Oct 25, 2009

Ready for the season?

Those of us here in central NY got a small taste of winter last week, with three inches of the white stuff appearing one night and disappearing nearly as fast. There were some initial concerns of a much heavier fall, and the problems incident to that. Leaves still on trees means lots of stuff coming down and taking the power with it.

Our house is pretty rural. Yeah, we have neighbors, but the demographics lean heavily to "bovine". If there is a widespread power outage, our area will not be high on the list of priorities for the electric company. We have two primary methods of heating: the furnace (forced air from an oil burner), and a Keystoker automatic coal stove. Both require electricity. Our water comes from a well; the pump requires electricity. Seeing a pattern?

I dumped out my change jar(s) and started counting. I had a lot of change. Enough to purchase a small generator (1000W) straight out. I discussed it with MrsZ and laid out my reasoning: heat, refrigeration, and maybe water would be a Good Thing if we have an ice storm or blizzard, both of which seem to be good possibilities this year. We discussed power requirements, wattages, draws, starting load, and what we'd consider "necessary". The short list came down to: a couple lights, a radio, the coal stove, the fridge, and maybe the water pump.

A 1000W generator would run the fridge OR the stove, and a couple lights and the radio. No water pump, certainly. Some math and cogitation got me to a 3000W genset probably being the bare minimum; it would run the stove and the fridge and lights and radio simultaneously. Running the water pump would mean shutting down everything else while the pump started and ran, but that's acceptable. Water can be stored in bottles and pans.

So off we went to the local home improvement big box stores... neither Lowes nor Home Depot had anything that we considered reasonably priced and with sufficient power. We left it be and I did some more research at home. I looked through the catalog for Northern Tool, which had a couple "maybes" but nothing real obvious. The higher-end brand-name stuff was out of our price range, and the stuff we could afford generally didn't have the features (or reviews) I wanted.

I finally checked the web site for Tractor Supply, and they had a generator listed that looked like the right combination of features and price. I did some digging online and found the reviews were generally pretty good, and the ones that were negative were complaining about noise and weight. *blink blink* It's a damn generator. It makes power. It's going to be loud and heavy. I ignored those comments, and called our local TSC to see if they had one. They did, and I went downtown and picked it up. It's a Champion C46514, rated for 3500W continuous and 4000W peak.

Picked up oil and such from the local mart of Wal, and took the box home and set it aside. Fast-forward a week. This morning I lugged it outside, fueled it, started it, and threw a voltmeter on the terminals. It puts out a nice steady 124V on the 120 circuits, and 245V on the 240 circuits. I didn't try loading it yet, but that's next. I put a 1/2" eye bolt in one of the 6x6 poles in the garage and JB-welded the nut on - it'll take some dedicated effort to remove it. A 1/2" cable and a masterlock can secure the generator, and life is good.

The previous owner of our place built the (detached) garage right - it has a sub-panel for electric and he also pulled 6ga wiring separately from the panel with the express intention of putting in a generator. All I have to do is wire in a L14-30P and put an interlock on the main panel and I can backfeed the house, safely and legally.

Along with a generator comes the problem of fueling it... this generator runs on gasoline, and a full tank (4 gallons) will run it for about 10-12 hours at half load. We currently have 20 gallons of gas stored in the shed, which gets cycled through pretty regularly - the lawn mower, the car, the truck, etc. The generator got topped off with treated gas this morning, run long enough to warm up, and then shut down. Over the next few weeks I expect I'll add another 20 gallons of stored fuel; that will give us about 4-5 days of continuous run time... hopefully that's enough.


doubletrouble said...

Hey Zerc-

Check my post here:


It's the summary of our tribulations after last December's ice storm here in NH.

Sounds like you've pretty much got it figgered out.

If you have any questions, ask away, as we have probably more than your average experience in outages, given the location...

Good luck.

ZerCool said...

DT, having seen your "road", I can imagine the two days cutting without a problem. The town road is twenty feet from our garage, and the state highway is our rear property line (500 feet from the garage along the town road).

But - it is rural area, and the population density is low enough and generally self-sufficient enough that we're low on a fix-it list.

Even without the generator, we'd manage for a while. Our cookstove is gas (i.e., match-light), we've got several flats of bottled water, and lots of canned and dry goods to enjoy, along with a fair bit of frozen foods. A couple Dietz oil lamps and a 5-gallon jug of kerosene, two Coleman lanterns, plenty of the 1lb propane bottles and two grill tanks with an adapter hose ... the list goes on.

And enough lead to make sure that whatis ours stays ours. ;-)