Question

Over the past few months here at ToughAssTools.com we have spent a significant amount of time writing about the ways to obtain power through non-traditional means. What I mean by that is receiving power from a portable generator, a standby generator, or even from wind or solar energy. There are so many ways to get the power we need nowadays that it can be a little boggling. One option for power that we have not covered yet is power inverters.

Many folks are not familiar with power inverters or exactly what they are used for. To understand them first we need to understand the different types of electrical power that are available today. In your home, office, or garage you will be using what is known as alternating current, or AC, power. This AC power is the standard power used for these stationary applications and is sourced from the power grid. Anything that plugs into a standard one-hundred and twenty or two-hundred and forty volt outlet is using AC power.

The other form of power is known as Direct Current, or DC, power. Direct Current is found in any kind of mobile application. Examples of this would be your car, truck, jeep, motorhome, or even your boat. This DC is powered by your engine’s alternator. The alternator generates electricity which is then in turn stored in your vehicle’s battery. This is how your vehicle starts and how other electronics in your vehicle can run. Think of your car’s radio or indoor lights as an example of DC powered applications.

Now, let’s pretend that you and your family decide to do a tail gating event for your favorite local sports team. Here in Kansas City it’d be for that great Chiefs team and Mr. Mahomes! At that tail gating event you wish to power some basic appliances such as a crock pot or other other kitchen applications. To do this you would need to have a source of alternating current energy even though your car only produces direct current energy.

This is where a power inverter comes into play. A power inverter converts DC energy over to AC energy. When looking at an inverter you will see on one end there are wires and a connection point to your vehicle’s battery. On the other end of the inverter there are one or two one-hundred and twenty volt outlet plug-ins. Once you hook the inverter up directly to your battery you will then have a source of alternating current power that will allow you to run a crock pot, charge your laptop, or run a television to watch the pre-game show.

Sizing

If you wish to purchase an inverter please note that you will need to make a few considerations before purchasing. The first is exactly what size of inverter that you need. Inverters come in a variety of sizes ranging from a few hundred watts all the way up to four-thousand watts or higher. Now, the most popular sizes are one-thousand, two-thousand, and three-thousand watts. It is vitally important that you buy the right size for your needs.

You can determine exactly what size of inverter you need by adding up all of the required wattage of the appliances you wish to power. If the appliance you are wanting to power does NOT have a total wattage number then there is no need to worry. Chances are it does show the number of amps it requires. If you have the amps number then all you have to do is take that amperage number and multiply it by the volts. The volts is the type of plug-in that it uses. If it is a standard plug-in then multiply the amps by one-hundred and twenty volts.

Let’s look at an example. Say a coffee machine requires six amps and it uses a standard one-hundred and twenty volt plug-in. So, the math problem is six amps times one-hundred and twenty volts equals seven-hundred and twenty watts. It is also recommended to always go twenty or thirty percent higher in inverter size then what you have calculated. This gives you some leeway in case you want to add something additional down the road or if you miscalculated something slightly.

Batteries

Another point to mention here when dealing with power inverters are your vehicle’s batteries. The power inverter draws power from your battery in order to power your appliances. There are two ways to run an inverter. The first is with your engine on. When your engine is on the battery is constantly being charged by your vehicle’s alternator. The alternator is then powering your battery and your power inverter. Having the vehicle on when running a power inverter is the safest option as you do not have a risk of draining your battery.

The other option to run your inverter is with your engine off. In this case your inverter is directly drawing power from your vehicle’s battery. If left unchecked the inverter will drain your battery. This will leave you with a dead battery and not able to start your vehicle. The good news is that there is a way around this. Let’s say that you wish to have power from your inverter for a significant amount of time. What you can do is install an alternative battery in your vehicle. If you install an alternative deep cycle battery in your vehicle then your inverter will be able to run for hours without draining your main battery to the point where it is dead.

Conclusion

So folks, in closing a power inverter will convert your vehicle’s direct current power over to alternating current which will allow you to power appliances or electronics while in your car, truck, motorhome, or boat. They are great appliances to have around for tail gating, camping, or even a long road trip. Just remember that they do drain power and you should be mindful when running them so that you do not end up with a dead battery!

Our recommended power inverter is this model from Ampeak. It comes in one-thousand and two-thousand watt sizes which should give you more then enough power to get what you need powered. Click here to visit the product on Amazon.com.

Thanks for reading,

Alec Johnson

ToughAssTools.com

Question Marks

Power inverters are a great tool to have in your car, truck, RV, boat, or any other mobile vehicle. They can provide you with that much needed power to run a coffee maker, charge your laptop, or even run your television. Whatever your need is the power inverter can help you out.

The question though is that when you are looking to purchase a power inverter what exactly should you be looking for? There are a lot of questions on power inverters and what exactly they do, how they work, and what you can expect when purchasing. This article aims to tackle all of these questions and also provide you with a full buying guide. Let us dive in and take a look!

How They Work

I will not bore you with all of the technical details here but instead give you a short abridged version on how power inverters can work for your vehicle. First we need to understand that there are two main types of electricity in today’s world. There is the alternating current, or AC, and there is the direct current, or DC. Now AC electricity is found in your home, office, or other environment. If you plug something into the wall at your home you are using AC electricity. DC electricity is found in any mobile application such as a car, truck, boat, motorhome, or any other kind of vehicle.

AC gets its power source from the power grid and nearby power plant. DC energy get its source from your vehicle’s engine and alternator. While the engine is on the alternator runs and produces electrical energy. A power inverter takes this DC energy produced by your alternator and converts it over to AC energy. Typically a power inverter will have a connection point on one end to your vehicle’s battery and then one or two one-hundred and twenty volt outlets for you to plug-in appliances.

When installed you are now able to plug-in your laptop, television, or whatever else you wish to power. It is that simple.

Wattage Requirements

Before purchasing a power inverter there are a few main things you need to look out for. The first is the overall wattage of the power inverter. This example inverter is a very basic model that comes in at only three-hundred watts. This three-hundred watt unit is one of the smallest units out there. Some of the most common inverter sizes are one-thousand watts, two-thousand watts, and three-thousand watts. You can find some four-thousand watt models, but they are rare.

It is not always best to go big or go home when it comes to purchasing an inverter though. You should first ask exactly what am I trying to power with it? This will give you a guide as to what size you need. Once you know what you want to power you then need to determine the wattage requirements of that appliance or electronic.

Now many appliances do not show actual wattage but instead show you amps or amperage usage. Not to worry though as you can still find the watts rather easily. The only thing you need to do is take that amperage number and multiply it by the volts. Remember, that volts are the type of outlet that it plugs into. So, let’s say for example you wish to charge your laptop computer. Charging a laptop will typically use around 0.5 amps. You will plug that computer into a one-hundred and twenty volt outlet. The math becomes 0.5 amps multiplied by 120 volts which results in 60 watts used.

The three-hundred watt inverter we linked above will be more then enough to power your laptop. That is because powering a laptop is a very low power function. If you were to power something that has movement to it, produces heat, or produces cold then you are going to require a lot more power. This is seen as the ‘Golden Rule’ with power inverters. If there is movement, it produces heat, or it produces cold then you can expect a lot more power requirements. An example of this is a coffee machine. While a coffee machine may seem simple you have to remember that it has to heat the water before creating the coffee. This heating action requires a lot of amps.

Again, lets look at an example. A standard coffee machine can use anywhere between six to eight amps. If we perform the same math as before we end up with 6 amps times 120 volts equaling out to 720 total watts required. The three-hundred watt inverter we recommended above would NOT be enough to power your coffee maker. This is why it is so important to accurately determine the wattage you will need before purchasing. If you do not then you could purchase too small and end up wasting your money.

It is also recommended to go at least twenty or thirty percent higher then what your wattage requirements are. This gives you some leeway in case your calculations were slightly off OR if you wish to add more appliances down the road. In the example of the coffee machine I would suggest going with a one-thousand watt power inverter. An example model from Amazon can be found by clicking here.

Batteries & Alternators

The first question I have to ask in this section is how do you plan to run your power inverter? Is it intended to be on and running while you are driving and your vehicle’s engine is on? If so, then you most likely will not have to add an alternative battery to your vehicle. When the engine if your vehicle is on the alternator generates electricity which powers the electronics in your car, charges your battery, and will power your power inverter.

The thing to look out for here is that you are not asking for too much power from your alternator. If you have a ton of high wattage appliances plugged into your inverter then you could end up exceeding your alternator’s capacity. When this happens the alternator will begin to drain your vehicle’s battery as well in order to compensate for the large power demand. If this happens then your battery could end up completely drained and the engine could end up shutting off. You are then left with a dead battery and your vehicle not running. This is NOT a good position to be in.

If you do expect to use excessive wattage while driving, say over one-thousand watts, then I would suggest purchasing an aftermarket high capacity alternator. These replacement alternators are able to create more electricity to handle your vehicle’s demand. A standard alternator produces anywhere between forty to one-hundred and twenty amps. A high output alternator can produce up to two-hundred and fifty amps. Be sure to find the right high output alternator for your vehicle before purchasing!

Now if you plan to run your power inverter while your vehicle’s engine is powered off then that is a whole different story. You see when the vehicle is turned off you are relying on the vehicle’s battery to power your inverter. This is the same battery that allows you to listen to the radio or have the lights on while the engine is off. These standard twelve volt batteries are very limited. Their intended purpose is to start the vehicle and they are NOT supposed to fall under ninety percent capacity. If they do then you could end up damaging the battery or shortening its lifespan.

This is why it is highly suggested to install an alternative battery on your vehicle. These alternative batteries can be installed easily enough by adding a mounting plate, securing the battery, and then hooking up the wiring properly. I will not get into all the details here, but for a guide on how to setup alternative automotive batteries I recommend this article found by clicking here. If you decide to go the alternative battery route then I highly suggest that you purchase what is known as a deep cycle battery for your alternate.

Deep cycle batteries are intended to run for a long time without power. While the standard twelve volt battery is not meant to fall under ninety percent capacity a deep cycle can fall as low as fifty percent, or more, without damaging it. You typically see deep cycle batteries installed on RVs or motorhomes already as alternative batteries. The deep cycles allow you to power the RV while the engine is not running. NOTE that if you do plan to install an alternative battery you will also need to install a battery isolator as well. This isolator acts as a switch between the batteries and allows both batteries to be used.

Now if it was me and I wanted to be one-hundred percent safe here then I would install both a high capacity alternator AND a deep cycle alternative battery. This will give you all of the power you need without risk of draining your battery.

Hook-Up

Now one of the last questions here on power inverters is how to hook them up to your vehicle. This really depends on size. If you are purchasing a smaller three-hundred watt model then in most cases all you need to do is plug it in to the cigarette lighter or other power connection found right in your dash.

However, if you are purchasing a larger inverter model then you will need to hook it up directly to your battery under the hood of your vehicle. You will then need to route the wiring through your vehicle’s firewall and into your cab. This is not the easiest of tasks and if you are not already a do-it-yourselfer then you may ask for a mechanics help. For a guide on this I recommend this YouTube video. It walks you through the steps and also answers most questions. Click here for the YouTube link.

True Sine or Modified Sine?

This topic gest a bit tricky as it dives into electricity knowledge and how it all works together. In short a power inverter can produce two types of waves for it’s electrical output. These are Modified Sine Waves and True Sine Waves. The Modified Sine Wave models are the most popular when it comes to power inverters. They produce the consistent power that is needed to power most devices.

A True Sine Wave power inverter are going to be the most expensive out of the two. These are the luxury models. The main difference between them is that a True Sine Wave inverter will deliver the highest quality and consistent power source to your appliances. Some sensitive equipment like laptop computers, medical equipment, or very specialized tools require True Sine Waves to operate correctly. If powered by Modified Sine Waves the appliance could end up damaged.

In most cases you will be ok with Modified Sine Waves but if you have questions then it is recommended to review the product’s instruction manual for details on what type of waves are needed. If you are still unable to find the information then it is recommended to call the manufacturer to be one-hundred percent certain.

Conclusion

As you can see folks there is a lot that goes into installing a power inverter. But, it really depends on what you are planning to use it for and exactly how much power you plan to use. If you are just powering a laptop, phones, DVD players, or other small electronics then you can most likely get away with the simple three-hundred watt inverters. These are much easier as you typically do not have to route any wiring or even install alternative batteries. Just be aware that if you are running the inverter with your engine off you COULD drain your battery.

On the other hand if you plan to use a lot of power be sure to follow our guide above.

Lastly, note that working with car batteries can be dangerous due to the acid that they contain. Please take all necessary safety precautions when working with them. We here at ToughAssTools are not liable for any damage or injury caused from working with these products.

Thanks for reading,

Alec Johnson

ToughAssTools.com

Question

Power inverters are a unique type of tool that many of us know very little about. But, once you understand what they are and what they can offer many folks end up purchasing one to have around, just in case. Before I explain power inverters let me first explain that there are two forms of electricity. There is what is known as alternating current, or AC. AC electricity is what our homes, offices, and garages use. These are your standard one-hundred and twenty and two-hundred and forty volt outlets. This is the type of power that your computer, television, microwave, and everything else in your home plugs into.

The other form of electricity is known as direct current, or DC. A DC current is what you are going to find in all of your ‘mobile’ applications. When I say mobile I mean your car, truck, motorhome, recreational vehicle, or even your boat. This DC power is derived from your batteries. As DC power is used your batteries are drained. The batteries can be recharged either through your vehicle’s engine, a gas generator, solar panels, or even through wind power. The most common of course though is the using of your vehicle’s engine.

Ok, so now we know that your vehicle uses DC power and all of your standard household appliances and electronics use AC power. So, what happens if you want to run an AC powered appliance in your vehicle with DC power? This my friends is where a power inverter comes into play. A power inverter in short converts the DC energy over to AC energy. One side of the inverter will connect to your vehicle either through a power port in the dash or directly to the battery itself. The other side of the inverter will have one or two one-hundred and twenty volt outlets just like what you would find today at your home. This is where you can plug in your appliance.

Things to Consider

Now, there are a couple things to mention here when running a power inverter in your vehicle. The first is that they will drain your battery and most often will drain your battery faster then other DC applications in your vehicle. Most of the time you will be able to run small electronics such as laptops, phones, DVD players, and even small televisions while the engine is running. In these instances the alternator will be doing the heavy lifting. It will provide power to your car and your inverter electronics as well as charge the battery. The problem can occur though if you are running electronics while your engine is off. When doing this you are relying on your vehicle’s battery to provide all of the power. If left unchecked this can result in a dead battery which in the best of scenarios will just need a jump and in the worst the battery may need to be replaced.

The other point to consider here is that if you are planning on running a significant amount of electronics or appliances with high wattage requirements then you may end up exceeding your alternator’s capacity. When this happens your battery will begin to drain EVEN as you are driving down the highway. This can result to the entire engine shutting off and leaving you with a dead battery. It is important not to overload your vehicle with power requirements.

If you do plan to run high power requirement applications from your vehicle then you either need to invest in a high capacity alternator OR an alternative deep cycle battery. If you plan to run these electronics while you are driving and the engine is on then a higher capacity alternator will do the trick. This alternator will produce MORE power then your standard unit and will allow for all electronics to be run and have your battery charged at the same time.

If you plan to run these electronics while the engine is off then it is recommended that you have an alternative battery installed on your vehicle. Now an RV or motorhome will already have a setup similar to this. An RV has your standard twelve volt automotive battery. This is a similar battery that we have to start our cars or other vehicles. It gives the initial burst of power we need and then the alternator takes over. RVs also have another set of batteries known as deep cycle. These deep cycle batteries are meant for long term use and are able to provide power for hours.

Adding a deep cycle alternative battery to your vehicle as an alternative battery can be done. I will not get into all of the details on HOW to do this here but if installed correctly you can then begin to run electronics for hours with the engine off while not having to worry about draining your primary battery dead. For a guide on how to setup alternative automotive batteries I recommend this article found by clicking here.

Conclusion

So, in short folks a power inverter converts the DC energy in your vehicle over to AC energy which in turn allows you to run an AC appliance or electronic in your vehicle. An example basic power inverter can be found by clicking here and going to Amazon.com. Power inverters come in all shapes and sizes. You can find basic ones at around three-hundred watts like the one I linked earlier, or you could find sizes ranging from one-thousand watts all the way up to three-thousand watts. An example three-thousand watt inverter can be found by clicking here.  These larger watt inverters will be able to power A LOT of electronics and equipment… but only if your battery or alternator is up to the task!

Thanks for reading,

Alec Johnson

ToughAssTools.com

Question

Having the power go out in your home is never an enjoyable time. Our lives are so dependent on electricity nowadays that many times when the power does go out we have no idea what to do with ourselves. Luckily, most power outages only last for a short time. Typically the power comes back on after an hour or two of it being out. But, what happens when you experience frequent power losses at your home? Or, when you do have a power loss it lasts for days instead of hours?

These power loss situations go from being an inconvenience to a big hassle. With a prolonged power loss you risk losing all of the food in your refrigerator or freezer. If you are in an extreme climate then you risk not being able to cool or heat your home. If you work out of your home or run a small business then you are unable to work. All of these are reasons to look into a standby generator.

Using a portable generator is an option, but they can be a hassle. With a portable system you have to roll it out away from your home, fill it up with fuel, route the connection extension cords, then turn it on. Then hours later you have to refuel it. It is a pain. A standby system though does it all for your automatically. When the power does go out in your home you will just see a slight flicker of the lights and then presto! Your standby system is now on and running.

Over the past few weeks we have been writing numerous articles on the topic of standby generators. This is being done due to the complexity of these machines. A portable generator can be bought online without much consideration. You determine the wattage you need and then find the one to suit your needs. Purchasing a standby generator is a bit more complex. Standby systems are not only significantly more expensive then portable systems but they also require professional installation.

Where Can I Buy Standby Generators?

Now there are many places where you can purchase a standby system, but you should be aware of the pros and cons of each. Let me first start with online shops such as Amazon.com. While you can purchase standby systems on this site I would not recommend it. In my experience a standby system should be bought only after talking with an expert in the topic. These experts can be found in various areas.

In my opinion the best place to purchase a standby system is going straight to your local dealer. While you will get a sales pitch you will also get to interact with experts on the topic. These folks deal with generators every day and know what they are talking about. If you have your heart set on purchasing a unit online then I would still recommend visiting one of these dealers. Chat with them and learn exactly what type of generator that you need. Once you have educated yourself on the topic then you can purchase online with your newfound knowledge.

However, I am still going to steer you away from online purchases when it comes to standby units. You are investing a significant amount of money on this machine and I would hate for something to go wrong and the company you bought from is unresponsive. When purchasing through a dealer you know where they are. You know who to complain to. You also will most likely get offered installation services from them as well.

That is another point that has to be considered. How are you going to have this generator installed? You not only have to have a transfer switch set up, but you need to hook the system up to your circuit board, route fuel lines either to your natural gas supply or to a liquid propane tank. On top of that you also need to be compliant with city, county, and state regulations. In some instances you may even need a permit to install a standby system. Are you prepared to jump through all of those hoops? Or, would you prefer the ‘easy button’ and work directly with a dealer? I know what I would choose.

Now there are many different standby system brands and dealers out there. I am not going to review everyone of the options but instead provide you with two links to the top brands out there today. This first link will take you to Generac’s find a dealer website. Generac is by far the most recognized name when it comes to generators. They know exactly what they are doing and you cannot go wrong with them. This is who I would purchase from.

The other option I want to make you aware of is from Kohler. This link will take you to their find a dealer section. Kohler is another very reputable brand out there and they will be able to walk you through the process of purchasing a standby generator system for your home. Some other brands to consider are Briggs & Stratton, Cummins, and Champion. These are all great brands as well and it cannot hurt to shop around between all of these brand names until you find the perfect fit for your home and your wallet.

Conclusion

The last point I want to mention before closing this article is that many of these dealers offer installation service by itself. What that means is you can purchase a unit online if you find a deal and then contact the dealer to arrange installation. Again though, I am going to try and steer you away from this approach as you just do not know what you are going to get online. If this was a much cheaper purchase then I would say go for it… but when spending multiple thousands of dollars I get concerned.

What if you get a lemon? What if the online site goes down and cannot be contacted after purchase? What if you receive a knock-off? Or, what if after you purchase you have a certified dealer come out only to find that you are missing key components or the unit itself is broken? There is so much risk here that it is best to just purchase from the dealer. As to what dealer and brand, I am going to leave that up to you!

Thanks for reading folks,

Alec Johnson

ToughAssTools.com

No one enjoys losing power at their home or place of business. For many of us it is a rare event that we experience after a strong storm passes by. In most cases the power comes back on an hour or two later and we think nothing of it. Some who are a bit more prepared  may have a portable generator in storage that we dust off every once and a while to keep things going.

There are some of us though who experience power losses frequently and when they do occur the power could be out for days at a time. This is not only a major pain but it can also have other impacts. When the power is out for a substantial amount of time you could see all of the food in your refrigerator and freezer go to waste. Along with that your air conditioner or furnace will not function.

A few years back my family and I purchased a small farm way out in the Kansas country. It was very remote and one of the most peaceful places I have ever lived. The downside was that when a storm rolled through the chances of us losing power were high. When the power did go out it was often out for a significant amount of time. Since we were so rural we were not at the top of the list to get power restored.

It was during this time that we began to seriously look at purchasing and installing a standby generator system. When installed these units will automatically switch on when your home’s power goes out. The moment your power goes out you will see a slight flicker in the lights and presto, your standby system has activated. You now have power throughout your home. These standby systems are definitely the ‘easy button’ when it comes to restoring power.

There are also a lot of questions when it comes to these machines. How much do they cost? What should you look for? What does the install look like? Over the past few weeks we have tackled these topics on standby generators one by one. In today’s article we are going to focus on a big one: What size of standby generator should you purchase? Let’s dive in and take a look.

Sizing Your Standby Generator

Now before we can size your standby generator we first have to review a couple of questions. Just like with many other things sizing a standby generator is not a clear cut simple answer. There are many variables that have to be reviewed and considered before you can accurately size your system. If you purchase a system that is sized too small then you will NOT be able to power everything you wish in your home. Or, if you purchase a system that is too large then you will be wasting money as well as fuel efficiency.

One of the most vital questions is what do you hope to accomplish with your standby system? Do you wish to power everything in your home including all major utilities? Or, do you only wish to power a few appliances and electronics? The answer to this question is going to directly determine how large of a system that you need. Obviously, if you are just looking to have a backup for a few appliances then you will need a much smaller size when compared to trying to power your whole home.

The next question that you need to review is just how large is your home? The larger the home the larger the size of generator that you are going to need. This is a given. Standby generators sizes are measured in kilowatts. An example of this would be a twenty kilowatt model. For an example, lets say that you have a twenty-five hundred square foot home. This sized home would need a generator with an estimated size of twenty-two kilowatts.

Using another example, let’s say that your home is fifteen-hundred square feet. With this size home the estimated standby generator would need to be fourteen kilowatts. Or, say you only want to power a few things in your home instead of the entire home. You may be able to get away with a seven kilowatt standby system. Or, going with the other extreme let’s say you want have a very large home at three or four-thousand square feet. Maybe it is a business you are trying to power. These larger sized buildings could require an estimate of forty kilowatts.

The above examples I gave were very broad but they should give you a kind of idea on what type of standby generator your home would need. To get a bit more specific though there are generator calculators out there that allow you to add up all of your appliances and electronics in your home. It gives you an estimate of each appliance and when it is all said and done it gives you an estimated wattage used. This can then be used to determine the standby generator that you need.

My two favorite generator calculators are this one from Generac and this one from Champion. Both are great at providing you with estimates. I would recommend using both of them so that you can get two opinions on your sizing needs. This gives you the second opinion before you end up committing to something. Remember that it is best to go twenty or thirty percent higher on wattages then the estimate. This gives you wiggle room if you forgot something. It also gives you room to add appliances to your home down the road.

Notice how I said estimate when using these examples? I said this as each home is unique. I can provide estimates to you all day long but they are just that, estimates. It is impossible for me to tell you exactly what your home needs. There could be a significant difference between you and your neighbors house. Perhaps they have an energy efficient air conditioner that uses less power then yours. There are just so many variables out there.

Conclusion

As you can see from above folks there are a lot of variables that goes into sizing your standby system. While the links we provided above are great for reference they are not to be taken as gospel. If you are truly looking at purchasing a standby system then I am going to highly recommend that you reach out to a certified dealer and get their expert opinion. There are many reputable brands out there to choose from, I personally though prefer the Generac brand. They are the biggest generator brand out there today and they have a great reputation of standing behind their products.

I hope this article was helpful and thanks for reading,

Alec Johnson

ToughAssTools.com

 

 A power loss at your home or place of business is never an enjoyable time. It takes us by surprise and cannot only cause an inconvenience but it can also result in loss of money. Without power you may not be able to work. The food in your refrigerator or freezer may spoil. You may not be able to cool or heat your home. So much of our daily life is dependent on electricity. When it does go out many of us are left wondering what to do now? The good news is that in most cases the power loss does not last long and it typically turns back on after an hour or two.

There are instances though where prolonged power loss can occur. It could be that you live in an area that receives frequent hurricanes. Or, you live in a remote area so that when a storm does hit a simple power loss could translate into days without electricity. A few years back my family and I lived on a farm on about twenty acres. It was about an hour south of Kansas City in a very rural area. I loved the tranquility of it all but we were subject to frequent power loss. It could be from the spring storms or the winter’s ice storms. Whatever the reason was when the power did go out it stayed out for many hours and sometimes days.

It was because of this that we began to look at purchasing and installing a standby generator. While portable generators were an option I did not like all the work that went into setting them up. Each and every time your power went out you had to roll out the portable unit, fill it up with fuel, set it up, route the cords, plug everything in, etc. It is and was a big hassle. Standby systems on the other hand automatically flip on the moment the power goes out in your home. You will typically see a flash of the lights as the circuit board switches over from grid power to standby power. That is it. The rest is done for you automatically.

Over the past few weeks I have been writing numerous articles and research pieces on the topic of these standby generators. The hope here is to cover every possible topic there could be on the subject and to provide my readers with information that is not easily found online today. The article below is going to focus on the various types of fuels that can be selected with your standby generator. This is assuming that you are in the market for a standby system and are doing your research before purchasing. Let’s take a look.

Standby Generator Fuel Types

 When it comes to standby generators there are three main fuel types that you can choose from. These are: Diesel, Natural Gas, and Liquid Propane (LP). Each of these fuel types have their own pros and cons. For example, a diesel powered standby generator is going to last the longest. As we all know, diesel vehicles last longer then standard gasoline vehicles. The same rule applies here. A diesel generator is going to last longer then a natural gas or liquid propane model. The downside here is that diesel can be expensive and that the fuel tank can only hold so much. You are limited by the amount of diesel you have on hand. If you have an extended power loss for two, three, or more days then you could run out of diesel and have to arrange a refueling.

Another option to review is natural gas. A natural gas standby generator would be hooked directly up to the natural gas line that is already running into your home. These gas lines are routed from the city and the gas that flows is practically unlimited. As long as the city has the gas to sell then you will have supply. These types of systems are great as you never have to worry about refueling the generator. The downside here is that only some homes have natural gas lines routed to them. Many rural homes do not have this as a viable option. The other downside here is the overall expense of natural gas. In many instances folks can be surprised just how expensive natural gas is. If you go this route then it is best to research the cost of natural gas and to also watch the seasonal pricing trends so that you know what to expect.

The last fuel type to mention is liquid propane, or LP. An LP standby system works similar to how the diesel fuel type does. You will need a fuel tank on hand in order to supply your generator. The main difference here is that liquid propane tanks are very common when it comes to rural living. When I lived out in the country we had a dedicated propane tank for our furnace, gas oven, and water heater. It gave us all the heat we needed and we only had to fill it up once a year in August. The downside of LP is that you are again reliant on your fuel supply. If you run out of fuel then your generator cannot run.

Conclusion

In my opinion folks there is not one fuel type that is better over the others. They each have their own benefits and drawbacks. In the end they are all going to accomplish the same thing: Providing you and your family with power. If I had to pick out of these three choices then I would opt for the liquid propane. This may be because of my rural background but in most cases rural homes already have a liquid propane tank on the property. It could be used for furnace heat, oven, or even your water heater. Your generator can use this same existing fuel tank. Or, if you wanted to you could purchase a separate tank just for the generator.

As I said before, natural gas is a great option as you have that unlimited supply coming in from the city/county. The downside of this is that you are dependent on the city. If there truly is a natural disaster then can you rely on the city’s gas lines? With liquid propane you have your tanks filled up for the season and you are good to go. The only risk you have here is that you run out but if you have a large enough tank you should be just fine. This is why I recommend purchasing a separate liquid propane tank so that you can have one tank specifically dedicated to the generator without worry of your other appliances leeching off of it.

Ultimately though, the choice is yours. I do hope though that this article was able to inform and educate you on the various options so that you can make the correct decision.

Thanks for reading,

Alec Johnson

ToughAssTools.com

Question Marks

No one is a fan of the power going out in their home. It is never expected and when it does occur you are left without so many things. In today’s world it seems that everything takes power rather it be your phone, computers, television, refrigerator, furnace, and air conditioner. If you live in an area that is prone to power outages rather it be due to blizzards, high winds, or hurricanes then it may be worth looking at purchasing a standby generator whole home system.

These standby systems can power your entire home automatically at the first sign of your power going out. In most cases when the power does go out you will see a flicker of the lights for a second or two and then presto, your standby system is now on and providing power to your home. There are other options out there to provide your home with emergency power, but standby systems are going to be your most reliable and most efficient.

How Long Can They Run?

A common question on these standby systems though is how long can they run? Lets say that you live up north around one of the Great Lakes. While I live in Kansas now I grew up around Port Huron and know exactly how much snow that can happen in just a days time. In many cases this extreme snowfall can lead to power outages… sometimes for days at a time depending on how remote you are.

My grandfather has a home up by Bad Axe, Michigan and every year he loses power during the winter. Luckily, he has a wood furnace to warm his home, but what about his other appliances? He did not want to sit around and wait for the power company to make their way out so he opted for purchasing a standby generator system from Generac. One of the questions that he had before purchasing a standby system was how long it could run during these longer power outage events?

In theory a standby whole home generator can run indefinitely. To answer my grandfather’s question though we first need to understand what fuel type your standby system is. The length of a time a unit can run all depends on the fuel that the generator takes. Most standby systems have three different fuel choices to choose from. Diesel, Liquid Propane, and Natural Gas. I listed these from shortest lasting to longest.

Diesel standby units are typically the shortest lasting units due to the limitation of their fuel tank. You can only store so much diesel in your fuel tank before you run out. In most cases a diesel standby generator can last between twenty-four hours to seventy-two hours of constant running before your fuel supply runs out.

The next option, our middle of the road selection, is liquid propane or LP. Now an LP generator is again limited by its fuel tank BUT an LP fuel tank is typically much larger then a diesel tank. As an example, lets say you have a five-hundred gallon LP tank filled up to capacity at four-hundred gallons. With that amount of fuel on hand you can expect your generator to run for a solid week, or seven days. You may even go slightly over that amount. If you are in a situation with an extended power loss be sure to reach out to your local fuel supply company to arrange top-offs or refuels during the power outage.

For many of us out in the country diesel or LP are the only options that we have to choose from. Being rural is nice but often times you are limited. As an example, the third option to fuel your standby generator is natural gas. The only real downside here is that you have to have a natural gas line routed to your home. The good news is that if you do then your standby system can run indefinitely as the fuel is constantly being fed in from the city’s utility company. As long as you are willing to pay for the natural gas then you will never run out.

Oil

If you are going to be running your generator for an extended period of time then I need to mention to you the importance of oil. Just like with any engine oil is the lifeblood of your generator. Without oil your generator can overheat and even catch on fire. Oil cools the engine. Oil provides lubrication. Oil promotes a healthy life of your generator. Through extended use the engine will burn oil. It will happen.

If your generator is running for an extended period of time then the engine can overheat. When the engine overheats more oil is burnt. Most professionals recommend turning off the generator periodically to let it cool down. This should be done once every twenty-four hours. During this cool off period you can also check the oil level of your generator’s engine. This is vitally important. Without adequate oil you could seriously harm your standby system.

Do NOT put oil in the engine while the engine is still running… or even while the engine is still hot. It is always best to wait for it to cool down before adding oil. Also, when adding oil to the generator be sure not to overfill the system. This can cause a whole other host of problems. It is best to have just the right amounts of oil. Depending on how long the generator has ran you may also need to do a complete oil change. Manufacturers typically recommend oil changes after about two-hundred hours of operation.

Generator engines come in two different categories. There are the thirty-six-hundred rotations per minute and then the eighteen-hundred rotations per minute. The eighteen-hundred models run cooler and use less oil then their counterparts. If you are expecting long term power outages then it is recommended to go with the eighteen-hundred RPM unit over the thirty-six-hundred. Note though that the eighteen-hundred models are going to be more expensive.

Conclusion

As I stated previously in this article folks it is all going to depend on the fuel type of your standby system. If you have not already purchased a standby system yet then I recommend that you review all of your fuel options before purchasing. Personally, I am the biggest fan of liquid propane. With LP you are not reliant on the city’s natural gas supply and if you plan ahead you should have your LP tank completely full and ready for emergencies.

In fact, many folks have a separate LP tank installed JUST for their standby system. Their other LP tank would be used for their day to day activities such as using the oven, water heater, and furnace. In my opinion this is the smartest way to go about it. But, as always, ultimately the choice is up to you.

Thanks for reading,

Alec Johnson

ToughAssTools.com

Question

Having the power go out at your home or business is never a fun time. This holds especially true if the power is out for hours or even days at a time. In the best case scenario you are inconvenienced and in the worst case all of the food storage you have in your refrigerator or freezer spoils. Now most folks do not experience power losses that often and when they do it is only out for a few minutes or hours at a time. But, if you are one of the unlucky ones that has constant power outages for extended periods of time then it may be time to look for a solution.

There are two main solutions when it comes to generating power during an outage. The most commons is known as the portable generator. I won’t get into all of the details on these within this article but in short they give you temporary power for some of your appliances. Typically they cannot power your entire home. They also have to be manually setup each and every time your power goes out. This can be a hassle. Depending on the model you choose they can also be quite noisy and disruptive to your family or to your neighbors.

The other option to review is going with a standby generator. Standby generators can power your entire home and automatically turn on within a few seconds of your power going out. They are by far the easiest solution for power but they are also the most expensive. Typically you can spend anywhere from four to ten-thousand dollars on a standby generator and then you also have to pay for the installation which can cost just as much as the generator itself.

How Loud are Standby Systems?

A common question that we receive on standby generators is exactly how loud they are. Now, before I answer your question lets first look at the noise levels of a portable generator system. There is a wide range here but most often you will see portable systems between seventy to one-hundred decibels. That one-hundred decibel volume is equivalent of a lawn mower or motorcycle running nearby. It is loud and disruptive. The seventy decibel volume isn’t as bad as it is about the sound of being inside a car going down the highway. There is noise there, but it is not all encompassing.

In many neighborhoods there are ordinances when it comes to noise levels. These are put in place to prevent disruptive noises from taking over the peacefulness of the area. Each neighborhood is different but typically anything over seventy decibels is seen as disruptive and will not be able to be run. If you are not in a neighborhood but are within city limits then you should also check your city’s laws to ensure that you are compliant. If you are out in the country though with no nearby neighbors then the only thing you need to worry about is the comfort of you and your family. If you can stand the sound of a motorcycle nearby then by all means go with it.

Ok folks, so now that we have some basic knowledge on generator decibel levels let us look at standby systems. From my research I have found that standby systems typically range between sixty-five to eighty decibels. There are of course models exceeding that level and falling below. Generac, one of the most popular standby manufacturers out there, has a 6462 Guardian model that comes in at fifty-eight decibels. This is equivalent to a normal conversation happening nearby. It is very quiet. There are other standby models out there, like the Briggs & Stratton 40450, that have decibel levels at seventy-five.

One thing to keep in mind here is that the quieter the machine the more expensive it will be. A quiet generator is a much desired feature and in order to achieve it you are going to have to pay more. This is why we see the Generac model as the quietest and the Briggs & Stratton as one of the loudest. Generac is seen as a premium brand name in the generator world. While Briggs & Stratton is just fine as well, they are not the premium product.

Conclusion

In conclusion folks it really depends on what you want and what your local laws and ordinances allow. You could go with a very loud portable generator system and have it sound like a motorcycle is running nearby. Or, you could shell out the cash and go for the ultra quiet Generac standby model. My suggestion is to go with the middle of the road approach and find a model that is right around sixty-five to seventy decibels. This will still give you an overall quiet machine but will also save you some money.

Thanks for reading,

Alec Johnson

ToughAssTools.com

Question

Going through a power loss is never an enjoyable time. The good news is that in most situations the actual power loss only lasts a few hours before it flickers back on and everything goes back to normal. But, what do you do when your power is out for a day or days at a time? How do you cope? In some cases it is just an inconvenience as you cannot watch your favorite television show, movie, or play a game.

In other cases though it can get more serious such as a power loss event in the middle of summer. My family and I live in Kansas and the summers here can be quite brutal. Typically between July and August we will have weeks at a time where the high temperatures reach over one-hundred degrees and the lows are in the eighties. If your air conditioning is out due to a power loss then it is not only going to be uncomfortable but it could also be dangerous.

To cope with these power losses many folks turn to generators. There are two main types of generators: The portable and the standby whole home models. Portables offer a cheap quick fix option but they are dirty, heavy, dangerous, and have to be manually setup each and every time the power goes out. A standby whole home generator system is the exact opposite. Once the unit has been installed and is operating correctly there is no setup required. When the power does go out you will only notice a flicker of the lights before the standby unit comes on. Presto! You have power again.

The biggest problem with standby systems are their cost. In most cases you can expect to pay about four-thousand dollars all the way up to twelve-thousand dollars for the system. Then you also have to factor in the cost to install the standby generator. Typically the installation costs are about the same as the purchase cost. So, if you spent five-thousand dollars on a standby system then you can expect to pay another five-thousand dollars on the installation cost.

Are They Tax Deductible?

Now, let me first preface this section saying that I am by no means a tax expert. My findings below are what I have discovered through researching and reading several different sources on the matter. That being said, since standby systems are such a significant expense many folks wonder if they can qualify for tax breaks. After all, you could end up spending ten-thousand dollars or more on the system… it would be nice if you could write some of that expense off when you do your taxes.

So, lets get to the bad news first. In most cases standby systems are NOT tax deductible. You have to remember that a standby system is not like a wind or solar power system. Standby systems have an engine that burns through natural gas or liquid propane. This is not a clean climate friendly solution. Typically you see government tax credits going towards the more environmentally friendly solutions such as solar or wind power. There are not any government programs out there that offer tax credits for installing a standby system.

There is one catch, or loophole though, when it comes to tax credits on standby generators and that is medical expenses. If the standby system that you are installing will be powering medical equipment for you or someone in your family then you could receive a tax credit based on the difference between your the value your home raised and the total bill to purchase and install the generator.

Lets look at this a bit further. Most standby systems will raise your home’s value by about half the cost of the system/install. Again, if you spend ten-thousand dollars on the purchase and install of your system then you can expect to see your home’s value to raise by five-thousand dollars. The difference between that final ten-thousand dollar bill and your home’s raised value is five-thousand dollars. This is the amount of a tax credit that you could receive if you are powering medical equipment with the standby system.

The only other avenue I can see standby systems and tax credits working out is if you own a business and that business needs the standby system in order to function. Say for example you own a restaurant and you need your freezer and refrigerators to be constantly powered. A power loss could mean a loss of thousands of dollars of food. Purchasing a standby system for your business could be written off as a business expense. Before doing this though I would make certain that you can justify the purchase of the standby generator for your business. What repercussions are there if you lose power? How much of a loss is involved? Does the standby generator make sense?

Conclusion

Again, I am not a tax professional here and if you want to pursue this further I would recommend reaching out to an accountant or a tax professional before you decide to purchase your standby system. They will be able to tell you for certain on rather or not you can receive a tax credit or even a business deduction when it comes to the purchase and install of your standby generator.

Thanks for reading,

Alec Johnson

ToughAssTools.com

Question

Going through a power loss is never an enjoyable time. In most cases the power comes back on within a few hours or so, but in other more severe cases the power may be out for days at a time. These prolonged periods without power can lead to boredom but it can also lead to loss of refrigerated/frozen food as well as having your home’s temperature rise or fall to uncomfortable levels. I remember a time back when my oldest daughter was just an infant we had our power go out in the middle of July. We live in Kansas and July temperatures can routinely be over one-hundred degrees. We needed air conditioning and had taken to hunkering down in the basement to try and stay cool. Luckily, in our situation the power came back on after only a few hours.

It is when you face prolonged power outages that it makes sense to seriously look at purchasing a standby generator. Sure a portable generator can help you out as well but these systems cannot power your entire home, they are noisy, and have to be manually setup each and every time. One of the biggest downfalls though of using a portable generators is safety. As many of you know portable generators produce carbon monoxide when running. This is the same substance that your car burns when running.

It is imperative that portable generators never be placed in your home or even close to your home. This includes your garage, near your windows, or anywhere else nearby. Most professionals recommend placing portable units at least twenty feet away from your home with the exhaust chute pointed away. If the threat of carbon monoxide is not taken seriously enough then there can be dire consequences to you and your family.

But what about on standby generators? What is the risk of carbon monoxide poisoning when using a standby system? Over the past few months we have been writing article after article on standby generators and today’s topic is no different. What is the risk of carbon monoxide poisoning when dealing with a standby generator system?

Standby Systems & Carbon Monoxide

The good news here folks is that the risk of carbon monoxide poisoning from a standby generator is much much lower then that of a portable system. Now, I’m not going to lie to you and say that there is no risk at all. The standby system, just like the portable system, has an engine. This engine when ran produces carbon monoxide from the spent fuel. This is how your car works. There are a few main differences that set standby generators apart from portable generators.

As I said before, both of these systems will produce carbon monoxide… but some will produce more then others. For example, depending on the fuel your standby system is using it will most likely produce less carbon monoxide then a standard diesel or gasoline portable generator model. Typically a standby system will either use natural gas or propane. Both of these produce less carbon monoxide then a standard gasoline or diesel burn found with portable generators.

The most important difference though with standby systems is that they are, or should be, installed by professionals. These professionals do these installations frequently and know exactly how and how not to setup the systems. They will determine how close the unit is to your home, how close it is to the fuel lines, where the exhaust is blown to, and even where the wind is blowing so that the monoxide is blown away from your home.

If you were using a portable system then the chances are that you are NOT going to know all of this information. There are still so many folks today that set these portable systems up in their garages with the exhaust vent pointed outwards thinking that they are being safe. Worse yet are some people running generators in their closets INSIDE their home. All of this is a recipe for disaster. But, let’s say you have setup your portable system outside of your home and have everything plugged in. The unit is working but it is only ten feet away from the home, the window is open, and the wind is blowing. Monoxide can sneak into your home and begin to accumulate. With a standby system you can rest assured knowing that the unit was setup correctly and safely.

One last thing to mention here is that your standby systems will require regular maintenance. If this maintenance is not done then the amount of carbon monoxide it produces can increase. Remember, that carbon monoxide forms during incomplete combustion of the fuel. If your generator’s engine is not taken care of then it will become less efficient which will result in less fuel being used during the combustion process which will result in more monoxide forming. So, it is not only important to maintenance your system for its longevity but also for the safety of you and your family.

Conclusion

To answer the question in this article, yes, standby generators do produce carbon monoxide. The thing to remember that it is less then your standard portable system and that they are installed by professionals that know what and what not to do. As a safety precaution though I highly recommend having carbon monoxide detectors installed throughout your home to ensure that if it is getting in then you can recognize it and leave the home. It is always better to be safe then sorry.

Remember that while generators can be a lifesaver during a power loss they can also be quite dangerous. It is up to you to take the proper precautions to ensure that you and your family are safe. Lastly, please note that this article is intended for informational purposes only. We here at ToughAssTools are not liable for any property damage or personal injuries that can occur when operating generators.

Thanks for reading,

Alec Johnson

ToughAssTools