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What I Learned About Back-up Generators

My amateur radio interest has always revolved around emergency communications. As such, I invested in back-up power generation. During the February Winter Storm, I was one of the 12 million Texans that lost power for an average of 41 continuous hours.,

I planned ahead. I purchased a 3600kW generator that uses multiple fuels. I chose to use propane because it did not have the shelf-life storage issues of gasoline and diesel. It did not have the carburetor cleaning issues associated with gasoline. I ran monthly test runs to ensure easy starts and carefully adding to the load. And I built window panels to allow connections on each side without having to open the window to allow power cords to pass. The generator and propane tank were pre-stationed on the back porch ready for use if needed.

I was prepared.

Then the rolling blackouts that did not roll came. I learned what I had overlooked. Pressure in propane tanks diminishes when the temperature drops. Normally a propane tank should be between 100 and 200 psi. At 70 degrees psi will be around 145. At 7 degrees (the temperature I tried to start my generator) the psi was only 30. It was much harder to start. Plus, how long could I stand outside pulling the starter rope. Then friends who still had power invited us over.

OK, now was the time to consider a stand-by generator with an automatic transfer switch to start the generator within 10 seconds of power loss and to run for days or weeks if necessary. More expensive yes, but more reliable, and convenient. So, I called the local generator company for a price estimate including installation. They said they would put me on the list. I said OK, but for curiosity’s sake, how many are ahead of me.

Answer: “1,450; expect a call in two to three months”.

I learned from my mistake, hope you can too.

Kerby Spruiell, KG5DLD
President AARC

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