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School me on Generators...

Discussion in 'Survival/Preparedness Forum' started by fireguy129, Sep 1, 2011.

  1. fireguy129

    fireguy129 NRA Member 2008

    May 31, 2001
    Northeast Pa, usa
    specifically, running electronics on a portable generator. After Irene blew through this weekend, we ran into problems at my fire station. Our power was out, but we still needed to function. We're considering a decent size generator for the lighting in a few areas, heat in the winter if possible, and communications i.e. base radio and pc with internet. What hazards are there with portable generators regarding electronics and how do we mitigate them? I checked inverter generators but they don't seem to have the wattage. Is there something we should be looking for to even out the power to make it safe for electronics?
  2. ArmoryDoc


    May 14, 2006
    Tagged for interest.

  3. For computer systems there are "power conditioners" that smooth out the surges on the line. They are most often used with automatic battery back-ups. I only have experience with the home/small office variety and I suspect you will need a more industrial scale version.

    On the level you're talking about, it might be something that is incorporated into the circuit breaker box. You probably need to talk to a real electrician.

    BTW, most power strip "surge protectors" are 100% worthless to stop power surges.
    Last edited: Sep 1, 2011
  4. Generally speaking, most generators don't put out a very clean AC wave form (known as a sine wave or modified sine wave). Also, generally speaking, most devices don't care.

    There are exceptions.

    Anything with a transformer is going to run hot and its life will be shortened. Has anyone bought a cheap power inverter to run their laptop in the car, only to find that their laptop's power supply dies after several months? Notice they run hot? That's why.

    Modified sine wave. True sine wave inverters exist, but are expensive.

    Generators are similar. Again, brands are different, some have cleaner outputs (Honda is pretty clean from what I hear) than others, but also, your lights won't care. Also, over short durations, your transformers won't care. Nothing is probably going to explode due to a dirty output

    Also, same as Inverters, gennys are rated in peak output and constant output. Peak output really doesn't mean much, look for the 'sustained' output.

    The peak output is for spikes. Think of a circular saw (corded). The instant you pull the trigger, there is a huge spike to get the motor running. 3 seconds after that, the draw drops once the motor is spinning. That's the difference between peak and constant. Anything with a pump/motor is going to have a spike, so if you're using this for power tools or something like that.. keep an eye on it, but the 'constant' output is going to be more relevant for day to day use
    Last edited: Sep 1, 2011
  5. Big Bird

    Big Bird NRA Life Member

    Aug 7, 2003
    Louisville KY
    FWIW, the Honda Generators have clean power and use inverters.
  6. janice6

    janice6 Silver Member

    Apr 4, 2006
    The key items to look for are: 60 Hz sinusoidal controlled frequency, Regulated 110 VAC and 220 VAC, Sufficient wattage rating to allow for your intended load with a reserve. Be sure you have an exhaust sealed unit, so you can either run it indoors or with a remote extension exhaust pipe. (either/or).

    Not to be ignored is the sound level produced by the unit. You can get very quiet or very noisy ones. Sound is rated in db's. pick the lowest. You may want to look for noise filters on the output power.

    The power is produced at a cost of X gallons of fuel per hour (at the rated load). Try to get the largest on board tank so you don't have to be filling it all the time.

    Good luck.
  7. Bolster

    Bolster Not Ready Yet!

    Jul 23, 2011
    State of Stupidity
    I did a lot of research before purchasing a Honda EU2000i, and one of the things that sold me on it was the ability to run sensitive AC electronics. (It will not run DC electronics! Only good for charging batteries.) Course it's not big enough to run the refrigerator, so I guess I'll have to eat my computer instead.

    Quote: "Honda's sine-wave inverter technology provides smoother, higher quality power flow that is ideal for frequency and voltage fluctuation-sensitive equipment such as HD Camcorders, laptop computers, back up hard drives, and HMI ballasts. Honda's inverter technology accomplishes this by taking the raw power produced by the generator and passes it through a microprocessor controlled multi-step process to condition it...The inverter cleans and stabilizes the the power to make it equal to or better than household power with a waveform distortion factor of less than 2.5%."

    This is COOL, somebody has a comparison of wave forms by various generators & other power sources HERE.

    I will say it's shockingly quiet. I could hardly believe it.

    What?! Crap. I did not know that. Isn't that what the bastages sell them for, protecting against surges?

    Does not you mean, run it OUTdoors or with a remote...?
    Last edited: Sep 4, 2011
  8. janice6

    janice6 Silver Member

    Apr 4, 2006

    You're right. I didn't make that clear. Yes, either indoors with a remote exhaust or outdoors.....

    This was my checkoff list when I bought them (a bunch) for remote location testing systems.

    (We ran Kilowatt lasers, sensitive electronic spectrum analysis, and computers on them)
  9. powderhead


    Jun 21, 2010
    I use a generator quite a bit. I bought mine at Sam;s Club for about $1000. It's called a Black Max. Honda powered, but who knows who made the generator portion? I couldn't afford a full Honda at the 8,000 watts I wanted. The price of one was near twice what I paid for mine. I think so far I'm pleased with what I have, as I use it to power my 220 volt mig when I am out of the shop, the whole house during power outages, and I can throw it in the back of the truck and take it to the neighbors when they need help.
  10. LongGun1

    LongGun1 StraightShooter

    You may want to consider a system like this....

    (a thread about my last hurricane induced grid power outage )

    ..for a 'total solution' for your issues.

    An inverter-based backup power system consists of..

    ... a microprocessor-controlled sine-wave inverter..

    ..a battery bank ..

    ..and if you want longer periods of backup... a electric start generator (preferably diesel or piped natural gas).

    Basically.....this is how a solid state true sine wave utility grade inverter/charger setup with generator backup operates.

    The inverter syncs the output with a generator if needed to give the nominal & surge ratings of both, but normally everything is running off of the inverter(s) when grid power is down. Seamless automation of the generator when needed. If the grid power goes off, the switchover time is in milliseconds with NO felt loss of power, versus the several seconds without power which is needed for the genset to spool up. 24/7 backup power without the noise & excessive expense of running a genset 24/7.

    When the batteries are drained to a programmed DOD (depth of discharge) level & grid power is out;.. the Inverter/charger will automatically start the genset, warm up the genset, bring it on-line, charge the battery bank, then bring the genset off line, let it cool down, then turn it off without any intervention from the user.

    The inverter will also exercise the genset on programmed intervals (monthly) & give an indication if the genset did not start/run properly.

    I installed a Trace/Xantrex PP-SW4048/D Inverter/Charger (2 of the SW4048 Inverter/Chargers in a stacked configuration for 220 VAC) in my house the late 1990's & works great. My inverter setup alone provides 8KW nominal/20KW Surge + 8KW Genset/24KW Surge Genset (Total combined Inverters + Genset 16KW nominal/44KW surge).

    The reasons in favor for a Inverter based system are.... it exercises your genset once a month to make sure it will work when needed & will generate a "Error" if the genset does not pass the monthly check / warm-up.

    People tend to forget the monthly check...computerized automation does not.
    It will also start the genset if the battery bank is needing charging and/or if the inverter is incapable of supporting the load & extra power is needed

    Seamless integration of power....with a inverter based system transfer of power upon "Grid Failure" is so quick most would be unaware it has happened. No resetting of alarm clocks/microwave clocks/VCR clocks,etc....

    It also keeps compressors from "short cycling" in the event of short duration outages like are experienced during an ice storm, etc...

    Also the surges preceding storms, brownouts, overvolt/undervolt/out of spec CPS (frequency) issues are resolved before damage can be done to expensive home appliances & sensitive electronics

    Longevity for Long Term Outage......most gensets providing power 24/7 would need a oil/filter change after 4 days vs. approx 1 month (depending on KWH needed) between oil/filter changes with inverter integration.

    Also the fuel cost is much more per KWH used with generator alone setup vs. a genset with inverter integration

    Noise......many locations have noise ordinances affecting night time use & a inverter can "block out" times that are objectionable for genset operation. You can get very quiet gensets/enclosures but they are more expensive.

    Also during an extended blackout, houses with generators running at night present themselves to be a target for looters.... & worse.

    Last edited: Sep 4, 2011
  11. Next time you're in a store, look at the package carefully. Rarely do they say "surge protector." That's just a common name we call them, they are really just power strips. The fuses in them are to prevent a fire if the strip gets overloaded or shorts out, like a GFI. Think about how movies from the 50's joke about the outlet with a bunch of adapters plugged in sparking. That's what the power strips prevent.

    In a a real power surge, their is nothing to prevent power from spiking through the strip, and if there is a lightning stike, forget it. You stuff is smoked.
  12. LongGun1

    LongGun1 StraightShooter

    If it is a true surge protector..

    ..then it will have at least one MOV (metal oxide varistor) or SOV (silicon oxide varistor) for protection.

    At any voltage above spec...the MOV will shunt the excess..

    ..and in the case of a severe event..

    ..the MOV will 'crowbar' (sacrificial permanent short circuit) to ground & trip the breaker.

    In case of the latter...either repair or replacement will be necessary.

    Problem is...the rise time on these transient events can be faster than the device can respond..

    ..and the clamping or shunt voltage can be well above wall voltage.

    That being said....MOV/SOV protection devices are much better than nothing..

    ..especially with the better designed surge protection units.

    Proper grounding & shielding combined with layers of cascaded MOV or SOV protection (i.e. Delta) ..

    ..along with gas tube devices (i.e. Polyphaser)

    .. can greatly reduce your exposure to lightning induced spikes & surges.
    Last edited: Sep 4, 2011
  13. kirgi08

    kirgi08 Watcher. Silver Member

    Jun 4, 2007
    Acme proving grounds.
    LG-1 was my guide for genny use.Listen.'08.
  14. Tippyman


    Sep 12, 2010
    I purchased the Honda EU2000i for the reasons already stated, but I wanted more than 2000W power.

    So, I bought a second one and a parallel kit. Now I have 4000W of power, it's still clean power, it's still fuel efficient, still silent, and I can grab one and go if need be.

    Not to mention, if one catastrophically fails, I at least have one 2000W generator to use as backup to keep the food alive.
  15. Bolster

    Bolster Not Ready Yet!

    Jul 23, 2011
    State of Stupidity
    That's the way to do it. Built in redundancy, and scalability. You fortunate dawg. I would love to get a second, myself. Not sure how many other generators allow you to tether together like that.
  16. bdcochran


    Sep 23, 2005
    Los Angeles
    Thanks for bringing up generators. I have a new generac 4000 watt unit in the wrap since 1987. I will be copying the manuals tomorrow and trying to download a copy of the manual into my computer manuals subdirectory tomorrow. I have been trying to put all appliance/electronic goods manuals into a subdirectory as well as making paper copies that are wrapped in protective plastic sleeves.
  17. UtahIrishman

    UtahIrishman BLR Silver Member

    Nov 11, 2001
    I thought they discontinued the parallel kit? I have a EU2000i as well and when I went to look for the parallel kit (this was a couple years ago) the local Honda dealer said it had been discontinued?
  18. R_W


    Nov 8, 2007
    I haven't seen the parallel CORD in a while, but I have seen the higher dollar KIT that includes the 120/240 high-amp plug.
  19. UtahIrishman

    UtahIrishman BLR Silver Member

    Nov 11, 2001
    Thanks...I should've looked before I are correct

    I just Googled and found them. Maybe they weren't available at the time.

    Sorry about the diversion...back on topic now
  20. Tippyman


    Sep 12, 2010