on August 26, 2009
I purchased a Briggs and Stratton 12000 standby home generator less than a year ago. It "exercises" once per week for 15-30 min and in the winter, I noticed that the engine was laboring badly. Upon inspection, I found that the air intake, which is only 6 inches off the ground and faces down, was covered by snow. I am told that the engine could be damaged if it ran beyond the short exercise period. I called B&S to ask about a solution. They were aware of the problem and recommended that I clear the snow after every storm. I explained that I will be away from the house and they suggested that I have my neighbors do it--I live in the country. Clearly, this is a design-flaw on their part that could be remedied by some retro-fitting. In addition, I found two of the plastic air exhaust and circulation covers lying on the ground this spring allowing small animals to access the engine. I tried to replace them but the plastic snap pins no longer held tight. B&S service said that they were aware of this problem and that I should cut away the plastic pins and replace them with small stainless steel bolts. I would do this except the area is wholly inaccessible unless the top is removed which is a major undertaking and one that could potentially invalidate warranty. Again, I was very surprised to see that B&S took no responsibility for these problems which are both clearly design flaws. Bottom-line, if you live in an area that encounters cold and snow like we do, I would stay away from this generator. In addition, consider the complete lack of responsibility by B&S for their faulty product design.
on April 18, 2009
After the northeast ice storm of December 2008, my family was without power for five days. Our neighbors lost their home after a problem with their wood stove. With my extended family living within close proximity, and knowing that the next ice storm could be two days or two years, I started investigating a standby generator. The beauty of the Briggs and Stratton 12kw is that when you couple it with an full-house automatic transfer switch with AC Module (made exlusively for Briggs & Stratton models) you end up being able to keep the lights on just as if you were on the grid.
It was far more affordable than models that power entire homes, and whether it's brown-out conditions due to 100 degree heat or 20 below and blizzard-like conditions outside, we're safe inside with the generator. When the power goes out, it fires up within a minute. We lost power last month for about 4 1/2 hours. It wasn't as cold as december, but it was nice hearing the generator get going (although it doesn't sound any louder than a lawn mower, and is hardly noticeable after a couple minutes). We often get 10-15 minute power outages throughout the year and I was thinking at first that this was probably the case, so I was momentarily concerned that the generator was malfunctioning. But sure enough, I go outside and everyone had lost power. Four hours later the power comes back on and the generator goes off.
The 12kw even had enough power to run my electric dryer, which had been running before the power outage. I turned it off anyway because there's still no need to go overboard with the thing, but the generator itself, when coupled with the transfer switch, checks load levels so as not to turn on high-energy items unless the load is low enough. That's how the AC module works. As long as power consumption is below 85%, it will run the AC, if it goes above that, it waits until you draw less power before running the unit.
With lots of family members in the area we all know there's a warm place to stay if there's ever an outage, and we can keep the entertainment going, cook if we need to inside, and keep the kids safe. Add the fact that it runs directly off of our natural gas, I don't have to go out and fill the thing up every six hours like my brother-in-law's unit.
Spend the few extra bucks to get the whole-house transfer switch and you won't be disappointed. It doesn't hurt resale value, either.
on July 26, 2012
We put this generator in a few years ago. It's just wonderful. I'd say really 4.5 stars; it's quiet but could be a little quieter, it's robust but could be robuster, it comes through when it needs to but occasionally has an issue. Not perfect, but close. Certainly at this price point, it's a great value.
12,000 watts is more than we need to do anything we reasonably want to do. We only have a 50-amp auto-transfer switch (12,000 watts/240 volts [which is how the power comes off and then is split into 2x120 at the local circuits] = 50 amps), because the electrician felt that we didn't need the more expensive switch since we didn't have central air. In retrospect, it might have been nice to have the fancy switch, so we could, say, put the electric clothes dryer on one of the load-shedding circuits, but it's not that important. Indeed, most of the time in this big old house, we can have all the lights (mostly CFL's) that we would normally use blazing, run air conditioners in the summer, run the heat in the winter, use the dishwasher, have the refrigerator continue to work, run the TV, computers, everything we wish without thinking about it. The only way we know the power has come back is that we have a couple of circuits that are not connected to the generator, and I plug a lamp (switched on) into one of those; when power is restored, the lamp comes on. Also, you can see the loads rise and fall on the generator through a little dimming of our few incandescent lights as loads are added, and then it recovers.
When the big Long Island storm hit last year, we had utility power for most of the storm, then it suddenly went out. It did not come back for six days. Fortunately, I had topped off the 200-gallons of propane (in the so-called "250-gallon" tank) at the beginning of the summer, and it was basically full because all the generator had done was exercise weekly. The generator started, and ran nonstop the whole time, on days that were pretty hot. We almost forgot that power was out throughout the region, except when a generator-less neighbor stopped by to offer us some food that otherwise would spoil (we offered to store it in our giant fridge that ran just fine). Our phones worked until the phone company's batteries on their substation went dead. This unit apparently isn't normally expected to run for six days straight, but it came through flawlessly. When power came back on, however, it didn't want to shut off. I waited for it to cool down and stop, and it didn't. I switched it to "off". Nope. I flipped the internal breaker. Nope. I pulled the little Buss fuse that should end it all. Nope. Called the electrician. He came over, scratched his head, and cut the gas. Finally. I guess it just had worked so hard and was getting so much satisfaction from helping us that it wanted to keep going. We had the oil and filter changed by the beamingly-proud local Briggs dealer, who declared it to be in working order, and we were back in business.
A few pieces of advice. First, make sure that your installer gives you indoor access to whatever condition-signalling the generator does. In the first couple of months, the starter motor had failed (apparently extremely unusual because someone from Briggs came with the dealer to look at it; it was a big deal to them and they fixed it for free and with lots of apologizing) and it wasn't exercising, but we didn't notice. Had the electrician hooked up the alerter, we would have known before we found out the hard way the first time it was needed. Melting under my withering glare, the electrician protested that it just confuses most people. Tell your guy you're not "most people" and you want to have the peace of mind that you will know if the thing is trying to tell you that something is wrong. Second, size it right. Fuel consumption is to some extent variable by load, but it's not completely linear. You don't want to spend too much on expensive propane to produce power you're not ever going to use. On the other hand, don't skimp. Our first generator was a hand-pulled manual transfer that powered only the furnace. Then we upgraded to another manual transfer that had a key-start that we had to wheel out of the garage outside in the elements, plug in, and fire up. It did some limited lights, the furnace, and the fridge. That was okay, but dumb to be out there in a wild storm, wet, dealing with electricity, and refilling a hot gas engine every X hours. Bottom line was that every time we used it, we thought how convenient it would be if it powered more. If you need the thing even a few times a year, make the investment to get one (and the associated electrical infrastructure) that will suit you for a decade or more. You will be so happy that you did. Third, pay attention to whether it's exercising regularly, and get it serviced by the local Briggs dealer at least annually, even if it's not used. You want it to be ready to go when you need it. Fourth, don't leave the little soda-machine-style key in the lock after you close up the generator panels after being inside it. I figured we really didn't need to protect it from intruders and the key looked easy to lose, so I left it in the lock. Big mistake. The lock is stainless steel. The key isn't. It rusted inside the lock. It would still turn, but it was a rusty mess. So I removed it. Bigger mistake. Half the key stayed in the lock and now it wouldn't turn. We had to have the dealer come and drill it out, then wait for the new locking mechanism to be delivered from Briggs. Fifth, don't get ripped off on the install. Shop around. If your favorite electrician has a lot of experience with generators (many don't and that's frankly dangerous; our first teeny manual generator hook-up was done wrong and almost fried the fridge the first time we used it), talk to him and get a firm quote specifying a Briggs & Stratton generator. [Brands are decidedly not all the same, and some manufacturers (like one that is a little cheaper) are notorious for not having good part availability when things break. You can get some of the critical parts for a Briggs generator right here on Amazon, with the possibility of next day delivery. You can get most of the rest of the parts from Parts Direct, a division of that company with the Big Blue Crew.] Then get a quote from a good local generator place. Then call HD, which is the biggest installer of them nationwide, or the company with the Big Blue Crew, who sells and installs a lot. Ask everyone to break out the generator price in their quote. Then think seriously about getting the unit from Amazon, because you won't pay a markup on it and they have great prices and delivery times, and reasonable or free-for-Prime shipping. Have it installed by a good electrician. Your local Briggs guy will still be happy to service it. That way you'll get a good system and a fair price.
Our generator was properly-located in a spot that shelters it to some degree from the elements, but by code it and its poison emissions must be a distance from the house and any air intake; it has still run just fine in snowdrifts, in pouring rain, in blazing heat, and in freezing cold. It's really a simple little unit: reliable B&S engine attached to a simple (GE, I believe) generator.
B&S Power Systems actually builds the generators sold under many different brands, including GE.
Good luck, and stay dry!