Whole-house Backup Generators

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Atlplasma

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Whole-house Backup Generators
« on: 16 Feb 2014, 04:59 pm »
Our power is usually pretty reliable, but it may go down for a day or two (or three or four) once a year. It's not a huge inconvenience, but I do work from home and don't always have lots of leeway to make up the time. The new house we are about to move into is also 100 percent electric with no fireplace or stove (by choice since we are attempting to build a healthy house without combustion sources within the building envelope).

Even though the house is 100 percent electric, I do have access to natural gas and could use the service to install a 14 KW generator and a 200 amp switch. That would likely be enough to run the house for days at a time if necessary. I've read reviews on Generac (cheap) that seem to indicate you may get a great or terrible unit depending upon whether the Chinese supplier opted to apply quality control to your unit. My inclination is to go with a Kohler unit since they have been making small motors and generators forever. There is about a $1,000 price penalty, but I'd have fewer concerns about reliability.

Thoughts anyone? I imagine some up you cold-climate inhabitants have some practical experience with this type of product and installation. 

mikeeastman

Re: Whole-house Backup Generators
« Reply #1 on: 16 Feb 2014, 07:10 pm »
I worked with gens when I did solar installs, your right the Generac are no good, the Kolers are better but their electronics has gone down hill in the last10-12 years, I found Onans to be the most reliable. If you rewired you main panel and add a sub panel for just what's essentials and connect the gen to it, you could use a smaller gen.

JLM

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Re: Whole-house Backup Generators
« Reply #2 on: 16 Feb 2014, 07:24 pm »
Larger Generac units are generally reliable but that may not translate to smaller ones. At that size idol ok for automatic start-up/transfer. Cost to connect and unit cost for the gas will be steep. Of course cheaper/less convenient option would be a gasoline powered pull start if the need is infrequent/not severe. Another option involves a slightly smaller generator that can sense/shed non essential loads. Under similar situation my Generac dealer advised against a whole house unit. 

bnut311

Re: Whole-house Backup Generators
« Reply #3 on: 16 Feb 2014, 07:57 pm »
I've installed about 150 generators in Long Island, NY since hurricane Irene.
The generacs are a total waste of time, the kohlers have a much better motor but their controllers are buggy, have circuit board issues and need to have firmware upgrades done by a dealer.
I've had a lot of success with milbank units, aka general electric, aka Briggs and stratton.
Very robust motors and very easy to service. If your house is all electric I would recommend ge with their symphony power management system and put a load shedding module on anything bigger than 20 amps 220 volts.

Scott F.

Re: Whole-house Backup Generators
« Reply #4 on: 16 Feb 2014, 08:55 pm »
bnut,

You're comments are timely as we are planning on a bu generator for our home. Do your comments on the GE generators hold true for their 30kw models? We'll be doing LP as the fuel source.

Thanks

Atlplasma

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Re: Whole-house Backup Generators
« Reply #5 on: 16 Feb 2014, 11:06 pm »
I've installed about 150 generators in Long Island, NY since hurricane Irene.
The generacs are a total waste of time, the kohlers have a much better motor but their controllers are buggy, have circuit board issues and need to have firmware upgrades done by a dealer.
I've had a lot of success with milbank units, aka general electric, aka Briggs and stratton.
Very robust motors and very easy to service. If your house is all electric I would recommend ge with their symphony power management system and put a load shedding module on anything bigger than 20 amps 220 volts.

I've been reading online reviews since starting this thread. A few posters suggest total installation costs of $3,000 for a typical whole-house generator, which seems like a lot for siting a unit, connecting a fuel source and transfer switch. I also read that DIY will void the GE warranty.

If those cost are typical, I may look into a whole-house UPS and a small solar voltaic unit. Just for giggles, here is a link to a so called FrankenUPS that is rated at 14 hours of with about 1200 watts of total storage. http://imgur.com/a/FJ3X9

mikeeastman

Re: Whole-house Backup Generators
« Reply #6 on: 17 Feb 2014, 12:01 am »
I think you over estimate how much power the ups can provide. 1200 watts is only 10 amps at 120 volts (if battery is 12 volts). Any kind of solar system to run an on the grid house would be in the $50-75K range, even one just to power the essentials would be $15-20K.

twitch54

Re: Whole-house Backup Generators
« Reply #7 on: 17 Feb 2014, 03:08 am »
I worked with gens when I did solar installs, your right the Generac are no good, the Kolers are better but their electronics has gone down hill in the last10-12 years, I found Onans to be the most reliable. If you rewired you main panel and add a sub panel for just what's essentials and connect the gen to it, you could use a smaller gen.

I agree with Mike, FWIW, in the RV industry Onan has been a leader for more years than anyone else.

twitch54

Re: Whole-house Backup Generators
« Reply #8 on: 17 Feb 2014, 03:11 am »
Our power is usually pretty reliable, but it may go down for a day or two (or three or four) once a year.

you call that reliable ??? in 35 years in my current home only three times have I lost power for more than 6 hours……… the longest being a week and a half ago during the ice storm in SE Pa which my county was 'ground zero'…..lost it for 48 hrs.

MtnHam

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Re: Whole-house Backup Generators
« Reply #9 on: 17 Feb 2014, 04:09 am »
Our power is usually pretty reliable, but it may go down for a day or two (or three or four) once a year. It's not a huge inconvenience, but I do work from home and don't always have lots of leeway to make up the time. The new house we are about to move into is also 100 percent electric with no fireplace or stove (by choice since we are attempting to build a healthy house without combustion sources within the building envelope).

Even though the house is 100 percent electric, I do have access to natural gas and could use the service to install a 14 KW generator and a 200 amp switch. That would likely be enough to run the house for days at a time if necessary. I've read reviews on Generac (cheap) that seem to indicate you may get a great or terrible unit depending upon whether the Chinese supplier opted to apply quality control to your unit. My inclination is to go with a Kohler unit since they have been making small motors and generators forever. There is about a $1,000 price penalty, but I'd have fewer concerns about reliability.

Thoughts anyone? I imagine some up you cold-climate inhabitants have some practical experience with this type of product and installation.
An all electric house in a cold clime is going to need a big generator, probably 20-30KW and it is going to be expensive. Since you have natural gas, you should seriously consider heating with that! Your normal heating bill will be a fraction of what it will be with electricity unless you plan to go with a heat pump.

I live in the boonies where we have frequent power outages, and we are the last to have our power restored. A 7kw diesel (Kubota-$5K for the unit alone, no install or transfer switch) supplies our whole house needs nicely, including water pumping from our well. Of course, I turn off the hot tub. This approach has worked well for many years.

Atlplasma

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Re: Whole-house Backup Generators
« Reply #10 on: 17 Feb 2014, 01:25 pm »
An all electric house in a cold clime is going to need a big generator, probably 20-30KW and it is going to be expensive. Since you have natural gas, you should seriously consider heating with that! Your normal heating bill will be a fraction of what it will be with electricity unless you plan to go with a heat pump.

I live in the boonies where we have frequent power outages, and we are the last to have our power restored. A 7kw diesel (Kubota-$5K for the unit alone, no install or transfer switch) supplies our whole house needs nicely, including water pumping from our well. Of course, I turn off the hot tub. This approach has worked well for many years.

I will talk to my electrician about probable loads for the house. FWIW, it is a new home with a very efficient thermal envelope, LCD lighting, and Energy Star everything. The fellow that helped with with the design thought our yearly electrical consumption would be less than $1,000 a year.


Atlplasma

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Re: Whole-house Backup Generators
« Reply #11 on: 17 Feb 2014, 01:28 pm »
you call that reliable ??? in 35 years in my current home only three times have I lost power for more than 6 hours……… the longest being a week and a half ago during the ice storm in SE Pa which my county was 'ground zero'…..lost it for 48 hrs.

We live in a rural area with a small population and are always last to receive utility service during a major event, which around here usually means ice or exceptionally wet snow.