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I know that generators aren't a long term solution in a TEOTWAWKI situation, but since I live in Montana I think it might be a good idea to have one in the event of an extended outage in the winter time. I've considered installing a wood burning stove, but cost, room, and insurance costs have kind of put me off of that at the current time.

What do I need to know before I buy a generator?

I'm really only interested in running the furnace, refrigerator, and maybe a few lights as necessary. What kind of output from a generator will I need for that? I'm also wondering about gas vs. diesel. My concern about diesel is that it might gel up in my uninsulated garage in the winter. And how long does gas keep before you should rotate it and restock?

Any input would be appreciated.
 

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To figure how big a generator you need, add up all the watts the stuff you want to run consumes. Most appliances have a data plate listing the wattage. Once you have this number, start looking for generators that are larger than this. Also, be aware most motors have a high initial current draw that drops somewhat after it is running. The watts listed on the plate are not the higher starting load. Generators are rated for a constant wattage output, but they also have a "surge" rating to compensate for the starting draw. Some ads mislead you by listing the surge rating so you think you are getting a bigger output than you really are.

Diesel stores longer than gas, probably at least 10 years or so assuming it is kept clean. Some bacteria and such actually feed on diesel and leave a sludge behind. Diesels can also run on just about any light oil, even cooking oil. If you add some Power Service or similar additive you are protected from gelling down to about -30 or so. "Winter blend" fuel or even adding some kerosene to the fuel will also give you good low temp performance. If your furnace runs on fuel oil, you have a backup fuel source for the diesel.

Gas will last a year or two, especially if you add sta-bil. Beyond that and all the burnable stuff has evaporated to the point it may not fire up the engine, or run poorly at best.

Another option is LP or natural gas. If your furnace runs on gas the same fuel supply can be used.
 

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You have to figure out how much comfort you want while the power is out, and what type of fuel you want to use to run the unit. I mean like air conditioning or no air conditioning, Gasoline, LP, or NG, well pump or city water.

If you want to cool your home with the gen set, you need at least a 17K watt unit. Be prepared to spend $3K+ on a gen set of this size.

I myself just bought a Generac GP6500 today (6500 watts continuous 8000 watt surge). I got it for $600.00 at F&Fleet I plan on running the whole house with it in the event of a power failure (less air conditioning), and I am going to convert it to run on NG. The reason I bought a Gasoline unit is because they are about 1000 to 1200 dollars less than the Tri-fuel units, and the conversion kit is only a couple hundred bucks from here... http://www.propane-generators.com/

I have a small deep freeze, a fridge, lights, TV, and the furnace. My furnace blower only draws 4-5 amps when running but can draw up to 3X as much during a start up so I will be running my furnace blower continually (I do this on a daily basis anyway and my electric bill is cheaper. (I have not shut it off in over 5 years).

How big is your home, do you have a well pump or city water, and what do you want to run when the power is out? Gotta know this first.

My dad is running 2 fridges, some lights, a TV, and a well pump on a 4400 watt continuous gen set. He wishes he got a 6500 watt continuous because the well pump really drags it down. But he got it used (barely used) and took what he got. He could unplug one of the fridges if he wants to and run the furnace in the winter if needed.
 

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Discussion Starter · #5 ·
About 2,000 square feet. I'd like to be able to run the furnace (natural gas), fridge, stove, and a few outlets for light and radio. House is on city water.
 

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About 2,000 square feet. I'd like to be able to run the furnace (natural gas), fridge, stove, and a few outlets for light and radio. House is on city water.
You will be just fine with a gasoline powered unit with a 6500 watt continuous rating. Mine is 6500 continuous / 8000 surge. I want to get the "Tri-Fuel" conversion kit too which is $267.00.

You could buy a gen set with "Tri-Fuel" on it already but they are around $1500 to $2000 new. I got my gen set for $660 out the door and with the "Tri-Fuel" kit running me around $267, I will be around a grand total and can run it on NG for extended power outages if needed.

I myself would go with an American Name brand like "Generac", "Honeywell", "Onan", "Briggs & Stratton" etc. You'll have better machining tolerences and better warranty than other units that are made in China. If you see a gen set that you want, and it is a no-name unit... see where it is made. If its not made in China jump on it.

I am not saying that the Chinese stuff won't work or is junk. But it WILL be easier to get parts and service for a Name Brand if needed.
 

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With a 6500 watt continuous gen set, you should be able to run your, furnace, 2 fridges, lights in several rooms as long as you're using the "twist" style bulbs, a burner or two on an electric stove or a microwave but not both at the same time, and a tv or radio.

Like I stated before; My dad is running 2 fridges, some lights, a TV, and a well pump on a 4400 watt continuous gen set. He wishes he got a 6500 watt continuous because the well pump really drags it down. But he got it used (barely used) and took what he got. He could unplug one of the fridges if he wants to and run the furnace in the winter if needed.

But 4400 watts is kind pushing it with what you want to run. Get a 6500 watt continuous or larger and you will not be unhappy.
 

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Wade, since your furnace is NG, I would check into a NG powered unit. As mentioned above, gas will last a couple years with proper treatment, but the new ultra low sulfur diesel is very susceptible to fuel ruining bacteria, so it is not really suited to long term storage anymore (I believe on purpose, so a farmer or who ever cant buy large quantities of fuel to save for when fuel is more expensive). Lots of tractors having fuel problems due to old fuel. Liquid fuel might not me you best option anyway, assuming you are in city limits (assumption based on the city water), your local fire chief might not like a large amount of fuel stored in your shed. Generators are notorious for high fuel consumption, so you would want a fair amount of fuel on hand.


BTW, where are you in MT?
 

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Wade, since your furnace is NG, I would check into a NG powered unit. As mentioned above, gas will last a couple years with proper treatment, but the new ultra low sulfur diesel is very susceptible to fuel ruining bacteria, so it is not really suited to long term storage anymore (I believe on purpose, so a farmer or who ever cant buy large quantities of fuel to save for when fuel is more expensive). Lots of tractors having fuel problems due to old fuel. Liquid fuel might not me you best option anyway, assuming you are in city limits (assumption based on the city water), your local fire chief might not like a large amount of fuel stored in your shed. Generators are notorious for high fuel consumption, so you would want a fair amount of fuel on hand.
This is exactly why I myself am converting my gen set to a tri-fuel unit. I can run it off NG. Plus NG will help aid in starting in cold weather.
 

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I have an RV @ my ranch and I am able to run everything, including A/C and/or heat (sorta). I have a Coleman with a Yamaha engine. It is 8500 start up/6750 continuous watts. One thing you have to be aware of that I learned the hard way is that you wattage is distributed across your circuits. So if you have two 110 circuit breakers you only get 1/2 the total wattage on either circuit. While I can run most things at once I can't run everything at once or I will trip a breaker. Thus I'm looking to get a Generac next year. From all the research I've done they are by far the best bang for the buck.
 

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I have a Coleman with a Yamaha engine. It is 8500 start up/6750 continuous watts. One thing you have to be aware of that I learned the hard way is that you wattage is distributed across your circuits. So if you have two 110 circuit breakers you only get 1/2 the total wattage on either circuit. While I can run most things at once I can't run everything at once or I will trip a breaker.
Definitely a concern whether using the 120V receptacles or feeding the distribution panel in your home with 240V. The load must be balanced.
 
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