Standby generator

freedomeagle(7)September 1, 2011

I want to buy a standby or whole house backup generator. I would like to do this as a turn-key purchase. I do not presently have propane so I will need to have a tank and line installed. Where do I start in order to get proposals. Some say go through your propane dealer while other say go through an electrical contractor because most propane dealers don't have the capability or knowledge to do maintenance and repairs to the generator if you need them. I need to make sure I get gas when I need it as well service attnetion if that baby fails to fire up when needed. What is the best way to go about getting this done with the least amount of long term aches and pains?



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For the simpler approach, start by calling either dealers or electricians that you have used before or that you feel have been around the block a few times. Someone has likely done this before for others in your area. A reputable generator dealer will be responsible for the periodic maintenance and can hopefully help tie things together with a contractor for site work and the gas company for tank sizing and location. An electrician will need to install the switching panel for a whole house system.

    Bookmark   September 1, 2011 at 6:57PM
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Also, you should get a system that starts the generator at a set time every week, and lets it run for a little while. This assures that it will start when needed. And it will keep the starting battery charged.
We had a generator set in our Fire House, and after it was installed, some wag said that the engine was turning the wrong way! The engine was an older 6cylinder inline Ford. The wag said it was turning wrong, because it was blowing the air out thru the radiator the wrong way!
A few fellows got excited about it, but we finally got them calmed down by showing them that the fan blades were twisted the other way! Evidently for the place the gen-set had come from! Woo-hoo!

    Bookmark   September 2, 2011 at 9:27PM
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My brother wanted the same thing and bought a Generac at Lowes, Propane, sized to run what he wanted. It came with a transfer switch, sub panel, and cabling to connect into the breaker box or load center. Starts automatically once a week, and has worked fine for 2 years.

If you want a "turn key" installation, you're going to pay a lot more as Electricians don't usually deal with propane companies, Generac requires their local field rep to inspect and certify and start the unit initially, and a year or so down the road if warranty issues develop.....

What he did:

Bought the unit. Placed it on a gravel pad he put in himself.

Called propane company who delivered and filled the tank and ran the line to the unit and connected it.

Took the "umbilical" or the cabling which goes to the breaker box to a local Electrical supply house to be replaced. The reason for this was the supplied cabling was ridiculously short. The generator comes with a "sub panel" with cabling to go into the breaker box, again, it has to be right beside the breaker box. He measured how long it had to be to reach his breaker box in the utility room and they made it accordingly.

At that point he could have called in an electrican to tie it together, however I did it (retired EE).

As stated previously, FWIW.

This is something that I would buy from Lowe's as they "install what they sell, I've also noticed signs at Local electrical supply houses, so maybe that would be another option for RFP's.

I'm not pushing Generac, I have a small one which works fine, and I've recounted my brothers experience. Depending on your level of need or concern, I'd look at Honda big $$ but a really great machine.

Good luck,


    Bookmark   September 4, 2011 at 9:49PM
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Dear Ev, Rusty and Tom:

Thanks for your post and my apologies for my tardiness in the reply. Unexpectedly, I have been off the net for a couple of weeks.

In the span of a little over two weeks, we have experienced an earthquake, hurricane and most recently torrential rains that led to flooding. We went without power for a few days and it just re-inforced my desire for a generator.

Ev, I could do it myself but I travel alot. I want the peace of mind knowing my wife can pick up the phone and call whomever installed the generator were she to have problems while I am overseas. I called my local Noland's (electrical, plumbing, HVAC distributor) and they gave me a couple of recommendations for electricians. They suggested I start with electricians because those are the people that are usually the authorized distributors for the various manufacturers and therefore authorized to service and do warranty work if necessary.

Right now, I am trying to work the propane angle. Some people say 'buy the tanks' others say 'lease'. I realize buying is more of an initiatl outlay but I don't want to get screwed by the propane company and want the option of switching companies if I have too. Others say most propane companies won't fill a tank unless they either own it or put it in.

Thoughts on this anyone?

    Bookmark   September 11, 2011 at 12:56PM
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Much of North Carolina is rural and most areas have propane. I believe that our tank is owned by the propane provider at no charge. While I have not actually tried it, I believe that we can switch providers, and that the new provider would take over ownership of the burried tank. I got this info from a previous owner of one of the local coompanies. Perhaps there is a company to company financial exchange. Perhaps this is state by state.

    Bookmark   September 11, 2011 at 2:32PM
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I've read a few posts about folks who are afraid of being "held at ransom" by a propane company. I don't know how it works elsewhere, but here in SE Ohio the companies I'm aware of won't pump into anyone's tank but their own. They set the tank and fill it. Depending on how much propane you use, the rental will be free or in my case $25/year.

Assuming you're in an all electric house, this might be a good time to evaluate if you want a gas range, clothes dryer, water heater, or a vent free heater. We like the gas range as we can cook (cook top, not oven) and have heat when the electricity goes out. An additional benefit it that as we USE propane (as opposed to having a full tank waiting for a power outage) we can get on the monthly budget plan which assures us of the lowest price per gallon they offer. I think we pay $45/month and that's for cooking and heat. The propane company autmatically fills the tank every August and I can call if I feel I need it. No additional charge.

Good luck,


    Bookmark   September 12, 2011 at 8:10AM
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From the "farm life forum" -

Good luck,


Here is a link that might be useful: propane tank

    Bookmark   September 12, 2011 at 8:19AM
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Ev, thanks for the link. Very helpful.

So here's the latest. We have an electrical contractor coming out tomorrow who says they install a lot of turn key operations, including the propane tank.

On Thursday, we have the propane company coming out and they say they can do a turn key, including the generator and they will put the tank in and it doenst matter where we buy the propane.

It's going to be very educational on how this turns out. Will keep everyone updated on developments.

    Bookmark   September 12, 2011 at 7:24PM
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Freedom, Glad things are falling into place for you. One thing to be aware of with a genset is oil change intervals. Depending on what machine you end up with, it could have a "garden variety" small engine with oil change intervals of 25 hours for the first run, then every 50 hours thereafter. In a power outage scenario and with you away from home, presumably your wife will just let it run as you'll have a propane tank. 50 hour interval is all of two days.... IMHO gensets come in two flavors, one has a "regular" small engine with the above mentioned intervals, the better ones, e.g. Honda are designed to run 24/7. So, educating your wife as to a duty cycle, e.g. let it run 12 hours, then shut it down for 12, etc. will extend this period. She wouldn't have to throw breakers or anything, typically, it's just a matter of flipping a switch to "off" and then back to "run or stnadby" and it'll start again. Making provision to have someone available to change the oil may also be a possibility. An hourmeter is useful, a low oil shutoff is absoloutely critical. Also as soon as the break in period is over switch to a synthetic oil.

    Bookmark   September 14, 2011 at 8:38AM
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Whew, finally done. Here's my update.

We decided on 20KW Generac generataor with a 100% 2 year service agreement. Obviously, it cost us more than a DIY but I needed piece of mind that someone would do the interval maintenance, respond to service calls if needed, etc because I travel a good deal and my considerably better half is the one who would most likely have to deal with any issues. Total installed costs, including 2 year service agreement and 100% all-inclusive warranty, 3 DLM modules and 200 Amp transfer switch, inspection fees, etc: $9000

It took them two days and I was impressed with both their professionalism and work ethic. They were on time and their workspace was spotless both days when they left. The building inspector told us "off the record, they are one of the best in this area." If you are in the Fredericksburg area and would like more details on the contractor, send me a PM.

For the tank, all of the propane companies around here will fill up any tank. If you have an original bill of sale, they will fill it with no inspection fee. If you don't, most charge a pressure test fee of $85 plus the propane to fill the tank.

After alot of research, we decided to buy our own. We had various quotes from all the propane companies and they were all over the place. Again, through Noland's we found several plumbers that do tank installations.

Again, we were impressed with the one we chose. He coordinated closely with the electrical contractor installing the genset so that the tank and plumbing installation would coincide with the genset installation. That way, the building inspector would only come out once, hence lower inspection costs. Plus, when the job was done, he sent his crew out the next day to rake all the gravel in the drive disrupted by his excavator and put seed, fertilizer and straw down over the disturbed ground. A real pro.

Tank Purchase and installation costs to include a seperate line run for an outdoor gas grill and a future stove: $3400.

We had Discount Propane fill the tank at $2.69/gal, very competitive for our area. If you want to deal with a good gas company, call Discount. These guys have an interesting business model. They only have five employees and all work the deliveries. We called on a Friday afternoon and one of the owners delivered on Sat morning. He arrived in a well maintaned truck, took all the saftey precautions, took the time to check our system and educate my wife and I on safety procedures in the event of an emergency. Once the tank was full, he asked for my credit card, swiped it across his little tablet computer and off he went.

Total cost of installed generator, propane tank and tank of gas $13,541. Sounds like alot but we couldn't be happier with the peace of mind of having it as well as the contractors we used for installing all the various pieces of equipment.

    Bookmark   October 17, 2011 at 5:17PM
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Freedom, thanks for the follow up. It's nice to know the final resolution on a post.

Congrats on the completed project.

Be well,


    Bookmark   October 18, 2011 at 8:08AM
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You'll love it.
I had a 12KW Wincogen set up for at least 8 years. The 200amp Transfer switch is wired to power the entire house, though you couldn't run every circuit at the same time.
When the Hurricane came through we got lucky and had real power back after not even a day (darn it, I was looking forward to a prolonged outage).
We became very popular in town as it took some people at least a week to get power back.

    Bookmark   October 28, 2011 at 9:27AM
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Interesting followup for everyone....

Well once they got everything hooked up, it was time for the demo and training class. Lo and behold, the generator wouldn't start. After as series of troubleshooting steps and conversations with Generac customer service, the tech determined the factory installed solenoid was bad so a replacement was enroute.

New solenoid installed. Still wouldn't start. Some more calls to Generac customer service, a couple of more tests and it was determined the gas regulator installed by the plumber on the line to the generator was bad. The gas pressure into the generator was too high and the regulator couldn't be adjusted. There's an internal safety feature I guess on all generators that won't let the engine spark if the gas pressures are not right.

Anyway, the tech made a call to the plumber who installed the tank, line and regulator. He came out first thing the next morning and changed the regulator. Generator fired right up the first time.

A couple hours later, the technician showed back up for the demo, training, etc. Everything now is fine.

Was most impressed with the professionalism and customer service of the plumber and the electrical contractor we had do the installation.

    Bookmark   October 28, 2011 at 4:06PM
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I looked at doing this 2 years ago, but $8000 20KW turnkey was too much for me.

After some research, the 20KW solution seemed to be more than I really needed. I have all natural gas appliances, so the A/C is the only big draw I have to work around. It takes a 50A 220V for startup - continuous is more like 30A. The newer Generac units with the Nexus controller allows "shedding" the A/C unit(s) as needed to maintain power to the rest of the house, and restarting it as the load allows.

Now I'm giving this another shot. I bought a 14KW Generac (which supplies 220V @60A) dual fuel Nat Gas/LP generator last week on eBay for $1850 delivered. It was new on the factory pallet. I registered it with Generac under the 3-year warranty. I got a 200A auto transfer switch for $600. I'm in the process of getting it installed now.

You might think that you would need a generator that produces 220V @200A, but that is excessive, as you only use a fraction of that at any one time, and I have all gas appliances anyway. If you had all electric appliances, you would have to reconsider this.

I just ran into a potential "gotcha" with the gas company.
I smelled gas leaked at the meter (I checked with soap bubbles). The gas company came out & fixed the problem, but we discovered that the meter was too "small" to support everything at once (250K BTU meter).

The rating on the 14KW generator at full load is 220K BTU. The gas furnace is 100K BTU, and the range 30K, dryer 30K water heater 40K.. So I needed a "larger" meter (400K BTU). The gas company installed it for free.

Now we are getting ready to put the generator in place, run wiring from the generator to the ATS, and insert the ATS between the electric meter & the main box via 2" conduit.

I have to call the power company to get them to pull the electric meter, so we can safely reroute the supply lines from the main box to the ATS and then back to the main box. We also need to run a 1" conduit for the control wiring between the generator & ATS.

I will update my post as the project continues.

    Bookmark   September 16, 2013 at 4:07PM
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We got the gas line connected last evening & after some coaxing, got the generator to start manually,

Now we need to get the ATS installed.
It will require removing the electric meter temporarily by the power company.

DO NOT attempt to do this yourself!!!

Not only is it very dangerous, but you could also be held liable for theft of power for breaking the meter seal.

    Bookmark   September 17, 2013 at 1:13PM
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After Sandy left us without power for over 13 days last fall, we took the dive and purchased a 23k watt Generac Quiet Series generator. Had it piped directly into our natural gas line. All in it was $15,000, pad, transfer switch, installation and generator.

This is a beefy unit, effectively a 50hp Mitsubishi car engine, liquid cooled. Runs the whole house, a/c, washer / dryer, oven, lights, tv absolutely everything without blinking, and the thing isn't even all that loud.

It wasn't cheap, but worth it. When power goes down as it does here in NJ from time to time, we don't miss a beat.

    Bookmark   October 1, 2013 at 8:46PM
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I forgot to post my followup. The generator is installed & runs great. It switches automatically from utility to generator after the delay period & startup time. It holds up the whole house [furnace, lights, refrigerator & freezer, etc] except the 4-ton A/C unit. [Should have gotten the 17KW or 20KW instead].

My wife says it's OK, she can live without A/C in an emergency.

It's interesting to see the whole house running & the electric meter not moving at all.

With the unit, ATS, wire & other materials & labor, etc, I'm in at $3750 installed for 14KW.

    Bookmark   October 3, 2013 at 7:58AM
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tackem118: I believe that you could run your AC unit if you wanted. I only have a 7000 watt portable generator and I can run one of my AC units. I have a heat pump upstairs and a regular unit for the ground floor. Now admittedly, I haven't tried to use our electric oven at the same time and wouldn't expect to be able to do so. But you could keep the house cooler and then switch the AC off and use the oven. With twice my power, you could probably run both at the same time.

    Bookmark   October 4, 2013 at 7:16AM
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Thanks for writing Chas045.

I have tried. It appears that the startup current draw for the 4-ton A/C unit (I only have one for the entire 2000 sq, is excessive. The A/C unit requires 48A to start up, and is on a 50A breaker. The generator (14KW LP but 13KW NG) produces almost 57.5A & has a 60A breaker). With anything else running, the ATS "sheds" the load from the A/C unit for 5 minutes. After 5 minutes, the A/C attempts to restart. The fan spins for a few seconds & the generator sounds bogged down, and then the ATS drops the A/C unit again. After a lot of research & several questions posed to Generac support, the only answer I have been given is insufficient capacity. AARRGGHH!

They advertise the "load-shedding" ATS as being able to use a smaller generator than otherwise needed, but that is not what I am seeing.

    Bookmark   October 4, 2013 at 10:09AM
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Sorry to hear your AC is such an energy hog. I checked my breakers and see that my two units are on 20 and 25 amp breakers. I am cooling 2270 sq ft.

I realize that your automatic system has great convenience over my manual starting generator approach, but for others who are not committed: I use a interlock system instead of a transfer switch. It is Far less expensive to install and may only require rewiring a pair of breakers next to your main breakers. The interlock mechanically prevents the house wiring from being connected to the generator until the utility power breaker has been switched off. In addition to being Far cheaper, it gives me the opportunity to keep Any electric circuit working.

    Bookmark   October 6, 2013 at 8:14AM
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The automatic switch would have worked great with your 2 smaller, less thirsty A/C units. When one A/C wants to start up, the system checks to see there is enough capacity at that time. If not the A/C unit is "shed" until it can safely be started.

The 2 biggest advantages of the automatic switch & standby NG/LP generator are that:
1) it doesn't require using or storing or trying to go out & get gasoline when you need to run it
2) it is automatic & my wife can benefit from it running when I'm not at home. She would never be able to drag the portable generator out & hook it up & get it started & decide what circuits to feed if I were not home.

The biggest disadvantage is cost.

You also need a lockout system to prevent potentially backfeeding power up the line & killing a power company worker who is trying to get your power back on. I have heard of people with home generators being criminally charged for doing this, plus the inevitable $1M lawsuit.

    Bookmark   October 6, 2013 at 8:36AM
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Yes, I already know that would be difficult for my wife to fire up the manual start. And of course the convenience of auto start and transfer switch is great. Also, you are in a good situation having natural gas. Propane is another matter because even a large tank only goes so far; especially if you are running a larger system.

However, unless I misunderstood your last paragraph; my interlock is specifically and only to prevent backfeeding.

    Bookmark   October 6, 2013 at 12:32PM
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The Generac 5837 CorePower Series 7,000 Watt comes in a neat little package, removal sides for easy installation and service maintenance. Transfer Switch included too..... oh and a mounting pad so you don't need to build a concrete base.
Lots of cool features and folks who own these always tend to comment on the low volume these models operate at.

Here is a link that might be useful: Check it out!

    Bookmark   November 16, 2013 at 9:58AM
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After Sandy last year, we installed a 23,000 Generac unit piped directly to our natural gas supply. Generac took care of permits, installation, testing, electrician and does the service. The unit is one of their Quiet Series units, it is pretty good. With windows closed you barely know it is running. Besides, runs the whole house, heat, a/c, all appliances and lights / computers etc. It is essentially a 50hp Mitsubishi car engine. It wasn't a cheap way to go, but it is peace of mind that I won't ever go 2 weeks without power again (I hope).

    Bookmark   December 12, 2013 at 8:32PM
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potluck(6 pa)

I had a whole house propane generator installed last year. Now the installer wants $299 for yearly maintenance. Does this sound reasonable? Original installation including gas tanks set up was about $13,000.

    Bookmark   June 23, 2014 at 1:24PM
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Ours is a little less annually but we negotiated a longer term contract. Well worth it because, in our case anyway, our Generac is totally worry free.

    Bookmark   June 23, 2014 at 4:57PM
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Ours is a little less annually but we negotiated a longer term contract. Well worth it because, in our case anyway, our Generac is totally worry free.

    Bookmark   June 23, 2014 at 4:58PM
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