Back-up Generator for the home

lisadluMay 13, 2010

Does anyone have a back-up generator for your home in case you lose power? I want to look into getting one but have no idea where to start. Any info or links would be appreciated. Thank you!

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I'm aware of two basic types -- Gasoline-powered, and natural gas-powered. In general:

- The gasoline-powered generators are portable, lower power (can't supply power to as many appliances) and are lower cost -- $400-800 or so depending on power. You also need to be able to get gas to run them, so if electricity's out for a long time over a large area, you could run out of luck when you run out of gas. When a prolonged power outage hits, you drag out the generator, fill it with gas, power it up, and plug extension cords into it. In general, they're also noisy and need to be turned off every few hours to cool down.

- The natural gas generators I've seen are designed to be whole-house (or nearly whole-house) replacement power sources that get hooked up to the home's natural gas line and come on automatically near-instantaneously with any power outage. They need to be installed and hooked up by a professional, and home power uses are routed through the generator at the whole-circuit level. Unlike gasoline units, natural gas-powered units are quiet, and are supposed to offer an even enough power supply to operate computers without damaging them. I believe they run around $5,000 installed for a whole-house unit, slightly less for a smaller unit, and slightly more for more powerful ones.

There was some speculation that natural-gas units might improve a home's resale value, but I'm not betting on it, except in the most hurricane-prone areas.

    Bookmark   May 13, 2010 at 5:47PM
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For $5000 you might be able to get a small natural gas generator permanently hooked up to the house, as backup for selected circuits. It won't be a "whole house" generator that powers all circuits in the house, unless it's a very, very small house.

Gas generators are powered by internal-combustion engines that happen to burn natural gas, or propane, rather than gasoline. They're still plenty noisy.

    Bookmark   May 13, 2010 at 7:18PM
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One thing to keep in mind when deciding is that none of the above (or anything else) will restore any level of power for more than e.g. 8 hrs, and are meant to be run intermittently, the way you would run the engine of a car for 10 mins. at a time (to save gas for more 'runs') with long breaks in between, to keep heat going when stuck in the middle of nowhere. You're not going to have infinite power back for any function, but at least you get to use the microwave, warm up the baby's room, have more light than a candle, etc. for specific times.

    Bookmark   May 13, 2010 at 10:13PM
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With a continuous source of fuel like natural gas, you can run days at a time, with occasional shutdowns (once a day, maybe) to check the engine oil.

    Bookmark   May 13, 2010 at 10:41PM
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