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Author Topic: Gas Generators  (Read 2491 times)

cockpitbob

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Gas Generators
« on: October 24, 2016, 11:06:27 AM »
This is a little off center from our QRP/Portable/SHTF topics, but still pretty applicable, especially for minor SHTF situations.

I live in New England were a blizzard, or worse and ice storm, has left people without power for up to 2 weeks.  Losing power for more than a day is a problem for anyone with a few hundred $ of food in the fridge.  For me it's worse because my basement has 2 sump pumps and if a hurricane comes up the coast and knocks out power my basement will flood without power.  In the winter my pipes will freeze.

A few years back I had an electrician add a 30A circular receptacle to the back of my house for generator input.  He also added 30A breaker to my panel with a mechanical interlock so I have to disconnect from the street before connecting the generator to the house.  This was cheap, simple(reliable) and works great so long as we self-manage the house's load and don't overload the 5,500W generator in the back yard shed. 

I agonized over how big a generator go get.  Too big and my 25g fuel stash won't last long.  Too small and it won't do what I need:
* Winter:  run the furnace and 2 fridges and some lights.
* Other seasons:  run 2 sump pumps, 2 fridges and some lights.
That's how I settled on 5,500W with a big 8,000W surge.

So far it's been a joy.  The power has gone out several times for up to 18hrs.  I wait for 10-30 minutes to see if it comes back on and use my phone to check the utility's outage site, then I drag the cable from the shed to the house and fire up the genny.  Usually the internet, phone and TV still work since they all come into my house over the same optical fiber.  There have been times where my neighbors' houses were down in the low 50s inside, but life is totally normal for us, except we can only use 1 small stove burner or the microwave.  A couple times I was a little mean and left the driveway lights on so people going by could see we had power 8) ::)

But the generator burns almost 1/2g/hour.  25g won't last a long time.  The generator is a simple Briggs & Stratton I got for about $750.  For $2,000 I could have gotten a Honda inverter and my gas would probably last 3x longer, but I wasn't willing to tie up that much money in this.

However, my house has natural gas, and the previous owners piped it to the back porch for the grill.  I'm told natural gas is about the last utility to go down when the SHTF because it's so hard to purge air from the lines in all the neighborhoods.  So, I just bought a dual-fuel conversion kit to allow running the genny from gasoline or the house's NG.  The kit was $170, but what surprised me is the $140 I had to spend on a 20' hose and the fancy NG quick disconnect fittings.  I'm waiting on the hose and fittings so I haven't tested it yet, but assuming it works I'll be able to run the genny 24/7 with short shut-downs for checking the oil.

Of course for EOTWAWKI a 5,500W generator is useless as fuel will be unavailable.  But in my layered approach, it's been great to have and will be useful for "normal" disasters.

Anyone else got something similar?

KK0G

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Re: Gas Generators
« Reply #1 on: October 24, 2016, 03:28:10 PM »
My house is all electric so acquiring a generator large enough to power the whole house is out of the question, fortunately my electric service is very reliable. Several years ago we had an ice storm that knocked out power for over 24 hours, heat was no problem because I have several kerosene heaters that I keep a ready supply of fuel on hand for. After sitting in the warm yet dark house for a few hours I decided to improvise; out to the shop I went to retrieve the 12 volt generator I built for field day several years previously. It's a simple affair consisting of a 5 H.P. Briggs and Stratton engine belt driving a Delco 12SI alternator. I sat the generator away from the house to cut down on noise and connected it to a battery inside via about a 50' cable. My Jerry rigged set up doesnt have enough power to run any large appliances but I was easily able to power up a 1000 Watt inverter to run my modem/router, TV, radio and still had plenty left over for a couple of 12 volt lights. All the stuff I used was "junk" I collected over the years, I doubt I have more than $20 or so in the whole set up, not ideal but it's cheap and it works.
"Those who would give up essential liberty to purchase temporary safety, deserve neither liberty nor safety" - Benjamin Franklin

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gil

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Re: Gas Generators
« Reply #2 on: October 24, 2016, 03:53:13 PM »
We have electric and kerosene heaters here. Not much fuel stored. Two big pine trees in the backyard could provide some wood, but after that, it would be furniture.. I sure miss Florida winters.

Gil

cockpitbob

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Re: Gas Generators
« Reply #3 on: October 24, 2016, 06:18:49 PM »
KK0G, I love your home-brew 12V generator!  My dad grew up in rural Oregon during the great depression and I was raised to appreciate that kind of ingenuity and frugality. :D  And it has the distinct advantage of providing enough power for a few essentials while using 5-10X gas less than my set-up uses. 

KK0G

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Re: Gas Generators
« Reply #4 on: October 25, 2016, 08:51:23 AM »
KK0G, I love your home-brew 12V generator!  My dad grew up in rural Oregon during the great depression and I was raised to appreciate that kind of ingenuity and frugality. :D  And it has the distinct advantage of providing enough power for a few essentials while using 5-10X gas less than my set-up uses.


If the women don't find you handsome they should at least find you handy.  ;D


I can't claim much ingenuity though, I just copied what lots of other folks have done previously. It works amazingly well for what it is which is essentially a car electric system minus the very large inefficient engine driving it and as we're all aware a car is capable of powering up a pretty fair amount of stuff. I've never measured its total power and efficiency but it easily puts out full power at just above idle and sips fuel, if I recall it will run well over 2 hours on a tank of fuel and the tank can't hold much more than 3/4 of a gallon.
"Those who would give up essential liberty to purchase temporary safety, deserve neither liberty nor safety" - Benjamin Franklin

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cockpitbob

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Re: Gas Generators
« Reply #5 on: November 07, 2016, 09:53:30 AM »
I finished installing the dual-fuel (gasoline/Natural Gas) conversion for my generator.  I got it from Century Fuel Products.  So far, results are not good.  If I set the mixture (simple needle valve on the gas pressure regulator) lean enough that I can start it, there isn't enough fuel to run.  Or, with it rich enough to run, I can't start it.  I've had to start it on gasoline, shut off the gasoline valve and when it starts coughing I turn on the natural gas valve.  So, I have a phone call to make today.   Hopefully they just sent me the wrong regulator.

gil

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Re: Gas Generators
« Reply #6 on: November 07, 2016, 11:44:26 AM »
My parent's car runs on both gasoline or gas. The car always uses gasoline to start. You can't start it on gas...

Gil

cockpitbob

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Re: Gas Generators
« Reply #7 on: November 07, 2016, 01:41:50 PM »
I called the kit manufacturer and learned something.  Residential natural gas is at crazy-low pressure:  7" water column = 1/4psi.  The kit is designed for bottled NG which is at 10"-11" water column.  They are probably going to send me a new spring to install in the pressure regulator.

KK0G

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Re: Gas Generators
« Reply #8 on: November 08, 2016, 08:48:20 AM »
I called the kit manufacturer and learned something.  Residential natural gas is at crazy-low pressure:  7" water column = 1/4psi.  The kit is designed for bottled NG which is at 10"-11" water column.  They are probably going to send me a new spring to install in the pressure regulator.


Why would they design the kit for relatively rare CNG when probably 98% of their customers will be plumbing it into the NG line coming into their home? The whole point of using NG is because it's a very reliable, cheap, uninterrupted fuel supply, CNG would be the opposite of that. Sounds like they're working with you though.
"Those who would give up essential liberty to purchase temporary safety, deserve neither liberty nor safety" - Benjamin Franklin

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cockpitbob

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Re: Gas Generators
« Reply #9 on: November 08, 2016, 10:17:45 AM »
I had to call the manufacturer back and apparently different parts of the country use different gas pressures.  The are sending me a new regulator designed for 7" water column gas pressure.  I'm disappointed they don't talk about this on their ordering page. 

Having a nice generator set-up puts you in a strange "bring it!" mind frame.  You almost look forward to the power going out  :o

cockpitbob

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Re: Gas Generators
« Reply #10 on: November 15, 2016, 10:27:13 PM »
Well, I have to admit that one of those expensive fully automatic house generators would nice.  The power when out at 9:45pm and supposedly it's not coming back on for 4 hrs.  I'm not going to throw breakers, hook-up and start the generator only to have to undo all that an hour later when I go to bed. So, I'm going to bed a little early.

cockpitbob

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Re: Gas Generators
« Reply #11 on: October 31, 2017, 03:07:50 PM »
I just shut the generator off after a day and a half.

Sunday night we had some pretty dramatic winds here in Massachusetts with about 250K people out of power.  Ours went out early Monday morning and just came back on.  Having a generator that will run most of the house (not all at once) is WONDERFUL!!!!  And Verizon FiOS rocks.  Whenever the power goes out, even in the wide spread outages, the internet, TV and phone all still work once I plug the house into the generator.

Power was supposed to be out for up to 3 days and I was worried about the food in my neighbors' fridges, so I offered the closest 2 houses an extension cord.  One took me up on it so we strung the heaviest extension cords we had into their house.  I told them in addition to the fridge they could run the microwave or coffee pot (not both), lights and of course the most important thing; charge their phones and laptops ;).  They were really grateful!  They were resourceful too.  The mom was out in the cold, in the back yard making eggs on their propane bbq grill early this morning :)

I think I have a slight evil streak in me.  At night I leave the driveway and front porch lights on so people know we have a bright warm house.  Most houses had cooled down into the low 50s.  I tell myself I'm just encouraging them to be more prepared, but I think I enjoy it too much ::).