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Standby Generator-Tips to hire and install it right

EsbeeEsbee Member Posts: 2
I looked into standby generators a few years ago and got spooked by all the variables - gas service pressure, gas pipe size, meter capacity, building code requirements etc - and backed away because of all the complexity and potential "surprises" in the process. I want to take another stab. Please help! I currently have NG supply for furnace (baseboard heat), 40 gal hot water heater, and stovetop. House is 2500 sq ft. Current gas meter is 250 capacity. The gas line from street is probably pre-1960s. What are the key questions and issues I need to ask any licensed professional I might hire? Is there a sequence to generator installation? My thanks in advance.


  • BobCBobC Member Posts: 5,109
    A friend had a 18kw unit installed at his house last year. The incoming gas line was large enough but the gas meter had to replaced with a larger capacity meter and a 1-1/2" gas pipe run around to the generator on the side of the house. They also put in a automatic transfer switch.

    Once you decide what size generator the gas company has to determine if the incoming gas pipe and meter are large enough. Once the installer has it piped up it has to be inspected.

    Smith G8-3 with EZ Gas @ 90,000 BTU, Single pipe steam
    Vaporstat with a 12oz cut-out and 4oz cut-in
    3PSI gauge
  • STEVEusaPASTEVEusaPA Member Posts: 4,142
    I'm in the process of doing a whole house. My main recommendation is to find a generator company who will service the brand they sell-you use, and are able to get parts quickly. Usually the gen company gets the electrician, and plumber, if necessary. They will contact the gas company (if gas) to make sure the line and pressure are correct. I think this is better than getting an electrician who tells you for gen service they 'have a guy'.
    You could go propane, get a big tank. The downfall in the Philly suburbs area was when there was a shortage a few winters ago, the propane companies would deliver small amounts to their heating customers first and sometimes only.

    I wanted to go diesel, but it adds a lot to the price, even though I could fuel it myself at cost. And where I need to put the gen is 200 feet from the street, so I would have to manually fill it out of a can-which would suck if it needed fuel during a blizzard/ice storm.
    I am concerned about a deep freeze, gas pressure drops, then an ice storm knocks out power. In my area, it's all gas (except my house) and I'm in a group of homes where the last 12 houses on the pole always seem to be the last ones to get power back. Now if the whole neighborhood is out (Sandy), then no one is using gas. I'll still keep my gasoline-powered portable for back up, to the back up...just in case.
  • EBEBRATT-EdEBEBRATT-Ed Member Posts: 7,055
    As a licensed gasfitter & electrician I would generally do what "SteveusaPA" said.
    Contact (or have the generator company) the gas company with your total load including the generator. By total load I would only include what I would use during the power failure if they will allow you to compute the load this way.

    pick the generator and generator service company and check there references.

    they most likely have qualified subcontractors (electricians & plumbers/gasfitters) that they use.

    You will be better off with "one source responsibility" & "one neck to choke" if you have problems.

    This isn't to say that you couldn't act as your own GC if you prefer
  • BobCBobC Member Posts: 5,109
    "You will be better off with "one source responsibility" & "one neck to choke" if you have problems."

    No truer words were ever spoken -listen to him!

    Smith G8-3 with EZ Gas @ 90,000 BTU, Single pipe steam
    Vaporstat with a 12oz cut-out and 4oz cut-in
    3PSI gauge
  • Solid_Fuel_ManSolid_Fuel_Man Member Posts: 1,978
    Honestly, I'd consider propane even with NG available. No worry about local gas pressure or availability. It's for backup after all, and I don't like counting on anyone for a backup.

    As a licenced electrician I can tell you that you don't need as many kwatts as you think. 10kw is more than enough for anything I have ever seen in a home. I'd lean towards 6kw.

    Serving Northern Maine HVAC & Controls. I burn wood, it smells good!
  • STEVEusaPASTEVEusaPA Member Posts: 4,142
    Don't forget a lot can be done with the transfer switch and wiring to include some load shedding which would allow staging of appliances to come back online. This way everything doesn't come back on all at once, allowing a smaller gen.
  • EsbeeEsbee Member Posts: 2
    My thanks for great advice. I had not even thought about ongoing servicing needs! I live on Long Island, NY (Suffolk County). I've checked angie's list...not many generator firms listed. My local Home Depot contracts out to a company called NRG Solar.
  • pecmsgpecmsg Member Posts: 1,428
    Forget Angies list, Home Cheepo & Blows.

    Any good electrical contractor can do the set up that you need.

    Agreed get the smallest unit needed, and i too would go LP.
    We lost the Nat gas main out here and were without gas for several days.
  • HenryHenry Member Posts: 965
    After the 1998 Ice storm which left most of the province without power for 27 days, I was part of the commitee to the president of the gas utility. We investigated all aspects of the ice storm. The conclusions included this:
    A minimum of 12Kw generator was needed.
    Oil changes at every 48 hours of operation (we had some generators catch fire).
    NG powered generators as it is uninteruptible while the supply of gasoline and diesel can be interupted due to power failures.
    Only commercial generators have an actual power rating such as "Standby". The box store brands have a maximum power rating that only lasts a few minutes (Tested in the lab!).
    Usually generators of less than 20Kw will work with 8 invh of pressure. Larger generators can need 14 inches. Check before you buy.
  • Solid_Fuel_ManSolid_Fuel_Man Member Posts: 1,978
    edited October 2016
    I know of someone would is boarder line prepper who has a diesel generator (inside) which runs off his heating oil tanks. Always a fresh supply of fuel. I think he could run almost a month if the 2x 330 gal tanks were 2/3 full at the beginning of the outage. He uses the water cooling to heat the house, and a unit heater outside to dump the heat is summer time. I may have some of those tendencies as well. My wife not so much....

    Serving Northern Maine HVAC & Controls. I burn wood, it smells good!
  • DoRightDoRight Member Posts: 7
    Back up generators option are all "overkill" and . For that money if you handy, you can

    1. Switch over lighting to 12VDC LED, have car battery on back up (can last 12 hours supply ligths)
    2. Have 3Kw "12VDC->120AC converter to handle refirigirators/motors, win case of power outages.
    3. Worse comes to worse, you car is your 12VDC generator,and supply avarage household electical demand on idle or recharging stand by battery.

    This approach much more efficient and cost effective, also will cut off "license electrician" expanses, and for 12VDC you dont license doing yourself.
  • Solid_Fuel_ManSolid_Fuel_Man Member Posts: 1,978
    I have done exactly that in off grid hunting Camps, only with a solar panel and charge controller for battery maint.

    However, a car battery will not run a refrigerator very long 3 hrs run time. It all depends on how electrically savvy one is.

    I have seen "the suicide cord" used. One with two male ends. One plugged into generator and the other into dryer plug if house. If someone does this and fails to turn off their main breaker to the house the generator will backfeed onto the power lines and can kill an emergency lineman.

    Simple unplugging and plugging into another energy source is the safest thing. But many people want something good that will automatically take over as seamlessly as possible.

    Serving Northern Maine HVAC & Controls. I burn wood, it smells good!
  • ratioratio Member Posts: 2,441
    I'd really like to have a 20 kVA UPS, just enough to keep everything going whilst the generator starts. Ideally, the only way I'd have of knowing the power is out is when friends & neighbors started showing up. :smiley:
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