General Question

jca's avatar

Do you own a generator?

Asked by jca (28611 points ) November 10th, 2012

This question was asked on Fluther in 2008. I figure enough new Jellies are here now that it’s worth asking again.

Do you own a generator? Why or why not? How has it helped you, if you own one? Is it a large one or small?

I don’t own one so I know almost nothing about generators.

Here’s the previous question from 2008:
http://www.fluther.com/29837/do-you-own-a-generator/

Observing members: 0 Composing members: 0

71 Answers

tom_g's avatar

I have a Briggs and Stratton (5500 watts, 8250 starting watts) – $800. I lose power a few times per year, and without it my basement would completely flood. I need it to power my sump pump. Also, when we’re out, it’s for extended times, so I would lose all of our food. When we lose power, I run an extension to the fridge and the sump pump.

I’m starting to worry that my generator could break. I might need a second generator just in case.

Coloma's avatar

No. On the occasions my power has been out due to storms I have just made do. It’s not worth the expense for such infrequent events IMO.

jca's avatar

I would like to add – when you all answer, can you put how much your generators cost? Thanks.

Nullo's avatar

No, but it’s on the wish list. Of course, it’s becoming politically-incorrect to prepare for hard times. :\

tom_g's avatar

^ I didn’t think it was possible to turn this into a political rant. I was wrong.

filmfann's avatar

No, but I plan to get one before making the move to my new place, which is in a semi-remote area.
My friend Don, who is living through the mess back East, has been running his 4 hours a day, to keep the refridgerator cold, and to warm up his house. He says there is an issue with getting gasoline right now, so he can’t use it all the time.

chyna's avatar

I don’t own one but have briefly thought of getting one, especially since so many have been without power for so long.
I have been in this house for 9 years and have been without power for only 2 days in a row in that whole time, so I don’t think I can justify to myself to go to the expense of buying one.
I have decided to just keep a half a tank of gas in my car at all times so if something does happen, I can drive to other relatives or friends homes if I have to.

wundayatta's avatar

It is true, @Nullo, that it is politically incorrect for you to prepare for hard time, but us liberals believe in taking care of ourselves. So we prepare for disasters we know are coming. We are not like conservatives who don’t believe in science or global warming and who think these disasters are purely acts of God, and there’s nothing we can do about them.

Sheesh! I’m just being annoyed. I know you believe in preparation. At least, I hope you do. Tell me you do.

We didn’t lose power in the last storm. But a friend of ours who lives in the burns did. And oddly, last night, we lost power for a few hours, apropos of what, I don’t know.

Our friend has a natural gas generator, and I think it automatically switches over when the regular power switches off. This seems to me to be an excellent idea, since you avoid the problems of having to run a gasoline generator outdoors (or else dealing with carbon monoxide exhaust); you don’t have to worry about gasoline supplies since your are attached to the gas pipeline; and you don’t have to worry about set up and installation, since you have had it pre-installed and is sitting there waiting. I don’t know how much that would cost, but it seems like a better solution than a gasoline-powered generator.

hearkat's avatar

No. We live in a townhouse, so there’s nowhere safe to keep one. Being in New Jersey, I’ve heard a lot of reports of issues with fires and carbon monoxide poisoning form generators being used and installed incorrectly since Sandy hit. If I lived in a more rural location, I think I would want to have one – especially if there were people in the household with medical issues.

Oh – I didn’t know they made natural gas generators, @wundayatta. We might be able to have one of those in the basement near the furnace. We had hot water and the gas stove during the 2 days the power was out here from Sandy. Of course, they cut the natural gas to the barrier islands (way later than they could/should have), but those people weren’t supposed to be in their homes then, anyway.

majorrich's avatar

I got a 5500/8250 Briggs and Stratton this summer when we lost power for a week. $800. Worth every penny as we were able to run lights and fans and the freezers in my home and my neighbors home. It’s not quite big enough to run the A/C but my basement is cool enough. This was a terribly hot summer for us and the above ground floors got up over 90 by evening time. We slept in the basement for a week. I am considering the natural gas whole house solution mentioned above. It would be a selling point for the house.

Tropical_Willie's avatar

Yes, Troybilt 8500 / 13000. We can run the refrigerator, fan for HVAC to heat the house. Gas hot water and heat. The neighborhood we are in had a major hurricane a few years ago, before we moved, with trees down everywhere no power for two weeks and an ice storm downed wires three years after the hurricane, another 10 days no power.

poisonedantidote's avatar

I have some small diesel one down in the garage.

The power company can not be trusted to supply you electricity if there is a strong breeze, and unless I want $1000’s of bucks worth of food to go to waste, I have to keep my chest freezers going some how.

They have been known to leave people without power for days, over 1 tree fallen on a power line during a mild storm.

Really annoys me.

When me and my girlfriend finally marry and move in to a new bigger place, I will no doubt look in to solar and wind power for our building. If I get it worked in to the mortgage it should not be so harsh on price.

wundayatta's avatar

I was just looking into natural gas generators, and they cost from $2000 to $5000 plus installation, depending on the size you get. I’m not sure how to determine how much power generating capacity you need.

I also heard a story about solar power here in the US. It turns out that if you have solar power, and the regular power goes out, your solar power goes out, too. Apparently, you can’t have power generation in your home continue to create power without your home being cut off from the grid. This is because it can cause all kinds of problems when the power comes back on.

Gas generator can work because you have to install a transfer switch that isolates your house from the grid. So I have to wonder if you can have a transfer switch with solar power as well. Normally you have the solar power and the utility supplied power going at the same time. Sometimes the solar power feeds the grid.

But with generators, it’s one or the other. Not both. I’m not sure I understand why there is a difference, but it is something to check out before setting up solar power/

Coloma's avatar

I think the “toy” effect is more there for men, like buying a tractor.
EVERY man in my neck o’ the woods HAS to have a tractor, mostly because it makes them feel like a rugged guy. lol
My one neighbor is obsessed with his tractor, he cruises around the area just LOOKING for tractor things to do, like scraping out the drainage ditches and pushing downed trees around. He sometimes just goes out for a drive, just because he loves his big green tractor. lol

Coloma's avatar

I’d also say that being a single female that lives on a secluded property that I HATE dealing with gas cans for things. I hate filling them, lifting them, transporting them, pouring them into stuff.
I have a gardener and an old fashioned push mower for the extra exercise and spot mowing between the gardeners visits. I also have an electric blower and about 200 feet of extension cords. Gas is a pain in the ass! Literally and figuratively! lol

gailcalled's avatar

I love @LuckyGuy’s technique of lending his generator to neighbors for brief periods of time. I can’t find his mention of this since there are no “reponses” tag on his profile page.

Like @Coloma, I have ways of soldiering on and am too creaky to deal with the lifting and the fuel issue.

And like @chyna, I keep more cash in the house and ½ tank gas in the car.

(Disclaimer; My bro-in-law has a generator and is only four miles away.His is large and expensive and doesn’t require gasoline or kerosine. I will get details if I can.)

Besides, Milo clocks in at 101.5˚F and serves as a very efficient body warmer.

glacial's avatar

No. I live in a big city that has cold winters, but I’m in an apartment, so I can (and often do) live quite well without heat. Electricity is not an absolute necessity for me, and I can manage until power is restored if it goes down – I know this for certain because it did go down for about a week a few winters back. I have a couple of oil lamps for this reason, and lots of candles (to light the place, not for heat!).

gailcalled's avatar

PS. My bro’s big unportable generator uses natural gas or propane.

janbb's avatar

Thinking about one or a battery back-up for the sump. Also thinking about moving to a condo…..with cabana boys.

chyna's avatar

@janbb I found this cabana boy is looking for a new job. (NSFW)

tedibear's avatar

We have a Generac brand whole house generator. (I think it’s Generac. I’m not getting up to look and the husband is napping.) It is powered by natural gas and comes on after the power has been our for 12 seconds. It cost about $3500 installed.

While we have only used it once in the time we’ve had it (6 months maybe?) I’m glad that we do. We’re in a rural area and are not high on the “get them back their power” list. When you need power to be able to flush, it brings a different perspective!

Judi's avatar

We have a generator for our camping trailer. We are considering buying an off grid house with 2 generator back ups.

geeky_mama's avatar

Yes we have a generator. It’s a Coleman (Honda Engine) 4000 Watt diesel generator.
We have recently hired a friend who’s a union electrician to wire a transfer kit to our main circuit box in the house so that in the event of a power outage we can correctly use it without endangering anyone who might be repairing power lines.

We live in a rural and very cold part of the country..and we’ve only had the power go out once in the 7 years we’ve lived here.. Luckily that one time was in the summer after tornadoes damaged the area. Even so, it was a rude awakening to realize that we’d have no water or flushing toilets (because we have own well and septic) without power. I grew up a city girl..and this whole country-living thing has been one lesson after another for me!

Anyways, shortly after that 24 hours without power we had a family member who sold his country home and we quickly and gratefully bought his generator.
We’ve had it ready to go – but not wired in centrally ever since. Until now – now we’ll have the transfer switch and my husband will make sure that we BOTH know how to operate it. (We both travel for work – so there’s always the chance he could be out of the country and the power could go out.)

So, we keep the generator on a wheeled base that I could push up the driveway from the second garage, I know how to fuel it up, prime it and start it and I’ll know how to connect it to the house safely.

So..we have a plan for power outages..next we just need more preparation for our zombie contingency plan. <grin>

gailcalled's avatar

Here’s the Generac that my bro-in-law has in a permanent installation.

He said that it cost $7500 and was money well spent. The electric and gas co. keep the two tanks filled with propane; all he has to do is throw a switch.

All I have to do, then, is drive over there with my back pack, Milo and his little suitcase.

LuckyGuy's avatar

I have a generator. The Coleman Ultimite. It is 1.1 kW, continuous and surge. I bought it a long time ago I think it was about $200. It is small – a 15 inch cube, light – 23 pounds, and easily transportable. It is powered by a two stroke engine so it has a lot of power in a small package that is easy to pull start. I did the calculations and determined that is the size I need to run my freezer, refrigerator, sump pump, garage door opener, heating system thermostats and fans, and a few lights and charge any electronics as well. . It has both 120V and 12V dc. so you can use it to charge 12V car batteries too. Of course I can’t do everything at the same time but most things can be running at the same time.
For me, a larger unit, 5 kW, would be a waste of space and gasoline. I feel that during times of disaster I can back off my electrical demand. I don’t need to watch TV or iron clothes or use the toaster. I don’t need to light every light in the house. I don’t have A/C. What I do have is: a dry basement, safe food, and a unit that runs a very long time on a gallon of gasoline. That is what is important.

I just looked and there are plenty of reviews about it. One reviewer said it was quiet. I say call BS! That person must be a company plant. . .
The unit is noisy. That is why I wrap mine in a carpet and put rubber feet on it. You do have to mix oil and gas,.but so what. The ratio is 50:1. Here, I’ll do the math for you. 2.5 oz of 2 cycle oil to a gallon of gasoline. Is that so hard? I have put many hours on mine with no trouble. I see the cost is still about $200.

gailcalled's avatar

@LuckyGuy: You iron clothes?

LuckyGuy's avatar

@gailcalled Yep. And I do laundry and the dishes. But not when the power is out.

gailcalled's avatar

@LuckyGuy: I have no choice about the laundry and dishes; however, I can’t remember the last time I picked up an iron. In the dim past, I used to iron cotton pillow cases, table cloths and sheets. Now, I am a staunch advocate of wrinkles.

chyna's avatar

@LuckyGuy I want to be married to you in my next life.

gailcalled's avatar

@LuckyGuy; @Chyna raises a valid point. Is there a Ms. LuckyGuy?

My bro-in-law says that the two propane tanks he had installed for his generator are very large…bigger than the one I use for my gas stove (which is pretty bulky).

LuckyGuy's avatar

Yes there is. Although I am making a list for my next life. ;-)

Nullo's avatar

Yes, @wundayatta, I do. Now chill.

@tom_g Not political. Politically-correct, that is, people think you’re weird or apocalyptic until they lose power.

glacial's avatar

@Nullo I think you’ll find that most people are in favour of being prepared for emergencies scenarios that are likely to happen. It’s just the folks who are in constant training for the end of the world that are seen as a bit nuts. There’s a difference. I don’t think it has anything to do with political correctness. (After all, it’s politically incorrect to call people nuts.)

philosopher's avatar

My sister in law had a Kohler generator installed a while ago. It runs on natural gas. When ever she loses power it goes on. It runs everything in her home, everything in the basement but the washer and dryer. She paid $12,000 with installation. It sounded too high to me but now that I lived through Sandy we plan to install one. The installer said, there is a six month wait at this time.
We live in Staten Island and this time we were very fortunate. I am up hill and over a mile from the beach.
We often lose power for several days. In March 2010 after a Hail storm we had No electricity for a week. We froze.

jca's avatar

If I had one that turned on the heat and a few lights, and ran the refrigerator I would probably be content.

LuckyGuy's avatar

@jca. You just described my 23 pound, $200 generator. It will run your heat if you heat with natural gas. (If you use electricity or oil heat it is not big enough.) It also runs the freezer, electric garage door opener, microwave and charges all my electronics. And it fits nicely in box 14×14 x 15 inches that contains extension cord, funnel, instructions, zip cord, a small bottle of 2 cycle oil, a carpet square, a couple of rags, and a set of hearing protection. The whole package easily fits in a closet or on a shelf in your garage where you store it and hope you never need it. When you get a hurricane or storm warning you set it up and try it. Otherwise you put it away and not think about it.

Correction to my earlier post. The generator is a cube 13 inches on a side, not 15 inches. I just went outside and measured.

philosopher's avatar

@LuckyGuy
After a storm don’t you have difficulty getting gas.
The lines in SI. New York are still very long.
My sister in law installed a natural gas generator.

jca's avatar

@philosopher: After this storm, Hurricane Sandy, apparently there were lines to get gas. However, depends on the extent of the outages and also, what I heard with Sandy was that the barges could not get into NY Harbor because of the storm surge. That’s not always the case. I guess with a gasoline powered generator one would take one’s chances

I have electric heat so @LuckyGuy‘s generator would not be enough to heat my house.

LuckyGuy's avatar

@philosopher No. I do not have difficulty. I fill my cars before the storm comes. Always! When national weather service says there is storm warning I start thinking about filling my cars and truck and making sure they are full.
I also have a collection of 5 gallon cans filled all the time. Every 6 months or so I fill up my cars from the gas in the cans and replace it with fresh gas. I stick a piece of wide masking tape on the can and write the date of fill with a black sharpie marker. I do it gradually. One 5 gallon can at a time (per fillup). That way it is not a big production . It takes a few minutes. When I use up a can I refill it, cross off the old date and write in the new. one. It is so easy. I have about 50 gallons. ~20 in the garage and ~30 in the barn. Also a bunch of smaller ones. It is cheap investment.

Natural gas is not available here. I wish it was.

Up until about 10 years ago I had a 300 gallon outdoor tank with its own pump, near my barn but I got rid of it. It was 40 years old and I feared it would fail some day.

LuckyGuy's avatar

@jca Using a generator for heat is a waste of precious gasoline. It is very expensive heat. Is there any way you can put in a small wood burning stove or install a wood burner in your existing fireplace? With that you can run for a long time. I have wood back up and use a little electricity to power fans that circulate warm air around the house.

janbb's avatar

@LuckyGuy Next big storm, I’m knocking on your door!

gailcalled's avatar

@LuckyGuy: Next big storm, I am abducting you.

tedibear's avatar

Correction: our generator was $5900, not $3500.

tom_g's avatar

@Nullo: ”@tom_g Not political. Politically-correct, that is, people think you’re weird or apocalyptic until they lose power.”

You should move to Massachusetts, with its lack of political correctness and its abundance of liberals, gay marriage, colleges, and generators. Following Sandy, I noticed that almost every other house had a generator.

I still have no idea how you tied this to political correctness or anything other than a lack of power.

LuckyGuy's avatar

I think you guys should come up here! Hold a big Fluther party.

gailcalled's avatar

@Nullo: There is a large aging population living in my rural area. We have had, over the 26 years I have lived here, regular and serious power outages that have lasted for 5–6 days during really cold and unpleasant winters.

A generator is hardly considered a luxury…why it was would be weird of apocalyptic strains my understanding of what those words mean.

@LuckyGuy; Get the dogsleds harnessed. What’s the main course? What can I bring (besides MIlo)?

LuckyGuy's avatar

Brie… Warm Brie….

janbb's avatar

I’ve got a mess of meatballs, sausage and sauce to contribute. And wonderful brownies.

Judi's avatar

I was in Nova Scotia a few months ago and had the most xivine Brie, Pear and Arugula grilled sandwich. It continues to haunt me. It was on some really yummy orange rasin bread.

glacial's avatar

@janbb You’ve got me hooked. And I bet @Coloma as well.

philosopher's avatar

@LuckyGuy
Thank you for the information.
Does gasoline degrade? Is it a fire hazard?
I recently had a new floor put in and the installer told me how he installed a generator. He did a great job on the floor but he must be crazy. He installed a Generator by, by passing his circuit breakers.
It turns out that my sister in law only paid $7000 for two floors but it does not include her washer and dryer. It would be higher for us because we have two floors and a finished basement. We want our washer dryer included. I remain unsure what to do.
There are No Kohlers available at this time.

glacial's avatar

@philosopher I’m finding it quite shocking that anyone would pay $7000 for the privilege of being able to live normally through a power failure. Is it so hard to do without a washer and dryer for a few days? I don’t mean to be judgemental, I just wonder if people who spend this money are having their fears taken advantage of.

philosopher's avatar

@glacial
In 2010 I had No power for a week after a severe Hail Storm. We froze.
I am shaken up. I have never experienced such a storm before. Part of a big oak tree fell on my house. Compared with many others we are truly blessed.
My son is autistic I can not live in a shelter. I always put his needs first.
Communities by the beach in SI are devastated people lost everything. Many people died.
Global Warming is here. I fear we may all need to move inland.

Tropical_Willie's avatar

@philosopher It is not the number of floors, use your existing wiring and install an interrupt at the main box ( code requirement ). The question about gas degrading is not a problem, most larger generators run on LPG or natural gas. Calculate the amount of Kilowatt hours used in a month ( Electric Bill ) divided by 30 ( number of days ) multiple by 1.5 that should give a minimum watts for your generator. You still need to be selective on what is runing in the house while on the generator.

glacial's avatar

@philosopher Thank you for explaining that – it makes it more understandable. I’m not sure whether your uncertainty is related to affordability; if so, I hope you are able to find a simpler solution. Sounds like @LuckyGuy has presented some good suggestions.

LuckyGuy's avatar

@philosopher Yes. Gasoline does degrade. You can make it last longer if you add Stabil to the fuel. I try not to keep my gasoline longer than 6 months. I only use Stabil in my chain saw fuel.
If you have natural gas lines to your home and are located at a higher elevation I would get a generator that runs on LPG or natural gas. That option is not available where I live. We do not have natural gas and most homes here heat with fuel oil. A friend of mine has a diesel generator that runs on diesel fuel or home heating oil. It is huge 10kW and probably weighs several hundred pounds. He keeps it in his barn and when there is a power failure he runs it from there, back-feeding into his house wiring. I think his generator was $2000 but it is a monster and cannot be moved in an emergency.

Mine is small and light and very fuel efficient but has limited power. It handles the important things but I must be careful.and not have everything on at the same time. That is a tradeoff I am willing to make.

Remember, any generator is better than none.

jca's avatar

@LuckyGuy: I have a fire place but I have never used it in the 12 years I have lived here. I am paranoid about fire and I am afraid that I will screw up something and cause a fire.

You sound very organized and efficient!

chyna's avatar

@jca I’m pretty sure @LuckyGuy is McGyver in real life.

philosopher's avatar

@LuckyGuy
Thank you for the information.
The only installer we know does Kohler and there is currently a six month wait.
Consumer Reports rates Kohler best.
I am concerned about the cost.

LuckyGuy's avatar

@jca A fireplace is inefficient and is mostly there for looks rather than function. You need to put in an airtight fireplace insert. Those are efficient, safe and easy to control.

@philosopher Do you have natural gas available? Gas appliances? If yes, then you can use a small generator like mine to power those. No installation required.

@chyna His relatives and mine definitely swung from the same trees.

philosopher's avatar

Consumer reports says, that Generac is second to Kohler and a better buy. Does anyone have a Generac Generator?
Where can I find a licensed dealer in my area?

LuckyGuy's avatar

I know this is a tired expression but, “Don’t let the perfect be the enemy of the good.” Any generator is infinitely better than no generator.
Also remember, a generator that is located in a flood zone will be worthless if it is flooded. It needs to be up, off the ground or higher than the highest water level you expect to see. Keep that in mind.
I had a 30 year old Generac (3.5kW) that was big, heavy, and difficult to pull start. It took up space in my barn. I gave it to a friend of mine after I bought the smaller 1.1kW.
The Generac was definitely smoother and quieter but it was a pain to use – or not use as I hated to dig it out and run it so much, I often just left it in the barn.
Now they have electric start, automatic transfer switches, auto testing, etc, so you might not have this problem.

gailcalled's avatar

My bro-in-law has the latest generation Generac and is thrilled.

vvv One of my earlier answers, so you don’t have to reread everything.

“Here’s the Generac

that my bro-in-law has in a permanent installation.
He said that it cost $7500 and was money well spent. The electric and gas co. keep the two tanks filled with propane; all he has to do is throw a switch.

philosopher's avatar

@catcalled
Thank you for the information I will check.

Judi's avatar

hehe, catcalled. :-)

gailcalled's avatar

@Judi : Milo here; we know who’s boss in this household, don’t we?

geeky_mama's avatar

And..just to add to the conversation..I spent all this past week on Long Island (arrived last Monday, Nov 12th). While a fair number of people I talked to had only just had their electrical service restored (nearly everyone I spoke to was talking about that first hot shower at home—a good dozen of the folks I met with had only had power for about 24 hrs)..NO ONE and I repeat NO ONE had any difficulty getting gas or diesel.
I observed no lines at any gas station and the only grumbles were about the unneeded odd/even rationing currently in place.
One guy admitted he’d been unprepared for the storm and was one of those people who had to wait in line for gas after..but his solution was to set his alarm clock for 3am, drive to his neighborhood station at 3, wait just less than 5 minutes, and then go home and go back to bed. And that was at the PEAK of the crazy long lines we were hearing about on TV news.

Also, most people I talked to who were wealthy planned to install natural gas-style generators. Several folks said: “I saw people waiting in line for gas and said: “That’s just not me.” I won’t wait with the huddled masses to fuel some generator—I want to flip a switch at home and go on with life as normal.”

gailcalled's avatar

@geeky_mama: You are talking about two separate issues, I think.

One is fuel for your car or truck, which does necessitate going to the gas station and possibly waiting with the huddled masses.

The small generators also require carting gas or diesel around. They are messy, smelly, and cumbersome.

The flip-a—switch gas-powered generators use tanks of propane or natural gas, delivered by the utility company and stored on your property. The company checks the tanks regularly to make sure they are filled. You, as the homeowner, can also call the company to double-check if you hear an alarming long-term weather forecast.

jca's avatar

@geeky_mama: I can assure you that everyone on my FB was talking about Westchester County’s long lines for gas, and NJ people coming over to get gas there, which added to the difficulties. I think the peak of the problems were the week of the storm (Oct 29 – Nov 5 or so). So it wasn’t a myth, at least in Westchester.

janbb's avatar

Nor in NJ.

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