Emergency Portable Generator

starhustMarch 17, 2006

In Florida during the past two years we've had very active hurricane seasons. Last year, I got hit by 2 major hurricanes that caused extended power outages. The heat and humidity after each of those storms was intolerable for me. Therefore, I decided this year to buy a generator.

I bought a PM0545006 Coleman Powermate that provides 5,000 watts (continuous) and 6,250 surge watts. It has a 10 hp Briggs & Stratton Intek OHV engine (model 204412, type 0156E1). I have enough 12 gauge extension cords to reach to and power my refrigerator/freezer (750 watts), a couple of 8,000 Btu window A/C units (725 watts each), a ceiling fan (100 watts) and 4 compact fluorescent bulbs (100 watts). The total continuous draw is 2,400 watts. I realize that motor starts will draw more surge.

This generator runs on regular gas. I have purchased 16 Blitz 5 gallon plastic gas cans. I have added Sta-bil fuel stabilizer and I have all the cans stored in a locked, ventilated shed located over 100 feet from my house (or other houses). The generator has a 5 gallon gas tank. I have not run the generator as of yet. I have some questions.

The instructions with the generator state that at half load (2,500 watts), the device will run for 11 hours per 5 gallons of gas. Does this sound realistic? That's less than 1/2 gallon per hour. Is the 10 hp B&S Intek OHV engine that economical? Anyone have any real world experience with this device? If, for example, I could get 10 hours of run time per 5 gallons of fuel, then with 80 gallons I could get 6 days of power.

However, it I only get 8 hours of run time per 5 gallons of fuel, then with 80 gallons I'll only get 5 days of power. I'm just trying to get a reasonable estimate of how long I can expect to provide power with this device. Thanks!

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You can get estimates close, and those sound pritty realiztic. Fuel consumption is always off a little bit depending on conditions, so its is probably better to assume 8 hours to be safe. I personally have used lots of briggs and they work great, they are not the most efficent like a honda but they do the job. And of course you can run a test for yourself, run at half load for the 10 hours and see how much fuel it burns up, keep in mind a new engine may burn extra as it has to "break in" a little bit.

    Bookmark   March 17, 2006 at 9:44PM
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Thanks. Indeed I plan to "test" the genset as you describe. I'm going to wait until it gets hot outside and then run the aforementioned appliances for about 10 hours to determine gas consumption and also to see how well these 2 window A/C units will cool.

I normally use a central 2 1/2 ton A/C unit to cool the house. I want to see how well a couple of 8,000 Btu window units will handle the job on a temporary "emergency" basis.

    Bookmark   March 17, 2006 at 11:41PM
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"In Florida during the past two years we've had very active hurricane seasons. Last year, I got hit by 2 major hurricanes that caused extended power outages. The heat and humidity after each of those storms was intolerable for me. Therefore, I decided this year to buy a generator. "

Are you under age 60 and in good health? If yes, would you please explain why several days of heat and humidity is so intolerable that you can't live a while without the A/C? No disrespect intended...but weather happens, and the idea expressed by some that they just can't do without their modern conveniences for a while just fascinates me. Food can be replaced if it spoils, and a fan plus a few lights isn't that important.

Another point...if there was even the remotest possibility that 80 gallons of gasoline might explode, I'm quite sure I'd want to be much more than 100 feet away. Your local fire department might have a problem with this, also your own insurance company.

    Bookmark   March 18, 2006 at 9:51AM
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Another thing to note: If you do use the generator to supply electricity to your house, or whats left of it, don't use a double male extension cord and plug it into a wall socket!! This will surely electrocute any and all electric company techs who go to work on downed or broken wires on the poles, or anywhere!
If you do use this highly dangerous trick, be doubly sure to disconnect the main power supply at the main fuse/ breaker box! All you need is one electric company repairman to fall off a pole, dead, and you will be locked away so far your relatives will have to get an act of congress to visit you! BEWARE!!

    Bookmark   March 18, 2006 at 10:27AM
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Stardust, I have the same gen. as you are using, i only ran it for 8 hr's and it needed gas, we just cycled different power drains, and didn't get involved with trying to run AC, just the essentials. The run time could be improved, with experience, I plan to buy 40 gallons' of gas and conserve, and hope for the best in the future. I'm in central Polk county. so we got a good taste of what hurricane's feel like. All of my plans are for this area, my circumstances and what i'm able to tolorate. yours may be alot different.

    Bookmark   March 18, 2006 at 2:16PM
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May I recommend some modifications to your strategy. Refrigeration of food is a priority to avoid getting sick.
What about your water supply?
Unless you have natural gas for cooking, I would recommend a propane-fueled campstove.
For lighting, consider the solar-cell-powered yard lights. Let them charge up during the day and use them like nightlights.
A propane-fueled gas grill is very useful as well.
Have you talked to your neighbors about their plans and yours? If they have their windows open to sleep and you run that generator after sundown, you will not be very popular. Your neighbors will be talking to you in the morning due to lack of sleep. A generator of this type is NOT quiet.

    Bookmark   March 18, 2006 at 7:37PM
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"Are you under age 60 and in good health? If yes, would you please explain why several days of heat and humidity is so intolerable that you can't live a while without the A/C?"

Well azinoh, regardless of my age or health, is it a sin in your mind to want to be comfortable? I tend to agree with you in that for many years I lived in Homestead, FL and we never had an A/C unit at all and we were just fine. Heck, I didn't even own a car with A/C until 1988! However, I would prefer not to suffer through another extended power outage. I can afford the costs involved so I don't really understand your concern. If you would like to rough it after a major hurricane that's just fine with me. Personally, I want to make things as comfortable as possible.

My wife was also miserable after each of those extended power outages. Consider that the temperatures at night inside the house were 94 F with 100% humidity and there was not even a slight breeze, I think you'd be miserable too and want some relief. So, depending upon the outcome of my upcoming test, I might decided to buy another 8,000 Btu window A/C unit. After all, I will have the extra power to run the unit and I won't need to run the refrigerator/freezer 24/7.

As for the storage of the gasoline, I recognize the hazards involved in the storage of gas and I have taken every reasonable precaution to prevent ignition. I think its worth the risk. I had also given a lot of consideration to buying a diesel generator. Sure, it would have been more expensive, but diesel fuel has much higher Btu content. So, I wouldn't have to store as much fuel and, of course, diesel is far less volatile and safer to store.

However, with diesel, I have no other engines that use it. So, I would have to store it for exclusive use in the generator. After a period of time, that diesel will go bad. With gasoline, I can regularly rotate my gas stock and use each five gallon container in my cars and riding lawn mower and then replenish as needed. Therefore, my gasoline will always be fresh.

Hi Rustyj and thanks for the warning. No, I do not intend to backfeed power to the house via a double male cord. I am fully aware of the dangers associated with that method. I intend to run everything from the genset via grounded 12 gauge extension cords. The genset will put out about 40 Amps of power (20 Amps on a 120 V duplex receptacle and 20 Amps on a 120/240 V Twistlock receptacle) and I have the proper cords for both. I also have an 8 foot ground rod driven into the earth outside near the location where I intend to operate the genset. I have a 4 gauge solid copper wire to ground the genset and a heavy duty chain and lockset to secure the generator from theft.

I also have several (a box full) of 10' x 20' tarps and I have the poles to rig up a shelter to keep the generator out of the rain. I might also add that my house is not located in a flood area nor is it within any storm surge area. I just have to deal with the high winds. I have taken precautions to upgrade and reinforce my house with shutters, extra roof bracing, garage door braces and I have no hazard trees to crash into my roof. My house has survived several hurricanes with only minor damage while others around me have sustained heavy damage.

I am confident that my best option for any hurricane is to shelter in my house. I have plenty of nonperishable food, water, medicine and firearms/ammo to protect against looters.

Thank you giventake! That's just the kind of information for which I was looking. Indeed, I figured that the 11 hour run time at half load given by Coleman was just too optimistic. The 8 hour figure that you provided sounds much more realistic. And I'm with you 100% in that you have to hope for the best, but plan for the worst.

Thanks for the input tkendr01! Yes, I have all those bases covered. Based upon experience from past storms, my refrigerator/freezer will keep everything cold for 3 days without power. So, with the genset, I'll be able to extend that time considerably.

I have plenty of water in storage for both drinking and for flushing toilets. I also have a "solar shower" device that heats up water for a shower. We used it during the last extended power outage and had great success. I have a septic system (recently pumped) so I don't have to worry about sewage problems. I also have the chemicals and tools needed to deal with a blocked drain (just in case).

I have a propane-fueled gas grill and I always keep three 20 lb. bottles of propane at the ready for hurricane season. I have a Coleman camp stove as well.

For lighting, I have 5 battery powered fluorescent lights. These devices worked great during our last power outage. Each runs on 4 D-cells. I have 160 Duracell alkaline D-cells in storage. In addition to several battery powered radios, I also have a small B&W battery powered TV with plenty of batteries. I have an external antenna for the TV which has survived 160 MPH sustained winds so I am very sure it will be there after any storm. However, I have a spare if needed.

And yes, I am aware of the noise created by a generator and the potential to disturb neighbors. I have lived in this house for over 20 years. I know everyone in the neighborhood and most of them have their own gensets! They are all well aware of my plans and they have given me their encouragement. Heck, 2 of my neighbors lost their roofs during one of the hurricanes and their houses became inhabitable. They stayed with me until we could make some temporary repairs. So, not to worry, I'm tight with all the neighbors.

I agree, all your concerns are valid. Thanks.

    Bookmark   March 18, 2006 at 8:57PM
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So...you're tight with all the neighbors and most have their own gensets. That's nice. Will they also have their own fuel stash too? If yes, not comforting that there will be several potential bombs on the block. If no, then sooner or later they will ask you to share your stash. Then things start going down the tubes. Share, and you leave yourself short. Don't share, and you'll find out just how tight you are with the neighbors.
I'm pleased to hear that you've taken all the precautions you mentioned. "Is it a sin to want to be comfortable?" No, but in a situation of unusual or abnormal conditions it is a demonstration of poor judgement with too many negative posibilities that make it most certainly not "worth the risk" . If you or someone else winds up as toast when a fuel bomb goes off, I'll nominate you for a Darwin Award. That's all right...I don't expect you to listen.

    Bookmark   March 19, 2006 at 8:24AM
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novagarden(Z8b S.E. LA)

My insurer who is the largest provider of homeowner's policies on the Gulf coast and possibly in the nation reimbursed me about 1200.00 for the purchase of my generator and fuel after hurricane Katrina. And no, I don't have a special policy rider nor do I think that my insurer does this for goodwill. Risky you say......encouraging a policy holder to use a gasoline powered electrical generating device???? We'll, I guarantee you that their risk assesment department has looked at the facts (not opinions) of the pros and cons of such a decision and I doubt if they will be candidates for the Darwin award, but I am sure that some may disagree. Until the facts show that the use of generators proves to be a great risk to me or my neighbors, I will continue to use them with the utmost respect and caution. And heck, if my gasoline generators are scrubbed....maybe I'll go nuclear!

    Bookmark   March 19, 2006 at 12:22PM
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My concerns about risk are focused mainly on his having as much as 80 gallons of gasoline stored on site at approx 100 feet away from his and other residences. I'd like to believe that he can do it safely, believe me I'd like to be proven wrong....but I suggest more than his say-so and his own personal risk assesment is prudent. If he's so confident, he should obtain written confirmation from his fire department that his situation is safe. He should have written confirmation that his own insurer will cover any loss if somehow there is an explosion resulting in damage and injury. He should consult with his own attorney to determine what his civil and criminal liability might be in that same event. I can't even begin to imagine all the possible things that could go wrong in this scenario. If he gets the go-ahead from these professionals, I'll be happy to shut up and go away.

    Bookmark   March 19, 2006 at 1:28PM
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Have you ever parked in a parking garage? I'd be willing to bet I've parked with in 100' of over 1000 gallons of gasoline stored in car gas tanks in one. Do you have any idea how sturdy a car gas tank is? Not very.

Yes, those crappy Blitz gas cans leak more fumes than a car gas tank, so I would have suggested metal NATO jerry cans with rubber gaskets which don't leak any fumes. Even still, we're talking 100' from a structure. There is way more danger of a tank leaking an contaminating the soil with MTBE than the shed exploding. Even that risk is pretty small. I think you might watch too many movies where cars instantly explode when they crash.

Also when Florida gets hit with a Hurricane the entire state doesn't run out of gas and power. The OP's neighbors might need to drive 100 miles for gas, but the highways will be openin within 2-3 days so that's no big deal.

    Bookmark   March 19, 2006 at 5:54PM
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Most of my neighbors have boats with large (over 100 gallons) onboard fuel tanks. They had special lines built for their boats so that they can easily connect their boat gas tanks to their generators. When they come back from their weekend fishing trips, they top off their gas tanks. Therefore they always have 100+ gallons of fuel ready for an emergency. So, the neighbors have an ample supply of their own gas.

FYI, gasoline is a flammable liquid, it is not an explosive. In order to establish a flash point, sufficient vapors must mix with the air to form an ignitable mixture. The Uniform Fire Code limits the amount of gasoline in residential buildings to the amount "necessary for maintenance purposes and operation of equipment," not to exceed a maximum of 25 gallons.

My county Fire Department regulations do not limit the amount of gasoline that may be stored in a shed or garage not attached to the dwelling unit. They recommend that any shed or garage in which flammable liquids are stored should be at least 10 feet away from any dwelling unit and from any property line.

The Uniform Fire Code does not have any requirements for the quantity of gasoline that can be stored in a garage or shed associated with a residence that is not attached to the dwelling unit.

It would appear azinoh, that your concerns are not valid. As for my relationship with my neighbors, we get along very well and I would be willing to give them gas from my store if they needed it. We have all worked together in past storms. For example, during one of the hurricanes, all of the cell phone towers went down and all of the land line phones were dead, except for my land line phone. I don't know how or why it happened, but my phone was the only one in the entire neighborhood that worked for 5 days straight. I let all of my neighbors use the phone as they wished.

Also azinoh, please don't shut up and go away. Even though your advice thus far has been without merit, you might indeed be able to offer some worthwhile advice in the future.

    Bookmark   March 19, 2006 at 5:59PM
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machiem(Z8 WA)

I would spend the extra money and have an electrician install a generator transfer switch. That way, you can eliminate the extension cords. Depending on the type of generator, you can eliminate the ground rod as well since it will ground through your house wiring.

The transfer switch is around $300-$500 depending on brand and size. Installation is whatever your local electricians charge.

If I were you and I was going to to do it all over again, I'd buy a propane or dual fuel generator that hooks into my existing 250 gallon propane tank. The propane doesn't go bad like gas and it won't foul the carb on the generator if stored for 11 months a year. It would also eliminate the need to have and rotate 80 gallons of gas in a shed.

If I didn't have propane, I'd lease a tank for $40/year and leave it full. You could probably get by with a 125 gallon tank. If you ran out, you could always get by with gas too.

Also, you'll probably overload your generator if both A/C compressors kick on at the same time. The start-up load is 4-5 times the continuous load. So, each 750 watt A/C unit will need about 3000-3500 watts during startup, the same goes for your fridge/freezer. So, if 3 A/C units and the fridge turn on at once, you'll need at least 9000 watts intermittant. I definately wouldn't add a third A/C unit unless you want to run around manually turning them on and off in cycles.

    Bookmark   March 20, 2006 at 1:04PM
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Hey karlp! Yes, those Blitz cans aren't the best in the world, but the price was right ($4.68 per can at Wal-Mart). I thought about going with the metal jerry cans (Blitz makes those too) but they are very expensive. I'm trying to keep this project within budget. Or, to put it another way, my wife would have killed me if I bought those jerry cans!

And yes, you're right about gas availability. A few days after the storm, you can indeed drive 50 or 100 miles down the road and find gas. After Katrina we had lots of people from Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama making gas runs over here. We gave them all the help we could!

You make some very good points machiem, thank you for the input. I do plan to put in a transfer switch but not until next year. I'm trying to keep this project within budget.

Same goes for the propane tank. A company called U.S. Carburetion makes a conversion kit for my Briggs & Stratton engine to allow the use of propane. The conversion kit costs about $200.00. I too seriously thought about using propane but I still have a lot of reservations.

One gallon of propane contains much less energy than a gallon of gasoline. A gallon of propane contains 82,485 Btu while a gallon of regular gas contains 115,400 Btu. Using propane, I would have to over size the generator by 25% to get the power I need. I haven't yet ruled propane out as a fuel source because, as you stated, it would be easy to store a large quantity in an above ground "pig" tank. Thanks for pointing that out and I may indeed go that route next year.

Concerning the surge problem, yes that too bothers me a bit. That's why I intend to run a test. When the weather heats up, I'm going to simulate a power failure in my home. I'll turn off the central A/C, unplug the refrigerator and then mount the window A/C units and crank up the genset to see if my plan will work.

Specifically, the 8,000 Btu window A/C units that I bought (Frigidaire FAA087P7) have a high ERR (10.8) and are designed to run in "brownout" conditions. However, the only way I'll know for sure is to test before an extended power outage occurs. If it turns out that running the two A/C units and the refrigerator trips the genset circuit breakers when the compressors cycle on simultaneously, then I'll just have to rotate their use.

The refrigerator will only need to run about 6 to 8 hours per day. I make it a habit to keep my freezer fully stocked at all times. When an item comes out, a bottle of water goes back in to take up any dead space.

Thank you again machiem for the great input!

    Bookmark   March 20, 2006 at 5:46PM
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I don't think your problem will be with gas and the run time but more with the generator power head itself, those square Coleman units with plastic composite housings are known to get hot and when they do the composite housing warps, the electrical insides then move and play inside the housing, the bearing move, misalign, skip and track unevenly and then the problems start.

My suggestion to anyone purchasing a generator is to get one equipped with a quality brusless design with metal or cast aluminium housings on the generator power unit, especially if they will be running it more than 3 to 4 hours at a time without a cool down period.

    Bookmark   March 20, 2006 at 8:23PM
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Yes tahclep, I had heard of that possible problem. I have been advised to make sure the generator has plenty of ventilation and to keep it out of the rain and direct sunlight to prevent that problem from occurring. I contacted Coleman about the problem and they told me that the generator head overheats due to excessive power draw on the unit (greater than the rated 41.6 @ 120 V). They also mentioned that using poor quality extension cords (such as 16 gauge or less) with long runs (more than 100 feet) can contribute to this problem.

I glad you brought that problem up tahclep because it's something for which I need to be on the lookout. Your advice about the 3 to 4 hour runtime with a cool down period sounds very useful. Thanks!

    Bookmark   March 20, 2006 at 9:21PM
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Its called "peace of mind." Sure, comfort may have something to do with it, but knowing that you have prepared for an emergency situation means that you are taking care of your family as best you can. Starhust, I commend you on your efforts. And all the positive sugggestions are sure to help. And the gracious way you have accepted the critical comments are to be applauded.

Saying that, I will tell you that I live in a part of the country that has snow storms and tornados. We have been without power for up to five days in the past. I know that doesn't compare to a direct hit from a hurricane - but it makes you think. My farm is at the very end of the electric transmission lines, so I am always the last one back up. My water source is a deep well that requires an electric pump (or I can haul water from the ponds - believe me, not having water is more of a pain than not having electricity). Several years ago I found a great buy on a new Generac generator. 11000 KW. Honda engine. Runs on propane or natural gas. I already use propane for the furnace and the stove, so I connected it to the propane line. Transfer switch installed, set up to run our 2 refrigerators, the well, the furnace, and the freezer. Several house lighting and outlet circuits. The unit has a timer and starts itself once a week to charge up the battery and test itself. If the power goes out for more than 30 seconds, it starts up and we have power. Now we have to be careful, because when the neighbors call to see if our power is out too, we often forget and say that we have electricity!

Enjoy your generator is all I can say. It sounds like you have thought of most of the problems associated with them.

    Bookmark   March 21, 2006 at 3:48PM
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Yes catfish mo, peace of mind is very important. During the last 2 storms, I really did feel helpless. Others in my neighbor had either evacuated to safe destinations or if they stayed, they had generators. Frankly, I hope I never have to use the thing but if the time comes, I know I will be ready.

I even purchased 5 spare air filters, 3 Briggs & Stratton Platinum spark plugs and 10 quarts of Mobil 1 (10-30). I put an hour meter on the engine to keep track of run time. The generator did not come with a gas gauge in the cap, so I bought one and replaced the original (which I'll keep for a spare).

As you know, having the ability to be self sufficient (even if only for a few days) gives me a lot of reassurance when one of these monster storms starts closing in on us. Also, another reason why I decided to store gasoline is because after these storms pass, and even after electric power is restored, the gas stations often don't have gas or there are long lines waiting for what little gas is available. I want to avoid that situation.

I even made it a point to buy and install 2 battery powered Carbon Monoxide alarms in my house. My house is all electric, so I've never really needed a CO alarm before. However, I figured that if I'm going to be using 2 window A/C units, I better play it safe. After all, I'm going to be running a generator and several of my neighbors will be running their generators as well.
As you said catfish mo, peace of mind!

    Bookmark   March 21, 2006 at 4:45PM
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You must have been a boy scout! Great work - like you, I hoped I would never have to rely on the generator, but when the power went out, believe me, I was glad to have it. And the livestock were pleased that they could get water at the tank (I hate chopping through the ice).

Sleep well!

    Bookmark   March 21, 2006 at 5:31PM
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Catfish that generator is a super super machine, Honda powered with a Generac power generator and Generac's normal plugs, switches, breakers, controls etc. you just can't go wrong.

Your machine however is 11,000 watts or 11 KW, as 11,000 kw is enough power to supply a manufacturing plant.

    Bookmark   March 21, 2006 at 8:32PM
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tahclep - right you are! I was tickled to find it. I had been researching a portable unit to have on hand for emergencies and was checking the big box stores for what they had. Big Blue had a selection of portables, and then I stopped at the orange place. They also had a selection of portables, but they also had a few of the house size ones. I hadn't even considered them at that point, figuring they would be too expensive. Way up on a shelf was one with a considerable mark-down. I inquired, and was informed that it was last year's display model. I figured that a dipslay model generator is a lot different than a display model TV (really - who is going to fiddle with that). Sold! Its been a great addition to the farm.

    Bookmark   March 22, 2006 at 9:04AM
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Hey catfish_mo, I had a very similar experience when I bought my portable. As you know, during the past 2 years the Gulf coast has experienced a lot of hurricanes. Portable generators have been hot sales items so all the stores (Lowe's, Home Depot, Wal-Mart, Kmart, etc.) have been stocking lots of generators.

I decided to buy one but I decided to wait until Florida enacted its hurricane tax free holiday. During the past 2 years for one week during the month of May, Florida suspends all sales tax on hurricane related items such as generators. As long as the generator costs no more than $750.00, then there is no sales tax.

So, I was just looking at generators in anticipation of the upcoming sales tax holiday. I had pretty much decided on a Briggs & Stratton generator from Sam's Club. It has a 10 HP OHV engine and produces 5,500 continuous watts and 8,500 surge watts. The cost on this unit was $600.00.

I took my wife to Target last month to do some shopping and was just wandering around the store killing time. On an end cap, I saw this Coleman Powermate generator marked down from $700.00 to $350.00! And if we agreed to sign up for a Target credit card, they would knock off another 10%. We ended up walking out the door with the thing for a total of $333.88 including tax!

Even though it was not my model of first choice, I couldn't walk away from that price.

    Bookmark   March 22, 2006 at 4:15PM
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starhust - there is something about being in the right place at the right time. Usually my luck runs the other way - around here there is a saying 'even a blind squirrel finds an acorn sometimes" which pretty much applies to me.

Another factor that made the whole house generator an attractive proposition is that my father-in-law is an electrician. He was delighted to help with the set-up and wiring, and for a few beers (post installation) the hourly rate couldn't be beat.

    Bookmark   March 23, 2006 at 8:57AM
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splicer(SW Ohio)

Sorry but you arent going to run2 let alone 3 A/C units. It is not just the watts...it is the amps as well...

Azinoh, You are safe here in Ohio...I do hurricane restoration wrk and live in unthinkable conditions. I had it good for Katrina. I lived in the back of my bucket van for 4 months. Sure beat a tent. But damn was it hot. No showers, MRE's, Port a potties...yes I'd say thats roughing it. Mosquito's the size of softballs (literally) no wind, standing water, absolutely miserable conditions...You want to know what happens when the neighbors run out of fuel? They come and stay with this boy scout. He will welcome them with open arms. But what would happen if his generator broke down? The neighbors with gensets will invite hm and his wife to join them at their house. Why? Because a hurricane really shows you what is important...people and that is it...

    Bookmark   March 24, 2006 at 12:27AM
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Hi splicer! I think I have the amps to do the job. My refrigerator/freezer draws 6.5 amps and each A/C unit draws 6.4 amps for a total of 19.3 amps @ 120 volts. The genset is rated to put out a continuous 41 amps @ 120 volts. So, I think I have more than enough for the job. With that information, do you think I need more?

And you're right about people helping other people after a hurricane. Most folks just want to do whatever they can to help one another. All of us need help sometime or another in our lives. It was very kind of you to come down and help the Katrina victims. Thank you!

    Bookmark   March 24, 2006 at 2:18AM
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masiman(z7 VA)

Hi starhurst. I think they are referring to the starting amps being high. There is a surge that compressors and other motors draw before they settle to their rated draw. I do not know what those values are generally but they can be significant. The surge draws in combination may be enough to overload your generator. Others I am sure will know more about this.

    Bookmark   March 24, 2006 at 11:20AM
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Hi masiman. Based upon my preliminary calculations, I still think I'll be ok. Just for the sake of round numbers, let's say that each appliance (1 refrigerator and 2 window A/C units) each pull 1,000 watts. So the regular draw will be 3,000 watts. Now if they all cycle their compressors on simultaneously and each device requires 2 times its normal power, each device will momentarily pull 2,000 watts or a surge total of 6,000 watts. I'll still be within the specification designed for this generator.

The problem, of course, is that if all of the appliances cycle simultaneously and one or more of them draw more than twice their rated watts, then it ain't gonna work. So, that's where my upcoming test will help. I'll crank up the generator and let it reach operating temperature and then run the refrigerator for an hour and make sure that it cycles and few times. Then I'll plug in one of the window A/C units and repeat the process. Finally, I'll plug in the second A/C unit and run them all for another couple of hours and see how they all work together. If it works then great. If it doesn't, then back to the drawing board.

I specifically chose those Frigidaire window units because, based upon my research, they are very efficient and they don't create a huge surge when the compressor kicks in. As a matter of fact, my original plan was to use two 10,000 Btu units but I backed off that idea because I felt the surge watts would just be too great.

Also, I have some flexibility in my plan as well. The refrigerator/freezer will not have run 24/7. It will just have to run a few hours per day to keep everything cold. Based upon previous experience, 8 hours per day run time for the frig. should be more than enough. I can then unplug it and use the power for the A/C units, fans, etc. and by drawing less power from the genset, I'll save a little on gas consumption.

Another problem with these storms is that soon after they are over, law enforcement and the National Guard move in and seal off entire communities for several days. If you leave, you can't return so you have to be totally self sufficient and ready for anything.

    Bookmark   March 24, 2006 at 4:45PM
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masiman(z7 VA)

I did a little research after thinking about the surges and how little I knew about them. There do not seem to be any hard and fast numbers out there. You'll either have to get the values for your equipment from the manufacturer if they even know them or gain the knowledge through experience. One site I found, xantrex, had this to say:

10. What are some difficult loads that may push the limits of a Prowatt inverter?

Electric motors often have a start surge 5-10 times the continuous rating. This higher start surge may approach or exceed the inverter's overload shut down point. Fridge or air conditioning compressors and hydraulic or pneumatic pumps, often have very high start surge characteristic.

I think this company makes power sources so I don't know how much of that "5-10" is marketing and how much is truth. I know you have thought about this long and hard and I am sure you will use the unit effectively. Write back after your first real use of it and let us know what you did right and what you would do differently.

    Bookmark   March 24, 2006 at 9:15PM
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You're right masiman. I've seen estimates all over the board; some very high and some very low. For example, Consumer Reports says:

"Once you know what youre powering, total the running wattages and choose a model with a rated wattage at least equal to that total. Manufacturers suggest totaling the higher, surge watts that motorized appliances draw when you first turn them on. Based on our tests, we suggest concentrating on running watts alone."

Small portable

3,000 to 4,000 watts

What it powers: The basics, including items such as:
Refrigerator (600 w)
Several lights (400 w)
Sump pump (600 w)
TV (350 w)
Microwave (1,500 w)

Price range: $400 to $800 for most; more for inverter models.

Midsized portable

4,500 to 7,000 watts

What it powers: Same as small, plus:
Portable heater (1,300 w)
or window air conditioner (1,000 w)
Computer (250 w)
More lights (400 w)
Or, with a transfer switch, about $600:
Furnace fan (500 w)
Water pump (400 w)

Price range: $500 to $1,000 for most.

Based upon this information, I should have no problem running the devices I am planning to run with plenty of power to spare. Obviously, the real determination will be made when I perform my test. I think that a key factor in all of this has to do with common sense. I'll report back with my findings but it will be a few months from now since the hot weather doesn't crank up around here until June and July.

    Bookmark   March 24, 2006 at 10:22PM
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"Consider that the temperatures at night inside the house were 94º F with 100% humidity and there was not even a slight breeze,...." You probably have a whole-house fan. You could run that all night for lower consumption and no surges. That will also cool down the whole house somewhat, which would also make the rest of the house more comfortable early in the day.

    Bookmark   March 26, 2006 at 6:39AM
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That's a good idea telemark. I have both a high velocity whole house fan and several ceiling fans, all of which I can run via a regular 120 V plug. I plan to use that method if running my A/C units proves to be impractical.

The main reason why I want to run the A/C units is because of my location. My house is located on a coastal peninsula with two large bays on both the north and the south. I am far enough away from the water and at a high enough elevation to not have a threat of flooding or tidal surge, but our air temperatures and humidity levels are much higher than the inland areas.

Plus, the prevailing winds during the summer come off of the Gulf of Mexico so the temperatures don't tend to fall too much at night during the summer. Swamp coolers don't work around here. Without A/C, this area can be very uncomfortable at night during the summer.

A generator engine must put out 2 hp to produce 1,000 watts of power under load.

Under load, each hp produced by the engine consumes 10,000 Btu per hour.

1 gallon of gasoline = 124,000 Btu.

So, how long would a 5,000 watt generator with a 10 hp engine at 50% load operate on 5 gallons of gas?

10 hp at 50% load would use 5 hp to generate 2,500 watts of power.

5 hp x 10,000 Btu = 50,000 Btu per hour.

5 gallons of gasoline = 620,000 Btu

620,000 / 50,000 = 12.4 hours

So, in a perfect world I'd get over 12 hours of operating time. But the instructions say I should only expect 11 hours of run time from 5 gallons of gas at half load. As a practical matter, I'm guessing I might get 8 hours of run time. After all, a lot of those Btu's are lost to heat. The engine gets hot, the generator gets hot and some power is lost in resistance. So, just as a ballpark figure, if I loose 35% to heat and other factors, then the run time comes in at almost exactly 8 hours per 5 gallons of gas at half load (2,500 watts).

Does anyone see a flaw in my reasoning?

    Bookmark   March 26, 2006 at 5:46PM
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machiem(Z8 WA)

There are many flaws.

1)The efficiency of most engines is 30% maximum, and even that is pushing it. Of the 124,000 Btu's in each gallon, you'll probably use 30,000 Btu max. The rest is wasted as heat. So, don't get too wrapped up in the available Btu's in your source of fuel.

2)The 10hp engine rating was done in a lab under specific conditions. You'll never get 10hp out of that engine. You'll probably get a max of about 8-9hp, maybe less due to hot, moist air which is less dense.

3)The output of your generator is also not going to be 5000 watts. Again, that is under lab conditions. Real world will probably be 4000-4500 considering losses, maybe even less at the end of extension cords.

4)Your fuel usage can and will go up quite dramatically if you have dirty filters, dirty oil, any type of contaminates in the fuel and/or a partially gunked up carb. Also, running A/C units will keep the generator above 50% load especially when it's 80-90 degrees outside.

So, stop thinking so hard and just test the thing.

You don't have to wait for hot weather to do your test, you can do it now. The A/C units don't draw more power when it's hot, they only provide less cooling ability (less efficient) and work longer. Start up the generator, plug in your stuff and turn down the temp settings on the A/C units to make 'em go. Then, sit back and see what happens.

As for real world data, I get about 5-6 hours of runtime per 5 gallons of gas on my generator that operates 6 circuits with a fridge, gas furnace, several lights, T.V., sattelite dish, microwave, coffee makers, etc.

The engine governor kicks in (greater than 50% load) when the fridge or furnace starts and when we use the microwave or coffee maker. My wife's 1800 watt hair dryer puts a pretty good load on the generator too but very little is being used at the time except a few lights. I've never tripped a breaker but I don't run A/C units either.

I hope this helps.

    Bookmark   March 27, 2006 at 10:33AM
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"So, stop thinking so hard and just test the thing."

Good point machiem! I do tend to go overboard on the plans. However, I still want to wait until it gets warmer to run my test. We're going through a cool spell right now and if I cranked up those A/C units it would be very uncomfortable. The warm weather will get here soon enough.

Your other points are well taken as well. Thanks for breaking it down for me. I appreciate it.

*Runs off to do some more planning.*

    Bookmark   March 27, 2006 at 7:41PM
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Ok, the tests have been completed. It was a complete success. I ran the refrigerator, the 2 window A/C units, a ceiling fan and 4 compact florescent bulbs from the generator for over 8 hours. The generator had plenty of power to spare. While running my test, I measured the VAC and the line Freq. with an accurate meter.

The VAC produced by the genset stayed very close to 120 V and only varied by about 3% as the various compressors came on or went off. Same was true of the line Freq. It stayed pretty steady at 60 Hz but never dropped lower than 58 Hz.

Also, I checked with a local shop that sells and installs gensets. I asked them how they compute genset requirements for any given load. They provided me with a simple formula. Their method is that they add up the total wattage for all devices attached to the genset. They then pick the one appliance that has the biggest compressor and take whatever the normal wattage draw is for that device and multiply it by 3. They then add up all those wattages.

Using their formula, I made the computations for my application and found that my 5,000 watt genset is fully capable of handling the load I need for my appliances. My tests verified my theory. One of the things that concerned me was the speculation that if the compressors of all three units cycled on at the same time, the genset would not be able to handle the load. I devised a test for that.

With all units up and running, I turned the thermostats up so as to shut down all the compressors. I let all the units "idle" in that state for 5 minutes. Then, I had my daughter, my wife and myself all turn down the thermostats simultaneously so that all the compressors kicked in at the same time. The genset worked flawlessly and handled the load without a problem.

Another factor was gas consumption. I was very pleased with the results! On five gallons of gas (I measured it), I was able to run the generator for 8 hours. That's about 0.6 gallons per hour!

I have one test left to perform, but I'm going to have to wait until the ambient temperature is 90º F or higher to get the results I need.

    Bookmark   April 3, 2006 at 1:49AM
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masiman(z7 VA)

Glad to hear it worked out starhurst. The only bad part is that someone has to read and sort out all the comments to help point them in the right direction, lol. Excellent to know that your genset handled the simultaneously starting compressors. Any idea what the peak load was when that occurred?

If you have sensitive/expensive electronic equipment take care of them. Under power can be just as bad as overpowering. We lost a TV and VCR to underpowering a few years back.

    Bookmark   April 3, 2006 at 9:47AM
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The Briggs OHV is as efficient on fuel as Honda, Yamaha or Robin/Subaru OHV's or real close anyways. OHV's besides being far more fuel efficient are a lot quieter also than ye old flat heads. It's amazing what you can power up, operate and live with under stressful circumstances especially if you alternate/rotate the power supplied from the generator to equipment absolutely required for your given needs at a given time, therefore eliminating needless over loading.

As stated b-4, persopnnally my main concern with that type and brand of generator would be with the alternator itself especially when operating it in hot weather. Myself I would shut it down every so often to give the alternator a chance to cool down hopefully extending the plastic/composite housings life ensuring that no housing deformation occurs.

    Bookmark   April 3, 2006 at 11:32AM
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With the success of the trial but considering the idea of using propane for convenience and safety; can anyone reccomend a similarly powered propane unit that is moderately priced?

    Bookmark   April 3, 2006 at 4:19PM
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Lots of good dual or multiple fuel generator manufacturers out there. IMHO the best is probably Yamaha but they are more money , however they do have the best surge alternators around and alternator design. You have Honda, Kubota and Mitsubishi who manufacture top of the line generators also. You have companies such as Winco, Gilette,MultiQuip, Nortrh Star, and super super units manufactured by Discount Air Compressor and Generator Company a division of Thunderbolt corp. With nothing but the best components in their alternators and general set up coupled to Honda engines. The Discount Air Compressor web site is a gold mine of information on generators, this site is worth spending lots of time on just for educational and generator knowledge purposes. It should almost be called '' Everything you ever wanted to know about generators....''

    Bookmark   April 3, 2006 at 6:41PM
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I should of added above other companies such as Generac, Robin/Subaru and others also, lots of good ones available.

Here is a link to another good generator site, they carry several top generator lines as well as some less expensive lines also.

    Bookmark   April 3, 2006 at 7:02PM
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Remember the following when considering a generator, these are pretty standard throughout the industry:
when selecting an electric generator be sure that the unit takes care of present total requirements and your anticipated needs. Motor loads require 3 to 4 times the wattage (or amperage) ratings on the nameplate, including well & sump pumps, refrigerator and freezer compressors, air conditionner compressors, as well as heating system pumps and motors.

Ratings apply to altitudes up 1000-feet, standard cooling normal ambients and gasoline fuel. Reduce ratings 3 1/2% for each 1,000 feet above sea level and 1% for each 10 degrees Fahrenheit rise above 60 degrees Fahrenheit.

It is also recommended not to run your alternator at full load for more than 30 minutes at a time. Most generators are made to run continuous at 50% to 65% of its full capacity.

Generators running on natural gas are normally capacity derated by as much as 20% below the same unit operating on gasoline.

    Bookmark   April 3, 2006 at 8:14PM
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Yes masiman, you're right. No, I don't know the peak load of amps when the compressors were started. I have an amp probe, but I didn't want to take the units apart to make those measurements. I just wanted to make sure that I didn't trip the breakers (and I didn't). However, based upon my calculations, I don't think I exceeded 15 amps at any time on the 2 circuits combined. My genset can handle 20 amps per circuit (total 40 amps). No, I will not be running any sensitive electronic devices (i.e. television, computer, VCR, DVD, etc.) from the generator. I have plenty of battery backup systems for those items.

I'll tell you a little story. Back in the late 1970's I worked in a remote area and our only power was a 40 Kw generator. It worked fine, but I had a record turntable (remember those?). When I would play a record on my turntable everything sounded fine until the compressor of the A/C unit kicked in. Then. the turntable would slow down due to the voltage and frequency reduction. It only lasted a few seconds, but it gave me a new appreciation of the Beatles.

Thank you tahclep! I kept your suggestions in mind before running my tests. I did not encounter any overheating of the alternator, however your point is valid. This genset has a metal shield between the gas tank and the alternator. It was obviously installed because of the problem you mentioned. I have a backup plan.

I have a small fan that I can use to blow over the plastic alternator housing in the event that I need the extra ventilation. Based upon your original information, I kept a close eye on the alternator heat output. Indeed, the unit does get hot! However, I think the deformation of the plastic/composite housing that you mentioned is due to poor ventilation. If this unit were to be operated in an enclosed or restricted area, the potential for overheating is apparent.

In my case, the genset operates in the driveway with free air flow from all sides. There are no obstructions on any side within 10 feet. Basically, I keep everything away from the genset, in case it catches on fire! Also, I have made sure to position the alternator to take advantage of the prevailing winds in my area during the hurricane season.

I have noticed that Home Depot is stocking a tremendous number of Coleman Powermate PM0545008 generators in my local area. It's the same as my device, with a few minor changes and the addition of a power cord set. The engine and alternator are identical to my unit. When the tax free holiday starts in Florida, these (and other units) will fly off the shelves!

    Bookmark   April 4, 2006 at 12:13AM
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starhust, I have (by necessity) become quite versed in the ins/outs of generator types, usage, fuel use, etc. I operate a 24-hr-a-day business (an emergency call center), so I went through absolute he&& during Charley, Frances & Jeanne.

First, the unit you have is fine. I assume you didn't buy it for daily use, and it won't be run "into the ground". The Coleman units are very serviceable (the ones with Tecumseh engines are not as good), and the Briggs & Stratton engines are excellent. Honda, Generac (no longer makes portables, Briggs bought them out), McCulloch, Robin/Subaru, Onan, Winco, Yamaha, et. al., all make good units. The questin becomes usage/frequency, what you want to run, etc. So, you're in good shape.

IF you ever want to install a transfer switch, in all honesty, wait until you buy a "permanent" unit. No sense incurring the expense for a portable unit. The ground rod arrangement is solid (contrary to popular belief, using your building ground is not necessarily advisable), and as long as extension cords are proper gauge and in good condition, you will be fine.

Fuel storage under your current arrangement is not a problem. 100 feet is PLENTY. 80 gallons of gasoline burns pretty quickly, and an 80-gallon gasoline fire is VERY manageable.

Now to my advice!
--Run fridge 2 hrs "on", 6 hrs "off". No need to run it
at night, and to state the obvious, the less you open
it, the longer it will stay cool!

--Best A/C "strategy" is to cool ONE room in your house.
There is no reason to expect you CAN cool the whole
house, so don't try. Try this: cool your bedroom when
you wake up in the morning for 2 hrs. Cool again 2 hrs
before going to bed. Then, if you have an
inverter/power source with adequate power, run a simple
fan during the night. Trust me, you will stay comfy!

--Our "house" rule is one hour a day on the computer. We
power the UPS with the genset so the three of us (wife,
daughter, self) can check e-mail, look at news, etc.
Given that we try to get out-and-about during the day,
this works for us. If we want to watch TV or video/DVD,
we do it during the two hrs we are cooling the bedroom
but just give an extra/bonus (i.e., 3 hrs) in the room
with A/C running.

--Another thing we will do is do a smll fire in our fire
pit out back. Anyone wanting to read can bring a
lantern with them, as well. We may cook dinner on it
(or just use the grill or camp stove) or just make
smores, but the main thing is to use fire to fight bugs
AND get a little warm. Then, a cool shower followed by
A/C is all the more refreshing!

Stay in touch here during the hurricane season!

    Bookmark   April 6, 2006 at 2:43PM
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masiman(z7 VA)

That sounds like a very sensible routine hawkeyebob62. Glad to hear your experiences and professional opinions on this.

    Bookmark   April 6, 2006 at 3:39PM
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Thanks for the advice and information hawkeyebob62! You are correct in that I only intend to use this generator in the event of a major power outage. I will store the genset with fuel topped off in the tank (with fuel stabilizer) and every couple of months I'll crank up the genset and put it under a load for about an hour. Other than that use, it will sit idle.

As I'm sure you know, Coleman Powermate makes this genset in a variety of flavors. I've seen some with Briggs & Stratton OHV engines, some with Robin/Subaru OHV engines and some with Tecumseh side valve engines. The Tecumseh engines are much louder and burn much more fuel. As a matter of fact, I saw one just the other day in commercial use.

I stopped at a local convenience store to buy a newspaper. I noticed a crew spray painting new yellow lines in the parking lot. The air compressor for the spray gun was powered by a 5,000 watt Coleman Powermate with a 10 hp Tecumseh engine. The entire rig was mounted on a small trailer. The contractor told me that he'd been using that generator every day for the last 4 years and never had a problem.

I agree with your advice concerning the transfer switch. I've lived in this house for 23 years and can count the number of major power failures on one hand and still have a few fingers left over. A transfer switch is something I will never need with a portable genset.

Concerning cooling the house I have all ready tested my plan. In my house, it is easy for me to close off any or all of the rooms at my desire. I'll just close off excess space and leave about 750 sq. ft. to be cooled. That will be easy to accomplish with 16,000 Btu of cooling power. I can open up other rooms if needed as I close off others to keep the temperatures within reason.

As for the TV, DVD player, computer, etc., we have multiple battery powered units to cover our needs. We can run any of these units 24/7 for several months if needed.

Thanks again for your practical and real life advice. It was very helpful. I really hope you get some relief this season and don't have to deal with any serious storms!

As you well know, we could go for 20 years or more and never see a hurricane. However, we could also see a big hurricane in 2006. In my younger days, I was willing to evacuate when faced with these big storms. Now, I'm staying. Shelter in place is my motto!

    Bookmark   April 6, 2006 at 8:59PM
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Masiman and starhust, thanks!

starhust, sounds like you have it down pretty well. The reason I only cool our bedroom is because it is the only room that does NOT have carpet or wood. We stripped off the carpet to reveal the "original" terrazzo, decided we didn't mind it, and now, in summer it's the coolest room in the house, and stays cooler with "emergency/disaster" A/C. Closing off unused rroms is big help, too.

The reason I use the genset to power UPS for computer is to save my batteries. With TV/DVD/video I can use genset (with UPS) OR inverter-with-power source. But again, if I'm already powering A/C into bedroom, may as well save inverter/battery power and use the genset, since I've already bought the gas!

I actually HAVE thought about "backfeeding" my A/C circuit in the past, but, even when done "safely", it sets a terrible example for my daughter AND any neighbors or visitors. I can't very well "preach" disaster preparedness to people, then decide to "push the envelope" when I choose. I already do that in too many other areas of my life, why forget a step some day and kill someone!

    Bookmark   April 8, 2006 at 9:22PM
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Your 16,000 BTU unit is running on 240 volts, what is its continuous usage amp rating?

The start up power requirements for this unit would be approx. 3.5 times its regular usage as its cycles on and off and it needs all of this in clean power to prevent any damage to the A/C unit itself, your 5000 watt represents 20 amps continuous and 26 amps in surge power (240 volts, double that in 120 volt mode) which means you should not hjave several such items running at the same time as you will be damaging other appliances taht could be running such as refrigerator, freezer etc. Rotate your power requirements continuously from one to the other in order to prevent damage to major appliances and electronics.

Strictly run what is absolutely necssary for the least amount of time possible to ensure long life of all. Pumps and compressors do not take well normally to an insufficient power supply during their cycles and some electrical/electronics components are even highly sensitive to small variations.

    Bookmark   April 9, 2006 at 8:38AM
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Hi tahclep. I think you misunderstood one of previous posts. I am not running a 16,000 Btu A/C on 240 volts. I am running two 8,000 Btu A/C units on 120 volts. Each A/C unit uses 6.4 amps and the refrigerator/freezer uses 6.5 amps.

My genset is capable of 41.6 amps at 120 volts. I too was worried that the three units could not be run together with my genset. That's why I conducted the test. It's not too hard to tell if a compressor is starving for power or if the genset is being overloaded. None of those sounds or symptoms were evident.

The genset handled all the loads simultaneously and without any sign of a problem. I made sure all the extension cords were 12 gauge and no single cord run was more than 100 feet. Also, I have a 9 hp Briggs & Stratton side valve engine in my RER mower. I was pleasantly surprised to discover that the genset was much less noisy than my RER!

Also, I decided to stock up on my gas supply before the prices started to go through the roof. I have my full 80 gallon supply on hand now and it cost me about $2.20 a gallon.

    Bookmark   April 11, 2006 at 5:16PM
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masiman(z7 VA)

I wish we had prices like that. We are currently @2.75/gallon

    Bookmark   April 11, 2006 at 5:29PM
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This discussion is SO helpful!

I live in Central Florida and plan to purchase a generator this year. I'm trying to decide if I should go with a transfer switch for a portable generator. What are the advantages and disadvantages? They are expensive - yet the proper sized extension cords seem very expensive too.

Our bedroom where the window AC unit would be used is on the opposite side of the house from where we plan to put the generator. I understand the longer the extension cord the more power is lost.

Question #2 is
Has anyone had any experience using the tri fuel generators? Seems like a great idea if I could switch between gas and propane from a 20lb propane bottle (like for a webber grill)

Any input is appreciated!
Thanks Alison

    Bookmark   April 14, 2006 at 2:03PM
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Hi flatcoats! For a small portable generator (5,000 watts) a transfer switch is more trouble and expense than it is worth. You must decide which appliances you desire to power. While you mentioned that you desire to power a window A/C unit, you did not mention the size of the unit (BTU's) nor did you mention the amps or watts or voltage it requires to run.

From first hand experience I can tell you that you must first determine your load and then buy a generator to match the load. No portable generator will run long at full capacity, so it is best to only load them at half their rating. If the generator is rated to produce 5,000 watts, then try to limit the load to 2,500 watts. The genset will work better, last longer and use less fuel than if you ran a higher load.

Concerning extension cords, you need 12 gauge, 3 wire outdoor cords. You can buy a good quality 50 ft. cord at WalMart for less than $30.00. Try to keep your cord runs to no more than 100 ft. (i.e. two 50 foot cords). You could go to 150 ft. but I would try to avoid anything over 100 foot. Each cord can handle up to 15 amps or 1,875 watts. That's plenty of power to run a refrigerator, window A/C unit, TV, etc.

I too thought about the 20 lb. propane tank option. I too have a Weber grill and I have 5 propane tanks for it. It would be nice and easy to buy a few more 20 lb. propane tanks to power my generator too. Propane is safe and easy to store and it never goes stale. This seems like the logical choice. However, it doesn't work.

A 20 lb. propane tanks holds just a tad over 4 gallons of fuel and one gallon of propane only puts out 92,000 BTU. A gallon of regular gasoline puts out 124,000 BTU. Therefore, a gallon of propane has 25% less power than a gallon of regular gasoline. That loss of power translates directly to a loss of generator output as well. You would have to oversize your generator by 25% to make up for the loss.

Another problem is that when you put a big draw on a 20 lb propane bottle (such as would be created by a 5,000 watt generator with a 10 hp engine) the propane tank will freeze up and gas will stop flowing. To run a 5,000 watt genset, you would need a minimum of a 100 lb propane bottle or five 20 lb bottles hooked up in tandem. Even then, a 5,000 watt genset will outpace the propane tank vaporization rate at some point.

In short, propane is only a good option if you have a large propane tank (such as a 420 lb or 100 gallon tank). With a 5,000 watt generator, that would only give you about 80 hours of run time. To make propane a viable option, you would need a 500 gallon tank (which actually holds only 400 gallons of propane).

    Bookmark   April 14, 2006 at 10:18PM
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Starhurst my point to everyone is that they should not and will not be able to start up all 3 at the same time with out anticipating damage to these or such type of equipment down the road.

2 x A/C @ 6.4 amps and 1 fridge @ 6.5 amps = 19.30 amps total continuous running amps., if they should all start up at the exact same moment at a minimum factor of 3x in start up power draw it now becomes 57.90 amps required and a draw factor of 3.5x it now bwcomes 67.55 amps start up draw required. You must therefore alternate/rotate the items you need to run so they never start up or draw total amperage on start up together as this is when serious damage to appliances and equipment will occur. A fridge and freezer you do not need to run continuously as once cold they will stay that way for many hours, A/C's can be run alternately to keep everyone comfortable. Unless you are connected to a permanent standby unit of 12kw - 15kw or higher, the trick to using a portable emergency unit is to operate it as sparigly as possible, to alternate and rotate the power around and absolutely avoid maximum power draw and start up power draw. This is one case when lots or more is not necessarily better unless you are running really large units. It all comes down to managing the power and the real needs.

    Bookmark   April 15, 2006 at 10:31AM
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Your point is well taken tahclep and I had the exact same concern. However, after researching the subject and running my own practical tests (i.e. simultaneously running the refrigerator/freezer and the 2 A/C units for over 8 hours on the genset) I am now assured that the genset can easily handle this load.

I had looked carefully at all window A/C units that would run from a standard 120 v plug. I found a large variety of units from 15,000 BTU down to 5,000 BTU. Based upon my preliminary information, I planned to buy a couple of 10,000 BTU A/C units. However, as I ran the computations, I was worried that an 8.4 amp draw from each of these units would be too much. So, I downsized to 8,000 BTU to provide a safety margin just in case. All of the professionals I have contacted advised that the load I am putting on this genset is reasonable and that 5,000 watts is more than enough.

Obviously, if I would have drawn anything close to 58 or 68 amps, the breakers on the genset would have tripped. Also, it's easy to tell when the compressors start up from the sound of the compressor itself as well as the sound of the engine on the genset.

Ever since I was a young pup, I've always liked the sound of electric motors. At night, nothing puts me to sleep faster than to hear the sound of a ceiling fan motor or a window A/C unit. Dead silence keeps me awake! Another thing that I need to mention is that I have a 52" Hunter ceiling fan that is very sensitive to line voltage and line frequency changes.

If you feed that motor with anything less than 120 v, or less than 60 Hz, it will "talk" to you. I ran it along with the refrigerator/freezer and the 2 A/C units and that fan "told" me when a compressor came on line and when they shut off as well.

I am very satisfied with the plans I have made. If a storm enters the Gulf of Mexico this year and threatens our area, I will be secure in the knowledge that I am fully prepared. I won't have to run to the grocery store for supplies nor to Home Depot for emergency building materials. I won't have to wait in line for gas, ice, MRE's, batteries, water, medicine or anything else. I have all the supplies I need for myself and my family. The only thing I will need to buy is a box of fresh crackers! I did all of this within a reasonable budget as well.

    Bookmark   April 15, 2006 at 7:53PM
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I think what you have done is great. I also have a generator with the same rating. When the power and all goes bye-bye, I fire it up, run the air-conditioner, watch the satellite TV, keep the fridge and freezer food good, and pump water from my well. If someone thinks that's overboard, I just smile and say "have a nice day".

You done good. Good luck with all!

Jim P

    Bookmark   April 15, 2006 at 10:14PM
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Do not rely completely on the push type breakers (aka reset breakers) if so equipped as they are not as effective as the rocker type breakers. These some times seem to work like a time delay fuse where as the rocker breaker is far quicker to jump and more dependable. It cost me a good 1 hp motor to learn this.

However no matter what, there is nothing like being prepared ahead of time and having a good plan in c«ase of emergency.

    Bookmark   April 15, 2006 at 10:22PM
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Are any of you forgetting you have well pumps? Those are real power hogs!!
Any of you thinking about propane, its highly recommended, if only for the fact that you'll get a fuel that doesn't go off. I would though recommend underground tank especially in a hurricane zone.

    Bookmark   April 16, 2006 at 4:08AM
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Thanks so much starhust - exactly the kind of info I was looking for! My homework tonight is figuring the power needs and I'll go from there. Haven't purchased the window AC unit yet but I'll be looking into that Frigidaire!

Very helpful on the propane - guess I'll just keep that for cooking on the webber!

    Bookmark   April 17, 2006 at 1:50PM
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Hi flatcoats. Glad you found the information useful. The reason I went with the Frigidaire window A/C is because it's a very high quality unit and costs only $159.00 at Lowe's. I compared every 8,000 BTU window A/C I could find (Fedders, GE, Sharp, Goldstar, Friedrich, Whirlpool, Panasonic, Kenmore, Haier, etc.) but I felt the Frigidaire was the best for my situation. It has a high EER rating (10.8) and it doesn't gobble up too much power.

Also, I spoke with a gentleman from the Briggs & Stratton Power Products Group in Jefferson, Wisconsin. They are the biggest maker of portable gensets in the USA. I told him about my plans for the upcoming hurricane season and asked him specifically if he thought that running two 8,000 BTU A/C and a refrigerator/freezer simultaneously with my genset would pose a problem.

His explanation was that my genset had plenty of power to handle the load, as long as the load is added properly. He pointed out that a lot of people make the mistake of plugging all their appliances into the genset before they start the genset and that is what causes most problems. He said that I should start the genset first with no load on it. Then give it a few minutes to warm up and then turn on or plug in the largest load I have for the genset. He said to let the genset power this load for about a minute and then add the second load and repeat with the third load.

He pointed out that it would be highly unlikely that all three compressors from the A/C units and the refrigerator/freezer to start up at the exact same moment. He said that the only time that happens is when someone has them all plugged into the same cord and they then plug that cord into the genset. He also pointed out that the power surge created when a compressor kicks in only lasts for a few milliseconds. He summed it up by saying that I would have a better chance of winning the lottery than I would getting three compressors to turn on at the exact same moment.

So, it's pretty simple. Start the genset and let it warm up. Then, one by one, apply each load. When ready to shut down the genset to refuel, you reverse the process and remove the loads one by one.

    Bookmark   April 17, 2006 at 5:36PM
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Hey tahclep, I have another solution to the problem you proposed. If I turn down the thermostat on the A/C unit to it's lowest setting, then the compressor never cycles on and off. It just stays on the entire time (I tested it tonight for 8 hours). Therefore, I won't have to worry about a surge! See, that was an easy fix.

    Bookmark   April 21, 2006 at 11:43PM
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Hi Starhurst,

Yep! But doesn't get awfully cold after a 4-5 hours of constant running ?

    Bookmark   April 22, 2006 at 8:31PM
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Hi tahclep! Indeed, if I close the bedroom door, it will turn the bedroom into a meat locker. However, if I open the bedroom door and allow the cool air to flow down the hallway and into other rooms of the house, it works great.

Instead of using the thermostat on the A/C unit to cycle the compressor on and off, I just set the thermostat to 60º F and the A/C puts out a constant flow of air at anywhere from 36º F to 44º F depending upon ambient temperature. The A/C has a variable speed fan (90 distinct settings) so I can use the fan speed and vary the opening of the bedroom door (and other rooms in the house) to regulate the temperature. Incidentally, I have made these temperature measurements with highly accurate analog (Weston) and digital (Fluke) thermometers.

My central A/C unit is 2.5 tons (36,000 BTU) and I normally keep the thermostat at 77º F. Today the high temperature was 85º F and normally my central A/C unit would have cycled numerous times during the day to keep the house cool. Yet, with my little A/C unit running, the central A/C unit only fired up one time today. So this thing may end up saving me money too!

I have decided to keep one of the 8,000 BTU window A/C units permanently mounted in the master bedroom and I'll keep the other unit in its box to use as a reserve unit to be mounted after a storm. I feel confident now that with the two 8,000 BTU A/C units running together, I'll be able to keep my house from turning into a blast furnace during an extended power outage and run my refrigerator and that is my goal.

I am in the process now of modifying one of my plywood hurricane shutters to protect the exterior portion of the window A/C unit from damaging winds.

    Bookmark   April 23, 2006 at 4:28PM
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I found a rather nifty auxiliary fuel tank for my generator. It uses two, 5.8 gallon fuel tanks that are hooked together with a fuel line and then the fuel line is hooked into the genset with an adapter. The only problem is the price, $112.36. However, I'm confident I can build my own from a couple 6 gallon Blitz gas cans. It's just a simple gravity feed device. I'll need to buy some gas hose, adapter nipples and a tee valve and a quick connect coupling (similar to what small outboard boat motors use). I going to price the stuff out tomorrow.

    Bookmark   April 27, 2006 at 4:23PM
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Tri-fuel generators are appreciably more expensive than gasoline generators, although one can buy conversion kits for gas generators "after-market" style. If that is the route one chooses, don't hold your breath on any warranties with the gen-set manufacturer!

From a practical standpoint vis-a-vis gas/diesel/propane/natural gas choice, it becomes a matter of usage/frequency/application.

In the context of starhust's original post, we are talking about a few days a year, possibly a maximum of 14 days. That simply does not warrant the extra expense for a diesel generator.

Propane will last longer than gasoline, but after much research, I have found that gasoline--especially with a "stabilizer"--will last a year as long as you don't leave it exposed to long periods of sunlight or extreme temperature fluctuation. In other words, for Floridians, it's "buy your gas in April, put what's left in your car(s) in November". In other words, the extra expense of a propane generator, for "strictly" emergency use, is not warranted. When you add to that the fact that propane requires larger tanks (grill-sized tanks will NOT adequately power or provide continuous operation) AND provides less "rated" power, and the argument for a less-expensive gasoline generator becomes yet stronger.

Natural gas (sigh). DEFINITELY less power (20% or more), impractical for portable gen-sets, where you need to utilize as much power as you can from the unit. When a severe hurricane is headed to our area, I know at least one gas company that categorically states that they will shut down upon orders from state/county/local government or in the event of multiple line breakage/leakage. Twenty uprooted, 50-year old oak trees can put a hurt on gas lines, water mains and the best-buried fiber optics and cables. Redundancy is easier and more practical with a phone or cable network or internet backbone than with a gas delivery system.

IF you have the cash and are so inclined, a buried propane tank and standby generator is just the ticket. But it won't do much for someone who DOES want mobility from a portable generator :)

flatcoats, to answer your question about extension cords, 100 feet is definitely maximum, at least IMO. You need to figure out a way to keep it under that, with 75 feet being even better, 50 or less being optimal. Put another way, if it's "noise" that is factoring into placement of the unit, take out that factor. While a portable genset is definitely a "loud" piece of equipment, it is not so loud that an A/C unit and twenty to thirty feet of space won't cure. You won't "silence" it, by any means, but there are ways to buffer that sound/noise.

    Bookmark   May 5, 2006 at 10:52AM
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The Florida Hurricane sales tax holiday is right around the corner. All of our local Lowe's and Home Depot's are stacked to the ceiling with hundreds of portable generators and five gallon gas cans. They also have portable storage units in the store parking lots filled with more generators. They are expecting record sales.

Florida law provides that no sales tax or discretionary sales surtax (also known as a local option sales tax) will be collected on the sale or purchase of certain items related to hurricane preparedness for the period beginning 12:01 a.m., Sunday, May 21, 2006, and ending at midnight, Thursday, June 1, 2006.

Qualifying items selling for $10 or less:
Blue ice or those items sold as artificial ice

Qualifying items selling for $20 or less:
Any portable self-powered light source
Battery-powered flashlights
Battery-powered lanterns
Gas-powered lanterns (including propane, kerosene, lamp oil, or similar fuel)
Tiki type torches

Qualifying items selling for $25 or less:
Any gas or diesel fuel container (including LP gas and kerosene containers)
Qualifying items selling for $30 or less:
Batteries, including rechargeable (listed sizes only)
6-volt (excluding automobile and boat batteries)
9-volt (excluding automobile and boat batteries)
Coolers (food-storage; non-electrical)
Ice chests (food-storage; non-electrical)

Qualifying items selling for $40 or less:
Any cell phone charger

Qualifying items selling for $50 or less:
Radios (self-powered or battery-powered)
Two-way radios (self-powered or battery-powered)
Weather band radios (self-powered or battery-powered)
Tarpaulins (tarps)
Visqueen, plastic sheeting, plastic drop cloths, and other flexible waterproof sheeting
Ground anchor systems
Tie-down kits (items that are advertised or normally sold as a tie-down or anchoring kit)
Bungee cords
Ratchet straps

Qualifying items selling for $60 or less:
Any cell phone batteries

Qualifying items selling for $75 or less:
Any carbon monoxide detectors
Any package consisting of two or more of the previously listed qualifying hurricane-preparedness items sold for $75 or less will qualify for the exemption.
Any package consisting of one or more of the previously listed hurricane-preparedness items and at least one other item that is otherwise tax-exempt and the package is sold for $75 or less will qualify for the exemption.

Qualifying items selling for $200 or less:
Storm shutter devices (defined as materials and products specifically manufactured, rated, and marketed for the purpose of preventing window damage from storms)

Qualifying items selling for $1,000 or less:
Portable generators that will be used to provide light, communications, or to preserve perishable food in the event of a power outage.

    Bookmark   May 5, 2006 at 4:58PM
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Has anyone tried the Troy-Bilt 8000 watt (13,500 starting watt) generator sold at Lowes? (has a 15 HP briggs & stratton Vanguard engine)

I'm also interested in getting a 30 AMP transfer switch so that we can power things like the well pump and water heater if needed.

Any tips/feedback is welcome!

    Bookmark   May 8, 2006 at 4:26PM
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I decided to perform the tests I need to answer my question once and for all. I checked the peak amp load (compressor start) and running amps for each of my appliances. I used an A/C Line Splitter and a Greenlee CM-310 Clamp Ammeter. This ammeter has a peak hold feature to measure highest surge amps. I checked each appliance over a two day period and used the highest readings. The results were as follows:

Refrigerator/Freezer 13 amp surge (1,560 surge watts) 2.2 Amp normal draw (264 running watts)
8,000 BTU Window A/C 12 amp surge (1,440 watts) 6.5 amp normal draw (780 running watts)
8,000 BTU Window A/C 12 amp surge (1,440 watts) 6.5 amp normal draw (780 running watts)
Ceiling Fan .60 amp at high speed (72 running watts)
20 inch high velocity floor fan 1.83 amp at high speed (220 watts)

As you can see, my tests confirm my practical experience. My genset handled this load with ease. I could run another 8,000 BTU A/C unit without any problem (other than increased gas consumption).

My goal was to keep my running load at or below 2,500 watts to conserve fuel and leave some comfortable headroom for surge loads. Therefore, at 2,116 running watts I am well within my designed plan.

    Bookmark   May 8, 2006 at 8:05PM
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masiman(z7 VA)

Nice test Starhurst. The fridge is about 6x on the surge draw and the air conditioners are only about 2x.

Thanks for the info.

    Bookmark   May 9, 2006 at 1:29AM
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I had mentioned earlier that I was going to check on the price of building my own auxiliary fuel tank for my generator. I discovered that the easiest way is just to use a standard 6 gallon portable gas tank just like the ones that are used on small outboard engines.

The tank and hookup tubing only costs about $35.00 at Wal-Mart. However, I have decided not to use an auxiliary fuel tank. With the standard tank on the genset (5 gallons) I should be able to get at least 8 hours of run time. Frankly, I don't think I would desire to run the genset for more than 8 hours at a time.

After each 8 hours I'll shut the genset down and perform a routine inspection to make sure the air intake is clean and the oil level is good. I'll leave it shut down for 20 or 30 minutes to let the engine cool down before refueling. Since my plan is to run the genset 24/7, I'll change the oil on a daily basis and the spark plug every 4 days and the air filter as needed based upon inspections.

Also, I have noticed that lots of people are now buying portable gensets. Home Depot and Lowe's are stocked with hundreds of gensets and they'll selling them rapidly. I noticed that our local K-Mart is selling a very nice Craftsman genset.

    Bookmark   May 11, 2006 at 9:36PM
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Take a look at this site, it has small homemade diesel generators. Some look like they could run 24/7.


    Bookmark   May 12, 2006 at 3:31PM
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The Troy-Bilts they sell at Lowe's (with the B & S engines) are nearly identical to the Home Depot version with the B & S name, which succeeded the version of 7500/7550 watts made by Generac.

It should have a 30-amp twistlock plug in L14-30R (i.e., 4-prong, 120/240-volt), plus a couple 15- or 20-amp plugs. The previous units had an additional 30-amp twistlock in 3-prong/120-volt.

The run-time at "half-load" is either 8 or 10 hours (I think the Home Depot Generac-now-B & S is 10-hour, Troy-Bilt 8-hour, not sure why). The Home Depot version comes with an "Extend-A-Panel" cord, which is 4-prong 30-amp cord that splits into 4 15-amp plugs, as well as a bottle or two of engine oil, fuel stabilizer and a cover. The Home Depot version is also electric start, with recoil start as well. It comes with the battery, too (many electric-start models do not). Can't speak for the Troy-Bilt on that issue.

I bought the previous Generac version last year, and it is a fantastic unit. I also have a Coleman unit with Tecumseh engine (5000-watt) that is strictly for A/C units, a Campbell-Hausfled with B & S engine (6600-watt) and a B & S "PowerBoss" (5600-watt) I just got CHEAP at Home Depot (clearing out their year-old models).

The 8000-watt unit will run your central A/C plus a few incidentals. It should also power a water heater or dryer, as well as any fridge/freezer. The problem is, it will NOT power all that at the same time. Hence, if you are going to invest in a transfer switch to run items "hard-wired" into house circuitry, spend the extra cash and get a permanent/standby generator. The Troy-Bilt is $1200-$1500 (depending on where you live, etc.). You can get a 12000-watt B & S unit at Sam's Club for $3000. Once the transfer switch is installed, simply decide what you REALLY want/need to power, then wire those circuits.

Bear in mind, though, that an 8000-watt generator can NOT do the same job as a standby. It is tough to make a "portable" generator do a "standby" job.

    Bookmark   May 15, 2006 at 3:21PM
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flatcoats, a little update: the 12000-watt B & S "standby" at Sam's is a little more than $2000. That's a great buy. It would, of course, cost at least another $1000+ to install/hardwire/transfer switch/etc.

    Bookmark   May 17, 2006 at 9:18PM
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Thanks Hawkeyebob!

That is a great price on the standby unit! Problem is fueling it. No NG in our neighborhood so would use propaine, in order to do that would need a tank & service contract. For a buried tank (due to homeowners assoc regs) over $1,500 then have to sign an expensive monthly service contract. Then still have to get transfer switch etc Sigh.....

Ive researched until my head is numb :) I had hoped that someone would put the 8000 watt on sale to get it under the $1,000 tax free holiday cap. I called Lowes and they said no plans in discounting the price. Bummer (the lowes one does come with that extra power cord as well)

I called Troy Bilt and they said this model has long life brush alternator. (everything I have read said go brushless) So how bad is the long life brush - what type of maintenance? Troy Bilt said just keep the load balanced. It does have the cast iron sleeve.

If I have a manual transfer switch does that help at all with the balancing of power? I was looking at the GenTran 30 amp manual transfer switch. Does it help make the power any "cleaner" for electronics?

Some transfer switch kits have an outside weather proof plug in and then the inside panel - Seems like the better way to go, is it??

Counting the hours until that tax free holiday!! :)

    Bookmark   May 18, 2006 at 4:20PM
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Indeed, I too have no NG in my area either and the propane option is just far too expensive as you mentioned. Obviously, powering your well pump is a priority, but your water heater is really not. Cold showers won't hurt. We took "Navy showers" during our last two hurricanes. You quickly turn on the water and rinse, then you turn it off. You fully soap up and then turn on the water and quickly rinse again and then turn off the water. We had warm water for 5 days using this method. In other words, just conserve during the power outage.

Brushes typically have a wear out interval of 2000+ hours. Given this relatively long service interval, there is no technical advantage to a brush vs. non-brush system. This should not be a major concern when selecting a genset.

Brush type alternators do have an additional service point. They're easy and cheap to replace. Replacing brushes is much less expensive than replacing a brushless exciter system should it fail. What happens if your brushless exciter system fails in the middle of an emergency power outage? The answer is, you are up the creek without a paddle and there is nothing you can do. You can't fix it yourself.

If your brushes fail, you just remove two screws from the alternator case and replace the brushes with that spare pair that all good scouts keep in their always prepared kit. Replacing brushes on a portable genset requires no technical knowledge and can be accomplished in less than 10 minutes. An extra set of brushes is cheap insurance.

    Bookmark   May 18, 2006 at 11:47PM
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Cool - Thanks Starhust

Where is the best place to get replacement brushes to have on hand? Also how many oil filters and how much oil did people stock up on to keep the generators running?


    Bookmark   May 19, 2006 at 10:00AM
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Brushes are available at any generator or small engine parts store. I got a set for my Coleman Powermate from jackssmallengines.com. A set for my generator cost me $3.30 plus shipping.

My genset has splash lubrication, so it does not have an oil filter. However, I keep 10 quarts of Mobil 1 on hand for oil changes. The Briggs & Stratton 10 HP Intek engine takes 28 oz. of oil so I have enough oil to perform 11 oil changes.

I also keep 6 extra air filters and 6 extra spark plugs in reserve and 2 Briggs & Stratton inline fuel filters. I also bought an extra recoil starter rope just in case the original one breaks. I also have a heavy duty chain and lock set to prevent (or at least discourage) theft of the genset.

As you know, the tax free holiday starts on May 21st. Where I live (northwest Florida), all the major retail outlets (Wal-Mart, Kmart, Sears, Lowe's, Home Depot, Sam's Club, Target, etc.) are stocked with gensets and 5 gallon gas cans to the maximum. Sunday is going to be interesting.

    Bookmark   May 19, 2006 at 8:21PM
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Our power was out for 2 weeks and 3 days following IVAN, 1 week following Dennis, and 3 weeks 2 days following Katrina last September. The electric in our home is separated into 5 different load centers, and we have (2) 5-ton central air units. Rather than even attempt to power the entire house we decided to go the "roughing it route" and wire our generator into the load central (with a transfer switch) on the NW side of the house. This allows us to run a 13,500btu air conditioner, and we cordon off an area by closing interior doors. We cool the family room, the florida room, the kitchen, and a bath. It also runs the fridge, the lights, and our TV/Satellite. We also have enough fuel for 7 days (after which power has been restored to enough areas in the city that you can get fuel without waiting hours and hours in line.) We also power one hot water heater although everything else must be shut off when doing so as it draws 4,500 watts. The unit we have is very similar to your unit, excepting it is powered by a B&S 9-hp. It has a 5-gallon tank, and runs from 9pm to 8am running the fridge, the AC, and a few small fans overnight.
Just make sure you have it locked up even when running it!
Several generators were stolen from folks during the Katrina aftermath. We plug in a clamp-on lamp and clamp it to a post near the generator illuminating the area overnight. Theives dislike being seen and the ones stolen were in unlit areas.

Best of luck to you!

Little known factoid - FEMA will reimburse you (not all but a portion) if you purchase the following items POST storm.

They sent us a check for $850.00 for our generator after Ivan. Note you must purchase the item AFTER the storm not before it.

    Bookmark   May 20, 2006 at 4:43PM
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"Since my plan is to run the genset 24/7, I'll change the oil on a daily basis and the spark plug every 4 days and the air filter as needed based upon inspections."

Spark plug every 4 days? You're out of your mind.

    Bookmark   May 20, 2006 at 9:28PM
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flatcoats, I'm pretty sure you said you live in central Florida? I was just at Tractor Supply out on East Hwy 50 & they have an 8000-watt B & S for $1100! That is the best buy I have seen on that unit in a while. Home Depot went from $1099 for the Generac, to $1149, to $1199 for the "new" B & S version, and now it's at $1249. So Tractor Supply's deal is pretty top-notch.

A transfer switch "by itself" won't make the power any "cleaner". For that, use a UPS system (APC units can usually be "adjusted" for voltage sensitivity--apc.com). NEVER run a computer straight from a genset if you can avoid it. If genset fails, you at least have a couple minutes with UPS system to do an orderly shutdown.

We use an MGE at the office (for our mainframe) and APC units for our "peripheral" computers. I just use an APC unit at home. They come with software, and you can go into the software to adjust voltage-sensitivity settings.

For the size generator (7000-watt or above) you will be hard-pressed to find it for less than $1000. The deal I saw today at Tractor Supply was as good as I have seen in a while.

Now, if you REALLY want to go "all-out", Home Depot sells the Guardian Ultra Source (made by Generac) 12500-watt for about $1900 and the 15000-watt for $1999. Problem? 16-gallon tanks....with 10-hour run-time at half load! But, with a 50-amp (straight-blade) outlet and 50-amp transfer switch (don't know if you'll find a 50-amp "manual" switch) you will be set...at least for 10 hours at a time! About the only thing you would have to "cycle" would be central A/C and hot water heater. Other than rotating those, and not running your whole stove/range, you would be pretty much living a life of (relative) luxury.

    Bookmark   May 22, 2006 at 9:37PM
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starhurst nailed it on the "Navy" showers. Turn on shower, get self wet, turn off shower. Shampoo/soap self. Turn on shower to rinse. Get towel. Get dry.

We had 2 1/2 days of warm H20 in our house....with two women amongst the three of us!

    Bookmark   May 22, 2006 at 9:45PM
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Thanks Hawkeyebob
Yes I'm in central florida, darn, I knew I should have checked Tractor supply again :) Oh well, had a 10% off coupon so got the Lowes Troybilt 8000 that has the B&S Vanguard engine for just a little over $1,100.

It came with a nice power cord so I'm not in a big rush but I'm now looking into 30 amp manual transfer switches. The ones I'm seeing in Home Depot and Lowes - you still have to run a power cord thru a window or door. (BY the way - home depot has the best deal on Carbon Monoxide detector at $36 that is battery operated)

On line I have seen other kits. It seems like the Gen Tran kits that come with an outside plug would be safer and easier to use, Are they? any pros/cons appreciated.

    Bookmark   May 23, 2006 at 10:14AM
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The portable generator sales are going hot and heavy in my area due to the tax free holiday. All the stores (including Home Depot, Lowe's, Wal-Mart, Target, Sears, Kmart, Best Buy, Sam's Club) have gensets for sale. The most popular genset is the Coleman Powermate 6250. This genset has a running wattage rating of 5,000 watts and a surge rating of 6,250 watts.

The interesting thing is that this genset comes in at least three different models and they all use different engines and sell at different prices. The top of the line model uses the Briggs & Stratton 10 HP Intek OHV engine. It's being sold by Home Depot, Target and Best Buy. Prices range from $699.00 (Target) to $649.00 (Best Buy) to $554.00 at Home Depot. This genset is rated to run 11 hours at half load with 5 gallons of gas.

The next Coleman Powermate has a Robin/Subaru 10 HP engine. Both Lowe's and Sam's Club are selling these gensets for $649.00. The genset is rated to run 10 hours at half load with a 6 gallon tank. Sam's Club also has a Briggs and Stratton 6250 with a 9 HP Vanguard engine.

The bottom line model has the 10 HP Tecumseh side valve engine. It's sold at Wal-Mart for $524.00 and is rated to run for 8.5 hours at half load on 5 gallons of gas.

Kmart is (was) selling McCullough gensets for $499.00. As they sell out of these, they are restocking with Craftsman 5,600 watt gensets but I don't know the price.

As I said, these gensets are selling fast and the stores are replenishing their stock quickly. After June 1st, the sales tax holiday will end and all the stores will still have an ample supply of generators and gas cans. As soon as the first hurricane enters the Gulf of Mexico all of the remaining gensets will be sold!

    Bookmark   May 25, 2006 at 5:11PM
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Starhust posted
''Brushes typically have a wear out interval of 2000+ hours. Given this relatively long service interval, there is no technical advantage to a brush vs. non-brush system. This should not be a major concern when selecting a genset.''

With all due respect I think you best ask small power equipment shops and mecanics if a Powermate will last 2000 hours. I seriouly doubt that it will last even half that which is why you do not see contractors, road crews, fire departments, emergency services, local, regional or state governments with these units. A good measurement gauge is rental shops, they keep very good records on everything in order to make $$, ask them what is good and not so good, what costs them the most and the least to maintain and repair. What they normally purchase for engines and other components, what brands are better than others. You can see this for yourself by looking at their equipment and equipment rental lists.

I applaud everyones efforts to protect and provide for their families, all I am saying here is for certain equipment such as an emergency generator go for the best you can afford as your comfort, sanity and health may depend on it.

When disaster strikes take a look at what equipment is down and lined up for repairs at the power equipment shops. Even better, stop in to a few of your local repair shops before disaster strikes and ask them about it and ask for their recommendations, normally they will be pleased to take time to discuss this with you and help you out. Independant repair shops not pushing any particular brand will normally give you a true picture.

    Bookmark   May 26, 2006 at 10:12AM
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That's good advice tahclep. However, I think it would be overkill for me to purchase a contractor or professional grade generator. Those units are very expensive and they're built for use on a daily basis with an extended service life. Most contractor grade generators have a lot of features that I don't need.

Certainly Winco, Honda, Yamaha, Generac, Kohler, Briggs & Stratton and others make many high quality generators. If money was no object, I would have a 20 kW diesel generator installed and be done with this issue. However, I am trying to do this deal on a budget. I have lived in the same house now for over 23 years and during that entire period, I have only needed a generator on two separate occasions (after hurricanes Ivan and Dennis).

In both instances, we lost power for about 5 or 6 days. So, I thought it logical to plan for another similar event, just in case. In reality, we could go for another 10 or 20 years and not see another big storm. Therefore, I don't think it makes a lot of sense for me to purchase a contractor grade generator. I don't need idle control, voltage regulation or inverter technology. I just want to power my refrigerator/freezer, a couple of 8,000 BTU window A/C's, a couple of fans and a few compact fluorescent lights. Except for the occasional brief compressor surge, I will not be pulling more than 2,500 watts.

I have previously tested the Coleman Powermate to make sure it can provide me with the power I need. The voltage, frequency and amperage outputs were all within specifications under load. This generator may sit for many years unused (except for monthly short tests). If I have to use the generator as the result of another major storm, I'll most likely only need it for about 160 hours. I am not going to run any electronics (TV, computer, etc.) or any medical devices from the generator so I really don't need an inverter regulated power supply.

As long as I use synthetic oil and change it religiously, keep the air intake and fuel clean and change the spark plug every 100 hours, this engine should last at least 500 hours. That would get me through 3 major hurricanes! Heck, I bought my generator on sale and it only cost me $333.88. Sorry, but I couldn't pass that price up! I know it's not the best generator on the market, but it's all I need for my purposes. There are many generators that are far worse.

For example, the Honda EG5000 has an 11 HP engine and is rated a 4,500 watts. It costs $1,865.95 and it uses more fuel than the generator I own. It has a lot of bells and whistles and it's an excellent generator. Yet, in the Honda line, that generator is an "economy" model! If you want to get serious about buying a 4,500 watt generator, then you have to go with the Honda EM5000is. It only costs $3,584.95. Both of these generators use more fuel than my generator at their rated loads!

I can just see it now. I'd be the pride of my neighborhood as my super quiet Honda generator powers my appliances for 3 or 4 days, until I run out of gas! After all, I've only got 80 gallons of fuel. Had I used the Coleman Powermate I could get 5 or 6 days of run time! Those extra days make a lot of difference when no gas stations have gas for a 100 mile radius. Fuel economy is a big factor and the Honda 11 HP GX340 OHV engine is less fuel efficient than the Briggs & Stratton 10 HP Intek OHV engine.

Now, if I were a contractor or other professional and my daily income depended upon a generator, you're right tahclep, I'd have a Honda! My needs are far different. Heck, I may never need my generator and I hope that is the case. But if the worst case happens and we get another major hurricane headed our way, I'll have peace of mind knowing that I am prepared. I have food, water, medical supplies, tarps, batteries, flashlights, solar shower, entertainment, roofing repair materials and everything else I need to survive.

The generator is not a necessity. We could live without a generator. It's a small luxury.

    Bookmark   May 26, 2006 at 9:49PM
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Starhurst - I agree, if I was making a living powering saws or other electrical devices day in and day out I would not have bought the 9hp unit I did either. I would have gone for the Yamaha, or Honda units in the 3-4k range as longevity would be a major issue. Since we only "need" the thing after major storms that leave us without electricity for days/weeks it shuffled the "requirements" and made fuel economy and initial sale price a higher ranking requirement than the ability to last thousands of hours. Powering our entire house is just out of the question here, we would need a multi-cylinder diesel unit as we have (1) 4.9T and (1) 4.7T central air unit (zoned E/W). Everything is electric in the house, and if both hot water heaters kicked on together that would be 9,000 watts just in water heater power. I shudder to think how many inrush amps the central air units would pull. It dims the lights momentarily when they kick on individually on utility company power.. I am quite sure even a 15kw unit would say "you want how many amps!" followed by a pffffzzzzt sound and then silence and darkness.
Given the fact we only use the generator during extended power outages such as those associated with a severe tropical storm or hurricane, the whole house generator or high-end commercial portable generator route just did not make sense. If I used the unit day in and day out though I would opt for something other than what I have now.

I chuckle at the person who wondered why you even needed a generator though. I guess if you live in OH a hurricane is something interesting to watch on the news and not a major natural disaster. It is amazing how calm it is afterwards. Not a breath of air for the first few days. Ahhh and the smell of millions of dead bugs and small animals. Yeah, YOU try to sleep with a window open, I am keeping them shut and running the AC.
Those with the means have the right and duty to provide for themselves so that those less fortunate can be tended to by FEMA in a more timely fashion. The first 72 hours you can expect little from any govt agency though. It takes a while to get in, get set up, and get going. Always has.. I suspect it always will.
Best of luck to you and your's this hurricane season. I don't wish one of those storms on anyone, but I hope neither of us "need" to use our generators this year.

    Bookmark   May 27, 2006 at 12:12AM
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flatcoats, I haven't used any Gen Tran switches, so i really couldn't say.

Well, we are now 5 days away from "official" hurricane season.

I am pretty much "ready", just need to get some more water jugs to put in the "disaster closet". I have pretty much decided that I simply do not need to board my windows, so I am going to save my plywood in case I need to cover any holes in the roof or porch or wherever I might incur damage. The only reason to board up windows around here would be to cover drafty or damaged windows, in my opinion. Still, if another Charley should approach, I can cover the two large windows in about 15 minutes. If The Weather Channel says, "It came onshore with 120+ mph winds and is making a beeline for Orlando!", I will have time.

About the only other thing left is to read all the different hurricane survival guides being put out by the stores, newspapers and TV/radio stations, lol!

    Bookmark   May 27, 2006 at 11:41PM
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Do any of the generators mentioned and sold at the big box stores have voltage regulation? I had done some previous reading that when you are running an appliance with a motor for long peroids it should have a voltage regulator. In my case I am looking at running the fridge, Sump pump and some lights. I was looking at the Briggs and Stratton 4000 watt Pro series unit which sells for $999. Is this overkill?

    Bookmark   May 28, 2006 at 1:08PM
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You can get much better buys than that. A 5550-watt B & S unit goes for $699 at Home Depot.

Most of the better B & S units will have AVR (certainly not all). Ditto for Hondas, Yamahas, Colemans, etc.

Be forewarned: the B & S "Pro" series units can NOT be used with many transfer switches because they have built-in GFCI, and will "trip" when grounded a "2nd" time.

    Bookmark   May 28, 2006 at 5:02PM
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Most box store generators do not have a voltage regulator. If you plan to run sensitive electronic equipment such as a computer or a big color TV, then you'll most likely want close voltage regulation. But for a refrigerator/freezer and a couple of window A/C units, it's really not needed.

Generator voltage is controlled electrically via the power sent to the rotating field. The frequency, cycles per second, Hertz (60 Hz) is determined by the rotational speed of the engine (3600 rpm in the case of a small gasoline engine). The governor controls the engine speed and is supposed to hold it to 3600 rpm or 60 Hz regardless of the load. The fuel consumption goes up the more load you apply to the generator but the speed is supposed to remain constant.

With my generator (Coleman Powermate 6250) the voltage and frequency were very stabile even when compressors cycled on and off. I used an A/C line splitter, a true digital RMS meter and a digital clamp-on amp meter to measure my generator's output under load. The readings were all within rated specifications.

As a matter of fact, I made the same measurements with the same appliances hooked up to their regular power source and the readings were about the same. AC induction motor driven appliances such a refrigerators, freezers, pumps, etc. are designed to run well within a rather wide voltage range (i.e. from 110 to 130 volts). Low voltage causes higher current, overheating and thermal damage to equipment.

Most commercial power plants provide voltage in the 114 to 128 range. I just read the line voltage at my house and it was 126 volts. In some parts of the country, when power companies face high demand, they "brown out" and the voltage to your house is reduced. Sometimes the power company may be forced to reduce line voltage to manage their power generation and distribution. While sometimes, the power company can't control the brown out. It just happens over the entire distribution network because of excessive demand.

So, in reality, you have a far greater risk of damaging your refrigerator and sump pump with the local power utility than you do with a generator. You just have to use common sense and match the generator to the load requirement. Check to see how many amps your refrigerator and sump pump draw. Convert the amps to watts (volts X Amps = watts). Add in the wattage of the light bulbs. Then just add in the surge wattage for the biggest motor you have (the sump pump?). To save fuel, plan to run the generator at half load.

I wouldn't try to run a small generator at its full rated load. Fuel consumption will increase drastically and the alternator will overheat and may fail. Half load is ideal. If the generator is rated to provide a continuous 5,000 watts, then try to keep your demand at 2,500 watts or under. That way you'll burn less fuel and have plenty of room for motor surges.

    Bookmark   May 28, 2006 at 5:30PM
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Thank's for all the helpfull info. I too have a 6250 and was trying to figure out what it could and couldn't handle. And you have already done all the leg work for me. Again Thanks!

I do have a few questions thou that maybe someone can help me out on.

I live on a 40'x110' lot w/a 2 car garage. So my only hope of storing fuel would be in the garage. I was thinking of a 55 gallon drum capped off, but I'm really worried about doing this for obviuos reasons. Should I go with a metal or plastic drum? Hawkeyebob62 states in this form: "a 80 gallon fire is VERY managable". So a 55 gallon fire shouldn't be a biggy right? Seriously, anyone got any thoughts of storing alot of fuel in the garage safely. Or should I be put in a straight jacket?

Also, I was thinking about baffling my exhaust using flexiable exhaust tubing from the muffler into a 55 gallon drum filled w/fuel it would baffle the noise and make pretty bubbles. Thoughts anyone?

BTW~~~~~~~~~~~> just kidding on the "w/fuel" part. I'll behave and just use water.

Thank's Brian.

    Bookmark   May 31, 2006 at 9:04PM
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1- Do not store that quantity of gasoline in a attached garage. Your asking for an eventual disaster !

2- Store your fuel at the far end of your property in a waterproof non conductive enclosure such as a rubbermaid polymer enclosure for garbage cans or a pressure treated lumber framed waterproof enclosure with the container(s) directly on cool ground or something of such. Make sure there is plenty of air circulation in the sides and bottom of the enclosure to maintain it cool but dry.

3- No problem with a few feet of flexible hose with a muffler at the end but definitely not in to a drum unless you want to kill your engine. There are super low noise mufflers available from certain manufacturers for some engines, or you build an abatement enclosure with noise reduction capabilities around the genny with lots & lots of air circulation.

These things can be dangerous therefore make them safe, otherwise do not even bother as your playing with some really really big matches.

    Bookmark   May 31, 2006 at 9:31PM
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tahclep is right on with fuel storage. 80 gallons in separate containers is a more "manageable" fire than a 55-gallon drum, at least IMO. But in your garage it doesn't matter, because a 6-gallon can will do MUCHO damage to your garage and possibly the rest of your house. If you are home and witness the combustion and have extinguishing agents handy, great. How many of us plan for THAT, though! :)

Far end of your property/away from house is the best bet. I don't know how far you need to go in terms of "protection" as I don't know what adjoins your lot. Given the size, I would guess other houses? In which case, you need to protect the fuel VERY safely. IIRC, starhurst lives on substantial acreage so other structures and proximity to his house are't really issues to concern him.

I have the same problem with fuel, except most of mine goes to my office (outside) when storm approaches.

Speaking of which, I had a "test run" Memorial Day. Power at office went out, I got the call from our staff and was up to the office and running our two on-site generators inside a half hour. Still had plenty of battery left on the UPS systems that power our server, switch and mainframe.
Power came back on after 30 minutes on gensets.

Obviously, with a hurricane approaching I pre-stage some of the prep/set-up work, so I can be ready a few minutes earlier. But for that, I also have to set-up the genset mini-sheds, too.

Good luck to all in the hurricane "centers" this season!

    Bookmark   May 31, 2006 at 9:51PM
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The average car holds 15 to 20 gallons of fuel, and no one seems to mind storing them in garages. I think this is being blown out of proportion.

    Bookmark   June 1, 2006 at 12:29AM
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Best read your insurance policy fine print or consult your insurance agent, you will probably be in for a surprise when it comes to storage of copmbustibles on or in the insured premises.

    Bookmark   June 1, 2006 at 8:06AM
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An automobile fuel system is considered to be a "closed" system. You can argue the point it is not until the sun burns out. What counts is what the insurance company policy says in the matter. The insurance angle is the one that will count in the unfortunate event of a mishap. It would be a tragedy to have your house survive a major hurricane only to burn to the ground in the aftermath. Especially if the insurance company points out it is not covered.
Again I also have copious quantities of fuel on-hand in 6-gallon containers. They are also stored in the vented utility room of the barn over 75 yards from the house.
It would be a bummer, but I would not lose any sleep if the barn was to unfortunately burn to the ground. No, there are no animals kept in it so PETA (People Eating Tasty Animals) types can refrain from comment.

I recently walked into a local convenience store and was horrified to see Pennzoil labled as "OUTDOOR" in large letters, then 2-cycle in small letters. Everytime there is a long term power outage some genius brings their genset inside and kills themself running it there. I imagine the inference that there is a special OUTDOOR use oil will not help to straighten out the "confusion" some people have about operating an internal combustion engine indoors.
6 people were reported dead locally post Katrina due to carbon monoxide poisioning from running their generator in an interior room of the house.

    Bookmark   June 1, 2006 at 3:25PM
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Anyone here affected by TS Alberto? Did anyone need to go into "emergency" mode?

    Bookmark   June 17, 2006 at 8:58PM
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Not here, all we had was some much needed rain. Unfortunately we need MORE.
Honestly, if all I use the generator for is to blow the driveway off (out of extension cord reach) I will not complain. It worked flawlessly last year during the power outages so it has had it's real world tests and passed maginificently.
Just as an aside, I ordered a spare set of brushes from Sears. Just type in the coleman PN and up came "brush". They were 2.14 + shipping. Keeping them on-hand as spares just in case.

    Bookmark   June 18, 2006 at 12:20AM
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After looking for a"Quiet Muffler" for a Gen-Set and seeing prices in the $200.00 range. I was wondering if anyone has thought of making a "Quiet Box" to put over the Gen-set to keep the harsh exhaust noises to a minimum. It would have to be ventlated as these units are air-cooled. Some kind of sound absorbing fire resistant material could be used on the inside.
Just throwing this out there to see what you think ??

    Bookmark   July 23, 2006 at 4:05PM
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To tell you the truth as a practical matter, no one really cares about a quiet generator in an exigent circumstance. If youre going to use a portable generator in a campground then you need a super quiet model. However, for emergency power generation, no one in their right mind is going to complain about generator noise.

However, I have seen some ventilated "dog house" structures used to protect portable gensets from rain. Personally, I find the noise of a genset to be a good thing. When you live in a suburban area and a hurricane rolls through, the nights can be deathly silent. All the normal sounds of the night are gone. Its hard to get to sleep.

The sound of a genset is reassuring. When the storm has passed and yet the police, National Guard and other rescue personnel cant get to your location because of destroyed roads, the sound of a generator is very welcome!

    Bookmark   July 23, 2006 at 8:20PM
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Starhust - make sure you have the genset securely locked up even when running. As sad as this sounds, there were MANY generators stolen right from the side of folks houses down here overnight while the thing was running and people were asleep! There were also a number of reports about gas being siphoned from peoples vehicles, and gas cans being stolen.
Not that it is acceptable to steal a generator say.. today or to siphon and steal gas either, but after a natural disaster is just beyond low. The Atty General here raised the punishments to 2x when a state of emergency has been declared. So 5 years for stealing property was upped to 10 years if done while a state of emergency was in effect.
Noise here is absolutely no issue, as my neighbor lives about 3/4 mile away. I could hear the faint drone of his genset, and I am sure he heard the same from mine, it was just reassurance that we were not the only survivors seeing lights and the sounds of a generator.

    Bookmark   July 23, 2006 at 9:49PM
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Indeed fpda31, you and I are on the same page. I have a chain that bolt cutters cant even nick secured with a high security stainless steel Abus padlock. My gas supply is protected as well. After hurricanes Ivan and Dennis we had no police protection. During Ivan, the county emergency operations center was destroyed (the roof blew off and they lost all communications equipment). We had no police, fire or rescue operations for several days. Even the National Guard couldnt get into our area for several days due to heavy road damage and tree blockage.

I am fully prepared for miscreants that might attempt any sort of theft or other harm to my family. I realize that protecting yourself, your family and your property is a top priority after a major disaster. Heck, Ive taken the time and spent the money to purchase food, water, hurricane shutters, tarps, roofing cement and all the other items Ill need to survive a major storm. Im not going to let some criminal ruin my plan and steal my provisions. I have various firearms with ammunition and I know how to use them.

When I am in bed, I will still have security measures in place to thwart unlawful conduct after a major storm. My plan has worked in the past and I am confident it will work if and when I need it again. I just hope I dont need to implement my action plan again!

To quote Mr. T, "I pity the fool that tries to steal my generator."

    Bookmark   July 24, 2006 at 12:01AM
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I have a bunch of cinder blocks I bring out and form a "shed", with a couple rows "sideways" in order to get air flow. I cover the top with a piece of plywood and keep it on with more blocks.

I also park our two cars so that folks can't even WALK up my driveway, let alone get a generator past them. I lock the fuel in a regular shed during "emergency time". And my neighbors (and a few others) know I am always willing to demonstrate my efficiency with the ol' Remington 870. If anyone were to stay around long enough to ask, I'd just explain that I use heavy pheasant loads for two purposes: to give them a "sporting chance" and to get practice on "going away from me" shots, which always trip me up on the dove field!

The office is a bit of a different story. I have the two gensets cable locked to the side of the building (management put in two deep-set eye bolts) and a staff that is on-site 24 hours a day. Oh, and I have NRA & North American Hunting Club stickers on the glass door!

I'm not sure "sound-proofing" is any more worth the investment than getting "converters" to run on propane, natural gas, etc.

Then again, I live close enough to the "city" that I know we'll have power within 3 days and reasonable police protection. And the city in which I live has purchased their electrical grid from Progress (or lack thereof!) Energy, so they have only one town to service. Progress, FP&L, etc., all have multiple grids, cities, counties, etc., to service. Even as we speak the city utility is platting and poring over the system. Progress left it in shambles, records-wise, and didn't even have records of some of the "splicing" and "patching" that was done after Charley/Frances/Jeanne. The service techs said they'd rather NOT have Progress's records given their apparent lack of dedication to service.

Since they took over, "average" outage time-per-occurence has dropped from thirty five minutes to eleven minutes.

    Bookmark   July 24, 2006 at 4:36PM
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I should have stated that I'm in Ohio not in the hurricane damaged areas that most of you are in.
My situation was that I came home last Sat. night to no power and at 10:30 at night didn't want to fire up my genset and wake the whole neighborhood up.
I do, however, know what you have experienced as we go to Southern Alabama and arrived there two weeks after Ivan had hit the area.
Lets hope this year is a hurricane free season, or close to it.

    Bookmark   July 24, 2006 at 7:37PM
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Well, it looks like we Floridians are getting into that "time of year". Ernesto has been "downgraded" (for now), but my guess is that this one isn't the last for the season.

Hope everyone has good luck with their gen-set/survival/recovery set-ups!

    Bookmark   August 27, 2006 at 8:36PM
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The things you think about at the last minute...... I did convince my husband to get the Lowes Troybilt 8000 generator that has the B&S Vanguard engine.

However I could Not get him to put oil and gas in it to try it out and break it in yet.... arrrgghhh

My question is - once you break it in and have to change the oil - what do you drain the oil into? Any tips and hints on generator oil changes? Do you have to get the 4 cycle lawnmower oil or can you use car oil? I have several quarts of Briggs and Stratton 30W oil but think I should stock up on a few more.

    Bookmark   August 28, 2006 at 9:15AM
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Flatcoats..please read your opreating manual for the new gen.,I know it will tell you when and what to service the thing with (oil). As for what to drain the oil in, you can purchase a oil change kit(plastic) from almost any auto parts store and probably walmart stores and they are inexpensive.note: you must use the oil type that the mfg. says to use in your manual or you will lose your warranty.
Good Luck...PS you may want to get some fuel stabilizer and add to your fuel while fueling it up, because it will go bad if not used within a few months and if you are lucky, you might not use it for a long time and could cause you problems later...just a suggestion.

    Bookmark   August 28, 2006 at 4:09PM
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The best oil for a Briggs & Stratton Vanguard engine is 5W-30 or 10W-30 synthetic. I use Mobil 1, 10W-30 in all of my Briggs & Stratton engines.

That 15 HP Vanguard has an oil capacity of less than 2 quarts (about 50 oz.) so you can drain it into a shallow cake pan or other similar container.

    Bookmark   August 28, 2006 at 4:51PM
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Azinoh was perfectly correct in bringing up the safety points he did. You (starhust) may have properly addressed the risks of storing gas, etc., but I guarantee you that these are real risks for the average bozo. Also, I see that you are experimenting with a homemade fuel system to connect up extra tanks. I recommend that you keep it simple. An automotive fuel system is a wonder of modern technology compared to what you are likely to put together, despite the fact that you seem to have a good head on your shoulders. Gasoline can be an insidious threat. I am sure that while 80 gallons of burning gasoline might be considered manageable by some, firemen would rather not have to manage it at all.

I really like the idea of a large permanent propane system. It would require a sizeable upfront investment but it would have so many benefits. Fill it only a couple of times a year and it will still have enough capacity to meet your emergency needs without any special planning. No one will steal your 250 gallon tank. Frankly, no one should ever heat with electricity. At the power station, fuel is burned and more than half of the energy is thrown away while making electricity. If you use a propane fired water heater you could get twice as much bang for the buck, year round. Propane fueled engines burn much cleaner so oil doesn't need to be changed as often. If you spill propane it evaporates and floats away, it doesn't sink into the ground and contaminate the water table. I am a thoughtful handy guy but the last time I ran my generator in an emergency I spilled a cup of fuel on the road while siphoning. I like to think it evaporated before it got to the storm sewer but what if you tip over a whole 5-gallon can? The whole propane storage system is lots better engineered. Just because you can get away with lugging gas cans around doesn't mean it is a good idea. A little spillage here, leaky gas cans stored in an enclosed shed in the sun there.... most of the time we are lucky but these are serious threats that can and do catch up with people occasionally. Automotive systems are slightly pressurized and when they do vent it is through a carbon absorption system. The average car crash does not result in a fire because the systems are well built. Even boat tanks are well built. A $5 plastic can is an accident waiting to happen. Why are they sold? Well, airplane fueling stations require that a retractable ground wire be clamped to the exhaust while fueling to reduce the risk from static electricity. The laws of physics are the same for cars but I have never seen that system at a regular gas station. The general public won't tolerate the inconvenience.

Conservation should definitely be part of the solution. If you can get by with only one A/C unit in a dedicated survival room that would be a good idea. A/C and refrigeration can be life or death things under certain circumstances but in an emergency some compromises can be considered. If you can afford to flagrantly cool the whole house then you need to go back and reconsider the true cost of the $5 gas cans.

    Bookmark   November 13, 2006 at 6:28PM
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ret73(N Va.)

Have been looking at gens at the big box stores. Can't seem to find anywhere the life of a gen ran at half load. Must be a lot of people in Fla that know all about the life of a generator. Sure would like some input on this

    Bookmark   November 28, 2006 at 12:29PM
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Here is some good info., read attentively:


    Bookmark   November 28, 2006 at 8:30PM
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especially the part about not running a portable generator at full power output for more than 30 minutes at a time.

    Bookmark   November 28, 2006 at 8:32PM
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ret73, do you mean how long on a tank, or "lifetime" of the generator?

Typically, a 5000-watt to 7000-watt genset will run 5 to 12 hours at "half" load (tanks of 5 to 8 gallons).

In terms of "lifetime", if you are using it a few times a year for an hour or two each time, you are talking YEARS of use (assuming you do regular maintenance).

    Bookmark   December 21, 2006 at 5:00PM
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Hi out there fellow generator people, trysquie in South West Pennsylvania here. I have a Coleman Powermate 5000W 6250W peak generator with the Tecumseh 10 HP motor (after reading the site I wish it was a B&S motor).

I have talked to a teck who works on these units and he told me that I should use straight 30 W oil. He said that when people use multi grade they blow up. I asked him what he thought about Castrol straight 30 weight. He said that is the good stuf.

He also said the exhaust has female threads for npt pipe, if you remove the factory muffler you can get to the threads, and I could add my own muffler on this type of pipe. He also said to be sure to use a flexable conection on the pipe. I went on "McMaster Carr" site and found flexable stainless pipe (the lower cost unit is discontinued but if you order it they give you the higher cost higher quality unit at the lower cost). You will require some straight threaded pipe and some right angles. I found a small muffler with a heat shield at the local auto parts store (advance auto parts her in PA there part no. from the side of this muffler 18677 9 245 ) and used PC7 epoxt puty to temporally hold the corect mounting angles with respect to the muffler heat shield attaching to U shaped steel bent from 1 inch flat steel that I purched from home depo and bent into two big U shapes to mount to the bolts on the alternator (I had to put longer bolts on that side of the generator, and extend and move the ground wire to the other side of the generator). I used very long flexable hose clamps from NAPA, (two sets, each made of two of the longest they sell) to hold the muffler to the steel while the PC7 epoxy putty dried. After the epoxy cured I had a local auto shop weld the steel to the heat shield (make sure to ask them to be careful not to burn through the muffler when welding to the heat shield). I have a lathe so I was able to turn a piece of steel to make the cup shaped piece that I had welded to the end of the pipe and provide fit to the inside of the input pipe for the muffler. I now have a home made auto muffler adapted to this generator. It did reduce the noise considerably but the valve train, piston, and air intake still make quite a racket. Before it was louder than a gas lawn mower. Now it is not as loud as a gas lawn mower.

The way I added this muffler it moves with the generator and motor but still has the flex pipe for extra give.

I am now going to add a heat shield between the heat shield of the muffler and the generator for added protection of the generator.

I e-mailed Amsoil about oil for these air cooled motors and they e-mailed me back and said that regular multi grade oil will break down and not provide protection in these motors. They said full synthetic multigrade can handle these motors and will not break down. They make a multi-grade 10 W30 SAE 30 specifically for small air cooled motors (and no, I am not an Amsoil dealer or in any way conected to them, or to McMaster Carr, NAPA or advance auto parts). You still have to change the oil every 25 hours of use.

I have learned some things from your web site, and just wanted to pass on some of the things I have learned regarding generators. I use to be around boats and saw many ways that people can blow things up or make mistakes that cause big problems. I hope to learn enough from this site and others to keep my generator runing when required.

Signed, trysqqire in S.W. PA

    Bookmark   February 6, 2009 at 4:20AM
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Just a note to those who have electric water heating. You probably have two heating elements in your water heater. If so you could disconect the upper one and run only the lower one to cut the power demand in half. Of course the heating time will double. If you are into planing ahead you could have this upper element on a heavy duty (high curent rated) switch.

Another good idea is to reduce the number of light bulbs that are screwed in all the way in light fictures that have multiple lights when using a generator.

Signed: Trysquire

    Bookmark   February 15, 2009 at 11:58PM
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Re: Electric water heaters. An additional thought regarding reducing the load placed on your generator when powering an electric water heater.

As mentioned before if you disconect the uper element, then the power draw would be half normal, and the heating time would be TWICE NORMAL.

If you have two heating elements (almost all water heaters have two heating elements) and you rewire them in series (perferably by means of a high power rated (double pole doubel throw) switch that is hiden so no one (like a kid) throws it and puts the water heater back into full wattage) you can reduce the load to one fourth that of normal. The heating time will be FOUR TIMES NORMAL.

Also note that if your water heater is a 240 volt unit and you run it on 120 volts, the power the heater would draw would be only 1/4 of normal. The heating time would be FOUR TIMES NORMAL. This is because at 120 volts the curent draw would be half that of normal. And since the voltage is only 120 (half that of normal) and the wattage is AMPS x VOLTS the wattage draw would be 1/2 x 1/2 = 1/4. This is if you ran a 240 volt water heater on 120 volts and left both heating elements conected.

If you ran a 240 volt water heater on 120 volts and you disconected the uper element then the power draw would be 1/8 that of normal. The heating time would also be EIGHT TIMES NORMAL.

If you were to put two 240 volt elements in series and run them on 120 volts the power draw would be 1/16 normal. The heating time would be 16 TIMES NORMAL. This is geting a bit long and might not be enough when adding on heat loss to ambient. However if you realy want to cut back on power draw and you can get by with very long hot water tank recovery time (not too many people using the hot water) this might be worth a try.

Reducing the power draw might be raealy valuable since it would allow you to use a small generator that gets many hours from one gallon of gas such as the HONDA eu2000i .

I have gas hot water. If I had electric I would try the reduced wiring and after determining which worked best for my requirement I would install a hiden switch with a long life low power draw indication light in plain view that would remind me to turn it back to full power when once again runing from the grid. You would require a three pole double throw high power switch (hard to find) so you would have a pole for the light.

Signed: Trysquire

    Bookmark   February 17, 2009 at 9:35PM
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Regarding powering a hot water heater with a generator.


Most electric water heaters have too much electrical leakage to allow the use of a ground-fault circuit breaker.

If there is any question either don't do it or use a isolation transformer. Use grounds for the generator, for the isolation transformer, for the electric, and for the water system.

Signed: Trysquire

    Bookmark   March 26, 2009 at 11:50PM
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Hear is a good idea. Use the stock paper air filter for normal runing of the generator every 3 or 4 months and for the first 1/2 hour or so for real power outages. Have a K&N air filter with the cleaning and oil kit for the filter for using the K&N filter for real outages. Because the K&N can be cleaned and used over and over you can forget about having enough filters to change to a new filter every 100 hours of use.

The pater filter is best for use every few months because the K&N oil will dry up.

The instructions in the K&N filter clean and oil kit says to wait 20 minutes after you oil the filter.

You could start using the generator with the stock paper filter during an outage and then oil the K&N and install it after it sits for at least 20 minutes.

Because the filter for a generator is small, the clean and oil kit will last for many applications.

Another good idea is to store the clean and oil kit someplace where you will shake it up once in a while, like every time you run your generator every few months.

Signed: Trysquire

    Bookmark   July 9, 2009 at 1:38AM
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Here is some important information. When you shut off your generator for storage be sure to run it completly out of gas. This is so the carb will not have its pasages gumed up by gas that would concentrates as it evaporates during storage time.

If you are going to use an after-run oil (a realy good idea) remove the spark plug and spray after-run oil into cylinder. Pull the start rope a few times and replace the spark plug. Note after run oil will slightly foul the spark plug. After three or four runs bruning off this after run oil the engine will still start but may require a fue more pulls. This is because the plug is becoming more fouled and should be replaced.

For single cylinder motors, after you burn off the gas, and add after-run oil, and have pulled the rope a few times, and replaced the plug, lightly pull the start rope until the resistance of the cylinder begining a compression stroke is noticed. If you do this you insure that both the intake and exhaust valve are closed. This is important because when stored in the closed position the valve spring is not compressed to the maximum like it is when the valve is open. When stored with the valve closed the spring will not crack or loose the ability to move the valve to the closed position. If you store a single cylinder engine with a valve open and its spring compressed there is a chance tht the valve spring will be damaged.

Signed: Trysquire

    Bookmark   July 19, 2009 at 11:13PM
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Propane and natural gas will overall allow the engine of the emergency backup generator to start better in cold weather and after long periods of no use, which will preserve the life of the engine better than gasoline. I got a sweet do-it-yourself kit that can allow individuals to convert their gasoline generator to propane, natural gas, or all three. Propane is easily accessible, and has no shelf life. Therefore, it does not gum up or go bad. It also does not pollute the air like gasoline. In addition to that, individuals can use various sizes of cylinders and tanks, consisting of 100# and 20# cylinders, and 250, 500, and 1000 gallon tanks.

    Bookmark   July 10, 2014 at 11:51AM
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our company just started installing emergency stationary generators that are in use more times than you might think here in Chicago. Our flood season here is a bad one and they always seem to kick in the generators around that time. My auntie has a generator installed to keep her indoor garden going.. quite amazing!

    Bookmark   November 8, 2014 at 12:22AM
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