Letter Re: Selecting the Right Size Home Backup Generator

In response to the question about generator sizing, obviously it depends on how much you want to run. This also determines how much fuel you will burn. I don’t have the money for a 15KW whole house generator so I did things on the cheap. Hopefully my “system” will help with some ideas or trigger your own I have a 5KW “portable” gas model. Nothing fancy, fixed RPM, with a 5 gallon top tank. After several hurricane related power outages, I live on the Gulf Coast of Mississippi, I have developed a good system for me. My house is not pre-wired so I use two heavy gauge extension cords to run the 110 volt outlets into a kitchen window. I use a power strip to plug in the fridge and freezer on one outlet and run the second one for a 5000 BTU window air conditioner that I install after the storms if it gets unbearable. I have an infant so this is a real need. I can also plug in a coffee pot in the a.m. and a fan and a lamp at night. (the air conditioner gets its own cord due to power needs and its safer.) The air conditioner will cool my 400 square foot living room and we can all sleep there if needed.
Fuel consumption: I run the genny about 4-to-5 hours in the am to cool the fridge and freezer and make a pot of Joe. This uses about 1/2 gallon per hour. I pour the brewed coffee into a Thermos and then unplug the pot. If I need to run the air conditioning, my gas usage is about 1-1.25 gallons per hour. I run the genny for 2 4-5 hour shifts, morning and as it is getting dark. This cools the reefers twice a day. I want to get a 2-2.5 KW genny for when I am not using the air conditioner. Only used it once during Katrina in eight days. That should power the fridge/freezer and the coffee pot before I plug in the freezer, and a light and fan. This will decrease my fuel usage and let me run longer on stored fuel. It will also serve as a back-up in case one breaks down. I keep gas in five gallon cans and rotate it by refueling the wife’s car. About five cans a month keeps it fresh.
I keep about 45-50 gallons when [my vehicle tanks and cans are] full but I am raising this gradually. We supplement the lighting with battery fluorescent lanterns and have gas water heat but have to cook on the grill or use my brand new propane stove.
This is somewhat simple and not to fancy but it works on the cheap. By rationing my fuel I have avoided the gas lines. This is not the best system but it works for my family and it has been working since hurricane George in 1998. – Nightshift in Mississippi