Congratulations! You have a Generator

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  #1  
Old 11-20-12, 06:10 PM
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Congratulations! You have a Generator

Tens of thousands of people purchased gas generators after Sandy. Some ran extension cords through their home, others questionably wired them into their main panels. Now that things are (hopefully) getting back to normal, now's the time to prepare for the next time you need the generator to ensure it's setup safely and legally.

There are a few options, but first, the things not to do:

DO NOT use a cheater cord (aka suicide cord). This is a hacked-up extension cord with two male ends. It's an electrocution hazard and can easily feed electricity back into the grid, both which are bad things.

DO NOT directly connect the generator to your main panel without a transfer switch or interlock. You may remember to turn off the main breaker before energizing the generator, but if you happen to forget that once, or someone else in your family does the setup, the results can be disastrous. Linemen working on fixing the lines can be electrocuted and generators have been known to short out or explode if connected when the main power comes back on.


Option 1:
Use extension cords. Simply get a number of extension cords for your fridge, lamps, and other required appliances. Your standard 16ga extension cord will be fine for anything other than window AC units or space heaters. For those, you'll need headvy duty, 12ga extension cords. The lighter duty ones can easily overheat. The downside of this option is that any hard-wired appliance (heat, well pump, etc) won't work. No permit is required.

Option 2:
Use a transfer switch. These can be purchased for $150-$300+ and will allow a certain number (4/6/8/12) circuits to be switched between mains and generator power. It will be wired next to your main panel and you'll pick the most important circuits to be switched. Add an inlet and a twist-lock extension cord and you will have a professional installation. A permit and inspection is required in most areas.

Option 3:
Main breaker interlock. Some, but not all, main panels have interlock kits which are a mechanical plate and other pieces that allow either the main breaker OR the generator breaker to be on. There are also some after-market interlock kits which are UL tested but may or may not be accepted by your local inspector. The best course of action is to print out the details and ask your inspector before buying the hardware. If approved, this method allows any combination of circuits to be run by the generator, limited of course by the wattage of the generator. Again, a permit is required in most areas.

Option 1.5:
If you're not ready for a full transfer switch, you can get a one-circuit transfer switch for a gas furnace. You'll still use extension cords, but it's a code-legal way of attaching a fixed appliance. There are multiple options out there, but here's an example: Reliance TF151W Single Circuit Manual Transfer Switch 15 Amp




Other generator reminders:
Be sure to run your generator away from any habitable structure. Generators exhaust carbon monoxide and can easily seep into windows. Many municipalities recommend a 20' separation between the generator and any habitable structure.

Be sure the generator is exhausting somewhere safe. Not against wood or vinyl siding, dry leaves, dry grass, etc. The exhaust is HOT!

Gasoline goes 'stale' after 6-12 months. Either rotate your gas (use it in your car before then) or use a stabilizer such as Sta-Bil. You will still want to rotate your gas every 12-18 months even with a stabilizer. Also don't forget to stabilize or drain the gas in the generator tank. Either drain the gas and run the generator until it runs out, or use a stabilizer in the fuel tank and run the generator for 5 minutes to circulate the gas. If you don't, you may find the carburetor clogged in a year or two when you need it most!

Start up the generator every month or two and let it run for a few minutes.

Most manufacturers recommend changing the oil after 5-10 hours, then ever 50 hours after that. That means, your generator probably needs an oil change!



For those of you who doubt the need for a safe installation, some extra-credit reading:
Accident Report Detail
Beware of Backfeeding - How NOT to Connect a Portable Generator
 
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  #2  
Old 11-21-12, 04:53 AM
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If you already have a generator and time to properly setup, I would strongly discourage option 1. Option 1 should be a last resort for if you just got a generator and need it before getting setup up correctly.
Although it is safe electrically, extension cords run everywhere under poorly lighting conditions can pose a trip hazard. In situations like the past storm, broken arms or similar are lower priority.

Where ever possible, use brightly colored extension cords (generator to tie-in plug, or to devices). Making them easier to see means it's easier to work with when setting up in the dark, and easier to see while moving around them while they are in use.
 
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Old 11-29-12, 03:11 PM
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Attn: Norther Mike - Generator Suggestions

I suppose this thread can be a thread for others to make suggestions to the Genset threat sticky

I would add exercise and test the generator frequently.
Test it with LOAD just to make sure it's putting out AC.


Exercising it as well to keep the genset magnetized.
 
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Old 11-29-12, 05:30 PM
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I kill two birds with one stone. Any time I vacuum out my car, I haul the generator out, and use it to power the vacuum cleaner. I do the same with my hedge trimmer. Finding a practical routine way to use the generator makes exercising it easy.
 
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Old 11-29-12, 06:47 PM
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Pingable, this thread is not closed. I have moved your thread here. Did you have trouble posting to it?
 
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Old 11-30-12, 05:25 AM
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pingable and Andrew, great idea.
As I've mentioned in other threads, I'll keep my genny fuel tank topped up, and use the fuel from it to fuel my other gas powered tools. This way, the fuel is always fresh, and the tank is always full.

Having some sort of regular routine to run your generator is a good way to keep it in good working order, and spot any issues before the need to use it comes up.
 
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Old 11-30-12, 06:00 AM
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I'll usually use mine when I'm hanging outdoors with friends, or if I need extra power in the garage. If we get a good snow I'll use it and a 1500W light to have nighttime sledding. Can't say I haven't used it to power off-road lights, either.
 
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Old 12-01-12, 02:21 PM
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Gasoline goes 'stale' after 6-12 months. Either rotate your gas (use it in your car before then) or use a stabilizer such as Sta-Bil. You will still want to rotate your gas every 12-18 months even with a stabilizer. Also don't forget to stabilize or drain the gas in the generator tank. Either drain the gas and run the generator until it runs out, or use a stabilizer in the fuel tank and run the generator for 5 minutes to circulate the gas. If you don't, you may find the carburetor clogged in a year or two when you need it most!
According to the web site below, gas actually goes stale in as little as 30 days. Itís that ethanol (see the site below for more information on gas going stale). Use Stabil or something similar in any stored gas, and in any gas that is going to be in your generatorís tank for more than 30 days.

http://www.echo-usa.com/Warranty/Lea...ol-Fuel-062512

Since most of us leave gas in our gas generators and itís tough to siphon it out (the water that the ethanol attracts goes to the bottom of the tank, by the way), itís best if you put Stabil in any gas that is going into your generator tank, unless youíre in the midst of a long-term power outage.
 
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Old 12-01-12, 02:31 PM
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Keep in mind that Stabil's protection does not last forever. It is best to siphon out as much as you can and then run the generator, or any other gas engine) until the last of the fuel is used up.
 
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Old 12-01-12, 07:52 PM
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Gas is just not the gas of yesteryears. YMMV with gas stabilizers. Atmospheric venting IMO also plays a role on how long or NOT gas last. At the very minimum, I would say, if stored in the carb, Cycle it out every 3 months.

The primary culprit for people who don't excercise it enough & or IMPROPER storage of the unit, leads to dirty carbs - which in turn, for the non-frequent genset users/usage cycle - will be one that doesn't run properly for the every 1X a year they may fire it up.
 
  #11  
Old 12-05-12, 07:36 PM
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I would add to always store the generator with the fuel valve off and the carb sould be empty. You can just run it dry or some carbs have drain plugs just for this purpose.

No gas in the carb means it cant go stale and turn into sludge. If it doesnt have a shut off valve by all means install one.
 
  #12  
Old 12-06-12, 05:47 AM
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I would add to always store the generator with the fuel valve off and the carb sould be empty. You can just run it dry or some carbs have drain plugs just for this purpose.

No gas in the carb means it cant go stale and turn into sludge. If it doesnt have a shut off valve by all means install one.
The only problem with this is gaskets dry and crack.
If you run at least once every 6 to 9 months, I don't see this being an issue.

I've been parking my summer vehicles for a few years with no issues. With my current car, put it in the garage with a full tank of fuel, remove the battery, throw the cover on her and walk away.
 
  #13  
Old 12-21-12, 08:31 PM
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RE: Gasoline

Having lost a carburetor on my snowblower (which leaked gas all over my new shed ), I wanted to impart some of the knowledge I have learned regarding today's gasoline and small engines. Being without a snow blower or lawn mower is bad, being without your generator is much worse.
The enemy here is water Ė the ethanol that they put in gas is hydroscopic; it attracts moisture.

1) Don't use gas more than 30 days old
- Even if you use Stabil, you don't know how long the gas was sitting in the tanks at the station. You are better off pouring this gas in your car (which is fuel injected and is not as adversely affected by "stale" gas).

2) Use some sort of stabilizer within the 30 days
- I stopped using Stabil as the reviews were not great and it turns to molasses after sitting for a while. I started using Seafoam Amazon.com: Sea Foam Motor Tune - Up: Sports & Outdoors instead. It's not cheap, but it also cleans out carbon deposits.

Recently, I was turned onto a product called StarTron that is specifically made to neutralize the ethanol in today's gasolines. Check out the reviews here: Amazon.com: Star brite Star Tron Gasoline Additive: Sports & Outdoors. I was able to find it locally at Lowes.

The stabilizers are good if happen to leave the gas in the tank for more than 30 days....which we all do

3) How to turn off your generator
a) Disconnect loads one at a time, allowing the generator to stabilize before proceeding.
b) Once all the loads are disconnected, allow it to run for a minute.
c) Turn the fuel shut off to the closed position (it should run for a minute or so before it runs out of fuel).

This will drain MOST of the fuel out of the carburetor, but NOT all. This tiny bit of fuel can still cause problems. In order to get this last bit of fuel out, there is often a screw on the carburetor that will open a small valve and bleed the rest out. This may not be in your owners manual - it was not in mine. I had to call Briggs and Stratton about my new 8KW generator to confirm that the screw with a dab of paint on it at the bottom of the carb was the bleeder screw. The nice woman had to check with a few people in order to confirm that it was.

Some carburetors have a thumb screw on the bottom of the bowl, others you have to remove the bowl. Not a big deal Ė just take out the bolt at the bottom of the bowl and dump the gas out onto a paper towel (put paper towels around the area as gas will come out when the screw is loosened).

When you put the bowl back on, make sure the tiny o-ring is seated properly and donít go crazy tightening the bolt Ė snug it up and call it a day.

Since I have been following the above, my equipment when refueled, will start on the first pull Ė even after sitting for years.

As mentioned, it is good practice to exercise the generator with a load on it Ė I do that every three months then drain the gas as outlined above and it is good to go.

The above steps should be used on all your small 4 cycle engine equipment and they will give you years of trouble free service.
 
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Old 12-22-12, 05:45 AM
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Thanks for the good feedback spta97!
 
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Old 12-22-12, 05:51 AM
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Good info. I've been putting Stabil in my gas can that I use for my lawnmower right when I fill up. I don't use very much of it, so I know it will sit all summer and over the winter if I have any left. So far, the lawnmower works great at 4 1/2 years old.

As far as how old the gas is at the gas station. I don't know where you live, but I can't imagine the gas around here being in the tank for more than a week, if that.
 
  #16  
Old 01-17-13, 01:47 PM
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A couple suggestions...

Ethanol free gas exists, though you might have to hunt for it. It is widely used for boats, so if you are near a marina you might want to look there. It is maybe 25% more expensive, but for a few gallons a year it is worthwhile.

PROPANE It doesn't go bad, doesn't gum up your carburetor, and no one wants it in a blackout. 90% of problems with small generators are related to the fuel system, and propane solves all of them. (well, except for the propane tank freezing, but that is not a big problem)

FWIW I bought a $300 propane genny that was a POS. I returned it immediately as defective and bought a wonderful Yamaha for $1,100. Yeah, expensive, but it works. It will run for 2 days on a gas grill tank, so with 4 tanks I am good for a week.
 
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Old 01-18-13, 07:51 AM
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drooplug


Good info. I've been putting Stabil in my gas can that I use for my lawnmower right when I fill up. I don't use very much of it, so I know it will sit all summer and over the winter if I have any left. So far, the lawnmower works great at 4 1/2 years old.

As far as how old the gas is at the gas station. I don't know where you live, but I can't imagine the gas around here being in the tank for more than a week, if that.
In a populated area I think old gas at the station would be less of a concern, but there are areas that may not be filled up as frequently.

Toller


Ethanol free gas exists, though you might have to hunt for it. It is widely used for boats, so if you are near a marina you might want to look there. It is maybe 25% more expensive, but for a few gallons a year it is worthwhile.

PROPANE It doesn't go bad, doesn't gum up your carburetor, and no one wants it in a blackout. 90% of problems with small generators are related to the fuel system, and propane solves all of them. (well, except for the propane tank freezing, but that is not a big problem)

FWIW I bought a $300 propane genny that was a POS. I returned it immediately as defective and bought a wonderful Yamaha for $1,100. Yeah, expensive, but it works. It will run for 2 days on a gas grill tank, so with 4 tanks I am good for a week.
Propane is good stuff, but it lacks the energy of gasoline. I had looked into a propane generator (as well as multi-fuel), however my reasons to go with gas was the ability to get propane. With the exception of Hurricain Sandy, gasoline has been much more readily available than propane in my area. Propane can only be purchased at a garden center or they have tank exchanges at HD / Lowes. I know some areas propane is much easier to come by.

What brand / model did you get? How many watts? For comparison, mine was about the same price with 10k start / 8k continous.

I had looked at a Tri-Fuel from HD but the reviews were not good at all.

Personally I hate gas (especially after dealing with these horrible Biltz containers that spill everywhere), so if propane was more previlant in my area I may have gone that route. You make a great point about the ability to store it essentially forever.

After all my preaching I have 2 gallons of gas that's three weeks old in my shed that I have to treat and dump in the truck :NO NO NO:
 
  #18  
Old 01-18-13, 11:07 AM
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It is a Yamaha EF2000. I powers my furnace, fridge, freezer, water heater (induced draft) and computer at the same time; that's plenty. Only problem... you can't hear it in the house!
 
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Old 01-18-13, 01:17 PM
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I picked up an already converted to tri-fuel Yamaha EF2800i. Ran it on gasoline to break it in then ran it on propane to set it up. Ran well. It comes with a tachometer and I was able to run the generator just as fast on propane as gasoline.
 
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Old 02-22-13, 03:21 PM
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Your standard 16ga extension cord will be fine for anything other than window AC units or space heaters.
Doesn't appear that anyone has taken exception to this statement...

I would not use a 16ga extension cord for a fridge, microwave, coffee maker, hair dryer, vacuum cleaner, leaf blower (if you are silly enough to blow leaves during a power outage), etc... the fridge might only draw say 400-500 watts when running, but the surge when the compressor starts will cause voltage to sag, and that ain't good for it.

The other appliances listed all draw upwards of 10-12 Amps. While this is 'generally' OK for intermittent use on a SHORT 16 ga cord, chances are that the cords are going to be longer and in use for longer periods of time.

I would recommend nothing smaller than a 14 ga extension cord be used for this purpose.

My 2 cents...

(by the way, despite the noise, a vacuum cleaner can also be used as a SPACE HEATER in an emergency!)
 
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Old 02-22-13, 04:17 PM
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I didn't see that post. I wouldn't even OWN a 16 gauge extension cord. Most of mine are 12 gauge, one 10 gauge and a couple of 14 gauge that are limited to portable tools and the Weed Eater.
 
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Old 02-22-13, 04:51 PM
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I hear ya Furd... you should see the one I have for my genset... SIX gauge, 60' long! weighs a TON! and best of all... I scavenged the wire from a dumpster! FREE! couldn't believe my good fortune that day!
 
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Old 02-22-13, 07:44 PM
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Good diving!

I blew my chances of getting a sizable length of 10-4 and also some 6-4 at my last job. That, and several other things that I'm pretty sure ended up in the landfill cause me to pound my head against the wall on a fairly regular basis.
 
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Old 03-27-13, 07:15 AM
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"Dirty" power

I am having a licensed electrician install a transfer switch for my 7kw Briggs & Stratton. This switch will power my entire panel safely. However, since it is a portable generator I know the power is not as refined as my standard home power line and I want to avoid any damage to any fine electronics. I have been looking at some individual line conditioners, but I wanted some feedback from people who have experience doing the same thing. Any specific feedback (product names, models, how to's, etc.) will be appreciated. Also, is there any way to "condition" the entire line instead of individual outlets?

Jeff
 
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Old 03-28-13, 02:28 PM
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All of my sensitive electronics are protected by a UPS.
 
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Old 03-28-13, 06:33 PM
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Most electronics can handle reasonably dirty power. UPSes are definitely good, though depending on the quality of the UPS and the regulation of the generator. One of my older APC UPSes didn't like my less-than-top-of-the-line generator and stayed on battery power even when powered by the gen.
 
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Old 08-21-13, 03:14 AM
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This is an interesting post on bonding at the generator: http://www.doityourself.com/forum/el...ety-issue.html
 
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Old 08-31-13, 03:03 PM
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Here is a recommendation for generators. Run it with a load a month or two before your warranty runs out. My Generac unit automatically runs once a week but that only keeps the engine ready. I was lucky we had a power outage and found out my generator output voltage had gone bad. Turns out the generator (rotor and stator) have to be replaced. I guess the vibration during a weekly run made it die since the outage before that last one it worked great. Luckily it is still in it's two year warranty. Generac guy just picked up my unit (7 Kw auto-standby gen) and said the parts alone would have cost $600.
 
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Old 02-12-14, 04:23 PM
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Congratulations! You have a Generator

Thought this would be a good place for some Generator installation drawings: If you see any changes that need to be included please let me know.
All enclosures would be bonded either by metallic conduit or grounding conductors.
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Name:  Residential Portable Generator Connection.jpg
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