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OT? Whole House and Shop Back-Up Generator

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  • OT? Whole House and Shop Back-Up Generator

    I live in the heart of hurricane country and last year there were two that hit here. We evacuated for both of them mostly because the loss of power is almost certain and my wife can not tolerate the hot weather without AC. But neither one of us is eager to evacuate again and with the record of storms that have hit this area in the past two decades, one of which had a real record rainfall as well as the winds, I have determined that there is little danger of flooding at my location. So we have decided to install a whole house and shop, natural gas fueled generator.

    I am not a stranger to emergency generators. Several of the TV stations where I worked had them. And I have researched their purchase before, but that was some time ago and for a commercial installation, not a home.

    So far I have only one estimate that I got for planning purposes. It is for a Generac and from a company in Houston, about an hour or two away. I would much prefer to work with a local company so I am going into a search starting tomorrow morning. But that is not what I am posting about.

    What I want to know, preferably from people who have a home generator is what other brands are available and dependable.

    I know there are other details to the installation: changeover switch, other electrical work like running the lines, the gas installation, a good pad to locate the generator on, etc. So I am also asking about any other details that may or will come up.

    Any tips or concerns would be appreciated. Thanks in advance.
    Paul A.
    SE Texas

    And if you look REAL close at an analog signal,
    You will find that it has discrete steps.

  • #2
    I know nothing of alternate brands but my friend has a Generac he bought from Costco installed inside his detached heated garage.Installing them inside not recommended but outside at -40 probably would not start,he has a large louvered vent that opens the second Generator is started.


    • #3
      Generac make everything from junk to pro. take care.... all the low end stuff is Chinese motors... copies of honda or briggs. You get what you pay for.

      I have a 28 year old generac that has a 16hp Briggs Vanguard motor made in Japan. Works well still with close to 1000 hours on it. My neighbor just gave me a POS low end Costco Generac that barely ran, and blew out his house electrics when the neutral failed in the generator. "Brand" alone means nothing today. Even the lower end Kholer motors are junk. Choose wisely.

      If it was my money, for "whole house" I'd be looking at a 20-24hp Honda and quality alternator. Label on the outside means little. remember, rated hp on gasoline is NOT the same as natural gas. maybe 65%...
      Last edited by lakeside53; 02-05-2021, 01:05 AM.


      • #4
        Same here, I made my own, but I'd advise putting the thing up at least a foot over grade, if not higher.

        Yeah, I hear you that you don't think it will flood there. Just remember, the engineers that designed the Fukushima power plant did not think theirs would flood either.

        And as I recall, you are in a lowish area to begin with. These days, historical data is worthless, it's a new season every year, with new, improved, more severe storms.
        2801 3147 6749 8779 4900 4900 4900

        Keep eye on ball.
        Hashim Khan

        It's just a box of rain, I don't know who put it there.


        • #5
          About 6 years ago, I helped arrange for the installation of an automatic backup generator for an elderly, disabled friend of mine We considered Generac and Kohler. After reviewing the information, we went with a Kohler 14RESA for about $7,500 installed (not including the natural gas line routing). There was an early circuit board failure that would have cost around $1,500 to have replaced, had it not been under warranty. They pay a yearly maintenance fee to have the generator inspected and serviced. It is a pretty sophisticated unit that exercises itself and logs all sorts of data. I believe the installer can actually monitor the unit online and keep abreast of any error codes, or maintenance required.
          JHC Dayton, OH


          • #6
            Originally posted by Jim Caudill View Post
            About 6 years ago, I helped arrange for the installation of an automatic backup generator for an elderly, disabled friend of mine We considered Generac and Kohler

            I like both if we are talking about 30kw systems.

            Sometimes it is determined by location. Meaning I am in nat gas land, fuel of choice for cost. means something, and storage.

            I am a big fan of a nice solid diesel gen set. The fuel can be stable for some time. But you have to "bunker" it, the fuel. JR
            My old yahoo group. Bridgeport Mill Group



            • #7
              Yes, I believe I said "natural gas fueled". I also plan to have it above the floor level of my house which is a concrete slab on the ground. Gravel and sand is cheap and my back lawn will only need to be built up a few inches.

              Not looking at low end units. Lowe's, Home Depot, Harbor Freight; no, no, no. I have looked at the electric loads in my house and believe about a 22K unit will be about right if we don't run the dryer and oven at the same time. In the Generac line I can go that big and still stay air cooled. Any larger and they say it would need to be water cooled and that provides another point of failure that I would like to avoid.

              I have found at least a half dozen companies in town that do this kind of work and will be making some phone calls in the morning.
              Paul A.
              SE Texas

              And if you look REAL close at an analog signal,
              You will find that it has discrete steps.


              • #8
                I just finished installing a brand new Generac 20K backup generator for a friend yesterday. To say I was not impressed would be a understatement. First, that class of generators are sometimes known as "screamers" because they spin at 3600 rpm, they earn that name. Next, it is overly complicated, it has microprocessor control and even a stepper motor for the throttle control. Its no secret that generators with circuit boards are common failure items and very expensive to replace. Brand new out of the box, we had to work on a stuck natural/propane gas switching valve that was SEVERLY stuck, after nearly a half hour we got it free and switched. There is reliability in simplicity. Those thinking the Generac backup generators are much more robust than average generators are wrong, nothing spectacular to be seen, metal gauges, hardware and such are not high quality and LOTS of plastic. I cannot comment on the newer Kohler gensets, I have not seen / worked on one but suspect similar to the Generac.

                I am a fan of more commercial/industrial duty generators. My personal favorite is older Onan generators. Another friend bought one about a week ago used, 70's vintage that he helped remove from a motorhome. It was only a 5kw unit but weighed in at about the same as the new Generac 20K unit. The generator had not ran in over 5 years and I assumed it would need some TLC such as the carb removed and cleaned before it would run. I was wrong, I had it running and generating full power within a half hour of unloading it from his truck. It is a 1800 rpm unit as all the true high quality units are, as a result it was extremely quiet. No circuit boards or electronics in the unit.

                I have one of those older Onan 5K gensets for my backup, installed in my shed ( most models intended to be enclosed or indoors). I converted it to dual fuel so I can run propane or gasoline at will, propane is my first choice (no natural gas here). Yes it is only 5K BUT in a emergency situation I do not need all life's luxuries, the refrigerator, freezer and such items are accommodated plus much more. I can sacrifice running my welders and machines in a emergency situation. IF running on gasoline or propane a consideration is that the larger the genset the more fuel it consumes, even unloaded, not a good possibility to run out after only a couple days.

                I realize that many/most would not want a older used generator and understand that. Keep in mind though that a 30 yr old commercial Onan will no doubt outlast that new Generac many times over along with being more dependable and far less expensive. Backup generators rarely have many operating hours on them, not rare to see a 30yr old genset with a couple hundred hours. Onan makes generators all the way into the megawatt range so bigger is available. Right now locally, on marketplace there is a 30kw Onan with low hours for $1000, not that unusual to see. Often the larger they are the cheaper they are, its a market demand thing. I have seen and worked on older Kohler gensets and they parallel Onan ones, just not a common.

                My love of older commercial gensets is much like the love here for old American iron machine tools, a lot of them here older than their operators and producing nice parts. There are guys here with WW2 10EE lathes and also guys with Harbor Freight lathes, generators are not that far different.

                JTiers will probably chime in, I recall him working on a neighbors older Onan genset, around 12KW if I recall.
                Last edited by Sparky_NY; 02-05-2021, 06:49 AM.


                • #9
                  We sell, install, and service HSG. We were a Generic dealer many years ago and went
                  thru them going bell up. They drew a line in the sand and said we will support from this
                  model year forward. No support backwards. Not good.
                  Years later we started installing Briggs and Stratton HSG. We have about 50 of them out
                  and have had great luck with them. Briggs uses many off the shelf common parts.
                  Generic does not.
                  On another forum (farming forum) one of the guys works for a large industrial electrical
                  company. They were constantly being asked to install HSG and really did not know the
                  best of the lot.
                  His boss said get one of each and tear into them and see what you find.
                  They ended up going with BS. Parts available all over the world, not so with
                  some other brands.
                  Location and service is the most important in our view.
                  We have lots of installers in our area, but few service men.
                  As JT said make sure it is well above grade.
                  Use SLA batteries, not standard lead acid.
                  Just my .02
                  olf20 / Bob


                  • #10
                    Several years ago I was shopping for a whole house generator and automatic transfer switch. Found a local company with many years experience in the sales and service of therse generators. His basic feedback was that Generac home units were not the best choice based on their years of field experience. He recomended Brigs and Stratton. My unit has a fairly small foot print, and looks like a vertical air conditioner unit. Mine is a 100amp unit with auto start and transfer, with a over head valve 2 cylinder engine. It has work flawlessly for years.


                    • #11
                      My dad has been quite happy with his 15-kW Generac installed about 10 yrs ago. We live in blizzard country, think snow, eh!
                      For myself I would prefer a slow-speed diesel set (say 1800 RPM) but that starts getting expensive, usually at least 25 kW commercial/industrial stuff. Onan and Kohler used to make some very good units, but again, not cheap. One good place to look, would be to see what 24x7 data centers are installing nowadays. Or hospitals, see what brand they are using.


                      • #12
                        A question for those of you that have natural gas powered generators. How dependable is the gas supply during times of power failure? It seems to me that if power is down in the area that could include pumping stations.

                        As for the Onan units we have had a couple of the HGJAB 5,500 wat air cooled models in motorhomes. The first one failed with around 150 hours on it and cost nearly half the price of a new unit to be repaired. This was after religiously maintaining it and running it for a minimum of an hour a month as recommended by the manufacturer. Our second one is still working fine, but the maintenance routine has now been changed to exercising it a minimum of 2 hours per month. I must admit I do like the minimal noise level.

                        Over the years I've had a few other generators including Kohler and Pincor. Both were loud compared to the Oman's. The Pincor which still resides in the garage is one of those screamers. It gets the job done, but you don't want it in close proximity to where you're working. After an hour or so you're ready to shut it down and live in the cold and dark.


                        • #13
                          I installed a natural gas Generac in 2011 and have never had a problem with the natural gas supply.


                          • #14
                            Paul, go here and ask.

                            You won't find any love for Generac there as they are the cheapest failure prone junk on the market.
                            I'd suggest an Onan from the 70's to the early 90's. I have a 15 kW Kohler on Nat gas. It can hammer away for weeks at 1800 rpm as opposed to the 3600 rpm screamers that can go bang.
                            Last edited by I make chips; 02-05-2021, 09:25 AM.


                            • #15
                              We are in New Hampshire and loose our power often (10-15 times a year) due to tress falling on the main transmission line into our town. Restoration is usually quite fast, but 1 to 2 days out of power does happen. When we built our home 11 years ago, a back up generator was a must have. We have a Generac 8KW that powers the kitchen, bedroom, heat, freezer, well pump. and a few other things. I thought about a whole house unit, but the fuel consumption was a deciding factor to go with a smaller unit. Even with no load, the large, whole house units consume a lot of fuel (propane in our case) . The only major issue we have had was burning out a starter when it tried to start at -25ยบ one morning during a power failure. A change to Mobil-1 5W30 and an heater on the oil filter and under the battery seemed to have cured that. In my area well over 50% of people have a backup generator. Most are Generac, but the neighbor across the street has a Siemens. Our unit is very quiet and we can't hear it running from much of the house.
                              Grantham, New Hampshire