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Postby lynnette » Fri Nov 04, 2011 7:50 am

After this latest storm with no power for 6 days, we have decided to get a generator before the next one!
We do not want to spend the money for a full-house generator, but are thinking about the portable ones that use gas. For those that have them, how do you hook them up to your house? We have a forced hot water boiler that uses oil for our baseboard heat and hot water - would it even be possible to run that off of a portable generator? I don't think it uses much electricity, mostly oil. Beyond the heat and hot water, I would just like to power the microve, fridge and a couple lights. I have heard some people say they hook these gas generators up themselves via the dryer plug - is that even safe? Does someone have a good electrician they can recommend? Has anyone had this done recently and remember approximately how much it cost to have an electrician set you up to connect the generator the best / safest way?
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Re: Generator

Postby townielifer » Fri Nov 04, 2011 8:49 am


We purchased a generator many years ago and had an electrician wire it for us. We have 7 switches downstairs by the fuse box that we turn on once the generator is plugged in. The plug is outside and once powered up and plugged in, the generator takes care of one refrigerator, furnace (we have forced hot water w/oil for heat, as well), water pump, hot water heater, fully powers one room downstairs and one room upstairs, some outlets and a few lights in the kitchen, and main lights in the hallway, basement, and bedrooms (outlets do not work). We run an extension cord or two, within the house, to power one tv, if we have cable. We currently don't have our stove or microwave wired in but have always had a portable microwave in the house. Your generator wattage would depend on what you wanted to have hard-wired into it - I think we have a little extra wattage on ours just in case. Our generator runs for 8 hours, or so on 5 gallons of gas and is turned off at night. The biggest problem is typically getting gas if there is a major outage but that hasn't been a huge issue yet. The electrician we used is no longer in business but we typically use Custom Electric if we need anything. I think it cost us around $2,000 +/- for the generator and wiring but that was also 12 years ago.
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Re: Generator

Postby Brian McCarthy » Fri Nov 04, 2011 1:01 pm

safest way is always to call a professional.

As posted, they will let you know what size you need etc. Several co-workers are in that process right now.

To 'roll your own' you have to be very comfortable with electricity, knowing its limits and such. For example, how much voltage drop occurs if you put 100' of a 16guage extension cord (btw, that is the "standard duty" cables you'll see at HD/Lowes) between the unit and your fridge? Guess what, you'll burn that fridges condenser out pretty quick.

Its not anything to play with/take chances with.

Brian McCarthy
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Re: Generator

Postby andysinnh » Wed Nov 09, 2011 11:49 am

We currently have a whole-house generator at our house (fed by natural gas), but I also had a portable generator setup installed at my father's house last winter (similar to what I used to have at our house before the whole-house 2 years ago). The key is to get an installation done that has the proper outside plug-in for the generator, and then the proper transfer switch inside the house to easily (and safely) switch the power from street to generator when the power goes out. The equipment isn't cheap, and the installation should be done by someone who knows what they're doing - but the benefits are definitely there if you amortize it over many years.

For both installs we used David Blais out of Merrimack, who runs DRB electric (on columbia circle, if I remember correctly) - his number is 424-2712, and you can tell him I sent you (although I get no financial benefit from this). His prices are very competitive and he and his team stand behind what they do. As a comparative, when we had our whole house generator quoted, we had a couple larger companies come in with quotes that were shocking to say the least (at least maybe we were'nt expecting the tier of cost), and Dave's quote came in about 40 percent less than what the others quoted. His quote for the portable generator setup was similarly reasonable, and he came in on-budget with an excellent install.

Andy Schneider
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Re: Generator

Postby FromMerrimack » Wed Nov 16, 2011 5:36 pm

I borrowed a 5000W generator for 5 days for the October storm. It had 4 plugs on it. I shut off the PSNH main breaker and made a direct connect for the furnace (FHW by oil) for hot water with one outlet. I then ran extension cords for power as needed, someimes unplugging one thing for another. Had minimum lights, TV (and DVD before Comcast came on), refridgerator, freezer and a nighttime medical device. There was a 220 outlet but I did not hook up my stove this time. Lost no food and could take a shower. I've decided to buy my own and will have no problem doing the same thing the few times a year we will be needing it.
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Re: Generator

Postby bobandgeri » Wed Nov 16, 2011 9:58 pm

Pretty easy to self install if you are handy - but if not call an electrician.

Check out this site for general information about what is involved.
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Re: Generator

Postby Speeder » Thu Nov 17, 2011 3:54 pm

I bought a 5500W (8250W surge) generator during the 2008 ice storm for $699. It is a Briggs & Stratton, has four 120V plugs and a 4-prong twist-lok 240v plug.

My standard setup for extended storms is to run a heavy duty extension cord thru the window into the kitchen, to power the fridge, a couple lights, and the TV. I also bought a 120V and 240V plug ends, and use Romex to hardwire my boiler (120V) and well pump (240V), both of which run thru the basement window. I have the wiring process down to an art at this point (pretty sad, I know..), it takes about 30 mins. At some point soon I will probably install a better system to make it a less intrusive and faster process. But this setup gives me heat and hot/cold water, plus whatever else I can plug in for smaller items.

If you get a portable generator and want a similar system, make sure you buy everything (plug ends, Romex, etc) when you buy the generator. I wasn’t able to buy the 240V plug during the ice storm as everywhere was sold out, so I had no water for 5 days. A few months later when I noticed they were back in stock, I bought it. Also, buy a few 5-gallon gas cans, as I know these were sold out during the recent storm.

The generator I have has been slightly redesigned, and is now known as the “Storm Responder” or something like that. Home Depot has them for $799. Mine has been very reliable (I have 200+ hours on it) and always starts on the first or second pull. I would definitely recommend it to anyone who wants to run their heat, water, a fridge and a few other things.

The only down side to having a generator this size is that its pretty thirsty. It goes through about 10-12 gallons of gas a day.
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Re: Generator

Postby tastyratz » Mon Nov 21, 2011 11:59 am

Buy as small as you think you can get away with, gas gets EXPENSIVE.
I have a champion generator and was highly impressed. Tractor supply sells them and it is a GREAT brand with GREAT suppot. 24 hour phone support to an engineer and you get right through when you call is very handy.
Mine is 7000w peak 6000 running, and it is very much overkill for my whole home. I was going through 12 gallons a day or so in the storm. I got it because I wanted electric start knowing a generator that sits unmaintained that 1 time you forgot will result in one very sore arm someday. That was the smallest available at the time. I also wanted 220v so I could plug right into the panel easily and use my stove.
I have an electric stove and oil heat. If you have electric heat, you need bigger.
I can run my tv, my heat lamp in the bathroom, my stove cooktop, the oven, the heater, every light in the house, 2 laptops, and a server without coming close to popping a breaker. I think I could easily manage with a 3-4000w for the whole house by intelligent management without much compromise.

"Hypothetically" you can use a dryer plug and be perfectly safe if you are not an idiot.
There are laws on commercially installed generators and they require a transfer switch. If you have a connection to the poles with you generator hooked up it will both die put trying to power the neighborhood as well as potentially electrocute and kill a lineman fixing power, and be liable for it. If you switch your main breaker off first it is totally safe. How confident are you in your ability to adhere to that? it's a personal question. If you feel you would never make that mistake then a dryer plug with the appropriate amperage rating for the draw would work. Don't get a generator that puts out 30a 220v and use a 20a 220v outlet, etc. You then are in full control of what devices work by plugging them in or using them, be smart.

You can also get a transfer switch setup that basically operates as a sub panel for a few small dedicated circuits. This would not be the whole house, but just what you determine as critical
AND you can also get a new main panel with transfer switch capabilities right in the whole thing by a company such as reliance, but that can be expensive to contract out. You don't need to determine what to power or not power like a small sub panel this way though.

Make sure you have a place outdoor you can put a generator. Don't put it where fresh air comes into the house or run it in a garage or porch, fumes kill. Consider a small structure to help deal with the elements and noise. Consider features like a large mufffler, or inverter functionality. Many generators put out crude power electronics do not agree with, inverters always output a perfect sine wave that will not damage them but are expensive.
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