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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
I’m moving to a rural area next month and want to be prepared for winter power outages due to snow and ice. Last winter an ice storm knocked the power out for several days in metro Portland, OR, with outages lasting 10+ days in rural surrounding communities, one of which I am moving to. I asked a neighbor what to expect and she said “be ready to not have power for an average of 3 weeks every winter.” That’s not three consecutive weeks, mind you, but I want to at least be prepared for the possibility of another major storm and long outage.

I am renting so not able to make modifications like adding a transfer switch or interlock kit.

The home is single level @ 1,100sq/ft, heated by a Whitfield pellet stove.

I want a generator that can power:

the pellet stove going continuously
a single or double electric burner
2 cell phones (charging)
After some initial research, it sounds like a Champion duel fuel inverter might be a good option, perhaps connected to propane since if I do wind up needing it it will likely be for several days at a time. Sounds like propane is more stable than gasoline, and there is a large work shed on the property I could store it in. Is it correct to be concerned about the propane freezing? I am trying to take in and make sense of everything I am reading on the internet, but this is admittedly outside of my wheelhouse so please bear with me. I have seen a lot of discussion along the lines of “as long as your propane tank is big enough, it won’t freeze,” but no real details about what “big enough” means.

The covered workshed where I can house the generator and gas or propane is probably 70-80 ft from any window. Is this too far away, given what’s on the market for appropriate extension cords and the load they can carry from point A to point B? Can I park this thing that far away and simply run a heavy duty extension cord from the unit into the home (through a window) and then plug a 4 outlet surge protector into that? I don’t imagine I would need more than 4 outlets to coast by, having minimal needs met.

The pellet stove is something I’m really trying to plan safely for. I think I will buy a Surefire 512 stove sentry and marine battery, to interface between the stove and the wall outlet, so that it kicks on the moment the power goes out. I have read a lot about the dangers of back puff and why you don’t EVER want your stove to be running when the power goes out. Makes sense. No power to the motor = no fan turning = nothing to move the smoke up and out. So the pellets continue to smolder and your home fills up with smoke. Yikes! Does anyone here have any experience with backup power and pellet stoves? Would love to know what your set up is!

In summary, I’m looking for brand and size/technical recommendations for a reliable generator that can be run like a bit of a workhorse, given the potential of a long term outage and the need to keep the stove going. It doesn’t need to power a ton of stuff, it just needs to be able to reliably run.

I realize I have a lot to think about and I’m looking forward to the conversations here. I’ve read through a lot on the forums and have tried to do my own research on Google and YouTube, but I’m not electrically or mechanically inclined and I’m finding it difficult to grasp any foundation of understanding, even of the basics. I apologize if I sound clueless… I am only barely one step ahead of that. A lot of the information I come across goes way over my head or requires tools I do not have or modifications to a home I cannot do (because of it being a rental). So yes, a bit of a barrier-to-entry for me, in terms of understanding these things, but I really do want to learn. Many thanks to anyone that takes the time to reply to me here!
 

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JMHO: The Firman and equivalent generators you mention are not designed or intended to run 24/7. 8-12 hour run, shut off, refuel, check oil, etc. Also, every 50 hours oil change required. So the power will be interrupted periodically. Again, the little generators aren't designed for 24/7 and will wear out quickly. Read the fine print on any generator, the stated KW, e.g. 5KW is derated 10% for propane, so it's only 4.5KW. Also, for fuel consumption and extending the life of the unit, they're happiest at half rated load or 2.250KW steady state. A top of the line unit, e.g. Honda can handle that but expensive. The VERY little I know about pellet stoves is that when power goes out, they shut down. Just shut any doors to keep residual smoke in the stove. Given their popularity, it's doubtful that a simple power outage would cause the scenario you mention. If you're intending to buy propane in bottles, e.g. gas grill size, plan on buying a lot of them for a week long outage. Maybe the stove sentry and marine battery can power the pellet stove during off hours?

Your list of required loads seems suspect, no frig or freezer? Lights? TV? If your list is accurate, consider replacing the two burner hot plate with a two burner propane camp stove. Electric heating elements can use 1000-2500 watts per burner which translates to higher fuel consumption and a larger (wire gauge) extension cord.

Personally, I'm not comfortable running a generator when I'm asleep, many folks do. During an outage, my generator is run about 10-12 hours per day, charges cell phones, let's everyone catch up on email, makes frig and freezer happy, etc. Also have a large propane tank for cooking and heat, also a vent free propane heater for outages. My two generators run on gas, have a farm and always have tractors, etc. that I can siphon gas out of if needed. If you decide on gas, be rabid about adding fuel preservative!

You need to talk to your new neighbors about what they do in an outage, they can immediately fill you in on propane suppliers, how far you have to drive to buy gas-no power means no gas pumps working, You could spend a lot of $$ and discover you did it wrong, they have the actual experience and what lessons they've learned.

Running a generator in a shed where you're also storing fuel is a very scary idea. Generators need a LOT of air, drag it out in front of the shed or on your porch or something. With the small load you're talking about a hundred foot extension cord would be adequate.

My advice would be buy a generator and extension cord and go through some outages, you and your family will rapidly decide what is really important and your long term plan would develop.

SURVIVING a week long outage by candlelight, etc. ain't fun. Consider a gas grill, can cook lots of things on them, even pizza. :)
 

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Welcome MP. I agree with much of what exmar says, especially chatting with the neighbors. I’m sure that a Honda inverter will be more than ample, especially if propane is used for cooking and maybe even heat? Lotsa good reading on this forum….😉
 

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Are the burners your talking about 240v like on a stove or range? That would require 120/240v generator.

Operating in a shed is a bit sketchy unless you add adequate powered ventilation. 80ft is a long run but suitibly sized cord will help with voltage drop.

What type of water heater are you using?
 

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Any of the little 2000W range inverter generators will do the job for the pellet stove & fridge, but electric heat is a different animal. You need to know how much power those electric burners use. I can run my entire house sufficiently on a little Honda EU2200i provided I stay away from anything that involves electric heat - hair dryer, toaster, coffee maker, etc. All those things can be 1500 watts (each) easily. The first thing I would do is buy a Kill-A-Watt meter and test each appliance. Maybe the answer will be to get a 3000W class generator instead of a 2000W one. I assume none of your needs will be 240V ?

Also note, as you have probably read, most of these little generators can be converted to propane if they are originally gas only. I did so with my Honda EU2200i. That'll be your most expensive option, but kudos on picking Champion as a decent cheaper alternative. Can't go wrong there.
 

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BTW, cell phones require negligible power to charge. You can get something fun like a solar panel charger for those, then you don't need to worry about using a generator.
Best Portable Solar Charger of 2021

Another option is buy a UPS for some of your critical electronics, like computer, cable-modem or TV, and those charge phones too. Or buy a portable 20000mAh power bank.
 

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You have to dial in what your needs are as far as power requirements go before you can realistically narrow down your decision. As Exmar suggested, you will need to balance your power needs with fuel use. You can always buy a huge generator that would handle anything, but those tend to use a lot more fuel. That becomes a real consideration if fuel is limited or unavailable during a prolonged outage. My own solution was to get three inverters. I can run just one when I only need enough power to operate some window a/c units and lights overnight. I can add inverters as my wattage needs rise, such as with running fridges and additional a/c units during the day. That allows me to scale power and fuel use. The redundancy is nice as well.
 

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Just because you're renting doesn't mean you can't add an interlock and generator input box. Just ask the homeowner if they would consider adding it. It shouldn't cost more than $500. If there is no natural gas to the house, you likely have some large 240V appliances. This would mean you should be considering a 240V generator. I have the Honda EU7000is, converted for tri-fuel. It's expensive but it was worth it for me as insurance against a prolonged outage. Half the price of a whole house generator, and I can take it with me when I sell the house. Keep reading the forums...you'll find a lot of great information here regarding various generators and the best way to use them.
 

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Something to consider is that portable generators are PORTABLE and you can take it with you. For whatever reason, if you move often and rent. a portable and heavy duty extension cord would be a good investment.
 

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As a renter, most homeowners don't want you doing anything to or in the home that goes counter to the insurance and other restrictions; check the contract to see what is and isn't allowed, before buying/doing anything, just so the two of you don't get mad at each other.

If grid-tied, you'd normally want to consider a grid-tied system of inverter/battery-bank/charger:
- for short-duration outages, it would be recharged by the grid when grid is back.
- for longer outages, you'd add a genny.

Because you are a renter, and probably don't want to leave stuff behind when you move, about the only options I can see are:
- "solar generator" box (ul-listed, for homeowner) ... options to recharge by solar panels or grid power, for short outages.
- small to mid-sized portable inverter/genny ... charges the "solar generator" box, for longer outages.

Both of these should skirt most homeowner/insurance rules and headaches. However, the solar generator boxes on the market are very expensive (depending on sizing), and you really want two of them (one in use, one charging by grid or genny, or even solar). So, if you are handy, build two of your own, with LiFePO4 battery(s), and just charge them via grid or genny (these aren't ul-listed, so a bit of a risk if caught using them).

The advantage to the above is that the genny doesn't have to run all the time, and there isn't a maze of power cords running every which way. You'll have to consider sizing of all the pieces ... but without knowing any details, I'd suggest a 12v inverter, 12v lithium batteries (two 100ah banks, one for use, one for charging), 12v charger, and possibly a portable inverter/genny.

Hope this helps ...
 

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these days if you are thinking of staying put.
you are better off buying a home.
then you can do a few things.
and if you are handy you can do these things your self.

buy low and sell high.
and land is a real good investment... and the only thing i will borrow money to buy!
it is the one thing they are not going to make more of every day!
pay cash for it if you can.
watch the tax auctions. also watch for places as private sale with lower interest.
and pay off the loan super fast!
 

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Discussion Starter · #13 ·
The VERY little I know about pellet stoves is that when power goes out, they shut down. Just shut any doors to keep residual smoke in the stove. Given their popularity, it's doubtful that a simple power outage would cause the scenario you mention. If you're intending to buy propane in bottles, e.g. gas grill size, plan on buying a lot of them for a week long outage. Maybe the stove sentry and marine battery can power the pellet stove during off hours?
After looking harder I was able to find a digital scan of the owners manual for the make and model of pellet stove I stove I will be using. To my pleasant surprise, YES!, it does list that it has an automatic/safe shut down feature in the event of an outage. I think I got lucky, as the only other thing I saw repeatedly online was that the Harman stoves has auto shut downs and that was it. Mine is an old Whitfield from 1991 and it not showing up in many forums. I’m relieved to know that the stove has this feature. I may still consider the sentry and battery as a way to keep the stove going while I give the portable generator a break.

Your list of required loads seems suspect, no frig or freezer? Lights? TV?
I don’t have a family to feed so the fridge stays pretty empty. I can fit everything into a catering cooler and keep it outside, since this power outage scenario I’m preparing for will be in the winter only. We don’t have this issue in the summer. Worst case scenario is a little bit of food spoilage, and then I drive to where the power isn’t out and buy a hot meal. And get gas while I’m there. 😉

I don’t own or watch television. I am gone most of the day for work and I head to bed shortly after getting home so there isn’t a need to keep the lights on. I can get by with battery operated lights that I use for long camping trips. I have a good understanding of how long they last because I’ve been in the woods with them many, many times.

If your list is accurate, consider replacing the two burner hot plate with a two burner propane camp stove. Electric heating elements can use 1000-2500 watts per burner which translates to higher fuel consumption and a larger (wire gauge) extension cord.
Ah ok I didn’t think those little buggers would be such a power draw. Again, I’m more to this. Thanks for pointing that out! I have propane and butane camp stoves, I think I could figure out a convenient spot outdoors where I could set those up to warm my food and make a pour over if need be.
l
Personally, I'm not comfortable running a generator when I'm asleep, many folks do. During an outage, my generator is run about 10-12 hours per day, charges cell phones, let's everyone catch up on email, makes frig and freezer happy, etc. Also have a large propane tank for cooking and heat, also a vent free propane heater for outages. My two generators run on gas, have a farm and always have tractors, etc. that I can siphon gas out of if needed. If you decide on gas, be rabid about adding fuel preservative!
I wound up going with a Champion duel fuel (model 200988) portable inverter generator. I will plan to run it just outside the work shed (which is a sort of 1800 sq ft converted barn space). It has several roll up doors so I wasn’t as worried about the carbon monoxide pooling up, but safety first. Not gonna do gasoline after all but I may keep some on hand (with stabilizers) just in case. There’s a tool shed elsewhere on the property I can ask about storing the gas in.


My advice would be buy a generator and extension cord and go through some outages, you and your family will rapidly decide what is really important and your long term plan would develop.

Thank you for all the thoughts and advice! This has helped me get clear on a few things.
 

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Discussion Starter · #14 ·
Welcome MP. I agree with much of what exmar says, especially chatting with the neighbors. I’m sure that a Honda inverter will be more than ample, especially if propane is used for cooking and maybe even heat? Lotsa good reading on this forum….😉
Thanks Dutchy! It’s been a learning challenge for me, but I’m grateful for the community here that’s willing to have a conversation about everyone’s unique approach to power equipment. I am not the kind of learner that does well having to sort through the weeds of extraneous information to only find what is relevant to me, especially when I don’t have the vocabulary to ask specific questions that will get me closer to my answers in a more timely manner, but I am determined to figure this out. Thanks for welcoming me!
 

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Discussion Starter · #15 ·
Are the burners your talking about 240v like on a stove or range? That would require 120/240v generator.

Operating in a shed is a bit sketchy unless you add adequate powered ventilation. 80ft is a long run but suitibly sized cord will help with voltage drop.

What type of water heater are you using?
I was imagining that I would purchase one of those portable 1 or 2 electric burners, or “hot plates” as some might call them. But yes, now that I’m looking through them they are all 1500W-1800W. I’ll just bundle up and use the camp stove outside. 🙂

The work shed is actually a fairly large and long 1800-ish sq ft building, with large overhead doors in each bay. It’s very underutilized at the moment (the owners will convert it to a jewelry design studio) so it seemed like the perfect place to run the portable generator. But I will take everyone’s advice and keep it outside instead. I’ve come up with an idea for a way to keep it protected from rain and also from standing water and mud by using one of those cheap greenhouses. I’ll be sure to roll up the sides so the genny can have plenty of air flow, but still a nice little “roof.”
I have a 75 ft. 10 gauge extension cord to bring the power in through the window.

My water heater will be pots of water on the flat top of the stove and a sponge bath if need be 😄
 

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Discussion Starter · #16 ·
Any of the little 2000W range inverter generators will do the job for the pellet stove & fridge, but electric heat is a different animal. You need to know how much power those electric burners use. I can run my entire house sufficiently on a little Honda EU2200i provided I stay away from anything that involves electric heat - hair dryer, toaster, coffee maker, etc. All those things can be 1500 watts (each) easily. The first thing I would do is buy a Kill-A-Watt meter and test each appliance. Maybe the answer will be to get a 3000W class generator instead of a 2000W one. I assume none of your needs will be 240V ?
Hi Robh! I think I will get a killawatt meter, thank you for the suggestion. So, I wound up getting the Champion duel fuel 4500W, which I read (on generatorbible.com) that while propane-powered, it provides 3150 rated watts and 4500 starting watts. I can use the killawatt meter to determine the starting and running watts of everything I’m considering plugging in right? Is running watts synonymous to rated watts?

The Champion produces a clean sine wave which i know is important/crucial for the pellet stove. Does this eliminate the need for a surge protector at the end of my extension cord or are those two things unrelated?

Can you tell me if this set up sounds ok:

Champion 200988 connected to propane ->
TT-30P male to L14-30R adapter ->
50 Ft NEMA L14-30P/L14-30R, 125/250V (rated up to 7500W) 10 Gauge SJTW Generator Cord ->
Distribution cord adapter for the L14-30P end of the extension cord that turns it into (2) 15/20A household outlets.

I will run the extension cord through one of my windows using the pool noodle trick (so clever!). I was planning on putting one Tripp lite surge protector into each of the 2 distribution adaptor outlets and then plug the actual devices into the outlets on the surge protectors. Things like the pellet stove, phone chargers, and an intermittent floor lamp (running on (2) 4 watt LEDs).
 

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also an extra car trunk can be used if it is real cold out as a freezer in a pinch.
we do the plastic milk jug trick with water inside to help make a 1/2 filled freezer better on temps.
and those jugs work great for making a fridge in to an ice chest!
just take the jugs back outside to freeze over night when it is cold out and back in the fridge at 6 am before day light.

lots of ways to get by on the cheap during an extended outage for sure.

the later version of the coleman stoves with the gray tanks are set up for unleaded gasoline.
kinda cool! i have a couple of those with the LP option as well. for tri fuel
and one matching lantern.
and 2 of the LP lanterns i use those all of the time here.
oh yea flame king makes a dandy DOT refillable small LP tank system for lanterns and stove, and then tanks for torches as well.
 

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Hi Robh! I think I will get a killawatt meter, thank you for the suggestion. So, I wound up getting the Champion duel fuel 4500W, which I read (on generatorbible.com) that while propane-powered, it provides 3150 rated watts and 4500 starting watts. I can use the killawatt meter to determine the starting and running watts of everything I’m considering plugging in right? Is running watts synonymous to rated watts?

The Champion produces a clean sine wave which i know is important/crucial for the pellet stove. Does this eliminate the need for a surge protector at the end of my extension cord or are those two things unrelated?

Can you tell me if this set up sounds ok:

Champion 200988 connected to propane ->
TT-30P male to L14-30R adapter ->
50 Ft NEMA L14-30P/L14-30R, 125/250V (rated up to 7500W) 10 Gauge SJTW Generator Cord ->
Distribution cord adapter for the L14-30P end of the extension cord that turns it into (2) 15/20A household outlets.

I will run the extension cord through one of my windows using the pool noodle trick (so clever!). I was planning on putting one Tripp lite surge protector into each of the 2 distribution adaptor outlets and then plug the actual devices into the outlets on the surge protectors. Things like the pellet stove, phone chargers, and an intermittent floor lamp (running on (2) 4 watt LEDs).
a killawatt meter is only for 15 amps at 120 vac only max
 

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Discussion Starter · #19 ·
You have to dial in what your needs are as far as power requirements go before you can realistically narrow down your decision. As Exmar suggested, you will need to balance your power needs with fuel use. You can always buy a huge generator that would handle anything, but those tend to use a lot more fuel. That becomes a real consideration if fuel is limited or unavailable during a prolonged outage. My own solution was to get three inverters. I can run just one when I only need enough power to operate some window a/c units and lights overnight. I can add inverters as my wattage needs rise, such as with running fridges and additional a/c units during the day. That allows me to scale power and fuel use. The redundancy is nice as well.
Hi LaSwamp! The outages in my area are always very isolated. I’m confident that even if we have a really bad one, say a 10+ day outage where I’ll be living, I’ll still be able to drive 30 minutes to a gas station/grocery store/etc where there will be power. It’s just the nature of how the grid is prioritized due to population density.
I’m going with a generator that has a propane option. Neighbors said there’s never been an issue getting it nearby, especially once you get closer to the city. It’s the icy roads that present more of a challenge when it comes to acquiring things, because the valleys of the Pacific Northwest haven’t embraced the fact that snow is going to be a regular part of winter now. They don’t do any ploughing or de-icing which can make ever 3” of snowfall treacherous. Ah that reminds me! Gotta add tire chains to the list….
 

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Discussion Starter · #20 ·
Something to consider is that portable generators are PORTABLE and you can take it with you. For whatever reason, if you move often and rent. a portable and heavy duty extension cord would be a good investment.
Yes and our next move will be to Florida (we have aging parents there that will need family close by pretty soon). Florida is definitely a place where we’re going to need an understanding of backup power before getting settled. It’ll be different, warm weather problems down there, but I’ll be happy to have had some practice up north first!
 
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