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Power for the people

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  • Power for the people

    During the recent Cyclone in Central Qld, my power was out for 7 days which was a little inconvenient.
    It got me thinking about Generators, and what is the best cost/output/fuel usage compromise.
    I will be buying one in the next couple of months (won't be caught out again) and have been thinking about what would suit me best.
    There are probably a few folks on the Forum that have some experience with these things.

    At the outset, I would want it to be able to power two Fridges and an upright freezer during the day plus occasionally a washing machine.
    At night I would turn off the fridges and use: Lights, TVs X2, Computers X2 & a couple of fans.

    I am thinking a budget of around a grand and prefer an open frame rather than an enclosed box and preferably a 'good brand'.
    I will be having an input socket put into my household mains so that I can run any electrical system or appliance I want.
    Any thoughts?

  • #2
    I was thinking of you Rocky, 7 days without power would have been a right pain... not to mention having to eat everything in the fridge and freezer the first day!

    I can't help too much except to say...
    Make sure you get a "Pure Sine" if you are going to run electronics off it. Garden variety square sine generators are murder on anything sensitive. (I smoked a very expensive sony projector once).


    • #3
      Hi Andy, Ha - you got it about the food!
      Every day was like "What do we have to eat today before it goes off".
      The missus is a guru with that kind of thing and we actually ate quite well and wasted little. (a bit of stuff was unservicable after being submerged in the Esky for a while)
      At Day 4 we found the contents of the unopened upright Freezer was still all frozen so we moved it into my Son's place of work (which had power) and saved the lot.
      Contents of the fridges was a bit tricky and a lot of stuff got eaten in fairly 'innovative meals'.
      I am investigating options Re the "pure sine wave" as most generators do not offer it (Honda do but they are more than twice the price of anything similar).
      I have heard that if you buy a non-inverter' generator you should then acquire a "converter" to ensure a 'purer' wavelength for your computers.
      I really missed my net-access & Forums so I would like a generator that is computer-friendly.


      • #4
        Something you can do ahead of time to help with the fridges/freezers is fill any empty space in them with jugs of water, both in the freezer (Leaving enough room in the containers for expansion as the water freezes.) and fridge. This is useful anytime as it gives a built in buffer when doors are opened to keep the units from cycling on and off so much as well as extended cold times when the power goes out. When coupled with judicious care in limiting the number of times the doors are opened fridges and freezers can be kept cold using only a couple of hours of generator time a day.

        From your description a 5kw genny would probably be sufficient as long as you don't try to run everything at the same time.

        Genny's are not cheap to run. The 5kw ones I've seen use up to about 8l per hour of gas under full load. Even at an idle usage can be multiple litres an hour.

        If the genny's there are like they are here one of the big factors in price is how noisy they are. The cheap ones can be very noisy.

        If you're having a hard time locating a pure sine genny check with camper/RV supply houses. Many of those units come as pure sine gens, are typically much quieter, and are designed to be permanently installed. There is of course a price premium on them compared to the cheapo backyard project genny's.

        I've had to use the genny here several times over the years when storms knocked out the power, in 2 instances for a week long stretch. I found we could get by on just 3 hours of generator time each day. Most of that time was for the fridge and 2 deep freezers. To keep the running time to a minimum we would take out of the fridge/freezer the items we wold consume each day and out them in an Esky along with a frozen jug or two of ice. Rotating them with the previous days ones which went back into the freezer when it was their turn to be powered up and cycled. Doing it that way kept gas cost and noise to a minimum while maintaining proper temps in the fridge/freezers.

        Java "Powerlessness sucks" phile
        Toys! I must have new toys!!!


        • #5
          Great advice mate...



          • #6
            Stay away from Chinese made generators Rocky.

            If the budget will run to it buy a Honda.

            Motor home people have this discussion all the time, them with Chinese gen sets always seem to be in strife, while we never hear a peep from them with Honda's.


            • #7
              Thanks Java, lots of good advice there. Yes, I would see myself running the fridge and freezer only during the day, and even then not ALL day, as it is unnecessary.
              As you say, the fuel use can be quite heavy with the larger output generators (the 5kVa generators seem to quote 2litres/hour at 50% load) so 20litres of fuel a day would not be beyond imagination.
              Then of course, the hunt/competition for fuel becomes an obsession. There were a lot of people competing for fuel in the few days immediately after the cyclone, with long lines in the hot sun for hours at a time.
              I think I am leaning towards a 3kVa (actual running output) generator (which still uses 2litres/hr) but with the idea of maybe being a bit judicious in how I balance the running time.
              Yelta - I think a Honda, or even one with a Honda engine is out of the question, they are quiet and economical but the 3kVa I looked at (2.6 average output) was $2900. and the next one up almost $4K. I agree about the cheap Chinese brands - won't be buying one of them. I am currently looking at what Bunnings & Masters offer for $1K.


              • #8
                Personally mate, I'd be opting for something like this or this....

                A much better way to go with built in longevity and simplicity...



                • #9
                  Mal, thanks for the two links. They are impressive units. I hadn't considered Diesel as I have never had anything to do with Diesel stuff.
                  Both around a grand, both 4.5 kVA and very economical to run. How come everybody doesn't use them - is it the smell or something?
                  They aren't any noisier than the petrol ones I've looked at.


                  • #10
                    G'day Rocky...

                    Yes, they are decent units. The reason a lot of people (but not people in the know) haven't heard about them, is the same reason you gave; a lot of people just don't know that small diesel generators exist and that they are superior in pretty well every way to most petrol engine jobs plus, a lot safer to boot since diesel fuel is a lot less volatile than petrol.

                    Sure, 20 years plus ago one could probably claim that diesel generators were a bit smelly and messy but not these days. The small air-cooled units suitable for household emergency use, are quiet, efficient, environmentally friendly and fuel misers to boot. Owner intervention is minimal over the lifetime of the unit, just require regular oil changes, with fuel and oil filter changes as required and even more rarely, replace the brushes on the alternator (not brushless). I'd have one in a heartbeat if I was in your situation Rocky and is what I would recommend that my son should acquire while he lives and works in Rockhampton or further up north.

                    Best bet, if possible, when you're next in Brissy, arrange to have a demo of the various units they have available and make up your own mind. A bit like what people should do when buying their first decent espresso machine...

                    Anyway mate, hope it's given you some food for thought...



                    • #11
                      Thanks Guys I really appreciate all the comments and good advice.
                      I did many (think 20hrs) hours of my own research on the net and on the phone and hopefully the decision is the right one.
                      I bought the Bunnings Briggs & Stratton 3.5/3KVA Elite model for $900.
                      In the end it ticked the most number of boxes. I seriously considered the Diesel units but eventually decided it needed to be compatible fuel-wise, with my vehicles, and had to cost less than $1K.
                      The decider was I spent 20mins on the phone with a very helpful guy at Haymans Electrical. They have a Gentech Honda 3.4KVA that would have been my choice except it had a 3.5litre tank and was $1250.
             ... roduct=662
                      We talked about the pros & cons and he agreed that if he was buying, it would have to be the Briggs & Stratton on all-round value. He was really 'switched-on' (little pun there) so I valued his opinion.
                      So - there it is - you pays your money and takes your pick.
                      I am still chasing some sort of 'power filter' (nobody knows anything about these!) so I can ensure my laptop is protected. Even my Electrician didn't have any ideas, so I am currently swinging towards one of these:
                      Engineering Innovatitve Power Protection & Power Filtration Products ... 2BFv11.pdf
                      very expensive, so I'm looking for something as good but cheaper.
                      I also bought a couple of metres of very heavy chain and a big padlock as generator theft was rife in Bogan-ville during the post-cyclone period. (a shootable offence IMHO)


                      • #12
                        G'day Rocky...

                        Power filtering wouldn't have been a concern with the units I linked to, but no matter....

                        Had a look at the information provided on the Bunnings website but there's not a lot to go by. Looking at the general construction of the generator though, it is likely that it is a standard AC Generator (either with or without brushes for the Rotor) and therefore, you shouldn't require power filtering of any description. Standard simple AC generators provide very clean power and is another reason I linked to those two diesel models, the one you have should be similar.

                        By any chance, do you have the manufacturer, type and model details of the alternator itself? I could then search for the info I require and let you know whether power conditioning is required...



                        • #13
                          A post-script on this little saga.
                          The Electrician wired up the Power-Board for the input for the Gennie, but was concerned that it had a "Safety Switch" comprising a RCB (Residual Current Breaker) with OPD (Overload Protection Device)
                          He felt that this would 'trip-out' any Generator connected to a house Power-Board. Consultation with some of his colleagues apparently reinforced this view.
                          I spoke to the Generator supplier (Bunnings) about this and they stridently refute this, and said if I would like to contact their local-based Electricial Contractor, they would support their view.
                          I then phoned the maker of the generator on their Tech assistance line and was told that Briggs & Stratton generators with Safety Switches are NOT intended to be connected to household power boxes, and it is therefore unsuitable for this purpose. I passed this information on to Bunnings, but they remain firm in their convictions.
                          I have spoken with various other Tradies, most of whom agree with my Electrician & the Tech Support person, and disagree with Bunnings and their Electrical Contractor.
                          You wouldn't believe that there could be such a lack of agreement on a commonplace issue like this among those most closely involved with the product.
                          I am waiting for my Electrician to investigate the matter further but I will not be firing the thing up until I am certain it can do no damage to my house Power-board.