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Old 04-02-2009, 01:53 PM
 
393 posts, read 823,593 times
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We'll be building an off-grid home, and we hope to purchase a propane generator. We figure our needs to be around 5Kw but could go as high as 6.5 kw. We were told that Kohler makes the best, in terms of reliability and quiet, but the smallest one they make is 8.5KW, which is way more than we need. My question is, if you don't need to use the generator at full capacity, does it still run on full capacity? IOW is it "running hard" and therefore will there be unnecessary wear and tear and "wasted" energy that we don't need/use? Someone suggested we should just get a portable or small generator so that we wouldn't have more than we need, and also that we could actually move the thing into the car for servicing due to its lighter weight and size. I was also concerned about noise - we'll be living in the WMNF and I don't want to disturb my neighbors with generator noise. Reliability is very important! Suggestions?
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Old 04-02-2009, 03:49 PM
 
Location: New England
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Kohler is the best package unit and designed for the average home, so it shouldn't be to oversized. I have a 4k generator and can run the majority of the house while under load, but not all at the same time. Generators run at a constant speed by a governor, so you won't be producing wasted energy. Not sure what WMNF is.
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Old 04-02-2009, 04:07 PM
 
Location: West Michigan
12,084 posts, read 34,091,262 times
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Kohler makes a nice unit, but don't forget Generac which is my personal favorite after installing dozens of different ones. My personal back-up unit for my new place will be a Generac. If you buy right down to the max load it is much harder on the unit than if you oversize it a bit. I wouldn't personally go under a 8.5kW unit if you think you might hit the 6.5kW range for your load. You have to keep in mind not only the running load but the start-up load as well. The start up load for ANY motor is much higher than the running load. I know Generac makes an ultra low noise version of their enclosure so I am sure Kohler would also. Some of the units are VERY, VERY quiet. As in if you had them out in the woods at all, with just a few trees between you and the unit, you would have to strain to hear the new ones running. I wouldn't worry too much about neighbors hearing the unit run if they are more than a couple of hundred feet away from it, especially if you plant some shrubs around it.

I have installed MANY stand alone generator units from tiny ones all the way to the Caterpillar diesel 3 phase 480 volt 477 Amp units that run the entire operation out to Clayton Lake. It seems like that is all I did the Summer and Fall of 1999 when everyone was thinking the Earth was going to quit functioning at Midnight Dec 31st. Never heard of WMNF either.
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Old 04-02-2009, 04:18 PM
 
Location: Northern Maine
9,768 posts, read 14,906,964 times
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White Mountain National Forest. A little of it spills over into Maine.

To quiet your generator, dig a hole about the size of a washing machine. Fill the hole with rocks. Run a stainless steel flex tubing from your generator to the hole. Cover the hole with a tarp and some of the earth you dug up. Run a piece of plastic pipe back up out of the hole. The rocks absorb all the noise and heat from your generator. It's amazing how quiet it is.

You can get a very nice Diesel generator for about $3,000. Instead of 3600 RPM it runs at 1800 RPM. It is much quieter than a gasoline generator and uses a LOT less fuel.
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Old 04-02-2009, 06:25 PM
 
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What NMLM said. Diesel engines also last a lot longer and need far less servicing than gasoline. Not sure about propane. The only issue with diesel is, if you store it outside, you need to buy winterized fuel for cold weather. Otherwise diesel will gel at about 10 degrees F.
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Old 04-02-2009, 06:59 PM
 
Location: West Michigan
12,084 posts, read 34,091,262 times
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The OP said they wanted a Propane gen-set, not gasoline or diesel. I like a diesel myself, but for where I am now with a Natural Gas hook-up, that is the way to go. They might want a huge propane tank and not have to worry about comparatively short run times between fills.
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Old 04-02-2009, 07:20 PM
 
Location: Northern Maine
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Propane costs much more than Diesel per gallon and has far less energy per gallon. It's fine for a cook stove, but inefficient as fuel for an engine of any kind. For the rare instance when you need a backup generator, propane would be OK, but for daily use it's too expensive.
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Old 04-05-2009, 12:37 AM
 
393 posts, read 823,593 times
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Thanks everyone for these replies. NMLM, v. interesting idea for noise-blocking!
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Old 04-05-2009, 07:50 PM
 
Location: Northern Maine
9,768 posts, read 14,906,964 times
Reputation: 9573
The first time you start the generator you'll wonder what's wrong because all you hear is the mechanical sounds like valves and bearings. You will think it's coming apart. Those sounds are normally hidden by exhaust noise.
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