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Old 04-29-2020, 12:05 PM
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Default Thoughts on generator type for new house build



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I was reading another post where the OP had a standby generator and it got me thinking on an old topic I have batted around in my head a while and now it's becoming more of a pressing issue for me to get feedback on.

I recently closed on property in southwest Missouri and am actively starting to look at the myriad of things that will come with building a new house. While I understand that standby gennys certainly win from a convenience standpoint, they seem entirely too wasteful to me. Even at a light load, the genny will still be running the entire time the power is off if I understand correctly. Would seem that it would make more sense to have a portable generator that could be utilized on-demand. For instance, you don't need to run a genny to keep a fridge or freezer cool full time, they will keep cool for hours if you aren't getting into them so running for an hour or so at a time to keep cold would save a ton of fuel. Same thing with a well, lights (esp during the day). No sump in play at the next house.

So, I'm leaning towards wiring critical circuits only and avoiding the standby. What is your take and what would you do if you were starting from scratch with a new home build?

Thanks!
Roy
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Old 04-29-2020, 12:14 PM
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I am paying an Electrician in June to wire in a manual switch in front of my main breaker with a 220-240 pig tail that can plug directly into my 12Kw genset. If the power goes off, I throw the switch, which disconnects the main inbound... and connects the pigtail. Turn everything OFF in the house, plug in the pigtail and start the genset. Now my Frig and Freezer are powered and I can start turning on lights, etc. I will throw the breaker for Central Heat and Air.... as I don't want that kicking on and possibly overloading the genset.

I can run the genset an hour, every three hours to keep the food cold. Then I can run it for 2-3 hours in the evening when it gets dark.

I have complete control.



........
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Old 04-29-2020, 12:21 PM
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If it were me, i would get a decent sized nat gas/propane fueled unit, as NG/Propane stores for years...If NG is ran to your site, it would have to be a major league shtf moment for it to quit running.

You could also get a 500-1000 gal tank and bury it, thing will last for a long time if you are judicious in the run time...

More efficient too as i understand it.

The genny could kick in after x minutes automagically or you can manually start it.

You can wire up any/all circuits you need and control them at the panel to turn on zones/devices/etc.

if you are gonna build new, consider running 12v cable to efficient led 12v lighting and what not....

just my .00002 worth...
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Old 04-29-2020, 12:59 PM
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Ive seen a lot of transfer switch setups over the years but the most effective for the least money is whats called a 'breaker interlock'- or simply a breaker in your main panel that has a metal interlock bar installed on the panel cover to only let it turn on(manually) when the main breaker is in the 'OFF' position..this lets you manually turn on or off any load in the structure depending on what you want to run..or just leave everything on if you have a generator with the stones to do it..simply wire your generator output to this breaker,the white neutral to the neutral bar and ground to the ground bar inside the panel; or have an electrician do it for you...they go for about $60 on ebay..search on 'breaker interlock'
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Old 04-29-2020, 01:08 PM
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Thanks for replies so far. Should have mentioned it will be propane since in the sticks. Will def out for a 1000 gallon tank with a berm around it.
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Old 04-29-2020, 01:13 PM
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I would factor in some things like how much amp hours will you realistically need? What type of fuel and storage capabilities are you going to need/use? With a whole house generator the main advantage is they will kick on right away with power loss and you should have no loss of normalcy. A portable generator you would have to start up and shut off manually and keep it fed and oiled. Whole house models fare better for that. Portable generator is portable. Whole house is not. You can manually turn off the whole house generator and only run it infrequently to keep your fridge/freezer up and running to keep it cold then shut it back off. Same goes for things like electric stove or microwave. Same would go for the portable genny if it's rated for those loads.

If it were up to me I would go with a whole house system as they are reliable especially if I left the residence and the power goes out. I wouldn't be as concerned if I was a day or more away, vacation etc with a whole house system. You won't otherwise get that security with a portable model. As mentioned, depending upon local storage regulations you can get a large propane tank(s) and have a very long LP supply. It stores for an extremely long time without degradation. You can always buy a very nice lightweight Honda genny that sips gasoline as a portable genny if you think you may need one for around the property the whole house will not work for should that be a concern.
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Old 04-29-2020, 01:15 PM
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If you are building the house new it may be worth designing it to function comfortably with no electric or as little electric as possible. That way when power does go out you can provide for your needs with a very small and quite inverter generator running only a few hours a day.


For heating forced air requires electric to run the blowers. Or you could put in a direct vent furnace (with natural convection, piezo ignition and piezo thermostat) It requires no electric to run and is much cheaper to install than a forced air furnace and doesn't require the cost or space of ductwork. If you need to move the heat around put a fan behind the furnace. It will move the air but the furnace will still do its job without it. Or get a heat powered fan to move the air.

Put large windows in your basement that way during the day you can see without needing light.

Put light tube skylights in any interior rooms or closets/ bathrooms that don't have windows so lights aren't needed to see during the day time.

Have lp or natural gas stove and water heater. Get ones that don't require any electric to run.

Put in a huge pressure tank or and overhead gravity fed water tank. That way you can run a generator to run the pump once a day or once a week. The rest of the time you are using water from the pressure tank or the gravity fed tank. The farm I grew up on had a1900 gallon pressure tank in the basement. It was built before electric came to the area. The well was pumped with a pto from a tractor. It was so big because it also fed the barn. The well would only kick on a couple times a week with a family of 6 and no attempt of saving water.

Maybe have a propane or 3 way fridge. They are expensive and inefficient when running on propane but may be better than ruining a generator.

Have a well insulated CHEST freezer. You can keep it cold by hooking it up to a generator for a couple hours a day.

Get a deep cycle battery. Keep it always connected to a good trickle charger. Use it to power 12volt LED bulbs. A 2 watt Led 12volt track light can be wired up to lamp cord and some alligator clips and it can light up a room quite well and it will run on a car battery for something like 150 hours before it will drop the battery below 12 volts. Also wire up a cigarette lighter plug to the battery to charge you phones/ electronics.

Put vents inside the house up high near the ceiling to allow hot air to vent out of the house in the summer.

Put solar hot air heaters on the south side of your home.

Put a couple hundred watts of solar panels on your house to keep your deep cycle battery charged in an extended power outage.

Have battery/usb powered radios.

Buy a compost toilet or build a bucket toilet and have media for it to use a a backup when the power is out. Flushing a toilet is one of the biggest uses of water in a home. The more water you use the more electric you need to pump it.

Have a wood stove and wood/coal for back up heat/cooking.

Put a large overhang on the south so summer sun will be shaded but winter sun will be allowed to help heat the house.

Put up insulated curtains. In the summer day they keep the heat out. In the winter nights it keeps the heat in.

Don't skimp on insulation.

If the home is designed right you can be very comfortable with little to no grid electric. If you add a few extra batteries and some more solar you can run your freezer and a small tv/computer/game system for a couple hours a day as well when electric is out.

A lot of these ideas could make the home cheaper to build up front and over time could also save you money on your electric bill for years to come.
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Old 04-29-2020, 01:17 PM
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Awful lot of variables go into this decision. Is this your bug in/ bug out location? How reliable is commercial power “generally”? How off-grid do you want to be? Is solar a better option for less maintenance? Is the noise of a generator a consideration? What is the budget? Does no power = no water? Does return on investment (ROI) factor in or can you afford whatever you want. (ROI on a genset is ~50%ish ROI on a bathroom overhaul is ~80%ish)

If money was no object, I’d have a 20Kw with load shedding. Maybe factor it in to the mortgage while rates are cheap, and you won’t ever feel the impact of adding one later.
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Old 04-29-2020, 01:17 PM
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Quote:
You can manually turn off the whole house generator and only run it infrequently
How does that work? Thought they came on automatically with power loss and stayed on until power restore or fuel exhausted?
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Old 04-29-2020, 01:20 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by bunkclimber View Post
Ive seen a lot of transfer switch setups over the years but the most effective for the least money is whats called a 'breaker interlock'- or simply a breaker in your main panel that has a metal interlock bar installed on the panel cover to only let it turn on(manually) when the main breaker is in the 'OFF' position..this lets you manually turn on or off any load in the structure depending on what you want to run..or just leave everything on if you have a generator with the stones to do it..simply wire your generator output to this breaker,the white neutral to the neutral bar and ground to the ground bar inside the panel; or have an electrician do it for you...they go for about $60 on ebay..search on 'breaker interlock'
That is what I installed at my home. Main breaker off and interlock breaker on, along with breakers i want to send inverter power to. I also built a small folding tent to protect the inverter in case of rain. The first picture shows the interlock at the bottom of the load center. The interlock is mechanically blocked in the off position while the main breaker is on, to prevent power company line backfeed. The second photo is where I connect the inverter to feed the load center.

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Old 04-29-2020, 01:22 PM
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Quote:
Awful lot of variables go into this decision. Is this your bug in/ bug out location? How reliable is commercial power “generally”? How off-grid do you want to be? Is solar a better option for less maintenance? Is the noise of a generator a consideration? What is the budget? Does no power = no water? Does return on investment (ROI) factor in or can you afford whatever you want. (ROI on a genset is ~50%ish ROI on a bathroom overhaul is ~80%ish)
This will be our main house, not a BOL. From what I understand from the locals, the power is reliable, more so planning for "what if". Solar would be too expensive and not utilized enough but I continue to look into it more since we are in a good sunlight location and the cost continues to drop over time. No power = no water. We will have a well, so will definitely need to have something with enough power to run that and a few other thing.

Per my previous post, I wasn't aware that a whole house gen could be used sporadically. I'm very interested in that and will have to do more research. If that is the case, I'd probably look at a 15K model, at least, so I can run the A/C since it can get hotter than the front gates of hell down there. I already have a portable 2500/2200 watt model for the random stuff.

Thanks again!
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Old 04-29-2020, 01:24 PM
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Thank you, lb0190. I have something very similar on my present home. I have an exterior plug such as yours that goes to a 20 amp rated outlet in my basement. Wired a xfer switch directly to the furnace so I can run the furnace (about a 800 watt surge, 450 running), sump and gas water heater all at once.
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Old 04-29-2020, 01:25 PM
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One thing to keep in mind if you go with propane, its price can change a lot year to year. About 10 years ago we had a very wet fall and huge corn crops that needed to be dried. The price of propane went from about $1.80 a gallon up to $5.30 a gallon and at that price it was rationed. Now ten years later the price is $1.54 a gallon.
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Old 04-29-2020, 01:25 PM
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Lasers - great info and lots of it, thank you. Much of this I have considered for my planning but you brought up several points I hadn't thought of. I'll add to my list
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Old 04-29-2020, 01:26 PM
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Originally Posted by Roy Texas View Post
How does that work? Thought they came on automatically with power loss and stayed on until power restore or fuel exhausted?
They do come on automatically but the one we have at work has a panel you disconnect the power out sensor and run the generator when there is power or shut it off when there isn't. It is mostly designed for maintenance but also it can be used to save fuel if you don't need it running.
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Old 04-29-2020, 01:30 PM
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OK, SINCE you have the luxury of doing it NEW BUILD style..

I had to do it old school of fishing wires down walls

ANYWAY...

What I did was run entirely separate outlets to run off the generators. All the generator outlets are grey so they are readily recognizable.

I have one generator powered outlet in each room of the house, 2 in the living room, so when the power goes out I can plug into my panel in the garage and power the dedicated feeds. SO, now you only need to power what you want and not the whole house if you so choose. If you see multiple uses of the same location just double the recepticles in the box.

I feed the system through a 2 breaker little circuit box that I plug into.
and
there is ZERO danger of a backfeed when power comes back on because everything is on isolated circuitry.
and
if you plan your layout you won't need a bunch of extension cords to make the switch. Just move the appliance plug from the regular AC outlet to the generator outlet.

I have 3 different generators in the garage
2300Ryobi, 4000Ryobi and 11,000 watt for running the house if I want to back feed or run something heavy.
For summer I run a small generator for everything until I need to recharge the fridge and freezer, otherwise I coast on the lower powered genny pretty much all day long running TV, internet, phone system, lights and such on a gallon of gas.

I have a small 2 breaker panel in the garage that all the outlets feed into and I plug into the panel by way of cords to the generator.
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Old 04-29-2020, 01:34 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Roy Texas View Post
Lasers - great info and lots of it, thank you. Much of this I have considered for my planning but you brought up several points I hadn't thought of. I'll add to my list
I am in the process of building a log cabin that we intend to move into some day. As soon as we can afford some property to set it up on we will put it together.

I have spent a lot of time thinking about how to have all/most of the comforts of home without running electric to the site. I have also been collecting items that will run without electric(stove, fridge, heater, solar electric system, solar hot air system and so on) Right now I have a lot of it set up on my ice shack and that makes it a very comfortable little cabin with lots of comforts in it.
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Old 04-29-2020, 02:00 PM
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Check out Marey water heaters. They are tankless, LP and require no electric. They are designed for developing countries and are cheap to buy.

https://marey.com/product-category/p.../duct-exhaust/
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Old 04-29-2020, 02:29 PM
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If cost isn’t an issue I would go for something like a generic 24k genset. These are propane fueled, liquid cooled, 1800rpm car engines. I would BUY 2 1000 gallon propane tanks and bury them. The generacs have an automatic start, push button start, and all off buttons. I have mine on a run schedule every other week and I run it for 20-30 minutes prior to oil changes. You can also get remote sensors and wireless controllers that let you know oil life and other such important things.
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Old 04-29-2020, 02:54 PM
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Quote:
One thing to keep in mind if you go with propane, its price can change a lot year to year. About 10 years ago we had a very wet fall and huge corn crops that needed to be dried. The price of propane went from about $1.80 a gallon up to $5.30 a gallon and at that price it was rationed. Now ten years later the price is $1.54 a gallon.
Very true. I remember growing up on the farm and the price being like a yo-yo over time. We heated with wood a lot to avoid that.

Quote:
They do come on automatically but the one we have at work has a panel you disconnect the power out sensor and run the generator when there is power or shut it off when there isn't. It is mostly designed for maintenance but also it can be used to save fuel if you don't need it running.
Thanks for sharing, this is something I would be quite interested in.

Quote:
If cost isn’t an issue I would go for something like a generic 24k genset. These are propane fueled, liquid cooled, 1800rpm car engines. I would BUY 2 1000 gallon propane tanks and bury them. The generacs have an automatic start, push button start, and all off buttons. I have mine on a run schedule every other week and I run it for 20-30 minutes prior to oil changes. You can also get remote sensors and wireless controllers that let you know oil life and other such important things.
Thanks for the input. Definitely don't want to go to small and I'll need to figure out potential load in worst case scenario. I think for what I need though, 24K would be far too much. 15K would probably be a lot in all honesty so maybe somewhere in the middle . I can't bury the tanks as you have a few inches of soil before you are on bedrock. That said, I can berm up around them.

NW Guy - very interesting concept...I like it. I'll look into this further.

Keep the thoughts coming, certainly appreciate everyone's input on this.
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