The BIG Generator Thread

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The BIG Generator Thread

Post by Dabster » Fri Oct 06, 2017 5:58 pm

I can't find a dedicated ZS thread or even a large amount of discussion on generators here, so I thought I'd start one. If this is a waste of electrons, silly or redundant -have at me. :ooh:

I have been casually looking for a generator for years. I want one to keep frozen stuff frozen, some light and to charge phones (Nothing crazy like air-conditioning or heating) if the power ever goes out. The frozen stuff is a freezer in my garage and a refrigerator in my kitchen. I have a yard where I could run a generator safely away from the house and safely away from thieves. A generator that I could take camping would be nice but not essential.

The biggest challenge I've found is that everyone insists that I get a Honda. I know they're great, fuel efficient and quiet but they're silly expensive, even used.

The next challenge is that finding the right size is hard. A freezer and refrigerator is about 1200 Watts each. I think this eliminates the mini-generators like the EU2000i.

Costco has a Champion 7000 Watt generator in a very confidence-inspiring shade of yellow. I trust Costco to not sell junk and warranty their products but this generator has a very Harbor Freight (Icky discount retailer) feel to it and it is huge.

Any thoughts, wisdom or witty repartee?
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Re: The BIG Generator Thread

Post by Stercutus » Fri Oct 06, 2017 6:15 pm

Yep, get this when it is back in stock:

https://www.walmart.com/ip/Sportsmans-S ... 3=&veh=sem

Good wattage, propane eliminates a host of problems.
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Re: The BIG Generator Thread

Post by Halfapint » Fri Oct 06, 2017 6:19 pm

HA! My grandparents are in the market for a genny as well, they asked me to help do a little research. They are looking for 5000w running, but I'm thinking 6500w running, and has to be electric start. They are in their late 80s and grandpa isn't doing well and grandma cant pull start.

I've been looking at the same 7000w Costco genny, fits the bill quite nicely. However it's not very fuel efficient. 8 hour run time on 6gallons of gas, however I assume that is running 100%?
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Re: The BIG Generator Thread

Post by RickOShea » Fri Oct 06, 2017 6:29 pm

Halfapint wrote:I've been looking at the same 7000w Costco genny, fits the bill quite nicely. However it's not very fuel efficient. 8 hour run time on 6gallons of gas, however I assume that is running 100%?
That's probably at half-load. My Champion dual fuel is 7500 running watts on gas, and it's supposed to run 8 hours at half-load on the 6 gallon tank.
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Re: The BIG Generator Thread

Post by taipan821 » Fri Oct 06, 2017 6:51 pm

With regards to generators

Look at Kipor generators, they have a good service record.

As for choosing a generator.

1. look at all the devices you want to run, pay close attention as some devices (fridges, aircons) have a higher start wattage than there running wattage

2. add all the wattages together, look at a generator that exceeds by 30%, generators are happy running at 80% load, the extra 10% is fudge factor. If power outage is common in your area consider a standby generator, they're more expensive, but are quieter, more powerful and more fuel efficient

3. if you want your generator to plug into your household get an electrician to set everything up, an improper setup can feed back into the grid, causing your generator to overload and KILLING any line workers who think the line is dead. and for god's sake NO SUICIDE PLUGS!!!

4. It is considered impolite to run a portable generator overnight as they are noisy and will disturb the neighbours. If you must run them overnight create an enclosure out of concrete blocks, dirt or sandbags. this will force the noise to travel vertically, making a quieter generator. You will need to force air into the enclosure for cooling the generator.

This information has been gained from working in disaster affected areas, areas with loss of power and with generators for 5 years, your mileage may vary
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Re: The BIG Generator Thread

Post by Dooms » Fri Oct 06, 2017 7:03 pm

After running a 7000 watt generator for 13 days during Hurricane Sandy and going through 140 gallons of gasoline, which was expensive and dangerous to get and refill, I realized I needed something different.

I went with a Natural Gas Standby Generator for the house. It kicks in automatically in the event of a power failure, can be monitored/controlled with phone App, and can be backed up with propane.

Backing that up I have a 6000 watt diesel generator. Diesel runs longer on a tank, is safer to store, and safer to pour.

Both of those are expensive options, but I wanted to be able to power our heat pump and at least one A/C unit.

During Sandy my neighbor had one of those suitcase size Hondas and it was a solid option if you can get away with it. He ran his refrigerator/freezer, a small tv, and charged his phone/laptop just fine, it was super quiet, and he went through very little fuel. They aren't cheap for their size, but I could see why they're highly recommended.

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Re: The BIG Generator Thread

Post by flybynight » Fri Oct 06, 2017 7:22 pm

If all you want it for is fridge , freezer and some light. You can go much smaller. You don't need to run the generator all the time for fridge and freezer. Just long enough to get them down to temp. Just keep the door closed as much as possible and alternate the running times

And about the light. I'd look into alternative light sources. My brother once told me about how they use those cheap solar powered pathway lights to make enough light to move around in the house during powerouts. It works.
Oil lamps, Kerosene lanterns. Those old Aladdin kerosene lamps are really bright if you can find them cheap at auction, garage sale or whatever. Really pricey new though.
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Re: The BIG Generator Thread

Post by Stercutus » Fri Oct 06, 2017 8:26 pm

LED lighting is only a few watts. I can light up a five bedroom house with about 100 watts. Oil lamps are good when it is cold as they provide heat (sometimes a lot of heat).
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Re: The BIG Generator Thread

Post by raptor » Fri Oct 06, 2017 8:33 pm

flybynight wrote:If all you want it for is fridge , freezer and some light. You can go much smaller. You don't need to run the generator all the time for fridge and freezer. Just long enough to get them down to temp. Just keep the door closed as much as possible and alternate the running times

And about the light. I'd look into alternative light sources. My brother once told me about how they use those cheap solar powered pathway lights to make enough light to move around in the house during powerouts. It works.
Oil lamps, Kerosene lanterns. Those old Aladdin kerosene lamps are really bright if you can find them cheap at auction, garage sale or whatever. Really pricey new though.
QFT

Good advice.

We have actually had a bunch of generator threads over the years but it is both a simple and complex subject based upon what you are trying to do and how.

I always suggest the 3 key decision that should drive your decision (other than your budget) are:

1 What do you want to run?
A refrigerator, some lights and a cell phone charger really does not require very much power at all. You could probably use an 1,800 watt generator and still have capacity for an internet modem, microwave, & small TV if they do not run all at the same time.. However as you start adding say the furnace blower motor and heat power you start needing 3 to 5 kw. Then if you want HVAC, electric stove, water heater, washer and dryer you are up to 20 to 50KW very quickly.
This help drive the size decision.

2 How long do you want to run it?
A generator without fuel is useless. That said if you have a large generator it burns a copious amount of fuel. You need to deal with the supply of this fuel to keep it running. Each fule has its pros and cons but once you get above 20 kw it is difficult to find gasoline generators so the bigger you go the more likely you want either diesel or NG/propane. If you have a reliable supply of NG that is by far the easiest fuel to use. Inventory is as simple as opening and closing a valve.
This should drive the type of fuel you chose.

3 How are you going to power the electrical appliances you want to run.
This is a key issue. If you are using a small generator and plan to run extension cords even these need preplanning to ensure you have long enough cords to reach where you want. If you want to avoid extension cords there are a variety of ways to wire in an inlet while not back feeding power. If you plan on running the HVAC or furnace then you need to plan ahead and have a means of transferring power to it.

Anyway here are few links on the subject.

This is a thread i wrote on wiring in a generator inlet to my wife's garden studio. There is no fixed generator but I would move in a portable diesel generator for this if needed.

viewtopic.php?f=6&t=115950

This is a sticky on alternate power generation.
viewtopic.php?f=6&t=79742

This is a thread with a lot of alternative lighting options.
viewtopic.php?f=6&t=83891

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Re: The BIG Generator Thread

Post by teotwaki » Sat Oct 07, 2017 11:35 am

For the fridge the start up wattage is higher than the steady state wattage so size the generator to handle the higher number.
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Re: The BIG Generator Thread

Post by Stercutus » Sat Oct 07, 2017 11:41 am

teotwaki wrote:For the fridge the start up wattage is higher than the steady state wattage so size the generator to handle the higher number.

Most generators come with a surge capacity. In fact the surge capacity is most often the advertised capacity.
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Re: The BIG Generator Thread

Post by teotwaki » Sat Oct 07, 2017 6:53 pm

Stercutus wrote:
teotwaki wrote:For the fridge the start up wattage is higher than the steady state wattage so size the generator to handle the higher number.

Most generators come with a surge capacity. In fact the surge capacity is most often the advertised capacity.
Agreed. It pays to understand enough about the specifications in order to make the right purchases.
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Re: The BIG Generator Thread

Post by MacAttack » Sun Oct 08, 2017 3:07 pm

Wouldn't a small battery bank help in moderating any surge or draw problems?

I can't see it needing to be large enough to run a fridge for 8 hours but an hour would be great.

Granted wiring would be a bit more complex but once set up shouldn't be a problem.

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Re: The BIG Generator Thread

Post by teotwaki » Mon Oct 09, 2017 1:29 pm

MacAttack wrote:Wouldn't a small battery bank help in moderating any surge or draw problems?

I can't see it needing to be large enough to run a fridge for 8 hours but an hour would be great.

Granted wiring would be a bit more complex but once set up shouldn't be a problem.

No because batteries are DC power and would have to be part of a UPS device (Converts to AC) that somehow ties into the generator.
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Re: The BIG Generator Thread

Post by Zembecowicz » Wed Oct 11, 2017 12:33 am

I've gone with a pretty minimal generator myself (Honda EU1000) as I have wood heat and oil lamps. I based my decision on the amperage that my refrigerator draws, since it's the only electrical thing that I really can't do without.
Some of the comments above have made me wonder if the amperage on the back of the thing is peak, sustained, or something else. I had assumed that the value for how much current the thing draws is peak, but am I right?

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Re: The BIG Generator Thread

Post by raptor » Wed Oct 11, 2017 11:46 am

That generator has a 1000 watt surge and 900 watt continuous output. The simplest way to see if runs the refrigerator is plug in it and run it for an hour or so while cycling the compressor on and off. You can do this by simply by opening the door until the compressor kicks on and then shut the door. Do that few times and you will have answer.

I suspect that it should be fine but it really depends upon your refrigerator.

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Re: The BIG Generator Thread

Post by teotwaki » Wed Oct 11, 2017 12:28 pm

Zembecowicz wrote:I've gone with a pretty minimal generator myself (Honda EU1000) as I have wood heat and oil lamps. I based my decision on the amperage that my refrigerator draws, since it's the only electrical thing that I really can't do without.
Some of the comments above have made me wonder if the amperage on the back of the thing is peak, sustained, or something else. I had assumed that the value for how much current the thing draws is peak, but am I right?
Can you share that current draw or whatever your fridge data plate states?

Starting wattage can be twice the running wattage.
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Re: The BIG Generator Thread

Post by Dooms » Wed Oct 11, 2017 7:28 pm

Worth mentioning, you can buy a device called a Kill A Watt that will tell you the wattage draw of an appliance. They're like $20-$40 depending on features. Great to have if you want to figure out your power consumption.

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Re: The BIG Generator Thread

Post by teotwaki » Thu Oct 12, 2017 11:49 am

Dooms wrote:Worth mentioning, you can buy a device called a Kill A Watt that will tell you the wattage draw of an appliance. They're like $20-$40 depending on features. Great to have if you want to figure out your power consumption.

I have one and they are very good to have in your tool kit. They do have some trouble capturing short startup loads
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Re: The BIG Generator Thread

Post by CrossCut » Fri Oct 13, 2017 8:13 am

A hard start capacitor can help with the initial inrush current for starting the compressor motors on the frig/freezer when running on generator power, then you could get by with a smaller wattage generator. Another thought if refrigeration is the primary need is just to purchase a propane/nat gas absorption frig or freezer, problem is it'd likely cost as much as a 5kW Honda gennie for a new one. But if you need 2.4kW for refrigeration plus a couple extra watts for charging AA batteries and a cell phone, than a gas frig and a $50 solar charger for your car battery could be a better solution.

I don't have any experience with Harbor Freight'ish generators, but would second the advice on spending the extra for a Honda one. I've owned 4 generators in my life, 3 Hondas and a Generac. All 3 Hondas are still running, the newest is a whole house propane model for our offgrid home and it was installed in 2006. The other two are portable gasoline ones, from the early 90's, and never take more than 3 easy pulls to start even when it's below freezing. The Generac was a hard-starting, loud, POS that the generator portion (engine ran, no AC out) died on after a couple hundred hours of use. The propane Honda has over 5,000 hours on it with nothing but preventative maintenance for comparison. That we have a nearby Honda authorized service center influenced our decision too, local parts and service if needed.

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Re: The BIG Generator Thread

Post by JT42 » Fri Oct 13, 2017 11:52 am

CrossCut wrote:...and never take more than 3 easy pulls to start even when it's below freezing.
I hate you.

I bought a Honda EU2000i specifically for the reliability that I've heard about, yet it's always a bear to start. It's been like that since day 1. Some times I'll get lucky and it will go in about 5 pulls. Other times it takes 20-30.

I've read that it might be due to debris in the carb, possibly left over from manufacturing. I've though about taking to to a Honda service center but with my luck I can just about guarantee that it will start for them on the 2nd pull.

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Re: The BIG Generator Thread

Post by flybynight » Fri Oct 13, 2017 3:15 pm

JT42 wrote:
CrossCut wrote:...and never take more than 3 easy pulls to start even when it's below freezing.
I hate you.

I bought a Honda EU2000i specifically for the reliability that I've heard about, yet it's always a bear to start. It's been like that since day 1. Some times I'll get lucky and it will go in about 5 pulls. Other times it takes 20-30.

I've read that it might be due to debris in the carb, possibly left over from manufacturing. I've though about taking to to a Honda service center but with my luck I can just about guarantee that it will start for them on the 2nd
pull.
Yea but if it does , you should be able to zero in some possible technique that's making it so hard starting. Do you store it with STA-BIL? Fresh gas when you start it? Not with generators but my log splitter if I don't run some Sta-bil through it before storage for a few months. I might as well pull the carb off and clean it before even pulling the starter rope
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Re: The BIG Generator Thread

Post by Zembecowicz » Mon Nov 13, 2017 8:25 pm

I finally got around to testing the EU1000 with my refrigerator. I left the door hanging open for about twenty minutes and the little genny didn't miss a beat. Good job Honda!

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Re: The BIG Generator Thread

Post by raptor » Mon Nov 13, 2017 8:45 pm

Nothing beats a real lice live test with the actual device.
Last edited by raptor on Wed Nov 15, 2017 12:03 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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