While you may have heard of homeowners using diesel generators as a backup power source, it’s possible you’ve never considered using one for domestic operations. While some diesel generators are large, others are smaller and thus better tailored to domestic applications. When you’re considering using a diesel generator for your business or you’re thinking about going off the grid, though, make sure to consider the following things.
Gasoline vs diesel
The first factor to consider if you’re looking to go off-grid is the price you will pay to do so. Not only will you need to budget for the purchase and installation of a generator, but you will also need to budget for the cost of diesel. Diesel is an energy source that fluctuates in price, but usually runs between $2 and $5 per gallon. In order to power a 20 kilowatt generator capable of running larger appliances in your home, you’d need to use about one and a half gallons of diesel an hour, according to the calculations from the electric company, Mr. Electric. That means each day you use a diesel generator, you are burning through about 36 gallons of diesel, or $72 to $180. In short, if you’re running your generator constantly, year-round, you’re looking at a financial outlay of at least $26,000 in energy costs; well above your typical electric bill.
Mr. Electric runs the math for gasoline-powered generators, too, at a rate of about $50 a day, but when calculating for usage and kilowattage, they only consider powering absolute necessities for survival. If you want to be off the grid, you’ll need to be able to budget for it; however, for businesses needing backup power for only a few days, the cost of diesel should be only a few hundred dollars. Clearly, how much power you intend on consuming has a major effect on how expensive running your generator is. But how do you determine that?
You can hire an electrician to help make sure you run your math accurately, but a quick way to calculate what amount of kilowattage you’ll need your generator to be able to provide is to tally up the appliances and fixtures in your home. If you’re only looking at using a generator to provide backup power to your home, for example, your needs will likely be far less strenuous than if you’re wanting to power water pumps, furnaces, and HVAC systems. First, consider that lights typically require about 250 Watts to power, so if you’re using a smaller generator, you’ll likely be limited to only having about five to ten turned on at a time. Refrigerators and larger appliances consume more power, with the average refrigerator requiring about 700 Watts, and washing machines and space heaters requiring 1,200 and 1,500 Watts, respectively. An electric range is about 2,000 Watts, so it’s easy to see how the bigger your house and more you rely on traditional appliances, the safer it is to pick a larger generator. A 20 kilowatt generator is thus usually advised as a starting point if you have multiple appliances listed above that you’d like to be able to run at the same time.
One other thing to remember is that it will take some research to find the proper generator for your needs. For example, even though Welland Power is a global leader in the field, their generators powered by Perkins engines would likely be a poor fit for anyone seeking a portable generator. If you plan on moving around frequently, or living out of an RV or camper, you’ll need to find a generator that is both portable and weathersafe. Not every generator is created equally, so make sure that you speak with an electrical engineer about your needs and what you’re looking for in a generator before you make a decision. This will save you unnecessary stress and get you up and running and off the grid as smoothly as possible.