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  1. #1
    Join Date
    Aug. 14, 2000
    Location
    Rochester,NY,USA
    Posts
    7,425

    Question Whole house generators

    Who has them?

    What brand do you have (i.e.,Generac,Eaton, etc)?

    Did you do whole house or just a few significant systems (like not the furnace/heat pump, but well, fridge, lights etc)? Reason I ask this is a couple of the people I've talked to suggested since I'm all electric to begin with, maybe leave off the heat pump and furnace and use a few electric heaters instead if power is out come winter. Come summer, I don't really need AC - can sleep downstairs. Reason is I could get by with a smaller unit as the HP and furnace really use a lot of juice and therefore much larger unit.

    Have you had to use them at all?

    Have you had to use them for an extended period of time?

    Are you hooked up to natural gas or propane?

    Are you happy with what you have?

    Can you give an estimate of the yearly expense for gas or propane/maintenance etc.? Not the cost of the unit.....

    For the 40 yrs I've been in the western NY (Rochester) area, there have only been about 2 significant power outages that affected my service and both were since I've been on the farm. One was the ice storm in '91 and the brown out in '03. I lost power in the ice storm for ~ 2.5 days and about 4-6 hr for the brown out. There have probably been maybe 5 other outages that lasted maybe a couple hrs max.

    After the '91 ice storm, I did buy a portable generator but really haven't used it, even for the '03 brown out as the horses had enough water and I wasn't inconvenienced otherwise. I figured I'd wait till morning and didn't even have to wait that long for power to come back. Said generator has been acting up and been to repair shop several times and I've decided I'm not putting another penny into it. I know it would be a lot less expensive to just get another portable but I'm not sure that if I did need it, that I'd want to be running outside to keep adding gas. I like the idea of the convience of the whole house generator and not worrying, plus the fact that I'm not getting any younger.
    Sue
    Back in my day, we didn't have as many warning labels because people weren't so dang stupid!



  2. #2
    Join Date
    Oct. 21, 1999
    Location
    Rochester, NY
    Posts
    12,334

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    Sue, I just had a talk with my electrician about this. He convinced me that I didn't really need one, which I thought was pretty nice, considering that I would have bought it from him.

    I was looking at a core generator (refrigerator, stove, hot water heater, furnace, and maybe a few lights), not a whole house and he told me that it would cost approximately $4,000. This was for a generator that was connected to natural gas and that would start automatically, when the power went out.

    He also told me that they require a yearly maintenance visit, just like your furnace and air-conditioner do, at a cost of about $100 a year. And, according to him, they have to be replaced every ten years or so.

    Now, my circumstances are different from yours. I live on a main road. Even during the '91 ice storm, I only lost power for 48 hours. They had to fix the electrical lines on my road first, to get to all of the side roads. Other than that, I think the most I have ever lost power for is a couple of hours, and that very rarely. I decided that it was cheaper to lose everything I had in the refrigerator than to put one of those things in.

    I always stockpile food that doesn't need refrigeration or cooking during the winter anyways. I have my arctic sleeping bag and one of those old-fashioned feather duvets that weight 10 pounds and hold the heat in very well. I don't have to pump water from a well, so it's not dependent on electricity. I figure I'm a tough enough old bird to deal with a couple days worth of cold, rather than drop all that cash for a generator.

    So, no actual experience, just what I learned recently.

    Oh, he also told me that Generac is the best on the market. But, maybe that's because it's what he sells.
    Originally Posted by Alagirl
    We just love to shame poor people...when in reality, we are all just peasants.



  3. #3
    Join Date
    Dec. 1, 2007
    Location
    Gettysburg, PA
    Posts
    2,632

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    We too looked at it as an option - At that point, we had in the recent past been without power for 5 days due to a hurricane (horses were boarded at that time). We couldn't justify the cost. Instead, the electrician installed a panel to hook a generator into. It switches your electric panel to generator and I think it is the well plus 4 circuits. It can't do the AC, but can run the furnace, fridge, microwave, tv and some lights. was only a couple hundred for everything.
    Epona Farm
    Irish Draughts and Irish Sport horses

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  4. #4
    Join Date
    Jan. 9, 2009
    Location
    a little north of Columbus GA
    Posts
    1,911

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    We had an electrician put in a transfer switch so we can hook a small generator up and run the well house and the garage (which has an office with a window A/C) plus some cords for the fridge and freezers in the house.

    If I can run the well pump for water, and sleep on a cot in the air conditioned office, I can survive for quite a while.

    I'd rather have a smaller, portable generator than a huge one that gets used only rarely.
    --
    Wendy
    ... and Patrick



  5. #5
    Join Date
    Feb. 6, 2003
    Location
    NorthEast
    Posts
    24,508

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    Being in NY I'd add the furnace. If you lose power in cold weather for days...space heaters won't keep your pipes from freezing and bursting.
    You jump in the saddle,
    Hold onto the bridle!
    Jump in the line!
    ...Belefonte



  6. #6
    Join Date
    Aug. 14, 2000
    Location
    Rochester,NY,USA
    Posts
    7,425

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    Louise, everything you've said I already know, and am trying to get costs from those who do sell, install and service these babies. So far, of the 4 companies I've talked with, I've gotten 2 bids and that didn't count the propane tank. Remember, I'm all electric.

    horsetales and wsmoak, I already have the portable generator hookup to run a few things. I know it will be very inexpensive to just go buy a new portable generator. Already asked my electrician, who did all the work for me with the first one to get me a price for a new portable.

    MistyBlue-that was my first concern too. But 2 of the 4 dealers I've already talked to actually suggested it, especially after I stated the passive solar, the insulation of the exterior walls (R 30) and roof (R 58) and all the interior walls insulated and gave them my latest 2 yr utility bill average (~$160/month and that's house, barn, indoor) I am taking them seriously. I still have one more dealer to talk with and he actually suggested since I was going to have to add a propane tank, to plan on a propane gas fireplace in the house as I guess it gives off a lot of heat. I'd strongly consider that for the lower level (raised ranch) as it's usually about 8 degrees cooler than the upstairs and that might actually help to sell the farm.

    Of the cost estimates without adding furnace and heat pump it's about $7-8K and with furnace and HP over 14K. Big difference! Course neither have included cost of propane tank, let alone how much propane would be needed to run it just for the yr without any power outages. That's something I would like to get a figure for as well.

    Considering except for the ice storm and the brown out, I've not really needed one, I know it's a huge expenditure that will not really improve the salability of my farm but it's PEACE OF MIND to me knowing it's there if needed. Like your auto and homeowners insurance and equine insurance that you have and hope you NEVER EVER need them.

    I have a small farm and do all the work there from cleaning stalls, mowing, gardening, and all the house stuff as well so if there ever was a significant storm, I can't just drain the pipes so they don't freeze and take my dog to the local hotel till we get power back.

    One of the companies also has a 'loaner' program if their unit fails to work when needed.

    Now, one major negative is the dam_ed ugly propane tank sitting in the yard. I thought I understood the one dealer to say that if I buried the tank there would be a monthly charge whereas if it were to just stand there looking ugly, there wouldn't be. I need to be a bit more clear on that too.
    Sue
    Back in my day, we didn't have as many warning labels because people weren't so dang stupid!



  7. #7
    Join Date
    Feb. 28, 2001
    Posts
    15,232

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    Quote Originally Posted by Louise View Post

    I was looking at a core generator (refrigerator, stove, hot water heater, furnace, and maybe a few lights), not a whole house and he told me that it would cost approximately $4,000. This was for a generator that was connected to natural gas and that would start automatically, when the power went out.

    He also told me that they require a yearly maintenance visit, just like your furnace and air-conditioner do, at a cost of about $100 a year. And, according to him, they have to be replaced every ten years or so.
    This...

    I have one for core use, cost about $4000, about $100 annual maintenance, set up through natural gas.

    It does not happen often BUT I have used it and been very grateful I have it.

    I can't recall the name but will look in daylight and post it.

    It is has a weekly 'test' where it starts and runs for a bit.



  8. #8
    Join Date
    Apr. 17, 2002
    Location
    between the barn and the pond
    Posts
    14,359

    Default

    Generac is the boss and always has been.

    You can always plant hedges or something you like to hide the propane tank. Mine is behind a wall of winter honeysuckle...you'd never know it was there.


    1 members found this post helpful.

  9. #9
    Join Date
    Jan. 4, 2007
    Location
    TX
    Posts
    40,895

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    We have a whole house one we bought at the Caterpillar store and it is a Guardian.
    They come once a year to service it.
    There are many companies that use them heavily in construction sites and hospitals and such and have to trade them off every so many years.
    Those are in very good condition and electricians can find those for you.

    It runs one day a week for half an hour and runs on propane, a 500 gallon tank can last easily 10 days running all day, although the most we have been without electricity was 8 days in a blizzard.

    We are at the end of a long line and the last ones to come on.
    We use it in many storms in the summer and some ice storms and blizzards in the winter.
    I would say it comes on at least 20 times a year, from several hours to several days each time.

    In the winter, if our pipes froze and the well didn't run to pump water, the damage, repairs and trouble to get water to the stock would be way more than the generator cost.

    One problem, our area is very large and has few linemen and less every year to service now very old lines, not that reliable.

    If you don't need one, then no, don't buy one.


    1 members found this post helpful.

  10. #10
    Join Date
    Oct. 28, 2007
    Location
    NY
    Posts
    4,179

    Default

    I'm interested in the answers here too. I'm lucky we already get gas to the house, so can run off that. In all these extended outages we have never lost our gas.
    My rule of thumb is to avoid needing resources I have to compete for. Keep in mind that during outages gas stations need electricity to pump gas. Propane sounds better, but for me using the natural gas from my house sounds best.

    Yup, it's expensive! Oh, and around here I think a concrete pad is required and you definitely want rods sunk into concrete to chain it to, so people don't steal it



  11. #11
    Join Date
    Oct. 28, 2007
    Location
    NY
    Posts
    4,179

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    An odd aside, our old water heater, runs on gas, kept working during the outage, but our new boiler didn't. Some times old is much, much better.
    I miss our old boiler, everything distributed without pumps.



  12. #12
    Join Date
    Aug. 3, 2009
    Location
    Camp Creek, WV
    Posts
    326

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    We live in southern WV, fairly rural, lots of trees and sometimes sketchy power! Our house is pretty much all electric. Lost the power for three days this spring and five days this summer, and that convinced us to buy a 20000KW Kohler. Cost somewhere between $5-6000. Lowes quote was $3000 to install but my husband did it himself with some advice from a friend and his father. We finished installing it just a few days ago when our power was actually out due to the snow from Sandy. Once it kicked on for the first time, everything that was running when the power went off took off again (baseboard heaters, ceiling fans, washer, dryer, etc.) and we didn't seem to have a problem...of course, I went running around like a headless chicken trying to load shed what we didn't need! Ours is wired into a transfer switch and takes off within 10 seconds of a power loss. It shutting off was how we knew we had our power back this last time. Ours is wired to power whatever we turn on; load shedding is up to us. Once a week it powers up on its own and will do either a loaded or unloaded exercise, depending on how you have it set. I'll ask the hubby how big of a propane tank we got...he did the calculations for that. Setting the tank, installing about 150' of line, ditching for the line, filling the tank, and tank rental was about $1300 initial cost and I believe he calculated that would power the generator running non-stop for a week. It's not the cheapest thing, but when we lose power we don't have water or heat, so hopefully it will make life a little easier when that happens.
    As to the yearly maintenance I'm not really sure...since we put ours in ourselves we didn't deal with a distributor/contractor. The friend who gave my husband some extra advice installs commercial generators, so hopefully he will help us out with what to do!



  13. #13
    Join Date
    Oct. 25, 2008
    Posts
    2,203

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    Our house is mainly run by natural gas-- hot water, cook stoves, and boiler for hot water baseboard heat-- and we're on city water, so no concerns re: a well pump . If we lost power for multiple days, the only real concern would be the circulating pump for the heat system, and a fridge/freezer.

    Hubby (who happens to be an electrician, lucky me!) did some wiring work in our house this weekend and put the circulating pump, fridge, freezer, and a couple of outlets on one circuit, with a plug... We then got an inverter, which can hook onto our car's battery.

    Un the event of a prolonged power outage, the inverter will basically turn our car into a giant generator, lol... Run a cord from the car to the basement, plug it in, and voila-- power for the essentials.

    Total cost, for the inverter and a couple wiring supplies : about $150.
    *friend of bar.ka

    "Evidently, I am an unrepentant b*tch, possible trouble maker, and all around super villian"



  14. #14
    Join Date
    Jun. 10, 2001
    Location
    Rising Sun, Maryland, USA
    Posts
    5,125

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    I have a 14KW (pretty sure) Generac (sp). My husband was pretty insistent that we get one after we had our son and (several years prior) had went through a hurricane and were without power for about a week. I was convinced because you just can't just keep a gallon of water on hand to feed multiple head of horses. John was pretty sick when we got the generator installed so I couldn't tell you much about anything as far as price or details. It is propane. We had our propane tank buried.

    I recently discovered that the person who installed it didn't do it correctly and caused the battery charger to malfunction and the battery to explode. I'm still waiting... cringing... for the bill on that one. :-( So... my advice is if you do go with one-- make sure they are familiar with installing them!!!

    Our generator doesn't quite cover the whole house. There are a few rooms that it is strange in... powers the kitchen except for the overhead lights and the stove- I don't know about you, but I don't have a lamp in my kitchen ;-) In the living room next to it... nothing works- which is a problem for the phone and TV. Upstairs the overhead lights work, but downstairs none of them do. I very vaguely remember being asked what I wanted powered and being so distracted and overwhelmed by my husband's health that I just said... "I don't know." So... if I had to do it over again, I would have done things a little differently as far as what is powered.

    In our area the servicing is more expensive... I believe it is closer to the $200 maybe even $200 plus range.

    I balked at spending all of the money. BUT, the generator has been a HUGE piece of mind... especially now that my husband has passed away and I have to play the role of responsible adult who takes care of things! I still thank him to this day for making sure that we'd be safe and have one less thing to worry about!

    I don't know if that helps at all or not. It wasn't cheap, but it does give LOTS of peace of mind- especially if you don't have water without power and have horses or have small kid(s), elderly, or health compromised people that reside at your house. Gas generators are cheaper but I don't know how difficult they are to set up and run- if there is anything mechanical- especially if it involves multiple steps and I'll only do it once in a while... I suck at it!!! So... the generator that kicks on by itself with me not having to do anything is great ;-)
    http://www.leakycreek.com/
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    John P. Smith II 1973-2009 Love Always
    Father, Husband, Friend, Firefighter- Cancer Sucks- Cure Melanoma



  15. #15
    Join Date
    Oct. 13, 2007
    Posts
    709

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    As an aside - just because the propane company wants to put your tank in the most ugly spot so that it is easy for them to install and fill, doesn't mean that is where it has to go. Ours is 300 feet away in the tree line with a buried line to the house. You'd never see it unless you went looking for it.



  16. #16
    Join Date
    Aug. 12, 2010
    Location
    Westford, Massachusetts
    Posts
    3,751

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    I know little about them myself, but my neighbor installed one after the ice storm in 2008 that caused out power to be out for over a week. One thing I can say, if your neighbors are very close (and for your own benefit) is to look into noise abatement.

    Our neighbor's house is very close to ours and his generator is right under my bedroom window. It comes on any time the power goes out, even for just a few minutes. We have little power outages (and more extended ones) very frequently, as the lines are above ground and there are a lot of very old trees. It was pretty miserable when he first installed it, as I was woken up very regularly because it would come on for a tiny outage that I otherwise wouldn't have even been aware of....only when I woke up and found the clocks on the microwave and stove were off.

    Apparently, it bugged him too (his bedroom is right over it too) and he did something about the noise, not sure what. It's quite quiet now and doesn't wake me up, I slept just fine through the whole week long outage last year when his generator was running most of the time.



  17. #17
    Join Date
    Jan. 4, 2007
    Location
    TX
    Posts
    40,895

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    Here, you can't have a generator that comes on automatically unless it is installed by a certified electrician.
    One reason, if it is not done correctly, the generator may come on and power the main highlines up.
    If a lineman is working on them, that can kill him.

    Our generator comes on if the electricity is off more than 3 seconds.
    It is sitting on the other side from the house, on the North side.
    The two car garage is between the generator, heat pump and propane tank, so they really are far enough you can't hear them or really see them.

    You have to place them where they won't bother anyone, especially if you have neighbors close.

    The motor that runs ours is the same used in 250F pickups, so it is easy for anyone to service, same oil changes, same filters, same parts, etc.



  18. #18
    Join Date
    Dec. 11, 2007
    Posts
    68

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    We build a new house 3 years ago and put in a Generac generator. Our house is heated with propane so we hooked it up to that tank. We live in the suburbs of Philly and after we lost our power for 3 days we said never again! Plus power goes out frequently in our neighborhood.
    It's such a mental relief having it and as others have said it doesn't run everything but it runs enough to get by. Cost us $7,000.



  19. #19
    Join Date
    Aug. 11, 2008
    Location
    Northeast PA
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    1,457

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    I am not exactly generator-literate, but we have a Generac, 10000 KW?

    It runs our entire house - we have a 3 bedroom, 2 bath ranch with well water, septic, gas heat, gas stove, electric dryer - as well as the barn stuff.

    We just used it for a week after Sandy and have used it previously for a few 3 or 4 day stints - if the neighbor sneezes wrong, we lose power. Our lines cross over a mountain and are usually the last to be repaired.

    In the week we were using the generator, I cooked/baked/washed clothes and functioned normally. We used approximately 1 tank of gas, which was 10 gallons. Not too shabby, and DH is thinking about cutting PPL out permanently, haha.

    As far as mainteneance, I am not really sure. I do know that DH does fire it up at least once a month and lets it run for about a half hour to keep it in use/going. He is handy and changes all the filters and such himself. He did say that we could hook it directly into our gas for our heat/stove but that it would/could slightly decrease the lifespan of the generator according to the manufacturer, and he doesn't mind messing with the gas, so we stick to that.

    We do live in the country and most people have generators, so nobody minds the noise. For those who did, I would offer them a hot shower and I bet they wouldn't complain, LOL.



  20. #20
    Join Date
    Jan. 19, 2009
    Posts
    697

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    We have a Kohler (12kW?) that was professionally installed last year. All in, including the generator, site prep, installation, propane tank, propane tank lines, filling the propane tank, etc, we put about $10K in to have it fully functioning. For what it's worth, we had a much lower quote on a Generac, and had several of our neighbors steer us away from that brand, due to bad experiences with reliability.

    It's not whole house, but it runs dedicated circuits (I think 12?) and comes on automatically if the power goes out. We picked which circuits we wanted wired in. They can be changed, but have to be done by a professional electrician.

    Annual maintenance is ~ $300. I can't speak to annual propane costs - it really depends on the cost of propane when it's time to re-fill the tank. And the time between refills is directly related to how long we have to run the generator for.

    We had to install a propane tank to run it off of - we're outside of the city, and don't have access to natural gas lines.

    We've run it a few times already when storms have knocked out the power, and it's been great. We have the following powered:
    * Furnace (we're on heating oil, but need electric to power the burner)
    * Water pump (we're on a well)
    * Water heater (no cold showers)
    * Microwave (we chose not to do the electric stove, as the recommendation from everyone we got quotes from was that including an electric stove would put us into a higher kW and more expensive generator)
    * Internet (go ahead and laugh, but we have Fios which requires power in the house, and this was important for us!)
    * Horse stock tank water heaters
    * Lights/outlets for the kitchen, living room, upstairs bath & bedroom

    We have frequent power outages (lots of trees near power lines, etc.) and have been very happy to have an insurance policy!



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