House Backup Generator - Propane? Where to begin?

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Old 11-14-11, 12:14 PM
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Question House Backup Generator - Propane? Where to begin?

Hi,

I've read through quite a few generator threads on here, but I haven't seen one that matches my situation. I live in an area with frequent short power outages, as well as have had several multi-day outages due to storms over the past few years. I'd like to get a backup generator for the house, but I'm not sure where to begin.

My house is heated with propane, and I have a large tank buried in the back yard. I believe it's 500 gallons, but I'll need to verify that when I receive my next fill up bill. I'm assuming that this would be a preferable source of fuel for a generator than gas/diesel as I wouldn't have to worry about filling it up.

I'd like to power quite a bit in the house, but don't need absolutely everything. Garage door openers (one at a time is fine), furnace (propane/forced hot air), possibly central AC in the summer, fridge/freezer, stove, and lights. Laptops and maybe a TV would be nice as well.

I'm expecting and prepared to pay quite a bit for this, but I don't know where to begin. I thought a good approach may be to identify some recommended brands and then contact local dealers, but I've never heard of most of the brand names that come up with Google searching, so I don't know which to pursue and which to stay away from.

I'd appreciate any feedback, and let me know if I need to provide more details about the house or the propane system, etc.

Thanks!
 
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Old 11-14-11, 12:37 PM
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The big, big factor in your design (and price) will be whether or not you really want to include your central AC unit. Everything else you listed would be just fine with an off-the-shelf 5kW generator from the big box store; or a premium brand that can be converted to propane. If you want the AC, you're looking at a permanently installed standby unit. If you get the nameplate information from your AC unit, we can give you a couple ideas. The AC unit outside the house should have a label with all the electrical specs affixed to it.
 
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Old 11-14-11, 12:38 PM
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Yes, in your case, I would say propane is the way to go.

Central AC? That takes a pretty big generator. I'd start by tallying up the draw of the things you wish to run to start getting a feel for the size of the generator it would take.
 
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Old 11-14-11, 12:58 PM
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In my opinion it makes more sense to just buy a 8000 BTU window AC for emergency use. You can always just camp out in one room. Cost wise probably a lot cheaper. Less then $200 for the window AC but probably a lot more to upsize the generator to handle central AC.
 
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Old 11-14-11, 02:46 PM
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Thanks for the replies.

ipbooks - I took a look at the label on my AC and it's a York brand. I'm not sure what the important parts of the label are, but a couple of the numbers are 208-230v 60HZ, Maximum Circuit Ampacity 27.7.

Based on your responses so far, obviously the AC is going to be the differentiator here. I'm definitely willing to live without it if it means that much difference in cost. ray2047 - I hadn't even thought about a window AC for an emergency backup, but that's a great idea. Assuming I'm looking for a generator in the 5kW size, what would I need to find in terms of one that can be connected to my house propane tank?

Thanks again.
 
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Old 11-14-11, 02:58 PM
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I would recommend this Yamaha generator. It has tri-fuel capability (gasoline, propane or natural gas) and superior power quality. It can be set up with a wireless remote start/stop control although you would still need to have a transfer switch to switch from utility to generator power.

ef6300isde

The nice thing about this is that it includes the full Yamaha factory warranty.
 
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Old 11-27-11, 09:45 PM
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Cough, nearly 4 grand for a 5500 watt generator? pass!

Buy a gas one and spend less than $300 on a tri-fuel adaptor that will let you run gasoline, propane or natural gas.

Skip the central air and get a window unit, a generator large enough to run central is going to suck fuel like candy.
You will also need to watch if you have electric water heating, an electric dryer or an electric stove (maybe 1 eye at a time).

Something in the 6500 watt range will run pretty much anything else you throw at it. If you have a well pump you might need to upsize a bit.
 
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Old 11-28-11, 05:21 AM
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I agree with Pendragon, $4k is a bit much for a puny generator. I would, for the money, go with a Generac 15k, propane/ng, automatic whole house generator. It runs it's own check cycle once a week to charge the battery and ensure things are running good. It starts automatically after 40 seconds of down time and shuts off after power is restored.
 
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Old 11-28-11, 06:00 AM
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If your looking for lower cost and a good package I like the briggs units. With transfer switch about $2200.

If you oversize the unit it will eat fuel. Size for what you really need. Try to do an accurate watt calculation.

Remember ts emergency power. Not a day at the Hilton. Food,water,heat..... A/C run a window unit in one room as a cool off room.

stratton 7 kw, generator, briggs, home, generator engine, 40301, automatic standby, generators,




Mike NJ
 
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Old 11-28-11, 11:05 AM
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You guys can do as you wish but I don't want to be thinking about all the money I saved on a generator when the voltage spikes and other transients from a cheap generator fries the control board in my furnace or worse, the ECM blower motor. I don't want to think about how much it will cost to replace the microwave oven that blows as a result of the "dirty" power. I don't want to be able to hear my generator from a half-block away. I don't want a generator that might, or might not start when I need it.
 
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Old 11-28-11, 06:12 PM
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Thank you all for the responses so far. Based on what I'm reading above, (and my own research) it seems like I need to decide between two options:

1) A smaller, portable generator that I connect to an installed transfer switch. Would this option still connect to the propane tank in my yard? Besides the Yamaha mentioned above, it looks like Honda is well regarded. If I were to go this route, is there another brand I should look at?

2) A permanently installed generator with automatic switch, always connected to the house and propane, that turns on by itself when the power goes out. I'm leaning towards this option despite the larger cost due to the fact that we lose power frequently for an hour or two here and there, as well as I don't think I would really use a portable generator for anything else.

Do the Generac generators have a good reputation? There's a dealer not too far from my house. I'll investigate the Briggs and Stratton one linked above as well.

Thanks again, these responses are very helpful.
 
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Old 11-28-11, 06:24 PM
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Generac is the most common ones I see around, although I have no experience with one. Seams like a turn key system.
 
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Old 11-28-11, 07:12 PM
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Do the Generac generators have a good reputation? There's a dealer not too far from my house.
I also have little experience with Generac home generators, but I do know Generac private labels for many other manufacturers such as Eaton, Honeywell and Siemens. From what I have heard, they are pretty reliable.
 
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Old 11-28-11, 07:55 PM
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1) A smaller, portable generator that I connect to an installed transfer switch. Would this option still connect to the propane tank in my yard? Besides the Yamaha mentioned above, it looks like Honda is well regarded. If I were to go this route, is there another brand I should look at?
The portable could connect to the existing propane tank, a connection to that tank would have to be installed.

Any gasoline engine can be easily converted to propane operation. Some conversions retain the option of using gasoline but doing it this way can decrease the output. Doing a gaseous fuel only conversion retains full power. Cost for a conversion is around $150 to $200 for parts, depending on several variables.
 
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