Looking to buy a Generator but what size?

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Brandon007
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Looking to buy a Generator but what size?

#1 Postby Brandon007 » Sun Mar 19, 2006 7:24 pm

After last year I'm not going to be another hurricane season without one we were without power for almost a week. What size in watts generator do you guys have? all I would really want it for is to run my fridge, a couple of fans and a small tv/and or radio. I was thinking around 4000 watts or so what do you think? also if anyone has one they are looking to sell let me know that too
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#2 Postby DanKellFla » Mon Mar 20, 2006 4:06 pm

That is a tough question for others to answer. I just went through the same thing. I finally bought a generator. http://www.electricgeneratorsdirect.com is a great website. It has a lot of good information on what is out there. They have good prices, but not necessarily the best. Go to sites like amazon.com and pricegrabber that has reviews. There is a lot of good anectdotal information there. The following is how I see things. I could be totally wrong.
Dan's Guide to Generator Buying:

How much do you want to spend?
If you can drop 2K on a permanent generator or a gigantic portable and not care, go for it. And, congratulations on your finacial sucess. Otherwise, you have to decide how much it is worth to spend and what do you want to power. When you buy a generator for emergency power, you are buying 'options.' Is it worth $700 to you so you can run a few things at the same time? Is it worth $2,000 to run just about everything without having to think about it? That is up to you.

What do you want to power?
There are websites that will help you add up how many watts you want and tell you the generator size. My advice is to give yourself some wiggle room for future growth. It is easier and cheaper to buy a little bit larger now than buy a totally new generator later.

What kind of fuel will it use?
If you have a natural gas line then just use that. Get a hook-up and compatible carburator and off you go. No storage problems, no waiting in long lines and it is cheaper than gas. Diesel is nice, but the generators are priced more for commercial purposes. I have a regular gas generator and five 5 gallon gas cans. Storing gas is dangerous and gas has a shelf life of a few months in Florida. More if you add stabilizer. Getting gas after a storm can be a pain, as you know.

What run time do you want? (Between fill-ups)
A bigger generator uses more gas. They also have larger gas tanks. In my experience that bigger gas tank doesn't make up for the increase in the amount of gas the generator uses. But, a generator running at or near 100% of its capacity uses gas faster than a slightly larger generator running at 70% of its capacity. For example (using made up numbers) A 4000 watt generator making 4000 watts will use more gass than a 5000 watt generator making 4000 watts. (This does not mean that a 15,000 watt generator making 4000 watts will even use less gas. The engine is just too large by that time.)

Storage Space:
Yet one more piece of of junk to put in the shed/garage. My friends 15 kiloWatt generator takes up a lot of space in his garage. Once again, you might have a barn that makes that issue moot.

How do you start it?
Electric starters are sure nice. But, they add extra cost and complications. That is another decision up to you. If pull starting is difficult for you or somebody else who needs to start the generator, then you might want to get an electric start.

Just a few more things. I spend a lot of time looking around at generators. I have noticed that there really aren't huge differences in price vs. options. Similar generators have similar prices. If you find something that violates this, check closer. Sometimes the Amp output makes a big difference.
The quiet generators like Honda are fantastic. A friend of mine bought one for his mother. Unbelievably quiet. But, 4X the cost.
My advice relates to a generator being used for short term emergency power, days or weeks. Jobsite requirements are different. When you see the same generator costing more but powered by a Honda engine, there is a good reason for that. Hopefully, you won't be running your generator 2000+ hours a year.
Buy a Carbon Monoxide detector. It is worth the $30.
Buy a Carbon Monoxide detector. It is worth the $30.
Get some extra oil now.
Read the manual. It isn't that long.
FYI, I bought a 5600 Watt Craftsman Generator from Sears. I bought it on sale and then applied for the credit card with a 10% discount + $10. Finaly price was $620 +$40 tax. To me, that generator looks identical to the 5550 Watt Briggs and Stratton. I am going to run a window unit A/C, a couple of fridges and provide some entertainment for my kids. The heat wasn't nearly as bad as the bored 4 and 5 year old in my house. Crayons were great for awhile, but I was making emergency repairs and my wife was cleaning up the inside.
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#3 Postby brunota2003 » Mon Mar 20, 2006 4:20 pm

also, dont forget to check start-up vs. running wattage, they are totally different, and can ruin things if you go over, everything should have the start-up and running wattage written on it, so that fridge that takes 500 watts to run might have a start-up wattage of ~700, you buy a 600 watt generator and plug the fridge in, well, you just fried your new generator, so make sure to leave room for that stuff. Some people prefer to have their generators wired into their circuit breaker, so they can just turn the generator on and power the house or sections of their house, if done, PLEASE have it done by a certified electrition, if you do it improperly, it can power the power lines from your generator, then some lineman goes and touches the wire that the power company turned off, and ZAP!!! we dont need deathes because someone mis-wired a generator when they could of just spent a little bit more money to have someone, who actually knows what s/he is doing, come out and do it for them...
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#4 Postby Brandon007 » Wed Mar 22, 2006 1:40 pm

thanks for the info guys guess not the thing to do is just research!
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wayoutfront

#5 Postby wayoutfront » Thu Mar 23, 2006 8:37 am

I would highly advise having a professional tell you what size to get AND what to operate should the power go out.

I have seen people try to operate their entire homes on an underpowered generator, which can and will damage your capacitor start motors in your AC , refrigerator, freezer, etc.

This damage is most likely not covered on your policy. So make sure you do it correctly.
Last edited by wayoutfront on Mon Apr 03, 2006 2:26 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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#6 Postby Hurricaneman » Thu Mar 23, 2006 2:40 pm

I would only buy what i can afford
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#7 Postby brunota2003 » Thu Mar 23, 2006 3:03 pm

wayoutfront wrote:I woulod highly advise having a professional tell you what size to get AND what to operate should the power go out.

I have seen people try to operate their entire homes on an underpowered generator, which can and will damage your capacitor start motors in your AC , refrigerator, freezer, etc.

This damage is most likely not covered on your policy. So make sure you do it correctly.
and that was exactly what I was talking about summed up...:lol:
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ido

#8 Postby ido » Mon Apr 03, 2006 10:46 am

AND be very careful to keep it in a vented area. I lost a friend to carbon monoxide poisoning due to an improperly vented generator.
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#9 Postby DanKellFla » Wed Apr 05, 2006 5:14 pm

Have you bought anything yet? If so, what?
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Generators

#10 Postby ocala » Sat Apr 08, 2006 8:58 am

I bought a 7800 watt generator. My dad wired it to the house so all I have to do is flip a breaker and I'm set. I tried using my central air with it. I have a 2 ton unit outside and a 2.5 ton coil inside. It worked just fine but I didn't get it for that. Really just to power a room unit, fridge, well etc. You can't go wrong getting more power than you need. Problems arise when you try to power too much. I bought mine last year at Lowe's and paid $1200. It has a Briggs engine but hopefully I won't be using too much.
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#11 Postby DanKellFla » Mon Apr 10, 2006 5:44 pm

ocala, You can't go wrong getting more power than you need.

True enough. The only limitations are availability of gas and money. The bigger the generator, the more it costs and the more gas it uses. If money or fuel supply isn't a problem then go for it. (And send some of that money my way. :D )
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#12 Postby Brandon007 » Sun Apr 16, 2006 12:55 am

hey all I ended up getting a coleman 2500watt continuous 3125watt max at Walmart for $300. I couldn't find anything else that came that close even online for the price I also did some calculating and 2500watts will be pleanty to run my refrigerator, tv, several lights and several fans which is all I really need it for anyway. I just really couldn't justify spending more than about $400 for an item I may use once or twice a year. anyway it works for me it will run for 10-12 hours on 3 gallons which I don't think is bad and it starts easy and isn't any louder than other generators(except hondas of course).
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#13 Postby jbgreig » Wed Apr 19, 2006 8:20 pm

good move. I went through Hurricane Rita last year, was without power for 16 days. I bought a 7550, 13500 surge generator before the season started. I also wired a manual transfer switch (only 6 circuits, though). It certainly got me through, but used more than 15 gallons a day. It was not enough to run my main AC (5 ton unit), so it was more than I needed. I ended up running one or two window units off of it

I then bought a 3500 or so with 5800 (I think) surge. This was a few days before power was restored. It did the job the bigger was doing, was a LOT quieter, and drank much less gas. After the season was over I tested it out and it will run my 1.5 ton upstairs unit just fine, as well as fridge, freezer, bedroom and bathroom lights.

Then again, I am about to buy a 16kw NG generator that will run my big AC and everything else I need. The hassle of filling up the generator got old, and my job required me to leave town after the storm allowing my house to get very humid and mildew smelling.

So, in a nutshell, buy as big as you can afford, but only if it will really accomplish what you want. That 7550 did me absolutely no good, and the 3500 would have been more than sufficient for the duration. Now the 16,000 will do what I need, cost more to buy, and cost much more to operate. But it will accomplish what I want.

Have realistic expectations of what you need, and get an appropriate generator. Not bigger just because it's bigger if it's not big enough...
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#14 Postby jes » Sun Apr 23, 2006 10:47 pm

Ibgreig,

What brand of natural gas generator did you buy? I also have a 5 ton central unit and some people say a 15 KW will work and others say it won't. Then I hear that Briggs and Straton will be fine, but the Guardian won't. I am so confused. We're running out of time ---- don't want to be caught in the rush. This is a tremendous expense so I don't want to make a mistake. Would you share what you've learned about the best units to buy and sizes. I haven't heard of the 16KW - everyone is quoting me on 15KWs.
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#15 Postby DanKellFla » Mon Apr 24, 2006 3:09 am

jes, talk to an electrician. But one way you can check yourself is to looke at your circuit breakers. On the breaker, embossed in the plastic, you should see a number. That is the max amps allowed. As long as your generator can handle that you should be OK. No matter what, you won't be able to run everything all the time with a generator. But a big one like you are looking at sure will make things easier.
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#16 Postby jes » Wed Apr 26, 2006 8:07 am

Is there a circuit breaker by the central unit. I know there is a box in an inside closit and one outside with lots of switches ---- Is there another one I should look at by the unit. How do I convert amps to KW's. I am having electricians give me quotes, but they are the ones that have different opinions on what my 5 ton unit requires. If I purchase a smaller generator I can run a window air conditioner instead of the central unit. This seems like maybe it would be a better idea since there is a chance I'll never even need the backup unit. If I buy a window unit and seldom use it (or maybe use it just 1 week a year) will it wear out from non-use. Don't you have to run a motor to keep it in condition. I'd probably have someone put it in at the beginning of the season and then take it out later --- it may never be used.
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#17 Postby DanKellFla » Wed Apr 26, 2006 6:32 pm

I bought a small window unit (5000 Btu) for $78. If it only lasts one season it is no big loss. But, that is one more thing to check at the beginning of every season. As for my generator, I start it up once a month with about a cup of gas and put a load on it. It runs for 15 minutes or so. That is an important task.

I don't know what to say about your big A/C.
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#18 Postby caribepr » Wed Apr 26, 2006 7:41 pm

I must be too accustomed to island life...but the idea of buying a gennie big enough to run AC seems over the top to me. If you have something to keep food cold and some lights on, you're ahead of the game around here.
But everyone's wallet has a different width. All I know is, on this island, if someone was using a gennie to keep AC going while others were in the dark without an ability to cook food...wow. Of course here, we'd all know about it!!!
Research research research...that is why Al Gore invented the internet!
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#19 Postby DanKellFla » Wed Apr 26, 2006 9:57 pm

caribepr, I can cook food with propane. Is there some reason that propane or NG isn't good for cooking food on PR? And, a small gennie can run a small A/C unit. A 2000 watt unit can run a 5000 Btu unit. Of course, it can't run anything else.
As for the wallet, do generators cost more on PR becuase of shipping or other factors?
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#20 Postby caribepr » Thu Apr 27, 2006 6:49 am

DanKellFla wrote:caribepr, I can cook food with propane. Is there some reason that propane or NG isn't good for cooking food on PR? And, a small gennie can run a small A/C unit. A 2000 watt unit can run a 5000 Btu unit. Of course, it can't run anything else.
As for the wallet, do generators cost more on PR becuase of shipping or other factors?


No...many here have propane as well and are glad of it. We don't have natural gas. Also, if the ferries aren't running, we don't have any way to get gas/propane/food deliveries/ etc. So we try to have a few ways of doing things here, pretty shared atmosphere. I guess using a gennie for AC seems like such a luxury that I was surprised, but that is just because of how it is here. Mea culpa!
Shipping versus land routes always raises the prices, on everything. But anyone who can afford one, one way or another, has a generator. So those of us who don't pick our friends by very weird standards... :D j/k
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