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Thread: whole house standby generator questions / looking for feedback

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    znfdl's Avatar
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    Default whole house standby generator questions / looking for feedback

    My wife and I are thinking about installing a 20KW stand-bygenerator for our house. My in-elderly laws (*0+ in years) live with us and a cold / hot house is quite hard on them. We have hadthree power outages in the last year, as many people on this forum have probablyexperienced power outages themselves. Iam having a hard time finding information on three different manufacturers and waswondering if anyone has experience on the reliability of the differentmanufacturers.
    The three manufacturers are:
    1. Kohler
    2. Generac
    3. Cummins
    Kohler has the longest standard warranty, whereas Cumminshas the easiest installation. Once anextended warranty and other accessories are purchased (cold weather kit,battery etc.), the prices are fairly similar.
    If you are in the industry, which would you buy and why?
    If you have a generator y this brand, how has it performed?
    If I am over thinking this let me know.
    Any insight / information would be helpful.
    Thanks.
    life is too short to drink bad wine....

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    Default Re: whole house standby generator questions / looking for feedback

    How are those fueled? Are they diesels? Connected to your natural gas supply, if you have gas at your home?

    My brother and I just talked about this last night and a former neighbor of his in Minneapolis had one which was natural gas powered. The gas is generally not dependent upon the electrical power being up and running so that was not an issue. Plenty of power during a 4-day outage a few years back after a big storm there.

    I have no knowledge per se but this is an interesting topic given the alarming frequency of power outages and brownouts these days.

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    Willie1 is offline VSalonistas
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    Default Re: whole house standby generator questions / looking for feedback

    I have a Briggs and Stratton running on propane (converted from natural gas.) Three years running now. No issues. It starts even past -30c. Dead reliable.

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    znfdl's Avatar
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    Default Re: whole house standby generator questions / looking for feedback

    We have natural gas, and I have a natural gas outlet that was going to be used for a grill, but will now be used for a generator. Also, the electric panel would be adjacent to the generator making for a short installation. I cannot get a straight reccomendation or review of which generators are more reliable. I got some estimates from contractors to do a turn key, buut their estimates are 2X greater than I purchased the generator and hired the contractors to install the generator.
    life is too short to drink bad wine....

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    znfdl's Avatar
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    Default Re: whole house standby generator questions / looking for feedback

    Quote Originally Posted by Willie1 View Post
    I have a Briggs and Stratton running on propane (converted from natural gas.) Three years running now. No issues. It starts even past -30c. Dead reliable.
    That says something that it starts in the cold given where you live.
    life is too short to drink bad wine....

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    Default Re: whole house standby generator questions / looking for feedback

    i work in the power industry, and we have diesels of all three of those manufacturers on-site. in reality they are all about equal in my experience with regard to reliability. you will find parts that fail on any of them, and their failure can be seemingly random. the biggest issue is periodic maintenance. even though ICE engines are often used for emergency service, they are really designed to run, and run often, the biggest culprit is leaving them idle for months and years on end, and calling on them on the harshest day of the year. using natural gas for fuel alleviates a lot of the problems of "stale" fuel and fuel varnish and gelling situations, but periodic stars and running up to operating temperature are what is going to make a machine the most reliable.

    i say choose one, install it, and develop a maintenance program, and stick to it. none of these are going to be leaps and bounds better than the others, and none of them guarantee any "real world" better reliability, shit happens to the best made machines, and while a good warranty is nice, what you really need is the machine to run when mom and dad are about to freeze to death in the storm of the century, not warranty protection.

    also, have some basic spare parts available, and a decent working knowledge of how everything works. I'm an engine geek and would settle for nothing less than knowing how to fully rebuild the thing, but a basic understanding of the starting, fueling and generating system is sufficient for both maintaining and emergency operating the machine efficiently, and more important - safely.

    just my 2-cents. if you have more specific questions, i'd be happy to weigh in further.

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    robin3mj is offline VSalonistas
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    Default Re: whole house standby generator questions / looking for feedback

    This is not specific to Stu's question, since it sounds like his in-laws are safe and sound with him, but...I work very closely with a few large Assisted Living operators, and their level of preparedness in advance of, and during weather events is impressive, and getting better each year. Many have full generators, or hook-ups and fast access to portable ones, as well as standing contracts to supply diesel, food, supplies in the event of an emergency.

    If you don't live near your aging relatives, or have the wherewithal to host them in your own homes, it might not be a terrible idea to do a little disaster prep research into the stronger AL providers in your area. I have direct contact with over 200 properties, about 1/4 of which lost grid power last week, but none had to be evacuated because they have sufficient generators. (I know of 2 others in Brooklyn that have been evacuated safely though.) In fact, many were able to take on new, temporary, residents on short notice, including my co-worker's grandmother, a feisty woman who spent her 95th birthday in the property and looks forward to getting back to her home shortly.

    Sorry for going off topic, (and this is not a plug for any particular business) but if this advice sticks in someone's head and they can use it in the future, then I figured it'd be worth it.
    my name is Matt

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    Mabouya is offline VSalonistas
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    Default Re: whole house standby generator questions / looking for feedback

    I'd also compare noise level, especially if you're going to put it someplace close to the house.

    My parents live overseas, in an area were the power from the utility is completely random, and averages maybe a few hours a day (sometimes they go for over a week with no utility power at all) so they use their Kubota GL (diesel) about 3-6 hrs per day. It is LOUD and when it's running you can't help but notice it, and it's very annoying.

    (This won't help you, since I believe Kubota only makes diesel, but that thing has been super-reliable, even with the horrible maintenance it gets. I think they've had it about 6 years.)

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    Default Re: whole house standby generator questions / looking for feedback

    I've been thinking about this as well for the last few years for my place up north. I've had times when the power has gone out for 6+ hours when it is -20 and if I'm not there it can be bad. The last time I checked I thought the gas (natural or propane) fired Generac's did a weekly self test that fired them up, ran to operating temps and did a diagnostic sequence. These would be the units that fire automatically when they sense the power going out that I saw at Home Depot or somewhere similar. Side note: liquified chicken in the freezer during summer months isn't fun either.

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    Bobqzz is online now VSalonistas
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    Default Re: whole house standby generator questions / looking for feedback

    Quote Originally Posted by AngryScientist View Post
    "snip" the biggest issue is periodic maintenance. even though ICE engines are often used for emergency service, they are really designed to run, and run often, the biggest culprit is leaving them idle for months and years on end, and calling on them on the harshest day of the year. .
    +1 They now have computerized controls on some that will start them automatically periodically, warm them up and do a diagnostic check.

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    Mabouya is offline VSalonistas
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    Default Re: whole house standby generator questions / looking for feedback

    BTW, if you're in a flood-prone area don't put it in the basement.

    (what were they thinking???)

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    Default Re: whole house standby generator questions / looking for feedback

    just keep me in the garage, periodically feed me food and cross videos, and i'll hop on the rollers when the going gets rough
    my rates are competitive

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    Default Re: whole house standby generator questions / looking for feedback

    Quote Originally Posted by sonny View Post
    my rates are competitive
    I know you're joking, but since this is a cycling forum:

    On a per-watt basis I think humans are just about the most expensive power source out there. It's amazing how we can barely light a few bulbs (old style, we're better with the new LEDs). I bet a cyclist could not power the video screen and player showing the motivational DVD he was watching...

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    Willie1 is offline VSalonistas
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    Default Re: whole house standby generator questions / looking for feedback

    Quote Originally Posted by Bobqzz View Post
    +1 They now have computerized controls on some that will start them automatically periodically, warm them up and do a diagnostic check.
    Mine runs for 15 minutes weekly on an autostart/diagnostic. I use synthetic oil, changed yearly. We barely hear it when its running. Its 5' from my bedroom.

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    Willie1 is offline VSalonistas
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    Default Re: whole house standby generator questions / looking for feedback

    For reference, the generator with 200amp panel (we have geothermal heating/cooling) was approx $5000.00. Installation was $3500.00. The generator is 17KW. It runs the house without problem- no change in functioning.

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    Philster is offline VSalonistas
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    Default Re: whole house standby generator questions / looking for feedback

    Pretty sure that the Kohlers are made by Generac. Don't know anything about Cummins but, if it's not diesel, i doubt they make it themselves. The Kohlers/Generacs are excellent. I have 2 business partners running their houses on them right now. My parents have one in VT, so I know that they go on weekly for 10 minutes and do a self-diagnosis. One thing I've learned from my partners is that you should think in advance about what happens if they are on for a long period of time. Have the parts, oil, etc. on hand to keep it running. Get the biggest size you can manage because the higher the load, the harder they are working. Budget $5k to $10k for the complete installation.

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    Mabouya is offline VSalonistas
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    Default Re: whole house standby generator questions / looking for feedback

    Quote Originally Posted by Willie1 View Post
    We barely hear it when its running. Its 5' from my bedroom.
    That's great. It must have a super muffler. Is it inside it's own enclosure, with a separate exhaust pipe?

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    Tim Porter is offline VSalonistas
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    Default Re: whole house standby generator questions / looking for feedback

    When we converted our old antediluvian oil heat system to gas a couple of years ago, we also installed a 48kw Generac whole-house genset. It just ran perfectly for almost 6 days due to Sandy (with a couple half hour stops to check oil and coolant, of course). We're about 200 yards from Long Island Sound, so we have some trepidation about flooding, storm surge, etc.

    It "exercises" itself every Monday at noon for 15-20 minutes or so automatically. Volume output is approx. 60-65 db, which is very quiet--essentially a loud hum you can't hear from 30-40 yards away. We're in a NY suburb in Westchester Co. and subject to the whims of ConEd and our local town, so when we made the heat conversion and added the generator into the equation, we had to install a new, much larger gas line. VERY EXPENSIVE. 48kw Generator--VERY, VERY EXPENSIVE. We're talking on the order of $50k+ by the time it's all installed with the smart switch that puts it into action when the municipal power goes out. It was flawless when we really, really needed it. It was actually cheaper to do it this way than to pick and choose among circuits and hook them up properly to a smaller generator. YMMV, but this is not a cheap deal. Of course, we've gone the mondo, whole-house route and had to do the upsized gas line. I think it was worth it. We had to deal with the neighbors showing up with torches and pitchforks a couple times, but we asked them in to warm up and it was fine. I'm not sure what will be involved with a smaller installation, but judicious selection of a unit that runs crucial circuits might save some $$. I think I'm saying that the numbers quoted above seem way low for a whole house installation unless you are in a jurisdiction where you can just hook one up to your bbq gas line. : ) Tim

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    Default Re: whole house standby generator questions / looking for feedback

    Quote Originally Posted by Tim Porter View Post
    48kw
    gotdayum

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    Default Re: whole house standby generator questions / looking for feedback

    Quote Originally Posted by sonny View Post
    gotdayum
    Tim recently switched the chandeliers from candles to all-electric.


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