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Standby generators...Generac?


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Initial post: Aug 18, 2011 10:48:21 AM PDT
K. A. Jones says:
Hey

We've been thinking of getting a generator for backup purposes but the wife wanted to know more about the ones you have next to the house on a platform instead of the portable ones. She said it would be better overall and not having to worry about putting gas in the tank every 8 hrs.

I really don't know much about them or what it takes to hook up let alone the average costs for install. We're thinking of a "natural gas or LP' model. One thing I have noticed is the ratings have been almost 50/50 which to me is not good or at least raises a red flag. Also troubling is it appears either getting work done or involving a warranty Generac hasn't had high marks. We're just looking at the 10-12kw size. Before seriously looking just wanted to hear from those who know more or had experience

Kenny J
Nashville Tn

Posted on Aug 18, 2011 5:09:56 PM PDT
Last edited by the author on Aug 18, 2011 5:12:10 PM PDT
I have a 7500watt Generac w/13500watt surge, (which has been a great unit) wired into a 50amp/100amp, 16 Circuit-Gen-Tran Manual Transfer Switch wired into the main pwer panel along with outside power inlet and run with 100LF Gen-cord to a shed. I keep and run the generator inside the shed to keep it dry when needed. If I'd had to do over, I'd install a pad mouted 15K unit, which starts automaticly and turns off when the power is restored. I also have Reliance "Power Back Alert" wired into panel to let me know when the power is restored, to transfer power back to utility power. I have spent more doing it this way, then if I'd done the pad mouted unit. Plus keeping and turning over 40 gallons of gas (treated Briggs & Stratton Stabilizer), I keep fuel for three days. If you don't have natural/LP gas now, I'd do the LP w/a 250 or a 500 gallon under ground tank. cost less in the long run.

Posted on Aug 18, 2011 5:10:38 PM PDT
[Deleted by the author on Aug 18, 2011 5:12:20 PM PDT]

Posted on Aug 21, 2011 12:57:24 AM PDT
HMMWV says:
In the 10-12 kw size I bought a honda v twin 26hp natural gas engine (the natural gas pipes hold 1 day's supply of gas even if the head end is cut off) but it will also run propane. Propane has more energy than natural but you must get the tank permits and install it - natural comes as a utility. In any event you'll need to choose one or the other since the regulator must adjust for the gas being used.

I prefer the honda natural gas / propane engines - they have a pressurized oil system with filter and a separate oil cooler that gets the coolest air before it is blown through the engine and generator and finally out over the muffler. Its a good overall design. It has an autostart which never fails - but be sure your house is mostly gas if you go that route since an elec hot water heater will overload the genset.

Posted on Aug 21, 2011 6:26:41 AM PDT
K. A. Jones says:
Well i should've mentioned it but most of the main appliances are electric but we do have gas. But it's for the outdoor unit which is gas heat and electric cooling. We got the gas line ran back in the days when gas was actually far more cheaper than it is today but never ran it for anything else.

I'll continue to look around and ask. I'm slightly intrigued about the LP and Gas portable units but there's not much info or feeback on them. Thanks for the info on the Honda unit.

In reply to an earlier post on Aug 21, 2011 4:28:11 PM PDT
Visa says:
If you want to spend about 5k, for a automatic 14 kw system (kohler is good), I had one put in myself.You need to have kohler do it and have it serviced each year. Otherwise buy a good stand alone gen. that you can pad and close in, plus a 8 to 16 circut transfer switch. Hook it up to n. gas and switch it over by hand. Do a good hard wire installation by you or someone. Vince P. Binghamton, NY

In reply to an earlier post on Aug 21, 2011 4:50:25 PM PDT
Last edited by the author on Aug 21, 2011 4:52:40 PM PDT
K. A. Jones says:
Funny you mentioned Kohler as that's what we were reading about this morning on. . The one thing that stands out is it carries a 5yr warranty while others carry 2yr and you won't find a mix bag of feedback like the Generac models. Plus the Kohler name has a pretty good rep. I have a Kohler engine in our 7yr old Sears riding tractor and it hasn't missed a beat. It's a horse.

I went to their web site and good info along with data sheets and also shows about 4-5 offical dealers in the area. We're probably going to doa consumer and BBB search and then pick one to come out and walk us thru the process, our options and get a ballpark figure. We'll probably have some issues like the fact our main circuit box is inside the house and in the dining area. The house is like mid 1950's. However the electric meter is right on the backside of the circuit box. But the other issue is our main gas line is on the opposite side of the house with the central unit. We could extend the gas pipe under and thru the crawl space. But we'll see what they said but for now the Kohler is our first choice. But it's a big difference between a esimated cost of $850 for a portable to somewhere around $6K for a standby.

Posted on Aug 21, 2011 6:05:30 PM PDT
We used to loss power a regular bases. After we had the Generator and Gen-Tran Panel istalled, we loss it about once every 2 to 3 years. My wife said it was cheap insurance. Frist look at how offen you loss power and typical for how long. My generator is 15hp gasoline powered, with an electic start and a manual power transfer switch. I have 16 Circuits wired including our electic stove and two window AC units; w/boiler, (1) lg bruner & a sm bruner on, it pulls almost 7500watts. With load management we run the entire house. Cost is always a issue, if don't loss power offen don't go over board. Like I said earlier I wound have installed a LP fueled pad mount, for ease and noise level, its quieter, and don't need to trun the gas over.

Posted on Aug 22, 2011 1:15:15 PM PDT
If you go, with a portable unit and looking Generator Transfer Switches; You have the Original 1950's Fuse Panel, you should look into "GenerLink" (www.generlink.com) its an automatic transfer switch that fits between the Meter Head and the Meter Box (also works with Circuit Breaker Panel); I have a co-worker who's be using the 50amp unit w/ built in whole house surge protector, it worked out to be the his best option, no rewiring of the panel. Also look at "InterLock Kits" (www.InterLockkits.com) if you have a Circuit Breaker panel; the "InterLock kits" are less then $150.00ea.

In reply to an earlier post on Aug 22, 2011 2:51:00 PM PDT
Last edited by the author on Aug 22, 2011 2:51:34 PM PDT
Yardbird says:
We have a Generac pad mounted unit for about 5 years. Auto transfer switch, around 12kw, natural gas. It's been totally trouble free and offers complete piece of mind. It self tests itself once a week and needs minimal annual maintenance. Where we once had concerns if there was high wind or heavy rain forecast, we now hardly think about it. It's like insurance; you don't appreciate it till you need it.

Posted on Aug 22, 2011 6:13:38 PM PDT
Don says:
We have a 2 year old Generac 16kw that ran for 3 days this last winter due to am ice storm.
No problems what so ever. I wondered how fast it would empty my 500 gal propane tank, but it was not enough to be able to measure. I would say it is about twice the amount as what your furnace uses. Not bad at all. 500 gal will last a LONG time.

Neighbor had a 7kw Brigs that died about 48 hours in to the storm.

In reply to an earlier post on Aug 25, 2011 5:50:25 AM PDT
I went through the angst of what to do here several years ago , having have a few too many outages.

Initial thoughts were to go with a standby unit, until I got a reality check ..........something on the order of 12-15 KW is nice to have, auto start and all of that. I was looking at 7-10 thousand $$$$ , including propane tank/etc ( no NG where I live), for a professional installation on a concrete pad/etc.

Then I got to thinking about just what I needed in a minimalistic sense, and 5-6 KW in a portable unit made a lot more sense( I have no electric heat, nor do I have central A/C) Yes, I have to be here to start it, and it may not run for a week without wetting the bed, and I cannot operate all I might want to, but the unit and a professional installation cost more like 2 thousand $$$$, not 10 of same.

I suggest either the full blown approach or the minimal approach ( 5-6-7 kw); do not think there is much in between here.

I considered Generac, but heard an earful from someone who have been that route. You can get a Honda powered portable @ Costco for $1000 or less, which is my recommendation. And, for crying out loud, do NOT mickey-mouse the wiring by trying to backfeed through a 220 volt receptacle ..............its dangerous for both you and the utility folks.

Bill Dove, Broad Brook, CT.

Posted on Aug 27, 2011 8:00:46 AM PDT
G Cee says:
I have a Generac 15kw on natural gas. I could not afford a water cooled whole house generator. This one is perfect for the essential lighting in key rooms like kitchen, master bedroom, refrigerator, freezer, and one air conditioner. It has served us well during power outages with no hassel. It comes on automatically with an automatic transfer switch, and don't have to worry about fueling it.

Posted on Aug 27, 2011 10:38:32 AM PDT
i have a 3 yr old 20 k generac aluminum housing bought online after searching best deal poured my on pad simple design make sure of distance requirement from house, windows ect listed in install guide. I set the unit then hired local electrician to install furnished tranfer switch and gas company to connect natural gas line . had permit and inspection thru electricians company ended up under 5000 total for whole house backup minus electric dryer. would do again, also to mention it runs a 4 ton trane ac unit while other stuff is on has a load shedding tranfer switch that if overload happens it automatically starts cutting of loads to enable unit to keep running. Stevie in Mobile,al note found buying from generator company would have cost 3 to 5 thousand more do it yourself

Posted on Aug 27, 2011 1:37:06 PM PDT
I bought and installed a 15 kW Natural Gas Generac with an automatic transfer switch about 3 years ago. I have had no problems at all. The installation was pretty straight forward and it covers 16 circuits around the house, including A/C. The unit start up automatically within 30 seconds of the power going off, run basically forever and then turns itself off and transfers power back to the mains when power is restored. The unit starts and runs automatically for about 10 minutes a week to keep the battery charged. My only suggestion is to get a model with the automatic switching, as otherwise you are going to have to be home to switch it on or off. As I said, I did the installation myself and the total cost for everything was probably $3700. Provides a great deal of peace of mind.

In reply to an earlier post on Aug 27, 2011 2:11:07 PM PDT
Fly Boy says:
I've had a Kohler 14 whole house system with automatic transfer switch for 7 years without a problem. Cycles each week on self-test. I have it serviced every 3 years to check components, battery, etc. Has worked perfectly for every power failure - we average 3 a year in Wisconsin. Like it so much I'm adding one to a renta unit.

In reply to an earlier post on Aug 28, 2011 8:39:01 AM PDT
pgould66 says:
my folks have a portable 6-76.5 Kw yamaha which they hook into their underground LP tank then plug into the emergency circuit. They have had it for years and love it. Takes minutes to roll it out of the basement, hook it up, fire it up, and go back to life as normal.

In reply to an earlier post on Aug 28, 2011 9:04:56 AM PDT
Jay..........FYI, most ( all???) of the whole house units for residential applications are air cooled, not water cooled.

Where NG is available , this is a big consideration in favor of a whole house unit. I do not think that a 15 KW unit is that much more than a 10-12 KW unit , once you reach the 10-12 KW threshold. Without NG, you can deal with a very large propane tank and the associated issues ( keeping it full, having to bury it, corrosion, etc) or opt for something smaller that is gasoline powered.

My own reality was the cost of a whole house unit, plus the propane issues, ( total of about $ 7000 several years ago)vs a portable unit( total installed cost around $1500 )which is adequate for most situations. I might have been able to knock a little off the cost of the big unit by a lot of scouting around, but at the end of the day it still did not make the most sense for my needs.

To each his own; glad the big Generac worked out for you.

Posted on Aug 29, 2011 12:50:59 PM PDT
John Kreipl says:
I got a GENERAC 13KW standby unit about two years ago and had it installed using natural gas. It has been a great unit so far and has come in handy when the power goes out.

My only advise is to make sure you check the battery back up every 3 to 6 months to make sure the fluid level in the battery is up. We live in a desert area of southern Utah with high temperatures above 100 during the summer months and the battery cells went dry due to the heat. Other than that the GENERAC has been great.

Posted on Aug 30, 2011 12:11:17 PM PDT
John Argent says:
After Working in Emergency Management for many years I can toss out a few things to think about, NG is not the best way to go if any thing happens to the supply lines you are S.O.L. look at either Diesel or propane, propane being the best will store for very long periods, diesel will also store is easier to bring back in as needed. Check your area is your local propane distributor reliable in an emergency talk to them ask question explain what your are doing, is it easier to find diesel even if you have to haul it in five gallon cans. check with your local government (city or county) possible local ordinances affecting a generator installation, you may need a permit for a generator or there could be restrictions on propane tanks. Also talk to your electric company most will do a free inspection after the install , they does this mainly to make sure its hooked up correctly and will not back feed and possible kill a line man. Also consider what William G. Dove wrote financially it may make more sense to in stall a partial transfer switch of selected circuits and use a manual start portable generator. best advise I can give you is to do your local research and weigh the options permanent Vs portable and fuel type.
Hope this helps

Posted on Aug 30, 2011 1:59:27 PM PDT
We've had a pad mounted, propane fed, 14 KW Generac for over a year and it has served us well through several power outages. Total expense for the generator, electrical and propane plumbing work was around $5K. Before that we had a Generac portable generator. Managing the gasoline for that turned out to be a real pain so we opted for the permanent, propane-fed system. I should add that our home was already on a propane system. We've had no problems, system works flawlessly, would do it again in a heartbeat if just for my wife's peace of mind.

In reply to an earlier post on Aug 30, 2011 3:33:15 PM PDT
Sounds like you, too, did OK by Generac.

As noted, several years ago I was thinking of Generac, 15 KW.............had a price from a contractor that I knew, but with the propane I was looking at about $7000. Here in Connecticut, the propane dealers rule supreme...........even phone calls re getting a large tank go unreturned, so they can better keep you captive with the small tanks. And, no, I'm not paranoid here...............

At $5000, I might have gone that way also. We have almost as much piece of mind with the portable, and I've not found the gasoline management to be all that bad ( except for $4/gallon, of course). I'll sing a different tune if I ever have to operate for several days or more.

Posted on Aug 30, 2011 4:46:14 PM PDT
Another point to consider with respect to fuel types is that with gasoline & diesel your engine will require more frequent oil changes. NG & LP burn much cleaner and won't contaminate the engine oil thereby extending your maintenance interval, and possibly enabling your engine to last longer. They're more environmentally friendly too.

I recently bought a 12kw Honeywell pad mounted (a re-branded Generac) from Costco. It came with the 100amp service rated load shedding smart switch. I paid about $2450.00 out the door for the unit. I did my own electrical and had the gas hooked up by a local contractor and inspected by the city (didn't get the electrical inspected, another long story here). It backs up two central a/c units (2 and 3 ton rated) along with most of the electrical needs of the house (no oven or dryer). The unit starts either a/c unit without having to "load shed" and could probably carry more with the load shedding modules wired in. The plumbing cost about $1000 and parts for the electrical about $500 (sub-panel, wire, breakers & misc.) I got bids from local contractors for doing the whole install; they ranged from $3300 to $4600 which I thought was really high.

It's been in service about a month now and was recently called into service for a couple of hours when some power lines in the vicinity came down. It did it's job beautifully, so far so good.

In reply to an earlier post on Aug 30, 2011 5:30:05 PM PDT
Sounds like your contractors wanted about as much as mine did..........2450 ( for the unit) + even 3300 = 5750; 2450 + 4600= about 7000. Did the add-ons include all of the propane( or NG ) hookup?????These guys, if they are fully legit, have a ton of overhead, plus the need to make a profit. Unfortunately, it all adds up. Few of us, including myself, are brave enough to work on a "hot" main electrical panel as needed here.

Posted on Sep 3, 2011 5:57:13 PM PDT
Big Hair Fan says:
Cummins/Onan has a similar line of "single-house capacity" (my term) generators as well, you might consider them.
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