I have an Onan RS 12000 GenSet by Cummins. It runs on natural gas the same as my furnace and hot water tank. It's a great set up. It automatically starts up as soon as it senses a loss of power (basically within seconds). I believe mine is good up to 50amps, 10,000 watts. It can run my entire house including of course my stereo. I needed this because I am not connected to city drainage,sewer and water. If my power went off for a prolonged period of time it would be trouble. I also work out of my home which makes it an added benefit. I don't notice any increased noise floor when it's on. A thing of beauty.
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I dont know much about them, except that when I was checking into them for my house, I decided I want a natural gas one (vs. gasoline). It can be set up for auto switch over when the power fails. As for gasoline, I dont want to have to worry about refilling it, having water condense in the gas tank, etc. There are many generator capacities available, depending on what you want to power and how much power you need. You can start looking at samples at amazon.com. I also heard that power quality on the generators is not as good as a normal circuit. (but I am not sure) If you get a line conditioner/regenerator such as the PS Audio power plants for your equipment, then the power coming out of the generator would be cleaned up.
You might also consider getting a whole house surge suppressor, so when the power comes back up and the voltage surges, you dont damage any items in your house. Even if the power company says this never happens after a power outage, my computer repair company fixes a lot of machines that have been damaged after power has come back online.
You might want to consider this approach to power conditioning. Depending on your "battery bank", it could keep you going for 4-8 hour of listening. I don't know where you are moving, but where I live (in the country), power is typically restored in that period. And you get a full time power conditioner to boot!
Cw I admire your attitude but really now, 2 days without food & water (you have no water without power to run the pump - can't even flush :-( of course your wife will be in town at a motel for the first couple of outages before she moves out permamently! Then there's the frozen plumbing & broken pipes, potentially overflowing sump pump etc... Face it you're now in the market for a generator.
At our country home we have an 8 horsepower 240VAC (for supplying both phases) ~5kW generator on hand including a days's supply gasoline stored with PriG fuel preservation additive. This is enough for the furnace, refrigeration, water pumps, lighting, and outputs a clean enough sinewave for the audio rig. Of course I use AC-line primary lightning surge arrestors & audio system AC power conditioning with AC surge protection anyway, but if running on generator power the additional line-filtration is mandatory not only for noise-reduction but also for protection against back-emf transients generated when other loads in the house connect & disconnect.
Mine is manually connected to the mains via a special cable & backfeed-outlets that I fabricated & installed. Of course you must first isolate your house from the distribution grid via an outside disconnect (breaker or knife switch) before backfeeding with your generator. Install mains-monitoring neon indictor lamps on the line side of your switch so you'll know when commercial power is restored.
Most generator owners keep a conservative but adequate setup on hand like mine. But you can go for electric starting, higher wattage (probably you would need to have a larger unit than mine to run a current-hungry rig like that - make some measurements with an amprobe instrument for proper sizing). Some generators can be fueled from methane (if you have natural gas service out there) or bottle-gas propane, eliminating fussing with gasoline & refueling issues.
An AC line transfer-switch is another step up. This can be done manually via 2 knife switches, or automatically via an optional transfer relay box available from better generator suppliers (Onan, Kohler, etc). The best systems have electric starting & are always on standby ready to run when power goes down. The transfer switch automatically places the load online typically within 15 seconds or less of startup, then retransfer when power is restored & shut off the engine after a cooldown interval.
I agree with Bob, your main concerns should be backup power for heat, food and water if via pump. Everything else is a luxury.
Another idea in addition to the above is too see if there are any "in production" residential hydrogen fuel cells. I know an outfit near me, Plug Power, is currently working on bringing one to market. I am sure they would not be cheap though. Solar energy another idea???
I would like to very strongly agree with those who are suggesting a propane powered generator. It is going to save you a LOT or hassle in regard to storing a sufficient quantity of fuel. (And you have to store enough, because the gas station isn't going to be pumping gas if the power is out.) The longest we have been without power in the past 30 years is 3 days. We are typically without power 3-4 times a year, usually for 2-8 hours. There are many fine generators on the market, but from personal experience I can heartily recommend Honda. Mine runs on gasoline--which is why I suggest you get propane. If I get another one it will definitely be propane. When I bought mine (17 years ago--and it still starts and runs like a champ!!!) I looked very hard at fuel consumption rates. That limits the amound of fuel I need to store and the number of times I need to refill it. It will run over 8 hours on one filling if it isn't working too hard. But you can avoid those concerns with propane (and a large tank). Yes, it runs the stereo just fine, but that is usually the least of my concerns if the power is out. If you live in the country as I do, and the power goes out regularly as mine does, you NEED a generator. It is definitely not a luxury. Figure it into the cost of the new house. Add it to the cost of the mortgage if you have to. But get it. You won't be sorry if you get one, but you might be if you don't. And yes, a power conditioner is a good idea if you use a generator to power your stereo.
Thanks for info so far.
It seems there is a very wide price range on these devices, as well as huges differences in size and complexity.
Could anyone recommend a particular manufacturer, kw output, amperage output etc. for a reasonably sized generator that I can hide away in a boiler room and still keep my ARC tubes and Levinson amp happy?
Whatever you decide on, by law, you must install a transfer switch that takes your home off the grid when using the generator. Back in the mid 1980's when Hurricane Gloria hit Long Island there was a case when a homeowner was using a generator without the transfer switch and a linemen was hurt badly when trying to restore power to the area. If I recall correctly it wound up in a serious lawsuit in which the homeowner lost.
Whatever you decide on, by law, you must install a transfer switch that takes your home off the grid when using the generator
Let's not confuse these two issues. Yes you MUST isolate your load from the distribution-grid, but that is accomplished via a DISCONNECT which is not necessarily a line-transfer switching device. You MUST be isolated; a transfer switch is only one of the ways in which to accomplish that.
I have lived in an area with very frequent power outages for 13 years. Often we have a 3 or 4 day outage. Sometimes we are out for a couple of weeks. Life without power can be really miserable. Given a long outage, you will need heat, water, food, etc. At least in my area, when major outages occur, many times the roads are closed and businesses close. With profit pressures on local utilities, you can expect more frequent problems and longer duration events in the future.
Here is a place to look at possible solutions.
Although not cheap, I believe a whole house solution is the best. In addition to a generator (I think 20KW is about the right size for most modern houses), you will need a 200 amp transfer switch. The total cost will be around $10,000 plus installation. Peace of mind is expensive.
You will also need a voltage regulator for use on you system as all generators have problems maintaining constant voltage.
Edward are you referring to the commonplace Sola regulator constant-voltage-transformer? Or just an active-type AC line conditioner for the audio rig such as Equitech / Exact Power / Balanced Power Technology etc? I too am concerned about spikes & noise, although Byfo's experience indicates no issues in that respect. I only use a passive line conditioner incorporating MOV-type transient supressors, which so far hasn't exhibited any problems...