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· New and yet, old
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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
My wife and I live in rural SW Missouri. We have five acres of mixed lawn and forest, rural water delivery, electric heat and water softener, propane stove. We have added a 30x40 pole building on a concrete pad, a wood stove large enough to heat the three bedroom double wide.
I need to have an electrician run power to the pole building. I just want power to a distribution box both 110 and 220 as I am learning welding. While talking about doing this, my wife and I decided to may as well add a whole house generator because Missouri has had some monumental ice storms in the past where power was lost for weeks at a time.

We have had one electrical contractor come out to the house and provide an estimate of just under $7K. This is for a 17 KW generator, outdoor transfer switch, outdoor distribution box, underground wiring to the shop and wiring into an indoor distribution box in the shop.

Anybody have experience with pricing this type of job out? Does this seem to within the ball park or under/over what the normal cost would be?

TIA!
 

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7 grand sounds okay if he is wiring your shop as well. The transfer switch would go in between the grid power in and your main panel. With THE NEW wOOD STOVE HEATING THE HOUSE YOU DONT NEED 17 K . That is a pretty big generator but if you have electric heat you MAY need one that big by code. Not sure what your zoning regs call for. I went with an 8 k , we heat with wood but have electric hot water and a 220 pump for our well. I can run any of them alone on the 8k just not all at once. My unit uses .94 gallons per hour of Propane . Im sure a 17 k is going to eat a lot of fuel. Even a diesel .
 

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Discussion Starter · #4 ·
we have electric heat in the house. We ended up using the wood stove this past winter but mainly just at night. It was an extremely mild winter so it is hard to judge. I do want the availability of electric heat (two is one, one is none) so that's the reason for the generator size.

and thanks very much for the reply and the link!
 

· reluctant sinner
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If I planned on running a genny much, I would be capturing the waste heat off the engine and exhaust and use that for space/water heating - at least 66% of your fuel $'s are there, no matter what fuel you burn.

I think propane would be a good choice in multiple buried tanks with isolator valves. It is good forever as long as you can keep it in the can. Propane lights, stoves, refrigerator and freezers, plus there are cars, trucks and tractors that run on it.

The most expensive power you will ever buy is the stuff you generate. 16kW 3 gallons of propane per hour at full load which is about $5/hour to perhaps $7.50, even a half load it's nearly 2 gallons an hour $3 - $5/hr.

http://www.lowes.com/pd_494335-24212-6257_1z0x2n8__?productId=4774795&pl=1
 

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That was what I was afraid of. That is a lot of propane per hour. Would eat a 500 gallon tank filled to 80% (400 gallons) in 133 hours. a 1000 gallon tank in 266 hours. or 11 days running 24 hours a day.

My 8000 watt uses .94 gallons per hour so I get just over 400 hours from a 500 gallon tank filled to 80% . If it were me? the electric heat would go bye bye. But you have to decide this for yourself. My house is a two story built into a hillside and heated with one free standing wood stove in the basement that uses zero electric power. My 400 gallons of propane are designated for one use and that is pumping water at 1/2 hour per week. This way it gets stretched out a long long time. In a double wide I would look at a simple wood stove in the main living room . You cant store enough propane for any type of long term outage. Think essential circuits like water.
 

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Our generator runs quite a bit of stuff here. 2 fridges, a freezer, some lights and the air handlers/attic fans for the hvac. Oh, and a stove. Propane got topped off just before Irene hit, then ran off the generator for 48 hrs solid. I don't think we used 10%.

It should be fairly simply to turn off the baseboards and not draw from the generator power, unless you needed to.
 

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Also in SW Missouri. Parents are down the dirt road from me. They had a 27kw Generac Quiet Source put in. Set up similar to what you are looking at. Runs the house and the huge shop 100%. Main switches and boxes in the house (garage) with LCD display. Runs on propane. The generator itself was a little over 10k. Total costs after everything was installed was close to 20k. Way beyond my price range, but something to compare to with what you are looking at and got quoted on.
 

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Discussion Starter · #10 ·
the electric heat/ac is forced air so it uses a lot of energy. I can't imagine using the air in an emergency and if an ice storm (biggest concern) stops the electric power, we would use the wood stove for heat and turn the thermostat way down so the furnace doesn't run.
 

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We paid $3900 for a Generac 17 KW Natural Gas/Propane Generator with transfer switch and circuit box about 5 years ago. I built the base out of concert blocks, and a brick face (to match the house, Built threaded rod, so I could secure the generator to the base (We have the generator 40" above the ground level, since we live in a hurricane storm surge zone--base is over 10 feet above Mean high water, so the generator will withstand a 13 foot storm surge. I had a friend--electrician, do all of the wiring for $500. But there was no real run--the generator is less than 4 feet from the outside main switch box, and the transfer switch/new main breaker panel is right inside of the main switch box, in the garage.
It forks very well, maintenance in the 5+ years has been oil change, air intake filter change and at 4 years the battery was testing a bit on the weak side, so I replaced that.

The other question you have is how far the run to the shop is, and what power you are gong to need in the shop. You can rent a trenching tool, put in the conduit, and run the wire yourself to save some $$.

We have an outage once a month average--lasting 1 to 8 hours. A couple were over 24 hours. Sure is nice to know that generator will kick in in about 90 seconds.
 

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Discussion Starter · #12 ·
I will do the trench myself as I have a backhoe. The gennie is an Eaton 17KW. I would do the wiring myself but 220 scares the (insert your word of choice) out of me.

Turning out to be an expensive week. The storm shelter is going to be another $3K

 

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Depends on the generator. Is the price for a manual transfer switch or automatic type?
I rewired the service entrance to the house here a couple of years ago and a manual 100 amp transfer switch added about a hundred bucks to the job. A 200 amp switch is about 350 dollars. I just helped a friend here install one at his residence. He uses a tractor mounted generator. I personally do not see the need for an auto transfer switch unless you are gone a lot.

Did the electrician do a load profile on the bid? 17 kw seems pretty high. I would personally try to find a military mep003 type unit if you need that much power. They use about a gallon an hour of diesel which stores much better than gasoline. They are built to run 24/7 , are brushless and are capable of running much more than their 15 kw nameplate rating. They are MUCH more robust than any home type generator you can buy. I've seen them with low hours for 2 grand. I am actively looking for a mep002 which is the 5 kw version which will source 7 kw continously. There are newer MEP type gensets available but I won't bore you with detail.

I would recommend getting another bid to compare prices.

https://youtu.be/QNo1mUCpQnI

Retired EE here...electric utility industry.
 

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Honestly, I'm not a big fan of whole house generators for most folks for two big reasons: cost and fuel consumption. You can get an wattage-equivalent portable generator for a fraction of the cost of a whole house generator, and you can take it with you wherever you need power, which may necessarily not be at your house. And as already posted, they consume large amounts of fuel, most of which is unnecessary.

The typical electric home is only consuming about 1 kW on average. But a 1 kW generator is obviously not sufficient because several appliances draw much more than this while running and especially when starting up. Unless you're running multiple such items (i.e. electric oven, furnace, water heater, dryer), a 10-12 kW generator will cover most people's homes well and can be purchased for under $1,000. For long-term use, propane is the fuel of choice, so just purchase a tri-fuel generator to begin with. Central Maine Diesel (www.generatorsales.com) has a great selection of tri-fuel generators of many sizes.

The problem with running a 10 kW generator all the time is that the least amount of power such a generator can provide is about 2 kW. Unless you're using at least 2 kW, the rest of the power is being wasted. With a larger generator, the problem gets even worse.

For most folks, the 'best practice' is to run a generator big enough to run necessary large draw items (i.e. chest freezer, refrigerator, propane/gas furnace, window unit AC) for 2-3 hours in the morning and again in the evening. The rest of the time, you power lights, small fans, radios, AA/AAA battery chargers, etc. from a battery bank. This is a FAR more efficient use of your precious fuel supplies than 'big power' 24/7.

For instance, if I ran my inverter generator 24/7, I would run out of fuel in about two weeks. But running it periodically for a few hours each day, I could go for almost three months with the same amount of fuel.

A whole house generator is, IMHO, for people who value convenience more than anything else or need guaranteed power for someone who is unable to operate a portable generator.
 

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^^ this x2.
but i also have another reason. i don't like putting all my eggs in one basket.
my house is almost built. i'll be getting 2 smaller gen sets to do the daily chores. there are 'brown-outs' here on a daily basis. i'll set up one for the refrigeration/kitchen duties and the other for the water pump, lights, and computer/comms needs. from my calculations, i should be fine with a couple of 2500-3kw generators. these will serve me well as i accumulate all the necessary solar power equipment needed to cut the power company cord once and for all.
 

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Honestly, I'm not a big fan of whole house generators for most folks for two big reasons: cost and fuel consumption. You can get an wattage-equivalent portable generator for a fraction of the cost of a whole house generator, and you can take it with you wherever you need power, which may necessarily not be at your house. And as already posted, they consume large amounts of fuel, most of which is unnecessary.

The typical electric home is only consuming about 1 kW on average. But a 1 kW generator is obviously not sufficient because several appliances draw much more than this while running and especially when starting up. Unless you're running multiple such items (i.e. electric oven, furnace, water heater, dryer), a 10-12 kW generator will cover most people's homes well and can be purchased for under $1,000. For long-term use, propane is the fuel of choice, so just purchase a tri-fuel generator to begin with. Central Maine Diesel (www.generatorsales.com) has a great selection of tri-fuel generators of many sizes.

The problem with running a 10 kW generator all the time is that the least amount of power such a generator can provide is about 2 kW. Unless you're using at least 2 kW, the rest of the power is being wasted. With a larger generator, the problem gets even worse.

For most folks, the 'best practice' is to run a generator big enough to run necessary large draw items (i.e. chest freezer, refrigerator, propane/gas furnace, window unit AC) for 2-3 hours in the morning and again in the evening. The rest of the time, you power lights, small fans, radios, AA/AAA battery chargers, etc. from a battery bank. This is a FAR more efficient use of your precious fuel supplies than 'big power' 24/7.

For instance, if I ran my inverter generator 24/7, I would run out of fuel in about two weeks. But running it periodically for a few hours each day, I could go for almost three months with the same amount of fuel.

A whole house generator is, IMHO, for people who value convenience more than anything else or need guaranteed power for someone who is unable to operate a portable generator.
I agree with this post about whole house generators. However the size and wattage is what matters. Mine is only an 8 k and cant run the entire house and uses a third the propane as that 17 k. I also limit what I run with it in long term applications. One half to One hour per week. Mostly just to pump water . The Generac is a self contained faraday type protected housing. I went with it for this reason. I have over 500 gallons of propane on hand. My long term plan is to make that last as long as 20 years if need by by rationing that use to 1/2 hour per week. Check out my how to use a GENERATOR THREAD. i BROUGHT IT BACK UP FOR PEOPLE TO USE AS A REFERENCE. pICTURES ARE THERE OF HOW WE DID OUR PANELS AND PROPANE SET UP.
 

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^^ this x2.
but i also have another reason. i don't like putting all my eggs in one basket.
my house is almost built. i'll be getting 2 smaller gen sets to do the daily chores. there are 'brown-outs' here on a daily basis. i'll set up one for the refrigeration/kitchen duties and the other for the water pump, lights, and computer/comms needs. from my calculations, i should be fine with a couple of 2500-3kw generators. these will serve me well as i accumulate all the necessary solar power equipment needed to cut the power company cord once and for all.
I also have two generators. One 8 k wired in and one portable 3 k Honda gas powered. We use the Honda on all short term storm damage power outages to keep one bank of our 120 volt circuits running.
 

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We have a 20KV generator running on propane. we're running on a 250 gallon tank, which will go about 48 straight hours AT FULL LOAD. Full load is the key, since if you power down high energy users (AC, Ovens, Dryers, water heaters). Doesn't mean you can't use them, just do it smartly and not all the time. I put in two 1 hundred pound tanks as a small backup. I also have a gasoline 8 kv portable generator, which uses 1 gallon an hour. I would do the same with it as I would with the big one - limit use as much as possible, run only so many minutes per hour.

I would out a bigger tank in but I don't like looking at the things (my 250 is buried next to the driveway). I think I could go several weeks to a little over a month if I used the fuel wisely. We have canners and jars for canning stuff from the freezers, so I could stop worrying about the freezers after the first 3 or 4 days.

I paid about $4500 for the big genie (which came with a switch). The electrician came to about $1000, so if I added a run to my shed as you speak of, the $7000ish quote sounds pretty reasonable.

Good luck - let us know how it works.

WW
 
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