: Backup power



ewill3rd
06-01-08, 12:47 PM
Do any of you use a whole house backup generator or similar device?

We live in an area that is prone to basement flooding for various issues and we have a sump that drains the foundation.
Living through the rolling blackouts in CA I found that it can be freaky scary not having some sort of backup generator in an emergency.
The Missus and I are looking into installing a 20 kw backup generator that switches on during power outages so we can keep our food from going bad in the fridge, keep the sump running, and use some lights and stuff to see what is going on in the world.
A short storm blew through yesterday and took out our power for about 6 hours. Thankfully it stopped raining shortly after the power went off so we didn't suffer any flooding. One of our neighbors had a generator going but it sounded like a dinky one just to keep the basement dry.

Anyway, any information someone might have on their experience might be helpful.
The one I had in CA was a 5500 watt that I used with two double male 12 gage power cables. I would turn off all the breakers and feed circuits for the fridge and the sump pump by running the cords to the circuit and plugging them in, but I can't do that in this house.

Thanks in advance.

dkozloski
06-01-08, 01:28 PM
This is the backup power system in this area.
http://www.gvea.com/about/bess/

Submariner409
06-01-08, 01:43 PM
eWill3rd, I sympathize with you over the lousy power delivery in the metro DC area. The only worse supplier is DELMARVA Power. I think they use 18 gauge 3-prong plugs and extension cord to run all the peninsula.

There are two types of backup units in use over here (and I don't have either....) propane and diesel automatic. I think electrical code and law says that there has to be an auto trip/isolation breaker between the supplier's power and your emergency power in order not to "backfeed" the main power grid.

A friend has 12.5 kW of propane-fueled backup. Not cheap. It comes on and runs, unloaded, twice a month for 15 minutes and has monitors and crankcase heaters so it can go online instantly. Automatic shift in <10 seconds. Will run 28 hours on ??? an inground tank.

The things work, and I'm always wishfully thinking about installing one. Try the Northern Tools catalog for ideas.

codewize
06-01-08, 02:40 PM
I've been considering something for my house as well. If you're serious and you want a commercial grade solution I'd suggest a propane powered Cat with a generator large enough to supply your home.

If you're looking for a less costly solution, Home Depot, Lowes, and every electrical store around sells some type of solution.

I suggested propane power over diesel so there are no filtering or jelling concerns. Either way I would go with an auto cut-over solution, which will add to the cost but will be a greatly appreciated feature.

I think you can do something real nice for about $6000 depending on the size and demand of your home. Of course all sensitive equipment should have a true sine-wave, on-line UPS attached to cover during the cut-over.

Ranger
06-01-08, 03:28 PM
Bill, I am in a rural area and have had one for at least 20 years. I would not be without one. Two years ago we lost power form a line of severe thunderstorms for 3 days. Just Last Friday morning I lost power and did not get it back till Saturday evening. Mine is a portable 3000 watt unit that I mounted on a wooden base with wheels to move it around. It is not automatic. I have to be here to start it, but it will power the entire house (maybe not if using every appliance). It does run my well pump, freezer, refrigerator, furnace and anything else I need. It does eat a lot of gas. About 1 gallon per hour so I generally run it as needed, IE: warm the house in the winter, drain the sumps, cool down the freezers. This last day and a half I ran it for about 30 min. every 4 hours. I basically have an auxiliary circuit wired in with the plug hanging in the garage. I switch off the main, switch the aux circuit on and "plug the house into the unit". It works quite well and I am very happy with it, It has been a lifesaver. I should also mention that it sat idle for a good 10 years. A few years ago I thought it might be a good idea to pull it out and see if it will still run. Only took about 5 or 6 pulls to start it with 10 year old gas in it. Friday it started on the 1st pull after sitting for 2 years.

dkozloski
06-01-08, 05:21 PM
I've used a small Yamaha diesel unit that's got an enclosure that makes the whole thing so silent you can barely hear it. I suspect it's intended for the RV trade. It seems to run forever on a gallon of fuel and puts out about 6Kw.

slk230mb
06-01-08, 07:19 PM
We had a natural gas generator at our beach house before we sold it. It kept the fridge going and lit up most of the house. I'll have to pick my dads brain to see if he remembers and specs about it.

ewill3rd
06-01-08, 10:10 PM
Thanks to all, keep them coming if you have more info.

I am looking at this solution here, but waiting for an official recommendation from the utility company based on a power requirement questionaire I sent them.

http://www.dom.com/products/generators/stationary.jsp

I was thinking something in the 20 kw range because I want to be able to run plenty of lights, both refrigrerators, heat if needed, the sump, and whatever else we need to get by. I have a natural gas stove but running a microwave would be handy too.

That website is my utility company, they ship it, install it, wire it, put in the switching hardware and if I pay extra they offer a maintenance package for upkeep. Not sure about that yet.
I looked at the 20 kw, it retails for about $4,500. I am sure they will tack on some install charges but I can get it financed and added to my bill or just pay for it, whatever we need. I think I figured about $200 a month or so depending what they charge when it is all said and done.

It will run on natural gas and be automatic. They set it up to auto disconnect from the main feed so no linemen get hit.
We haven't had many problems but yesterday when it was pouring and I knew the power was off I was a bit twitchy. We are actually on high ground but the foundation drains into a sump made into the floor and I don't want any water coming up out of that bad boy. I am in the process of finishing the basement too.

I used to do it the way you do Ranger, but I have 2 stories, a basement, and no overhead protection for a gas generator out back. The 5500 Watt I had in CA was great but it was too loud and I had a metal awning in the back to run it under.
Plus I had to have a door or window open to run the cords inside. Not to mention the danger factor of double male end power cords :D

While I am paying $4,000 a month for this house I want to make sure it stays in good shape!! :lol:

My house is the monster one just to the left of center.

c5 rv
06-01-08, 10:48 PM
I've considered a whole-house natural gas genset, but I haven't seen the need in this house we've be in for 10 years. The power lines are buried and interruptions have been minimal. When the big blackout hit a few years ago, it stopped a couple miles east of us and our power stayed on.

Some friends of ours have a home with a finished basement that has a lot of groundwater problems. They have two sump pumps are recently bought a propane genset. Despite the "professional" installation, the first time it kicked on a couple weeks later, the carbon monoxide alarm started sounding in the basement.

RightTurn
06-01-08, 11:20 PM
Living here in the "cone of uncertainty" :lol: on the Gulf Coast, hurricane season brings generator advertisements in the daily mail. After Hurricane Rita 2 years ago, you could hear the gasoline generators all over the neighborhood..very, very loud. We were in the heat and dark for 3 days, but so far we have resisted buying a generator. Instead we have a "GTFO" plan in place. :D

Ranger
06-01-08, 11:45 PM
I used to do it the way you do Ranger, but I have 2 stories, a basement, and no overhead protection for a gas generator out back.
Same here Bill. Basement and two story. The generator is in the garage so I just pull it to the door and open it. It IS very loud though. No one in the neighborhood has any doubts when I lite it up.

AMGoff
06-02-08, 12:37 AM
I'm not sure how much money you're looking to spend, but about 5 years ago or so, we decided to go the solar route. It all ties into a 4kW backup system. The panels themselves produce about 280-340kWH per month (depending on the season). I can say for sure that it helps two fold...

A.) Whenever there's an outage on the grid, we're covered and,
B.) We rarely have an electric bill and if we do (usually in the summer), it's a pittance.

The system's tied into the grid, so whenever there's excess it gets sold back to the utilities company... We usually only get something back a few times a year and it's never all that much... but it's still nice for the checks to flow the other way every now and again.

Back when we did it, the whole shabang was around 12-grand or so... but we were able to get a deal through the wife's cousin. We were also refinancing the house at the time, so that helped pay for it as well. All in all though... I still think it was a great investment.

ewill3rd
06-02-08, 07:30 AM
Our neighborhood is pretty old so the cabling is above ground, however our house is new so when the built it they brought the power in underground. I have no above ground cables in the yard but the whole neighborhood is above ground. Doesn't do me a lot of good except more clearance for the trees between the pole and the house :lol:

We have a lot of power flickering, had a brown out that took out one of my TVs, but rarely do we lose power for more than a few hours... which makes me worry about when it will happen.

Not sure how interested I am in solar, not at that price anyway.

EcSTSatic
06-02-08, 10:22 AM
I used the basic ideas in this article to allow my 7000w gas generator to power the essentials during a blackout. Used it about a month ago when a transformer exploded. I just plug it in, start it, and flip the switches in my basement.
http://www.popularmechanics.com/how_to_central/home_clinic/1275631.html

I would still like to have a separate sump pump backup. My generator only works when someone is home to get it started and transferred. Also, generators are pretty load. The neighbors won't appreciate your clever spirit. :thepan:

ewill3rd
06-02-08, 10:39 AM
I am hoping the larger design and more power will leave them the ability to make it operate quieter than an off the shelf home depot generator.
I was interested in getting feedback from those that have one on that particular aspect of them. I was hoping for the sound level of maybe an A/C compressor or a car running rather than a lawnmower sound level.

EcSTSatic
06-02-08, 11:36 AM
I used the basic ideas in this article to allow my 7000w gas generator to power the essentials during a blackout. Used it about a month ago when a transformer exploded. I just plug it in, start it, and flip the switches in my basement.
http://www.popularmechanics.com/how_to_central/home_clinic/1275631.html

I would still like to have a separate sump pump backup. My generator only works when someone is home to get it started and transferred. Also, generators are pretty loud. The neighbors won't appreciate your clever spirit. :thepan:



Correction: Doh! I said "laod"

dkozloski
06-02-08, 01:29 PM
If you want a quiet generator go shoppng at your local RV places. Some units are almost totally silent.