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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
As some of you may already know, I have a Honda generator and transfer switch wired to my house as emergency backup for power outages, and it does everything I need to keep the house running.

I've been doing some reading and thinking about possibly adding a Generac Power Cell system but don't know anyone who has actually used one to know if it's a worthwhile adventure. There are a lot of companies claiming the "free" system installation, but the catch is that you buy your electric off of them, they own the system and at the end of the lease it's either purchased by you (I'm sure they jack up the cost) or they remove it from your home.

Just wondering if anyone has any experience and can add their two cents.
 

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As some of you may already know, I have a Honda generator and transfer switch wired to my house as emergency backup for power outages, and it does everything I need to keep the house running.

I've been doing some reading and thinking about possibly adding a Generac Power Cell system but don't know anyone who has actually used one to know if it's a worthwhile adventure. There are a lot of companies claiming the "free" system installation, but the catch is that you buy your electric off of them, they own the system and at the end of the lease it's either purchased by you (I'm sure they jack up the cost) or they remove it from your home.

Just wondering if anyone has any experience and can add their two cents.
I do not have one but instead use a transfer switch and have a portable and a second backup generator in a nearby building. Mine run off of gasoline. My neighbor a wealthy family concerned about survival and long term power outages researched the options and put in a large system that is by far the best I have seen.

First you have to assess what is your ultimate risk. Here in Oklahoma in ice storms a week without power is common in the rural areas. There have been several rural areas go as long as 3 weeks without any commercial power. And we all know about the grid failure in Texas cased by the ice storm last spring. So, first, before you decide what is the best system is to decide what you consider a long time outage. In my cast I can run 24 hours on 4 gallons of gasoline. 20 gallons is more than I have ever needed for a 5 day winter outage. I would not want to store more than 20 gallons of gas. I store it about 50 yards from the house.

My neighbor wanted to plan for a couple months outage. So they converted to a large diesel generator and put in two 500 gallon diesel storage tangs. They were on auto or manual start. Like all systems they need to be ran a few minutes every couple of months. Diesel does not go stale like gasoline. A 1,000 gallons is a bit much in my view, about $3,000 if you actually bought that much. I personally have one diesel pickup, so if I put in a diesel tank, I would just go with one 500 gallon tank and have it set up where I could fill my tank as well.

The power cells do not impress me. You are basically using go cart batteries. You need to calculate the total hours they will run your home under full load in summer or winter. Never rely on solar for anything other than lights, I have a small system in my shop. The cost of solar panels is just not economical for what you get.

Anyway, if you are planning for more that a few days outage I would compare the cost of the energy cell to diesel generators. Diesel motors almost never wear out. Batteries always do. If you have to sign some sort of maintenance contact with the power cell company you should calculate that as a long term cost. Every thing works when it is new, but after things get old is when problems start, so you will need any maintenance contract forever. Just part of the cost.

My 2 cents.
 

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Discussion Starter · #3 ·
My generator has been a good backup for nearly 20 years and since the addition of the transfer switch has made it much easier and safer. My generator has an eco-throttle so it only runs hard enough to meet the demand put on it and will idle down when there is not strain on it. I keep about 15-20 gallons of gas on hand at a time so I can get through nearly a week with my current set up.

I'm just looking into another possible option since I'm in a rural area with frequent power outages.
 

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I have a lot of cast iron. 2 large cauldrons included. When gas for generators is gone, I'll count on wood.

There are a lot of 6v solar chargers on hand. 12v could be made for a while.
 
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I've been looking at going solar and the biggest take aways are how many sunny days you have on average in a year and what are the local laws regarding your power company buying any excess power your system generates and how much they can charge you when you need power from them.
 

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I've been looking at going solar and the biggest take aways are how many sunny days you have on average in a year and what are the local laws regarding your power company buying any excess power your system generates and how much they can charge you when you need power from them.
There is a lot of snake oil in solar costs. The absolute only way you can get a good estimate of cost and any savings is to find someone in your area who has added the panels and then see their bills before and after. In Oklahoma where I live we have more sun that most of the nation. We have more drought also. That said we have about 3,100 hours of sun per year, about 8.5 hours per day. From my roof I can probably see 50 wind towers, so wind is big here.

The solar calculators say that a system would cost $23,000 for my smaller house and would save $25,000 over 20 years. The problem with that is your house must face the south and the longer portion of the house must face south, or you have to mount them on the ground. When you look at the actual cost vs savings, they say you get about 5% savings, or return on investment about what you could expect in the stock market. Of course if you have an IRA or 401K which is tax free then your money is better off in savings.

Net metering where the electric company buys back some of you over supply is somewhat a joke for solar. The reason is the best sun is in the hot summer with long sunny days, when your electric needs are the highest. In the south, your solar is never going to produce more than your ac running all day, so forget about that. With wind energy sure, if works all day and all night and those folks can get money back, or at least a reduced monthly bill.

My take is the wind is worth the risk and cost, solar is not. Unless you are off grid, then of course solar and a large battery system makes sense, regardless of cost. But in remote locations you do not use it for heating and air, you do that with generators.

Anyway, that is my take. Find someone who has a system and talk to them. The solar companies are like car salesman to me, big promises. They should be able to put you into contact with several happy customers in your area, if not, maybe they do not have any happy customers. Geothermal is another big saver, if you put it in when the house is build.
I have had a hobby solar system for my shop for 15 years, it is just for lights and radio.

My 2 cents.
 

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I have an outdoor woodstove that we use to heat the house and the water. I've always wondered about all the heat loss throughout the system and if you could use some type of thermoelectric device to produce some energy?

Don't hear of it much, figured it wasn't worth the effort, but can anyone tell me why?
 

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Diesel does not go stale like gasoline. A 1,000 gallons is a bit much in my view, about $3,000 if you actually bought that much. I personally have one diesel pickup, so if I put in a diesel tank, I would just go with one 500 gallon tank and have it set up where I could fill my tank as well.


My 2 cents.
Diesel fuel is good for about a year before it begins to break down. If it has algae growing in the tank, that's something else to deal with. When you have a generator, you should run it monthly with a full load on it. Not just let it sit and run.
 

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Christmas visiting with my 2 sisters and 2 bros in law when the subject of generators came up. One sis has a new home on an acre and added a large insulated metal building as a hobby room, etc. Lots of additions so I inquired about the generator and gave some advice. I have 4 portable generators and one in the RV and messed with them about 40 years. My bro in law was concerned about cost.

They have a friend that just spend $54,000 on a whole house system. My sis advised they wanted to save money and the system also heaviily relied on solar. In discussion we learned my bro and law and sis tried to talk them out of it. There average monthly electric bill is only $200 per month for their medium size home. They are in Central Oklahoma in a town of about 10,000 with no history of power outages.

$200 per month is $2,400 per year. If 100% of their electricity came from the system, it would take 22.5 years to break even, but they are financing the system. Think about that--if they finance it at only 5% it will take $2,700 per year in interest alone, while their total cost today is only $2,400 per year for electricity. They cannot ever pay it off and their heirs will inherit debt, that $54,000 the will always owe. So, they are taking $54k out of their savings.


My sis said they were just so interested in having solar power they just did it anyway. The sad part is they will still be paying for their electricity during the hot summer, cold winters and at night.

If they put that $54K in the stock market and earned 5% over 22 years, they would have over $158,000.

If they took another $200 per month and invested it in the stock market they would have over $98,000 in 22 years.

Most of the time spending money for solar is a total waste of money. Apparently these people wanted a top of the line whole house system, and they will pay far more than their $54,000 initial investment. Makes no sense to me. A $500 portable generator and two 100 foot extension cords served me well for the first 20 years living in the boonies, and I have made very limited upgrades. I have several now for other uses but you get the point. I only use them maybe once or twice per year so no big deal. I run one cord to my central AC unit and the other takes turns running a fridge, a freezer, microwave and TVs as needed.
 

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Discussion Starter · #11 ·
Christmas visiting with my 2 sisters and 2 bros in law when the subject of generators came up. One sis has a new home on an acre and added a large insulated metal building as a hobby room, etc. Lots of additions so I inquired about the generator and gave some advice. I have 4 portable generators and one in the RV and messed with them about 40 years. My bro in law was concerned about cost.

They have a friend that just spend $54,000 on a whole house system. My sis advised they wanted to save money and the system also heaviily relied on solar. In discussion we learned my bro and law and sis tried to talk them out of it. There average monthly electric bill is only $200 per month for their medium size home. They are in Central Oklahoma in a town of about 10,000 with no history of power outages.

$200 per month is $2,400 per year. If 100% of their electricity came from the system, it would take 22.5 years to break even, but they are financing the system. Think about that--if they finance it at only 5% it will take $2,700 per year in interest alone, while their total cost today is only $2,400 per year for electricity. They cannot ever pay it off and their heirs will inherit debt, that $54,000 the will always owe. So, they are taking $54k out of their savings.


My sis said they were just so interested in having solar power they just did it anyway. The sad part is they will still be paying for their electricity during the hot summer, cold winters and at night.

If they put that $54K in the stock market and earned 5% over 22 years, they would have over $158,000.

If they took another $200 per month and invested it in the stock market they would have over $98,000 in 22 years.

Most of the time spending money for solar is a total waste of money. Apparently these people wanted a top of the line whole house system, and they will pay far more than their $54,000 initial investment. Makes no sense to me. A $500 portable generator and two 100 foot extension cords served me well for the first 20 years living in the boonies, and I have made very limited upgrades. I have several now for other uses but you get the point. I only use them maybe once or twice per year so no big deal. I run one cord to my central AC unit and the other takes turns running a fridge, a freezer, microwave and TVs as needed.
If you're interested in using a generator, I would highly suggest putting in a transfer switch. You can pick up a manual transfer switch (30 or 50 amp) with a generator plug and wire between $300-$400. It only takes a couple of hours to install and is the safest method to power your house. You can pick the circuits that are important to you, and they all have their own breaker as well as the breaker in the main panel for the house so it's extremely safe.

I can run my refrigerator, sump pump, furnace, lights, power to the electronic controls on my gas range and water heater, freezer and a TV with my little Honda. It's as easy as plugging in to the weather tight outlet on the patio and flipping a few switches, no extension cords to trip over or needing to swap between different appliances.
 

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continued learning: Reinforcing. Back feeding electric can kill and has.


Installation of a Transfer Switch
Ideally, the transfer switch is mounted on the wall as close to the main service panel as possible to eliminate the need for extra cable. That's especially important if you're wiring the switch to individual breakers because each breaker needs two hot wires from the switch, and if you connect to 10 breakers, you're working with 20 wires. The switch has its own cord to receive power from the generator, but the cords supplied are seldom very long, so you might need to replace yours with a longer one or use an extension cord of the proper gauge (10 or 8 gauge depending on the amperage).
You have to run the power cable to the generator, and since it has to be outside (you should never operate a generator indoors), you'll probably need an extension cord. The proper way to use an extension cord with a transfer switch is to run the switch cord to an exterior wall, connect it to a power inlet boxwith the same plug configuration as the generator and plug the generator into the box receptacle, which is mounted on the outside wall. The cord can be rolled up and stored outdoors or left plugged into the generator depending on whether or not it has a permanent location. Generators make noise, so you'll want yours as far from the house as possible, which means the longer the cord you use, the better.
 

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Discussion Starter · #13 ·
continued learning: Reinforcing. Back feeding electric can kill and has.


Installation of a Transfer Switch
Ideally, the transfer switch is mounted on the wall as close to the main service panel as possible to eliminate the need for extra cable. That's especially important if you're wiring the switch to individual breakers because each breaker needs two hot wires from the switch, and if you connect to 10 breakers, you're working with 20 wires. The switch has its own cord to receive power from the generator, but the cords supplied are seldom very long, so you might need to replace yours with a longer one or use an extension cord of the proper gauge (10 or 8 gauge depending on the amperage).
You have to run the power cable to the generator, and since it has to be outside (you should never operate a generator indoors), you'll probably need an extension cord. The proper way to use an extension cord with a transfer switch is to run the switch cord to an exterior wall, connect it to a power inlet boxwith the same plug configuration as the generator and plug the generator into the box receptacle, which is mounted on the outside wall. The cord can be rolled up and stored outdoors or left plugged into the generator depending on whether or not it has a permanent location. Generators make noise, so you'll want yours as far from the house as possible, which means the longer the cord you use, the better.
You nailed it Neo...Back feeding is illegal and could kill some guy out on the pole trying to restore your power. I did it once by wiring the generator directly to an open breaker, but only because the storm pulled the power line off of my house and there was no chance of back feeding to the grid. We ran our house for over a week like that, but it's much easier and safer with the transfer switch.

My little Honda generator is very quiet and usually runs <50 db so it doesn't make enough noise to bother anyone.
 

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You nailed it Neo...Back feeding is illegal and could kill some guy out on the pole trying to restore your power. I did it once by wiring the generator directly to an open breaker, but only because the storm pulled the power line off of my house and there was no chance of back feeding to the grid. We ran our house for over a week like that, but it's much easier and safer with the transfer switch.

My little Honda generator is very quiet and usually runs <50 db so it doesn't make enough noise to bother anyone.
You nailed it Neo...Back feeding is illegal and could kill some guy out on the pole trying to restore your power. I did it once by wiring the generator directly to an open breaker, but only because the storm pulled the power line off of my house and there was no chance of back feeding to the grid. We ran our house for over a week like that, but it's much easier and safer with the transfer switch.

My little Honda generator is very quiet and usually runs <50 db so it doesn't make enough noise to bother anyone.
Most of the new portable generators are pretty quiet. I have one that is about 25 years old, a 5.5K unit that is great, but it is rated at 110 db, you can hear it a mile away. I am going to gift it to my SIL who lives in the boonies and does not have one. LOL

I have one that is rated for 4.5 start up and 3,8KW running and I can run the entire house with 2 100 foot cords, just alternating one coord between the frig and 2 large freezers, the other one will run the AC, TV and lights.

Today, those little dual fuel Champions are pretty cheap, about $500, for the 4,5/3,8K... Those have 4500 watts for the start up which is needed for things like the AC, and a continuous 3800 watts. We have used the little one once or twice per year for at least a dozen years. We are on propane so we do not need much for heat, maybe 2,000 watts to run the fan through the whole house. It is a pain because every 4=6 hours you need to move the second cord to run the freezers for an hour or so. But, if you are not lazy, one of those little gen sets will get you through the worst winter storms and your investment is only $500 and they last forever. The transfer switch is the much smarter option. I have pulled the breakers and ran power to the house side, but the switch is a much better idea.

We have the place iced over today, about 20 degrees but I noticed all the truck doors are frozen shut already and the ice is coming later. Fired up 2 of the gen sets yesterday, just to make sure they are ready. Mine says it will run 9 hours but it actually runs much longer. I have 15 gallons of gas so probably good for 3-4 days if we lose power, lost it 3 times last year for several days.Not a big deal as long as we have heat and can watch the bowl games, LOL
 

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Have you looked at what they call " solar generators"?
I kind of went what you went through as far as looking at going solar and then the price tag made me realize that it wasn't happening. I ended up getting an Inergy solar generator with 5 panels. Not going to run my house but will be very handy in a pinch.
 

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Diesel fuel is good for about a year before it begins to break down. If it has algae growing in the tank, that's something else to deal with. When you have a generator, you should run it monthly with a full load on it. Not just let it sit and run.
Can you tell me about a good generator for me? I read about different generators on wattinsider but I don't know, here what is the best option for me. Please review it and tell give me your opinion.
 

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I used a Coleman 5KW genset for some 15 or 20 years. It got me through many power outages but I had to always keep watch over it to prevent surging. Also, it was not good for running any electronics. These days, even the light bulbs are electronic.
About 2 years ago, I bought a Westinghouse 9.5KW genset that is voltage regulated. It can run the whole house if need be. It can run the electronics without damaging them. Even though the genset is bigger that the old Coleman, it uses about half the gas, The 6 gallon tank will go about 18 hours for me, at our normal load.

I have the house wired into a double throw transfer switch which is beside the breaker box. One position connects to the power company, the other connects the generator. No backfeeding. The only snag I ran into was the Westinghouse genset has a built in GFCI which would trip immediately with the other transfer switch. I had to put in a neutral switching transfer switch to correct for that - which costs a lot more.

The set up also has one circuit that does not transfer. It's used to plug in a wall lamp which I leave on during a power outage but it isn't connected to the genset. That way, when the power comes back on, the lamp lights and I know I can switch back and shutdown the generator.

A switching, back-up generator would be nice but this system is already paid for.
 

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Discussion Starter · #18 ·
I've been using a Honda EU3000is for about 20 years, it was purchased originally to power my 5th wheel camper and would run everything including the AC system on that.

It has an eco-throttle so will only run hard enough to meet the demand put on it. I'm pretty OCD about maintenance and keep it tuned up with fresh gas in it and never had a problem. It does have an electric start, but my wife can start it with a single pull if needed. I've thought about going with a bigger generator, but this one is so quiet and only sips the fuel. It does enough to keep us warm in the winter and keep us fed and entertained.

I only have 6 circuits hooked up on my transfer switch so there is plenty of lights or other electrical items to let me know when the power comes back on.
 
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