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Old 01-14-2011, 06:14 PM
 
Location: San Antonio/Houston
20,677 posts, read 21,463,608 times
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Default Power generator for a house

I am not sure if this is a right forum, but I would like to hear from my fellow Houstonians:

... and would like to know if anyone has a whole house power generator, the size per house sqft/appliances, make/model, cost and cost of usage, gas/diesel or maybe something else.
Please share with me your experiences.
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Old 01-14-2011, 06:19 PM
 
Location: Reality
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In a past life I did residential and commercial backup power design and engineering, I currently have a Generac propane 17KW backup unit for my home which is 2300 sq feet, 2 story with 2 AC units. My intention was to be able to power all lights, one AC unit and my appliances plus my water well without too much trouble. I didn't want to waste the cash to be able to run both AC units which is most likely the largest user of power in your home by far. My unit is pretty typical, it'll suck about a gallon of propane every 2 hours at 75% load. I have it set up on an auto transfer switch so it'll fire up on it's own when we lose power, I have a 750 gallon propane tank so it'll run for quite a few days without a problem.

The physical size of your home doesn't matter as much as your real power consumption, the best way to see what you really need is to turn on your AC unit and all your lights then have someone measure the draw of your home. That will give you a rough estimate of your power needs and you can pick what size generator you want. If you have natural gas at your home that's the best fuel to run it on because it's clean, relatively cheap and you won't have to worry about getting water/moisture in your fuel which will screw up the carb and leave you with no power when you really need it. I don't have that option so I run propane which is the next best option, it's very uncommon to find an installed residential generator that runs on gasoline or diesel because of the fuel storage issues.

At cost I think I paid about $5500 for my unit and the transfer switch, I did the install and it would probably cost about $9K to have something like that installed by a professional company in the Houston area, $11K during hurricane season if you know what I mean.
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Old 01-14-2011, 06:23 PM
 
Location: San Antonio/Houston
20,677 posts, read 21,463,608 times
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What about the A/C? Did you need to install a hard start device? Is it helpful?
I assume that a 2000 sqft single story home, no water well, with one A/C unit needs little smaller generator. What is the cost of such investment? Is propane better than diesel?
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Old 01-14-2011, 06:29 PM
 
Location: Reality
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Quote:
Originally Posted by elnina View Post
What about the A/C? Did you need to install a hard start device? Is it helpful?
A hard start capacitor is good for any AC unit that will be fed off of a generator, it's not a bad idea to have one even just for normal use. A high quality generator will give you pretty clean power but it's still a generator so you'll be getting some form of a square wave. That's fine for lights and most AC units, not so great for computers in things like newer fridges, appliances or TVs. I run a power conditioner on my fridge because it's a brand new LG and it's pretty picky about clean power.

If I were on a budget and wanted a good backup power option without spending a fortune and the reasoning was mainly for short term power outages like for hurricanes I would buy a nice Honda inverter generator. I have a Honda EU6500 inverter which would easily power my home minus my AC units but would be able to power a single 5K BTU window unit for a bedroom. It's portable and can be outfitted with a tri fuel kit which will run on LPG, Propane or Gasoline. You're looking at about $3500 for a generator like that plus a few hundred for a transfer switch at your home. Power goes out and you plug it into the home and run just like normal. The inverter generators provide clean sine wave power, they're built to run sensitive equipment like computers without fear and they use very little fuel plus they're super quiet.

It all depends on what kind of budget you have and how much you want to power.
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Old 01-14-2011, 06:33 PM
 
Location: Reality
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Quote:
Originally Posted by elnina View Post
What about the A/C? Did you need to install a hard start device? Is it helpful?
I assume that a 2000 sqft single story home, no water well, with one A/C unit needs little smaller generator. What is the cost of such investment?
If you feel comfortable checking on things yourself take a look at your breaker panel of the home, you should have 2 dual pole breakers for your AC unit, one breaker feeds the outside condenser and the other will feed the unit in your home's attic. Look at the rating on those breakers and add them together, that's a good starting point to see how much power you'll need to run that AC unit. For a standard 5 ton unit you're looking at upwards of 100 amp draw at startup, that's 10KW right there. Things like your fridge will pull a lot of power at startup but not a lot while running, that's why generators are rated at 5000 watt/6500 watt peak... it'll supply 6500 watts but not for a long period of time. A typical home that size with a gas stove/oven would normally get something in the 12KW - 14KW range. An electric stove/oven pulls a ton of electricity, most people opt to use an outdoor grill during a power outage instead of spending the money needed to run an appliance like that.
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Old 01-14-2011, 06:37 PM
 
Location: Reality
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The big players in the residential generator game are Generac, Kohler and Onan. Any major company in town would be able to get you a quote for those brands, most will happily come out and give you a free quote while trying to scare you into buying something before the Apocalypse arrives. I would shy away from companies who do nothing but install generators and would lean more towards a good electrical company that can handle generators as well as all other needs. Since Ike there's been a ton of start up generator guys pop up around Houston, most are just trying to make a quick buck off of old retired folks who are scared.
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Old 01-14-2011, 06:42 PM
 
Location: Reality
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Just for example, this is the unit I have currently.

Generac Guardian 5885 Standby Generator - Series™ 5885 - 17kW Home Standby Generator

17KW for about $3500 but that's just the generator unit, the auto transfer switch I have is rated for 200 amps and runs about $1000 alone. I also added the larger propane tank and remote located the generator about 100' from the home for noise issues. All told I have about $6K in the whole setup.
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Old 01-14-2011, 06:50 PM
 
Location: San Antonio/Houston
20,677 posts, read 21,463,608 times
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Exactly! I am looking at a budget option - just for a case of short power outage during hurricane season. I know that A/C, fridge needs an extra power at startup, that's why was my question about a hard start device (s?).
Light, A/C, fridge + small appliances that's all I would need to power. No need to use electric stove or plasma TV. You said power conditioner for a new fridge is a good idea. Computer would have to use battery. Everything else is a "luxury" , but what about a water heater?
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Old 01-14-2011, 06:54 PM
 
Location: Reality
9,958 posts, read 3,676,369 times
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Quote:
Originally Posted by elnina View Post
Exactly! I am looking at a budget option - just for a case of short power outage during hurricane season. I know that A/C, fridge needs an extra power at startup, that's why was my question about a hard start device (s?).
Light, A/C, fridge + small appliances that's all I would need to power. No need to use electric stove or plasma TV. You said power conditioner for a new fridge is a good idea. Computer would have to use battery. Everything else is a "luxury" , but what about a water heater?
I have a propane water heater but my unit could handle an electric water heater if needed but I'd be getting close to it's load limit. It's really just a question of how much you want to power, a lot of people opt for a smaller generator which can power everything minus the central AC and they just keep a small $125 window AC unit in their attic which can be put in a bedroom after a storm. That alone will save a lot of money on the cost of the generator and will use a lot less fuel. I keep a small window unit because if we knew power was going to be out for a long time we'd just AC our master bedroom and not cool the entire house to conserve fuel. A 10KW generator should easily power your home including a water heater minus your central AC.
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Old 01-14-2011, 06:57 PM
 
Location: Sugar Land
1,957 posts, read 2,358,840 times
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It can be done cheaper...I personally went to see this generator New "Watchdog" 15kW- Home Generator (http://houston.craigslist.org/for/2138096807.html - broken link) This is also a Generac model rebranded to Watchdog.. still good quality.... Is in perfect conditions and most likely you can get it for $2200, hint

Install for that will run you around $500-$700... call me for the electrician....

I am looking for a 17K and up, that's the reason I didn't buy this one..... In my old house, smaller, I had a 14K Generac. We loved it and so did the neighbors.
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