1 2
mtn
mtn MegaDork
9/10/18 11:00 a.m.

My brother is in NC, and my wife had a minor freakout about the fact that we don't own a generator when he mentioned that he was checking his when I called him. I would normally tell my wife that we don't need a generator and that we are about 600 miles from the nearest salt water, but I wouldn't mind having a generator just because--that, and a 10 day power outage has occurred on my street in the last 10 years. So it is not wholly unreasonable to get one. 


With that in mind, I'd need it to do the following:

1: Run the sump pump (we have 2, on battery backup, but that won't help if we have an extended outage)

2: Run a few LED's

 

Then, I'd want it to do the following below--but I don't NEED this by any stretch: 

3: Run a mini fridge

4: Run a 5000BTU window unit air conditioner.

 

What should I be looking for on craigslist? Are any of the harbor freights good options? What is the difference in an Inverter and a conventional generator? 

Suprf1y
Suprf1y UltimaDork
9/10/18 11:26 a.m.

I have two, a small 1000 W and a 5000 W. We mostly use the 1000 W because the power rarely goes out for long and we use it mostly for lights, TV and satellite. If it goes out longer we'll need the bigger one which works fine for pretty much anything I need as long as we're not trying to do too much. If I bought another one I would go bigger. It will run anything I have on the 120 plug/setting but when I set it to 220 and plug it into the transfer switch it won't power any large draws on each leg of the 120

A few things I've learned,

You will never regret going bigger

The Briggs/Generac and Champion are decent units, but more money buys more quiet. If you can't stand the noise of a cheap generator spend the money and buy a Honda or Yamaha, but they are very expensive and in my experience not more reliable.

The inverter generators are better for electronics, though we've never had a problem with our non-inverter types.

 

STM317
STM317 SuperDork
9/10/18 11:43 a.m.

You're a recent dad right? Or will soon be? Your power needs might change with a little one. Might be a good idea to have a generator sized properly for your fridge and proper HVAC.

We've been in our semi-rural house for 2.5 years now. For the first 2 years, we had 1 or 2 power outages longer than 20 minutes. It was no big deal. They either happened while we were at work, or we lit some candles and made a date night out of it.

Since my daughter was born 4 months ago we've had 3 outages over an hour. And they become much more of a big deal when there's a freezer full of nearly irreplaceable breast milk and a child that needs to stay just the right amount of warm/cool to keep from screaming.

So here I am seriously considering a natural gas, whole house backup generator. I don't want my wife or MIL to have to worry about moving a portable generator outside and struggling to get it to work if the power goes out and I'm not home. I just want the power to come back on automatically. Disclaimer: we have access to cheap natural gas, and we plan on living here for a long time so the cost is less concerning. YMMV

1988RedT2
1988RedT2 UltimaDork
9/10/18 12:06 p.m.

I bought a cheap Coleman unit over 12 years ago, about 8000 watts.  It's come in handy a few times, but it rarely gets used.  Even so, it's good to have and I don't regret buying it.   I try to start it once or twice a year.  Probably wouldn't be a bad thing to do today.

I'll second the suggestion to go big or bigger.  For me, it was to comfortably run the well pump, or a 5000 BTU air conditioner, and it's done both.

Mine has a Tecumseh engine on it.  11 or 13 HP, I can't recall which.  The thing is loud.  Like LOUD.  Quiet costs money.

Honestly, now is a terrible time to buy, but you gotta do what you gotta do.

mtn
mtn MegaDork
9/10/18 12:22 p.m.
STM317 said:

You're a recent dad right? Or will soon be? Your power needs might change with a little one. Might be a good idea to have a generator sized properly for your fridge and proper HVAC.

Since my daughter was born 4 months ago we've had 3 outages over an hour. And they become much more of a big deal when there's a freezer full of nearly irreplaceable breast milk and a child that needs to stay just the right amount of warm/cool to keep from screaming.

So here I am seriously considering a natural gas, whole house backup generator. I don't want my wife or MIL to have to worry about moving a portable generator outside and struggling to get it to work if the power goes out and I'm not home. I just want the power to come back on automatically. Disclaimer: we have access to cheap natural gas, and we plan on living here for a long time so the cost is less concerning. YMMV

This was actually the exact reason that I decided to post the thread. My initial thought though was that I have a yeti cooler and easy access to ice, even in a power outage. Now I'm thinking I'll need to get one to run a chest freezer (that I don't yet own). 

 

 

STM317
STM317 SuperDork
9/10/18 1:31 p.m.

In reply to mtn :

I know that people throughout history have done just fine raising infants without generators, but it seems like a pretty easy way for me to make our lives safer and easier. It's a luxury item, but it's not glamorous and I'm sure it's going to be much more useful than a hot tub or whatever other nonsense that money might get spent on.

mtn
mtn MegaDork
9/10/18 1:38 p.m.
STM317 said:

In reply to mtn :

I know that people throughout history have done just fine raising infants without generators, but it seems like a pretty easy way for me to make our lives safer and easier. It's a luxury item, but it's going to be much more useful than a hot tub or whatever other nonsense that money might get spent on.

Well, there is more to it than that. First, here is some history during which people have done just fine: 

 

Yes, I know that there are a billion things going on there--modern medicine and vaccines, safety requirements for... everything, etc. But my point is that "back in the day", people died. This is an easy win.

Aside from that, my MIL has MS. If their power goes out, she cannot get up the stairs to her bedroom (power chair lift), and she'd probably end up in the hospital without some semblance of climate control. So if I have something that can provide that for her (at our house or theirs), then it is worth it as well.

 

That, and we live in an area that floods with enough regularity that if my sump pumps were to fail, I'd be in for a week or three of cleanup in the basement that will cost more than the generator.

Robbie
Robbie PowerDork
9/10/18 2:04 p.m.

This is exactly why I installed a home backup generator.

The family and I are frequently gone for the weekend, and I travel for work. I have seen one of our sumps filling so fast it was basically a garden hose full blast into the pit.

If the power goes out at exactly the wrong moment, I have about 45-60 minutes to get a generator running and plugged in to keep the basement dry. 

The battery backup generator runs automatically in an outage and is powered by natural gas (in an epic disaster, it can run on propane too but I'll need lots of tanks to feed the beast). It also starts itself once a week and does a self test.

The automation and the difference in maintenance is what pushed me to the built in unit.

If it saves our basement once, it'll be worth it.

Floating Doc
Floating Doc HalfDork
9/10/18 3:03 p.m.

I've got a Yamaha 4000 volt. Bought on ebay. Went with this power level since I was concerned about my wife being able to move it. 

The next one up is about 40 lbs more, wish I had bought it. Definitely get the larger one. Mine won't run the HVAC.

Bought it in 2005, finally ran it for the first time in 2016. 

 

Pete Gossett
Pete Gossett MegaDork
9/10/18 3:59 p.m.

In reply to mtn :

You should be more concerned with losing power, and thus heat, in the winter. Unless of course you have a fireplace/wood-burner/corn stove/etc. 

mtn
mtn MegaDork
9/10/18 4:04 p.m.
Pete Gossett said:

In reply to mtn :

You should be more concerned with losing power, and thus heat, in the winter. Unless of course you have a fireplace/wood-burner/corn stove/etc. 

Good point. I just generally don't worry about this as much as I do flooding; I can always make heat somehow. 

Toyman01
Toyman01 MegaDork
9/10/18 4:07 p.m.

If you can afford it, get the inverter. I have 4 Honda 2000eu. One for each service truck plus one for the office. They are outstanding generators. Start every time, quiet, will run quite a bit of stuff. Mine will run a mini fridge and a 5000 btu AC without much trouble, as long as they don't try to start at the same time. 

logdog
logdog UltraDork
9/10/18 4:08 p.m.

I have an 8000 watt Yamaha that will basically run the house as long as you don't try and fire everything up at once. 

Like most of the other posters I would say bigger is better.  We have had several 7-10 day outages (The generator has a few hundred hours on it now) and its nice to have the capacity to run whatever you want.  The first part of your list could be covered by a small generator but I think you would quickly wish for something bigger if its your sole power source and you have a long outage.

Im not sure what the used market is like for generators by you, but most of them I see around me are either 90% of the new price or actually more expensive than you can buy new.  Like 500 bucks for a 400 dollar Harbor Freight Special.

Since you asked about Harbor Freight I would be hesitant to buy one simply due to parts availability.  I know you can find parts online, but most small engine places are going to have whatever you may need for something with a Briggs/Honda/Yamaha/Etc in stock.  If your luck is like mine, you will need parts NOW.  Im not sure how well they hold up.  I just know that by far, most of the ones I see for sale used are from HF (winches are the same way).  Not sure if its because the price in is cheap so people buy/use/dump them, or if there are durability issues.  

In my dream world I would have a propane powered automatic standby generator.  However hooking up the gas powered one to the transfer switch isn't a big deal.  

I seem to recall seeing some reasonably priced ones in the Northern Tool catalog that had Honda engines.  I would look for something at least 6500 running watts.  I was on the fence about buying a 5000 watt to save a few bucks and Im really glad I spent the money.

 

logdog
logdog UltraDork
9/10/18 4:11 p.m.
Toyman01 said:

If you can afford it, get the inverter. I have 4 Honda 2000eu. One for each service truck plus one for the office. They are outstanding generators. Start every time, quiet, will run quite a bit of stuff. Mine will run a mini fridge and a 5000 btu AC without much trouble, as long as they don't try to start at the same time. 

We have one of those we use at the racetrack.  They really are amazing generators with how quiet and fuel efficient they are.  

stuart in mn
stuart in mn UltimaDork
9/10/18 5:48 p.m.

There are a number of online calculators available to figure out what size generator you need, plug in the things you want to run and it gives you a kilowatt value.  The second part of the equation is getting set up to be able to connect it and run it safely, you need an interlock or transfer switch of some kind so you're not backfeeding through a plug with a suicide cord.  Again, there are a number of acceptable ways to go about that as well, but they will require the services of an electrician.

kabel
kabel Dork
9/10/18 9:20 p.m.

Went through this struggle last year here in FL.
Did not end up buying one. Didn't buy one this year either and hope we do not regret not doing so while things were quiet.

We depend on electricity for all the creature comforts/necessities where I live including a well pump (submerged) for our water and sump pump for our septic.
Biggest unknown for our situation is the (start-up) power draw of the well or sump. So I think I would need a 7k+ w peak generator. Then on top of that have a transfer switch installed as the well pump is hardwired.
Also noted was sound level, really struggled with wether to shell out the additional exorbitant amount of money for something quiet.

Best of luck in you decision making. I truly hope you do not need to have the generator on hand!

EastCoastMojo
EastCoastMojo Mod Squad
9/10/18 9:26 p.m.

We ended up putting a car muffler on our generator to help quiet it up. Still nowhere as quiet as a car, but better. This was not a direct bolt on lol.

I think anything on craigslist right now will be priced at a premuim. 

Fladiver64
Fladiver64 New Reader
9/10/18 9:47 p.m.

I have one of these https://www.harborfreight.com/engines-generators/gas-engine-generators/2000-watt-super-quiet-inverter-generator-62523.html runs nearly as quiet as a Honda at a much lower cost. I have over 200 hour on mine and still starts on first pull. The other advantage is you can get a cable to connect two of them together for more current capability.

 

mtn
mtn MegaDork
9/11/18 8:21 a.m.
EastCoastMojo said:

We ended up putting a car muffler on our generator to help quiet it up. Still nowhere as quiet as a car, but better. This was not a direct bolt on lol.

I think anything on craigslist right now will be priced at a premuim. 

I'll keep an eye out for awhile--it isn't like I NEED it right now, or even ever if you consider that I have inlaws 8 blocks away, my parents are within an  hour drive, a place that could be considered a bugout compound including a generator 4 hours away, a credit card and hotels all over... 

 

Besides, I don't think that the craigslist market in Chicago is going to be crazy for generators when a hurricane comes in. 

joey48442
joey48442 PowerDork
9/11/18 8:25 a.m.
EastCoastMojo said:

We ended up putting a car muffler on our generator to help quiet it up. Still nowhere as quiet as a car, but better. This was not a direct bolt on lol.

I think anything on craigslist right now will be priced at a premuim. 

That’s what I always wonder about. Can’t you just buy a Honda muffler and adapt it to some cheap generator?  Is there an inherent reason why the Honda is so much quieter?

 

 

1988RedT2
1988RedT2 UltimaDork
9/11/18 8:49 a.m.

Keep in mind when selecting a generator that the starting current requirement for motors (such as those that drive pumps, etc.) is significantly higher than the running current.

slowride
slowride Dork
9/11/18 9:18 a.m.

My parents have a Coleman (I think), it has a Subaru Robin engine in it. Probably somewhere around 4000 watts. They used it to power a full-size fridge, sump pumps, lights, and random stuff like charging phones for over a week in 2012 when a storm knocked out the power and ComEd got overwhelmed. One they realized the power wasn't coming back on, it was a day long search to find a generator, and I ended up getting it at Home Depot in Peoria. And it was the last one. Way better to have it before you need it, although I think it's only been used once since then.

imgon
imgon Reader
9/11/18 9:50 a.m.

The important thing if you want something to run that is hard wired is to make sure to get a transfer switch with a small panel. Then just have a cord run from the switch out to a receptacle somewhere convenient outside. You really don't need a huge one. I have a HF (maybe 3800 running watts?) That runs most of our 1200 sqft house. Well pump, fridge, micro, lights, furnace. Our only limitation is can run the micro if the well pump is running. 

poopshovel again
poopshovel again MegaDork
9/11/18 9:53 a.m.

Predators from HF get rave reviews...if you can still find one, which I kinda doubt is the case. As someone else mentioned, you’ll have to shell out cash for quiet. Our “entry-level” generac is as loud as the predator.

KyAllroad (Jeremy)
KyAllroad (Jeremy) PowerDork
9/11/18 10:24 a.m.

About 10 years ago we had a catastrophic ice storm that knocked out power to the region.  My FIL was on constant high flow oxygen (concentrators draw 1,500 watts each and he was on three of them 24/7). 

He went to the hospital and I payed a premium price for a Briggs 8,500 watt generator (all that was available) and while it did a killer job of powering the house, it was hideously expensive and used 5 gallons of gas every 8 hours.  I went with the completely illegal hookup method of pulling my meter base and running a 220 cord from the genset to the lugs that feed the house (big alligator clips) but that air-gapped the house from the grid.  Then I could just throw breakers for the stuff I wanted to run (lights, fridge, space heaters) and what I didn't (heat pump was too big a draw).

If I could swing the money, getting the natural gas fed ones that is permanently installed is absolutely the way to go.  Just be cautious of the placement.  My idiot ex and her moron husband nearly killed my kids with theirs due to carbon monoxide creeping into the house when it was running.

1 2
Our Preferred Partners
f3AksJCxtV8oPLHjkX9QEDAsZfvEC0Q3pQfnr9YYaKLDwZl4h3AAk7UcgKbKQSAK