Value of a generator? : LUSENET : TimeBomb 2000 (Y2000) Preparation Forum : One Thread

I am looking for some advice regarding the generator we purchased. As with everything, money is tight and I am wondering whether it is best to return the generator (7.5 kW) and perhaps use it for other preps.

Background: if next year turns out to be more of the brownout scenario (power outages up to two months), it will be nice to have a generator but we would survive without one. (We have food, water, and a fireplace running on propane . . . we live in Eastern Ontario.)

If next year turns out to be much worse, I am concerned about the availability of gasoline to run the generator. In addition, we will have only stored about two months of food and water (also taking into account providing for some food and water for a FEW neighbours knocking on our door.)

Other facts: we live in an urban area and for whatever reason have decided to remain in the city. (Obviously, if things get much worse, we will have to bear the consequences of our decisions.)

Any advice?

-- Randy Poon (, October 01, 1999


Convert your generator to run on propane. Gasoline does not store well, and handling is dangerous. If you already have a propane tank, just have it hooked to your genset. It is not very expensive (about $300), and you totally eliminate the stale fuel problem. Plus, if you don't end up using the several hundred gallons of gasoline you store "just in case", do you really want to put it in your car? Could really wreck your fuel injection system. (very expensive).

An added plus, propane is delivered by propane powered trucks. If things get tight, gasoline, diesel, and kerosene will be the first to run out-get rationed. Propane supplies should last longer. Also suppliers don't blink when you ask for a 500 gal. delivery of propane, try that with gasoline!

-- Beprepared (, October 01, 1999.


Your assessment is correct. If things get real bad
you wont be able to get gasoline and your generator
will be useless. A propane or diesel generator would
work because you could stock up on those items safely
for a long time.

If the electricity is down for a short time, the
generator would allow you to keep your refrigerator
cold, but in Ontario in the winter that is not a high
priority. Laundry is another good reason to have a
back-up electrical source.

If you keep the generator, remember not to hook your
whole house to it without separating your system from
the grid first. This would create a hazard for any
linepersons in the vicinity.

Instead, use an extension cord to power items in the

-- spider (, October 01, 1999.

I am assuming by your response, that you feel it is worthwhile to keep the generator? Could I ask why?

Other questions: Is it better to convert the existing 7.5 kW gasoling powered generator or to buy a propane-powered generator (are they even available at this point in time)?

What size generator would you recommend? We live in a 4-bedroom house, but are only planning to run the core necessities.

Our house is heated by natural gas. Would you suggest having the whole house converted to propane? Would you use only one large propane tank or several smaller ones? What size?

Appreciate the advice.

-- Randy Poon (, October 01, 1999.

Sorry about that, my question was for BePrepared

-- Randy Poon (, October 01, 1999.


I am curious why you would recommend running the extension cord from the generator as opposed to installing a transfer switch. I'm debating which way to go (if we keep the generator). Transfer switches are expensive ($600 Canadian plus labour); generator panels are a little cheaper. Obviously your approach is even cheaper.

Thanks for the advice!

-- Randy Poon (, October 01, 1999.

I understood from your previous post you already had a propane system in your home. If not, check what your local propane dealer will lease you a 500 gal. tank for.

If you decide to go this way, look into converting your existing genset. My genset will run off gasoline, propane or natural gas. I had to buy a spare carb. and convert it to a gasseous carb configuration. Check with U.S. Carbutation for kit to convert your genset.(sorry, don't have address, try Altavista).

If you have a natural gas furnace, it will not work without electricity. No blowers = no heat, just a pilot light.

One item rarely mentioned is "failsafes" built into the natural gas pipeline system. Pressures, metering and flow rates are all monitored by computers/imbedded chips. If the readings get funkey, the valves automatically close. This is a safety item in case of massive rupture. But can also be triggured by cascading failures of power and data lines.

As far as sizing your generator, you need to identify your critical systems. Such as: furnace blower curcuit, light cooking -microwave, lights, water pump (if you have a well),tv, and computer. Your present genset appears plenty big, but you should check on the power draw for your particular systems.

Converting your other systems to propane is a decision that you have to make after lots of consideration. It is based on how comfortable you feel with natural gas supplies versus having your own supply in the back yard. A 500 gal propane tank only holds 400 gal of propane, and would last you probably 2 months in dead of winter (depends on a lot, like insulation of house, hot water usage, etc.) Also add genset usage, about 1 gal / hour of mid power draw.

-- Beprepared (, October 01, 1999.


I'm not expert, but you're asking questions I had pondered a while back and thought I'd share some of the process with you. These things are essential: water, food, heat, sanitation. Is electricity involved in any of these processes in your house as it now stands? Water, probably not. Food - do you cook with natural gas or electricity? Heat - is there an electrical blower to your unit? You mentioned a gas fireplace, but that's not your main source of heat, right? You may have a need for a generator to run some lights, a blower fan, possibly even to run the hot water out of your gas hot water heater, if there is an "elbow" in the hookup going from the water heater to your water lines. Will you want to run any lights, computer, radio, vcr?

If you decide you do need some electricity after all, you may be able to get by with a smaller generator, like a 4 or 5,000. In our area this is what we paid for some items: transfer switch at Home Depot $195; rental of 250-gallon propane tank is $25/year and $35 for a 500- gallon tank; conversion kit to hook your generator to your propane tank is about $150 at U.S. Carburetion (1-800-553-5608); labor for a guy to hook up the generator to your propane tank will vary - check with the propane supplier. Propane is 99cents/gallon right now with a guarantee freeze through the end of the year, here. So easy to store lots of fuel if it's propane.

From window shopping on the 'net, it seems the propane or dual-fuel generators are more expensive than converting the gas ones. Also, we took a class at Home Depot one evening that taught how to install the transfer switch. This is a box that runs between the generator and your electrical box; you connect up a few items (from the electrical box) you want to run with the generator, flip their switch and leave the generator running safely outside. No extension cords running through your house. You can also use the DC outlet on your generator to recharge batteries, someone told me, but I forget the details.

Try to figure out just what you'd need to run with a generator, figure out the wattage required, and maybe you can trade in your generator and pay for the conversion and installation of a propane line with the savings. Maybe you won't need a generator at all, but if you think there's a chance you could be without electricity for a while, it's going to get very, very cold. Make sure you have a reliable resource for heat and cooking. Good luck to you in your preps.

-- Jill D. (, October 01, 1999.

What I meant to say was trade in your 7.5kW for a 4 or 5kW.

-- Jill D. (, October 01, 1999.


My situation and preps would seem to be quite similar to yours - so similar in fact that I am comforted. If our estimated needs are similar, than maybe I actually have done enough. I think about this often, and usually end up running to the store for more supplies, "just in case".

I have a very small generator (1.8 kw "camping" portable) that is just big enough to run the important stuff around the house - furnace blower, fridge, washing machine, most power tools, etc. You get the picture. I bought it over a year ago after we had a long power outage during the middle of summer, and lost everything in the fridge and freezer. Y2K was also a consideration at the time, as was cost. I tried to make a compromise between anticipated need and dollars spent. The generator was bought mostly with "emergencies" in mind, and for convenience when electricity was not readily available.

The closer we get to the big day, the less I feel that the generator plays an important part of my preps, as least my "front line" preps. Here's why...

As you mentioned, if things get bad, gasoline (or fuel in general) may be hard to come by. At this time, IMHO supply chain problems (including the importation of oil) seem to loom bigger than the immediate threat of blackouts (I work for the power company). However, supply chain can eventually affect power delivery - most power plants burn some type of fossil fuel, and most of the fuel that we use (coal) is transported by trains that also burn fossil fuels... Our company has steadily been increasing our stockpile of coal, but even that will only last so long. Rolling blackouts are a possibility to stretch the supply if need be. If you use propane to heat your home, then a propane gen makes some sense, especially if you have already decided to get an extra tank before next year. But running a gasoline generator continuously to maintain heat in the home will consume quite a bit of fuel, probably more than the average homeowner will want to be (or should safely be) storing.

Not all generators are durable enough to be run continuously. I would guess that most are not. Those that are can be pretty expensive. Cost vs. anticipated use comes into play here.

You mentioned your urban area. This is where I have my biggest concerns. The more I think about it, the more I feel that running a generator in the middle of winter will be like turning on your porch light on a hot summer night - all the bugs in the area will be attracted to it. Unless all of your neighbors are out there running their generators too, you can probably expect to be put on the spot when they ask to borrow it. Then what do you do? No doubt you will be torn between being neighborly (after all, things may eventually get back to semi normal... think you neighbors won't remember when you wouldn't help them out?) and your survival instincts (I don't know how long this will last, so I really can't afford to have you burn out my generator). I just don't want to be in that predicament on top of everything else.

I have decided that as far as Y2K is concerned, if the lights do go out, I figure we will be in survival mode, and electricity is, for the most part, not a necessity. IMHO, if the grid does go black, in spite of all the checking, fixing, and testing we've done, then it's not going to be an easy fix to get things going again. If you were sure something wasn't going to break, and then it still did, where would you start looking to fix it? And how bad did it get damaged when it broke...

My generator will be there only for the time when I absolutely *must* have AC electricity. In fact, I will have to need more AC than what I can pull off of my DC to AC converter, which is big enough to take care of most of our smaller electrical needs. And I will really have to need them before I'll do even that. My preps for water, food, and heat are all based on not needing electricity. But I will have the generator available in case I need it. Better to have and not need, than the other way around. Kind of like everything in this prep business.

Sorry to be so long winded. Sometimes you just gotta unload!


-- Eyell Makedo (, October 01, 1999.

I am on a rural 30 acre farm, where I am storing diesel fuel for my diesel generator. I have a 1000 gallon tank to hold off-road diesel fuel, and am storing an additional 1000 gallons of on-road fuel into 55 gallon barrels.

Last month, I was lucky enough to pick up a used 400 gallon tank, which I initially considered for storing gasoline. After checking about what is needed to store gasoline safely -- including grounding of the tank, and making sure that you didn't have a stray spark igniting -- I decided that I would instead use the 400 gal tank for additional off-road diesel fuel. I just felt that it was too dangerous to try to store gasoline.

One thing to consider is a battery/inverter system to supplement your generator. That way, you don't have to use your generator constantly during an extended power outage, but can use the batt/inv system for light stuff like lights.

90 days.

-- Jack (jsprat@eld.~net), October 02, 1999.

Randy Poon originally wrote:

"Background: if next year turns out to be more of the brownout scenario (power outages up to two months),"

A "brownout" is when there IS electricity, but it is erratic and the voltage levels are much less than normal, sometimes 50-75% of normal. this can reek havoc on any motors or compressors in your house. say bye-bye to the fridge and the washer and forced air furnace. but you might have lights.

A "blackout" is just that, no electricity.

also Randy wrote: "Other facts: we live in an urban area and for whatever reason have decided to remain in the city."

I have as well and I'm "assuming" that your heat source is natural gas. I have installed a 5.5kw Kohler generator that runs at 1800 rpm on Natural Gas OR Propane.

I also have a battery bank and a Trace SW5548 inverter. In my testing, the generator comes on twice a day for 2 hours to recharge the batteries. Otherwise, the house runs off the batteries in "silent" mode.

If natural gas gets cut off for 72 hours, it will take a MONTH or longer to get it turned back on. The gas co. will physically close the line down-stream and then go house to house to shut off the meters.

If and when Natural Gas service resumes, they have to go house-to- house AGAIN and remove the locks from the meters and then make sure all the pilots are on before moving to the next house. this is why I plan to VOLUNTEER my services to help if this happens. (I can turn my house on first!).

also- I have found in my testing that I CAN run my 5.5kw generator on 20lb propane tanks (or 100lb tanks), I just have 2 of them hooked in parallel!

For me, electricity is primarily for refrigeration and allowing the boiler to function. We can live without that, but at least we can be let down from our addiction gently...

I can easily envision scenarios where there is NO natural gas for an extended period of time, but there IS electricity for some times. hmmmmmm......

If you live in the city, get a NG generator, most can run propane as well without much more than adjusting a screw on the carb.

-- plonk! (, October 03, 1999.

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