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Power Generation for Bugging-in

Discussion in 'General Survival and Preparedness' started by Harbin, May 25, 2012.

  1. Harbin

    Harbin Monkey+

    Along the lines of the other thread about bugging-in, I'm working on picking out a backup generator for the house we are building. I had planned on picking up a Generac or Kohler 14kw natural gas unit, but it dawned on me I could end up with $4K tied in up a generator with no natural gas (obviously at this point TSHTF). So I've turned my attention instead to tri-fuel generators. I was looking at Diesel units for a bit but everything I have runs on gas. I've found units up to 14KW running Honda engines but would like to know what options you all have found. I am installing all the utilities in the house myself and already natural gas piped to where I will be pouring a pad for the generator to sit, as well as a transfer switch mounted with load-shedding capabilities. I'm trying to make purchases as versatile as possible while maintaining dependability.

    Right now I'm looking at this generator.

    Any thoughts? anyone heard downsides to this configuration?
  2. ssonb

    ssonb Confederate American

    How much wattage does it take to run your major appliances( well pump,refrig,freezer,a few lights,battery charger,radio,fans...)most homes will do well with 5 to 7k. The system looks good and a plus being able to hook it up to a 500gal propane tank. The Genny burns almost a gallon an hour at half load, lets see..approx 500 hours of run time, now the Honda GX 390 with 8750k will use a little over 1/2 gallon per hour at half load.. Now you have doubled the size of your 500 gallon propane tank to almost an effective 1000 hour run time. You almost will not find a better quality unit than the Honda.
  3. ghrit

    ghrit Ambulatory anachronism Administrator Founding Member

    14KW is probably enough to run minimums for your entire subdivision. Time to add up your loads and see what you really need; 5 to 7 is pretty generous, but in the ball park even considering cycling furnace blower loading. Trifuel is a good measure to take for backups, just in case. FWIW, diesels like (are most economical) to run at 90ish% load, spark ignition units are happy at half rated.

    You also need to look carefully at the control features you mention, especially the load shedding and auto transfer. You probably don't need it. About all you will need to do is ensure you wake up when the power goes off line so you can start the gennie and manually transfer power. FWIW, I have only part of the house on the gennie buss, so I can turn on a light on the commercial side to let me know I have commercial power back.

    You will not go wrong with Honda.
  4. BTPost

    BTPost Old Fart Snow Monkey Moderator

    There are Generators, and then there are REAL Generators....
    You should consider reading my BLOG on Alaska Wilderness Building, In the section I talk about Generators. (Second Paragraph)

    Alaska Wilderness Building - Survival Monkey Forums

    This is a Basic Treatise on Gensets. Stay FAR AWAY from anything you see in a BIG Box Store. The price may look attractive, but the Unit itself will be CRAP. My suggestion would be to look for an Genset from a Junked out RV. These come up on CraigsList, and eBay every day. Onan, or Kohler are good Brands, Generac, is know in the Trade a GenaJUNK, for a reason. If you lived closer, I would sell you my Onan RJC 15Kw. as I am building up a 12 KW Diesel Unit to replace it. ..... YMMV.....
  5. TnAndy

    TnAndy Senior Member Founding Member

  6. Cruisin Sloth

    Cruisin Sloth Special & Slow

    Is that also tri Solar ;)


    What time in Am was that & how many watts ?
  7. Harbin

    Harbin Monkey+

    The generator is pretty big, but I am looking past just running the small stuff in the house and wanting to be prepared in case I need more power for running equipment in the shop (lathe, Mill, etc). The lathe and mill will have minimal inrush (variable speed off VFDs) and I've already downsized from the Eaton air compressor I was looking at in favor of another model that still puts out plenty of air but has a 3 hp motor.

    BTPost- That's some great info at that link, it actually touches on something I meant to ask about but forgot. I have been looking for specifics from various manufactures on duty cycle but can't find anything. Maybe they call it something else in the generator world, but much lower end welders have paltry duty cycles how are generators rated for this?

    About 2 weeks ago I was at an electrical supply house picking up materials for work and asked the counter guy about the generators they sell. First thing he said is avoid big-box stores like the plague. There are multiple product lines from most manufactures but he said assume everything there is trash. They offer Kohler machines that cost almost double the big-box stores and a couple other brands that go up through the commercial markets.
  8. BTPost

    BTPost Old Fart Snow Monkey Moderator

    There are two Ratings for Commercial Gensets...
    1. Standby Power: This Rating is for Providing Power in Backup Service, when the Load MUST be powered, but only for the duration of a Loss of Grid Power.
    2. Prime Power: This Rating is Gensets that are designed to provide Power 24/7/365, to a Load, with only Routine Maintenance, down times. (Oil Changes and Fuel Filter Changes)
    If the Genset your looking at is NOT rated for either of these Ratings, then likely it is NOT really a Commercial Quality Genset. My main Gensets are a pair of Northern Lights 20Kw Diesel Fueled 1800 Rpm Units. They are rated for Standby Power at 20Kw, and 18Kw for Prime Power. Our Summer Powerhouse uses a CAT 3516. Prime Power Rated @1.2 Megawatts @ 1200 Rpm, as well as three CAT 398s. Prime Power Rated @ 600Kw each, @ 1200 Rpm, for a Total of 3.0 Megawatts. At my beach Cabin, I have an Onan 3Kw Diesel Genset that is Standby Rated at 3Kw @ 1800 Rpm... You will NEVER see a Standby, or Prime, Power Rating on a Big Box Store Genset. You will see those Rated at "Continuous" or "Peak" Power and those are Ratings, made up, by Marketing Droids... ..... YMMV....
  9. I think if SHTF you don't want to call attention to yourself using a noisy generator. A solar generator like this http://www.mysolarbackup.com/ (there are many of different prices out there) would be a better option IMO
  10. Tikka

    Tikka Monkey+++

    RVs are a good source!

    Depending on your location, Onan and Kohler gensets are available from junk power and sail boats.

    By law boats and RVs must conform to stricter manufacturing requirements.
  11. TnAndy

    TnAndy Senior Member Founding Member

    About 7:30am, and probably about no watts from the panels....there is a 1200amp/hr@24v battery connected.

    It does about 500-550kw/hrs/month....enough to run lights, refrigeration and a few other goodies without a problem.
  12. Cruisin Sloth

    Cruisin Sloth Special & Slow

    Very Kewl , Thanks

    Lots of panels in tri ? using 3 controllers Im assuming , One array in sun must be having the morning glory ;) .

    And assuming again trackers at the await .

  13. TnAndy

    TnAndy Senior Member Founding Member

    Yes.....homebuilt trackers. Single axis on the lower two, dual axis on the upper one.

    3 charge controllers ( one per array ).....two 60amp and one 80amp...Outback. Pair of Outback 2500w inverters producing true 240v.
    Cruisin Sloth likes this.
  14. Ok,, not the time for a detailed post, but I use a gen set (1800 rpm) that runs off my propane, or can be switched and powered by the wood gas gen my son put on the old flat bed we bought. (Got the idea from that there doomsday prepper episode, even if I find much of it kind of silly.)

    I have a battery bank that uses an inverter system to give us electricity. I can charge it from the grid, the generator or solar. Since much of the place uses propane to run instead of electricity , my electric needs are met by this and not so much power fluctuation from brown outs and such. Mostly computers and lights are on electric, the stove, water heat, dryer, etc are all gas powered. I have electric fridge, but also a propane one as one backup along with the root cellar and spring house over the blue hole on the place.

    I have learned that the slower turning 1800 rpm gen sets do a better job than the faster ones using gas engines. To really understand look at things like how MASH units power themselves. In fact if you could get it mil surplus generator sets are made to last and last.

    using the battery / inverter bank to store the power means you don't have to run the generator as much and still have basic power, mostly only use the gen set to charge that / run high power demand items like washing machines or power tools and such.

    Just a quick stab at a complex subject that fortunately I have family that understand far better than I who have helped me get in in place for as low a cost as could be done. Far from perfect and you have to monitor it more than just being on grid, but the peace of mind is wonderful.

  15. Harbin

    Harbin Monkey+

    While researching generators, I found a great video from Cummins Power that explains each duty-level of generators including how many hours they are designed to run. (their youtube channel)

    BTPost- you were right on but I had no idea that "standby" generators were really designed to run so little (25 hrs per year at max load) with no more than 200 hrs per year total[loco] Since there are 8760 hrs per year that's not exactly ideal if TSHTF. I've also started researching fuel storage codes and what the rules are for my area.

    We are also looking into Solar, just need to save towards it.
    ssonb likes this.
  16. Solar is the only option IMO, as storing enough fuel could be an issue, as well as the fact that the smell and noise they produce can draw unwanted attention. Solar is fuel free and silent
  17. Harbin

    Harbin Monkey+

    The more we are researching and planning this, the more torn I have become. Since we are under construction and the walls were open, I ran a 2" conduit from the basement utility room to the attic for a future solar panel setup, so we are all set for installation when the time comes. We have talked about doing solar on this house for quite some time, but due to costs figured a natural gas generator was the way to go until we can afford it. But wasting that money on something that is really just made for short term power outages (storms, etc), seems really stupid. A Diesel generator plus fuel storage is not cheap, then figuring in the noise (and smells) and the attention that would gather it sounds like a worse and worse idea.
    Nadja likes this.
  18. BTPost

    BTPost Old Fart Snow Monkey Moderator

    Harbin, One idea for moving Solar Power from the roof to the basement, that we use around here, where the BIG Copper Wire is hard to come by. We run two runs of 3/8 or 1/2" Copper Tubing separated by about 3" thru drilled Holes in the Top and Bottom Plates in a Wall. Then solder the Solar Power leads to them, at the roof, and tie the copper tubing to the Charge Controller in the Basement. ...... YMMV....
  19. Harbin

    Harbin Monkey+

    That's a good idea if you don't have code enforcement, doubtful I can get away with it here. The company I work for buys massive cable spools (forklift size) so the copper wire costs aren't much of a concern. The quantities manufacturing go through are staggering. When I pulled power from the street to the house we are building I needed 600 ft of 3/0 direct burial, so I asked at work and about an hour later it was rolled, taped, and laying down in the bed of my pickup. Everything from SOOW cord to cable so big you need a bender. Most scrap is recycled, they have this really cool machine that strips it automatically.
  20. TnAndy

    TnAndy Senior Member Founding Member

    The cable coming from the panels down to the basement will only need to be about #10 or #8.....you wire the panels in series strings of 3-4 ( or more ) and get the voltage up to 100+ ( 400-500v in grid tie only systems.....you can run them off #12 wire ) so there is very little voltage loss (drop) from the panels to the charge controllers ( located near the batteries/etc ).

    The BIG wire is a short run from battery to disconnect to inverter.....normally you're talking only few feet between each.
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