View Full Version : Generator question - post Rita concerns

Mike Tempel
09-26-2005, 1:24 PM
Well, Rita got me to thinking. I want/need a generator - more want than need but that is beside the point. I am looking at a tri-fuel generator - one that runs on gasoline, propane, or nat. gas. I specifically want one of these since during the past few days gas for vehicles here was like liquid gold - only harder to find. I was thinking that I could have 20-30 gallons of gas for running away purposes and then could hook it up to the natural gas supply running to my pool heater when I got back. I realize that they are rather impractical for using once in a month of blue moons but like I said - I want one.

Question for anyone that has a tri fuel or knows anything about them - what is the required supply pressure for running on natural gas? I think my pool heater supply is approximately 2psig. Will that be enough pressure? It also says that it uses 200cu.ft/hr - is that alot or not? Totally clueless on this one as I never really pay attention to what my gas bill normally runs as far as usage.

I realize that I will need to get one a little larger than if I were to get one that ran strictly on gasoline as they lose somewhere in the neighborhood of 20% capacity on nat gas.
I am looking at a Winco 9000 watt generator (8000 watt continuous) with a Briggs and Stratton Vanguard 480cc OHV engine. It has electric and recoil starting capabilities. Does anyone have anything good or bad to pass on about Winco generators? There is one with a Honda engine but it is 6000watt and I thought for the long run that bigger would be better. Am I right?

Again, any help in this matter would be greatly appreciated. Thanks in advance.

Jeff Sudmeier
09-26-2005, 1:41 PM
Three concerns come to mind:

1) Be sure that you run it for at least an hour perferably two every month. This type of genny is not going to be cheap and it needs to be cared for :) Gennies need to be run once a month to keep them up. Also, don't forget oil changes, etc.

2) Fuel rotation, you need to make sure that your fuel doesn't get old. I don't know for sure how long you can keep gas around, before you need to change it out, but at work we change out 50% of our diesel fuel for the gens once a month. You could use the gas you keep on hand for your vehicle and then refil the gas containers.

3) In a lot of these disasters, the Natural Gas goes out as well as the power. If you run out of gasoline and the nat gas goes out, your genny is a nice anchor. It may be a good idea to figure out how long you could run on a 30 or 40 lb tank of propane and keep a few of those on hand. Propane "keeps" a lot longer than gasoline....

Finally Good luck!

Keith Foster
09-26-2005, 3:31 PM
Looking at the very same thing myself - same reason too! Found a Honda powered Trifuel in Northern Tools catalog that I'm interested in (item# 165938-2601). Shows 8000 watts for $1999.99 (why don't they just say $2k). Anyway - 13hp with electric start - runs on gasoline, propane, or natural gas. My personal experience with Honda powered tools has been FAR SUPERIOR to my experience with anything B&S makes. YMMV :cool:

Jeff Sudmeier
09-26-2005, 4:28 PM
Nothern Tools has a great rep among many of the campers out there. They sell a line of high quality QUIET gens that the campers love. The service from Northern Tool has been great from what I have read.

Ken Garlock
09-26-2005, 5:34 PM
Mike, whatever brand you buy, do not get a Brigss & Stratton engine.

The Honda GX series commerical application engine is very good, and the Yamaha engine is right up there with it. I have a Scag commerical ZTR mower with a Yamaha engine that just purrs along. (There is only one way to run it and that is 3/4 or more throttle.)

Harry Goodwin
09-26-2005, 6:45 PM
My Briggs and S starts great even after long rests. Stabil will help keep it runniing. Harry

Charles McKinley
09-27-2005, 9:15 PM
Not all Hondas are created equal! Stay with the GX- professional series. I have seen as many problems with the Honda GC- home owner engine as any other brand.

I'm partial to Onan, Robin, or Kohler myself. This is the brand found on many Miller and Lincoln welders.

First thing you need to check out is the codes in your area for the generator. Will it be stationary or portable? Stationary gensets usually follow different regulations, liguid fuel contianment etc.

Hooking into the house: will you have a permant set up hard wired to the generator or will you have to actually connect it to the wiring each time you use it. Either way you need to hook up a swithing system of some kind to completely take your house off of the grid while using the generator so eletric does not back feed into the system and possibly kill a lineman working on what he thinks is the dead side of a line break. You can run circuts just for the fridge and freezer and other equipment you want hooked up or hook everything up then make sure you unplug everything else. This should be inspected. You can also just run extention cords to the things you want to run. (This is what we do)

Size: To figure out what size of generator you need go to each of the appliances you want to run off of the generator and see how many amps they draw wnd multiply that by the voltage they are to give you the watts and add each of them up.

Duty cycle: how much of the rated wattage can it put out continously. Is this genarator made to run tank after tank of fuel or does It need to be shut down for X hours after each tank?

Life cycle: what is the design failure numbers on the generator some of the cheaper units need to be rebuilt in as little as 750 hours.

Weld? For about the same amount of money as you are looking at you can purchase a Lincoln Ranger series or Miller Bobcat series welder. I believe you can get a tri-fuel kit installed.

If you buy anything over a very basic generator I would suggest buying it locally for support. (such as your natural gas question) In the aftermath of an emergency a unit they sold will probably be a higher priority. On the other hand my boss has the 5500 wat generator from harbor freight and we have set it up and ran it for 10 hour days for a week or so at a time and it has held up.

Jeff- Gas should not be kept more than six months (untreated), diesel one year, I'm not sure how long propane can be stored.

Please keep it outside. There was a story, today or yesterday, of a family that died from CO poisoning. They had the generator in the APARTMENT!

Hope this helps

Bill Lewis
09-27-2005, 10:10 PM
I'm not sure how long propane can be stored.I'd have to say indefinately. If there could be contaminants in a propane tank they will remain there. They will not turn to vapor along with the LP. If using black pipe, it is possible to get rust or other sediments. However, if piped correctly these too should never be an issue.

I have a Generac 15kW stationary Generator. I got it as a result of Isabel. It runs off of propane. It can also be set up for NG. The cons, it is a dedicated single purpose generator, and probably twice the price of a really good portable. Also, Installation can get costly if you don't or can't do it yourself. Though if you can't install this yourself, I wouldn't be messing with the hookups for a portable either. The Pros, it's automatic, I never have to fuel it, It cycles itself weekly, it's very quiet, propane burns much cleaner than gas or diesel (almost indetectalbe deposits in the engine), it'll handle more than most portables.

Bill Turpin
09-27-2005, 10:58 PM
Most natural gas appliances run at 8 to 14 inches of water pressure. There are 27 inches to one psi. There is 1000 cubic feet in a decatherm of gas. Last price I saw for a decatherm on day one of Katrina was $12.50. Prices are predicted to go up 40% by winter. Hourly operational cost of $2.50+. This could get very expensive, FAST.

Bill in WNC mountains, who wants a generator also,
who burns 15 decatherms/hour at work

Jimmy Walker
09-28-2005, 5:11 AM
Mike, having experienced hurricanes Betsy Ď65, Camille Ď69, Fredrick Ď79, Elena Ď85, Georges í98 and now Katrina, first hand and using a generator for up to 10 days, I might have a few ideas for you.:confused:

Gas or diesel powered. Long as you can get gas/diesel after a major storm. Long lines, limited amount.

Propane. Fine, itís a little costly. Though 2 friends of mine lost their tanks due to the storm from trees.:mad:

NG. May be expensive to operate, but have never seen it go out during a storm. Itís all underground. Unless a tree falls on your meter you should have NG after a storm.

Determine what you want to operate with your generator and how long. Most people say ď oh as long as I can keep the fridge and freezer going and a light or two thatís all I needď. Well most storms come in the worst part of the summer. Sleeping hot for a long time after a major hurricane is not conducive to good mental or physical health. Believe me when I say your stress level is VERY HIGH after a major storm.

Having said that, I bought an old Ď78 Itaska motor home last year as a project. It was in fair shape with some engine problems, but the old 5kw Onan genset and the a/c unit worked fine. Guess where I slept?:D

We ran a 16 year old Coleman 5.5kw, w/a 8hp B&S I/C engine for the house. This genset has only had a few hours on it from time to time over all those years. I ran it 2 times a year for about a hour each time, with a load on it. It did see about 2 days use in í98 for Georges. I always ran it out of gas each time, so no old gas would remain. Regardless of what some folks say the gaskets in the carb do better without gas on them all the time.

Ran it 3 hrs twice a day during this storm. Thatís how long it takes for the average fridge or freezer to cycle, if only running a couple of times a day. Other than adding oil about every 12 hrs of running time, it performed flawlessly. Air cooled motors do use some oil regardless of make. Had 3 friends with different makes of engines and all used some oil. That is why all the major makers have Oil Alert on their engines now, so they will shut down if the oil gets too low.

As I work for the local power utility I canít stress to you enough, if you cannot afford to have a manual or automatic by-pass switch installed with your generator then DO NOT hard wire it to your home. Just use extension cords.

You can make up, as I have, a small distribution panel with outlets that you can plug into your 240 outlet on the generator. That way you have plenty of outlets for extension cords. Also consider building a 3 sided w/top enclosure, leaving the open side away from the house. Makes a BIG difference in the noise level. Leave plenty of room for air circulation, for the engine.

One last little thing. Make a dry run as my wife and I did at the beginning of the summer. We turned the power off on a Friday evening and lived off the grid for the weekend. Sounds extreme I know. Trust me it pays off in the long run. You can find glitches in your plan and fix them before it really counts! Developed the distribution panel and enclosure from that weekend.

Could go on and on, but I have been long winded enough. Think you get the picture.

Just consider it like paying insurance and hope you never need it.