Backup Electrical (Gas) Generator For House ?

Old 05-02-21, 03:26 AM
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Backup Electrical (Gas) Generator For House ?


Hope this is the correct Forum for this.

About to start looking seriously into an entire-house outside backup electrical Generator, Generic or Koehler.

Have lots of concerns about it, as it will be running on natural gas, as is our house now for heating (only).

I'm always worried about natural gas leakage.

How "safe" are these Generators, when not operating, to truly shut the gas line off totally
off, and not be continuously "leaking" some gas ?

Are there any concerns about this, or safety related items we should be asking or having installed ?

**Besides the safety aspects, there would aldo be hr high gas-usage costs if there is any "leakage".

Is this something (else) to be worried about ? A bit scary to think about.

As always, thanks, advice and comments much appreciated.

Old 05-02-21, 03:54 AM
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Gas leakage from the generator and it's gas piping is no greater concern than leakage from any other gas appliance like a furnace, water or heater. And, that is one reason why standby generators can only be installed in certain locations. There are minimum distances that generator must be away from the home and any openings like doors & windows. Those rules are there for your safety.
Old 05-02-21, 06:26 AM
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No worry about gas leakage - you'll not do the gas hookup yourself, it will need to be done by the gas co. or a licensed contractor. Be sure to follow ALL the guidelines about placement.

Now some personal experience: if you can afford it, buy the Kohler. I have a Generac, and it has had numerous problems. Computer fails at various times, and a few years ago, the starter motor burned out. I called for service, they replaced almost every electrical part except the starter (even though I hinted what I already knew - the starter was burned out). Service person called in a supervisor, who said "It's the starter motor!", and then made me wait 2 weeks while they ordered one. Third service call they finally fixed it.

I feel like the Kohler would have been a more reliable generator.
Old 05-02-21, 07:45 AM
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Just to put a balanced view here, I've had a Generac whole home generator for 8 years and it's been flawless. When I did research for my installation, I found that Generac offered more for less. They are the best selling generators by far and their willingness to periodically offer 10 year warranties as a sales incentive speaks to their overall reliability.
Old 05-02-21, 08:09 AM
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A whole house generator is a big investment, you need to think the pros and cons.

Over all the homes we have owned I can only recall a couple of times power was out for more than a day. Current house seems a bit more susceptible so we just bought a portable unit and only use it to run the fridge. We have only used it maybe 4 times in the past 12 years, I dont think I could justify anything more!
Old 05-04-21, 10:16 AM
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NG is definitely the way to go. In most (but the rarest cases), NG supplies are rarely affected by natural disasters, so it offers you a pretty unlimited runtime.

Properly installed NG appliances are incredibly safe. In the rare case of a leak, an odorant is mixed in with the gas to make it easily distinguishable and very noticeable.
Old 05-07-21, 03:45 PM
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I like the NG option. I'm not sure where you are located, but we get the "nor-eastern" wind on rare occasions and go into a heck of a freeze once in awhile. A few years ago, work had no power. It was 7* F. Propane forklifts would not run, the big diesel forklift and extend-a-boom would also not run, the diesel in them was jelly. The natural gas heat was the only thing that worked, plus one propane forklift that was left inside. We used that one forklift to drag the others inside along with a diesel welder generator, and eventually got up them warmed up and running enough to resume work.
In short:
-Gas goes bad and can gum up the carburetor or fuel injection if you have a big fancy gas generator.
-Diesel can turn to Jello if it's too cold.
-Propane doesn't build pressure below around 20*F.

Natural Gas doesn't have these issues. The only thing I would be concerned about, is if you're in Texas I believe there wasn't enough NG or Power to go around during the rare "freeze" they had earlier this year.

As far as the NG line, have a certified installer run them and you'll be fine. If there is a "flex line", it may need to be replaced at certain intervals do that it doesn't develop leaks from the engines vibrations (I may be being overcautious here, but better safe than sorry).
Old 05-09-21, 06:20 AM
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It is possible you will need a new fatter gas feed to run the generator and heating system (and stove and water heater) together.

A "large" generator, as for whole house use, will consume more fuel at low to modest loading compared with a "small" generator satisfying said same load.

Meanwhile if you do install a "large" generator, one that is water cooled could dissipate heat via a hydronic loop with radiators inside the house during winter usage.
Old 05-09-21, 07:58 PM
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How much generator do you need.

The obvious question to me is “How much generator do you need?” More importantly how often will you need it? If you do not have fairly frequent outages you may come to regret having purchased a rather expensive generator which is larger than you actually needed. If your situation or your needs justify such a purchase then by all means go ahead. I just wanted to suggest that you look at your actual needs for electrical power during a utility outage before you lay out that much money. If you do lay out the funds for a large generator consider buying a dual or three fuel model for the sake of flexibility during a prolonged outage. All gaseous fuel generators begin their life as gasoline fueled engine alternator sets. The control and fuel air mixing for the additional fuel/s is added. It is not a bad idea to have the option to use propane to fuel your generator if your area were to suffer and ice storm disaster like the one that befell the Texas and Oklahoma area. The natural gas distribution there failed. In a prolonged outage it may be easier to obtain and transport gasoline then manufactured gas. For instance any larger vehicle can be fueled at the gasoline source, driven home, and siphoned of all gasoline except what is needed for the next trip elsewhere and to buy more gasoline.

Since you have only said that your heat is Natural Gas I'm going to guess that your water heater, kitchen range, clothes dryer, and perhaps a water pump and/or sewage lift pump are electric. If that is correct then you would need a rather large generator to power it all if you have an actual need to have it all running at the same time. The heating system, refrigerator, water heater, and the well pump will have to be figured in as continuous loads which although not actually true by definition is effectively true because you have no easy way to control when they go on and off automatically. That said those may be the only loads that the generator has to be sized to run simultaneously. Such loads are multiplied by 125% to provide capacity for starting at any time. The remaining large loads can be turned on and off as needed. The clothes dryer could be run only when no one is bathing nor cooking. The water heater could be shut off overnight when your all sleeping…

To figure out the minimum capacity of generator to buy you need to make a list of everything that your family cannot do without while avoiding hardship. Then you add to the list anything that your family would find very unpleasant to do without. If your going to buy a large automatic starting generator one increase in capacity by getting the next size up of your preferred brand isn't likely to be a deal breaker.

Decide whether you need the generator to start automatically or if you will be perfectly fine starting it with manual controls when you need it. Part of that thinking is how important to you is it for your home to have power when you are not there. If you have an automatic pump that is the only way to prevent a portion of your home from flooding that would be a factor toward paying the additional cost for automatic starting and load transfer. If there is no such problem and you have enough non perishable food in the house to feed yourselves for a week with all of the food in refrigerators and freezers spoiled that points toward manually controlled starting.

The sound of a generator running when you are not there makes it very obvious to the dishonest that there is something of high value at your unoccupied home. If the generator is to automatically start when you are not home put some extra effort or money in to making it as quiet running as possible.

Once you have considered these questions and answered them to your own satisfaction then you will be able to get better advise by sharing the results with folks here to the extent that you are comfortable doing so.

There is another approach to utility power failure that you may want to consider. You could change some of your electric loads for gas fueled appliances to reduce the size of the load your generator would need to carry. Your water heater might be ready for replacement with a high efficiency gas model… A similar approach is to substitute for some of the electric appliances with smaller ones for temporary use such as a camping stove. A gas clothes dryer might save you money and reduce the size of the generator you need. That will depend on the cost of each energy supply. When you plan for a generator it is a great time to take a look at which major appliances might be at or near the end of their useful service life and which power source will be more economical to use in the period you expect to own that house.
Old 05-10-21, 07:52 AM
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The OP, if he is still here, is asking too many basic questions to get fair answers here. I would recommend that he get bids from both a Generac and a Kohler deal and ask questions about options, such as the difference between whole home (with possible load shedding) and a transfer switch with selected circuits. The dealers can also advise on permits and NG requirements. (When I did mine the gas company upgraded my meter to higher flow at no cost.)

I see no reason to worry about leaks, flex hose failure, burglars, and other things raised here. The NG generators are quiet, reliable, and give great piece of mind. They can be extravagantly expensive or tailored carefully to keep cost down. I did my whole house professional installation 10kw Generac (with load shedding) with permits for less than $6,000 all in.
Old 05-10-21, 06:25 PM
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Robert111: Regarding natural gas safety, there are millions of homes with NG piping for cooking, heating and whatever. Since most generators are outside see little safety issue.

On NG generators the gas valve feeding carburetor is opened by manifold vacuum when starting motor cranks it to start. If engine stalls, lack of vacuum closes valve. For added safety most installations have manual shut off valve on gas line to generator.

DH lives in suburban NY area that has long term power outages and has used Kohler generator for 40 years. During one long outage gas stations were also out.

Many gasoline 4 cycle generators can be converted to natural gas but output is 20% lower. For $100 converted Kohler generator to natural gas with installation of air horn adapter on carburetor air inlet. Natural gas is fed carburetor from valve activated by intake manifold vacuum. Another way, more complex way is with dual fuel carburetor.

To avoid building code issues and permit costs, put Kohler generator on wheeled cart in garage. Am not into whole house, automatic setups. When outage occurs just plug and play.

Have seen many reports about problems with Generac frequent failure rate, high cost of software upgrades and service. Kohler has been trouble free only change oil and filter.
Old 05-11-21, 07:27 AM
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The Generac bashing is unnecessary. They are the best selling generators by far, have generous warranties, and service requirements are essentially the same as Kohler. I get my service contract on my Generac from a dealer who carries both and service contract are priced the same. They note NO higher failure rate with Generac customers. Beginning my ninth year of trouble free operation and no software upgrades were ever required.

You save nothing with an awkward installation on a monster cart. The same permits are still usually required for installation of the switch and gas connections. Permits regarding location of the generator while running are for safety, carbon monoxide and fire codes. On a cold winter night in an ice storm, you absolutely want a fixed automatic installation.
Old 05-11-21, 01:39 PM
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Reporting actual experience is not "bashing" - it's trying to be helpful by sharing first-hand knowledge.

I started looking around at places where standby electric is crucial - such as medical clinics. You'll seldom see a Generac used there.

But Kohler does cost considerably more. I will gladly pay the extra when this Generac finally gives up the ghost.

Old 05-12-21, 07:12 AM
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I referred to this "bashing" quote: "Have seen many reports about problems with Generac frequent failure rate, high cost of software upgrades and service.", - Not your one off anecdotal experience. My one time anecdotal experience is zero problems in over 8 years, and my service company reports no real difference in reliability in both the Kohlers and the Generacs they have sold and serviced.

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