Advice on buying an emergency generator

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Spectric

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DISCONNECT FROM THE MAINS SUPPLY.
If you try and feed back into the grid your generator will either stall, cut out or smoke depending on it's size and type because you will be trying to power everyone elses houses as well! If you want to power your house you need a changeover switch and careful consideration payed to your means of earthing, or with a large generator you could have auto start / changeover so you just get a short outage.

Keeping your router alive will be the only way to maintain communication.

Depends on the power cut, you could find the local network is also down which means that having your router powered up would not help. When we get full fibre to the house then providing the main exchange is powered up then no issues because that is a passive system from exchange to end user.

What about your electric car, powercut and it has not charged overnite so no transport in the morning.
 

nickds1

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It's worth mentioning that UPSs are only designed to cover short-term brown/black-outs, i.e. the short gap between utility power failure and the time for the backup generator to spin up and come online.

In the data centre world this is a maximum of 5 minutes and typically far less.

I have all our critical infrastructure on some APC SmartUPS systems - they cover all networking equipment (access points are all PoE) plus a couple of Synology SANs. Key PCs etc have their own small UPSs. Several buildings are involved with wireless bridges between them.

Run time for all UPSs is about 10 minutes max. We're out in the country, so brown-outs are common and black-outs less so, but can be extended. The recent storms saw us lose all power for 36 hours. The generator runs for 24 hours on a tank of diesel.

Also: TEST !!!

By "test" I mean do what the trade call a dark building test.

This is where you simulate a utility failure by deliberately disconnecting the utility power AT SOURCE, not somewhere flicking a consumer unit breaker or similar.

This sort of test should be done regularly, i.e. every few months and if anything doesn't behave, fix the issue immediately. You need an acceptance test script with tick boxes for all the things you need to keep running. Keep a file with each sheet so you know what has given issues before and what you've missed/added.
 
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Sideways

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Numerous years ago I had a job in one of the smaller Arab Emirates delayed because they had a power station outage that resulted in a widespread power cut lasting for days.
After 1-3 days, the diesel tanks for the big generators ran dry.
- The traffic lights stopped working
- You couldn't get money because none of the ATM's had power
- You couldn't get fuel because the petrol pumps had no power
- No one could work because the phones and internet went down when the telco generators ran dry
(incidentally, in the big BT facility in Manchester, they have huge diesel generators and a fuel tank the size of a swimming pool! )

- And EVERYONE was grumpy as all hell because it was summer, 55C in the full sun during the day and too hot to sleep at night without air con.

I think they got it fixed after about 5 days. It provided an interesting stress test to demonstrate the vulnerabilities of our modern lives :)
 

nickds1

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I've been running the infrastructure for banks and hedge funds as a CTO for 25 years. Regular stress testing and using 3rd parties to run real-time scenarios of their own devising (they don't have your unconscious assumptions) is essential.

One thing I've learnt over the years is that when something really bad happens, it's often unexpected and not necessarily fully planned for - typically not a single but rather a sequence of interrelated events; the ability to successfully and rapidly adapt to changing circumstances is vital.

I recently spent nearly 3 years doing this in the UAE. It was interesting and great fun.
 
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TominDales

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What about a Clarke IG2200A 2.2kW Inverter Generator ?
I briefly looked into getting something when i toyed with the idea of getting a small canal boat or yacht project.
Couldnt afford something like a Honda, though one of the yachts I sailed on had one and very good it was too for power tools and the like doing the maintenance.
The clark one seemed to be the best of that end of the cheapo gennys. OK £500 isnt exactly cheap, but there is loads out there for less and you need to have some trust in it at least.
Is Clarke an ok supplier? They seem to have a good range to choose from - they get good reviews on their website...um.. I bought a Clarke grinding wheel 20 years ago from our local builders merchant and its still going well, it came with a clarke catalogue (pre-internet) but I felt the tool advertised were cheap and cheerful for precision work eg lathes so have never ventured back.
 

Cozzer

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I don't think I need a generator but will certainly be after a UPS for the router and one phone.

Our village has very poor or no mobile phone signal. "Copper wire" phones are being withdrawn in the UK, so the robust self powered phone system we have now will be replaced by a much more vulnerable VOIP style service. We do get frequent typically 1 to 2 hour power cuts, and the prospect of running to the top of the nearby hill mobile in hand to summon an ambulance or fire crew isn't one I relish. Keeping your router alive will be the only way to maintain communication.

Funnily enough, it's just been on the radio that BT are reconsidering due to the very reasons you've pointed out...
 

Myfordman

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Funnily enough, it's just been on the radio that BT are reconsidering due to the very reasons you've pointed out...
Do you have a reference to this programme please? channel & rough time. Im in the process for leaving virgin and Openreach say they will only install a digital voice line which will be mains power supply dependent.
 

TRITON

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Is Clarke an ok supplier? They seem to have a good range to choose from - they get good reviews on their website...um.. I bought a Clarke grinding wheel 20 years ago from our local builders merchant and its still going well, it came with a clarke catalogue (pre-internet) but I felt the tool advertised were cheap and cheerful for precision work eg lathes so have never ventured back.
Well it aint no Honda or Yamaha, but as you say, cheap and cheerful. Clarke do compressors, ranging in price from under a hundred to a few thousand. Generators range in price from a few hundred as in the one i posted, up to about £2k
Pretty much all of their stuff gets a good reputation, certainly their compressors do, so I would expect most of the other products to be of similar reputation. not super pro, but good enough kit.

You Tube would be a good p[lace to check out some reviews and testing. Normally theres people there who want to buy cheaper and hammer the bejesus out of stuff and rate it from there to people who might only need it occasionally.
 

jetsetwilly

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Well it aint no Honda or Yamaha, but as you say, cheap and cheerful. Clarke do compressors, ranging in price from under a hundred to a few thousand. Generators range in price from a few hundred as in the one i posted, up to about £2k
Pretty much all of their stuff gets a good reputation, certainly their compressors do, so I would expect most of the other products to

Sounds about right. I have the 2.2kw Clarke genny, not used it much but it seems pretty good for the money. Also have a largish Clarke compresses which has chuffed away for over 20yrs with no issues.
 

graduate_owner

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I bought a Clarke mig welder from Machine Mart and it seems fine, although not used a great deal. I believe it is made in Italy, not China. Other than that I have regretted every purchase of Clarke tools - all branded generic Chaiwanese cheapies I think. Clarke, Silverline, NuTool, Power Devil, I don't think they exist as actual makers. They are just different livery on the same imported junk. I have a box in the corner of my shed containing a router, 2 angle grinders, a cordless drill and an SDS drill and more, all branded as above, and all [email protected]@ered after minimal diy use. So if it is something you will need to rely on (and let's face it, it's not much use if you can't rely on it) then I would avoid Chaiwanese kit and get something worthwhile. Plenty of engines painted red to look like Honda but I think you know what you need. What was that about buy cheap, buy twice?

K
 

graduate_owner

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Following on from my reply - Clarke compressors get good reviews too, but apart from compressors and welders, I would avoid anything Clarke. Don't base your purchase on reviews of compressors or welders, it will give you a false impression.

K
 

gmgmgm

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I also have a battery-backup pack on the broadband router and an old-fashioned telephone, so we can communicate.


I don't think I need a generator but will certainly be after a UPS for the router and one phone.

Our village has very poor or no mobile phone signal. "Copper wire" phones are being withdrawn in the UK, so the robust self powered phone system we have now will be replaced by a much more vulnerable VOIP style service. We do get frequent typically 1 to 2 hour power cuts, and the prospect of running to the top of the nearby hill mobile in hand to summon an ambulance or fire crew isn't one I relish. Keeping your router alive will be the only way to maintain communication.

Having just done all this, don't get a UPS for the purpose of powering a router.

A UPS is designed to provide a fair amount of power (think a computer) for a few minutes, enough to shut it down cleanly. That's all. It doesn't last long, nor is it designed to. It's also REALLY inefficient, so if you think running a tiny router will make it last longer, it won't make much difference. The efficiency drops hugely as the power demand reduces, so that it's consuming more power running itself than supplying your router.

A better solution is the Li-Ion battery backup devices which are now available. Two options ones are:
TalentCell: TalentCell Mini UPS Uninterrupted Power Supply 27000mAh 98Wh Lithium ion Backup Battery with DC 12V/9V/5V Output for Wireless Router, Modem, LED Light, CCTV Camera, Smartphone and more: Amazon.co.uk: Computers & Accessories (much bigger, less reputable name)
Eaton: Eaton 3S Mini UPS 36W 9/12/15/19 DC to protect Internet routers, IP cameras, home assistants and smart controllers: Amazon.co.uk: Computers & Accessories

Both of these supply 12v and will last many many hours, not minutes. If you have wifi-calling on a mobile, then this might be all you need.
 

Richard_C

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Thanks, yes that was the sort of thing I was looking at. They still call them UPS, perhaps I was too generic in my first post. I might now wait and see if openretch really do go ahead and switch off our nice reliable copper, an earlier post suggested they were rethinking. We use WiFi calling on our mobiles so just keeping the router alive solves all the likely problems.

We might even get more reliable power, last week there was much work done on a transformer on the edge of the village. It's the transformer up a pole sort, there are 2 or 3 dotted around, probably dating back to when there were fewer houses and far fewer tvs, cookers etc. And to think, we are only 6 miles from the centre of Cambridge, high tech centre that it is.
 

nickds1

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Having just done all this, don't get a UPS for the purpose of powering a router.

A UPS is designed to provide a fair amount of power (think a computer) for a few minutes, enough to shut it down cleanly. That's all. It doesn't last long, nor is it designed to. It's also REALLY inefficient, so if you think running a tiny router will make it last longer, it won't make much difference. The efficiency drops hugely as the power demand reduces, so that it's consuming more power running itself than supplying your router.

I'm not sure where you've got your information from - that's not the real world - a UPS can last for as long or as short a time as you wish.

Modern small UPSs have efficiencies in the 90+% range, so they are very efficient - for their SmartUPSs (a very typical small domestic UPS), APC (*) quote figures of up to 98% - see Efficiency: SUA750IX38

The perceived efficiency figure drops off sharply at low loads only because the energy usage of the UPS itself is pretty constant (charging batteries, supplying the internal electronics), so whilst the output energy falls, the ratio of "lost" to useful energy appears to increase, i.e. the UPS seems less efficient even though the actual conversion efficiency is still very good - modern inverters are extremely efficient at a wide range of loads.

It's much more sensible to look at the real-world run-time for a range of loads for the same UPS - see Runtime: SUA750IX38. When looking at run-times, you are off utility power therefore looking at real output conversion efficiency only as you are not charging the batteries.

You'll notice that the run-time vs load is inverse linear (as the load decreases, the run-time increases proportionally), i.e. the perceived "efficiency" is not a meaningful statistic in this scenario, i.e. for small loads.

In practice, you can use a small UPS like this to run your core networking for an hour or more, depending obviously on the load and sizing of the UPS - if you have a mix of mains-powered (using IEC/kettle connectors) and low voltage (5/9/12V DC), then a UPS is a good one-stop-shop.

The low-voltage DC-only boxes are good when there's no 230VAC requirement, but even then they'll have internal boost & buck converters to get the correct DC voltages from their battery pack.

(*) I'm just using APC as an example as they are pretty popular and respected, plus I have several around the property, either 750s or 1000s. Any of the decent manufacturers have similar devices with similar characteristics.
 
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Terry - Somerset

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Reading this thread with interest and have a few observations:
  • need to be very clear what appliances need to be powered up in the event of a power cut. A few LED lights and a router is a very different requirement to air-con, hot water or cooking.
  • need to be very clear for how long you want the back up to operate. A couple of hours (minor outage), a day or two (storm damage etc), or weeks/months
  • getting someone to install a safe system for auto switch over, isolation of grid, enabling selected circuits etc is likely to cost far more than a small generator
In summary - defining the requirement is (in many ways) may be what defines the best solution. This could be as simple as a few stand alone LED lamps with spare batteries, power pack to recharge phones, petrol/diesel generator (capacity to be defined), back up batteries integrated in mains supply, power feed from connected EV.
 

Jones

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Flogas have lpg generators on their site. £625 for 3 kw seems not too bad, probably available cheaper elsewhere as well. LPG seems, easier storage and less maintenance than a petrol unit.
 

nickds1

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Flogas have lpg generators on their site. £625 for 3 kw seems not too bad, probably available cheaper elsewhere as well. LPG seems, easier storage and less maintenance than a petrol unit.
So what happens after a bad storm when your LPG fuel generator runs out? Where do you fill it from?

I really like LPG generators, but getting LPG in a hurry can be an issue. e.g. at the moment, FloGas say that they have real supply issues.

With a diesel generator, at least I can get more fuel from our car, or pretty much anywhere. It may not be the most efficient, most environmentally friendly or cheapest way to do it, but the thing about emergency generators is... they have to keep generating in an emergency!
 
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