Emergency Generators

Glenn Owner/Technician Texas Posted   Latest   Edited  

Hello Folks on DG,

As most are aware we recently had a deep freeze that stretched far beyond South TX where I am located. Many people are still recovering from the effects (mostly busted plumbing, some are whole houses). Many people were completely un prepared. I was only slightly prepared. Fortunately, I had some portable emergency/ work generators that I have acquired over the years from doing lots of small engine and equipment work. People sell them for pennies on the dollar especially if the engine is shot/ blown up. The generator heads seldom have issues and can be re excited if needed. A new replacement engine is much cheaper than a complete new generator.

The 2 that I use primarily are a 5500 Watt and a 7500 Watt, both have surge capability so they can easily run a refrigerator and freezer along with a couple of lights and even a couple of 1500 Watt small space heaters. I keep them full (of none ethanol fuel) for any short 1-2 day outages that happen a couple of times a year. That is great in the Summer, but in the Winter and it is freezing it's not so great. This extended freeze reminded me of Virginia where I grew up.

Before the hard freeze hit, I had stocked up with 10 extra gallons of fuel and thought it would be enough… it wasn't! By day 3, I found myself scavenging fuel out of everything that had gasoline. All the fuel stations were closed and we were blesses with snow and ice, so the roads were dangerous at best. I managed to trick a few vehicles and other equipment out of their precious commodity (aka gasoline) and obtained enough to keep the generators running day and night for the 5+ days.

In my youth, I grew up in the mountains of Virginia experiencing ice storms, downed power lines along with snow, it was an annual event. We prepared in the Fall with cords of extra fire wood for the stove that was kept covered, all the vehicles were full of fuel if a health emergency happened and we had kerosene lamps for lighting in the evening and night. The pantry was kept stocked and we kept extra gallons of water on standby. There were very few people that had even small generators. We were prepared, we had to be. Since coming to Texas, I admittingly had gotten soft and let my ‘be prepared’ ways slip to a minimum. (I think it is some kind of disease here in TX. LOL)

Since this recent freeze, I have been awaken once again to not rely on public utilities. I have been on a mission to be prepared better in the future. Wood stoves are not a common item around here, but I was able to locate a nice old cast iron one from a friend. Mesquite wood is plentiful around my area along with oak and Elm, so cutting and storing wood is not an issue out here in the country. If I can keep myself and family warm and we can cook, life will be much more tolerable during these events.

As this event is fading into memories of days past for a lot of people, I am actively working on being better prepared. I had to research and do a lot of math to determine what is the best fit for me to upgrade to a larger generator. Do I need a full blown emergency standby generator like a dedicated Generac unit? I would say no. One is due to overall price and lack of needing a whole house power unit. I have a 200 Amp feed to my house, so that would require a 60KW single phase unit with a switching panel. This would be if I wanted to run everything in my house and detached shop. I don't see that expense being practical.

A good friend and fellow retired part time shop owner has a Generac portable 15KW gas unit with very few hours on it and very well kept. He has decided after this last incident he wants a full blown Generac 60KW Diesel standby generator with automatic switching. He retired early from GM about 5 years ago and has the financial means, so he has one ordered. I have been talking with him about my plans and he would be willing to sell his current 15KW portable Generac at a fair price.

As I have been planning and searching I came across information and availability of a power panel generator lock out kit, a 50Amp inlet connector box and all the items needed to safely connect this 15KW unit to my house. I am planning to make a fan vented sound enclosure and even have the ability to run it on 100 Lb. propane tanks if the need should arise. I will be buying his used generator in the coming weeks.

I have done the calculations and the 15KW will be a good fit for my budget and provide adequate power for running the heat in my house should the wood stove not be working or wood happens run out. It should even run the AC window units in the Summer for short terms if required. The only other issue is having fuel reserves, but I think that will be easy enough if I just keep a couple of my classic (easy to siphon from) vehicles full of non ethanol. I already have 12V electric fuel pumps and fuel hose to draw off fuel as the need may arise. I am not a fan of keeping a bulk fuel storage just to have it sitting there. The vehicles can be my storage. (These are running vehicles by the way, not Junkers)

I know for you folks up North this post may seem kind of silly because most areas are hard freeze zones and the utilities are much more reliable than here in the lone star state. Much of Texas is still pretty undeveloped and rural. We have only a few areas that are freeze zones.

As with any unexpected event, it pays to be prepared. I'm curious if anyone has since rethought there emergency weather plan?

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Rusty Owner/Technician
Massachusetts
Rusty
   

We live in a small rural community in central MA with very unreliable power. About 10 years ago we had a nasty ice storm that put us out for 8 days. I had a 4K Onan unit in my RV that I backfed the house with but it was only 120VAC so we had no well water, cooktop, or air handler for heat. I was able to buy a 11K Honda job site generator toward the end of the outage and got it powering the hose…

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Jamie Owner/Technician
Ontario
Jamie
 

Storing liquid fuels is always a crapshoot. The number of no start diesels I diagnosed due to bad fuel was amazing. I have an 1800 rpm Cummins/Onan and it's very quiet.

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Glenn Owner/Technician
Texas
Glenn
 

Hi Rusty, Sounds like you have it worked out. I am not a nut over Generac, but this is affordable for what I want to do. I like propane but it can have freeze up issues has the temps drop outside. The biggest issue is I will need to pick 1 day a month to give it a good run and keep a battery tender on the battery. If the battery goes dead on one of these it cannot be jump started. It has no…

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Timothy Owner/Technician
Wisconsin
Timothy
 

Propane has a liquid point of about -45 degrees Fahrenheit! What are you saying about it having cold weather issues? When I lived in OH, where it routinely drops below zero, I rented a house with propane heat and cooking, and the tank was above ground, never had any issues, even at -20…

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Rusty Owner/Technician
Massachusetts
Rusty
 

It freezes in Texas don’t ya know 😜

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Glenn Owner/Technician
Texas
Glenn
 

There is a lot of science behind what I am talking about. One is you had buried in ground line? Second is the size of the tank being used and the volume content. As it gets lower, the chance of line freezing increases. Third is barometric pressure and a couple of other factors. It would be best to talk to a certified propane supplier and they can explain further.

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Rusty Owner/Technician
Massachusetts
Rusty
 

LP doesn’t “freeze” at low ambient temps. It fails to boil fast enough to satisfy demand when tank volume or temps are very low.

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Glenn Owner/Technician
Texas
Glenn
 

Hi Rusty, Thanks for clearing that up, I am familiar with propane and I work on LPG tractors and forklifts quite frequently. I use the term “freeze up”(not flow) when in actuality it is low vapor volume to sustain engine running demands. In the case of a portable generator and using 100Lb cylinders it would benefit greatly by placing a simple heating blanket around the cylinder. This would…

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Jamie Owner/Technician
Ontario
Jamie
   

Glenn, I'm located in Ontario, Canada so I know what you are dealing with, lol. When I retired the first time, I helped a friend of mine with getting his generator business going, he sells Generac and Cummins. 15kw is a good average size unit for many homes and was one of the most common sizes we installed. Understand that even if you turned on everything in your house you wouldn't need 200…

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Glenn Owner/Technician
Texas
Glenn
 

Hi Jamie, Thanks for your input. I have installed the generator lockout on my interior power box cover and am in the process of re labeling all the breakers. At the same time I am green marking the priority breakers and red marking the none essential breakers. I am waiting on my 50A inlet box and need to purchase the 6/3 w/ground wire to route it in and connect to the 50A dedicated breaker for…

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Michael Owner/Technician
New Jersey
Michael
   

My home is roughly 2200 Square feet. We normally lose power every year for 1-2 days. We currently have a harbor freight generator rated at 8750 W. Previously we had 2 generac units both of which failed with bad generator heads. We also have a built in transfer switch which was here when we purchased the house. it does not do the entire house but it does do the essentials such as HVAC…

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Glenn Owner/Technician
Texas
Glenn
 

Hi Michael, Unfortunately Generac does not have much information that is easy to find. I did find a couple of good You Tube videos that informed me of what to look for and how to troubleshoot issues with them. First, there is a quick blow fuse on or mounted to the circuit board. Second is a start stop relay on the back of the control panel, that is common to fail with age/use. If you still…

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Michael Owner/Technician
New Jersey
Michael
 

I checked all the fuses and that relay on both. No go. Thank's anyway but for now the HF unit is working well and has great value to it.

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Glenn Owner/Technician
Texas
Glenn
 

Hi Michael, Harbor Freight has gotten better over the years with their products. I have quite a few of there tools and equipment. I see many people are using their brand of generators, some of them are used on a daily basis for jobsites, so they get run hard. Most of their stuff is targeted at the weekender DIY types, but if you are critical about what you are buying they have a selection of…

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Jamey Owner/Technician
California
Jamey
   

Since I live in Southern California and they can’t keep the lights on when the wind blows, I am putting in a whole house generator. 30kw Generac. It runs on natural gas. Natural gas is available even when the power is off. My house will FINALLY be finished at the end of this month. 3.5 year rebuild after the wildfire. I ordered the generator a month ago. Won’t be here until July. Order early…

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Glenn Owner/Technician
Texas
Glenn
 

Hi Jamey, The way I understand it, Generac is a “build to order company” for their stationary units, especially larger ones. With all the weather events that have happened, I expect they have a huge backlog of orders to be filled currently. A 30KW should be a good fit for a whole house unit. A lot depends on how many items you have with high start up Amperages. AC and heat pumps are the big…

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Scott Manager
California
Scott
 

Hi Jamey, If you haven’t seen this video yet please check it out. There’s some very interesting evidence regarding maintenance at around 3:40. youtu​.​be/7WAB5cflHBI

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Mark Engineer
Colorado
Mark
 

Scott Yep as the mandate to go green over rules the funds for maintenance it’s obvious the end result is a failing infrastructure to meet a politically driven agenda demanded by people who don’t know the real world

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Timothy Owner/Technician
Wisconsin
Timothy
 

The mandate to ‘go green’ has little to nothing to do with the power companies neglecting maintenance anywhere. They've been neglecting it for years/decades, despite returning healthy dividends in many states, instead of diverting some of those funds into maintenance, long before the ‘urge’ to go green occurred... Many countries in other parts of the world are going green with solar and wind…

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Glenn Owner/Technician
Texas
Glenn
 

And what color is money? The only ones going green (with money) are the politicians and the lobbyist of the companies who will benefit the most. This is history repeating itself, it's now just in a more high tech fashion. They are not asking permission or forgiveness. I will stop there.

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Jamey Owner/Technician
California
Jamey
 

Thanks Scott. Interesting stuff. When my house burned in 2017 as a result of the Thomas Fire, it was Southern California Edison (SCE) who failed to maintain their lines. I’m sure for the same reasons. SCE has accepted responsibility. The city municipalities have settled, the insurance companies have settled. Now it is time for home owners and those who lost everything to settle. I have never…

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Jamey Owner/Technician
California
Jamey
 

By the way. That weather vane on the house is an Angel. It was on top of my garage, which was separate from the house when it burned. The garage didn’t burn. Before I tore it down, I climbed up there and got the Angle down! It is now on the house! 🙏🏻

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John Owner
California
John
 

Damn, Jamey, that's one hell of a story. I'm sure it'll all be worth it when its done but you sure got an extra plate of trials and tribulations! Good luck wrapping it up ‘with an Angel on top’.

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Scott Manager
California
Scott
 

Wow Jamey, I knew that your place burned but had no idea that you had been enduring all this pain and nonsense. I hope that weathervane continues to bring you good luck for many, many years! Thanks for sharing your story.

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Kyle Owner
Oklahoma
Kyle
 

I live in Oklahoma. and whole neighbor hoods have standby generators that run 200 amp main service and all of them have about the same set up natural gas or propane 20kw or 22kw power plants. Runs the house no problem. BUT they can consume the fuel. And on the fourth day they started to say on the news cut back on the natural gas usage for fears of running low. if it was Me I would buy a 500…

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Mike Educator
North Carolina
Mike
 

Hi Glen, It seems like you have been putting some thought into this. I did industrial and remote site emergency power for many years, so I might be able to give some insight on things from a different perspective. I have a portable unit and steal gas from my vehicles if needed, but am about to install a whole house unit. That way if I am not home, the longest the wife will be without power is…

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John Mechanic
Illinois
John
   

Generators can be run off of multiple fuel sources at virtually the same time for cheap; gasoline, propane or CNG (diesel is a little more complicated). Each require a simple gas valve with the proper orifice. Valves can be either manual or automatic. I would however suggest this: Make the generators work, sell them and roll the cash into batteries, solar panels and a windmill, as fossil fuels…

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Richard Technician
New York
Richard
 

I live on Long Island NY and when I moved into my current house six years ago, I purchased a medium sized generator and only used it for the first time this past year. Reading the stories here it seems my power is pretty reliable compared to others here. This year we got hit pretty good with a tropical storm and alot of trees came down causing power outages. I was out for 7 days. The generator…

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Glenn Owner/Technician
Texas
Glenn
 

Hi Richard, A hotel would have been nice, but all were filled to capacity and traveling in snow and ice covered roads was not something that I would consider safe around South TX. Heck they don't know how to drive safe when it rains. Most of the roads were shut down for emergency traffic only. No one had power and only a handful that I know of had any kind of generator. People were doing some…

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Mark Engineer
Colorado
Mark
   

Glenn: Others in this thread have offered great/expert advice so I'll toss in my two cents. First, I do have experience (spent 30 years in San Antonio) and my engineer PE license is in Texas. ERCOT (Electric Reliability Council Of Texas) is a “not for profit” group controlling the Texas power grid. I could go on and on about their competency, but let's suffice to say, it didn't go well…

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Glenn Owner/Technician
Texas
Glenn
 

Hi Mark, From what I have gathered ERCOT has been attempting to unify the grid(s) here is TX. But everyone is so hard headed and independent, that they closely guarding their little private segments of the grid. Since deregulation of the power companies it has become worse. To put it in a very simple analogy, it's like we are trying to run much of the state with a million bad 4 foot drop…

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Mark Engineer
Colorado
Mark
 

Glenn Once again power struggles and bureaucracy prevail In ERCOT and the Texas power grid Make sure if you’re setting up a small solar backup it’s OFF grid. When a house is set up ON grid and shore power (main power) is lost it doesn’t matter if the house has a bunch of solar panels and a zillion watts no main power no solar/backup power. By the way if you don’t buy the used Generac let me…

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Glenn Owner/Technician
Texas
Glenn
 

Hi Mark, As it is currently, they are talking the issue to death and no progress is in the future. It is simply a repeat of what happens here every 10 years or so. Next week I am also hooking up a larger power invertor in my service truck so I can power a few things should future events require it. I am also looking around for a used PTO driven generator to run on one of my propane tractors…

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Fred Technician
New Jersey
Fred
 

My home has a Kohler 20Kw/18Kw natural gas whole house genset. The higher number is if it's run on propane. The main reason I had in installed was in 2014 I had to move my late mother into my home and she had an oxygen concentrator that needed 24/7 power. The most it's actually run is 4, almost 5 days straight after Isaias came through. I had to shut it down every 24 hours or so to check oil…

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Robert Manager
North Carolina
Robert
 

Hello Glenn, Sounds like you were way better prepared than many in Texas. The houses busting many pipes because of no heat is crazy. Only thing to do is cut the water off by the street and drain everything if you are without heat. FWIW I was able to purchase some military diesel generators. These are amazing work horses totally under rated for what they can put out. I have some of the MEP…

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Glenn Owner/Technician
Texas
Glenn
 

Hi Robert, I will check into that site for future considerations. I was in the military and we used many of these units. While I was cruising the net, it was amazing some of the tricks people were using (some were just plain dangerous). The best ones are the ones who proclaimed a person could run your whole house on a 3KW generator from Harbor Freight. That kind of stuff hurts my…

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Glen Owner/Technician
Illinois
Glen
 

Interesting topic I definitely learned a few things. I think I will be planning some future projects..Thanks!!! I will say I am no stranger to living off grid(Anyone that is familiar with my local will understand) . I will say electric heat takes a lot more KW then say a propane central air system, the electric portion can be ran with a portable gen for days.

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Glenn Owner/Technician
Texas
Glenn
 

Hi Glen, I have learned a few things along the way for sure and I am no stranger to doing what it takes to be prepared. Over the years I have done most of all my own electrical for my shop and house but always by code and using correct wiring with connectors. The interesting thing is calculating the Wattages for necessary items. I went with enough to be comfortable but not splurge on a budget…

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