I talk a lot this year on electrical home generators. Every time there is a local DISASTER, consumers like you and me, flock to the big box stores and local small retailers looking for an inexpensive generator.
Unfortunately, as I have discussed in prior articles what really dictates the generator purchase is WATTAGE. That is the total measurable electricity that is being absorbed in the circuitry of your home. This is read by the electrical power company on your outside watt meter for the month and is the basis of your monthly electric bill.
Obviously if your home is using 10,000 watts per hour with the water heater, refrigerator, freezer, washing machine, dryer, water pump, oil pump, shop tools, microwave, popcorn cooker, computer, electric light bulbs, portable electric heaters, sewage pump, chicken brooder, calf warmer, pet heat mats, automobile battery, oil warmers, garage heaters, walkway cement ice melters, heated gutters, door bell chimes, and those hundreds of small blinking red and green bulbs indicating long forgotten toys, gadgets, cell phone adapters, electric clocks, radios, which are still plugged in, and no matter how small and insignificant they are, they, en mass are sucking the life blood money out of your pocket-watt by watt. Wattage is an additive total.
When nature is angry you feel it with a storm that if not damaging to your house structure usually downs the power grid and you are without electrical power for…? You rush out and take what you can get at the big box store and think cost, not wattage. That is why 20% or more generators are returned for burnout overloading which were undersized for the electrical load.
You have options: (1) you can disconnect everything down to the bare basic wattage to meet the RUN needs of the generator. Initially the generator is started and the load of wattage needs must overcome a SURGE results. Generators are sold by the SURGE label and after the circuit is stabilized a RUN wattage for what ever is loaded into the circuit. You buy a 10,000-watt generator, but that is SURGE, and the RUN wattage is 7,000 watts. Higher wattage use will cause heating of the generator stator/rotor and it “burns up”.
You must determine what your wattage needs are in advance, and MEASURE those off the cuff numbers with a KILL-A-WATT™ 120 Volt AC inexpensive handheld meter. These meters can be found at www.Amazon.com, or perhaps in your local big box store electrical supply section.
I bought a 4 pack. I started measuring all the large appliances and making a journal, then I started on the small forgotten blinking lights and dusty plugins – all sucking watts (money). Soon I became absorbed with the hunt for lost watts. I was amazed at all the small plug in items which just sitting there in the wall socket, warm and toasty, but not servicing anything were sucking 5 watts at a time. Add it up in series like a grocery bill, and then go to the next room, garage, workshop etc. Ask yourself what can be disconnected? What do I really need plugged in and blinking like some idiot- who is the idiot? Some items are 220 Volts, such as the electrical water heater, and require a different meter.
On average the list of SURGE Wattage provided by Briggs-Stratton Generator owners manual states that a SURGE is expected when the thermostat clicks on and that coupled with the 220 Volt stove, refrigerator, freezer, electric well pumps have an initial need to SURGE and then stabilize to the RUN wattage use. Each SURGE puts a severe strain on an undersized generator with heat build up and if the RUN wattage is over the Stated RUN wattage of the generator, it is going to burn up. Most people, with good intentions just connect up HOPE and the 5000-watt Surge 3500 RUN wattage generator cannot handle the load attached. Disconnect.
Briggs and Stratton generator manuals all now list various RUN watts and SURGE watts as an indication to you to be careful. Herein is an example:
Appliance RUN watts SURGE watts
Water Well Pump 1200 2100
Refrigerator 700 2200
Central AC 24,000BTU 3800 11,400
Electric Water Heater 4700 11,700
A complete page may be obtained from Blacksburg Power and Equipment an authorized Briggs and Stratton Generator sales and service.
When you read promotional brochures on how much your new generator can handle, in order to promote said sale: Cravat Emptor. Buyers beware of sales pitch. When the box says it can handle a heat pump it is pitching that the air-conditioning is not a SURGE but it neglects to say anything about the heat strips in the well which when turned on create a SURGE.
Since we know winter is not over, spring windstorms, summer hurricanes and fall rains that flood are in an ever-coming cycle. We buy our generator in advance as a Prepper – being prepared as in the Boy Scout Motto. This is why with modern homes and untrained fingers you need (2) a trained electrician to handle/survey and advise you of your current and expected electrical growth needs.
Since we are getting old and slower, we do not want to walk outside and turn on, hand crank, pull and fuss at a frozen generator for electrical power that often in this area of the “end of the earth”, dims for days. The past thirty years at this retreat has accumulated more blinking lights and gadgets that are plugged in that I want, hence: the Kill-A-Watt™ meter. But as the power needs have increased along with the desire for creature comfort instead of investing my money in a bank at 1% saving and an inflation rate of 13% plus, I spend it on items like an up to date self cycling automatic generator. I chose a GENERAC Guardian 20,000 watt LP Gas outside mounted unit with a 5-year warranty.
However the warranty saved the day, somewhere in the American Made stator and rotor was a defect and it took a month to get it fixed. The big delay, aside from winter weather was the supply section of Generac. A few fast and furious emails moved them into high gear. Nothing is made perfect anymore it seems, so we depend upon trained professional repair and maintenance technicians to fix problems. As you can see in the picture below, these are sophisticated units not for home mechanics. Get the warranty.
There are certain additions you need to consider for whatever generator you purchase. You need to keep the battery (electric start) warm. When a battery drops below 35 degrees it loses 65% of its cranking power. You also need a block/oil heater to allow the engine to turn over at 3600 RPM easily. You can purchase the factory label models at extra cost, or go to www.Amazon.com i.e.: Search Automotive-battery heaters. For our friends in the far cold north of Canada you certainly are familiar with these battery and block heaters.
I expect that you will forget to turn off these blinking lights (so necessary) for generator warmth that they will overheat in the summer. There is also available a plug in adapter that is temperature sensitive for about $12.00 from Amazon that shuts off and turns on the electricity automatically.
There were some email questions about propane consumption of the 20,000-watt unit. We started with a full tank, ran it for 4 days and then refilled with an average generator use of 1.37 gallons per hour. This LP or natural gas is inexpensive when considering that you are still in business when the lights go out.
The backup generators are both roll around wheel units of 10,000-watt surge and 7,000- watt surge. I use non-alcohol gasoline from Reiner “Stop and Shop”. I also add Briggs and Stratton new gasoline additive: With a two-year (I forgot the gasoline turns into jello with no additive) warranty. STABIL™ is also good added each year. Make up a generator(s) log book and keep a record of all maintenance- follow the factory recommendations. This is necessary for warranty claims.
Competent answers and service are available from: Blacksburg Power and Equipment phone: (540) 382-3121. For installed Generac Units call Pat Mullin, phone: Work (276) 728-2882; Cell (571) 220-0240.
Our lead in picture is inside the famous HOOVER HYDROELECTRIC DAM at Lake Mead, Nevada. Yes, those are people on the main floor of the turbine room.
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