Generator Retrofit

In preparation for my gate building project, I bought a cement mixer.  I unfortunately didn’t realize until later though that I had no way to power it out where the cement needed mixing.  I figured I would keep an eye on Craigslist for a broken down generator that I could get for cheap and fix up.

Well big surprise, it took me all of about 10 minutes to find a 5500watt generator with a broken pull cord for $50!.  It’s a harbor freight model, but I’m no snob about such things, because I can fix just about anything if it breaks down.  It’s this model here:

http://www.harborfreight.com/6500-peak5500-running-watts-13-hp-420cc-generator-epa-iii-68529.html

 

Of course naturally once i had the generator up and running (took about an hour to clean out the carb and fix the pull cord, total repair cost: 0$), I knew I wanted to be able to hook it up to the house.  It’s been on my to-do list since I moved out here.

 

After some research, I think the easiest way is to have an external plug on the house, which runs up to my main fuse panel.  Inside the fuse panel, an interlock prevents from the main and the generator from being connected at the same time.  This is a requirement, to prevent from electrifying downstream into the grid during a power outage, frying some poor lineman trying to fix my power.  Below is looking inside my main fuse panel, something big is missing:

img_20161115_172133

No main breaker!  The main is actually outside of the house.  Not a huge deal though, I just need to put a second “main” breaker inside the main panel, that way the interlock will still work.  Another small issue is that the upper left breaker position is where the generator breaker needs to go.  Instead of moving all the wiring (which can be difficult due to it being cut to a specific length), I opted to go with a 30amp dual throw “duplex” breaker, which allows for 2 seperate 240V breakers in the same spot where the single 30-amp dual pole is. Fortunately my fuse panel accepts duplex breakers.  Below is what I ordered and how much it costed.

 

Parts list:

Generator: $50

Wheel kit for Generator:  $28

Power inlet box: $50

External power cable: $43

200 amp main breaker (used): $53

Generator Interlock Kit:  $71

25′ of 10-3 wiring: $25

30 Amp 240V Duplex breaker: $25

Total: $345

A steal for semi-independence!  My house is 100% converted over to LED lighting, so i should be able to easily power everything if needed with the generator.  I’ll wire everything up this weekend.

 

Long Term Independence

What if the power were out for a month?  How long could I run my well pump?  I did some testing, and found that my well pump draws about 7 Amps at 240V, or 1680W.  The generator can run at 50% load (2750) on a single tank of gasoline (~5 gallons) for 12 hours.  In a typical day, my well pump runs for 4x for about 5 mins a run, or 20 minutes a day.  So in a long term crisis, it would require very little gasoline to keep the water flowing.  I think that in practice during a large crisis, I would run the generator maybe 3X a day to re-charge the well pressure tank, and keep the fridge cold.

 

This got me to thinking about how independent I am currently in the event of a crisis.  Here is what I came up with:

Food:

-1 year supply for 1 person on hand of freeze dried.  Would probably last my wife and I around 5 months without rationing

-3 acre pond on my property with unlimited supply of catfish (small though, around 6-8″)

-neighbor has livestock, farming community, although this would be if things got *real* bad and we had to enter some kind of bartering system

Water:

-Well pump only accessible by power, gasoline required to access.

-Pond is fed by fresh stream, could filter (have a good one on hand) if things got bad

Heat/cooking: 

-500 gallon propane tank which is topped off every few months (I hardly use it, just for cooking).  Hot water, furnace, and kitchen stove run off propane.

-Currently I am getting my heat 100% from wood burning fireplace, no furnace.  I have unlimited supply wood on my property.

-In the event of a long term emergency, shutting off my hot water heater and not using my furnace should give me a very large supply of fuel

Lights:

Nothing in this area.  House is very open, lots of windows.  Don’t need lights during the day, but at night it would get dark.  Do have a supply of candles, but those are dangerous, especially with kids.  A cheap simple solar setup might be a nice addition

 

Overall things don’t look too bad.

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Generator Retrofit

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