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Our recent power outage got my husband and I talking about getting a generator at the new place. We used to live up there, but "in town" (just a small village really) and we would lose power 1-3 times a year. At that time we were on city water so at least we had water.

The new place is about half a mile outside of town and we have well water. I believe the house is wired for a generator but I'm not sure about the well. I asked the people who sold us the place if they got water from the well when the power was out. I don't mean the well, exactly, I mean the ginormous water tank they have to store the well water. It's maybe 20 feet above the house in terms of elevation and about 100 feet away. They said that they would get a trickle in the basement but otherwise the gravity wasn't enough for the water to flow. The same well also delivers water to the barn.

As for the house itself, it has one stove on each floor: propane stove on the main floor and wood stove in the basement. They should be enough for heat for as long as we'd need it, and the previous owners stored massive amounts of firewood and left it there.

So here are some questions about generators.

First of all, what does increased cost get me? I have relatives who live in hurricane country and they all have generators now. From what I recall, these generators were in the 15k - 20k range. My husband looked on Home Depot and saw generators that cost less than 1k, and of course he was then like, "Why spend more?" He also thought we could get a small generator that runs on propane and fill it from our propane tank, but I am skeptical whether you can just tap your own tank like that. So, is there any point in buying a cheapo generator for the house? Should we get a more expensive one?

Second, I don't remember anyone saying anything about the well being wired for a generator. Does that mean we can't hook up a generator to it? If we could hook up a generator, what size do people use for a well?

We have no experience with generators, so really any insights would be useful.

I had also thought about putting solar panels on the barn, since the house roof doesn't face the right direction and has a lot of shade anyways, but solar isn't too helpful in the winter in the PNW. I also thought about installing one of those small wind turbines, which WOULD be useful I'd think. Does anyone have experience with those? I guess the issue, if I were going to try to rely on it completely, would be that I'd need some sort of battery energy storage because it's not like the wind just keeps going all the time.
 

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The larger the generator the more it costs. Do you want to run just a refrigerator and freezer via extension cords or do you want to run your entire house? A whole house generator should be installed by a professional electrician and include a double throw switch which would disconnect your generator from the power company's lines. If not connected properly your generator can back feed through your transformer and energize the high voltage lines which could be deadly for a lineman working on the line. It could also overload and fry your generator by attempting to energize the entire neighborhood. An electrician could check how your water pump is connected and what it would take to power it via generator. The electrician could also determine what size generator you need to run the things you want to run. As far as fuel gasoline goes stale over time and the engine may not start when needed. Diesels don't start well in the cold weather. Propane is generally them most stable stored fuel and propane engines generally start well in cold weather. I'm familiar with standby generators on large poultry farms where life and death depends on restoring power within minutes. The generators are generally diesel powered but are kept warm all of the time with electric block heaters which use a lot of electricity. They are also connected via automatic transfer switches which start the generator whenever the power fails. They are also computer controlled and start once a week to be sure they will work under a power failure. I have a PTO generator that I can power with a tractor. I figure my family and animals are good for about 4 hours without power because the generator is a bit of a pain to hook up.

I also have solar panels but they require utility power to operate. As soon as the power fails they disconnect to protect the lines and those working on them. According to the guy I bought my solar system from the next big thing would be large battery backups which will replace generators. He said within a few years technology would have advanced enough and prices would come down where the average family could have enough batteries to run their household for several days.
 

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Yrs you can tap your own tank for propane. You do need a generator that runs on propane or has been converted. Not a problem better to have someone that knows what they are doing set you up.

We run our well off of the generator when there are outages. It has it's own electric separate from the house and we hard wire it in. It helps we have electricians and linemen in the family but yes, it can be done.
 

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We bought a 1K$ generator. Have had it for about 8 years now, and use it once or twice a winter (that's generally when we lose power). It's fine, you just wouldn't want to run a bunch of things from it at a time. It's enough for us. I know people who wire their whole electrical panel to the generator and live normally - lights on everywhere, showers, tv, appliance. I don't feel like I need all that. The occasional power outage is celebrated by my family. We gather in the living room by the propane stove (like your new house, ours also has a woodstove in the basement and we can go several days with this in the dead of winter and never get cold). We play cards, read books out loud, heck, this Christmas, we decorated our Christmas tree by candlelight because the power was out! We keep the generator for necessities. I do have a lantern run by battery that throws a lot of light so I can take it to the barn (not taking anything to the barn with a flame, obviously!) so sometimes we use that in the house.

The wood stove is great for cooking, boiling water for coffee, and even melting snow if it gets to that. I fill the tub with water when there is a storm that I think might knock out the power, so we can use that water to flush toilets.

I don't know if our well pump is typical, but there is no way for us to hook it up to the generator (nothing we can "plug") so that needs to be modified by an electrician. I really do feel like we need to do this. So far, we have never had an issue, but with horses, you need a lot of water. I really only have enough for a couple of days.

I'd say get a good generator, but you probably don't need the 10-15K one. And once you've moved in, have an electrician evaluate your well pump to see if there's a way to just run an extension cord to the generator, or if it needs to be wired to do that.
 

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1. First you have to decide if you want a true standby generator like Generac or some other brand. Those run on propane and automatically kick in when the power goes.

Thats where the 10K and up cost comes in. Cost is dependent on generator size needed to run the house

2. We bought a 6500 watt Honda PORTABLE generator when we moved here 17 years ago. It cost around $3,500 back then and I don’t think it’s gone up much in price since that time.

We used it for 8 or so weeks when we lived in the camper while the house was being built.

2.1. We never needed it for a house emergency until this week. As of this writing, we now have +/- 106 hours in four separate outages since last Monday evening, on that generator.

It runs our furnace big enough for a 1650 sq ft house (meaning I need to look up the BTU & wattage it draws).

It runs our 16 cu ft refrigerato/freezer combo.

It runs three TVs, a few lights and the battery tender on my John Deere in the garage.

We can run the toaster, our stove is gas.

Blow dryers and electric toothbrushes also add to the wattage.

3. If you have a well, there should be a pump for the well and that could be wired to plug into a portable generator because they have plugs on them. You would however, need help from a. Electrician to add up your wattage use to be sure you buy a big enough generator.

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In my world a big portable generator makes a lot more sense than a true standby system because we use it for other things. I don’t see why you couldn’t find one to suit your needs in the $3,500 to $4,000 range.

Our Honda is 17 years old, we keep it well maintenanced and it has paid for itself three times over that I can think of:)

A thousand dollar generator won’t cut it for you and tell DH not to even think about it. Undercutting the size of a generator for home emergency is worse than someone asking if they can pull a big LQ gooseneck with a half ton truck.

Thats why I got preachy on the other thread. It’s worth going in debt for one. Just be sure to keep it stored where the mice and chipmunks can’t get to the wiring. Twice we had to take ours to the Honda dealer to have it rewired, thanks to those little soandso:(. That’s when it was kept in the garage, now it resides in the workshop where wiring in anything is safe from chewing critters.
 
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If you are going to buy a home generator, I would highly recommend speaking to your utility provider and have them install one of those home generator boxes by the meter. It is safer for the workers fixing the downed power lines and very convenient for the home owner. All you do is run the generator and plug it into the box. Electricity will then run through the normal wires to the house. No need to be bringing extensions wires all over the place. I've never heard of a well pump, if it is submerged, having to be specifically wired for generators. You can buy home generators that run on both, gas and propane. And you can tap into your propane tank. Remember that anything that is used to produce heat uses a lot of electricity/watts. If you have an electric stove, water heater, home heat, those things are going to need a lot of juice. We have a 6k watt generator and we can run everything (well pump included) in the house except the water heater, which is electric.
 

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In a world of unlimited funds I would have one of the propane whole house generators. What we do have is a gasoline powered 6500 watt generator set up so that you shut off your supply from the grid, shut off all your breakers, plug it in to a box fastened to the garage and then flip back on the breakers in the house you need. Sorry, I'm sure there's technical names for all that but I'm not a tech type person. It has the power to run lights, fridge/freezer, freezer, TV, coffee maker, phone (landline), and computer. Furnace, water heater and cook stove are already propane but have electronic ignitors so they do require electricity but are not pulling a lot and the generator is powering those too during power outages. We do limit the breakers we turn back on wherever we can like in rooms that we don't have to use. It would not be able to run the AC in the summer, at least not along with the other stuff nor the clothes dryer.

So the reason I would have the propane generator when the gas powered one keeps us from suffering any hardship? You have to make a lot of trips to town to fill your gas cans during prolonged outages. Our longest was a couple of years ago after straight line winds took down a bunch of trees which took down the lines and we were out for a little over a week. Whenever there are wide spread areas affected ours is always the last they work on because we are in the furthest reaches of our provider. Plus I am curious enough that I would figure out the cost of going all propane versus the combo we now use. Propane costs have stayed fairly stable in the 22 years we've lived here but our electric bill has more than doubled in that time.
 

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Yesss, you do have to make a lot of trips to town for gas, lollol. Our generator does not get good mileage. I THINK it’s five gallon capacity might last 12 hours, if that, lol

Everyone gave a great Description of how to ”feed” power to the house, off a portable generator.

When our Garage was being built, we had the electrician add a special plug for the generator at the back end of the garage.

The generator came with its own HD extension cord that plugs directly into the wall plug. The big garage door stays up to about the height of my Saturn’s bumper and the exhaust pipe on the generator faces outside, so there is no chance of us carbonmonoxiding ourselves out of this life.

And yes one needs to remember to first flip the main breaker OFF in the electric box in the house, unless you want to burn everything up:)

@JCnGrace you have the same watt generator we have, so that size or a little bigger might be what @ACinATX should consider.

I forgot to say that our 40 gallon water heater is electric and the generator runs that, as well:)
 

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So the reason I would have the propane generator when the gas powered one keeps us from suffering any hardship? You have to make a lot of trips to town to fill your gas cans during prolonged outages.
OK thank you that's really good to know.

Our weather-related power outage here is what got me thinking about this, but where we are moving is overdue for an earthquake, too. The small town is kind of in the middle of nowhere, and in the event of earthquake-related power failure I can imagine that it wouldn't exactly be in the front of the line to get infrastructure repaired. Not to mention, there aren't a whole lot of ways in and out of the area, so I'm not sure how long the one gas station in town would have gas. That's really good to think about.
 

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Things are only as good as their weakest link.

Where earthquakes are concerned, the other thing to consider with an all house standby generator, is the gas line from a propane tank to the standby generator bursting. The generator would have to have its own self-contained propane tank, if there even is such a thing.

A portable generator would mean having several five gallon gas cans on hand and ready to be filled at a moments notice. You’re buying acreage so you’re going to need gas cans full of gas anyway for some of the maintenance equipment.

Either that, or have the local Co-op install a gas tank that you can pump gas out of. My parents had one on the dairy farm and so did my granddad on his beef farm, but that set up costs too much money on our place, especially since we would need a tank for diesel And a tank for gas.

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1. I misspoke earlier when I said the pigtail “extension” cord came with our generator —- it did not — DH made it using 10/4 gauge wire.

2. The main breaker in the fuse panel has to be flipped off before the portable generator is turned on.


3. When we are done with the generator, we run the fuel out and put clean non-ethanol back in for storage.

It sounds like a lot of rigamorole but it’s a lot better than being without power for extended periods.

We went into outage #4 yesterday at ~10:00 AM and back on around 4:30 PM. We have been without electric ~106 hours this past week. That’s enough hours to have to throw out everything in the refrigerator/freezer if we didn’t have a generator.

We have a propane fireplace which does a stellar job of keeping this house warm because it’s well insulated. Not everyone has a fireplace or wood burne, so freezing to death is also a possibility without a generator.

We are fortunate our county water kept pumping as usual, as getting water for the horses would have given me heart failure. I have melted snow down in times past but, as @Acadianartist alluded to, it takes a whole lotta snow to get a gallon of water.
 
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My cousin hung her biggest cast iron on a metal slat across the trough and started a fire in it to heat it up. Burned it down to coals and kept transferring coals from the fireplace. Even if she ruined her pot she said its worth the price to keep the trough ice free. They had a grate on the side and fitted a wood top over where the pot hung to keep cow noses clear. Used 55 gallon drums that they would fill and empty as needed. We have the same set up for hurricanes. The drums are plumbed with either a pump or spigot. We strap them two to a pallet. The tractor can carry or put in the bed of the truck.

This is also how we keep gas and diesel. They have pumps. Those drums are metal though. We use enough to keep what is in them fresh and top them off at the start of hurricane season. We aren't big enough operation wise to have any thing larger. That means we have enough gas to get us through an extended time.
 

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My cousin hung her biggest cast iron on a metal slat across the trough and started a fire in it to heat it up. Burned it down to coals and kept transferring coals from the fireplace. Even if she ruined her pot she said its worth the price to keep the trough ice free.
I wonder, now, how the old fashioned method of heating rocks and putting them in would work. Or even bricks, like I used on my frozen inside wall. You wouldn't ruin a pot. But I wonder how long it would help.
 

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We had a soapstone stove with a soapstone platform in PA. I loved it. Fire it up and let it burn down and it would radiate enough heat to keep the house comfortably warm.

I would think the right brick or rock could work.
 

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@QtrBel . This is similar to what the farmers around here used to do, they would take a 5 gallon metal bucket and put some rocks in the bottom to hold it down some in the corner of of a stock tank. Then start a fire in it=with wood to keep the tanks open.
 

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3. When we are done with the generator, we run the fuel out and put clean non-ethanol back in for storage.
We don't bother with this, but we will turn the generator on periodically to prevent problems. And if the gas has been sitting in it for a while, we will run it out. But overall, our generator hasn't required much maintenance. We keep it in the garage where it's always handy and easy to plug in. We've also brought it to football games to run food stands etc. Better to use a generator regularly than let it sit.

I agree that fuel is an issue though. We always have some on hand because we have a variety of machinery that needs fuel, but when the power was out for 11 days, people had to drive over an hour to find fuel (which, if your car is running out, is a problem in and of itself). If we were cut off - not likely where we live because there are several ways in and out from where we live - it would be an issue fairly quickly. I know nothing about propane-run generators. But obviously, even a generator cannot keep you going forever. It's only meant to keep you going for a few days. This is also why I have no desire to run everything in my house off a generator. Best to only use it on what is absolutely necessary so you're not wasting gas that's going to be hard to replace. To stay afloat during an emergency, you need water and heat. That's it (I mean food too, of course, so always keep enough to feed your horses for a couple of weeks at least). Our pantry and freezers are full. We cook on our woodstove and use candles and lanterns for light. Water is our weak link.
 

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our generator also gets started frequently- mostly to be sure some critter hasn’t chewed the wiring.

I remember oil lamps and milking cows by hand if we happened to lose power, as there wasn’t that much time between having to milk them by hand and when we did get automatic milkers, lolol

All of us would probably do well to re-introduce ourselves to how life was before electricity was a given for everyone, and we had to “ring up” the operator to make a phone call — provided one even had a telephone, lollol
 

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My first comment is to recommend propane. Generators often just sit for long periods of time letting the gas go bad even with preservers and the carburetor can dry out and gum up. Propane never goes bad.

Second, I'd suggest two generators. One for light usage lights, tv, horseforum and so on. I'd keep the big stuff like freezer, fridge, washing machine and so on turned off until used when the larger generator would be started beforehand.

There's no sense running a 6500 watt generator to burn a 25 watt led light bulb.
 
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One for light usage lights, tv, horseforum and so on.
Yes! I do think horseforum is right up there with the other necessities of life! :love:

There's no sense running a 6500 watt generator to burn a 25 watt led light bulb.
So it's not the case that the generator would just cycle on and off as needed? Like, if all I wanted to do was run one lightbulb, it would run in low mode and not produce a lot of energy, but then when the water heater kicked in then the generator would kick into higher mode to produce more energy?
 

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our generator also gets started frequently- mostly to be sure some critter hasn’t chewed the wiring.

I remember oil lamps and milking cows by hand if we happened to lose power, as there wasn’t that much time between having to milk them by hand and when we did get automatic milkers, lolol

All of us would probably do well to re-introduce ourselves to how life was before electricity was a given for everyone, and we had to “ring up” the operator to make a phone call — provided one even had a telephone, lollol
I remember my grandmother running for the phone when someone else ring would buzz that she wanted to hear what they were talking about. LOL . Her ring was 2 longs and a short but , she was nosey and wanted to hear what the neighbors were talking about. Like you said to call out you had to ring the operator and she would place the call. They had a 12 volt wind mill generator that charged a couple of batteries and it would power a couple lights and the radio. Always listened to Paul Harvey every day at lunch. When I was about 6 or 7 they got electricity. They had a flushing stool before they got power!
 
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