Automatic Generator?


Old 01-18-06, 06:55 PM
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Join Date: Oct 2005
Location: USA
Posts: 93
Automatic Generator?

After refinishing my basement, my wife and I are now dealing with the fact that every time it rains or the wind blows & the power goes out, the basement is going to flood. That's because it did a few months ago, and we've just gotten the basement back up & running. I've taken care of everything within my power to ensure that it doesn't happen again, including buying a generator.

However the water table is fairly high where I live, and if the power goes out & I'm not home to start the generator, the basement is very likely going to flood. Every it rains hard & the wind blows, we run home from where we are because we're afraid of the basement flooding. This past Saturday night we left the movies early because the babysitter called & said the power was flickering. Today I had to leave an all-day meeting at work with people from out of town because the power went out & my wife (who miraculously got the generator running) was freaking out. So the bottom line is we refinished the basement and now we're slaves to it. Not to be too dramatic, but I can't keep living like this.

A co-worker told me he has an automatic (unattended transfer) generator at his house, which runs off the propane tank. I was under the impresssion these things cost like $10,000-$20,000 but he showed me a catalog with the one he has - brand name Guardian Plus. There's a few different models, ranging in price from $2,000-$3,500 prior to installation, which is much less than I thought, and my friend tells me the model he has powers his whole house. Really all I want is a generator that can power the sump pumps, boiler, air conditioner units & refrigerator (okay, maybe a T.V. too), but that I know will trip automatically when the power goes out. Of course if this thing can power more than that I wouldn't complain either.

Does anyone know anything about this type of generator? Like I said, I thought it was really expensive, and I don't know anyone else who has one so they're not that common I guess. Is this thing too good to be true? I REALLY hope not because this would be the solution to our problem, and definitely worth the few thousand dollars. Any insight on this type of generator would be greatly appreciated. Thanks!
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Old 01-18-06, 07:06 PM
Join Date: Nov 2004
Location: CA
Posts: 2,041
You have to determine what the KW load is that you want to provide. A pump is one thing, but when you start talking about refrigerators and air conditioners. You will need an automatic start-up device and an automatic bus transfer. These are not terribly expensive; the generator KW is where the money is. Also, you have to determing how long you want it to be able to run, because this will determine how much propane you need .

A simple battery operated sump pump connected to a power failure circuit would solve your immediate problem.
Old 01-18-06, 09:58 PM
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Join Date: Dec 2005
Location: Warren, Vermont
Posts: 353
The smallest automatic start generators provide several thousand watts, which will power the important loads in the house.
Yes, you can get a Generac for that amount. Completely installed cost will run around $4,000 to around $6,000.
They are quite reliable. Support has been good.
Old 01-19-06, 04:37 AM
Join Date: Sep 2003
Location: Central New York State
Posts: 13,973
One of my co-workers is having an automatic start generator installed today. It is a 15 KWatt unit. All told with installation, including connecting to his existing propane tank, it will run him around $4,000.

For most residential settings it is not economical to power the entire house. Units that large are just too expensive, and typical power outages are usually short enough that you can afford to do without certain amenities.

For the smaller automatic transfer generators, a separate sub panel is installed that has the automatic transfer switch built in. Then key circuits are moved from your main panel to the sub panel. The generator is connected to the sub panel.

During times of no power outage, the circuits in the transfer switch sub panel are powered by the main panel. When a power outage occurs, and lasts more than a few seconds, the generator automatically starts. The transfer switch then automatically switches over from the main panel (no longer supplying power) to the generator. When the power outage is over, the generator will shut down and normal power will again supply the circuits.
Old 01-19-06, 08:49 AM
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Join Date: Feb 2005
Location: Near Lansing, Michigan
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I think a 12V backup sump pump is going to be the cheapest solution to your problem. For under $500, you can get a pretty good 12V sump pump system that will provide you with adequate time to get the generator fired up. A quick look at some of the advertising indicates that a 12V pump with a deep-cycle marine battery can pump about 1000-2000 gallons per hour continuously for 9 hours.

Or, if you have city water they make backup sump pumps that run on water pressure. You mentioned propane, so I assume that you aren't in the city.
Old 01-19-06, 05:06 PM
Thread Starter
Join Date: Oct 2005
Location: USA
Posts: 93
Thanks guys for all the replies. It sounds like a small automatic generator is the way to go, and it sounds like the price I'm talking about isn't too far off from what others have seen. It's certainly worth the money for that peace of mind.

As far as the 12V battery back-up units, I actually have two of them (one on each pump). They don't pump nearly as fast as the regular pumps. At the time I had the flood in October, my drainage was so poor that water was gushing into the wells from the french drains. When the power went out the battery back-ups kicked in, but they couldn't operate nearly fast enough to stop the flow. We didn't even think they were running, but once the water stopped gushing they did pump out the water that had come in.

Now that my drainage is better, you're probably right that these pumps will do the trick in the short term. There are some problems though. Of course if we're away for more than 6-12 hours and the power is off for that long, they'll run out of juice. That's probably a rare event. But those batteries need to be replaced every 12-18 months and they're expensive. In the long run, you could end up spending just as much as the one-time payment on the automatic generator. My next door neighbor has had to replace his back-ups twice, as they just stopped working. I got the same ones as he bought, which cost $400 a piece. Maybe the more expensive ones are better.

Thanks again for the advice. I think I have my answer!

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