(Last modified on August 30th, 2019.)
When considering what kind of generator to invest in, factors such as capacity, price, and efficiency come into play. But have you taken into account the type of fuel it requires (as well as its availability and how much it consumes), maintenance needs, noise output, and warranty?
These may not be the first things that come to mind, but they are all equally important aspects. For example, in last year’s tragic mud slide, customers who had generators powered by Natural Gas were left stranded regardless of their foresight to invest in a backup power system because the Natural Gas pipelines burst and were shut down.
Additionally, while generators are predominantly less expensive initially than a battery backup system, the cost of maintenance and fuel begin to make up the difference in cost over time. E10 gasoline, or example, has a shelf life of only 3 months.
Another consideration is that depending on your location, the local jurisdiction may not permit permanently installed generators due to their noise output and potentially dangerous off-gassing.
Something else to consider is that generators take at least a few seconds to start up, get up to speed, and begin to power your loads. If you have any medical equipment, or loads (such as computers) that need to have continuous power, then you will need a UPS (uninterrupted power supply) or battery system to provide a few seconds of power until the generator comes online.
Portable generators can be purchased directly from a hardware store and can be put into place. However, this is not considered a permanent installation, and you may not be able to run all of your loads on it. This means that the appliances you decide to back up have to be plugged into the generator individually with extension cords. Alternatively, these portable generators can be installed with a manual transfer switch for ease of connectivity to your loads. A permit is not required for a portable generator.
Installing a generator through a licensed electrician with a permit allows for a permanent installation and eliminates the jumble of cables. You can back up all of your loads and opt for an automatic transfer switch so that your system kicks on automatically.
Sun Pacific Solar Electric can buy and install any type of generator, however we are particular about the products we adopt because quality is very important to us. Among the brands we have installed are Kohler, Generac, Caterpillar and Onan. Here is some information on the two main brands of generators we like to work with as well as the pre-purchase considerations we mentioned above and brief warranty information. For more in depth warranty descriptions, follow the links provided.
Generac Power Systems
Generally for permanently installed residential back up power systems, we recommend Generac as they are reliable and cost less than most other manufacturers. These come with an automatic transfer switch, they are American made and locally available. Generac has a 2 – 5 year limited warranty that covers defects in materials, workmanship, and repair, replacements or refunds for products that are defective or have sustained damage in shipping. It also covers shipping costs, and offers limited comprehensive coverage on milage, labor, and parts.
Generac models between 8kW and 48kW are priced at $2,459 – $24,999, range from 62 to 73 decibels (dBa), and require 5 minutes of weekly exercise. These generators run on natural gas or propane and are also available in diesel fueled.
Below is the breakdown of how much they consume by fuel and load type. When comparing fuel consumption, it’s interesting to note that a generator that can run on either Natural Gas or Liquid Propane Gas can have drastically different consumption rates for these fuel types.
- half load: 90 – 713 ft^3
- full load: 120 – 1260 ft^3
Liquid Propane Gas:
- half load: .87 – 7.9 gallons
- full load: 1.37 – 13.9 gallons
- half load: 1.03 – 2.15 gallons
- full load: 1.97 – 3.98 gallons
Honda generators are what we recommend for a portable generator option. These are manually connected to the home by starting them (the 3000 and 7000 models have electric start), plugging them into a cord connected plug (that we install), and then switching the power source switch (that we also install) from the grid source to the generator. The only models we recommend are the EU1000I, EU2200I, EU3000IS and EU7000IS. These are inverter based generators and produce the cleanest power for battery charging and all electronic loads. They are very quiet and use very little fuel.
The Honda generators listed above come in 1,000 – 7,000 watt models, are priced between $755 – $3,799, range from 50 to 58 decibels (dBa) on a full load, and require exercise at least once a month. Honda provides a 2 – 3 year residential or 1 – 3 year commercial warranty on their generators which covers product repair or replacement for defects in materials or workmanship and covers costs for parts and labor. It does not cover shipping costs.
Honda generators only run on gasoline and have a tank capacity of 0.6 – 5.1 gallons. Below is a breakdown their fuel consumption/run time by load type.
Run time per tankful:
- 1/4 load: 7.1 – 20 hours
- full load: 3.2 – 7.1 hours