Living Off-Grid: Generators

| 5/3/2012 4:42:00 PM


Generators just have to be one of the best inventions ever — power when and where you need it.

I’m not any kind of generator expert; I’m just a user and a big fan of what these machines have allowed us to do over the years. In the past, I’ve owned several types and sizes of generators in my commercial construction company. We were able to work way up in the mountains or anywhere else that power wasn’t available. We’ve built everything from buildings to bridges with nothing more than a generator to power our tools.

Two Types of Generators

Right now, living off the grid, I own two generators. One is an inexpensive, 3,500-watt portable generator. The other is a more expensive, 12-kw home standby generator.

I use the small one for all kinds of things. If I have to install a new entry gate, I just load my tools, materials, and the generator up in a vehicle, drive it to the work spot and get to work. When we camped on our property, I used it to pump water into a holding tank. I've also used it to charge my trailer batteries. Sometimes I may have to load it up along with the air compressor and drive to a remote spot on the property and air up a flat tire. There is almost no limit to the usefulness of a small portable generator.

The only thing I would recommend in a small one is that you go for one that has a 220-volt option. I still use mine to pump water on occasion. I also use it sometimes to charge my solar batteries and that is done on 220-volt because of the way my system is wired. You may never use the 220-volt option, but it sure is nice to have when you do need it.

Most of us who live off-grid and use an alternative power source such as solar, wind or hydro, also have a battery-backup power storage system. That is where my power comes from at night or anytime the sun isn’t shining and the solar panels aren’t producing power.

11/15/2017 5:54:52 PM

All this talk about generators and not one word about safety. Generators can be very useful, but always be aware of three things that are very often overlooked. First and foremost the most deadly danger is not shock although shock is not to be taken lightly as it can kill you. The most deadly mistake with generators is carbon monoxide. Always make sure you have proper exhaust and there is no way for it to enter your living and sleeping areas. Number 2 is electrical shock. Although most people have a respect for the pain and sometimes embarrassment one feels from doing something stupid and getting shocked to know to respect it. However getting a little too comfortable leads to carelessness and if we walk away with some pain and embarrassment we are the lucky ones because it can kill you. Never hook a generator into the circuit of your home or other building without an isolation switch installed to prevent it from running back on the mail line and killing a lineman who believes the line is dead. If this happens in many states you can face criminal charges. Third never use rinkey dink extension cords with a generator. Not only can they lead to shock dangers they are also a fire waiting to happen. People often overload a generator when it's the only power source. As far as the generator goes it most likely has a built in circuit breaker to protect it and an overload will likely bog the motor down and you know it right away. However rinky dink cords may not be able to carry enough load to trip the breaker of bog the motor down much. This can result in fires which could be deadly, or at least destructive. Then there is the insulation problem on cheap extension cords. The generator will produce vibrations which will in-turn cause any sharp edge to cut through the insulation leaving you with the problems outlined above.

rick w
9/29/2017 4:07:20 PM I went to this site but only found portable or standby generators, no permanent off grid constant use units. Rick

9/29/2017 4:07:19 PM I went to the site and only found portable and backup generators. Nothing for constant use off grid living.

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