Need power, but first need help
September 11, 2018 5:55 PM   Subscribe

I recently moved into a more rural area and would like to have a generator backup power supply. The house is wired for a generator and there is a twist lock receptacle in the garage.

I would be interested in running lights, furnace, water purification system, refrigerator, freezer in the case of an outage. A microwave would be great as well.

I found this generator and it seems like a great idea, dual fuel, also the reviews are glowing.

One part I am having difficulty with is where to store the generator. I have a barn, but it is about 200 feet away from the house. If the weather is severe, might it be a bad idea to have the generator in the barn? The garage is small and has two cars in it already.

So, what I would love advice on is:

Is the above generator seem like a good choice?
Is all I need is the generator, a cable long enough to reach the twist lock outlet and fuel?
Is storing the generator in the barn an acceptable idea?
How much gas and or propane should I store and what is the safe approach for that. The barn is not insulated in any way.

Thanks very much

posted by silsurf to Home & Garden (8 answers total)
Is storing the generator in the barn an acceptable idea?

If you go this route, be sure to tarp and bungee cord your generator when not in use.

Fuel storage: Have you met the Jerrycan?
posted by MonkeyToes at 6:10 PM on September 11, 2018

Having lost a generator to theft, wherever you store it makes sure you can lock it down somehow. Especially in some of the rural areas it seems like thieves are out looking for equipment. Honestly I'd move a car to the barn and store it in the (hopefully locked) garage, that way you don't have to mess with cords. The longer the power cord the less electricity you'll get so that's something to think about.
posted by Rufous-headed Towhee heehee at 7:25 PM on September 11, 2018 [1 favorite]

Not only does a long cable cause voltage drop, that lower voltage can be bad for appliances like fridges that have a motor. Assuming you are on 110V, 200' of cable is a hell of a run.
posted by deadwax at 10:49 PM on September 11, 2018

Yeah my main concern there is that your cable run is super long, especially for how much power you want to push. You might have trouble finding an appropriate power cord in that length.

At a glance, that generator seems like it's plenty powerful enough. 7200 watts at 120 volts is 60 amps, and the loads you want to run seem like they should fit into 60 amps no problem, especially since all of them besides the lights are intermittent rather than continuous. (I'm assuming you're running CFLs or LEDs, not incandescent lights.) At my house we store about 10 gallons of gas for the generator, plus whatever is in the generator's tank. If it's not storm season (i.e. winter) we put stabilizer in the gas so it doesn't go bad on us.
posted by Anticipation Of A New Lover's Arrival, The at 2:33 AM on September 12, 2018 [1 favorite]


I was not thinking about running the cord from the barn, just storing it there and then when needed moving it closer to the house? What is a reasonable cord run? I thought I would get a 25-30 cord just to get the generator away from the house a bit for noise and fumes.

Any thoughts about that particular model or the duel fuel option?
posted by silsurf at 4:56 AM on September 12, 2018

I don't know anything about that specific generator, but in general: open cage portables are loud and there are tradeoffs between gasoline and propane. Gasoline has higher energy density but it can't be stored indefinitely; propane has lower energy density (so the maximum power output would be lower), but it's easier to store. As long as you're realistic about what that noise will really mean for you and you understand your fuel tradeoffs (you are comfortable using up your stored gasoline periodically in your lawnmower or a car, or you know the lower output of propane would still be adequate for your needs) it would be OK for emergency use.

But yeah, high current, twist lock extension cords are expensive and heavy. You're going to hit a practical limit of cable well before you get the thing far enough away for the noise not to be bothersome. People use portable generators that way all the time, but the noise is significant. Also you say the house is wired for a generator, but make sure that there's a transfer switch or some sort of breaker arrangement that isolates your house from the power grid when the generator's in use. You don't want to electrocute a lineman.
posted by fedward at 1:37 PM on September 12, 2018

I have a much smaller Champion generator - 3500 watts and gasoline only and it's plenty loud. It's fine but not great, mostly because I have never needed it and it suffers from neglect. Stale gasoline is a real thing and a real pain. I had to pay for service because it would not start - they found that even with running it every three months, using fuel stabilizer, shutting the gas valve off while running and letting it burn through the remaining gas in the supply tube - it had stale gas in the bottom of the tank. I have had to replace the electric-start battery once, and it needs a battery tender hooked up or else cold weather drains the charge and the battery goes dead permanently.

Plus you have to store the gas somewhere. And that gas goes stale in the can - so you have to keep track of it and pour it into the car, then top it off with new gas from the gas station so the stale gas doesn't stall your car...

So I think the propane is a good option, but it won't solve the problem of stale gas sitting in the tank. I'd run it on propane only and only use gas if you need it.
posted by sol at 6:18 PM on September 12, 2018


thanks, great answers.
I know the noise will be an issue no matter what, but for emergency power I guess that's what gonna happen. I imagine there are dampened generators, or the kind that are plumbed for permanent emergency systems, but for now we are not going that route.

the fuse box has a MAIN-OFF-GENERATOR master switch, thanks for that input.

Sounds like gas storage is really an issue and I guess all I can do is stay on top of it, but that does not explain how to deal with the gas that is in the generator tank?? Run it out after usesage?
posted by silsurf at 7:32 AM on September 13, 2018

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