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Backup power

 
Posts: 61
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Backup power for the farmhouse.  Just in case.  Keep the freezer and refrigerator running.  And the ability to run more if necessary.  Probably a standby generator, but not whole house.  Fuel type LP.  Any recommendations?  Glowing reviews?  Horror stories?  Thanks.
 
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Yes I have a recommendation, from something I learned the hard way. Look at the Total Harmoic Distortion (THD) output from the generator. THD kills sensitive electronics, like oven and refrigerator controls, digital thermostats, new digitally controlled washers and dryers, the control panel in modern furnaces, anything digital. THD is often what makes two generators of the same size vary in price by a huge margin. Good generators that are make minimal THD like under 5% are pricey. Generators that make more than 10% or more THD tend to be much more affordable in price on the front end. When I was researching generators, I was so focused on watts, and running watts, and surge watts, and I had no idea THD was a thing or to even look for it. It is labeled for every generator, somewhere either on the generator box, in the manual, on the manufacturers website or on the side of the generator itself.
 
Frank Spezzano
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Thanks James.  Never heard of THD before, but will look out for it.  Appreciated.
 
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Well.....
In the case of a societal collapse.....
Propane is gonna be as hard to procure as toilet paper!
So...
While Solar is a lousy investment over much of the country, enough solar to run freezers, fridges, and water pumps, would be a minimal investment.
Especially if you convert a chest freezers, to refrigeration duty, and install a large storage tank, a (tiny) solar pump can fill all day.
Plus.....
Generators are obnoxious noisemakers! And you can repurpose your tractor / automobile to charge a solar bank.
In addition most generators are a high speed (3600+ rpm) which burns up fuel and wears out bearings quickly.

And like his warning on THD you will want to find "true sine wave" guarantees on your inverter, or sensitive electronics will perish.
 
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To add to the observations already made, I am a huge believer in redundancy.   I have solar and a gas generator.  I also have a spillway off z large pond that flows 9 months of the year. I am looking at a wheel for that.  You need to consider the time frame  you will need to ge erate electricity for.  If you go for the generator consider a dual fuel gas/lp generator.   Lp does not go bad, but it is pricey. The good news is that methane can be produced on the homestead and run an lp generator.
 
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I recently upgraded my solar setup, I don't run much, but I can run everything in my house except the water heater and dryer. I cool with windows, I designed my house to flow well and installed ceiling fans everywhere. I heat with wood. So I can run everything including my dryer and water heater off a 20A breaker. I do it, its on a temp pole. However my goal is to be off-grid entirely. I do have a generator if I need it.
 
pollinator
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A 2000W, pure sine wave/inverter generator would be like a regular outlet and could power anything. It will surge to 4000W so motor will be able to get their startup power.
An underground propane tank will be emptied by a generator in a 2weeks or so. With that in mind just get two of the cheapest one, because they will outlive your fuel source but just in case you have another for backup/mobility.

Personally, I think this setup is better.
$750 Solar Panel 1000W and 4KWH/day https://www.wholesalesolar.com/1977433/astronergy-solar/solar-panels/astronergy-chsm6612p-hv-345-silver-poly-solar-panel
$250 Charge Controller 50A https://www.wholesalesolar.com/2940165/victron-energy/charge-controllers/victron-energy-smartsolar-mppt-100-50-charge-controller
$2000 Battery 4000W https://www.batteryspace.com/lifepo4-rechargeable-battery-12-8v-100ah-1269-7wh-100a-rate-with-bluetooth-option---un38-3-passed.aspx
$1000 Inverter 4000W  https://www.wholesalesolar.com/2923535/cotek/inverters/cotek-sp4000-124-inverter
Total Cost = $4000

This setup can power your entire house for a decade non-stop.
You can start off with just the battery and inverter now and get a 7days worth of backup power for your fridge.
 
gardener
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A thought,

So far I agree with all of the suggestions thus far put forward.  My contribution is to consider a “battery generator” to the mix.  A battery generator is really an inverter setup.  I have plans to build one in a rolling tool case and powered by a 100-125 amp hour battery that is capable of running between 2kw-4kw max output.

My reason for adding this to the mix—as has already been mentioned, I too believe in redundancy.  Sometimes a solar, wind or solar even gas generation setup will produce more power than is presently useable.  This goes to waste unless stored somehow and a good SLA battery is as good an option as any.  An iron phosphate battery is potentially even better.

Just food for thought,

Eric
 
Frank Spezzano
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Bill Haynes wrote:
So...
While Solar is a lousy investment over much of the country, enough solar to run freezers, fridges, and water pumps, would be a minimal investment.
Especially if you convert a chest freezers, to refrigeration duty, and install a large storage tank, a (tiny) solar pump can fill all day.


All good points, Bill.  This would be more of a short-term, prevent the freezer full of meat from defrosting-approach.  Using an existing source in LP, which I can also use to cook on the gas stove.  Also, I'm having a harder time warming up to solar, the older I get.  I've looked into it periodically over the past 25 years, including getting an estimate for the farmhouse 3 years ago.  Seems perennially over-priced and under-performing.  That being said, Benji seems to have a good plan in his post about emergency solar capacity rather than converting whole-house.  Worth considering seriously.
 
Frank Spezzano
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John F Dean wrote:I am a huge believer in redundancy.   I have solar and a gas generator.  I also have a spillway off z large pond that flows 9 months of the year.  If you go for the generator consider a dual fuel gas/lp generator.   Lp does not go bad, but it is pricey. The good news is that methane can be produced on the homestead and run an lp generator.


Redundancy - GOOD.  Absolutely, John.  

LP not going bad is one of the things I like best about it.  Backup power in a "bottle", just waiting patiently.

I like the methane idea, and have seen some dairy farms that use it as their primary source.  I don't make enough manure.  Not literally, anyway.
 
John F Dean
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Hi Frank

I am expanding my Kunekunes, so I a, exploring the methane option.  There is an added advantage .....it can also operate a kitchen range.
 
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Bill Haynes wrote: While Solar is a lousy investment over much of the country, enough solar to run freezers, fridges, and water pumps, would be a minimal investment. Especially if you convert a chest freezers to refrigeration duty.


That's exactly what we did. We have solar powering a chest freezer and converted chest freezer>fridge. We have three 345-watt panels, a 705-AH battery bank (wish it was larger, but that's what we could manage), and a 1000-watt pure sine wave inverter. The whole thing cost us about $2500. That was for everything including charge controller, cables, vent fan, grounding rods and wires, circuit breakers, temp sensor, etc. Considering we live in the southeast with extremely hot summers, the ability to preserve food through freezing and refrigeration makes the system priceless.

CORRECTION! I just added up our exact expenses and it came out to $2824. Sorry 'bout that!
 
Frank Spezzano
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Leigh Tate wrote:

Bill Haynes wrote: While Solar is a lousy investment over much of the country, enough solar to run freezers, fridges, and water pumps, would be a minimal investment. Especially if you convert a chest freezers to refrigeration duty.


That's exactly what we did. We have solar powering a chest freezer and converted chest freezer>fridge. We have three 345-watt panels, a 705-AH battery bank (wish it was larger, but that's what we could manage), and a 1000-watt pure sine wave inverter. The whole thing cost us about $2500. That was for everything including charge controller, cables, vent fan, grounding rods and wires, circuit breakers, temp sensor, etc. Considering we live in the southeast with extremely hot summers, the ability to preserve food through freezing and refrigeration makes the system priceless.


Thanks, Leigh.  Seems to be enough "emergency solar" supporters that I need to reconsider.  We know you're a serious researcher from reading your book.  Loved it.  
 
Eric Hanson
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Leigh,

Given all that—solar panels, inverter generator and over 700 ah battery bank with all associated hardware and wiring, I think you did pretty well at only $2500.  When I have peeked around, I likely would have spent more.

Very nice!

Eric
 
Leigh Tate
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Frank Spezzano wrote:Thanks, Leigh.  Seems to be enough "emergency solar" supporters that I need to reconsider.  We know you're a serious researcher from reading your book.  Loved it.  


Thank YOU, Frank! The details of this solar project are all going into my sequel. ;)

Eric Hanson wrote:Given all that—solar panels, inverter generator and over 700 ah battery bank with all associated hardware and wiring, I think you did pretty well at only $2500.  When I have peeked around, I likely would have spent more.


Well, no generator, just an inverter. Where we saved was by Dan making the rack for the panels (ours are on the ground) and also the battery box. Also, we got the panels off of Craiglsist. They were new, extras leftover from someone else's job. All of that helped tremendously. Even so, I wish we'd bought more batteries so we'd have more than two days backup.

 
Frank Spezzano
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S Bengi wrote:A 2000W, pure sine wave/inverter generator would be like a regular outlet and could power anything.



Appreciate the input and links, Bengi.  Are you using a setup like this?
 
Eric Hanson
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Leigh,

I look forward to your sequel.

Eric
 
S Bengi
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I don't have a Solar charged UPS but I do have UPS. And I have a generator at my disposal. I have not lost power in at least 10yrs so I feel pretty lucky.
 
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