Operation of Home Pc's, television, stereo etc by generator power

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I have a 5 kw Honda generator. Can I simply use my electronic equipment as I normally would or do I need to be concerned about voltage fluctuations and similar variations the generator may produce when I use it as the electric source?

-- Rick Evans (vrevans@bellatlantic.net), September 16, 1998


I believe the formula - someone please assist - is amps x volts = watts. So, check the electrical specs. on the back of the appliance- volts and amps, and multiply them for watts. Do this for all appliances you desire to run. The sum cannot go over the rating for the generator. Please note, electrical devices need 2x to 6x their normal rating upon 'stat up'. This must be factored in.

-- ec condron (ecscokc@worldnet.att.net), September 16, 1998.

It would not be a bad idea to use a surge suppressor/UPS for sensitive electronics, and always start the genset without anything plugged in, allow the rpms to settle first.

-- Uncle Deedah (oncebitten@twiceshy.com), September 16, 1998.

I don't have numbers and values for household appliances handy; I'll look them up and let you know more.

My gut instinct: don't do it. You don't have the capacity to carry the surges nor the base loads, and you don't want to use the gasoline to run "useless" appliances like TV's (my kids are not happy), PC's, microwaves (I'm not happy), electric ovens (my wife is not happy), vacuum cleaners (my kids are happy), and other paraphenalia like hair dryers (my daughter is not happy.)

Try this little test. Get a *good* very heavy duty extension cord: start up the generator (good idea in any case to test it early), plug it into the outlet your extension cord, your shop light (it probably has a three-way outlet near the base) and into this outlet plug your hand drill, a radial saw or cross cut saw, and your vacuum cleaner. Turn the shoplight on, listen to the generator. Now turn the rest on, one at a time, monitor the load and amps and output (imediately secure loads if any excessive load is created.

Look spikes in the amps, jumps in the voltage, and surges. Then think about what you really want to run.

Let me know what happens.

-- Robert A. Cook, P.E. (Kennesaw, GA) (cook.r@csaatl.com), September 16, 1998.

Typical Equipment Wattages

Refrigerator 400-800

Freezer 600-1,000

Furnace blower 400-600

Electric skillet 1,150-1,500

Electric stove 3,000-4,000

Washing machine 400-600

Water pump 800-2,500

Water heater 1,000-5,000

Electric fan 75-300

Central air conditioner 2,000-5,000

NOTE: Always check the label on the device, these are rough estimates. And remember that electric motors need at least FOUR times as many watts to start as to run. Not having enough will burn out the motor.

-- Uncle Deedah (oncebitten@twiceshy.com), September 16, 1998.

In addition to these considerations, be VERY sure which scenario you are preparing for. If you are preparing for a 1-3 day outage, you are likely to be looking at 30 to 50 gallons of fuel if you are trying to maintain things like the controls for the gas furnace, the fridge, freezer etc. Look at the loads and the fuel consumption based on load.

If you are preparing for a longer scenario, don't not get the genset (as I keep telling my spouse but she thinks I just got the hots for a genset). It will be useful in driving the tools you need to retro-fit whatever you are going to need to "adjust" in about week 3-6.

For God's Sakes, don't think that you are going to plug into the mains and run your house off it until the lights come back!! the irregularities of a genset are legendary to any HAM who has used one on Field Day without at LEAST a surge supressor not to mention a power conditioner!!

-- Chuck a Night Driver (rienzoo@en.com), September 17, 1998.

1. Use a UPS. 2. TV broadcasters and cable providers are going to be among the worst hit by Y2K problems. Either don't worry about tv or buy some tapes. 3. You have to cycle your power. Don't use a generator for electric heating. Blowers are OK. Run the Fridge for a while, unhook it and then run the furnace fan. Get a LP hot water heater. Computers and most electronics don't use a lot of power, but get that UPS.

-- Paul Davis (davisp1953@yahoo.com), September 17, 1998.

You shouldn't have any trouble at all running low-power consumer electronics off a generator. Running via an UPS may be advisable to protect against spikes, surges etc which are likely on your own generated power, especially if sharing with "big" motorized stuff.

The problems are with things with big motors in: fridges, freezers, washing machines. These take a big surge every time they start, several times their rated power, so (for example) you can't count on a 5kW generator running a 2.5kW washing machine.

Unless you've got a huge fuel store, investigate micro-power audio and radio gear (in case the power is off a long time). You can get a personal CD that'll run over 20 hours off two AA cells, a radio that'll run hundreds of hours (both into headphones). Buy a few of these gadgets and plenty of batteries --- just in case.

-- Nigel Arnot (nra@maxwell.ph.kcl.ac.uk), September 17, 1998.

Karen Anderson has a topic on her website this week about generators. Has some useful info. http://www.y2kwomen.com It is issue #9 September 14th,1998 topic:generators

-- Donna B (Dd0143@aol.com), September 17, 1998.

A 5kw Honda is a good unit for what it is made for. It is considered to be a light duty-part time unit with a life of about 10,000 hours. Units like these will not stand up under constant/daily/long-term demand. If you don't want to give up some of the luxuries in life, you should look into a diesel unit ($8k+). They run at a lower RPM, which allows for heavy duty daily use with fewer problems. Plan on storing alot of diesel, though.

-- Goldi (goldilucks@yahoo.com), September 17, 1998.

Goldilucs, (-5 sp sorry) that deisel genset can be converted EASILY to either Natural gas (if you happen to have a little ol' well) or Propane if you have a couple of BIG tanks


-- Chuck a Night Driver (rienzoo@en.com), September 18, 1998.

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