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Author Topic: Cost of generators for backup power?  (Read 643 times)

Offline Possum

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Re: Cost of generators for backup power?
« Reply #30 on: February 21, 2021, 07:35:42 AM »
Before ethanol, the gas evaporated and left a yellow vanish to plug up the needle valve, floats, tubes.
Since ethanol, the alcohol attracts moisture, which destroys the carb's float, needle valve, etc.

Even though I used Stabil, a few years later, a 5kw Coleman Generator we had used a couple times (mostly loaned out) wouldn't start when we needed it.  Dropped the float on the carb, "sticky goo" composed of an oily like substance, fortified with the dissolved Aluminum/pot metal/brass from the body of the carb, the float was glued to the bottom - managed to bend and destroy it just taking it apart.

Replaced the whole carb.   *IF* we use it, it gets run dry (with stabil) and I'll put a little "Sea Foam" in the last bit of gas to coat the engine.  The carb bowl gets dropped and any remaining gas gets drained.
My neighbor "had" the same problem, using gas that was suppose to be 100%...  I'll but 100%, but never trust these little gas stations selling it!  Every gasket on his dried out and cracked - another sign of alcohol.


About Diesel... I take care of a LOT of backup gensets on critical locations, 45kw to 750kw units, most of them being Generac 125~150kw units.  The diesel has sat in those things for 10 years, never being drained completely.  Every unit automatically runs, weekly, and is "monitored" for "problems".  All kinds of bacterial GROWS in those tanks, despite Biocide treatment, and filtering, the crap settles to the bottom on the tanks.  One genset we were disposing of, with it's 375 gallon belly tank, filled a 65 gallon leg tank with "water", I had pushed the pump's hose all the way to the bottom, hoping to get all the diesel out.
IMO - diesel is good for those cases when propane is hard to obtain, pricey and nobody's giving it away.  In cold climates, these backup gensets are HARD TO START if the tank heater fails (what fails is the snap switch on the bottom of the tank heater, <$5ea, not the heating element, but generac will gladly sell you a $250 tank heater, exact replacement!  Just did another one last Thursday). 
We also change the dual fuel filters every other year on these things - anytime a load of fuel gets dropped, the debris in the tank gets stirred up, taking days to settle - the crap clogs the filters, and then it's a real mess to change them & get the prime back.

I prefer a Propane, even a dual fuel unit.   It starts in the coldest weather, air cooled, means no antifreeze to mess with, change, test, replace - just the oil.  IMO, the older, the better, like in CAST IRON engines, not these Aluminum  or "sleeved" units for the house generator.   For the unit I'll lug around, it's as CHEAP as I can make it - and toss it when it's done.

Some places have that premix, gas-oil, 50:1 for chain saws - while expensive, it seems to last a very long time, and the chain saws love it.  So do those little 2 cycle generators.  I used up a dozen cans of it last weekend - no problems with it at all.


Growing up on the farm (and still have one), we always had filters on the elevated diesel tanks, always draining that filter's float bowl of water.  It's gotta be the expansion & contraction of the fuel, sucking moist air into the tank, condensing and rusting out the low collection points.  I've thought of putting an old CO2 fire extinguisher with a very low pressure regulator (propane?) on it, to keep the air out... but, then that bacterial growth is Anaerobic (no oxygen), it could make it worse.  Maybe a Dessicant filter on the oil tank's breather pipe would do it?
Bought a coleman 4000 30 years ago, starts great, runs great, etc, but I run the gas out every time I use it. Forgot once, had to rebuild the carburetor, lesson learned. Trying to decide if I want a generator for the house, I'm leaning propane or duel. The coleman I have is great when I need something away from the house, just does not have the power to do much good during a outage. Biggest problem I see for me, is I don';t think I will use it very often, and if needed, it will take a good of amount of fuel, which needs to be stored. Sounds to me from reading from y'all's (yes that's a word around here) experience, a duel fuel portable might be the way to go. couple or three 20 gallon tanks should get it thru a outage.

Offline Solar

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Re: Cost of generators for backup power?
« Reply #31 on: February 21, 2021, 08:13:06 AM »
Before ethanol, the gas evaporated and left a yellow vanish to plug up the needle valve, floats, tubes.
Since ethanol, the alcohol attracts moisture, which destroys the carb's float, needle valve, etc.

Even though I used Stabil, a few years later, a 5kw Coleman Generator we had used a couple times (mostly loaned out) wouldn't start when we needed it.  Dropped the float on the carb, "sticky goo" composed of an oily like substance, fortified with the dissolved Aluminum/pot metal/brass from the body of the carb, the float was glued to the bottom - managed to bend and destroy it just taking it apart.

Replaced the whole carb.   *IF* we use it, it gets run dry (with stabil) and I'll put a little "Sea Foam" in the last bit of gas to coat the engine.  The carb bowl gets dropped and any remaining gas gets drained.
My neighbor "had" the same problem, using gas that was suppose to be 100%...  I'll but 100%, but never trust these little gas stations selling it!  Every gasket on his dried out and cracked - another sign of alcohol.


About Diesel... I take care of a LOT of backup gensets on critical locations, 45kw to 750kw units, most of them being Generac 125~150kw units.  The diesel has sat in those things for 10 years, never being drained completely.  Every unit automatically runs, weekly, and is "monitored" for "problems".  All kinds of bacterial GROWS in those tanks, despite Biocide treatment, and filtering, the crap settles to the bottom on the tanks.  One genset we were disposing of, with it's 375 gallon belly tank, filled a 65 gallon leg tank with "water", I had pushed the pump's hose all the way to the bottom, hoping to get all the diesel out.
IMO - diesel is good for those cases when propane is hard to obtain, pricey and nobody's giving it away.  In cold climates, these backup gensets are HARD TO START if the tank heater fails (what fails is the snap switch on the bottom of the tank heater, <$5ea, not the heating element, but generac will gladly sell you a $250 tank heater, exact replacement!  Just did another one last Thursday). 
We also change the dual fuel filters every other year on these things - anytime a load of fuel gets dropped, the debris in the tank gets stirred up, taking days to settle - the crap clogs the filters, and then it's a real mess to change them & get the prime back.

I prefer a Propane, even a dual fuel unit.   It starts in the coldest weather, air cooled, means no antifreeze to mess with, change, test, replace - just the oil.  IMO, the older, the better, like in CAST IRON engines, not these Aluminum  or "sleeved" units for the house generator.   For the unit I'll lug around, it's as CHEAP as I can make it - and toss it when it's done.

Some places have that premix, gas-oil, 50:1 for chain saws - while expensive, it seems to last a very long time, and the chain saws love it.  So do those little 2 cycle generators.  I used up a dozen cans of it last weekend - no problems with it at all.


Growing up on the farm (and still have one), we always had filters on the elevated diesel tanks, always draining that filter's float bowl of water.  It's gotta be the expansion & contraction of the fuel, sucking moist air into the tank, condensing and rusting out the low collection points.  I've thought of putting an old CO2 fire extinguisher with a very low pressure regulator (propane?) on it, to keep the air out... but, then that bacterial growth is Anaerobic (no oxygen), it could make it worse.  Maybe a Dessicant filter on the oil tank's breather pipe would do it?
Excellent stuff!!! :thumbup:
I've gone through 10 various gas engines since the advent of ethanol, kills  gaskets even over a winter empty. Chainsaws gum up in the tank, have to literally drain them out at the end of summer and run them dry.
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Offline Solar

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Re: Cost of generators for backup power?
« Reply #32 on: February 21, 2021, 08:16:18 AM »
Bought a coleman 4000 30 years ago, starts great, runs great, etc, but I run the gas out every time I use it. Forgot once, had to rebuild the carburetor, lesson learned. Trying to decide if I want a generator for the house, I'm leaning propane or duel. The coleman I have is great when I need something away from the house, just does not have the power to do much good during a outage. Biggest problem I see for me, is I don';t think I will use it very often, and if needed, it will take a good of amount of fuel, which needs to be stored. Sounds to me from reading from y'all's (yes that's a word around here) experience, a duel fuel portable might be the way to go. couple or three 20 gallon tanks should get it thru a outage.
Cost can be a factor for propane in some areas. The only problem with propane is BTU's per gallon compared to gasoline. You don't get the same horsepower or mileage you do out of gas. Close to a 20% loss over all per gallon.
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Re: Cost of generators for backup power?
« Reply #33 on: February 21, 2021, 08:31:49 AM »
Cost can be a factor for propane in some areas. The only problem with propane is BTU's per gallon compared to gasoline. You don't get the same horsepower or mileage you do out of gas. Close to a 20% loss over all per gallon.
Does that mean a 10k portable would yield 8k on propane?  In other words, could the 20% less horsepower be overcome by an higher unit?

Offline Skull

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Re: Cost of Propane for backup power?
« Reply #34 on: February 21, 2021, 08:36:25 AM »
My house is in Ventura county, so no off-gridder am I.  But the rolling blackouts are getting more common and longer.  The last two were 33 & 35 hours.  Two questions then:

1) Assuming a 15 kw standby generator (not a portable) run on propane, for all the house.  Supposing no power for 48 hours, how much would be used and how expensive would the propane be?  We have an AmeriGas supplier nearby.

2) Which brand of generator to buy & install?  Reliability & relative quiet are main factors.
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Offline Solar

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Re: Cost of generators for backup power?
« Reply #35 on: February 21, 2021, 08:52:12 AM »
Does that mean a 10k portable would yield 8k on propane?  In other words, could the 20% less horsepower be overcome by an higher unit?
Sure, but again, cost is a factor. I know I sound like a broken record, but go diesel, you get all the power and more, as well as thousands of hours of use over any other system out there, as well as trouble free, for the most part.
You will get the full 10K and more out of a 10K diesel, but the limit will only be the electrical system, as in 60 amp breaker, but the engine will never struggle like that of a gas engine, even under full load.

If you can find one, get an older 1800 RPM diesel, they'll have twice the life of a 3600 RPM engine. Life expectancy on newer 3600 RPM engines is 25 thousand hours, while an older 1800 could easily exceed 50 thousand hours if maintained properly, manufacturer claims are far less, but they also expect it to run close to full load commercially.
If you do go diesel, get as close to your needs as possible, otherwise a huge gen set will load up with carbon, they expect a load and run happiest at 60 to 85% load capacity.

And like I said, if you want quiet, Cummins/Onan RV series is the quietest diesel on the Mkt. The one thing about diesel engines is less moving parts, less to wear out and easy to rebuild, most alternators paired with them will easily follow a diesel rebuild 2 or 3 times without issue.

Side not, customer bought an old 1800 RPM Cummins trailer 20K genset from a rental outlet, had 50 thousand hours on it, he died and it was at seventy five thousand hours and still ran like new, a testament to proper maintenance.
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Re: Cost of generators for backup power?
« Reply #36 on: February 21, 2021, 09:18:56 AM »
Does that mean a 10k portable would yield 8k on propane?  In other words, could the 20% less horsepower be overcome by an higher unit?
YES!  My 1974 Dayton Propane generator is rated 12kw on gas, 10kw on LP and 9x on NG.

The carb conversion kits which convert practically ANY gasoline generator to NG / LP / Gas are getting cheaper, and IMC (in-my-case), the Dual fuel, Gas/LP is absolutely on my list for this old Coleman 5kw unit.  http://www.propane-generators.com/briggs_stratton.php

This site has a dual & tri-fuel conversion kit for my 1974 generator!   Now... if I could only find the right brushes for the starter winding.
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Re: Cost of Propane for backup power?
« Reply #37 on: February 21, 2021, 09:55:58 AM »
My house is in Ventura county, so no off-gridder am I.  But the rolling blackouts are getting more common and longer.  The last two were 33 & 35 hours.  Two questions then:

1) Assuming a 15 kw standby generator (not a portable) run on propane, for all the house.  Supposing no power for 48 hours, how much would be used and how expensive would the propane be?  We have an AmeriGas supplier nearby.

2) Which brand of generator to buy & install?  Reliability & relative quiet are main factors.

I do NOT endorse Generac ... I work on the Diesels, some of my old friends worked in the Waukesha, WI plant, and I heard the stories, and see the results in those I have to maintain.  If I bought one, I'd go in knowing it could cost $1500 to replace the controller board, or $15k to replace a Diesel's radiator, while like the engines, every one is oddly unique and probably a "custom built".  They are really CHEAP though..
One reviewer nails it with this: "Pay the pole fee for grid power. You'll be glad you did. Or plan to buy a new Generac every two to four years. (JV off-grid).  State: CO - Colorado  Age: 55-64   2 years, 4 months ago".

If I went the new generator route, I'd buy 2 of them, smallest units, split my service into 2 sub panels, 2 small transfer switches, one for "Essential stuff" and the other for "daily/daytime conveniences". 
When... I mean WHEN one fails, I switch over to the other, and have the parts to keep one running a longer time when one is trashed.   Like computers, generators, especially Generac are constantly changing.  I got the service manuals on CDs for these things covering +20 years ... OMG!  It's a HUGE library!  I'd also DEMAND the service/repair manual on ANY unit I was buying as a condition of purchase.  Don't care WHO makes it, sells it, fixes it, there is BIG, BIG money in servicing these units, parts are expensive, and labor is very, very expensive.  Once they sell you, they GOT you.... but, if you can work on it, yourself.... heheheh

Here's the home size units:  https://www.generac.com/all-products/generators/home-backup-generators#?cat=6&cat=148&cat=75&cat=214&cat=217&cat=249  They come in nicely insulated cabinets, which cut the noise way-way down to a comfortable level.  I can hear my neighbor's running 1/4+ mile away, but the other neighbor with his 5kw gasser easily covers that up when he's running.
Quiet 66db - absolutely!
LPG @ 1/2 load 1.84gph; full load 2.76gph

https://www.generac.com/generaccorporate/media/library/content/all-products/generators/home-generators/ecogen-series/15kw-7034/0l0665_ecogen-15kw-sell-sheet.pdf

As I'm writing this... the Propane truck just went by... to refill my neighbor?  80hrs on his Generac 20kw kept everything comfortable & cosy during the ice storm ... I figure he burned 120 gallons of LP.  Which is the another reason why I'm thinking 2 small units, one which runs the absolutely essential stuff, the 2nd to run the daytime stuff.   But, then I've got big battery banks, and UPSes for that.  One small generator covers it all, the batteries cover the big loads & get charged when they're resting.
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Offline Skull

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Re: Cost of generators for backup power?
« Reply #38 on: February 21, 2021, 11:57:25 AM »
Tnx Hoofer, I will avoid Generac for sure. 

Even though my focus was Power Production in USAF, I am too old & crippled to do my own maintenance now.  Besides, I was a lousy Airman then and have forgotten everything by now anyway.

So around 2 gallons @ hour for propane, doubt I would need full 12 or 15kw load anyway.  That suggests that a 96 gal. tank will do for 48 hours.  That is smaller in size, do not want one of the 8 foot long ones.

Cummins impressed me 50 years ago, maybe I will research their propane simpatico generators now.
« Last Edit: February 21, 2021, 12:06:26 PM by Skull »
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Re: Cost of generators for backup power?
« Reply #39 on: February 21, 2021, 01:20:11 PM »
Tnx Hoofer, I will avoid Generac for sure. 

Even though my focus was Power Production in USAF, I am too old & crippled to do my own maintenance now.  Besides, I was a lousy Airman then and have forgotten everything by now anyway.

So around 2 gallons @ hour for propane, doubt I would need full 12 or 15kw load anyway.  That suggests that a 96 gal. tank will do for 48 hours.  That is smaller in size, do not want one of the 8 foot long ones.

Cummins impressed me 50 years ago, maybe I will research their propane simpatico generators now.

If taking care of it is not for you - I'd definitely lean towards Air-cooled, Propane or Natural Gas, everything else is maintenance plus.  At my age, changing the oil is a "job" - but laying down, reaching around to pull parts off, replace this and that... UGH!!!

IMO, water cooled units (which is all I work on, other than my home), are a pain-in-the-butt.
Just eliminating the belts, hoses, water pump, antifreeze, radiators, block heaters - saves time.  As much as I'd love to recapture that waste heat for the house water heater ... meh... it's the rest of the stuff, leaking water pumps, cracked belts, all those items which it absolutely cannot run without.   The air cooled units have a crankshaft with a fan on it, and most of them have built in alternators, brushless, far less moving parts to maintain.

Propane has one part, I'd add, a manual gas shut off, if it doesn't come with it, add that before the electric shutoff - mine leaked on me, stuck open or something... big mess.  Ours is manually shut off, unless we're going to run the genset.

Propane & Natural Gas are really simple, compared to Gas & Diesel, and the oil after days of running, amazing how "clean" it looks, not to mention the odor comparison.

IMO - ultimately, whatever you got for cheap, safe, plentiful fuel ... ought to really drive your decision.
A fellow HAM lives in West Virginia, in 6 buried Conex Boxes.  He has naturally occurring Natural Gas, via a pipe someone drove into the hillside decades ago.  Although it must be filtered, he says it'll run just about anything - and doesn't smell "too bad".  Maybe it's all the other gases that naturally occur with it?


A word of warning on LPG tank size, go BIG.  It needs to expand & vaporize from liquid to gas, absorbing heat from somewhere.  More surface in a bigger tank, or multiple tanks on a 2-3 tank manifold might make the difference between running on a cold winter day, or just running an hour or two.  a gallon of LPG is equal to 35 cu ft of gas.  https://fire.lacounty.gov/wp-content/uploads/2019/08/Gas_Conversion_Chart.pdf
1 gallon of propane weighs 4.23 pounds. So, a full 20 lb cylinder should contain 4.73 gallons of propane.

This might be useful for sizing a set of tanks.

more tanks = more surface area, better pressure on those cold wintry days.

We had several days of double-digit below zero ... my dad fired up the charcoal grill, cleaned all the snow away from our cook stove's LP tank, and dumped the coals around it.  Called it "cooking Brunch" because there wasn't anything gas to cook with at breakfast time.

This might explain it

Coldest morning I remember was -36 below.  The heat required to vaporize / flow ANY fuel at those temperatures... Gas, LPG, Diesel (Gels at 10 degrees)... if you're in a COLD climate, with above ground tanks, another consideration - Wood stove & lanterns start looking quite appealing!  (we DO use lanterns, they are CHEAP).

Good luck!

One last word... MotorKote (oil additive) really does save wear and fuel. 
Project Farm guy did a review on that too!  Might give you added protection for a long genset run, in case you're low on oil..?

Adding it to Wifey's Nissan Titan XD Diesel (Cummings 5.0, twin turbo) took it from 17 to 18.5 MPG.
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Offline Skull

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Re: Cost of generators for backup power?
« Reply #40 on: February 21, 2021, 06:16:38 PM »
Very generous response Hoofer, lots of good data, I thank you much.

But my neck of the woods is very mild, just North of Los Angeles.  Winter temps are a daytime 65-75, nights 45-55.  So I am mainly focused on avoiding the black outs from Edison power company, especially this summer.

But I just discovered a cheap, clean motel nearby, so maybe I will just bail there for a day or three and throw out spoiled food when I get home.
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Re: Cost of generators for backup power? - a replacement
« Reply #41 on: February 26, 2021, 06:11:18 AM »
After looking at several generators, and the cost of just letting them RUN on Propane, I've decided to maximize the use of my battery bank whenever possible, and size the generator for the largest single load, allowing it to charge the battery bank between the big loads.

From what I've been reading, running at full load is best efficiency, and the bigger the unit, the more fuel is wasted running partial loads.  Give the genset something to "DO" instead of idle.   Another assumption, dashed, the Inverter gensets save more "noise" idling down, than comparative fuel efficiency - it just isn't there, though I thought it should be.   Even with the "energy losses" of charging batteries, and discharging to UPS units, it's becoming clearer - it's a "wash".   The ideal inverter would be a "standby" unit, sipping next to nothing, until there is an actual load - and then running at near peak power, for efficiency.

There is no, one easy solution for most people, and having battery banks just gives more options - mainly some "quiet" from the sound of a generator.  One advantage of batteries, the eventual addition of Solar Panels to augment *some* additional power - but, at quite an additional cost.

Currently, my well pump draws about 4000w starting, 3500w running - so that becomes my generator size.  Dual fuel, LPG and Gasoline.  LPG so I can have it 100% ready on standby, and Gasoline as a backup source of fuel (given my neighbor's practically ran their 500 gallon LP tanks dry with the last 80hr outage.  The combination of a long outage, AND near the end of the heating season... tanks a little low.. was an interesting case in BAD TIMING.  But, that's when we get ice storms, late spring - DUH!).


Then, I had another thought...  and I useto own one of these, a long time ago...  Just go straight 48VDC generation, convert the whole house to DC (parallel circuits), and just charge the battery bank directly, skipping the Rectifiers (one unnecessary step?).  I'd have to eventually change out the Well Pump, or stack a DC well pump on top of the AC pump (like that idea).  A couple of check valves on each pump (normally have them), and plumb them together inside the well, hanging each separately, add a couple of   extra "anti-twist" things to minimize the starting twist motion on the pipes...  That *might* work.
Power fails (batteries), or sun is shining (solar panels), the DC pump runs, AC pump runs the rest of the time.  Lucky for us, our well is just 110' deep, a 1/2hp pump is barely enough for the farm, a 3/4hp pump is simply awesome for running 2 big sprinklers during the really dry spells.


So, trying to rationalize the expense of a new generator, and trying to factor in all the energy savings... meh, it's probably time to seriously look at WHERE the rest of the energy load exists in the house, and how can we reduce it further?   We've installed (yet to power up) DC powered LED lights (years ago), and then the screw in LEDs started getting cheaper ... so we quit.   

That's the problem with everything - either I don't have the TIME (work), or if I had the time, wouldn't have the MONEY to do this stuff.  Plus, last year with the WuHan Flu - business completely tanked.

So, I'm looking for an old army surplus generator I can mount directly to an engine, or, I'll talk to a motor / Alternator shop and have them custom wind a 150-200amp unit I can belt drive off a slow running engine (Gas/LPG).   Maybe there's an answer there.   On the bright side, we have 4-5 extra UPS units, so if one smokes, we just switch it out.   And the battery banks, vintage 2011, are well into the 90% capacity ranges - after they've been a little more stable from the last outage, I'll test them and start logging capacity / Siemens tests.  One benefit of working in Telecom, you get access to some neat high-tech tools.

Like everyone who likes to "Tinker" - no project is ever finished, and 90% of the dreams... are just dreams.
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Re: Cost of generators for backup power?
« Reply #42 on: February 26, 2021, 06:32:42 AM »
I'm not pushing this particular company, there are so many to choose from, but if you want an alternative to using a genset or battery bank, this is the way to go.
I've sold a shitload of these AC 3 phase solar well systems, usually just the pump and inverter, sometimes included a battery bank and varying brands of solar panels, but these little monsters kick ass and more than pay for themselves.

My favorite is the Surflow 9300 series 12/24VDC slow pump to keep holding tanks full and use a pressure pump for the house.

https://realgoods.com/search/?q=Shurflo+9300

Here's the AC pump...

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Re: Cost of generators for backup power?
« Reply #43 on: February 26, 2021, 05:37:32 PM »

My favorite is the Surflow 9300 series 12/24VDC slow pump to keep holding tanks full and use a pressure pump for the house.

We don't have a cistern or bulk tank for storage, but do have an 86 gallon bladder tank - and plan to add a 2nd one.  Thanks for the suggestion.  I grew up with 3 cisterns on the farm, 6000-10,000 gallon ranges, the wind mill just pumped and pumped, till a tornado ripped it apart.

I'm kinda in the middle on the well pump, stack a DC pump, or just replace it with a DC pump, or replace it with a 120v AC pump and skip the special UPS altogether (I have one, a monster, also 48vdc powered).

Kinda a unique situation, I'm UPS & battery rich - just need a good way to keep them charged, ready and recharge (cheaply) during the power outages.

One suggestion is to "fix" the old 10kw Dayton genset, and just run it when the batteries are low.
Another is remove the old unit, add a Dual Fuel (Gas & LP) set, use LP for the standby, switch to Gas for the extended outages - but, only use it to recharge the batteries, let the UPSes handle the intermittent loads.

What I'm finding troubling, Generators, like Inverters & UPSes, are the most efficient under a FULL LOAD.  Which makes me think, "small unit" which is cheap, and run the hell outta it when I need it, and shut it off if I got the juice in the batteries.
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Re: Cost of generators for backup power?
« Reply #44 on: February 26, 2021, 08:19:55 PM »
We don't have a cistern or bulk tank for storage, but do have an 86 gallon bladder tank - and plan to add a 2nd one.  Thanks for the suggestion.  I grew up with 3 cisterns on the farm, 6000-10,000 gallon ranges, the wind mill just pumped and pumped, till a tornado ripped it apart.

I'm kinda in the middle on the well pump, stack a DC pump, or just replace it with a DC pump, or replace it with a 120v AC pump and skip the special UPS altogether (I have one, a monster, also 48vdc powered).

Kinda a unique situation, I'm UPS & battery rich - just need a good way to keep them charged, ready and recharge (cheaply) during the power outages.

One suggestion is to "fix" the old 10kw Dayton genset, and just run it when the batteries are low.
Another is remove the old unit, add a Dual Fuel (Gas & LP) set, use LP for the standby, switch to Gas for the extended outages - but, only use it to recharge the batteries, let the UPSes handle the intermittent loads.

What I'm finding troubling, Generators, like Inverters & UPSes, are the most efficient under a FULL LOAD.  Which makes me think, "small unit" which is cheap, and run the hell outta it when I need it, and shut it off if I got the juice in the batteries.
Just like UPS systems, they're replacing solar panels and you can pick up perfectly good solar panels for free, they save on the disposal fee that way.
You could easily pick up 100K watts, all you have to do is hall it away.
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