More generator related questions.

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  #1  
Old 11-03-12, 12:35 PM
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More generator related questions.

So I was caught with my pants unzipped with this storm. Now that my power is back, I am working on a game plan should this occur again. I am looking at a high quality portable inverter generator to have on hand. I want it to be able to run my boiler. So What I am looking for is a small interlock switch I can put near the boiler to disconnect everything from the service panel so I can run it safely on generator power. Is there something like that in existence or perhaps some way for me to configure another type of switch to perform the same duty?
 
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Old 11-03-12, 01:44 PM
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Several different possibilities but why limit it to just the boiler? My Yamaha 2800 watt inverter can run my furnace, TV (or computer), DVD refrigerator and a few lights all without problem. I also have it set up for the kitchen counter top receptacles so it can be used with the microwave oven and toaster/convection oven although not all at the same time.

I installed an 8/16 (eight breakers/sixteen circuits using twin circuit breakers) sub-panel and connected it through a three-pole, three position (utility-off-generator) selector switch. I moved the critical loads to this new sub-panel and it works well. It has one more feature that makes it far better than a service panel interlock in my opinion and that is I can leave a lamp connected to a circuit that is NOT transferred and when the utility power comes back this lamp will light.
 
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Old 11-03-12, 04:04 PM
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Yeah Droo before you do anything you will want to rethink powering one appliance only.
 
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Old 11-03-12, 06:11 PM
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My circuits aren't very specific in the house. My goal is to be able to run the refrigerator, my boiler, and communication (computers, phone, and router). I'm actually looking at the Yamaha EF2400iSHC which would be 2,000 watts continuous. I don't know what the startup demand for the fridge is, but I doubt I can run that along with the other stuff. Which is fine for me.

This genny is already real pricey, but I need the clean power for my boiler. Not being able to run my boiler is going to make having the gen pointless. I also want something small because I don't have a lot of room to store things. I did take a look at the EF2800i and it is enticing. It is a bit smaller in size and has a larger gas tank capacity. I think it had some other features I like. I like the lower noise level of the 2400 though. I don't know if the extra $230 or so is going to make it worth the expense.

This is the first long term power outage I have experienced. So it's hard for me to spend all this money on this setup. I just don't want to be caught with my butt hangin' in the breeze again. I considered getting a generator after the blizzards and Irene, but never thought I'd need it. Using it once would sure be worth the expense.

Anyway. Now that I have given Furd's idea some thought, it might be workable. The boiler is on its own circuit. I think the fridge does share an outlet on its circuit even though that isn't allowed. I could always run one extension cord to the communications stuff. Would this 3 pole/3 position switch pass code for the interlock requirements?

I do still have to run this expenditure past my wife.
 
  #5  
Old 11-03-12, 06:36 PM
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This is the switch I have been advocating the last few days.

USA, Universal Changeover Switch|Manual Generator|3PDT Center OFF|Rotary Cam| RV Transfer Swith| Pedestal Power Supply | Boat Panel | Power Source| Utility | Line | Shore| Back-up Power| Solar Energy| Battery Charger| Rectifier | Transfer Switch|

It most certainly meets the specifications of the NEC for use as a transfer switch but it may not pass your LOCAL inspector if he insists on everything being UL Listed. For all I know this switch may indeed have a UL listing, the web page doesn't state it either way.

I have my Internet fiber optic terminal, router, switch and VoIP adapter in the garage within five feet of my service and auxiliary electrical panels. Running the dedicated circuit for these was a piece of cake. I transferred the circuits for my kitchen small appliance branch circuits (refrigerator and countertop receptacles) from the service panel to the auxiliary panel along with the dedicated circuit for my furnace. Add in a couple of new circuits for garage receptacles in case I ever get a chest freezer and transfer the circuit for my entertainment center (which also covers a few lights) and I was set.

Transferring the circuits took a couple of days of working maybe three hours each day but I admit I do electrical work pretty fast. The new circuits probably took a bit longer but then I needed the new circuits regardless of whether or not I was going to have a generator. Yeah, the cost was significant, probably around $2500 including the generator and its conversion to gaseous fuel, but the peace of mind in knowing that I can stay put and live relatively comfortably without utility power (at least as long as the natural gas is flowing ) is priceless. Calculated out over the expected life of the generator makes it dirt cheap and just having the ability to connect an external generator (any generator) probably has a positive effect upon the value of my home if I ever have to sell.

In case of a power outage I can have the generator up and running within five minutes and that includes manually opening the garage door, dragging the gennie out and around the house, connecting the gas hose and electrical interconnect and starting. Then throw one switch and I'm back in fat city.
 
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Old 11-03-12, 07:01 PM
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Well, If I do it just for my boiler, I found this item: Reliance Controls TF151W - 15-Amp (120V 1-Circuit) Furnace Transfer Switch

They have other transfer switches with a few circuits, but they don't have 20 amp circuits unless you get models with more capacity.

Furd, what do you think of the Yamaha?
 
  #7  
Old 11-03-12, 07:18 PM
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That switch is horribly overpriced and it only switches the "hot" conductor. This means that it does not meet current NEC and cannot be used with a generator that has a GFCI-protected output and I think that includes most portable generators sold today. You can buy a double pole, double throw, center off toggle switch rated at 20 amperes for less than $3 and mount it in the enclosure of your choosing. You could buy a more expensive switch that has a positive stop in the center position to preclude throwing it immediately from generator to utility (or back) for less than $50 L5-20 inlet connectors are available via eBay for around $15. the last I checked.

I like my Yamaha very much. Easy starting (electric start) and fairly quiet even at full load.
 
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Old 11-03-12, 07:46 PM
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That switch is horribly overpriced and it only switches the "hot" conductor. This means that it does not meet current NEC and cannot be used with a generator that has a GFCI-protected output and I think that includes most portable generators sold today. You can buy a double pole, double throw, center off toggle switch rated at 20 amperes for less than $3 and mount it in the enclosure of your choosing. You could buy a more expensive switch that has a positive stop in the center position to preclude throwing it immediately from generator to utility (or back) for less than $50 L5-20 inlet connectors are available via eBay for around $15. the last I checked.
I second that. I got a 20A 277V DPDT Center-off metal toggle switch at my local electronics store for 6 bucks, as well as neon pilot lights for about 3 bucks. My electrical supply house has 5-15 inlets, as well for ~15 bucks. You could easily make the transfer switch for under 40 bucks.
 
  #9  
Old 11-03-12, 07:57 PM
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If you are going to power many circuits then you really should think about something like this from the Home Depot GenTran Prewired 30 Amp 7500 Watt Manual Transfer Switch for 8-10 Circuits 3028 at The Home Depot . Kind of pricey but their are other models and of course probably cheaper prices. I just mention the Home Depot because they are close by usually but there are probably cheaper places. Ask This Old House had a segment on this last year and the video is online. It can be done by the home owner but I suggest getting an electrician, just depends on how comfortable you are going into the box.
 
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Old 11-03-12, 08:25 PM
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If it were I, I would do what I did. ( What do you want to power?) You can do a lot with this IMO.

I like colman and have one. I have 3250 watt. 4050 watt surge.

This is the new model.

Amazon.com: Powermate PM0103007 Vx Power Series 3,750 Watt 212cc Gas Powered Portable Generator: Patio, Lawn & Garden


I also got this that comes with cord, inlet box, 6 circuit box, one adapter, and pre-wired whip that goes right to your main panel.

Amazon.com: Reliance Controls 31406CRK Pro/Tran 6-Circuit 30 Amp Generator Transfer Switch Kit With Transfer Switch, 10-Foot Power Cord, And Power Inlet Box For Up To 7,500-Watt Generators: Patio, Lawn & Garden


This is all less then $800.

I did mine cheaper because I waited for clearance sales online. ( Plus there was no storms recently. I think prices shot up)

I cant tell you how comfortable we were during 5 days no power. ( Kids were spoiled as well as the admiral)

I power 6 120v circuits.... Well, refridge, boiler, lights, tv, 3 ceiling fans, and about 10 outlets.

Monitor your load and you will do fine.... Don't want to be burning fuel with a large gen....

My two cents
 
  #11  
Old 11-04-12, 03:54 AM
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I want the Yamaha because it generates clean power. I don't want to take the chance that I burn up my boiler controls. That transfer switch I think only provides for 15 amp circuits. I would like to have at least one 20 amp. I'll keep working on my plan here.

Furd, was is easy to convert your gen to natural gas and can you convert it back if you needed?
 
  #12  
Old 11-04-12, 06:05 AM
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That switch has two 20 amp and 4 15 amp.

Or the two 20 amps can be tied for a 220 v load.

Most important thing I use is a killowatt meter. I monitor the Hz at an outlet in the home. Make sure it stays around 60 hz is the most important.

If starts drifting, which it does not, I adjust the governer on the gen. I adjust and check each time I start it.

Amazon.com: Kill a Watt Meter: Everything Else
 
  #13  
Old 11-04-12, 07:07 AM
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Will that Kill-a-watt give me a peak draw rating for when a motor is starting up?
 
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Old 11-04-12, 07:15 AM
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Will that Kill-a-watt give me a peak draw rating for when a motor is starting up?
Yes .


 
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Old 11-04-12, 08:10 AM
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If I use a small sub panel with a manual transfer switch, won't I need to have a 240v generator to supply it properly and to meet code?

I think just getting some quality extension cords is going to make this a far easier project for me. I don't expect to have to do this often. If I do, then I can upgrade my interface.
 
  #16  
Old 11-04-12, 10:24 AM
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The Kill-A-Watt meter that Lawrosa linked to will only show the power draw of items plugged into the meter itself, not the total draw from the generator unless the meter is plugged into the generator and all loads are plugged into the meter. Since the meter is limited to a maximum of 15 amperes that normally cannot be done.

Droo, there are several methods to convert an engine to gaseous fuel. Some (the method I used) destroy the carburetor for use with gasoline so if I wanted to go back to gasoline I would have to buy a new carburetor. Also a gasoline tank since I cut the top out of my tank to use it to store the fuel hose and interconnect cable. Another method uses an add-on venturi between the air cleaner and the carburetor to introduce the gaseous fuel. These are known as tri-fuel systems because they will use gasoline, propane or natural gas by simply switching the selected fuel on or off. The downsides to this method is the cost is slightly higher, sometimes the total output is lower than with gasoline and sometimes there are physical limitations not allowing the mounting of the add-on venturi.

The ideal installation is when a skilled technician is able to drill the carburetor and install the gaseous fuel inlet in a precise location. This allows switching fuels easily and does not have the problem of lower output or physical interference. The cost of this additional fuel inlet to the carburetor is about $125 more than the other two methods. Check out this website for all the details you could ever need. It IS a bit difficult to navigate due to several "broken" links but all the information is there if you hunt long enough.

Generator Conversion Kits to Propane and Natural Gas.

As for being able to use a separate transfer switch to supply only 120 volt power to a normally 240/120 volt power sub-panel...yes, you can. My generator is 120 volt only and I have changed the output receptacle from a three-wire model to a four-wire model. I detailed the changes in a different thread but the bottom line is that my house is wired (sub-panel, transfer switch and power inlet connection) for a 240/120 volt generator. I, or whoever inherits/purchases my house when I croak will be able to connect ANY standard 240/120 volt generator with no changes in the house wiring at all. This can be done in several ways and I can detail them to anyone that wants to know.
 
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Old 11-04-12, 10:47 AM
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Droop - how much power does your boiler controller need? Could you run a small (read cheaper) inverter off a deep cycle battery? It could be completely separate from whatever other emergency power you use.
 
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Old 11-04-12, 11:25 AM
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Inverters drain a battery really fast, requiring a large battery bank. By the time you get a decent inverter and the batteries set up you might have as much invested as if you simply bought a generator and associated parts.
 
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Old 11-04-12, 11:36 AM
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Good inverters are expensive. I need a pure sine wave. That is why this generator costs so much. I took a peak at doing basically what you suggested and it isn't going to make much sense. This Yamaha appears to be very fuel efficient as well. I like the small package too. I'm going to look into this tri-fuel stuff that Furd posted. It would be nice to be able to hook up to the natural gas and have gasoline as an option still. That would still allow me to take it elsewhere and use for other things.
 
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Old 11-04-12, 12:17 PM
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Furd, how long have you had this generator?
 
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Old 11-04-12, 12:49 PM
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Droo, what boiler controls do you have that you need such clean power? Just curious.
 
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Old 11-04-12, 01:22 PM
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I have a Burnham ES2. Burnham markets the controls as the IQ control. They are made by Honeywell and I think they are either identical or a version of their AQ control. That is speculation though.

The typical generator puts out noisy power and doesn't necessarily regulate the voltage as well as some electronics need it to be.
 
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Old 11-04-12, 01:30 PM
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I probably would not power that boiler with a gen unless its a Honda type unit. ( Parts expensive to replace)

I am not up on the sine wave thing though. I do try to keep constant 60hz with my gen. Got it fine tuned that at 62hz I have it set for, and then when my load is on it drops to 60 hz.
 
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Old 11-04-12, 02:46 PM
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The sine wave thing is important when it comes to electronics and so is voltage fluctuation. You will be able to measure that with the Killawatt.
 
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Old 11-04-12, 07:22 PM
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I don't really know anything about boilers but I know during one of our really bad storms in Maryland I was able to run My Fios and the router along with a computer and I didn't have any problems with anything. Those routers are kind of sensitive too so I am wondering if you need any specific generator. Just my two cents, this interests me as we have had some really bad storms up here especially in the summer. Not anything like what you guys have had in New Jersey although one storm had us without power for several days.
 
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Old 11-04-12, 08:17 PM
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Save your money and stick to a standard gen... But make sure you get a gen that has a good governer to maintain hertz.

My 2 cents.



All direct-coupled generators produce sine wave output. That is, generators which consist solely of an engine mechanically connected an 120vac/240Vac alternator produce sine wave output -- equivalent to what the utility company provides. Note that with a direct-coupled generator the engine RPM has a linear effect on both alternator output voltage and frequency; the engine must run at a constant RPM (typically 3600RPM or 1800RPM, for 2 or 4 pole alternators, respectively)

Which brings us to inverter-generators, which operate somewhat differently. In an inverter-generator the engine drives an intermediate voltage alternator (typically 12 or 24Vac), and in turn that output is rectified to DC. Subsequently, that DC voltage is used as input to a waveform generation circuit -- which is basically an inverter. Depending on the complexity/cost of the waveform generation circuit, the resultant inverter output can be a squarewave, simple stairstep, modified stairstep, or a true sinewave. The primary advantage of the inverter-generator topology is that it decouples the engine RPM from the output voltage and frequency; only the engine output power is relevant. For low load applications, this means the engine can be run slower, which translates to lower noise and lower fuel consumption. The downside is that dynamic response of inverter-generators is worse than direct-coupled generators, as in an inverter-generator there is less mechanical inertia to counteract high inrush current situations (like starting motors on compressors or pumps).


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  #27  
Old 11-04-12, 08:53 PM
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Furd, how long have you had this generator?
I got it either after Christmas of 2006 or maybe right after January 2, 2007. Unfortunately, (or as I prefer to think, fortunately,) I have not had any prolonged power outages since before I bought it, that olde Murphy's Law corollary. I've only got about 12-15 hours total time on it, not even enough for the initial oil change yet. Most of that time was on gasoline, recommended to "seat" the rings before conversion to gaseous fuel.


Justin, the modern boilers, especially the modulating-condensing models, use microprocessor based control systems. Essentially a PLC controlling all safety and operational controls. These controllers are highly sensitive to harmonic distortion that is so common on small generators. The inverter generators, at least the higher priced name brands (Honda and Yamaha) use a high frequency multi phase generator and then rectify the output to direct current. This direct current is then inverted in a high quality pure sine wave inverter to supply a solid crystal-controlled 60 Hertz sine wave output with very low harmonics. Using this AC-to-DC-to-AC conversion means the frequency is very stable regardless of the engine and generator speed. This allows for an "idle" function that slows the speed during light loading of the output which reduces noise and saves fuel. From no-load to full load and back to no load the frequency on my generator doesn't vary but 1/2 Hertz in transit and within less than a second of the upset it is rock steady at 60 Hertz. It also outputs a very steady 121 volts, dipping to 119 when going to full load (and recovering to 120) and maybe rising to 122 volts when going from full load to no load with the same recovery time of less than a second. No "regular generator can come close to that.


Mike, the Honda and the Yamaha use the same inverter technology. Honda is just more expensive because of the name.


Hedge, the FiOS ONT runs on battery with a fairly sophisticated recharging set up. The FiOS router is also DC powered from the wallwart and so both are fairly immune to the harmonics of the less-expensive generator. I only have FiOS Internet and I made a couple of wiring changes between the battery unit and the ONT to allow for Internet service strictly from the battery. My goal is to make the ONT, router and VoIP adapter all run from battery recharged by a solar system.


Mike, interesting blurb but not entirely true. My inverter generator reacts faster than any non-inverter generator, size for size, on the market. While I haven't tested a Honda (have run a couple) I suspect they are also very good. The unfortunate thing is that now that the "secret" is out about generators in general and inverter generators in particular, the copycat manufacturers (read Chinese) are making low-cost "inverter" generators. These copycat units are a fraction of the cost of the name brands and they DO use inferior inverters, often a two-step square wave model. Don't be fooled by the word inverter, a decent inverter generator WILL cost a pretty penny.
 
  #28  
Old 11-04-12, 10:11 PM
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What do you guys think of Coleman generators? It is what I have and for us anyway it seems to work great. It has an electric start on it and while kind of noisy seems to sip fuel and not use too much over the length of time it is on which varies a great deal. Bought it about 20 years ago or so now maybe more maybe less years. I think it has a place for 220 on the generator so I am fairly certain I could hook in a manual transfer switch. Haven't looked at it too much in the past couple of years.
 
  #29  
Old 11-05-12, 06:53 AM
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I have a coleman. I like them and it serves my purpose.

I do not like the fact that they have no models with a 120/240 selector switch. Since I have no 240 loads

I modified mine to produce 120v only at full amps using both windings.

Oh the price was right plus has a briggs motor. I may have paid $299 on clearance from what I remember.

I really cannot justify spending big bucks on a gen.

I would buy another colman like this but like I said I would need to rewire to 120v only. You cant do that with all gens. You need 4 wires coming off the windings.

Amazon.com: Powermate PM0103007 Vx Power Series 3,750 Watt 212cc Gas Powered Portable Generator: Automotive



But if I had to buy a gen tomorrow, and after all my research this is the gen I might buy. But thats only if I had the money...List $1400 I think....LOL

Has the 120v only selector switch.

My only issue is the GFCI protection which I would have to modify and that it seems like a gas hog. 9 hours at 1/2 load. ( My gen ran some 14 hours on a tank but I am only 6 hp)

http://www.generac.com/SpecSheets/0193490SBY.pdf

And if I was going to spend that money I would probably lean towards a Honda if anything. This one.

Honda EG4000 Portable Economy 4000 Watt Generator
 

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  #30  
Old 11-05-12, 03:27 PM
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If my boiler didn't have the fancy electronics, I would not be considering the inverter generator. The control on that boiler is about $800. The last thing I want to do is risk damaging that. God forbid that happens in the middle of winter then I am even worse off waiting for the part than waiting for the power to come back on.

I think if I wanted to run more items in the house on generator power, I would opt for an additional cheaper generator.
 
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Old 11-05-12, 07:06 PM
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How about a high-quality generator with AVR and an electronic governor, as well as a UPS on the boiler?
 
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Old 11-05-12, 08:38 PM
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How about a high-quality generator with AVR and an electronic governor, as well as a UPS on the boiler?
Less expensive to just buy the high quality inverter generator.
 
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Old 11-06-12, 03:27 PM
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I think I'll buy the tri-fuel generator. I'll have them do it, that way I don't have to worry about screwing it up and it has the warranty. The wife wants a few days to mull over the cost and whether it is justified. Fair enough. I told her if this nor'easter knocks out our power again, I'm buying it.
 
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Old 11-06-12, 03:45 PM
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What tri fuel are you getting?

What is your budget?
 
  #35  
Old 11-06-12, 04:41 PM
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The yamaha EF2800i. That link Furd posted, they modify them to be able to use gasoline, propane, or natural gas. There is no budget. The sky is the limit! Whn I say "sky", I really mean "my wife".
 
  #36  
Old 11-07-12, 12:57 PM
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The wife wants a few days to mull over the cost and whether it is justified. Fair enough.
Yep.

Earlier you said
I think the fridge does share an outlet on its circuit even though that isn't allowed.
By something in your local code? It's allowable by the NEC, and done everyday. You also said
I don't know what the startup demand for the fridge is, but I doubt I can run that along with the other stuff. Which is fine for me.
Refrigerators are very efficient - very low draw. The newer ones (last 10 or so years) have also improved the startup situation, so that they seldom trip a GFCI - if someone foolishly plugs one into GFCI protection.

I don't know about you guys, but we're not fond of tossing expensive food, dealing with rot, or sanitizing the inside of a refrigerator. That would go high on my list of critical circuits. Wonder how the "Sky's" opinion might shift if you added that in?
 
  #37  
Old 11-07-12, 01:29 PM
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Refrigerators are very efficient - very low draw. The newer ones (last 10 or so years) have also improved the startup situation, so that they seldom trip a GFCI - if someone foolishly plugs one into GFCI protection.
My refrigerator needs 19.2 amps to start. It needs 7.7 amps to run. Not sure what the requirements of the defroster are. By the way, ice makers use the most energy in modern refrigerators. The don't include their energy usage in the EPA labeling.

I thought all large appliances needed their own circuits. Is that not the case? My washer and drier need to be on their own circuit. Why would my refrigerator be different? It's not like you can share that with many other kitchen appliances anyway.
 
  #38  
Old 11-07-12, 01:35 PM
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I'll add to NashKats comment about the fridge. Last weekend I dumped two contractor bags of stuff out of our fridge/freezer. Even though we packed the freezer with ice and left it closed, after 6 days everything in it was thawed.

On Saturday we spent a couple of hours cleaning out the inside. The freezer was OK but one small ramekin of chopped garlic stunk up the fridge pretty bad. Everything in it was bad and had to be tossed.

My priorities for a generator are water, fridge, hot water, fish tanks, lights, and electronics. 6KW covers that but barely. I'm still looking for a power conditioner to feed my electronic stuff.

Have you considered a power conditioner for your boiler and a larger regular generator for the rest of the house? I bought a 6KW Briggs for $675 and I'm looking at power conditioners (15A) in the $200 range.
 
  #39  
Old 11-07-12, 03:55 PM
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A $200 power conditioner? I'm not sure that will do what you need it to do. The power conditioner needs to regenerate the current so it is clean and pure sine wave.

I don't need a ton of generator. I want a small one. It will be easy to store and handle that way. Having the inverter built into the generator makes things that much easier. I could buy a larger version if I wanted to.
 
  #40  
Old 11-07-12, 04:23 PM
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Your washer is probably 120VAC and the dryer 240VAC.

I'm not up to speed on modern electronics but I suspect that most circuits are built to handle some waveform distortion. I suspect that voltage and frequency deviations would be the most harmful. The power conditioners I'm looking at regulate surge and sag and also filter spikes and transients. They don't regulate frequency or distortion.
 
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