Need Generator Help

Discussion in 'Survival & Sustenance Living Forum' started by CA357, Aug 29, 2010.

  1. CA357

    CA357 New Member Supporter

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    I know nothing about generators. I do know that they are a good idea and would like to pick up a small one for emergency purposes while we live here in the city.

    Harbor Freight has a Chicago Electric generator on sale for $89.99 this weekend. The ad only states that it is 800 rated watts/900 max watts. I have absolutely no idea what that means.

    Would it do in a pinch to run the refrigerator and maybe a couple of appliances? Would it run the fridge and say, the computer and some lights or the microwave.

    I'd appreciate it if someone more knowledgeable could help me out with some wisdom. It would strictly be for short term use, a short term power outage, not a full time power supply for a SHTF scenario.

    Thanks.
     
  2. Dillinger

    Dillinger New Member

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    CA357 - Adding a generator is a great idea, but getting one that is too small is going to just frustrate you.

    Here is a link that has some good info: Miller - How Much Power Do You Need?

    Generators at Lowe's - What size generator do I need?

    The problem with any piece of equipment that has a motor is going from dead stop, to running. This is called Locked Rotor Current. Depending on the type of manufacture, the country of origin, and the size of motor/compressor, it can be several times the running current.

    What this means to you, is that while a unit might need 500 watts to run effectively, it might take 1500-2500 watts to start the unit up and getting it going. If your generator can't handle that "in rush current" it can cause the generator to be unable to provide the power to start the unit and can damage the generator in the process.

    With portable generators, the more you load them, the faster the motor has to run to provide the source power, so the faster it will go through fuel.

    The generator you describe would probably be best used to power a standard power strip with a few small home electronics, but I wouldn't try to add something like a deep freezer because of the demand it would place on the unit to start it up and the draw it would need to keep that compressor running.

    JD
     

  3. CA357

    CA357 New Member Supporter

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    Okay JD, thanks. I won't waste my money on this one.
     
  4. Dillinger

    Dillinger New Member

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    It's probably not going to do what you want to do CA. It would be good for probably a campsite type of application where you needed to charge a couple of cell phone batteries, provide some light and perhaps a small dorm style fridge.

    For a home unit, you really need to think of something like a minimum of 5,000-6,000 watts with an overload of 7,000 or 8,000 to run small circuits of your house and include your fridge/freezer combination.

    Another thing to keep in mind that when you do purchase a unit like this, you have to buy heavy gauge extension cords to soft wire to your panel in the event of need. Your standard weed-whacker 100ft extension cord that is made of 16-18 gauge wire is going to meltdown trying to pull 6 or 7 thousand watts through it for hours on end. :eek:
     
  5. CA357

    CA357 New Member Supporter

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    Thanks JD. It just might be a good unit for camping. I'll have to think about that.
     
  6. danf_fl

    danf_fl Retired Supporter

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    Here in Hurricane Area, I have a 5000w generator. It handles 1 freezer, 2 refrigerators, some lights, coffee maker, and when the neighbor tapped their freezer and refrigerator on, there was no problem.
    5 gallons gas lasts for 8 hours.
    There is also an oil level sensor that will kill the generator if oil gets too low. Always check oil level before starting. If too low, the sucker will not start. (been there, done it).
     
  7. Dillinger

    Dillinger New Member

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  8. CA357

    CA357 New Member Supporter

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    Thanks JD. The cheapie from Harbor Freight would be good to take camping if I decide to go that route. As far as the house generator, I'll keep an eye on Home Depot for a closeout or a good sale. But right now, the budget precludes any major purchases.
     
  9. canebrake

    canebrake New Member

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    Don, just to give you an idea about watt usage, your average hair blow-dryer, similar to mine:

    [​IMG]

    takes 1,500 to 2,000 watts to get you quaffed.

    Me thinks this Harbor Freight generator would be as useful as teats on a boar hog.

    It would run your alarm clock, if it has a battery back-up.

    Capisce?
     
  10. CA357

    CA357 New Member Supporter

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    Yeah, I'm not gonna buy it. But I know a little bit more about it now.
     
  11. Davyboy

    Davyboy New Member

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    I use portable gennies a lot when restoring old or derilict buildings, over the years I have come to recognise the better ones. One major points to consider are the windings to the motor, a lot of the cheaper Chinese and Indian makes are made with copper coated windings and simply do not last. I would look for a Briggs and Stratton. Or something with a Honda engine.
     
  12. lukeisme

    lukeisme New Member

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    The easiest way to tell if a generator is large enough to what you want to do is to figure the amperage draw. Then get a genn that will handle that plus 20%. For example if you are running say 6 60 watt bulds then you will have an amperage draw of about 3 amps. To figure out how many amps a genn will put out is easy too. Watts divided by volts=amps. 6000watt genn will put out 50 amps of power at 120 volts. Generators are alot like welders and have a duty cycle. That is what gets a lot of people into trouble. They see 6000 watts and figure its large enough, but they never check duty cycle. Most genns only have a 65% duty cycle. That means they will only put out that 6000 watts 65% of the time. Home Depot and the like do not sell a 100% duty cycle genn. If they do I have never seen one. Harbor Freight duty cycles are like 20%. I actually have one that I use for camping and have for years, but I also know not to run it at maximum draw. On my service truck I use nothing but lincoln that I can run at maximum draw for days on end. Hope this helps.
     
  13. murraywc

    murraywc New Member

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    Don't buy a cheap one I bought one from Northern and it quit after a month and then after another 6 months the next one quit as well. I have several generators and do a little research and get a good one.
     
  14. Davyboy

    Davyboy New Member

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    I have a Generac 6k petrol with a honda engine thats done 6550 hours and still purrs like a kitten. Admittedly it is a supersilent model.
     
  15. CA357

    CA357 New Member Supporter

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    Okay gents. Thanks for the info.
     
  16. Highpower

    Highpower New Member

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    As JD already pointed out one of the big factors is allowing for something like 4 - 7 times the normal "running" amperage to get an electric motor started. You have to remember that each refrigerator / deep freeze has it's own motor. Forced air heating system means another motor (blower fan). What if you have a well pump for water? So what kind of peak output (start-up) current would your generator have to produce if all of these motors happened to start up at the same time? :eek:

    Then factor in all your lighting, entertainment, and general outlet usage. It all adds up - quickly. I have a portable gasoline generator that I use for emergency power at home. (10KW) That has to be able to run 2 refrigerators, 1 deep freeze, furnace, microwave, and minimal lighting in the house. That's about the maximum it can handle under sustained usage. But it has more than paid for itself several times over already by keeping the electrons flowing during some lengthy power outages around here. :D
     
  17. c3shooter

    c3shooter Administrator Staff Member

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    Rough rule of thumb- powering most things, find label, amps times volts equal watts. Powering a motor, amps times volts TIMES TWO- for that start up surge. Do a bit of net surfing, and will show typical power loads for different things.

    Stuff with a heating element will typically pull a lot of power. Remember a fridge or freezer does not need to run 24/7 IF YOU KEEP THE FLIPPING DOOR SHUT. When we go onto self contained mode, the freezer gets 30 minutes of power 2 x a day. And a modern fridge has a nasty little thing called a defrost cycle that pulls a lot of power.

    Longer and skinnier a cord, the more power you lose.

    Our setup has been refined over the years for OUR needs- but is limited to 2500 watts (5000 surge). We use a heavy duty inverter (changes 12 v DC to 120 AC) hooked to deep cycle batteries (Ours are 460 amp/hours) . They can charge from solar or from a vehicle connection. We run the inverter only when we need power, and do not use it for things we can do otherwise (coffee pot is a percolator sitting on the camp stove). We do not try to plug into the house system, but 10 g extension cord direct to appliance getting the power. We have run over a week at a time on our own utility system.

    Anyone planning to keep a generator- besides size, and how it connects, please consider- exhaust fumes getting into house, securing the generator, using a good stabilizer (Seafoam gets my vote) in the fuel, having OIL for the engine, and check with the maker to see if you can use synthetic (extended run time between changes.
     
    Last edited: Aug 29, 2010
  18. bkt

    bkt New Member

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    Keep your eyes open for deals. I picked up a 3500W generator for $180 at Aldi's of all places a couple years ago. Get a couple of those and you can power both sides of your breaker box pretty well. Don't go nuts with heavy loads, and don't expect to run multiphase appliances like a dryer.

    Here's a tip that will work in a pinch instead of using a transfer switch. Find two outlets that are on circuits on opposites sides of your breaker box. Make two male-male pigtail extension cords, maybe about a foot long each. If you lose power, kill the main breaker (that's really important) and plug both of those pigtails into your generator(s) and plug in regular extension cords into the pigtails on one end and the outlets on the other. As long as you don't overload the amperage for those circuits, you can effectively provide power to your whole house.

    Obviously, your generator must be able to handle the load. 5000W or above should be OK for most folks. But running heavy draw stuff like A/C may not work. You should be able to run compressors on your refrigerator/freezers, furnace motor, lights, clocks, radios.

    We keep about 40 gallons of fuel stored at all times. I recommend you keep several gallons on hand...generators aren't much use if you can't run them.
     
  19. CA357

    CA357 New Member Supporter

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    I keep 20 gallons of gas mixed with Stabil in Jerry cans in the garage. I use it up once a year and then replace it with new. So there's always some gas available. I also never let the fuel go below half a tank in the vehicles.
     
  20. Highpower

    Highpower New Member

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    And just be aware that if someone accidentally snags the extension cord and pops it out of your wall outlet, that the male terminals on the extension cord plug will be the HOT part of the circuit!

    That is the very reason they make power outlets the female part of the connection - to prevent exposed live conductors should a cord get pulled out of the wall.