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Site Suggestions, Support and Resources => Show Discussions, Fan Mail and Topic Suggestions => Podcast Transcripts => Topic started by: Hootie on October 23, 2012, 02:01:55 PM

Post by: Hootie on October 23, 2012, 02:01:55 PM
The Survival Podcast

EPISODE:      1004
DATE:         October 23, 2012



Special Note – If you don’t get over to during or after this interview you are cheating yourself out of a HUGE range of resources that Steven Has Made Available to you that go along with an clarify many things in these two episodes.
Steven Harris returns to TSP this time to discuss generators and I mean everything generators. As is typical with Steven he did so much research and prep that we had to break this into two episodes.  Today we cover the 7 main types of generators, their uses, determining your needs and where to source generators for the best pricing.
Steven Harris is a consultant and expert in the field of energy. He is the founder and CEO of Knowledge Publications, the largest energy only publishing company in the USA.
Mr. Harris came to his current position to do full time work on the development and implementation of hydrogen, biomass and solar related energy systems after spending 10 years in the Aero-Thermal Dynamics department of the Scientific Labs of Chrysler Corporation.
Steve is always full of great ideas, knowledge and projects we can use to improve our personal energy independence and today is no exception. Today he covers generators with us in part one of a two part series.
“Revolution is You” by Gregg Yows

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<intro/housekeeping 0:00 – 5:22>
Post by: Hootie on October 24, 2012, 06:16:27 PM
<intro/housekeeping 0:00 – 5:22>

Jack Spirko: Once again welcoming back all time highest appearing guests. And with good reason because he brings so much information to the table, mister Steven Harris. Steve welcome back to the survival podcast.

Steven Harris: Jack, what a pleasure to be back. I love TSP and all the listeners. I keep on getting more and more questions every time from your listeners, they email me. This show is going to be one of those jam packed shows. I might be speaking a little bit faster. If you need to hear something, just rewind a little bit and listen to it twice because I am going to go through it once. This is going to be one of my most dangerous shows I have ever done. This show can be very dangerous to you. if you do something you should not do, you'll wind up dead. How is that for a warning, Jack?


Jack Spirko: That is pretty good, keep going.

Steven Harris: For the people listening I want you to know what I am going to talk about on this show. I may be covering something that you might want to hear. What I am going to cover in this show, which is going to be a little bit longer, I am going to cover all generators. I am going to cover big ones, small ones, gasoline, diesel, natural gas, propane fuel, conversion to natural gas and propane, where to buy them converted and where to get the conversion kits. I am going to cover how to hook them up to your house with transfer switches. I am going to cover back feeding. I am going to cover 7 different types of generators: regular generators, inverter generators, 2-cycle generators, PTO generators, whole house generators, generators on trailers, and very long life generators like ones you might use for 10 years. I am going to tell you how to hook up to natural gas from your house or the propane from your pig, to your generator.


Jack Spirko: Steve, when we look at a list like that how does the average person out there even start to decide which one of those particular generators is right for them, from all of these types you have listed? There are people rewinding right now, just to hear the 7 different types of generators. Where do they start?

Steven Harris: Jack, you got to start at one place before you decide. There are all types of generators as I have said and I am going to cover them all for you. Here is the first and most important question that needs to be asked. Do you need a big generator or do you need a small generator? Even though you have a 150 amp circuit breaker electrical box, which would equate to 18 kilowatts, most home are drawing about 1 kilowatt in power at any time. Unless your central AC is on and that is a lot more. Or unless your deep well well motor is on for your water, then that is a lot more. We will forget about your central AC for the moment, but I will cover it in a little bit. The question starts to be, "What do you want to power, when there is no power?" In one of our previous shows, we covered how to power a modern refrigerators. It only draws between 100 to 200 watts when running. Old refrigerators could draw as much 1500 watts when running. New freezers and refrigerators draw only between 100 and 200 watts when running. Especially if they are ENERGY STAR rated refrigerators and freezers. You will want to power your refrigerator and freezer. You will want to power your your big screen TV and that is another 200 to 400 watts. Your DirectTV or satellite box is about 50 watts. You want to charge your cell phones and AA batteries, it is about 5 watts. A few watts for other little electronic you'll want to plug in, plus some fans. There is 50 watts. What we come up with 200 for the fridge, 200 for the freezer, 400 maximum for the TV and satellite dish, 20 for your iPhone and iPad and AA battery charger, and 50 for fans. That equals about 920 watts. Your refrigerator and freezer are not going to be running at the same time. They are going to be one on and one off. You'll alternate back and forth. That is really a steady load of 500 watts or less. Lets make you more comfortable. Lets power a 5000 BTU window AC unit to keep one room in the house nice and cool for you, for when the hurricane knocks out your power in the humid hot south. The AC unit takes 5 amps. 5 amps times 120 volts is 600 watts. We want your ice maker going that I talked about in the last show. That is 200 watt max when it it making ice. We want a bread maker going to make fresh, hot, 2 pound loaves of bread in 58 minutes. From just some flour, water, sugar, salt, and yeast. That draws about 300 watts in 58 minutes. If everything was running near the same time, that kicks us up to about 2000 watts or 2 kilowatts. Remember, this 2 kilowatts is the key thing. This puts you firmly in the field of a 2 kilowatts generator. Which will allow you to use one of the newer fancy and quite inverter style generators, that I will cover in detail in a bit. Or it lets you use a really cheapo 2-cycle engine generator that can cost as little as $105 at Harbor Freight. If you plug in your refrigerator for 2 hours and then plug in your freezers for 2 hours and keep your 600 watt AC running all the time. And run some LED/Compact-Fluorescent Lights, the ones that are 13 watts max for CF bulbs and 5 watts for LED. Then you are going to get away with a lot less then a 1 kilowatt generator.

Post by: Hootie on October 26, 2012, 08:23:44 PM

Jack Spirko: Now real quick, before we move on there. Looking at 1 kilowatt generator, don't we have an issue with some of the start up devices with peak verses running load. Is it not better to size a generator a little bit bigger then you think you need.

Steven Harris: That is true, but I am saying if you do what I just said and just turn on one refrigerator, and one freezer, and some lights, and one small A/C unit you can get away will 1 kilowatt ($129) generator. Your ENERGY STAR doesn't have much of a start up load on it. They are using a really small compresses that runs more often, instead of a big compresses that runs less often. There isn't really anything that I mentioned that is going to have a start up load. The biggest start up load would probably be your A/C unit, for over about 3 seconds when it turns on. I am only talking about a 5000 BTU A/C unit. That will be run on relativity low amount of power with a small compressor. You might start your A/C unit up and then start everything else.


Jack Spirko: What is really interesting, you just described exactly what we did in the last power outage we had that lasted about a week. We had one room cooled with a relativity small portable A/C unit. We had both TVs if we wanted them on. We have a chest freezer and a refrigerator. There is just no sense to try to run them both at the same time. When I had everything going you didn't even here it bog down. It is interesting recommending exactly what we ran. One thing that we kind of glossed over was the well pump. A lot of folks like me, have these deep water well pumps high draw. What do we do about that?

Post by: Hootie on October 26, 2012, 10:16:01 PM

Steven Harris: Well, Jack that is what changes the whole equation of where you are going to be big or are you going to be small. Are you going to be more than 2 kilowatts or are you going to be less than 2 kilowatts. Rural people are going to want to power their well pump. For a 40 gallon per minute to a 80 gallon per minute unit ranging from 20 feet down to a 100 feet down in depth, you are looking at a 2 horsepower to 5 horsepower motor. There are about 750 watts per horse power. That is 1500 to 3800 watts right there alone just for your well motor. Well motors are also 240 volts. You will need a generator with 120 volts as well as 240 volts AC output on it. Most of the bigger ones, like 7 kilowatt and 10 kilowatt generators have this on it. Depending on the horsepower on your well motor and how much surge you will have when starting up, you are talking about wanting a 5000 watt (5 kilowatt) to 8 kilowatt generator. Because you could be talking about drawing a max of 4000 watts of power on your well motor when it is running full out. Then your refrigerator, freezer, small A/C unit and everything on top of that. The well water pump squarely puts you in the category of needing a big generator 5 to 10 kilowatts. My prior description of just A/C unit, bread maker, lights and iPhone puts you in the category of a small generator 2 kilowatt or less. Same thing if you want to run your forced air furnace in the winter time, like we all have here in the north. The furnace itself takes nothing for power. It is just turning on the ignitor, turning on some valves and letting the natural gas flow. It don't take nothing, but there is the blower. The big fans and squirrel cage blower, that moves the air through the house that is part of the furnace. It is about 1000 to 1500 watts. It is on its own circuit. Wanting to power your furnace will put you squarely into the category of a big generator. Something more than 2000 watts. Although you could get away with running 2 kilowatt generator and run your furnace in the winter time. You can run your furnace for an hour or 2, and then run some lights and your TV, keeping you under 2 Kilowatts. Then turn the furnace off plug in your refrigerator and freezer. You can dance around like this. Hey Jack, isn't this kind of funny. It is winter time and you run a generator to keep your house warm but because the house is now warm, you need to run a generator to keep your refrigerator and freezer inside your house cold. Its kind of a paradox.

Post by: Hootie on October 27, 2012, 07:50:35 PM

Jack Spirko: Yeah, it just make me think how we used to always throw our beer in the snow, because it got cold faster. Maybe there is a solution there if you really need heat. My thoughts on this, if you are in this kind of zone there is just not that huge of a difference in cost between a 2K generator... I have a 6500 watt generator, and it only cost me $500 or $600. I just think that if somebody is at all on the edge maybe it makes sense to just step up.

Steven Harris: Definitely, you can step up. One of the advantage of being under 2K is that you can go with one of the newer inverter type generators. Which are a lot smarter, a lot smaller, a lot lighter, and a lot quieter. You get that for paying a premium, they are about a $1000 in price. That is why i am saying big or small. So you can go for the cheaper 2-cycles or go with the higher quality inverter. Where you know you are going with the generator you have right now. A regular generator that is going to be 5, 6, 8, 10, 12 thousand watts.

Post by: Hootie on October 28, 2012, 04:46:16 PM

Jack Spirko: You are right. Those little 2k Honda's, they are expensive but that things runs about as loud as a printer. They are really quiet and that is a real advantage. My statement has always been, go out and get a small generator set and then later step up to big one. Then you have the 2 is 1 and 1 is none thing. Now that we have big and small defined, what are the types of generators that are out there, that are available for people.

Steven Harris: There are about 7 different categories of generators out there right now.There are 1: regular generators. The ones that we most commonly thing of. The one that Jack just mentioned he has. There are 2: inverter generators. 3: 2-cycle generators, that are very inexpensive. 4: PTO (Power Take Off) generators that run off your tractor. 5: whole house generators. 6: Generators that are so big they come on trailers. You'll find a lot of these in military surplus. I am going to add a 7th category, very long life generators. Generators that will last for years or a decade. Then don't forget there is gasoline, diesel, natural gas, and propane fuels for your generators. I am going to cover those as well, and how to connect these generators to your house. Jack you ready to start?

Jack Spirko: Yeah man, lets get on with it.

Post by: Hootie on October 29, 2012, 07:53:33 PM

Steven Harris: Here we go. #1: Regular generators, these have a fuel powered engine turning a generator head, and it has speed controlled to keep it at the right speed all the time. Jack mentioned his generator doesn't make much noise but we plugin a load you will hear it go up, you will hear it go down the noise level because it's keeping its speed. This is the traditional type of generator the most of us see and think of. It directly outputs on 120 volts or 240 volts directly from the generator itself. Cheaper, 5 kilowatt generator found at Sams or Costco run about $500. A 7500 watt generator will run about my $950 this is going to be the most inexpensive best generator for you to get if you have a well water pump or furnace you have to run. Plus, it will be able run your central AC is well. Central AC are about 5 kilowatts. You have an 8 kilowatt generator you can power it. It might not be able to run your well motors the same time has your central AC, but if it's a 5 hp motor and your AC is on at the same time, it might do it. The regular generator will only run your central AC or your well motor, if it have the 240 volt A/C output on it. Otherwise you're stuck with 120 volt, you're stuck with window units. If you got power the big stuff look for a generator but has 240 volts out. It will also have 120 volts but look for it with 240. It is common to have a manual transfer switch next to your breaker or fuse box, that will disconnect you from the grid and connect the house to the generator safely. It's just one big switch so you can throw. These transfer switches are off-the-shelf at Home Depot Lowes cost between  $300 and $400 each. It might cost between $100 and $500 to install. It depends upon your electrician and his rates and how friendly are with them and how easy it is to install your electric panel. If you got an old panel and not much room he is going to charge you a lot more. If you got a newer panel and plenty of room to mount everything and wired it in, he is charge you a lot less. If you're going to try and power your entire house with these methods, that we will be discussing today. You are going to want 100%, a generator that has a 240 volt output on it. If you're just going to run extension power cord from a generator to all the stuff you want to power in your house, you can go with the generator that only has 120 volts on it. Please note: a generator that has 240 volte will also have very high current circuits were 120 volts. That means you got plenty 120 volt power. Enough for your window AC units, your microwave, refrigerator, and freezer all the same time. You are not losing anything by going to the generator with 240 volt output on it. It's actually more flexible. What's yours got Jack?

Post by: Hootie on November 02, 2012, 05:23:46 PM

Jack Spirko: I have one 240 volt and four 120 volt. I wanted to ask what you're saying about the extension chords, the smartest thing you can do you're going to take that approach is investing good-quality heavy gage extension cords, multiple lengths, 100 foot lengths, 50 foot lengths, so you can deal with your house. What we did was, we have one of our Tupperware bins, that keep our shed, every single cord that is for that generator set is in that bin wrapped up neatly at times. Where if we have to deploy the generator, it is almost like snapping together pre-planed things. We already know where everything reaches to. If you're not going to use a transfer switch, because we are moving, we not to pay to have somebody put one in. I just think, if you don't add that to it you are going to be really unhappy, when you try to figure out where all your cords are. I we need one out of that group it goes directly back and it was not being used.


Steven Harris:  Good discipline. Good preparedness discipline is very crucial, to doing things in a disaster. Usually when a disaster hits, you are cold, wet, confused, you could be bleeding, your kids are crying, you are hungry and thirsty, it's raining on you, you are pulling out your generator has not been started in two years, and you are trying to find extension cords. That is not a good thing. Doing what Jack said is the right way to do it. Have cords dedicated to it.


Jack Spirko: I would also say started the daggon thing every couple of months. Just run it for a couple minutes. It will make your life happier, I promise you.

Steven Harris: Yeah I'd say once a month. Okay #2 type of generator, a newer type of generator on the market is called the inverter generator. Honda and Yamaha are famous for making these and they are generally smaller generators. They are 1, 2, or 3 kW in size. They have a whole plastic case or shroud around them. Generally looking a lot sexier than regular open generator, that you are familiar with. These actually have fuel powered engine turning a DC generator internally will never know it and it generates high current DC voltage that then goes to electronic inverter, that then converts this to full sine wave AC power. This is why it's called inverter generator it's really, hybrid car without the battery. It works very well. The smallest this come in is usually 1 kWatt with larger ones being around 3 kW. These generators are known for being a efficient. They are better on fuel. They are light, they usually 22 to 44 pounds and then are known for being very quiet. Especially the running a lower loads. It is quite normal to have a conversation right next to one, especially when it's running a low. They are also generally much more expensive than a regular generator. If you want a light weight portable quiet generator, this is the one you get. The Honda EU 1000i, 2000i, and 3000i the most famous of these generators. Yamaha makes a good line of them. I personally on the Honda. Briggs & Stratton also makes one. Generac makes one. Other companies are trying to compete with Honda and Yamaha. If you go on Amazon and you read there reviews, they are nowhere as near as good as the five-star reviews you going to the Honda and Yamaha. If you see a generator that covered on plastic and handle you can pick it up with it it's one of these inverter type generators. Since the inverter generator is computer-controlled, yes there is electronics in it, it controls the throttle very well and it follows the load. Plus, the electronics make up for fluctuations in voltage, so it keeps a steady smooth output. These are the most advanced generators out there. They are also the most expensive. These generators can cost around $1,000 for a Honda or Yamaha line, and $500 to $750 for other names are trying to compete with them. Remember these generators are generally around 2 kW in size. Where as regular generators will be around 5 kW in size. This would be the highest-quality generator you can get. If you were in the small category of generators, and needing 2000 W or less, although there is a 3000 and 6500 units EU Honda... they actually come on wheels so you can move them  easier, that's going to be $2,000 to $4,000 for that generator. If you're in a small category and you want high-quality, the inverter generators especially Honda or Yamaha is the way that you should go.


Jack Spirko: I'm look at the retail, and usually you can get these a little under retail, but 2000 W generator like you describe from Honda which in my opinion about the best of them out there, it is about $2,200. A 3000 W  is going to run about $2600. If someone said to me, "I need more than 2000 W, but I don't need a tremendous amount more." I would probably tell them, they would be better off buying two of the daggon 2000 W than the 3000 W, because two is one and one is none. You can run at different locations and what have you.

Steven Harris: The Honda EU 2000i is around $1,200 at most locations. The thing about the Hondas is there is a tie in kit. You can run two Honda's EU 2000i side-by-side and they talk to each other. Then they make 4000 W output between the two. That is unique  to the Honda.

Jack Spirko: That kicks the ass out of the 3 kW which costs almost as much as the two of them together. I did not know that. I am going to have to look into that. Overall they could be pretty expensive. What's the cheapest generator out there? Someone says "I don't have much money. I need something."


Steven Harris: Ok. I am going to tell you the cheapest. It is really cheap and it works. The cheapest cheapest generate out there is a 800 W, 2-cycle engine generator, from Harbor Freight, for $129. Many times you'll find this 800 W 2-cycle generator on sale for $89. It's 900 W the serge and 800 W continuous power. It's really going to be in the small category. Northern Tool, which is, has a 1000 W continuous power generator it to cycle as well, for $160 bucks. These small generators are not California Air Resources Board, or CARB, compliant. So, they're not for sale for people in California. Hey, you live there. You vote for the people in office. They make the laws. Don't complain to me. okay or trodden upon

Jack Spirko: Or just drive to Nevada and pick one up.


Steven Harris: <laughs> Yeah, drive to Nevada to pick one up. Remember these 2-cycle generator needs oil mixed in with the gasoline. A 2-cycle engine is just like your weed whacker engine or your snapper mower or you're really powerful leaf blower. It is a 2-cycle motor, like a chainsaw. You got to mix oil in with the gasoline. So, you need gasoline and you need oil. It's called two cycle. It is on the shelf at the store. If you are on a budget and you just want something from occasional power failure.  And it's not going to running for weeks and weeks on end. This will work for you. This is certainly better than nothing.


Jack Spirko: I agree with that. They're not designed to run from a real long time but they do work I played around with a couple of them. They start pretty easy and one of the best uses of these think it's kind of an entry into your back power, where people are just getting started a budget. If you combine that with a backup  battery system. That you always have a trickle charge in the grid, that's when....

Steven Harris: Hang on... That is my next show Jack.

Jack Spirko: Alright, that is just one way I see to use them. I will tell you what, it is better to have it then not have it.

Steven Harris: Right, it is better to have not have it. My next show is all going to be about batteries and  battery banks. I'm going to give away a lot of Steven Harris secrets on this one. You know what the most expensive for the generator is, Jack?

Jack Spirko: Probably not have one at all, or trying to find one in the middle of a big black out


Steven Harris: That is right, the most expensive generator is no generator. People will talk to me about satellite phones and they go "It is a $1 a minute! That is expensive!" I tell them there is one thing more expensive than $1 a minute and that is no signal.

Jack Spirko: No signal and you know that you were holding stock in the power company that's currently down. And you can't call your broker to dump it. How expensive is that?

Steven Harris: Yeah. Or your leg is broken and you are bleeding and you are in the middle of nowhere, and you need a rescue. That is when something is priceless. Now, section #4. Our fourth type of generators are PTO generators. I had lots of people write to me about these. That is why I put this section in and in detail. PT0 stands for Power Take Off, it means to connect to the power takeoff of your firm or lawn tractor and it turns the generator. The PTO the spot on the rear of the engine. It is not the drive shaft to the wheels. That you connect a small power takeoff shaft to. It look for the drive shaft to the engine. Then the PTO turns it, and this turns the generator, or a turns grain grinder, or it turns a water/trash pump, it will turn a post hole digger, it will turn to your mower deck, or a hydraulic pump, or log splitters, or other farm machinery.There is no end to the stuff that goes on to a PTO. just go to him Tractor Supply store, you'll see a million different things. These generators can be very inexpensive and affordable generators because you're not buying the engine. The engine is your tractor that you already own. Some large long tractors also have a PTO on them. You are going to have to size your PTO generator to the tractor. When you go look up a PTO generator, the specs will say it has a minimum PTO shaft horsepower needed to make its highest output. A 7 kW PTO generator needs 14 hp off the PTO shaft operate. A 27 kW PTO generator will need about 48 hp off the PTO to operate. At, which is just one of the places I looked. They are an ok company. I am not saying rush there, I am saying look around. The 7 kW PTO generator cost of $1000. That is about the same price for a bit more you can buy a regular generator for. Jack got his 6500 W for about $500.


Jack Spirko: Yeah, it was $500 or $600. Something like that.

Steven Harris: It can be a little more expensive or about the same. The 27 kW PTO generator costs only about $3,000. Contrast that a 27 kW PT for $3,000 to the same side of diesel generator is going to cost between $8,000 and $10,000.

Jack Spirko: That is because the $6,000 to $7,000 worth of motor is in your tractor, instead of your generator.

Steven Harris: Exactly, so that is where the savings is. Don't forget you also need something like a small flat trailer, to go to mount the generator, to the pull behind a tractor. It doesn't just bolt on the tractor. So there is a few more dollars right there. I want you to see where the advantage is. However, what does the normal homeowner need 27 kW for? I said 27...

Jack Spirko: Home building of your own electric chairs?

Steven Harris: <laughs> There you go... That is for the Liberals around you, that come by and say "I hear you got some extra food. Can I have some?

Jack Spirko: <laughs> Be nice. <laughs> Alright.

Steven Harris: <laughs> Remember I'm the one who said, "It cheaper to feed your neighbors that it is to electrocute... I mean shoot them." You don't need 27 kW. Your house is only drawing about 1 kW on average. This is much more of a farm tool, than it is a home power tool. Of course, if your preparedness location is  a farm that you live on. Then this would work very fine for you. For an expert panel question I just answered, which you will probably hear on Friday. I spoke with Justin, on his goat farm in Georgia. This is be a very good solution for him. He would be able to run all of his well pumps, his grain grinders and everything at the same time. Plus he has a 1000 foot deep well. Its pump on its own might take 5 kW to 10 kW just on its own just for electricity. Depending upon its flow rate, that is the type of person who needs a 27 kW PTO, because he has already got a tractor.


Jack Spirko: I guess that you live in the suburbs, but you have a tractor for some reason you could set "Steve Harris's Electric Company" and sell people power until the lights come back on.

Steven Harris: Yeah, you could. You pretty good penny on it. "Yeah sure I will give you power. $100 a day"

Jack Spirko: <laughs> Or you can be nice for reasonable price.

Steven Harris: Well a $100 a day in a blackout is reasonable, because they would spend a $1000 on generator and the blackout won't last 10 days. That seems pretty good to me.

Jack Spirko: True, but you are not going run a generator that size, on some like the typical lawn tractor, or even the larger one with a PTO. This is a more heavy duty machine, that we are talking about here, right?

Steven Harris: It is, but like the idea of charging $100 a day to your neighbors. Because if they won't pay it on day one, they will pay it on day two.

Jack Spirko: Yeah, especially when you are sitting over there eating eggs in the air conditioning. What are some problems associated with PTO generators.

Steven Harris: That is the big problem, Jack. PTOs have one major problem. You have to adjust the engine speed up or down to get the right frequency, 60 Hz, coming out of the generator. The standard for a PTO is 540 revolutions per minute or RPMs. You have to hook out the PTO, adjust the engine speed by hand, watch the meters on the generator for voltage and frequency, and then hook up your electrical loads. We call this following the load. For farm equipment like electric motors and such, a slowdown frequency voltage is not a big deal, but it will mess with smaller motors your house into the refrigerator and freezer. That won't fry your electronics, but it might make your computer reset or hiccup so to speak.


Jack Spirko: What happens when you hook your house up and AC to the PTO generator.

Steven Harris: what happens when a big load comes on in your house, and you got a PTO generator. Is it puts a load on the PTO and then the voltage and frequency drops. This will depend upon how big your load is, But you have to be by the tractor and adjust throttle up to get more output, more RPMs. You have to throttle up because you just put more of a load on it. This is like what Jack says. When his refrigerator kicks on he hear the generator go Grrrrrrrr little bit more. You have to manually followed the load with a tractor throttle. Note, there is a lever that controls the throttle to the PTO on your tractor. You don't have to sit on the seat of your traction with you foot on the gas pedal. All of the other generators we're talking about today, all have their engines connected to the generator so can maintain the frequency of a relatively constant rate. The PTO is the only generator that does what we're talking about today. And it does not have this connection. You have to fallow the load manually. You know what I'm talking about. You have your house running a generator. You turn on the microwave oven, to heat something up. The microwave is a big drawing 1,200 W. The lights will dim a bit you will hear the generator speed up and get louder. That is because the engine RPM valves in the generator open its throttle automatically to accomplish the higher load and speed to get the generator back at the right speed. There are two things of any engine, this is real brief and thus the same things with a generator. There is speed and load. Speed, is the speed with which the generator is turning or RPM (Revolutions Per Minute) for a generator. This will always be about the same speed because it effects the frequency and voltage output. The load of the generator will vary. The loaded directly measured by the Manifold Absolute Pressure, what we call MAP. This is what is most commonly referred to, you guys as, the vacuum of the engine. While the engine speed will remain relatively the same. The load will go up and down. The higher the load, the loader the generator will be. That's one of the reason the inverter style generators are so quiet quite at low load. There's not a lot of fuel and thus not a lot of bag going into the cylinders and out the exhaust.

Post by: Hootie on November 04, 2012, 05:42:19 PM

Jack Spirko: Just to make people understand. A real easy way to understand that, think of you driving a big ass truck, up a big ass hill. To maintain the same RPMs, when you're going up that hill, you're going to hear he engine be louder. The truck is going to be moving slower, as it gears down to handle the load. It is not the same thing, but it's easy way to understand what Steve's talking about there. As you are asking the engine to do more while turning at the same speed. To drive harder.

Steven Harris: 100% Speed and load. With that said about speed and load, if you have a 27 kW PTO generator hooked up your tractor and you turn your 1200 W microwave. You think it's really going to affect the load and  the speed of the PTO. No, it won't. Maybe when your central AC kicks on you might have a go and adjust the load, but that's it. You'll see PTOs advertise with voltage and frequency controls. They look a lot better and they should like they answer the problem we just talked about and they are a lot fancier. They got green and red LEDs and tell you the overspeed it under speed, but in no way do they talk to tractor engine or control it so they really don't control the frequency. If you read a sales pitch you think it does. When you watch the video you'll see that it doesn't. This is impossible to achieve. The takeaway with PTO generators, what you don't forget is, you are going to have to control throttle or follow load by yourself. They can be a real powerful tool at a great price, assuming you already have a tractor with the a PTO on it. Mind you, these can cost between $5,000 and $20,000 used just for the tractor.

Post by: Hootie on November 05, 2012, 08:59:08 PM

Jack Spirko: I think, it really is for the person that is going have a tractor anyways, that this makes most sense for. Lets move on  to the next generator.

Steven Harris: Whole house generators. Whole house generators are one my favorite subject, Jack. If money was not a problem. What you really want a generator for house, Jack?

Jack Spirko: I wanted to make my life the same when the powers off, than when the powers on. I want to be able to my food. I want to stay cool or stay warm. I will watch TV and I want to watch my neighbors pull her hair out.

Steven Harris: Right, you want to do nothing. You wanted automatic, right?

Jack Spirko: Absolutely.

Steven Harris: That is what a whole house generator does. Normally it is fueled by either natural gas or propane. I've not seen any of them fueled by gasoline or diesel because you need to have a big tank up. Then you have fuel storage issues. It's sized to power your entire house, including a central AC system, and your furnace. It powers everything. They are best installed automatic transfer switch. I said "automatic transfer switch." Generally what happens when the power fails, the generators sits there waiting for 30 seconds for the come back on. When the power doesn't come back on, it automatically throws the auto-transfer switch and switch of the entire electrical panel over to the generator. Then the generator starts up and powers the house while the power failures going. When the power comes back on for some number minute, it will itself off and transfer the house back to grid electricity without you doing anything. This is what you install for your parents or your grandparents or what you install if you do not ever want to have to mess with anything.

Jack Spirko: Or if you are a guy that is always on the road and your wife can have to deal with it while you're not home.

Steven Harris: Yes, that's kind of making gender specific now Jack. Which is un-PC of you...

Jack Spirko: Well you can say it is un-PC, but watch my watch my wife pull the start cord on 6500 Watt generator and you'll see why.

Steven Harris:  I agree 100%. This generator will automatically turn itself on every week or every month. It usually runs between 10 to 15 minutes and it doesn't transfer the power. It is not going to interrupt you or what you're doing. It just starts and turned itself on, to keep all the liquid moving and its parts going. Some of the cheaper whole house generators can be a little loud, so make sure it's located in an area outside your house  that won't bother you if you're running. It's okay to bother neighbors. Of course it might bother the neighbors but make sure it's set up right, so it's self test doesn't started in 1 AM in the morning. Some people have complained and it wakes everyone up. The better whole house generators are a lot more quiet. The cheaper ones are houder. Some come on for 12 minutes a week, like I said. Other 15 minutes a month. You can change schedule. I know several people with these installed. Mostly people who are not technically oriented or not wanting to mess with anything. I have a friend in Tucson with one at her house hooked up to natural gas. She uses it during power failures, that usually happened monsoon season in Arizona, at the end of summer when it's nice and hot. It runs both her swamp cooler as well as her AC unit. She IS nice and cool as she continues to do her writing on her computer and other business work, while everyone else is interrupted and has to stop what they are doing.


Jack Spirko: One thing I'll throw into that, if you have a pro come out and size your house and tell you what size Generac or whatever highend generator you are going to need. He is going to tell you that you need a 25 kW generator, even if you don't. They will always try to size generator as though you are going to turn on every stinking thinking your house, at the same time running full out. I know a lot of people that are running 10 kW, 12kW, or 15 kW generators like this and they never have a problem running in other households. Unless they just try to be stupid. If you turn all the burners on your electric stove at the same time, turn your air conditioner on 60°, and turn on the hot water. If you do that you can push them, but just be aware that. You probably noticed the same type of thing with the industry.


Steven Harris: People in the south generally have all electric homes, which is foreign to me living in the north. You are right, there hot water heater will be electric , there stove is electric, and there AC of course is electric.

Jack Spirko: Turn your air-conditioner off while you are taking a shower and letting the hot water heat up. Like  you said, the guy that was trying to sell me one was trying to sell me a 25 kW generator. We are only 2 kW off off of that 27 kW that we are talking about for the PTO. It is just ridiculous.

Steven Harris: Exactly.

Jack Spirko: I bet there are some howevers through.

Steven Harris: There are howevers with everything. Automatic whole house generator works automatically, you don't do anything. However, if you go and read the manual for one most popular line of whole house generators which is Generac. It says the generator can run on synthetic oil, as it should. They vary from 5W-30 to 10W-30 normal automotive oil dependent on the climate you live. But, Generac wants the first 8 hours to run only on SAE 30 oil for breaking period and then you change oil after 8 hours and then you switch or 5W-30 or 10W-30 synthetic. This is eight hours after the power failure happens and your first time using the generator. My wife is not going to go out drain the oil or anything else. If it was me, I would just turn it on run my house for 8 hours right now, while the power is going. Make sure everything works. Which you should do anyways. Then change it over to the better synthetic oil, that I highly recommend. I highly recommend Mobil 1 as my favorite synthetic oil. FYI, synthetic oil from Mobil is a lot cheaper on Amazon that it is in the store. I need 10 quarts of oil for my Dodge diesel, every time I change my oil. At $8 a quart, that gets expensive. Another however on the whole house generator is you need to turn the unit off every 24 hours to check the oil level, to see if it needs any more oil. There is also low level shut off on as well. You got check it every 24 hours and see it the oil has gone down.


Jack Spirko: Which it really shouldn't, unless something goes wrong. You definitely want to check because the consequences are not good. On another note, once I've got that better oil in there how often do I need an oil change, in my in my whole house backup generator.

Steven Harris: The Generac manuals, as well as every form on the internet, and all of the Trailer Life people (these are people that live in trailers and travel around the country for the retirement. God bless them). All the people I talk to say the same thing, every manual, every person says the the same thing. Change your oil every 100 hours of operation. That would be 4 days of 24/7 operation. Many of the whole house generators have an oil drain hose make this easier, so you don't have to put a pan underneath of it. You can drain it into a bottle. You need to stock up on oil because depending on the size of the generator and engine and the oil filter capacity and everything else, it can take anywhere between 1 and up the 2 quarts of oil for larger generators. Generac want you to change the oil filter every 100 hour as well. I'm sure they sell them. Now you need to stock up on engine oil and oil filters for your automatic whole house generator, that you have to replace every four days. If the generator with the car driving 60 mph then in 100 hours, think of this, it would gone 6000 miles. Mobile 1 extends this to 10,000 to 15,000 miles. The bottle says 13,000 miles. I change mine every 10,000 to 12,000. If you went full synthetic on a whole house generator I would say you could push it and running a week 12/7 without changing your oil. Still, trying to maintain the every 4 day schedule.


Jack Spirko: These are a big investment. We are talking many thousands of dollars, by the time we look at bringing propane in, getting them installed, getting them wired in, and the cost the generator itself. One of the biggest question people will have, when they are making that type of investment is, "what's the lifecycle of this thing? How long can I expected it to last?"

Steven Harris: I went right to Generac for this information and I got this information from the factory. The class of generators such as the 10 kW or less ones that use standard Briggs & Stratton engines, or small Honda engines, or Tecumseh engines, or whatever flavor is that month, can expect to live for up to 3000 hours. If you change the oil filter and do the other scheduled maintenance stuff. If you ran a 24/7 that would be 125 days of life before your engine was dead, basically 4 months. It's not something you're going to have to power your house all the time for an entire year. If you only ran it 8 hours a day and did this for year, then you would near the end of its expected life. 3000 hours is not the life for all generators. I have reports from multiple people, from Trailer Life people, that one guy has run his Honda EU 2000i, the one own and my favorite, for just over 12,000 hours of runtime before the engine finally gave up the ghost and die. He had buy new generator. That would be a completely worn out generator. That would be equal to 500 days of operation on a 24/7 basis. Or 1500 days or about 4 years on an 8 hour day basis. Keep in mind you would need about 120 quarts of oil to do this. For you guys were doing prepping for a year or longer, you need to keep this in mind. 120 quarts at $7 to a quart would be $840 in just oil. That's almost the price of a good inverter generator just an oil for a whole year of operation.


Jack Spirko: Awesome stuff. What is next in generator that you talk about with us today?

Steven Harris: I gotten emails on this, generators on trailers. These are generators that start on the small end around 20 kW and they are generally around 40 kW a bigger. They go all the way up to 1000 kW, a megawatt, hose are in semi tractor-trailer. You got to have a semi truck to pull them. You will see these generators at county fairs, street carnivals, and other outdoor festivities. Anyplace you need a lot of outdoor power. Brand names will be Caterpillar, Kohler, Yanmar, and others. Sometimes they'll have lights attached to them, to light up an entire area. They can be purchased and rented everywhere. Significant number of them can be found on the military surplus market. Your government sell these cheap on the surplus market. I have lots of people writing to me tell me that they have gotten them on the surplus market. I did have one of these. I have a 40 kW diesel trailer generator for a long time, along time ago, while doing biomass work on a farm. It powered everything we had to do, very well.


Jack Spirko: What are some of the details that people have to look for in these generators. I have got your notes, so i know you are going to talk about the 3-phase thing. That is a big issue for me because I've people say, "You can't wire these things into a house." Is there a misunderstanding there. What are some of  the gotchas that you can have with these? Especially military surplus ones?

Steven Harris: Some of these generators, especially the military surplus ones that you mentioned, can come with a lot of things that won't be any good to most homework or farm preppers. They generally will have a 120 volts out and they will have 240 volts out, but they can also have 480 volts out 3-phase. Unless you're going to power industrial machinery like a great big lathe or mill 480 volts 3-phases will not do you much good. Listen carefully, if it's 240 volts 3-phase you can still use it to power your 240 volt equipment. Especially if you have a welding machine, which is very important tool for long-term prepping because he got a fixed up yourself. If you have 240 volts 3-phase, you can use the 240 volts 1-phase at a time. That's what we have all of our houses. All of our houses are called single phase electricity or 1-phase electricity. It's all 60 Hz or what is called 60 cycles per second. If you want detailed description what 3-phase electricity is please look it up in Wikipedia. It has a great over overview of it, that I don't need to cover in this show. There is actually 2 pages on it on wiki. The one you want is the one that doesn't have all the mathematically equations. Consult with your local electrician about hooking up generator. You really want an expert to give you a little bit of a class, a little education generator,But what you do, is you can get a single phase out 3-phase by connecting L1 to neutral to get 240 volts single phase out and you can get another 240 volts single phase as a whole separate circuit by connecting L2 to neutral. Do not connect with L3 and neutral. Only L1 and neutral, and L2  and neutral. So a single 240 volts 3-phase socket will give you two separate circuits of 240 volts single phase. Some notes; you're not converting 240 volts to 120 volts. 480 volts 3-phase you're not converting that down to 240 V single phase either. Watch out for the military ones made for foreign power. Remember with US government has military bases all over the world and they have generators at those bases that one on the same power as that country. Parts of Japan and other third world holes will have 50 Hz. This you do not need, and you're not going to use, nor convert 50 Hz to 60 Hz. Also very important, some of the government surplus generators will come with 400 Hz. This is not uncommon on the market for military surplus generators. Airplanes run a 400 Hz. These are designed to give power to an airplane when it is sitting there on the tarmac. You do not need 400 Hz. You are not converting 400 Hz to 60 Hz. Nor are you ever going to be able to use 400 Hz. So if it is a 400 Hz generator, that's why has probably been sold on the surplus market for a couple hundred bucks, because no one can use it . Here is the take away, the only specs you care about on the military surplus generator or a trailer generator will be; One, it is 120 V AC output single phase 60 Hz, and Two you will only be concerned with 240 volts output 60 Hz of course but single phase or 3-phase will be acceptable. You'll have to make some special cables go from 3-phase to single phase, 240 volts but that's not hard. Have someone locally help you, who understand electricity in the exact generator that you have, like electrician.

Post by: Hootie on November 07, 2012, 07:40:19 PM

Jack Spirko: When we start buying surplus crap from the military, there's probably some things look out for him buying a generator like this. So we know that it's not billion years old or completely worn out, right?

Steven Harris: Yeah, one there is a date on it. The second thing is, there's an hour meter. All these big generators have hour meters on them. They will tell you how many hours the generator has been running. If you want to get an idea what these look like, you can go Google it or you can go to and find a bunch of them used. Some of them really used up. You will see a lot of trailer generators, so you get an idea of what's out there, what they cost, and what the age of some of these are. They are also on eBay. Just go look up trailer generator or military generator. Generally the ones on eBay, some are government auction ones, that other people bought and are now reselling to you. It's better to be the person getting it from the government auction in the first place. Then again, you got to know what you're doing, and what you are looking at, etc. I have also found several trailer generators and trailer generator welders and more, on my local craigslist. That's for you people out there. That's a good place to look. In fact I found a guy selling mint condition Honda EU 3000i for only $1,100, with only five hours because he got it realized it was too small for what he wanted to do.


Jack Spirko: That is a $2600 generator. That's a great deal.

Steven Harris: Yeah. If he would have listen to the show, he would've known big or small.

Jack Spirko: <laughs> Yeah.

Steven Harris: The keyword search for on eBay and Craigslist are "trailer generator", not "generators", just "trailer generator". These generators will also classify as long life generators. a

Jack Spirko: Long life generator, isn't that the the final category we need to talk about. We talked about these generators last year and run every day, so are they longer-life and what do we go on that?

Steven Harris: Yes, very long-life generators. I know there are some of you out there who are trying to prepare for a decade. I took the time to address this area of long-life generators just for you. I wanted this show to be all encompassing. Jack, how many TSP people have asked you about preparation storage for multiple years to a decade.

Jack Spirko: Quite a bit. I think a lot of people kind of use the one year preparedness mark, as a pretty good benchmark, but there is a lot of people looking farther than that.


Steven Harris: Yep, that is me as well. I'm one year kind of person. Energy for 10 years. This one is one of the times I think solar panels would be better than a long life generator, this is one of the times I would recommend solar panels. Lister diesel engines, for small-scale power the third world world runs on Lister engines. They have their own famous green color, like John Deere does but their green is a bit darker. I have a Lister diesel engine that I got surplus and it is an incredible engine. Lister is now called Lister-Petter, I will put a link up at to them and their other Lister resources. They have distributor locators for finding dealer that sell the engine and the Gen Sets. There are stories of Listers in Third World have not been shut off for 10 years. They change oil on the on-the-fly, they fuel it as it goes, and he keeps on running. These Listers are generally slower turning generators. They are not making as much wear on the inside. Another keyword when looking for generators, you'll see them listed as slow turning generators. The engine turns slow, with a lot of torque like a diesel does, and it's geared up to turn the generator higher RPM or the generator has multiple poles on it so it can turn at 1,800 RPM and produce the same electricity as if it was turning at 3600 RPM. 60 Hz or 60 cycles per 60 seconds, times 60 seconds in a minute equals 3600 RPM. That's why all of our cheap generators turned 3600 RPM, because it is 60 × 60. I'll backtrack a second and say why the inverter generator #2 that we can talk about, can run slow and quiet is because they are turning to make a DC voltage at only the power level they need at that moment. Then the electronics in the inverter, turns it into a pure sine wave AC.  If you can't get a Lister, you can go any other high-quality diesel generator system. Diesels are made a lot stronger than gasoline engines and are generally known for having a lot longer life than a gasoline engine. Diesel engines also turn a lot slower than the gasoline. You get a lot less wear on them. My top RPM on my Dodge diesel is only 3000 RPM. Where as if this was gasoline engine in a pickup truck, it would be 6000 to 7000 RPMs.


Jack Spirko: They do last. I drive my diesel truck and my diesel car. The Jetta is like a colt car. I have had people come up to me and go "How many miles you got on it?" I'll say "About 113,000" and they will laugh. They will point to their car, that is 10 years older and  say "I got 700,000 miles on that car."

Steven Harris: Volkswagen make one of the finest diesel engines ever in the world. In fact, it is even more efficient than a fuel-cell. You want an engine that lasts forever with good fuel economy go get the VW Jetta or other similar diesel engine. The Bug has them too.

Jack Spirko: My point was just the reliability of diesel engines in general compared to gas.


Steven Harris: Very true. Keep in mind these are diesel engines and even if it did life for 10 years, you would have to have 10 years of fuel stored.

Jack Spirko:  That is a great point. People will say, "I want a generator that will last 10 years." You go put gas or diesel or something in it for 10 years

Steven Harris: I am going to cover that right now. I use 0.7 gallons every 10 hours in my Lister diesel engine. I ran it in the bed of my pickup truck, when I traveled with a camper. That would be a gallon every 14 hours, that's pretty good. My Honda EU 2000i use the gallon about every 6 hours, at have load or less. If you ran 6 hours a day, for 10 years, that would require 1,600 gallons of diesel fuel for a Lester. 1600 gallons. Considering you can buy 500 gallon farm fuel tank, that stands on a stand so you can gravity feed it for farm use, this would be somewhat achievable. You could store 1600 gallons of fuel in 3 500 gallon containers. Keep in mind you need oil, spare parts, air and oil filters, diesel treatment, and basic maintenance to do this for 10 years but this is something that is somewhat achievable. Again 10 years long, solar panels. The thing is you have to have spare batteries. I'll talk to you about how to keep batteries and have lived past 10 years my battery show. Little plug for for it.


Jack Spirko: One thing we need to think about is you mentioned batteries. When you start looking at multi-year preparedness, I don't care how much you budget is, you need to be thinking multi-facets to support that. Even if you could have the generator and the fuel bringing in things like alternative energy, solar panels, battery backups, and combining those things is a much better pass to longevity than any a single solution.

Steven Harris: You're not talking to one one is none. You're talking five is one...

Jack Spirko: <laughs> Absolutely.


Steven Harris: For details on the storage of gasoline, diesel, kerosene and water. If you do want to try this, see my previous TSP show on the subject. I did complete subject on fuel and fuel storage. It is at The other type of generator you go for in a very long-life situation, is one that is run off of a car type of engine, like a GM Vortec industrial engine. They have generators I have GM Vortec engines on them. This is the type of generator you'd go for if you had your own natural gas well on your property. Yes, many people in different areas USA, Pennsylvania, West Virginia, Oklahoma, and Texas have natural gas wells on their property and they basically have an unlimited amount of fuel. Most of these people are also selling the natural gas to the utility company but utility let them have all the gas they want for free. But if world went to hell, you can always turn off the line to the utility and keep all the gas for yourself. The smallest car engine type of generator I can find, that uses the GM engine, is 14 kW. It costs about $6,000 and it comes on a skid. Nicely, the oil change frequency of the engine is only every 500 hours, not every 100 hours. That's about every 20 days, on a 24/7 basis. Keep in mind, a generator running on natural gas or propane burns very cleanly and does not contaminate engine oil very much. Plus, the type of engine is a liquid cooled engine and thus the engine runs cooler than air cooled generator engine and oil does not breakdown is fast. This is another great reason you synthetic oils in a small generator. The synthetic oils can take a lot higher temperature and a lot higher heat without breaking down than regular oil can. You want all the safety margin you can get. Especially in a disaster.


Jack Spirko: These car motor generators, you talking about here, where can people find these types of generators. I spent a lot of time in Lowes for various things and I was look at generators there because I like them. I have never seen anything like that in there. Where do you find something like this.

Steven Harris: The Lister diesel engines, the old style Lister style diesel engines with the big flywheels are no longer being imported into United States because they do not meet the EPA emission requirements. One of the greatest generators on the planet is no longer available to us in the USA. Especially, not in California because of the wonderful EPA. Lister engine parts and the generator, I mentioned that uses the car engine and there are newer Lister that are being imported, they can be found at I've been using the company for generators about 2003. They never let me down. My friends buy from them. I mention TSP and get a discounted shipping. I made an arrangement with them, just for you guys because I don't think they really realize how many people are going to be calling them. Besides I thought I would give my friends discount. You can ask for Bill, and tell them Steve Harrison and TSP sent you. You'll get a discount on your shipping. If you order online and not over the phone, you will have to put TSP in your name or your business name or the second address line so they will give you the discount. They don't have a comment or coupon section. They are a little behind times but not much. They have discount on shipping for TSP people, what that was the best I could do. While I like these guys a lot, I encourage you to shop around and do a lot of reading and a lot of YouTube watching. At least you can go to and they have great information and good videos. You can see all of the different types of generators, what they look like, you can see them in videos, get an idea of the prices, and what they kind of go for. That way if you can find one locally or used, you will have a good idea what you're looking at. I don't think there is any one website out there has more generators one place, from the big trailer semi ones, all the way down to the cheapest one, than that website Look on craigslist as well as eBay. eBay has a reasonable number of complete Lister diesel engines and generators, both air and water cooled. Many times Lister engines are going to go for premium. That's because they are premium engine. Well Jack, that just about wraps it up for engines and we got a little long. Can we just keep on going and have "how you hook up the power to your house" and go right into another consecutive show?


Jack Spirko: Yeah, we will do that. We will just run another show tomorrow with this. As usual Steve does such an awesome job of putting together so much information. We just can never fit into a topic this large anyway, just into a single show. Steve, thanks for this. We will bring you back tomorrow with part 2 of this. As always I appreciate it and I will put links to all your resources that you mentioned in, etcetera, in the show notes today. Thanks for always putting out such a great amount of effort to help the audience.

Steven Harris: Great. Guys I'm putting pictures and links to everything else over at Go there and look at. You don't have to buy a darn thing. You can go buy it at Walmart. You can go buy it anywhere you want. Jack, it is wonderful. I look forward tomorrow. I am going to talk all about how to hookup to your house, to these generators, to your inverter, and how to run natural gas or propane to your house and your inverter. Like I said, " This is the most dangerous part of anything I of ever going to talk to you about." This is going to be the most dangerous show ever.

Jack Spirko: Alright folks with that, this have been Jack Spirko today, along with Steven Harris. Helping you to figure out how to live that better life, if times get tough or even if they don't.