I've been pricing out Generators that can supply power to my entire house if the electric gets shut down in an emergency. Every time we have a bad snow storm or heavy rain, the power goes out. If there was a more long-term emergency like a financial collapse or riots, I can see utilities getting shut down for even longer periods. (I live near Union infested Chicago so it's a very real possiblity.) In preparation I have been getting quotes from electrical contractors to see what would be the best source of fuel to use to run a generator. The minimum sized generator my house will need is at least 17KW and I might just go for the 20KW just in case... This will cost about $4,000 for the generator itself and about another $1,500 for misc equipment and installation. The reason I why I am looking into Natrual Gas is:
1. The electric grid is usually the first thing to go down and regularly does in any kind of storm or emergency.
2. This generator runs on Natrual gas which is usually pretty reliable even in an emergency and is much easire than filling up with gasoline every few hours. (Gasoline may be hard to come by as well?)
3. In case the Natrual Gas lines go out, it can run on Propane tanks! (A backup to a backup!)
4. Solar Power is extremely expensive and has many other issues associated with it so it's not really a good option.
My question to you guys is, how reliable is the Natrual Gas in a long-term emergency? (For example, I have NICOR here in the Will County area just SW of Chicago, IL.) The situation I am trying to prepare for is one that most utility workers don't show up to thier jobs for a week or longer. The electric grid is extremely fragile and I can see that going down within a few days. The Natrual Gas...well, I have no idea?
1. If the electric goes down at the Natrual Gas pumping plant, or whatever they have, will the gas go out immediately or will it slowly lose pressure over a week or something until it finally runs out?
2. I'd assume the Natrual Gas plants probably run on Natrual Gas generators so they could be self-sufficient or do they rely on local companies like Commonwealth Edison to provide the power?
3. If all NICOR Natrual Gas utility workers stopped showing up for work, how long would it take for the natrual gas supply to run out or stop being delivered with enough pressure? (Assuming that nobody intentionally sabotaged the equipment and they tried to keep the machines running on automatic if possible.)
Thanks for any input!
On the "big picture" you must check out this video on cyber warfare that directly effects the power grid and utility companies (including natural gas)
There are a number of people along the gulf coast that have installed natural gas generators and the two biggest issues that people don't really consider are: 1. the pressure needed to run the generator from the line, and 2) the volume of gas through a line is limited so the number of people (or leaks) in the system directly supplying your fuel.
The idea of using propane is very good since you control the amount of fuel based on the size of the tank(s) that you would put on site. Just remember that this is still temporary (either days, weeks or months) depending on your usage.
I watched a video online that showed a cyber attack on a reciprocating gen set and it took about 60-90 seconds before the unit was fryed based soley on the ability to turn on and off certain valves through the control system. Check it out....
Don't just worry about union thugs, there are many issues relating to resources, energy and the economy that you should think about if you truly want power over a long period of time.
One item I would seriously consider would be to store propane to run a generator.
Because propane can store for a long long time, a couple thousand gllons of fuel could last a really long time during an disruption.
I went down the same path. I had a 60KW generator installed. It's set up with an automatic transfer box, so it automatically turns on if the power is off for 20 seconds. If you do this, I'd recommend also getting a 1,000 gallon tank installed. It will run the generator for 11 days straight and it's easy to have a truck stop by and top it off. Even better, that tank can power a gas stove for several years' worth of use. It's one of those preparations that solves the short term problem of bad power AND provides a good amount of resilience should things get really tough. Some day I may even get a natural gas powered vehicle. Then that 1,000 gallon buried tank would provide even greater resiliency.
I recommend you contact your local gas supplier, the folks who will bring the trucks around to top off your tank, and see what programs they have in place. Around here, they will subsidize the tank since they know that you'll be buying gas from them. Oh, and in my case I chose to have it buried. I wouldn't have done it any other way both for aesthetic reasons and for security reasons.
We lost power for quite a long time during the brutal storm last year and again for a day or so this Winter. Having that generator made it a non-event while others were struggling to stay warm.
Thanks for the info guys. I'll quickly respond to each.
ljhaines, the 60 minutes video was a hit-piece propoganda interview that was designed and written by the Obama administration to pass the internet killswitch legislation last year. While the threat of a cyber attack is a very real one, the likelyhood of any of the major players capable of carrying one out is not very likely at all unless we were in a global war for survival with them. Otherwise it would be in their best interests not to interfere since our economies are unfortunately intertwined for the meantime. A very real and immediate threat is the Union thugs who have walked off the job during emergencies. In fact, just days after I wrote this it happened in Hawaii where the Union workers walked off the job during a power outage: http://www.staradvertiser.com/news/20110305_heco_strike_1300_workers_walk_off_the_job_amid_outages.html It will be happening more frequently as well as just normal employees not showing up if anything happens with the banks and people are not getting paid.
jpropane68, the generator I am looking into can do both but I think it needs to be modified a bit to do so? (I gotta call Generac back after I write this and ask them what is involved.) I wasn't going to consider buying a huge tank until I read the next post...
Ayala, YOU CAN BURY THE TANKS???? I will definately be looking into that option then. There was no way I'd be keeping one of those ugly looking tanks on the side of my house but if I could bury one in the ground, that's fine with me. You bought a 60KW generator??? That is 3 times larger than the one I am looking at getting!! Why would you need that much unless you have a whole compound or a 3 houses you are supplying electricity to. If the kind of emergency I am expecting happens, I am not sure any trucks will be able to deliver any kind of fuel reliably. So my main question remains:
If the power goes down and there is some sort of large wide-spread emergency, how badly would that effect the Natrual Gas lines?
OK just got done calling the LP Tank companies and Generac Generators and here i some data:
- My 20KW Generator uses 1.9 gallons/hour at half load and 2.9 gallons/hour at full load. (Pretty effecient comparing that to standard engineering estimates.)
- LP Gas on a floating contract is currently going for $2.59 a gallon (Floating means I will not regularly be purchasing more.)
- An above-ground 1,000 gallon LP tank is HUGE!!! It's 16 feet long and the tank itself costs $2,500 new. (An underground LP tank costs more, they'd have to special order it so no exact price, and also requires a 18' foot long/4' foot deep hole dug, and lots of pipes and equipment, not to mention city regulations of placement.)
- Since I live in a semi-residential area I'm thinking if I even decide to purchase one, it would probably be a small 250-gallon LP tank which would last me 3.5 days at full load and almost a week at half-load. I'd have to dig an 8' x 4' x 4' foot trench for even the smaller 250-gallon but that might be doable? I'm not sure on what the price is yet?
- AARRRRGG!! Just looked at LP fuel "vaporization rates" and the colder it gets the 250-gallon tank may not be able to provide enough fuel per hour if the temperature drops below 3*F Degrees which could damage the engine. However, if the tank was buried, I doubt it would ever get that low in the ground since my walkout basement stays at 61*F all year round.
- I could probably have a much easier time placing this in my backyard somewhere however, the LP gas delivery truck only has a 120-foot hose so that limits it to just the side of my house (permits permitting). This makes me even more reliable on the natrual gas as a more stable backup.
I have a liquid fuel (gasoline) powered generator. It runs on unleaded regular. I thought about the propane/NG aspect for a while and picked gasoline. I keep thinking If there is no major disruption then I can get some gasoline pretty much anywhere anytime. If there is a major disruption then there will be a boat load of gas stations and cars and you name it that run on gas all over the place where I will be able to obtain gasoline. I guess my thinking is gasoline is more abundant and easier to transport and store than natural gas.
Ayala, YOU CAN BURY THE TANKS???? I will definately be looking into that option then. There was no way I'd be keeping one of those ugly looking tanks on the side of my house but if I could bury one in the ground, that's fine with me. You bought a 60KW generator??? That is 3 times larger than the one I am looking at getting!! Why would you need that much unless you have a whole compound or a 3 houses you are supplying electricity to. If the kind of emergency I am expecting happens, I am not sure any trucks will be able to deliver any kind of fuel reliably.
As I understand, Sizing a generator is important from an efficiency perspective. An idling generator is inefficient.
A 20KW generator seems likely to be too big, unless you are powering a large house with electric heat.
My house with 2 GEO heat pumps and an Electric Hot Water Heater would top out at about 10KW draw. However, in an emergency, I would not plan on using that much. My thought would be to get a 5-10 KW Gen and cut back on load with wood heat or something during an emergency.
Re the Buried Tank.
Remember. The tank is underground, so the propane will stay around 50degrees during the winter. Also, a 500 Gal tank is not terribly expensive. Much cheaper than a thousand gallon.
A few thoughts:
I had an electrician trained by Generac come out to size my house for a generator. 17KW was the minimum I was told I would need because you can't run my "energy efficient" Air Conditioner in the summer with a smaller generator. Granted I don't NEED A/C but for a short term emergency I'd want to maintain my quality of life. If worse comes to worse, I don't need any power at all because I can handle the heat in the summer and in the winter I have a wood burning fireplace.
Generators 17KW and below come with a selected circuit transfer switch where you pick which ones stay powered. Stepping up to 20KW is barely any more money and you get the entire house. Why bother picking and choosing when almost everything I'm powering is what I consider non-essential?
The GEO Heat pumps sounded like a good idea but I couldn't get anyone to give me a quote on that in the Chicago area and I was told that may be difficult to do because my yard is small and I already have buried stuff all over the place, water, sewer, gas, electricity... The 500 Gallon tank would be nice but I simply can't fit it on the side of my house. At this point I have almost given up thinking about burying a tank.
I've called NICOR gas company a few times now and they haven't answered my question with an engineer calling me yet. I still want to know what happens to the main natrual gas pumping station if power goes out or in some sort of emergency.
I can't believe anyone could ever need 20 kW, or even 10 for that matter..... If your living arrangements require that much power, you're doing it all wrong to survive in a post collapse situation. You're probably even living in the wrong place, and to be brutally honest, you need to move somewhere warmer.....
Resilience means your needs need to be low. We could EASILY run this place on a 1 kW generator. Learn how to do more with less.....
Just trying to help......
i have an 8 kw (10 kw surge) gas generator wired directly into the main power distribution box at the house so I can run anything in the house I want to. I live in NW Jersey so you have to have heat or you can't live here. I have a NC 30 wood burning stove for when the furnace can not (or will not) run. we burn about 4 cords of wood every winter. for the 3 months of the year we need AC (June, July, August) we use window units. When it cools off we talk them out and put them away for the next year.
The 8 kw gas generator runs the house just fine. I have never tried it with the window AC units running. i went back and forth on whether to use propane or gas and ended up deciding on gas. There are many places i can get gas. 10 gallons will run it for 18 hours. my RAM pickup has 40 gallon tank so i can run the generator for days on a tank full. I decided against propane as it is not readily available and to get any quantity you have to have a propane person deliver it. what if there is no propane person ?
I picked a smaller portable 6300 watt Yamaha gasoline invertor because I wanted both 120 and 220 volts (the latter to run our well pump), wanted a very pure power supply, wanted something that could run overnight or through the workday without refueling, wanted something that started easily and ran well in the cold, wanted low noise, and wanted portability (to move to another site if necessary) yet I also wanted a unit that was very high quality and reliable. I debated between gasoline and other fuels but having 4 cars in the household and other gasoline using machinery, I figured I had ready additional sources of fresh fuel from them, if needed, so I wouldn't have to store large quantities of gasoline. In addition, if worse came to worse and I had to scavenge fuel from elsewhere (legally or otherwise), gasoline would usually be easier to obtain than natural gas or diesel.
One of the reasons I decided against natural gas was because, in speaking with someone who has been in the natural gas utility business for well over 40 years (he is in his late 60s and still working full time in the field for a natural gas utility), I became aware of all the various means by which supply interrruptions can occur. In addition to the potential problems with natural gas pumping and lines, bottled gas could also be hard to come by and is bulky to handle (i.e. not readily divisible like gasoline or diesel into smaller containers).
In retrospect, I might also consider a portable Kubota diesel generator. A friend who lives nearby and researched the matter thoroughly has one and has found it to be extremely reliable. Also, diesel generators last much longer than gasoline/gas generators and the fuel can be stored much longer than gasoline as well. And in a pinch, the make-your-own folks can whip up some diesel compatible fuel.
I agree with DTM that the 17 kw size is overkill. I'd make do without the AC but I understand wanting to have all the normal comforts. I don't like AC at night though (in a SHTF situation) because the closed windows and noise tends to isolate one from what may actually be happening. I want to hear what's going on and I want my early warning system (i.e. my dog) to hear what's going on.
Cut your energy footprint in half and get a battery bank with solar panels with an option to detach yourself from the grid.. That's the future...
If you must get nat gas, get a giant 20ft long tank to run your home for 50 days or so....
Propane because it stores forever and is a by-product of drilling. Nat gas supply is easily interrupted. Do NOT use gasoline. Today's gas sucks, it'll varnish/lacquer in three months and additives don't get it done. Diesel is better, but most folks have no clue how to store diesel, what happens to it, how to monitor it/test it/shock it. If you get algae blooms, your equipment is screwed - the acids produced as waste eat everything. Bury a tank......look into those realities. I guess it depends on your situation, zoning or lack thereof - no dice for me.
Get a 1800rpm genset, not the noisy 3600 rpm versions. Liquid cooling is a must. They make more power, they're more efficient, and are quieter. Speaking of quiet, find one with a sound attenuation enclosure.
My 55KW (yeah, you read that right boys) has a small V-6. Its quieter than a car idling with the sound atenuation enclosure and surrounded by trees and such which absorb sound, its whisper quiet. Why so big? I bought it used with practically no hours on it. Unlike diesel, I don't have to worry about putting eough load to get to operating temps up wondering if todays the day I glaze a cylinder and/or fill the crankcase with lots of fresh contaminants (blow-by). Live up north?, better watch the gelling. Adding fuel additive (use Howes), most won't disperse above the cloud point.
Heres the thing, my genset -if it runs at1/10 load, its running efficiently. Take a 6000W pos and listen to the briggs & stratton strain into the night, lights flickering, people listening, etc. Who's nuts again? My genset doesn't "rev up", it'll turn no less and no more than 1800 rpm - quietly.
Buy it right, get it load tested, and be involved in the install. I think my genset could be an advantage - we don't know how bad it could get. A small group of close friends are gonna pull together, look out for one another, and make sure the genset runs. What if its not a "mad max" scenario? My genset with extra capacity can be used to make valuable friends. If there gonna come for that, they're gonna come for something else anyway. I've read about loud generators being dumb and shortsighted. Maybe in some areas, but not in others. As I've said before, I live in a small drinking town with a farming problem. Its different out here. So when you reply, just remember location, location, location.
I think ao said they can easily live on 1kw gen power or less. Bullshit. Well, maybe ao can - but as far as the vast majority goes - nope. AO, before you get all fired up, its great you can live on so little. I have three ways to heat my home, wood/electricity/propane genset. Its funny, you prep with a genset and folks jump on you for prepping wrong. Solar doesn't work way up north - at least not in the winter. Solar panels, equipment, battery banks are a nightmare (if they weren't, then every electrician would sell, install, and understand them). Wind is a maintenance non-stop issue.
I too am doing lots of things to reduce my need to burn oil, etc. But you asked about genset issues, so there you go.
Well, nuff said. Good luck, like I said - just my thoughts.
I think ao said they can easily live on 1kw gen power or less. Bullshit. Well, maybe ao can - but as far as the vast majority goes - nope. AO, before you get all fired up, its great you can live on so little. I have three ways to heat my home, wood/electricity/propane genset. Its funny, you prep with a genset and folks jump on you for prepping wrong. Solar doesn't work way up north - at least not in the winter.
You can think that but you're wrong. I never said such any such thing.
And it's interesting but when you drive through the Bavarian countryside now, there are solar cells on many of the homes, barns, storage buildings, etc. Given that Bavaria is about as far north as the northernmost continental U.S. cities, the Bavarians may disagree with you about solar not working up north.
Of course a big generator is very comfortable. But at some point the fuel runs out and leaves you with nothing. Mike is right. Cut down on consumption. In case of a long term emergency you do not want to maintain the previous comfort level, better to get used to much lower standards of living. It is easier to survive on a low level, rather than falling from al cliff and on your way down through the long term modest standard. It is like a wildfire: only small animals survive.
You never run out of a combination of solar, wind and wood. A well maintained battery pack lasts many years. And if you never want to sit in the dark, buy a small woodgas powered generator, only to charge the battery pack, in case wind and sun let you down a few days.
These are made for sale in australia.
I've never used one, but I'm sure that the company must have some info about this issue.
ao, meant damnthematrix - my error. Never post tired I guess. But, perhaps the good people of Bavaria have pursued solar, longer (most certainly) than the oil dependent US. I've looked into it, keep hearing the same thing - "not where you live..." The south side of my buildings are always covered with snow as well. I'd love to have more land and money for an array, just not gonna happen. Sorry again for the misquote.
Woodgas - I've looked at it, but where can you acquire a good model? I've made little projects with my son for entertainment, but from reading about them, if you don't get all the resins, etc out of the gas you will ruin your generator - is Victory in business? Any recommendations?
I think DTM said they can easily live on 1kw gen power or less. Bullshit.
Before spraying bullshit all over this thread, get your FACTS right.......
Addressing Tommy Holly's original query regarding the reliability of Nat Gas in an extended emergency.
I would hesitate to go with Nat Gas if there's another available energy source that can be stored up. Compressor stations that have to stay online to keep the gas flowing would be my concern for an extended emergency. Somewhere in there would be the necessity for people to show up and do their jobs when everything is going SHTF around them. At some point, somebody's going to want to stay home and protect their family instead.
Shorter term emergencies such as power outages, winter storms, hurricanes; I would think Nat Gas is fine. You would have a constant supply of power without having to go out and fill up the gas tank every so often. But I would need a back up supply of something else for an extended emergency. Same goes for your cooking stove and your Nat Gas furnace if that's what you have.
As far as the size of the genset, I agree with others that 20kw is a little on the heavy side. BUT, the way these things are priced, there is very little incremental cost in going from 7kw on up to the 20kw, and the installation cost is pretty much the same in either case. Sure, I could run my house on less than 1.5kw per 24 hours and have routinely done so. There have been times, however, when the grid power went down and I have been very happy to let the generator kick on and supply whatever devices were running at that time.
I'm sure your smart, knowledgeable, etc. I've read some of your posts and generally respect them for the most part. But you cannot seriously mean to suggest that a home for say, four - could be powered with a Honda 1Kw generator.....or less...right? Folks go camping and "rough it" with more than that. If thats spraying bullshit - then I'm guilty. My post on my experience with gensets are correct for me. Lastly, did you reference your own site as a source?
Victory Gasworks and Gekgasifier are two American woodgasifier brands. Expensive, but good, when in hands of an experienced operator and fed with the right fuel.
Every engine runs most efficient near max torque. Running it at 10% power means a great percentage of fuel is lost due to internal friction. Imagin it running at 0% power, so idle. Which genset uses most fuel: a 5 kW or a 50 kW?
You can live on 1 kW. 1 kW means 24 kWh a day. That's 2.5 times the average household consumption in my country. You might need a battery pack and 2 or 3 kW inverter, depending on momentary power demand. I like my wind and solar system with a cheap generator as backup. It is a lazy way of power production. Only little maintenance, uses no oil and fuel, it is quiet, less complicated, half of it may break down and it still will limp on. In a TSHTF scenario you do not want to worry about fuel supply and maintenance, by having only one energy source. A genset should be the backup for your regular off-grid system. We have grid power, but I sized the off-grid system only that large that it can supply enough those few vital power users. The off-grid system runs these vital parts continously, in order to keep the batteries exercised.
I see a fossil fuel powered generator as a temporary methode. Good for a few days or weeks. So one needs to think for what timeframe he wants power backup and decide accordingly.
For goodness sake..... did you even BOTHER to look at my link?
We live on 2.5 kWh/day, confirmed by "the power bill", $260 in CREDIT, that turned up yesterday which shows we used 2.48 kWh/day for the last 92 days. That means we use 100W continuous, 24/7.
At that rate, we would have no problem at all living on the output of a generator that puts out ten times our background useage,
No, I didn't find the time to study your website. I didn't realize it was an assignment. Look, I think you're smart and I like engaging folks who know something I don't. Simple conversations, lively discussions, and healthy arguments - even nasty ones serve a purpose. I'll will look at your website to learn. Stoic sites and their members, preparing folks for the "end of days" and such who launch into a hissy fit when baited with the claim of "bullshit" are, in my opinion, hilarious [see also: context]. Relax, much worse than me will come your way. My family argues and debates all topics - its a skill to be sharpened, honed, and appreciated. No way can the vast majority of people live of that 1KW Honda - and you know it. You'll have to explain to folks how all they get is one 100watt light bulb for ALL POWER and ALL ENERGY for their home...goodl luck. Yes you can - good for you. But to suggest otherwise is disingenuous - the very world you depend on has come to rely on more. You don't need a hospital, grocery store, mail-order/internet anything, building supply center, roads, local govt, law enforcement, schools, oil/gas/energy/diesel/kerosene, etc. Just you and your 2.5kw a day will keep the bad things away? Because thats what your "throwin down". So, just know that I'm gonna learn more about what makes your world tick and apply some of it to mine.
Now I'm off to read your site, maybe even ask you a question or two about it - if you're open to it.
I'm actually here to help you know.........
Went to the site, took a peak and looked around, I liked what I saw. Conservation seems to be job #1. I bought a $26 large LED bulb and watched my new "it will outlive bugs" investment burn out 65 percent of the leds within a couple of months... maybe three tops. And, the light color was odd - very .....flourescent?
Anyway, I'm not giving up hope - but are there good names out there? Regarding solar, I've looked but here in the U.S. upper midwest, solar power commands about as much commercial respect as a wind mill blade polishing service. Besides drilling holes in a perfectly good roof, they'd be covered in snow for five months, with lousy light for another 2-3. The obstacles are adding up.
So now I heat my home, greenhouse, and water with wood pellets. Certainly not as good as solar, but better than oil outright. The genset is my "plan D" (wood/grid/propane/genset).
Back to bulbs and conserving, thoughts/brandnames? Thank you, Treemagnet
"one 100watt light bulb for ALL POWER and ALL ENERGY"
I'm not sure what you think you meant by that phrase but a 1kW generator can churn out enough power for 10 such light bulbs, continuously. So there would be 10 times the power that you appear to think there would be. A 1kW generator, running continuously (probably hypothetically) could churn out 24 kWh each day. That would be enough for most homes, I would think (we're on about 13 kWh per day), and the peak power needed would probably be less than 1 kW - usually.
I was being facetious and pragmatic. I couldn't live on 10x his energy consumption. Though I guess I'd better get busy learning how to. See, its the smallest generator Honda makes....that I'm aware of. Anyway, maybe I can learn something from the man.
And, obviously I am referring to peak and trough usage - ain't it obvious if we're talking about energizing a standard American home with four seasons? You can do that, honestly - with a 1kw generator, heating with electricity....in a very cold northern climate?, not a chance. At Christmas when this place is teeming with inlaws and outlaws, its 30 degrees below zero F. and Christmas lights are on, boiler, furnace, lights, stove, tvs, radios, and cooktop are on.....1000 kw generator!........oh just forget it. You win.
It's been done in Sweden...... I'll have to search for it, because it was in the 90's when I found out about this scheme, but it IS possible to keep warm with very little energy use if you're smart about it. I'm planning exactly that when/if I ever make it to Tasmania, 42 degrees S...
And I just remembered thet the Rocky Mountain Institute does it at 8000 feet in the Rockies!
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