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Thread: Home generator on the cheap

  1. #1
    Join Date
    Feb 2010
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    Hampstead, NC
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    401

    Default Home generator on the cheap

    I'm sitting in my home while watching this f@+#ing hurricane come ashore and thinking of this and that. I have a small generator that, of course, doesn't run due to me never starting it etc. I did buy a brand new carb for it but, of course, I can't find it in my messy shop. It's a small pos generator so I'll probably take it to the dump once this storm passes. So now I've got a hair to figure out a way to get some real power in my house when the utility company power takes a ****. One idea I had years ago was to use my dodge diesel ram to power a generator. I thought that maybe I could make something that I could put the truck drive wheels on and let it spin some rollers that would somehow be coupled to a generator head. Is this at all practical? What are some better ways to procure a good size generator, say 50 kw or so, without spending thousands of dollars? I am a handy guy but it seems like even cheapest bits and pieces needed to make a decent size generator are several k$.

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  2. #2
    Join Date
    Oct 2013
    Location
    USA MD 21030
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    4,468

    Lightbulb

    I doubt you need anything like 50 kW. More like 5 kW should be plenty unless you are running central air or electric heat as well as refrigerator, freezer, washer/dryer, and a kiln. You might be able to connect a belt-driven generator head to a pulley in your truck. A dynamometer type device will be very inefficient, costly, and possibly dangerous.

    You can do a lot with just a 100 A-h 12V battery and a 1000 watt inverter. That is enough for several rooms with LED lamps, fans, TVs, computers, and even a small microwave, refrigerator, and room A/C. You could use the truck to charge the battery in a couple hours at 50 amps. But automotive alternators are very inefficient (70% or less). If you have a tractor or riding mower you might do better adding a PTO for a generator head.

    https://www.harborfreight.com/10000-...ead-45416.html (10 kW, $300)

    https://www.northerntool.com/shop/to...ct_21008_21008 (2600W, 5 HP, $400)

    https://theepicenter.com/blog/ac-dc-generator/

    Maybe also consider a steam power plant:

    http://www.backwoodshome.com/is-stea...n-your-future/

    https://www.tinytechindia.com/Renewa...-power-plants/

    https://claverton-energy.com/mini-st...le-energy.html

    And, for back-up use, a propane-powered generator should not require much maintenance, and you can get 4000 watts for under $300:

    https://www.walmart.com/ip/Sportsman...ator/202457598
    Last edited by PStechPaul; 09-13-2018 at 07:51 PM. Reason: links

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Dec 2016
    Posts
    206

    Default

    First off is if you didn't already know is to buy a generator before you actually need it. Bet you can't buy a generator of any kind anywhere on the east coast right now. We have a 5500 W bought from a big box for under $500.00 can't remember the exact cost. Whatever it cost it was worth it. Has ran our house through a couple ice storms and one tornado. I also use it to power my welder when I need to weld something that can't be moved to the shop.

    I fill the 5 gal tank in the fall then if I don't use it I syphon the gas out and use it in the lawn mowers. It has a fuel shutoff before the carb, if I run it I shut the fuel off and let it run dry. After 6 years it has never failed to start.

  4. #4
    Join Date
    Jan 2012
    Location
    Central Virginia
    Posts
    229

    Default

    I am a manufacturer rep. I rep a line of commercial generators. Monday morning there were around 26,000 units available in the warehouse in Savannah GA, ranging in size from 1000w to 12000w. By Tuesday afternoon at 4 pm there were 0 units available.
    Once several years ago when there was a major power outage in the mid-Atlantic, a customer bought a generator and had it in his back yard running a cord into the house to run some lights, fan and fridge. He woke up the next morning and could hear the engine running but nothing would work indoors. He went outside to check the breaker on the gen set and found it was gone. He found in its place was a push mower minus a blade running merrily along. Lesson to those with generators in suburban areas, chain and lock them up!
    just because it's "new" doesn't make it good or better, just because it's "old" doesn't make it bad or worse.
    It's only paranoia if they aren't really after you.

  5. #5
    Join Date
    Jan 2003
    Location
    On the Oil Coast,USA
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    19,038

    Default

    If it were me I would convert the generator you have to run on propane.Reason why is long term fuel storage.something you can't do with gasoline.

    Building a genset offers a few challenges that are hard to overcome without spending a good deal of time and money to the point it's just cheaper to buy one.
    I just need one more tool,just one!

  6. #6
    Join Date
    Jul 2012
    Location
    East Central Louisiana, USA
    Posts
    89

    Default

    Propane is definitely the way to go. I live in a hurricane prone area and have lived through several. Fuel availability is a major stumbling block for generators. Stations may have fuel in the tanks, but no power to pump it out and almost none have backup generators themselves.

    "New" ethanol blended gas formulations seem to go bad very quickly. Most preppers will rotate out their fuel stores every few months to keep it fresh.

    Also, as you already know, the new gas is tough on carbs if it is allowed to sit in them. Propane setups don't usually have that type of issue.

    I work in the power generation industry and my coworkers and I have had this discussion before. Propane always wins , hands down. Natural gas is good, too, if you have a robust supply.

    One other thing. Having an overly large generator isn't always a good thing. For continuous use, you should really get a genset with about twice the rating you actually need. This keeps the engine from working at max output all the time. Be honest with what your requirements actually are. Big generators will burn lots of fuel even at low loads. Your truck setup may sound like a good idea, but that big engine will waste a lot of hard to come by fuel.
    Last edited by Bluechips; 09-13-2018 at 10:10 PM.

  7. #7
    Join Date
    Jul 2007
    Location
    West Michigan
    Posts
    2,809

    Default

    Quote Originally Posted by Bluechips View Post
    Propane is definitely the way to go. I live in a hurricane prone area and have lived through several. Fuel availability is a major stumbling block for generators. Stations may have fuel in the tanks, but no power to pump it out and almost none have backup generators themselves.

    "New" ethanol blended gas formulations seem to go bad very quickly. Most preppers will rotate out their fuel stores every few months to keep it fresh.

    Also, as you already know, the new gas is tough on carbs if it is allowed to sit in them. Propane setups don't usually have that type of issue.

    I work in the power generation industry and my coworkers and I have had this discussion before. Propane always wins , hands down. Natural gas is good, too, if you have a robust supply.

    One other thing. Having an overly large generator isn't always a good thing. For continuous use, you should really get a genset with about twice the rating you actually need. This keeps the engine from working at max output all the time. Be honest with what your requirements actually are. Big generators will burn lots of fuel even at low loads. Your truck setup may sound like a good idea, but that big engine will waste a lot of hard to come by fuel.
    You also don't need to change the oil nearly as often with propane. It burns so much cleaner than gasoline that it doesn't contaminate the oil nearly as much.

    Brian
    OPEN EYES, OPEN EARS, OPEN MIND

    THINK HARDER

    BETTER TO HAVE TOOLS YOU DON'T NEED THAN TO NEED TOOLS YOU DON'T HAVE

    MY NAME IS BRIAN AND I AM A TOOLOHOLIC

  8. #8
    Join Date
    Apr 2011
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    SW Michigan
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    Right now all you need is an inverter, Amazon has a 2000 watt for $61, you have 2 12 batteries in the dodge, it's NOT 24v run the truck to charge the 2 & any more you can round up & run everything you have to have with the inverter. Keep the inverter close to the truck. I bought 2 4400 watt dual fuel propane & gas with 240v plugs for $250/ea NEW shipped, electric start, they work great. I have a 500 gallon & 6 100# tanks. Make sure you don't just turn the mains on the breaker box but pull the main out. Don't want to fry my son the lineman. If anyone wants to make a run I have a dozen or more Onans from 2500watt to 7500 watt & a 6500 watt diesel off a fire truck. Here's my dual fuels eBay item number:400783291524
    Last edited by flylo; 09-13-2018 at 10:40 PM.
    You can lead people to knowledge but you can't make them think.
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  9. #9
    Join Date
    May 2013
    Location
    Lancaster County PA
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    335

    Default

    Quote Originally Posted by wierdscience View Post
    If it were me I would convert the generator you have to run on propane.Reason why is long term fuel storage.something you can't do with gasoline.

    Building a genset offers a few challenges that are hard to overcome without spending a good deal of time and money to the point it's just cheaper to buy one.
    Yeah that is what I finally did after almost having the basement flooded during a severe storm. For years I used a 5000 watt generator setup in the shop with a suicide cord (cord with male plug at both ends) back feeding the 50 amp service running to the shop. One night while I was out of town we lost power after a couple days of rain and the sump pump had been running quite a bit. I tried to instruct my wife over the phone on how to do the switch over and had typed up instructions laminated to the generator. Even though I thought I had been very detailed with the instructions it's just not an easy thing to do if you have no background or experience with electrical circuits.

    I'm not sure she could have started the pull start Briggs anyway, it had quite a lot of compression. I had just decided to start the 5 hour drive home when the power came back on with less than an inch of water in the basement. After deciding that I needed a reliable back up generator that would switch automatically the question of what type of fuel came up. After some thought it was obvious that propane was the only choice if it was to be stored for a long time. I ended up putting in a 1000 gallon buried tank along with a Generac generator and a load rated 200 amp auto transfer switch. If you do all of the installation yourself it is really not that expensive.

    Also in our area propane is cheaper than fuel oil when comparing BTU to BTU. I have a propane stove in the family room that looks like a wood stove but burns propane and has a thermostat powered by a thermopile from the pilot light.
    I always set the thermostat in the family room slightly higher than the main furnace that runs on fuel oil in order to use more propane than fuel oil due to the price difference. We just had both tanks filled this week and I figured out the price difference based on the BTU value and again propane wins. We payed $2.559 per gallon for the fuel oil and $1.439 per gallon for the propane. Using the values of 140000 BTU per gallon for fuel oil and 91000 BTU per gallon for propane the propane price would need to be $1.669 to equal the cost of fuel oil. So at the price of $1.439 per gallon propane wins again. For many years in our area the prices were equal when comparing BTU of oil to BTU of propane but for about the last 4 or 5 years propane is cheaper. I'm glad I went with propane for the generator and if I am not at home when the power goes out my wife has no worries about power. I had thought about it for a long time but after finally deciding to go with propane and the automatic transfer I am really glad that was what what we did.

  10. #10
    Join Date
    Jan 2005
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    Ct
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    Miller Bobcat.
    Get some skills and let it pay for itself.
    Len

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