OT: Need Portable Generator Recommendation

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Sorry for the OT post, but figured this group, if any, might have the answers. Am looking for a portable standby generator, about 5KW. Can anyone here recommend a specific **brand** or maybe suggest a specific
brand to **avoid** ?? Living down in Hurricane country (Texas Gulf Coast) and so far in 18 years have never needed one. Figure I'm pushing my luck and am thinking about one in the 5KW size range, enuf to run fridge & deep freeze, a few small wattage (flourescent replacement) lamps + TV and satellite rcvr, prolly a fan or two. Realize I cannot afford something the size that would pull our central AC.
Also what about fuels? Gasoline would ordinarily seem easiest to obtain and therefore most logical, but what about natural gas (not propane)? W/gasoline you'd be constantly running out to purchase more else stick a "Georgia Credit Card" in your vehicle tank. 5KW genset consumes between ˝ gal and 1 gal gasoline per hour, depending on load. How much line pressure would it take for a NG powered genset? (I'm leaning toward gasoline but thought I'd ask).
Locally available brands & engines Onan (Cummins) Troy-Built (Briggs & Stratton) Coleman (Honda) Honda (Honda)
Thanks
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snipped-for-privacy@dodgecity.cc wrote:

In my straight job, I engineer telecom systems. One of the main considerations is standby power, as well as tower loads, microwave paths, etc.
At my pre-divorce house, I installed a 20KW NG fueled unit. This involved pouring a slab, wiring a transfer panel, and re-wiring the house panels to steer emergency power to "essentials", i.e., main refrigerator, "beer" refrigerator, furnaces (not an issue in FL, but certainly important in Chicago), telephone switch, satellite receiver and TV distribution, TV's, garage doors, alarm system, engine block heater outlets, etc. Remember to add a couple of open receptacles, as you will discover that you need them.
I twisted the arms of some of the contractors with whom I worked everyday, and got what I considered a deal at about $22K total. The used Onan genset was $15K of that. The automatic transfer panel was $3K used.
At my new house, I have a Honda 5KW gasoline genset on wheels, with the panel and manual transfer panel pre-wired. Now, instead of everything switching over automatically, I have to wheel out the genset, fuel it, attach the cable to the transfer panel, pull-start the genset, and throw the switch on the transfer panel. Total cost <$800. I have 3 jerry cans that I try to rotate for other uses. Don't forget the Stabil.
I think that you will find that a NG setup requires permanent installation to meet codes, both zoning and electrical. And that's where the bucks start to escalate.
You might consider an LPG-fired genset and a 40# tank, although the "multi-fuel" gensets usually have a small premium. I went with gasoline, as I figured it would be easier to come by than LPG if the balloon goes up.
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wrote:

don't forget to check local codes re LP
some cities prohibit anything larger than a 30-lb tank on-premise due to explosion hazard in a fire
several years (let's see.....2005-1978...OK, a long time ago) I installed some 5 kW Onan's for the city and county PD's as part of their comm system upgrades, the two in-town had to be NG, the one out at the cable tower for the county's base stations were LP
oh, one more thing..........the 5 kW unit for the city PD tended to surge badly with just a pair of 60-watt solid state bases plugged in, but when we added the old 100-W tube-type fire dept base to the load, it settled down
it took about 300 watts minimum load to get it to run on-speed

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Doggone Langerhans you been looking at my resume? I'm fcc-licensed MW guy myself (Farinon DVM6/45) and Mitel-certified on phone systems. Small world, huh? We run 7.5 KW natural gas Onans along our natural gas pipeline ROW for obvious reasons, the gas is there. These are overkill for the 6-gig M/W repeaters but there's a small window A/C and an occasional 100W VHF base station and SCADA RTU. In those few tower sites -not- on the ROW we keep a 200# propane tank because unlike gasoline propane doesn't go bad in long term storage or gum up the lines plus I can call a guy to go deliver/fillup and never have to leave the office.
But for HOME... well, that's a whole other matter. I've convinced myself that gasoline will generally be easier to deal with and I can always drop a siphon hose in one of the vehicle tanks if/when supply runs short. That might also cost-justify my thoughts about adding an aux tank on the RAM.
Size-wise I'd love to have a 7.5KW but something that size might need to be trailer-mounted and I don't have room to store a trailer. 7.5KW also sucks down a lot more fuel and STILL won't pull the central air. 5KW -will- meet our needs as long as I can keep the wife supplied with her hormone pills ;-) and keep the fridge doors closed.
No Xfr panel, even manual pull not really in the budget, plus I'm in an unincorporated area of the county. Not rural, but we can get by w/shit out here they might lock you up for in town, like pulling the meter and clamping straight in w/suicide lugs (obviously no little guys around) or more elegant, putting a 30A twist-lok on a short pigtail out the bottom of the service panel and reverse-feeding through a separate dual breaker (Mains OPEN of course). Po' folk got po' ways... Anyone asks, man that's the -welder- hookup. ;-)
Alas, I digress. I was mainly looking for recommended brands or what to avoid if someone's gotten a dud somewhere along the way.

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snipped-for-privacy@dodgecity.cc wrote:

Yep, I got my First-Phone back in 1967, my EE in 1972, and currently design comm systems including conventional, trunked and cellular sites, 911 call centers, as well as big telephone switching, and all the IT networking stuff.
Just a couple of thoughts......I'm concerned about the "suicide lugs" approach. You need to plan the electrical loads for: 1. what happens when the mains drop out? 2. what happens in a brown out? 3. what is the start-up load when connecting the genset? 4. how you are going to provide essential power to certain things that are normally fed through a 3-phase 209VAC distribution panel when your generator is a 2-phase 240VAC device? 5. what are the implications of inductive loads at both #1 & #3 ? 6. what happens when the mains come back online and you want to switch back? Your gen will lose a backfeed battle with those mains. Bigtime. 7. a 5KW genset is only good for 40A continuous (if that). How are you gonna balance that load? Pray that the fishtank heater doesn't switch on at the same time as the furnace blower, while your daughter is running her hairdryer?
Despite the amusement claimed by others, all this stuff is just basic safety. It seems like you understand, but some of the kibitzers obviously don't.
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In retrospect, it might not be too great or costly a task to install a small (50A) sub-panel and move or extend (breakers and all) the handful of circuits I've identified as "necessary" over to it. This would allow me the ability to still manually connect via twist-lok connector the sub panel either to commercial power or to the gen set and be isolated from the main. I'll hit the flea markets next weekend too, there's big one N. of town that just might have a manual transfer switch. Barring that, how about a 2-pole double-throw NEMA-3 starter w/a little manual override switch on the coil? (remember, po' folk and po' ways).
Any gensets have GFCI ?

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snipped-for-privacy@dodgecity.cc wrote:

The concept of GFCI is a good one, but depends on a good ground. If you intend to place the genset in the same spot, it might be worth driving a good ground rod and pre-wiring a Burndy connector and a good hunk of 3-0 or 4-0 cable.
Most commercial transfer switches will switch each phase, as well as the neutral. In your application, if you are intending to pipe the connections (and I hope you do...no Romex) you can use the existing neutral. This is called a non-separately derived system. The only problem with this is usually caused by poor grounding in the existing home wiring, and that problem is ground loops due to parallel grounds at differing potentials.
Here is a good article with illustrative pictures: http://www.imsasafety.org/journal/marapr/ma5.htm
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lashup - saw one of those once on a 25kw diesel, gauwd almighteeee)

completely. Genset load is then pull-rope started and the load walked-in. When genset needs fuel it also goes completely down, load switched off and then walked back in again after a restart. This is a poor man's riggin'. All we need most of the time is lights and cold beer and the TV.

these will not all be fired up at once so I'm thinking I should be able to bring it all online by walking it in load by load without stalling the genset. If there's an issue it might be how to address the possibility of all 3 refrigeration loads deciding to kick in their compressors concurrently. There's enough there to run 'em all concurrently, but starting them all at once is a whole other matter and something that may need to be dealt with. (ideas welcomed) I was actually thinking about the possibility of a timer on the freezer. The deep freeze can stay off for at least 6 hrs if we can stay out of it then let it have juice for a couple hours to recover, i.e., 2 hrs on/6 hrs off then repeat. - wife had another thought, drop all the refrigeration loads at bedtime and trade the load for a 10k btu window A/C in the master BR. It gets pretty sticky down here during hurricane season. Lotta load switching around I agree, but see my previous about "po' folks and po' ways"

disconnect. This isn't a hospital, it's my residence ;-) - we'll know when the commercial power is back because the AC will come on (wheee!!)

nowadays, thank goodness. You're right, a 5KW genset maxes out around 40A continuous (8300 KVA assuming PF of .6) *AND* assuming it really is 5 KW....... We all know about assumptions, which is why I'm looking for a 5KW and not 2˝ - I'd love 7˝ just don't want to have to feed it. Full load vs half load on 7˝KW genset not much difference in fuel consumption compared to full vs ˝ with a 5kw unit.

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Sounds like you have thought it through.
BTW, up here, us Yankees *do* get 3 phase power in areas newly rewired. My old house had 2x400A 3ph panels. Actually, it made the gen installation easier.
Good luck with the project.
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You can get 3 ph here too in the new suburbs but it comes with $500 monthly minimum billing. Too rich for my blood. With 2x400A 3 Ph panels you obviously had more house than most. I'm guessing 6k+ s.f. (?)
Thanks for your assist & thoughts. Now waiting for someone to -answer- my original post and recommend for or against specific brand(s) >>smile<<

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How much do you want to spend? I bought and installed a 15KW Generac unit last year for the same reason (North Carolina) and the unit was about $3,200.00 and comes with an automatic transfer switch (12 breaker). I was also considering a portable but figured that if I was away when it was needed, my wife wouldn't be able to hook it up. Another problem is that if there is a massive power failure, the gas stations can't pump and I don't like the idea of keeping 15 or 20 gallons of gas around. Mine runs on propane since that is what we have here (no NG in the area) but it is capable of running on either one with minor adjustments. If I was going to run it on NG, it would only be capable of producing 12KW and in that case, I would have probably just bought the 12KW unit for around $2,600 and saved myself some money.
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TBone, how has the Generac been working out for you? I work for a Generac dealer and have installed a bunch of them. Zero troubles except for the starter motors were poor on the first year or so of production. The later models have a Delco starter and they have been good. If your starter is gold colored you have a newer one, the early ones were black and it will fail sooner than later. Greg
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So far so good but now that I have installed it, I will probably never need it. I must say that the way they wire houses here in NC made it a real PITA to install it.

The only trouble I had was one of the fuses in the transfer switch was bad and it was not a whole lot of fun trying to find a replacement. None of the local supply houses carried it and neither did the HD where I bought the unit. Come to think of it, they also don't carry the replacement oil filters for it either but fortunantly I found the correct automotive filter for it.

Gee, thanks for scaring the shit out of me. I went out to look and it has the gold colored one so hopefully, I'll be ok there.
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We get allot of people calling for oil filters and a odd part or two. HD here plus a couple other stores sell them so we get to service them too. I too had trouble finding fuses other than Generac. We generally special order them from a local electrical wholesaler. We get a few that install themselves and it does not work when they are done. Of course it is warranty in their mind, but it ALWAYS is an installation problem. Once installed they have been running great. The first few that we got from the factory had some bugs to iron out, but after the initial shot they have been great generators. Far better than the last model they built! Those help keep me employed! My boss has two 8K units on his house, both are broke down at the moment! Greg
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I had to order them online. I also replaced its main breaker to upgrade it to a 70 amp (since it is running on propane) and the breaker Generac uses for that is also hard to find. Fortunantly, the online supplier had both.

I had to make some modifications to both the gen unit and the house wiring to make it work and having that done by someone else would have cost me a fortune. The only problem I had was a short (pintched wire) on the control lines between the gen unit and the external box which is what blew the fuse. Fortunately, it blew the fuse on the voltage sense side so I knew about it right away when the gen always wanted to run. After repairing the short, there were no more problems.

It does seem to run well and remains stable regardless of the load although it doesn't like it much when the AC first comes on. During the break-in, I had it pretty loaded down and it seemed to handle it with no problem. Hopefully, I will never need it but I'm glad it's there if I do and it also gives me another selling point on the house.
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------------------------------------------------------------- I'm on the Florida Gulf Coast -- bought a DeVilbiss genset just after Opal in '95, and finally used it after Ivan this past year. It was the brand that Lowe's was selling at the time, but I expect that it (or similar) is probably on the market with other badges as well.
It's a gas unit -- 10hp Briggs engine that puts out 5.5kw -- probably in the 7.5 yo 8.5 kw peak range. It's got a BIG gas tank that will let it run continuously for 10 - 12 hours. When you stop it to add gas, it will almost always need some (less than a half quart) oil.
I ran the thing non-stop 24hrs per day for 5 days, and powered nearly everything in the house (two different legs). The only things I didn't run were washer/dryer, and central air. It happily powered the fridge and freezer as well as all of the lights and ceiling fans. I had pulled the main breakers so as not to fry the local lineman, and a neighbor had to come over and tell me when the power was back on.
I'm a happy camper -- but it's time to go check the thing and make sure it's ready to run if needed.
Mark
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Thanks Mark. Yours is the post I was looking for, someone w/experience with one of the over-the-counter/lumber-yard/home improvement store models.
I've had generally good experiences shopping at Lowes' with the lone exception when we had them lay a ceramic tile floor in our kitchen. Big mistake! It had to be ripped up not just once, but twice because their low-bidder contractor didn't know how to "float" an uneven floor. The first job turned out like a cobblestone road; kitchen table even rocked, all 4 chairs wobbled, some adjacent tiles out of plane by as much as .375" Second attempt was only slight improvement. (spec is 0.02 max between any 2 adjacent tiles). After 3rd lay it's still not perfect, but a far cry from what we started with. In their defense, Lowes did stick by us and even offered to rip out again and let us bring in a professional flooring contractor at their expense. I think had we not had fully enough of the mess & dust for four whole weeks that we would have - and in retrospect probably should have - but that was a learning experience for everyone (Lowes included).
IMO Briggs & Stratton small gasoline engines are hard to beat for the value & reliability, plus still American made and you can get parts for literally everything they've ever built. God bless companies like Briggs & Stratton.

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Hi, Tried to email you but it bounced right back! I have a 5 HP Briggs powered generator setup to run on natural gas; pressure regulator & all just hook up the line. Don't recall the output, but if you're interested I'll check it for you. I also purschased a carb. so I could convert it back to gas. I'm in. Ga., so I don't know if shipping would be cost prohibitive. I don't need it so I'll take $800 for it. ~ Paul aka "Tha Driver"
America - made in China! :-(
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Thanks Paul, but yours is probably a bit small for what I'm trying to accomplish. 5HP does not equate to 5KW, more like 2.2 or perhaps 2.5 KW, which won't meet my needs.
In calculating my load I anticipate somewhere around 2.5~3.5 KW will be my sustained/static load for 2 refrigerators, 1 deep freeze, 27" TV and satellite rcvr and a couple lamps and 2~3 fans. The refrigeration/freezer load is of course cyclical so as long as we can all stay focused on the need to keep them -CLOSED- and not stand there with the door open deciding what to have will minimize compressor time and leave us some headroom for an electric skillet/fry pan and an occasional load of clothes through the washer. Running the AC is completely out of the question; we'll just have to suffer. Running the central air would require minimum 10~12˝ KW to get it to start (locked rotor amps) and I really don't feel like this is something I need to spend $4~5 grand on. Besides, a genset that big will be a fuel pig. Refrigeration load, TV/Sat and some lights & fans will get us by.
When planning the size and calculating load, you want to base your figures on 50% of the capacity of the genset. Running a 2.5 kw load on a 2.5kw genset is a recipe for disappointment and disaster. Been there & done that.
Also as I'm reading I've learned that propane fueled units develope more output than otherwise equally sized natural-gas units. If I understand this correctly propane has a higher BTU rating per cubic foot than natural gas.

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Personally, I have a Generac SVP-5000 since here in NC, we get our fair share of hurricanes and power outages. I've got mine hooked up outside to my distribution panel and it runs everything in the entire house except the AC. I have an electric hot water heater and it'll run that too but when that's demanding current, you can't really run anything else. If I were to purchase another generator, it'd be another Generac but I'd get one a little larger and one with electric start. I'd rather have a fixed automatic standby unit fired by propane (since I have propane heat) but for what you are looking for, you should look at the 75D. It's diesel, runs at a lower RPM and should handle the load required by a household. Trust me, the first time your power goes out and you start it up and have power to everything in your house, it'll all be worth it...the misses will love you even more.
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