When It Comes to Generators, Bigger Is NOT Always Better
by Scott Stevens
Everyone wants a big sexy generator that thunders to life 10 seconds after the lights go out. Suddenly the lights are back on, and life continues as it always has, even if the world is ending around them.
But is that behemoth generator the best option?
Generators are hot, smelly, cantankerous, and expensive, not to mention dangerous.
So what setup is best? According to your needs and circumstances, that will vary. But there are principles I will share with you here that I hope you find valuable.
There are some instances in which a generator is the best option. For example, you’d need one to run refrigerators and other appliances with sizeable electric motors. There are better options for cooking, heating, and lighting. And these options are far cheaper and more efficient than a mammoth generator. (And some people plan on a completely low-tech blackout with no power options at all.)
If you are looking to “go green”, solar generators are good options.
When shopping for generators, only look at full sine wave models.
Anything else is asking for trouble. Start by looking on the internet at the specs for anything you want to buy. You will see the full load capacity and the fuel usage at full load. Multiply that by the number of hours and days you want to run it. Warning: the cost will make your head and visa card explode.
Look at the specs label of all the things you want to run: refrigerators, lights, television, routers, etc. Add the watts all together, divide by 1000, multiply by three. This equation will give you the kVA you need. On average, you’re looking at a liter, per hour, per kVA.
You are better off with three small generators.
By only running the generators when it is necessary, running costs will be reduced. Small generators are sufficient at night for lights and tv. A large generator used 2 hours, three times a day for the refrigerator is adequate. Using this method will reduce your fuel consumption. And with the various generators, if you should have an equipment failure, you will have some redundancy.
Want to save money, reduce fuel expenses, capital outlay, and maintenance?
The recommendation here is to divide your appliances into groups.
- Equipment or Appliances you can use with propane. Propane Example: If you already have camping gear, you’re halfway there. A camping stove and hot water will reduce the fuel consumed by the generator significantly. *Make sure only to use that method in a well-ventilated area and get a co2 monitor.
- Equipment or Appliances you can do with low voltage dc. Low Voltage Example: You can have this integrated into your house or have a stand-alone system. A single medium-sized deep cycle battery for lighting is all you need. Charged by a solar panel or even your generator when you run your fridge. Make sure to keep your batteries charged.
- Equipment or Appliances you can only do with ac mains equivalent. Generators Example: Most of the generator info is covered above but remember, generators are absolute beasts. They are worse than a hormonal teenager. They make a mess, always demand your attention and money rarely living up to expectations.
Reminder: Generators are nothing like the mains power, the “Grandpa of Utilities.” Usually, even-tempered, you have to remember that even Grandpa sometimes needs a nap when he should be working. Don’t be too hard on him. He is old and doesn’t look after himself properly.
Generators, on the other hand, are flighty teenagers. You can’t rely on them when Grandpa nods off. A variety of energy sources will serve you far better and probably cost you less.
The colder the better, the sooner the better
I highly advise cranking your fridges and freezers to the max. Fill every spare space in them with bottles of water (flexible plastic). Doing that will increase the thermal mass of these appliances and keep everything cold, longer. It will also serve as a secondary cooling source for an esky cooler.
It’s a good idea to inventory everything in your fridge to note what you will need for the next day. Quickly grab those needed items and transfer them from the refrigerator into an esky containing pre-prepared ice blocks.
Remember, your fridge needs to run for an extra 20 minutes for every minute the door is open!
Moving those items to the esky will lessen the need for trips to the fridge.
I hope you find this helpful!
What’s your blackout power plan?
Do you use a generator? If so, what do you power with it? How do you cook? Do you use any other power sources? Share your advice and strategies in the comments.
Scott Stevens currently resides in Queensland, Australia with his lovely girlfriend who has brought richness and healing into his life that he thought was a myth. Though Scott endured abuse as a child, suffers from a lifelong illness, spent 10 years in a cult, and was forced into a marriage he has managed to find lessons in it all. As for the forced marriage, well, his Grandmother always told him, “If you have nothing nice to say, say something witty and sarcastic.” Throughout his life experiences, he has learned the value of endurance, resilience, and kindness and that everything is valuable to someone.
Having an intense love of knowledge, Scott lives daily by the mantra “A day where nothing is learned is a day wasted.”