Naturally, I had to find this out at 3AM in a freezing ice / rain storm.
It's amazing how quickly the house cools down, when there's a freezing rain falling. hence, the generator that I bought last summer.
Though claimed to be "40% quieter" than the industry norm, it sure sounded loud in the pre-dawn darkness. Still, thanks to my regular operation of it, I was able to get it started promptly.
I then hooked it up directly to my furnace, and I had heat. It's nice when things worked as planned. (There's no interface with the house panel at all - just a fancy way to run a cord from the furnace to the generator).
Now, two hours later, power has returned. My thanks to the PoCo folks, who have to be out in this slop, working. Before the day is out, I expect I'll lose power again.
Under "lessons learned," I can see some changes I'll have to make to the generator area. For example, a little roof / awning to keep the weather off me as I work on the little (25 amp) generator. Or, greater allowance for the ice, ice that interfered with my uncovering the machine. It won't do to make an enclosure- then have it freeze shut!
At the time of the outage, the PoCo told me to expect to be without power at least 16 hours. In reality, the outage was less than two hours. This makes me question just how much gasoline to keep on hand - it's not like I'm going to drive anywhere in an ice storm. At present, 16 hours is about how long I can run. That's more fuel than I use all summer mowing grass. Do I really want to store more (even with a fuel stabilizer)?
Face it .... if a storm kills my power, it's also very possible I'd have a pretty long drive to get gas.
I think I'd build a roof on 4 short legs to keep snow of my back (and the generator). If it gets windy a sheet of visquene would break the wind and make my life easier getting the thing started. You might even find something at the big box store like a blow-molded plastic enclosure that would work.
I don't like the idea of storing a large amount of fuel for a long time either but on the occasion where I might need 10-20 gallons 'just in case' I would just dump that in the truck's fuel tank after the need went away and keep a smaller amount on hand until the next time.
Maybe you could start the generator up to get the house nice and toasty and then kill the power until it gets cool inside again. That way you wouldn't be burning fuel continuously.
Depending on the unit, most gasoline engines can be fitted to run on propane or natural gas. HP will drop about 20% on propane, and a little more on natural gas. There are also kits that allow you to run both in a either or configuration. That may be more useful with respect to long term operation and fuel flexibility.
In extreme cold weather, the propane tank(s) may need some heating in order to keep up with fuel demand.
Larry has a good point. Storing propane is safer than storing gasoline/diesel and it lasts a lot longer before going bad. You can probably stick your tanks in a more protected area and just pipe the fuel to the genny.
Perhaps I was not clear that I am using a portable, job-site generator, and not a permanently mounted one. Capacity is 6000 rated watts (25 amps at 240) and 7500 'surge' watts.
In truth, it's likely big enough to run my house- but it's not the right generator for that job.
My usual fuel reserve is about 6 gallons in the 6.6 gallon tank, plus 5 gallons, stored in two smaller gas cans. If I'm reading the literature right, this is enough for about 20 hours of operation.
"Typical" outages have been only a few hours; today has had three outages of less than two hours each. The longest outage was a summer event that lasted three days.
Not that these events are without their entertainment value. With the sub-station behind me, I often get to watch fireworks when the power fails. The 3-day event was caused by a 15-minute (or less) windstorm as a tornado formed directly overhead, knocking down a long line of power poles.
I had begun a little "doghouse" in which to park the generator; this storm has shown a need for a 'little roof,' such as what Ghost speaks. A raised walk is also a good idea.
My main feeling this morning was one of surprised relief; this time, I could do something besides sit inside and shiver.
I had no problems starting the generator, even though I was half-dressed and half-awake and in the dark at the time. This I attribute to my monthly maintenance routine. Not only was the equipment ready to run, but I had "programmed" the necessary moves through repetition. Let's face it: this was no time to be fumbling with a flashlight and the owners' manual!
Another tiny detail: I felt a real need to add a 'night light' to my indoor receptacle, just to let me know power was available, and to make it easier to plug in the furnace. P&S makes receptacles with built-in night lights; I'll have to get some of those!
I have a propane kit for my 5500 w generator but I never installed it. I have never even had the generator running. It is just like it came from the factory. I pull it over every now and then to slosh the oil around. I have a boat so having 50 gallons of gas around is not unusual. I just got the propane kit in case we had a real long outage and the end was not in sight any time soon. I also have a 100 gallon propane tank in the ground here.
I hear you, Greg, about the PoCo forecasts. Each outage was followed by a call from them, estimating it would take 18 hours to restore power. In fact, no outage exceeded 2 hours.
My respect, and thanks, to the guys who had to work in that slop!
A pop-up canopy is certainly worth trying - though I have doubts about them staying put in the wind.
Ghost, I like your idea. I see another model more appropriate to my use. Making the necessary holes, and finding protective bushings, ought not be a problem.
I expect such a shed will also help reduce the amount of noise the neighbors must tolerate. "Quiet" is relative - and the low roar of my generator isn't the most pleasant of sounds.
Greg, I'm not sure what you mean by 'pull it over.' I have been running mine for 15 minutes, under load, every month. This is long enough to bring everything up to operating temperatures.
Whether I "need" to do this with a small gasoline-powered generator has been debated by some. Apart from that, the monthly drill meant I already 'knew' how to start it - no fumbling about in the bad weather, wondering 'where is that choke thingy?'
As mentioned, this is a PORTABLE generator. It's enough of a hassle taking it to a job site .... I can't see myself adding all that propane and hardware to the mix.
For those who wonder: Yes, I do have the generator chained & locked to the concrete slab. Eventually, it will also have a fence around it; I had this slab purpose-built for mounting my water filtration, my air conditioning equipment, and my generator.
On the whole, it was quite nice for everything to work out yesterday. This was the first real use of the generator; I had only completed my 'inlet' for the generator power a few weeks ago.
My only real surprise was how much 'extra' capacity the generator had; it had no issues with the starting current for the furnace blower motor. (As a rule of thumb, my 3-A motor would draw 18-A at start-up; the old motor drew double the power).