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Buying A Generator...fuel Type?


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#1 Talntedmrgreen OFFLINE  

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Posted December 27, 2013 - 08:43 AM

Wondering what the pros and cons to diesel vs gas powered gen sets are?  I sold my little gas powered generator this fall, with the intention of buying larger unit to power my home.  Outages seem common in the house we purchased a year ago, and my father is the electrician of the familiy and has acquired the parts he says he needs to properly hardwire in a terminal and box for plugging in a gen set to the house. (not worried about install or safety...between him and my neighbor, who is an electrician, I'm covered).

 

So now, I'm shopping, and opportunities are everywhere for a used unit.  We had a huge ice storm a week ago, and with the lights now coming back on in my area, CL is flooded with generators with little or no hours.  It's the time to jump.

 

The little I know about diesel is that they tend to be more fuel efficient, but more $ per gallon, can really wrack up some serious hours, and are temperature sensetive (I'm in MI, and temps below 20 are a daily occurnace for 3 months or more...probably a dozen mornings below zero).  They also seem to be much more costly...about double what a comparable gas unit would be, used.  I have about a year under my belt with a diesel GT now, and have become comfrotable goofing with that diesel fuel system and troubleshooting.  I also picked up a second, non-runner, and had great results getting that going again.  The diesel sets I have seen, however, appear to have complex electronics systems, probably because they are designed to be more of a long-term, or longer running unit? 

 

My gas unit was loud, drank gasoline like there was no tomorrow (I suspect a larger unit will be even more thirsty), but most are simple, Briggs or Honda powered units with littele complexity.  I wouldn't expect to get world record hours from a gas unit, but also don't run a generator that many hours per year.

 

I plan to keep the unit in an outdoor enclosure, with a trickle charger so that it's electric start-ready if I'm away.  Our home has a well, sump, septic with lift pump, plenty of 'stuff' that my wife needs to be comfortable each day, and I'm planning to still power the shop (60A) so that I can still cut, weld, etc when outages occur.

 

So, considering cost & resale, normal maintanance and efficiency, common care, etc, which would make the most sense to purchase?  I feel I've found a pretty good trade/deal on a diesel set for my 3016PS, but did not want to overlook any obvious issues with diesel.  My intention is to plug in, fire up, flip the switches and run the home as easily as possible...easy enough for my wife to do this comfortably if I am out of town.


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#2 Walkinman1 OFFLINE  

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Posted December 27, 2013 - 08:59 AM

If I could swing it I would go for diesel any day over gas. The longevity and efficiency win out in my opinion. That being said you do need to make sure you keep up on it, keep the fuel treated during cold weather, DON'T run it out of fuel, etc. (I'm sure you've discovered this with your diesel tractors) I would also go over all the electrical connectors on it with dielectric grease just to prevent any corrosion issues that may be tricky to track down. Good luck!

Edited by Walkinman1, December 27, 2013 - 08:59 AM.

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#3 JDBrian OFFLINE  

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Posted December 27, 2013 - 09:08 AM

Considering the size of your load I would look for a diesel. You can find retired standby units in the 15 to 25kva range that have low hours. The prices are not cheap but are affordable.  There are also new units out there at reasonable prices. Buy large enough to do the job but not so large that you are wasting capacity and fuel. Running a gas generator large enough to do the job you are describing would put you in the poor house in a hurry for fuel costs. 

  Look carefully at the ratings on consumer based units.They are often rated at peak load. Also, how long will the clone engine and gen head last? When you go to a larger diesel system you will get a 4 pole generator vs 2 which means the engine only needs to spin at 1800 rpms. This yields better fuel economy, lower noise and longer life for the engine. 

  First thing is to consider the loads and that is where the real decision will be made. How much power do you really need. More watts = more cost so this is the most important decision you will make. For lower power needs you can get small inverter type gas powered units that are very efficient and quiet. This alternative may make sense but not if you have a 12Kw load to support. Fuel cost is one issue but also frequency of fueling up and life of your fuel in the tank is an issue that needs consideration. 

  Do some research and you will find there are lots of alternatives available. There are online vendors that sell a large selection and have a lot of info. available to help with your choice. 


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#4 Arti ONLINE  

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Posted December 27, 2013 - 09:20 AM

Propane, Natural Gas, Diesel would be my choice.
They can sit for long periods of time and the fuel doesn't gum up and deteriorate like gasoline does.
Gasoline will work however every fall I fight with my generator to get it started.

Fuel consumption for the few hours that it will run should not be a big concern, Something that will be dependable in the worst of conditions should be a high priority.
Just my 2 cents worth that is worth a penny..
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#5 olcowhand ONLINE  

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Posted December 27, 2013 - 09:39 AM

To be honest, as much as I love diesel, gasoline will fire up pretty easy no matter how cold.  Diesel unless in a heated enclosure will not in very cold temps.  You can't just keep a block heater plugged in all the time.  But, the diesel is the best otherwise, so if you had a small gas genset just large enough to run a block heater for the diesel unit, then you could get up & running with diesel in a half hour or so regardless of the cold.  

  No matter what fuel, the main thing with any generator outfit is to start & run them a half hour or so every month or so to keep in tip top shape & ready.


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#6 toomanytoys84 ONLINE  

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Posted December 27, 2013 - 09:59 AM

I'd go propane or natural gas if I was looking at the size and scale of a generator as you are talking.
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#7 boyscout862 ONLINE  

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Posted December 27, 2013 - 10:14 AM

I am a collector of GTs(70+) and generators(12+). I get them dead, most for free or little cost, and fix what I can. First, I think that you should look at what you really need for the house load. Then what the shop will need. Get two generators, one for the house and a separate one for the shop. Two smalls are usually less expensive than one twice as large. Around here, used 5kws can be found for about $200. A used 10kw will run over $1000. If you get one big enough for the both it will be wasting fuel when you are in the house. The one for the shop would be best to be a gas powered welder generator. The house could be gas or diesel. If the house one fails you can take the shop one for the house. I prefer a gas generator with electric and pull start. I always use Marvel Mystery oil in the gas and run the generator out of gas before I put it away. Change the oil and turn the crankshaft until the piston is pushing compression. Then cover it(not all the way to the floor) and set some mouse traps under it. Make sure you have a siphon to steal fuel from your cars. If you don't, when the power is out for a while, someone else will do it for you.

 

I plan to set up two of my generators to run off of wood gasifiers. Many times the "almost new" generators have problems. Didn't put oil in it or overloaded the generator. Be careful. Good Luck, Rick


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#8 Talntedmrgreen OFFLINE  

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Posted December 27, 2013 - 10:49 AM

I figured this would 'fuel' good conversation.  Lots of good points to consider.  I like the idea of Nat Gas, but it limits my ability to take the unit anywhere.  Not that it is my intention to do so, but if my folks were without power, I would hoist my unit into the truck with the loader, and head there way lickity-split.  It happens, but is not a driving force behind my purcahse.  Is converting a gasoline engine a worthwhile investment, and is it feasible to think I can convert it back?
 

I also like the idea of multiple units, if for nothing else, to have backups for the backups.  But, I am not looking to have additional engines to care for...I have too many already, and would like to simplify.  If we're in a pinch and the genny doesn't work, I'm shipping my wife off to live with her mother, will drink all the beer before it gets warm or frozen, and will vacate when I wake back up  =]
 
Power needs are something I'm looking at, and didn't want to pollute the topic with that conversation...I know that horse has been beaten here and and elsewhere, and there's lots for me to read.  I'm certainly watching the local new and used market, and would have my eye out for issues.  I honestly was going gasoline, simply by default, but saw some interesting options in diesel.  I haven't seen a thing already setup for LP or Nat Gas....yet.  I never was a fan of emptying my gas genny after use, to avoid crap fuel and carb issues, so the other fuels are tempting.
 
I haven't seen ANYTHING in the $200 range that interests me in the least bit.  I don't want a project, or have to rely on my handy work in a pinch.  There are numerous units in the $700-1000 range that folks are already getting back out of, for $400-700, and probably less.  Just figured I would narrow my scope, given the huge availability right now.

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#9 ol' stonebreaker ONLINE  

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Posted December 27, 2013 - 10:53 AM

If you go w/ a liquid cooled diesel install a block heater run off of line power w/ a thermostatic control set at 35*F.
Mike

#10 hamman ONLINE  

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Posted December 27, 2013 - 11:00 AM

If I were going to buy a generator now it would be a diesel. More for fuel but they are quieter and require less maintenance. Most of the fuel in MI is a blended fuel, has non water additives in the fuel, and putting a trickle charger on the battery is a must. Making sure you have the transfere switch properly installed so there is no chance of backfeed is imperative. I have an olde gas guzzler of a Coleman 4500 wt that is a bear to start. There is an option for electric start on it but the flywheel for that is $100.00 alone. I will use it until it gives up the ghost. Then I will look for a diesel. We used to loose power here in N. MI. quite a bit, now not so much ( hope I didn't just jinx myself) since they redid the lines and power structure. Good luck in you search for a good generator. Roger.



#11 JDBrian OFFLINE  

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Posted December 27, 2013 - 11:18 AM

You could lso look at PTO based solutions. i got a Wallenstein 7200w 540 rpm PTO generator for 700$ a few years ago. It runs off the 2320 at about 2.7litres/hr. It has a high peak power capability of 12Kw and starts the well pump without any effort at all. It was lightly used by the previous owner. He bought a fixed diesel unit because his wife didn't want to mess with the tractor if power went out and she was alone. 



#12 Alc ONLINE  

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Posted December 27, 2013 - 11:37 AM

Last year when Sandy hit the lines at the gas stations that were open  with people with gas cans for their generators was a sight !  If your out for more then a day or so you'll want some kind for large fuel source no matter which way you go . good luck



#13 GlenPettit OFFLINE  

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Posted December 27, 2013 - 11:55 AM

It's permanent, but I went with Propane:  Generac 17K generator provides all the power we need to run the house 100% plus run a 100' cord to our neighbor (frig, TV, lights & their furnace blower).  A 275 gal (220 actual) dedicated tank will let it run for 8-10 days at full output, plus the Propane will still be very good after 5-6 years of storage unused.  We have an auto-switch over that comes on for 7 minutes every Friday, generator was about $3,000 at Menards plus $1,200 for the installer & boxes/wire, I ran the Propane line and pad.  It's totally automatic, no one has to start it gives us a "peace of mind".  Expensive to run, 1.1 gal/hour, but worth it to me, electrical work was complicated and high professional level. Needs to be close to your house and meter/box, not that noisy with windows closed.

This Fall, 2013 we have had four outages already; 2 hr, 8 hr, 105 hr and 107 hours -- all automatic starts each time, and we still cooked Christmas dinner during this last outage.

I tend to think outages will be more common in the future.

Critics (local newspaper) are blaming the economic moves (cheaper, lower standards) and "outsourcing" of clamps and connections by the Power companies for the longer restore times after the ice storms hit.


Edited by GlenPettit, December 27, 2013 - 12:07 PM.

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#14 Talntedmrgreen OFFLINE  

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Posted December 27, 2013 - 01:26 PM

This Fall, 2013 we have had four outages already; 2 hr, 8 hr, 105 hr and 107 hours -- all automatic starts each time, and we still cooked Christmas dinner during this last outage.

I tend to think outages will be more common in the future.

Critics (local newspaper) are blaming the economic moves (cheaper, lower standards) and "outsourcing" of clamps and connections by the Power companies for the longer restore times after the ice storms hit.

 

We lost it twice in 2013...the neighbors who have been here 10 years tell me it was a 'lucky' year.  It does seem though, that it was a rough year on the local grid.  I know for a fact that my old house (left in Oct 2012) had 4 substantial outages this past year, the longest being a  week.  I lived there for 5 years and lost power for more than an hour, only one time.  My folks live a mile down the road from the old house, and lose power everytime someone sneezes.

 

Personally, I could get by fine without a backup, but it's best to have the pumps able to run, and pipes warm.  My greatest motivation, moreso than a wife who cannot blow dry her hair, is my 1yr old son, and his brother/sister who is on the way, this spring.  They need to be more comfortable than myself, and even though, as a kid, I thought power outages were like quasi-camping trips, I don't need any headaches with Mother and the Babies.


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#15 cookiemonster OFFLINE  

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Posted December 27, 2013 - 03:44 PM

If you can find one like I have, I like the multi-fuel small ones.  Mine is only 2500 watts, but will run on Propane, Natural Gas, or Gasoline.  I have it rigged to switch over from Propane to Gasoline or back at a moments notice. It seems I have to fiddle with the gas adjustment on the Propane every once in a while, but it gives me peace of mind to know that once I run out of gasoline, I can go to proprane off of the neighborhood gas grills.  Plus gas stations can't pump gas if the power is out all over like it was here for hurricane Ivan years back.


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