harvest waste heat to make power, I believe they are called CHP units and they use natural gas. Usually they will provide heat or water heating for the home and use a single cylinder engine w/ a nice generator. I've read they are starting to appear in the US, people with yachts and RVs can get them from whispergen.

You can buy a conversion kit that lets you run the generator on gasoline, LP or natural gas for less than 300 USD. It's called a Tri-fuel adapter.

You trade off some of the power output when using LP or gas but the cost savings is worth it not to mention having to go get fuel two or three times per day. (Unless you get a siphon kit for your car's gas tank or feel like storing large amounts of gasoline in the garage).

My homeowners association bans solar too, that's why I'm building a portable setup I can haul outside after a hurricane or other outage. If they want to write nasty letters after a hurricane I could use the extra toilet paper.



posted on Oct, 14 2009 @ 10:57 PM
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For the rest of you too 300 solar power generator

Only catch is you gotta put it together yourself.... It aint hard... YOu can augment the system to provide more power.

With more batteries.



posted on Oct, 14 2009 @ 11:52 PM
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reply to post by infolurker
 


I used a Honda EU2000i while living in a small 20ft. motorhome during grad school. I was off the grid the entire time. I was able to run my computer (sw engineer so I used it all the time), lights, etc.. and never had any problems. I also liked it because it was very quiet. It started up every time.



posted on Oct, 15 2009 @ 11:58 AM
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I wouldn't mess with any of that. Get one of these:

Military genny

My brother got one and he has drawn it at 3200 watts (confirmed by kill-o-watt meter) with no problems.

another bonus is that it is a low-speed engine, not nearly as noisy.



posted on Oct, 17 2009 @ 03:15 PM
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Originally posted by hotrodturbo7
I wouldn't mess with any of that. Get one of these:

Military genny

My brother got one and he has drawn it at 3200 watts (confirmed by kill-o-watt meter) with no problems.

another bonus is that it is a low-speed engine, not nearly as noisy.



That is a 4 pole genetator. A 4 pole generator runs at 1800 rpms. A 2 pole generator (the most common) run at 3600 rpms. Most of your Onan RV units are 4 pole. Hope that is of some help




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