Whole house generator, general questions. DIY install.


Old 02-21-21, 03:23 PM
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Whole house generator, general questions. DIY install.

Hi everybody, I'm from Texas and as many now know our grid sucks, so I said to my wife never again, we're getting a standby generator. My questions are geared mainly to folks that have installed theirs themselves.

I'm a pretty handy person and I'm sure I can tackle the install myself, but it helps to talk to people that have gone through it.

I already sent an email to Kohler to have a distributor come to the house and make a proper estimate, but I want to have the option to have it delivered and install it myself.

Also, if anyone has one, DIY installed or not, I'd love to see pictures, specially of the gas connections, so i can have a idea of the length of black pipe and routing.

many thanks in advance!
Old 02-21-21, 03:57 PM
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Didn't your NG gas lines freeze up down there. I thought that was what shut down the power plants. Might want to consider an alternate option like propane or dual fuel if they make them.
Old 02-21-21, 05:21 PM
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My last house had a 14kW genset fed from a 500 Gallon propane tank, installed underground. In a cold place, starting was no issue, but I did put on a cold weather kit. That consisted of a battery heater pad, and an oil filter wrap heater; all turned on automatically. Having an u/g tank reduces chances of theft or intentional damage.

The NG situation is more complex. NG feeds can freeze, but that is usually related to the amount of water in the line and the lack of heaters at critical points, like pressure reduction stations.
Old 02-21-21, 06:36 PM
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When dealing with generators in the northeast, I've always leaned towards using NG over propane. Granted, we've never run into frozen NG supplies (not sure if it's luck or just better cold planning). But the extra expense of a tank and fillings adds a significant cost. Plus, in an extended outage, in theory, you don't have to worry about running out.
Of course, all depends on how much you want to prepare for the next disaster.

The gas connections should be pretty straightforward, though you should confirm with your gas company that the meter is sufficiently sized. Moreso, you'll want to plan out your sizing and load shedding for AC and any other high-power requirement devices.
Old 02-22-21, 05:56 AM
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The gas connections will depend on the generator you pick. Obviously a larger generator will need a larger supply so seeing photos of someone else's installation isn't too helpful. You can start by reading up on the codes in your area and about gas piping sizing.
Old 02-22-21, 09:07 AM
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If you are going to have automatic operation, you first must determine the present load and the largest load possible at automatic transfer to determine the generator size. Generator manufacturers have literature that cover installation requirements that should answer your questions when you select a manufacturer and generator size and fuel type (DIY installation may void the warranty). The auto transfer switch must also be sized accordingly. It is usually a different manufacturer than the generator. There are many building codes involved here so make sure you go the permit route if a DIY. If you don't, I guarantee it will bite you sometime in the future. Also make sure any contractor you use gets permits.
Old 02-22-21, 09:22 AM
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Being pretty handy is probably not enough. Are you qualified to do the wiring at the service entrance level? Are you properly qualified to do NG plumbing? Does your gas meter need upgrading? Are permits required? What are the rules for licenses for electric and plumbing work in your community? There are lots of things you can do like site preparation, physical installation and maybe doing some of the work under supervision, but a whole house generator is not a project like adding a circuit to your panel.

Get professional advice and more than one bid for the work you need to sub out.

Noticed the previous post - the transfer switch should be included in a package from the same manufacturer and would be correctly sized for your generator and service load.
Old 02-22-21, 09:27 AM
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Patience may pay off here. At this point, manufacturers and installers are "snowed under", prices are high, supplies low.

Wait a few months; people have short memories, and will be spending money on air conditioners and pools. Prices should be back to normal, and you might be able to find someone to do the work at a non-ripoff price.
Old 02-22-21, 09:42 AM
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I want to add that after losing power for a week during Irene here in NJ, I went to the local Kohler dealer and got a bid for a 20kw whole house generator, installed, for $12,500. That was too much for me. Later when Sandy killed our service for another week, I tried again. I did research from multiple sites, monitored my electric use with a power monitor, then bought on-line the smallest possible based on load,10kw, Generac generator with a 200amp service entrance switch, and 4 load shed modules. I worked with a n electric contractor and a plumbing contractor to install exactly what I had decided on. (My electric contractor used my research to convince the inspector that my smaller generator was a legal installation.) The smaller generator cost less and uses less gas and the total cots was $6,500 installed.

I understand that in Texas central A/C will require a larger size.
Old 02-22-21, 11:43 AM
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Just another thought... consider where you are and how much you anticipate outages.
My parents live in rural NY, with a LOT of trees around, so it's common for them to lose power a few times a year, and occasionally for multiple days. It makes a lot of sense for them to have a standby generator.

Me, I'm in the suburbs, while we've lost power before, it's usually localised and more often than not, for a max of a few hours. I have a generator (which if I were to buy again, I'd splurge on a small inverter generator). Keeping gas for it is a bit of a pain, but in my mind, it makes a lot more sense to spend $500-1000 on a generator that's used once every few years... rather than a full standby system.

Ultimately of course it's up to you and how much money you want to put against the risk you have in your area.

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