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Jay

Off-grid back-up power on the cheap?

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Jay

Hi. I haven't posted in LinC for ages! :)

I'm looking into setting up a non-permanent (no house wiring conversions) off-grid power solution. I just want to be able to run my refrigerator ( an LG model GR-V212RL2, around 7 cubic feet, rated at 115 watts and 125 watts on defrost cycle per the sticker inside), a desktop PC (250 watt power supply), LCD monitor, Internet router, a fan (maybe 60 watts) and be able to recharge two cell phones, a portable radio, a flashlight and a few emergency lights. I'd just get three or four portable, rechargeable LED emergency lights or lanterns for interior lighting instead of using the regular hardwired lights. No other power usage is anticipated. I just want to keep food from spoiling, be able to use the computer and Internet, to see at night, and to recharge things. Note that the ref is plugged in 24x7 but automatically turns on and off as required, so I don't know what it's actual up-time is per day. The computer may be in use from 10 to 12 hours a day, but this is flexible.

I'm thinking in terms of a power inverter and battery setup with a small gas generator to recharge the battery or batteries once a day, but I have no idea what to get or where to find it. I want to keep my total cost under P50K. I don't want a permanent installation as we don't own the house, so I don't want to lose my investment should we have to move out, and I don't want to have to hire an electrician. Basically I want this for a long-term stopgap power solution in case another Yolanda hits and knocks out power for weeks or months, or in case of other commercial power (VECO) issues requiring a back-up solution.

I've skimmed the threads on generators and battery-powered inverters but am not finding the answers to my particular questions or posts by anyone with a set-up similar to the one I'm considering.

Questions:

  • How many watts will I need from the inverter? How about the generator? Will 1000 be enough?
  • What brand and model inverter do you recommend, where can I find one and how much will it cost? It will have to be a pure sine wave inverter for the computer (clean power.)
  • Same question as above but for batteries. Should I look at deep-cycle batteries meant for solar power installations or will a golf cart style battery be OK? Will one be enough to last 24 hours so I'd only have to run the generator for an hour or so each day to recharge it, or would you recommend two? Three? What brands and model numbers should I consider and how much do they cost?
  • If I get gel electrolyte batteries rather than lead-acid can I put them and the inverter inside the house without a fire, fumes or explosive hazard when recharging them?
  • I read online that there are inverter/chargers available so I imagine that these can also take 220VAC input power and recharge the battery without the need for an external charger? Or how do they work?
  • If multiple batteries end up being required where can I find cabling that allows me to wire two or more batteries in parallel?
  • How much in pesos can I expect to pay for a low-end model Honda, Yamaha or other name-brand generator? It wouldn't have to provide all that many watts as it will mainly be for battery recharging, although it would be a plus if it could also provide enough power to run everything while it's recharging so as to not load the battery while recharging it. That's not essential though: I can go without power for an hour or two while recharging if necessary.
  • Of the Chinese-made off-brand generators, which are most reliable and last the longest? Or, which brands would you recommend I avoid? Again, I don't plan on running it longer than an hour or so a day, just however long it takes to recharge the batteries, but I'd like it to be reliable and last a while. (I see that Ace Hardware at SM sells Creston and Navigator brand generators for the P15k and up price range depending on power output and features. Are these OK or is Ace pushing cheap junk? They had one Stanley brand generator but it was P50k, and the rest they stock are the brands I just mentioned.)
  • I see that a lot of generators have a special waterproof outlet or outlets for the 220VAC supply. Where can I find extension cords that will work with these? I plan to just run an extension cord inside through the window, assuming I can have the inverter and battery or batteries inside, but the generator will have to be outside and a few meters away from the house and I'll have to run it even on rainy days.

Thanks!

 

Edited by Jay
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Jay

Upon reading the other threads in more depth and remembering my Ohm's Law, never mind. I'll be better off spending my P50k on a decent generator and hooking up a larger external fuel tank for now, as batteries will run around 8 to 10k each and I'd need lots of them! Maybe the inverter and batteries can be added later when I can afford it.

When I'm ready to, I'll check out generators at Belmont Industrial Tools. Can anyone tell me where they are? Along the highway in Mandaue somewhere, but can someone give me landmarks?

FYI Gleen Marketing, Door #4 Friendship Bldg. II, Subangdaku, Mandaue is a Honda Power Products dealer if anyone can't find generators at the motorcycle dealers. They might even have parts in stock? And as far as I can tell from Yamaha's website the nearest dealer is DES Marketing, Co Tiao King Bldg., North National Hi-way, Tabok, Mandaue City.

BTW per my VECO bill my average power consumption which includes the house lighting (almost all 6W LED bulbs), the ref and running a desktop computer for most of the day and evening is 5.6kWh a day, 168kWh/month. My usage on the backup system will eliminate the lights, and I'll have to lower the time per day the computer's on, so it will be somewhat less. It works out to around 230 watts a day. I'm thinking I can probably run the ref and the computer from a 1200 to 1500 watt generator, taking into account the surge whenever the ref's compressor first kicks in.

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Goetz1965

You should also drive to HMR Trading House inside the SM Hypermarket Building (just 500m of SM City).
They usually have a bunch of larger generators on display - even higher capacitys.

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Jay
3 minutes ago, Goetz1965 said:

You should also drive to HMR Trading House inside the SM Hypermarket Building (just 500m of SM City).
They usually have a bunch of larger generators on display - even higher capacitys.

I may do that too, but I don't think I really need a large genset: too big and heavy to move easily, and probably overkill for my power consumption. But perhaps they also have ones rated at 2000 watts and under. Do you happen to know their phone number?

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angbumabasa

We have an inverter which connects to the auto battery ( an owner jeep) and puts out 2k watts. Run the engine and get power. Enough for us to keep fridge, tv, fans, and charge cells. We're out in the sticks so always a breeze off the shore. Not continuous obviously but works for us. 

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Paul
4 hours ago, Jay said:

Upon reading the other threads in more depth and remembering my Ohm's Law, never mind. I'll be better off spending my P50k on a decent generator and hooking up a larger external fuel tank for now, as batteries will run around 8 to 10k each and I'd need lots of them! Maybe the inverter and batteries can be added later when I can afford it.

Excellent decision, @Jay

I can strongly recommend the Honda EU20i Inverter generator. 

 

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Jay

I'll check out Belmont first as they're closest to my house and I already know right where they are, having walked past their Mandaue store several times in the past. They're probably the best place to get a good extension cord and a large gas can too. I wonder if they have the conversion kit to run a generator from an external fuel tank?

If I can't find something there I'll taxi it to Gleen Marketing which is just up the street from S&R on EO Perez St. and look at the Hondas.

By the way, does anyone know where Yamaha generators can be found? Just in case I can't find what I want at Belmont and also can't find a Honda? All I can find online is a motorcycle dealer, DES Marketing along the highway north of Pacific Mall, just past Citi Hardware, and just before you get to the Toyota dealer, but I haven't called them yet to see if they sell generators there.

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Jay
17 hours ago, angbumabasa said:

We have an inverter which connects to the auto battery ( an owner jeep) and puts out 2k watts. Run the engine and get power. Enough for us to keep fridge, tv, fans, and charge cells. We're out in the sticks so always a breeze off the shore. Not continuous obviously but works for us. 

How much was the inverter and what kind? It may be worth it to get one and a battery then just use the generator to trickle-charge the battery like you do by letting your Jeep idle. It may save on gas vs. powering everything directly from the generator. I think most generators have a 12VDC output for charging car batteries. If I get a Honda those have a variable rate where the engine runs slower or faster depending on the load rather than at the same speed all the time. It would probably just idle if all it's doing is charging a battery and might last a lot longer on a tank of gas.

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Paul
12 minutes ago, Jay said:

It would probably just idle if all it's doing is charging a battery and might last a lot longer on a tank of gas.

Honda is pretty clear about NOT running an inverter generator on eco mode, while charging a 12vdc battery. I don't use mine in this capacity. So, I have not explored that.

With that said, powering my apartment, including my inverter refrigerator, it runs very quiet AND sips fuel while doing so. 

http://www.hondaph.com/product/category/power-products/power-generators/

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Jawny
On 8/25/2017 at 3:51 PM, Jay said:

I may do that too, but I don't think I really need a large genset: too big and heavy to move easily, and probably overkill for my power consumption. But perhaps they also have ones rated at 2000 watts and under. Do you happen to know their phone number?

Belmont has a wide range of choices for generators. Many are Chinese made.  I have Honda generators.  The price you mention of ₽50,000 will likely get you a genset as some are way less in price than that.  However, you get what you pay for here.  I wanted to get the smaller Honda Paul has suggested, but it's pricey for my needs.  However, quite tempting because of the quiet operation and fuel economy.  

I wasn't clear if you intended to stop using a power utility like VECO or you just wanted a back up.  

Having a lot of fuel on hand for operation adds not only cost, but some danger. I live in an area with unreliable electrical supply and have had extended periods with no or limited power.  That requires me to keep in hand a significant amount of gasoline with the associated dangers.  Keep that in mind.

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Jay
1 hour ago, Jawny said:

Belmont has a wide range of choices for generators. Many are Chinese made.  I have Honda generators.  The price you mention of ₽50,000 will likely get you a genset as some are way less in price than that.  However, you get what you pay for here.  I wanted to get the smaller Honda Paul has suggested, but it's pricey for my needs.  However, quite tempting because of the quiet operation and fuel economy.  

I wasn't clear if you intended to stop using a power utility like VECO or you just wanted a back up.  

Having a lot of fuel on hand for operation adds not only cost, but some danger. I live in an area with unreliable electrical supply and have had extended periods with no or limited power.  That requires me to keep in hand a significant amount of gasoline with the associated dangers.  Keep that in mind.

Can I get the Honda for <P50K?

Re: Chinese made, I wouldn't be surprised if name-brand generators like Honda and Yamaha are actually made in China these days. It seems like everything is.

My intention is a back-up in case of long-term power outages, so I guess you could say that it would replace VECO.

I live in tricycle range of a gas station but I'd rather not have to go get gas every single day. Storage isn't really an issue: gas cans would be kept outside but under the eaves of the house, and I'm sure as h e double hockey sticks not going to smoke near them. :) I see on YouTube that there are LPG conversions available for the Hondas which would take care of the gasoline situation. You could just connect a tank of Gasul or Shellane and run it from that, and get a new tank delivered when it runs out. The question would be how long would one tank last under the load I intend.

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Jay
8 hours ago, Paul said:

Honda is pretty clear about NOT running an inverter generator on eco mode, while charging a 12vdc battery. I don't use mine in this capacity. So, I have not explored that.

With that said, powering my apartment, including my inverter refrigerator, it runs very quiet AND sips fuel while doing so. 

http://www.hondaph.com/product/category/power-products/power-generators/

I've never heard of an inverter ref. Ours is just a smallish LG that I bought at S&R 4 years ago or so. I hope I can run it on a generator that "sips fuel" so I can store food, keep meat frozen and keep beer cold. :) If I have to though, I can always just go shopping more often and buy viands instead of cooking. It'll mean no more big pots of soup and eating leftovers for days though, which would be a bummer, but doable.

I wonder if the Honda can power an external battery charger on eco mode, using one of the 220VAC outlets instead of its 12VDC outlet? (I haven't researched but I'm guessing the reason they recommend against charging car batteries in eco mode has more to do with the charge time that with any issues that doing so would cause the generator. They probably recommend a quick-charge in regular mode.)

I wonder if I could power an external battery charger from one of the 220VAC outlets instead?

Another question: is the plastic casing of the Honda fairly water-tight? I have a semi-sheltered place in the dirty kitchen I can keep it in but when it rains hard or gets windy along with rain that place still gets kind of wet. Not as bad as just putting the generator out in the front yard, but it can get rained on there.

Third question: Honda's website mentions in its specs "Continuous operating: 4 hours". Does that just mean it runs 4 hours on a tank of gas and can be refilled and restarted, or that it needs to be shut down and allowed to cool for awhile after 4 hours of running?

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Paul
2 hours ago, Jay said:

Re: Chinese made, I wouldn't be surprised if name-brand generators like Honda and Yamaha are actually made in China these days. It seems like everything is.

My Honda EU20i was made at the Honda plant in Thailand, to their specifications. But, like the Philippines, there are tons of knockoffs.

EU20i Leaflet in ENG.pdf

2 hours ago, Jay said:

I've never heard of an inverter ref.

They are great! Efficient, quiet, and come with a 10 year warranty on the compressor. The doors will fall off before the compressor wears out. If / When you are in the market for them, DEFINITELY go with inverter technology. 

2 hours ago, Jay said:

Ours is just a smallish LG that I bought at S&R 4 years ago or so. I hope I can run it on a generator that "sips fuel"

I imagine the "old" style compressors will put more of a startup load on one. But, I'm sure an EU20i could handle it, as it has a maximum surge capacity of 2000 watts.

2 hours ago, Jay said:

I see on YouTube that there are LPG conversions available for the Hondas which would take care of the gasoline situation. You could just connect a tank of Gasul or Shellane and run it from that, and get a new tank delivered when it runs out. The question would be how long would one tank last under the load I intend.

Just saw this. No idea. But, those conversions aren't cheap, either. If I were to get one, that would be the time I would run one, or possibly even two of those 45kg LPG tanks to the generator. If I'm goin' for long term run times, I'm goin' for long term run times!

Edited by Paul

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Paul
2 hours ago, Jay said:

I wonder if the Honda can power an external battery charger on eco mode, using one of the 220VAC outlets instead of its 12VDC outlet? (I haven't researched but I'm guessing the reason they recommend against charging car batteries in eco mode has more to do with the charge time that with any issues that doing so would cause the generator. They probably recommend a quick-charge in regular mode.)

A generator site I was referred to a while back, is located HERE. Join and either have a look, or post questions in THIS FORUM on the site. A member there, robertathonda, works for Honda in Georgia. A pretty switched on guy, too. I'm quite sure he, or others there, can answer any questions you may have.

I wish I had the answer for you. But, as previously stated, I have never used mine to charge batteries. 

2 hours ago, Jay said:

I wonder if I could power an external battery charger from one of the 220VAC outlets instead?

I don't see why not. If the generator is running in Eco Mode, it will merely throttle up, as necessary, as the load increases. As the load demand drops, the generator idles down. If you viewed my previously posted video, you saw how loud - or quiet rather, the Honda Inverter is, under a load of between 400 and 500 watts.

2 hours ago, Jay said:

Another question: is the plastic casing of the Honda fairly water-tight? I have a semi-sheltered place in the dirty kitchen I can keep it in but when it rains hard or gets windy along with rain that place still gets kind of wet. Not as bad as just putting the generator out in the front yard, but it can get rained on there.

Water tight? No. Will the case prevent the generator from getting wet, though? Yes, I would say so. It has vents in the case, for appropriate air flow. In fact, Honda advises to never run the generator without the case in place, to help direct the air across the unit, as needed. Personally, though, I only run mine in sheltered areas. Have someone build you a corrugated cover, for cheap. A few bits of coco lumber and a piece or two of the corrugated tin is all you would need, to protect it from the elements. Honda also makes covers for these generators, to put in place while carrying or when not in use. A purchase I do not regret.

2 hours ago, Jay said:

Third question: Honda's website mentions in its specs "Continuous operating: 4 hours". Does that just mean it runs 4 hours on a tank of gas and can be refilled and restarted, or that it needs to be shut down and allowed to cool for awhile after 4 hours of running?

To be honest, I have not had to run mine for 4 hours, to date. However, I have come close. But, I am quite sure you can run these little jewels for a LOT longer than 4 hours. If necessary to run for many hours, when filling it with fuel, I would make sure to also check the oil - and keep a spare liter on hand. They don't use oil, typically. But, that is a precaution I learned a long time ago. 

If you think you will be required to run the generator for days at a time, I would suggest modifying the Honda fuel cap, so you can run an external fuel tank to it. There are quite a number of videos on YouTube, showing you exactly how to do that. Some guys have run outboard motor fuel tanks, as auxiliary tanks for these generators. 

You can find any parts not available locally to modify it, on eBay. But, I imagine you could get the local dealer to buy a spare fuel cap for the tank. (They can be modified to accept an external tank quite easily, simply by drilling out the factory cap, or by buying another cap to use with it, so as not to void your warranty.)

@Jay, another thing to keep in mind here, and advice you will see myself and others have offered in other generator threads on this site, is to never run any generator at full capacity. Just because an EU20i is rated at 1600 watts continuous, doesn't mean you should keep that sort of load on them. Between myself and others here, we have suggested between between 50% and 75% load, maximum load at any time. For you, this is most important to keep in mind,  so your refrigerator compressor can safely power up, when necessary. 

Oh, you mentioned something earlier, regarding not knowing how to estimate power usage for a refrigerator. I learned to estimate about 14 hours per day, actual run time. Refrigerators with inverter compressors, however, run constantly. But, they will drop down to as little as just a couple of watts draw, when "idling". That is their efficiency. They, quite literally, run constantly. But, they slow and speed up as necessary, to keep the refrigerator cool - within a range of 1°C - 2°C, from what I am told.

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PhilsFan

My EU2000 Honda has run for multiple days straight-during a flood, no problems, no oil burn. 13 years of pushing it hard 3-15 times a year and 2 years of daily 4-8 hour use..still running good, still no oil burn. I often use it to power up a shop-vac now....that pushes it a bit. 

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