Scenarios That Can Kill Your Electrical Power!
- It’s been snowing and blowing for a couple of hours – and, without warning – NO POWER!
- A big thunderstorm comes – out of nowhere – raining cats and dogs – thunder – and lightning – now, all of a sudden, the POWER goes OFF!
- Such a nice, warm summer’s day – the sun is shining – the birds are singing – but wait – out of the blue, NO ELECTRICITY – just like that! Is there some construction going on close by? Did a car slam into a utility pole?
Now, I wait – 10 minutes – half an hour – a couple of hours – and, I start to think. How much longer will I have to wait? Will the food in my refrigerator and freezer spoil?
Then, when I reach my highest point of frustration and anxiety – finally – to my delight – POWER IS RESTORED! Whew! That’s a big relief! I sure dodged a bullet this time!
Everything’s Fine Now – But What About Next Time?
What if the electricity doesn’t come back on in a couple of hours? What if the power is off for a day – or two – or a week – or two – or longer?
I know that, as long as I can keep my refrigerator closed – for the most part – during a power outage, perishable food in the fridge can last at least a couple of hours without deteriorating – or “perishing.”
I also know that food in my freezer – if the freezer is packed to the brim – can survive about 48 hours. Half full freezers are good for about 24 hours.
Before time runs out, both of them have to be powered up – or I would risk losing most of my consumables. Without another power source, I would be running around – like a chicken with its head cut off – cooking, canning, dehydrating, freeze drying, and eating till the cows come home!
So… Maybe, I should think about getting some type of generator for a backup power source – one with enough output to at least protect my perishables during an extended power loss.
Hmmm –What Kind – And How Powerful Of A Generator Do I Need?
Let me stop and think about this – for a minute or two…
How often throughout the year does my power go off?
Is it only on rare occasions? Does it occur a half dozen times every year – or more? The more frequently it happens – the higher rating I want my generator to be – because, I’ll be trying to keep more appliances going during the outages.
I also should take into account where I live.
The more remote the area I live in would also be a factor in my decision to have a higher wattage generator. Again, I will be powering more appliances. If I lived close to the city – or in a nice subdivision – I could probably work something out with family, friends, or neighbors – and a smaller wattage generator could, most likely, suffice. But, being a country boy at heart, I feel more comfortable with more power – to cover a bit more than my very basic needs!
What appliances do I absolutely have to run?
I think the question should be, “What appliances would I like to run?” Am I satisfied with only powering the essentials – like the refrigerator and freezer? Would I feel better to also have power for the furnace or air conditioner – possibly even the washer and dryer – or electric stove?
Maybe, I can use the fireplace for warmth – or use a hand fan to cool off. I could even wash clothes out by hand and hang them outside on a clothesline to dry. If I had to, I could cook with my Coleman stove or build a small cooking fire – it would be just like camping.
What exactly are my essential wattage requirements?
What are the running (rated) watts for the appliances I want to power? Appliances typically show either running watts or running amps on their label or in their user manual. Most of them also show the starting watts or amps.
An appliance label or user manual may say, “running (rated) watts (or power) = 960W” – or “running (rated) amps = 8 amperes at 120 Volts. If the label shows amps instead of watts, a simple calculation, Voltage times Amperage equals Watts (120V x 8A = 960W) will yield the information needed.
What are the starting watts? This is important information because, it takes a few seconds of extra power to turn on some appliances – such as refrigerators, freezers, furnaces, etc. – to get them up and running. These devices also need starting watts every time their compressors or fans kick on – to maintain their temperature settings.
If no startup watts or startup amps are shown on the labels or user manuals for these appliances, a general rule of thumb for estimating startup watts is to triple the running watts. It takes a lot more power to start up these devices. The good thing is that the additional power for appliance startups is only needed for a few short seconds.
Here’s a list of some appliances – with their average running and starting watt ratings – that helped give me a ballpark estimate of just how large a generator I may need.
For exact wattages, I’ll still look at the labels and user manuals – to be very precise in my final tally of the total wattage I need to keep crucial devices in operation.
After looking over the list, I did a worksheet of what appliances I want to run with a generator:
Totaling up the running watts, I get 13,345W – which I rounded up to 14kW. I need a generator that will run at a rated 14 kW.
Then, I add the highest starting wattage on my list – the washing machine at 2250W – and, I get 15,595W – or 16kW. Therefore, my generator must have a starting watt rating of 16kW.
If I had frequent power outages, I would probably be looking for a generator that offered a minimum of 16kW starting and 14kW running (rated) power.
Since I only see 3 or 4 lapses in electricity every year, I think I can get by – in a pinch – with just powering a refrigerator, a freezer, a computer and, maybe a couple of light bulbs.
Now, all I need is a generator capable of 5kW starting and 3kW running (rated) power – just a small, lightweight portable generator. But, I think I’ll go for a generator in the 10kW range – since the price is only a few hundred dollars more and I’ll have tons more leeway to hookup what I want. Who knows? I may need to run some outdoor power equipment, too.
Also, generators running at 50% capacity can run a lot longer on a tank of gas or propane than those running at close to 100% capacity.
It goes without saying that larger families have larger needs. So, I’ll review some higher wattage solutions, too.
Nevertheless, you get the picture – on how to evaluate your own needs using my methodology. You can find tons of worksheets online just like the one I used to put my plan together.
Some Notes To Assimilate…
DANGER – DON’T BET YOUR LIFE
Never ever – ever – run any kind of fuel powered motor indoors – or in any unventilated area! Gas or propane powered motors give off deadly, odorless carbon monoxide fumes during operation. You won’t smell the exhaust – but, breathing it in can kill you! Even if the motor is in a well ventilated area, standing next to it for extended periods of time is still a recipe for disaster – because the air around you is still rampant with carbon monoxide. Don’t do it! Walk away occasionally for a breath of fresh air.
POWERING SENSITIVE ELECTRONIC EQUIPMENT
If your plans are to use a generator for powering any sensitive electronic equipment such as audio / video equipment, televisions, computers, printers, etc., research the generator specifics carefully in the user manual. Some generators require an additional line conditioner and surge protector for safeguarding these devices. However, generators listed as “inverter type” or “pure sine wave” are both designed to protect sensitive electronics.
Many generators require an external “earth ground” that is accomplished by driving a copper electrode pole 8 feet into the soil – and connecting it to the generator using a heavy gauge 8 AWG copper wire. Some generators even use 6 AWG copper wire for grounding. Alternatively, if the ground is exceedingly hard, rocky, or otherwise impenetrable, the copper pipe or pole can be buried horizontally – in a trench several feet deep. Thus, it is very important to follow all set up instructions in the generator’s user manual. The manual will clearly explain any grounding that may be necessary for the generator to function safely and properly.
GENERATOR INSTALLATION COSTS
It’s pretty easy to setup a portable generator if all you need to do is add an earth ground with a copper electrode pole and some heavy gauge copper wire. But, if the generator has a transfer switch to connect to the house circuits – or, if a larger, home standby generator is your choice – professional installation by a certified electrician will be a good idea – and, in some areas, it is required. It’s difficult to put a price tag on installation costs – but, be prepared to spend anywhere from $500 to $3,000+ – depending upon the size of the generator and the additional features it may have that will need the electrician’s attention. If you are a do-it-yourself-er and you think installing a generator is easy, you may be in for quite a shock!
Now, Let’s Review Some Generators!
The dual fuel generators run on either regular, unleaded gasoline or clean burning liquid propane – the same propane you use with your gas barbecue grill. A couple of things you want to have on hand to make your life easier are:
A fuel stabilizer for the gasoline. Without adding a fuel stabilizer, the gasoline will start going bad in a month or so and start gumming up and clogging the motor’s carburetor. PRI-G Fuel Stabilizer keeps the petrol fresh as a daisy for years and improves combustion. This 32 ounce bottle is enough to take care of 512 gallons.
It’s a smart move to put a pressure gauge on the propane tank. You need to know when it is getting empty so you know when to swap tanks or make the switch to gasoline. The Astor Pressure Gauge works pretty well for all intended purposes.
DuroMax XP10000EH Dual Fuel Generator – This beast is a real beauty! It has won my heart with its solid construction and ability to be there when needed. Time after time after time! It has 10kW starting (surge) power and 8kW running (rated) power. Its big brother, the DuroMax XP12000EH Dual Fuel Generator is also discussed. You’ll love them both!
Home Standby Generators
Home standby generators are wired to kick on automatically when your power goes out. They are permanently installed close to the outside wall of the house – much like your air conditioning unit. They are designed to run on the same natural gas that is piped into your house for your stove or fireplace – or, they can run on propane from an outside propane tank.
Briggs and Stratton 40396 – This 20kW home standby generator boasts a “dual” 200 amp automatic transfer switch that seamlessly transitions between main power and generator power as needed. Powered by a rough and ready Vanguard engine, this machine will satisfy the need to have all or most of the house online even if the rest of your neighbors are in the dark.
Generac 7043 22kW Home Standby Generator – For a larger family who needs to power most of the house during an outage, this is the ticket. This is the largest, most powerful air cooled standby generator on the market today. It looks so beautiful, it will be the envy of the neighborhood. It’s worth a look-see!
Pure Sine Wave Generators
These generators will cost you a little more than the low end portable generators – but, they will save your sensitive electronics like computers, laptops, and televisions from imminent destruction.
A-iPower SUA15000EC Pure Sine Wave Generator – This workhorse will power your entire house with 15kW of starting (surge) power and 12kW of running (rated) power. For a portable generator that is safe for your TVs and ‘puters, you can’t do better than this!
Here Comes Jed Again!
The other day, I was finishing up splitting the wood from a tree I dropped last month. And, over walked my neighbor, Jed, the retired farmer.
I had just pulled out an ice cold beer and asked him if he wanted one – then, Jed reminded me that he didn’t drink alcohol.
“There was only one time in my life that I had a taste of strong spirits. One day – I was so depressed that I went to town to have a drink with my friend, Bubba.” He said.
I said, “Jed – it’s not good to drink alcohol when you’re depressed. It just makes you more depressed. What in the world got you so down in the dumps?”
“Well”, Jed said, “There’re just some things you can’t explain.”
He went on…
“Earlier that morning I was milkin’ Bessie, my cow. She was a tad more spirited than usual. As soon as I filled the bucket up full of milk, she reached over with her leg and kicked the bucket over.
I tied off her leg to keep it out of the way and started filling the bucket up again. Next thing I knew, she knocked the bucket over with her other leg!
I wasn’t goin’ to let ole Bessie get the best of me. I bound her other leg so she couldn’t do that again! I figured I had outsmarted her – but, when I began filling the bucket one more time, she gave it a hefty swat with her tail.
Well, now I was gettin’ purty frustrated. I yanked off my belt and strapped that tail of hers to one of the overhead hooks to keep it the heck out of the way.
But, when I yanked off my belt – my pants fell down around my knees – and right at that exact time, my wife, Millie, came walkin’ into the barn.
And – well – trust me – there’re just some things you can’t explain.”
That Jed – he’s definitely one of a kind!
Did You Find A Favorite Generator?
I hope that this information on generators has been helpful and enlightening. With any luck, it has given you the ability to make an informed decision on the generator that will fit your needs.
Let me know what generator you prefer – and why – in the comments or by email!