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Which Generator to Choose?

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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
Hello all,

New to the forum. I'm glad I stumbled onto this as I feel a little out of my element trying to decide between these two generators. Looking for opinions on these or even suggest something I haven seen yet. I live somewhat out in the country in Eastern PA with no NG. We are all electric, but use heating oil supplemented with a wood stove. I have a couple diesel machines on the property. We loose power far too often and since I travel a lot for work and have 3 young kids, the wife and I decided enough is enough. I've decided I want a diesel whole house gen and these two are the ones I have found/been recommended so far.



Here are some of the pros and cons I have come up with so far. Keep in mind I am new to generators and am no electrician.

Kohler Pros
1. Appears to be a solid, well engineered generator. It weighs over 3000 pounds. (Generac is just over 2000)
2. It has access doors that open with latches and hinges.
3. It is prime power rated. (just in case the grid ever goes down for a long time)
4. My fathers a contractor, his trusted electrician said Kohler uses better electrical components than Generac FWIW

Kohler Cons
1. Literally only ONE dealer/installer/service provider within an hour of me.
2. Not sure about Kohler's made in Italy engines as far as longevity and parts availability. (I'd love to hear more)
3. Costs slightly more than the Generac
4. 6 months out on install backlog.

Generac Pros
1. They make nothing but generators
2. There are 25+ dealer/installer/service providers within an hour of me
3. The engine is a Perkins, made in England, but used all over the world in tractors, Bobcats, Caterpillar machines.
I feel good about longevity and parts availability.
4. Only 6-8 weeks out on install backlog.
5. Costs slightly less than the Kohler

Generac Cons
1. Appears to be less solidly built weighing 1000 pounds less.
2. The enclosure needs to be completely removed to service or fuel the machine.
3. It is not Prime power rated

I'd really appreciate the opinions of others that have more experience than myself. Any help would be greatly appreciated! Thanks!!!
 

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Have no opinion on these two machines. Just be aware that the "25 +dealer/... " may not all be capable of service after it's installed. e.g. The two lumberyards and two hardware stores locally both have big Generac dealer signs, I asked one and "We sell them, there's a lot of electricians around who "will" install them." I'd focus on who offers actual service after the install. While the majority of electricians would have no problem doing an install, servicing, particularly on a diesel unit is probably out of their comfort zones. Obvious questions like stocking parts should be focused on.
 

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Discussion Starter · #6 ·
Thanks for the reply. Seems every installer has recommended at least a 30kw. One even suggested a 48kw. I'd go bigger if i wasn't worried about wet stacking the diesel.
 

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Another concern: A fuel tank on your property. MOST home insurance companies include a question in their "adverse selection" pre-qualifying questions whether a potential client has a fuel tank on the property to be insured. LP and fuel oil are won't qualify you, but a tank like you might find on a farm for off-road diesel usually results in a declination to even quote your insurance. Not saying it's fair. If you can find a company that will insure you with a fuel tank the cost of such policy will certainly be higher due to the additional perceived risk involved. Similar to having a swimming pool. So that raises cost of ownership over its lifetime of such a setup. Factor that in to your budget.

I agree on the parts and service "contract" comments above. I wanted a Generac too. Until I researched Generac thoroughly the last six months, including calling and speaking with more than a few dealers. Internet info aside, you assemble the bits of information each relates, you read between the lines of their replies, you connect the dots and you slowly cobble together a somewhat disturbing picture of possible (even probable) post-Generac purchase reality that is far from the marketing we see. Not sayin' the negatives are all limited to Generac either, but where there is smoke...

Paul is right: look at Cat.
 

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Discussion Starter · #8 ·
Ok, just set a message to the CAT distributer. May be adding them to the mix. Appears the model that suits me is the DE33 GC Generator Set (60 Hz).
 

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Discussion Starter · #9 ·
The CAT is not prime rated according to their spec sheet though. It says it's designed for 200 hours a year with a maximum of 500.
 

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there are other models in cat.
click here for the cat oem site
and the support page
click here for the cat support page
they do make units for non back up.
or power all of the time...
you might want to look at those as well and see if they can custom build for you.
you do want 50% more gen than you need..
these are tier 3 and 4 machines... not sure if wet stacking is an issue with electronic injection.
I have yet to see it as a problem with the new modern units.
they can back off the fuel better now for low to no load with the electronic injection.

just make sure to get mouse proof enclosures!
that is all about a good install guy!

remote BIG power is not on the cheap..
but industrial cat gens are an investment! not a throw away box store gen set.
 

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Discussion Starter · #11 ·
Thanks for the info Paul, looks like they do have some prime rated gens. What is it about CAT that makes them so good over even the Kohler?
 

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one word
quality
the factory is only about 100 miles from me.
yea if this covid thing gets done put that tour on your bucket list of places to see!
the engines are first class!
ask any one around the world about cat engines.
they all say the same they are the best.
a close second is john deere engines.

most of the towns in Iowa have gone cat back up power now!
that should say something!
lol.

and it will take more than a bit of covid to run them out of biz..
cat is in it for the long haul!
 

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True Generac story. A neighbor who is almost an invalid, decided to go with a whole house generator. He went with Generac. It was installed, tested, all was good. About a month later, we had a five day outage due to ice storms. His Generac didn't start. He called the installer/service company and they came out and immediately determined it was a PC board. It took five weeks to get a replacement. It was under warranty, but he had to pay "rush" shipping. The installer ended up bringing out a open frame unit and extension cords to get the family through the outage. The installation was partially or wholly funded with state or federal money due to his condition, lawyers got involved. Not sure where it ended up. This happened about eight years ago, no idea if Generac has cleaned up their act, they're sold everywhere and for the $$ are probably the cheapest whole house units.
 

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just not sold on the g gens...
yea i have a million bad names for them.. lol!
all bad experience here in the shop on their stuff..
they are just in it for the buck for sure as far as i can see...

cat on the other hand has first rate service in my area at least..
1-2 hours they have a tech on site!
and if you can be on the phone with them a bit they know exactly what parts to bring with them!
on the service trucks they have lots of spare parts loaded ready to go for your cat gen!

it is quite a good biz model for sure...
I wish all other brands could take a lesson from them!
 

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Discussion Starter · #16 ·
Thanks for all the replies. Talked to my CAT rep yesterday. He said the small CAT gens are not prime rated, but have a prime power output none the less. Not sure how that works exactly. He also said the smallest gen their company does is 40kw so I’m having them put a price together for that. I also had CAT added to the vote choices above.
 

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After my experience with Generac which has not been that good, I would look else where.
First off: Generac keeps their parts and info in close to their dealers. A do it yourselfer does not have a chance of finding parts for a broken Generac.
Second, it appears that Generac drops support after 20 years. Try to find a schematic for an older unit after that time.
I do own a Generac, but never again.
There is a support group at Ziller.com that will give you the ins and outs of Generac problems.
As for Kohler, they have had their problems in the past.
Then there is Cummins:
You have made the right move to go to Cat for info.
Then there is PDG in Georgia that is worth investigating.
Another is Kubota. I owned Kubota tractors and there is no better diesel.
I had diesels years ago and if you store a large quantity of fuel for long periods of time it tends to go bad. If you have diesel equipment that can consume the stored diesel, then you are good to go, but if not, go Propane.
An oil dealer charges to pump one year old fuel out and replace it with fresh fuel. Beware.
 
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Discussion Starter · #18 ·
Hi Guys,

Heard from my CAT rep and wanted to let you know where I'm at and see your thoughts. I've decided I'm not interested in a Generac anymore. When I call them with questions they can't tell me anything about what they're selling thats not listed in their brochure. Clueless with technical questions. And different people telling me different things about the warranty. So its down to the Kohler and CAT.

Price for the 30kw Kohler diesel is $33,500. This is installed with concrete pad, all permits, a 5 year warranty, and some minor electrical upgrades such as "Existing main panel will need to be replaced in order for a proper install. Best option would be to replace with a new Square D QO 54 space panel, combining both panels into one, making room for the switch installation. Meter socket on the outside of the home will also need to be replaced due to type, condition, and age. New ground rods will also be installed, upgrading the entire service."

Price for the 40kw (smallest offered) CAT diesel installed with concrete pad, NO permits, a 2 year warranty and no mention of upgrades to my existing service is $38,900.

It's obvious the Kohler guy really is experienced with residential installs. I get the impression the CAT guys only do Industrial/commercial installs. Not sure if this is something I should be concerned about or not. Both of these gens are more than I should spend and would be going on a HELOC.

If these gens and their after care are comparable the Kohler is a no brainer. However; I've heard many of you say CAT is a significant step up, and I take that seriously. Any more advice would be greatly appreciated! Is the price difference and less included still worth it for the CAT?
 

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yea i vote the cat.
larger is ok!
better to have more than you need and run it as not breathing hard!
lol!
it is good stuff for sure...
 

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Discussion Starter · #20 ·
Hi guys! The CAT rep keeps adding to the price. Now they want almost 2 grand to do the permits that the other brand installers were already including. Plus another 2 grand for a 5 year warranty that the others already have. Plus another grand for the larger fuel tank. I want the CAT, but this is a big pill to swallow. Approaching a nearly 10 grand difference. Soooooo what are some of the issues/concerns with the Kohler? Hows the KDI diesel engine (formerly Lambordini)? The Kohler installer bragged how good they were (surprise) and how JCB uses them among others. I have to be honest, I don't think I can justify the cost of the CAT unless some specific, significant shortcomings of the Kohler are pointed out.

Thanks everyone!
 
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