Our GENERATOR PHILOSOPHY: It’s important to have a GOOD engine driven generator and then use it as LITTLE as possible
ADVANTAGE: LOW INITIAL COST: During the dark snowy winters of many northern areas, 100% of the power needs could never be met even with 10 times more solar and batteries. For these situations, we design our power systems so 80 to 90% of the home's annual power needs come from solar generation and use other generation sources to make up the seasonal shortfall. Wind power and seasonal flow water power can help but most often folks use an engine generator and an inverter with a built-in battery charger.
DISADVANTAGES: HIGHEST LONG TERM COST: Fuel, maintenance, and limited engine life plus pollution and noise make a generator the highest cost of all energy sources over time. So we want to shorten the hours a generator is used. Larger battery banks accept a charge faster than small ones, so with a large battery bank and high rate battery charger more energy is stored with less generator time.
ALL THE EXTRA POWER EVER WANTED, when needed: There will be times when more power is wanted than the system is designed to produce. The solar array may initially be sized conservatively knowing more modules can be added any time. The inverter can be undersized with the knowledge that it could be traded in for a larger one in the future. In the meantime, high power demands for guests, or laundry, or building projects, or pumping a deep well can be met by a generator.
PROPANE, THE FUEL OF CHOICE: Propane fuel typically fits residential use better than gasoline or diesel. An alternatively powered home usually uses propane for water and space heating, cooking, clothes drying, etc. A propane generator is conveniently connected to the same propane tank as the home. A large tank filled with propane usually means no more running out of gas, handling fuel, or getting dirt or water into the fuel. Propane keeps longer than gasoline or diesel. The generator's engine runs cleaner and its oil stays cleaner, longer. Exhaust is also cleaner and produces less odor. Propane generators should start easily even in winter's cold without a choke, so starting and stopping remotely from inside the house year round is simple. As a result, propane generators tend to be the easiest to connect to an inverter-based, automatic start system.
STATIONARY, QUIET, AND DURABLE: A generator dedicated to a home need not be portable; should run quietly; and should last a decade or two.
At this point in time, Backwoods does not sell generators but can recommend the Honda EU7000iS as a great model to use IF LP fuel use is not required and auto start is not important. If those are important requirements for your application a Honda can be modified to be LP fueled and auto start but it will void the warranty of a new unit. Backwoods employees use a variety of generators for backup when needed but we all try not to use them as a primary energy source, only for backup when energy use exceeds what is available from the renewable sources. Tom uses an older Kohler 10KW unit with a Honda EU5000iS as a backup and as a mobile power source around the homestead. Shawn and Tracey both use Honda EU6500iS’s. Brian has a hydro system, rarely has to run a backup generator so he can get by with smaller lower quality Porter Cable portable generator. John uses a Honda EM5000. Feel free to contact any one of us to discuss our experiences and recommendations!