Questions about generators : LUSENET : TimeBomb 2000 (Y2000) : One Thread

What is the best make and size generator for the average American home? I'm thinking of getting one, and I would appreciate some advice. Thanks!

-- Joe Williams (, March 06, 1999


The kind you can't get anymore - that's probably the best. Spend the bucks and go solar if you still can.

-- @ (@@@.@), March 06, 1999.

You're going to find out that you need to narrow your question. For instance, are you really going to run your whole home? If so, what about fuel storage? What is still available? (most people say for large generators diesel or propane are best - but it depends a little on your area of your country and a lot on availability).

Most average (poor) people will probably get gasoline generators. Nothing wrong with them, but again fuel storage, oil considerations, sizing vs. fuel consumption, and availability are all things you'll have to look into. But, basically, anything is better than nothing if you decide you really need a generator (some people have made their plans for functioning without electricity period).

Good-luck. Hopefully someone will give you a few links to check out.

-- Jon Johnson (, March 06, 1999.

There are many different generators out there. Depends on your needs. First question. Do you have a well? Check out Sorry to harp but... Any info on John (not Johm) Deere gas powered generators (5500w). How quiet (or should I say loud)?

-- ho deedo (, March 06, 1999.

I will try to narrow my previous question about generators. I am interested in a gasoline generator and I will probably use it to power my furnace, refrigerator, microwave oven, and one room of lights. What gas generator is best for these needs? What is the best one to get, as far as cost and quality are concerned?

-- Joe Williams (, March 06, 1999.

Cost and quality go hand in hand. Honda, Gillete at the top. Generac, Coleman at bottom. You can spend 2000 or 500.

-- ho deedo (, March 06, 1999.

Eveyone will have a different opinion, but Honda is usually at top, Coleman at bottom. Have heard only good things about Generac. 4000 to 6000 is usual advice, better to have 6000 (don't worry about added "surge" capacity, doesnt mean much). Most prefer an OV engine (overhead valve)or at least "industrial/contractor" grade. An oil filter is good - not required or available on lots of models, and a "brushless alternator, available.

But as I implied before, even a very average generator is expected to run about 1000 hours before needing overall - are you going to have 1000 gallons of fuel? If you can get the fuel (other than stored), you probably won't need the generator (ie - if power is on to pump fuel at the gas station - your power will be up too).

-- Jon Johnson (, March 06, 1999.

I'm no expert,but... I also have been looking into generators. Not just because of Y2K but for general emergency power. Seems like you may be alright with 2 - 3000 w. Check out those Hondas. Nice looking machines - but expensive (supposedly quiet). I have a John Deere on order - 5500 w (I have a well pump). Some goo info on this site. Also check Silicon Investor - Personal Contingency planning. Sorry can't get the URL right now.

-- ho deedo (, March 06, 1999.

Mr. Johnson. Generacs good? I defer to you on nthis. No offense intended. How about John Deere?

-- ho deedo (, March 06, 1999.

Hi Joe and Ho,

Generac's are both good and bad. Depends on the engine and other details.

Coleman's used to be bad (the plastic end bells on the generators tended to melt), but supposedly that was fixed a few years ago and now they're better (how much better, I don't know).

I've heard from people around here that the cheaper generators are designed for very intermittant service -- an hour or two at a time -- and will run only a few hundred hours before service (engine rebuild or replacement) is needed. The better generators, especially diesel, will run thousands of hours before servicing. It's the difference between paying $600 and $4000 for a unit of equivalent power.

-- Dean -- from (almost) Duh Moines (, March 07, 1999.

What good is a generator without fuel, when most likely the power will be off for six months to a year? When the hungry marauding gangs hear your generator, they will bash in your door, before you can reach for your shotgun!!! Try and live without electricity!! It's not that bad!!! Millions have done without it before it was invented!!! They managed fine.

-- Freddie the Freeloader (, March 07, 1999.

Uh, Honda & Coleman at the TOP????? You've got to be kidding!

If you want something reliable, you'll have to pay for it. Onan and Kohler come to mind. I have an Onan propane generator myself.

To answer your question, you're going to have some problems. First of all, your refrigerator especially, and your microwave too, take a lot of power.

In order to keep food cold (and safe) you'll have to keep the refer on pretty much all the time, maybe turning it off at night (while not opening the door).

The microwave will require 1.5KW or more of power to run (even if rated at 1000 (1KW) watts).

My suggestion is to scrap the refer, or get a propane powered refer. They use 2-8 gallons of propane a month and are super efficient. If that's not possible, then use ice chests or a Koolatron to keep a small amount of food cold. Obviously if you're in a warm climate, you'll have a problem obtaining ice.

As for your lights, convert them to compact flourescents (1/4 power for same illumination). And by all means turn them off. But I also suggest you get camping lanterns that run either on propane or gas, or the battery operated flourescent lanterns.

More than likely, you'll have to schedule your daily activities to coincide with generator operation. Turn on the generator & start dinner, or tv, or lights or whatever (recharging batteries?). Leave it one for an hour or two, then shut it down.

Again, you're going to have a difficult time keeping your refer cold with a generator alone. So make plans to use an ice chest or Koolatron.


PS(Koolatrons aren't terribly efficient - but they're small and will use less power than a full size refer. Also, they'll get colder faster)

-- Jollyprez (, March 07, 1999.

I am so glad that Coleman was popular enough that many people bought one and now have ironed out the bugs in their design. I have bought a 2500watt Coleman generator and now have confidence in the design. My question is to all you owners of the other brands - has the jury came in yet on your individual design? You might be due for some surprises ahead as your generators spit and sputter while the smoke rolls from the fins and loovers of your motor/generator.

-- Duane (, March 07, 1999.

It really does depend on the model for almost all makes. Generacs low end, for instance, are only Tucumseh engines and designed to be cheap and for light service. The Generac higher end are very good,have everything you would want, and are completely sold out in my area. Didn't mention Onan cause around here they've been soldout for several months. Coleman is supposed to be a lot better than it was and still available. John Deere is very good, but good luck finding one - it depends on where you live or your access to suppliers.

In summary, you have to research it and decide. But fuel storage is really probably a bigger factor than the type generator. And if you could manage it, no electricity is better.

Good Luck again.

-- Jon Johnson (, March 07, 1999.

Hi, I too have considered a generator, fuel and service issues etc. What worries me most is the sound of one going thumpety-thumpety in the night, when all is quiet due to no mains supply and hence no TV's etc. Might be sort of advertising one's preparedness, I think! Probably okay in rural areas but in a dead quiet city I don't think I want one.

-- Ron Davis (, March 07, 1999.

People keep saying "But how long can you run the gas generator when you can't get the gas ? WHY NOT ??? Buy a 12v fuel ( NOT water ) pump; then pump your gas from the deserted gas station ( powers off and stays OFF !! ) in March or April . If the guys there , get it free, when you offer to pump a couple hundred gallons free for him to sell at whatever he wants to charge. That's my " look ahead plan " ( also includes # 2 fuel oil for the house. >>> Eagle .... Still circling; still thinking !!!

-- Harold Walker (, March 07, 1999. Check out these sites for interesting articles and information on buying a generator. They'll tell you some things to watch for such as: brushless roller-bearing generators, dual-fuel (switch fuels w/o carb adjustments)OHV engines, electric start, DC alternators, automatic idle packages (very important), automatic circuit breakers, automatic voltage regulators, 100% power factor, etc.

-- Norm Harrold (, March 07, 1999.

I'm with Harold, though i don't know about just taking the gas. I would call the guy that owns the Amoco station in town and offer a couple of hours of electricity in exchange for him filling my 10 five-gallon gas cans. And I bought a Generac, one of the OHV models. Seems to work just fine, thank you. In Minesota in January, we will probably shut the fridge down and put all the food in the garage, which stays at a balmy 10-20 degrees in January. Check with Northern Tool @ (800)533-5545. They are suppose to be the largest generator dealer in the U.S. And I found some of the Coleman generators available at Home Depot. Just load 'em up.

-- Rick (I', March 08, 1999.

I'm so tired of the lame argument that gets recycled periodically on this NG and goes, "if there is fuel, you won't need the generator; if there isn't, you won't be able to run it." Dumb.

First, get enough fuel for reasonable usage over six months to a year. We've got enough diesel stored to run my mother-in-law's dairy farm for a year, including gen (12 hours a day if need be) and tractor, etc.

Second, most likely scenario following January chaos is dirty power to various regions for up to a year and, perhaps, grid stress/outages in summer of 2000. Careful use of generator and power smoothing could make life much easier and, especially for small businesses, protect their ability to work.

Assuming something less than TEOTWAWKI, I can't afford for my business to be crippled by outages and dirty power while others in another region work merrily on .....

In case of TEOTWAWKI, generator may/will come in useful while we develop our strategy and tactics for a post-TEOTWAWKI world, including inviting some of the nearby tribe in our area to share our space in return for, say, some "support" on their part.

-- BigDog (, March 08, 1999.

For great price on superb factory-direct diesel gensets, Imperial Diesel ( They're currently claiming 90 day waits. We have their 16KW for the dairy farm and like it very much.

If money is no object, there guys are the best, Fischer Panda ( They also have the only diesel gens I know of that do direct DC-only power and/or battery-charging.

-- BigDog (, March 08, 1999.

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