Genverter powered home – real data

champion generatorA genverter can be helpful in emergency power situations, but is it really practical for a full home?  We collected the data during several weeks without any solar power.   While I didn’t like running the generator more often with the missing solar power it sure be the alternative of generator-only power!

After all the expense and unpleasant electronic damage from the lightning storms in August, we had the final “kicker”.    When we finally replaced our deep cycle battery bank of 12 Trojan L16s with a smaller set of 4, a new problem became clear.  Our solar charge controller was also destroyed.  It was a faithful 11 year old Trace C40 that I wanted to replace anyway, just not yet.

The budget stress from the unusual damage and one of our two vehicles going belly up, forced us to wait nearly a month to purchase the new MPPT charge controller.  During the waiting time the entire house and office were powered by our genverter system that consisted of a Champion 3.5KW generator, 4-L16 batteries, and the Trace DR1224 inverter/charger.

During this time it just seemed like we were running the generator frequently and I wanted to get an idea of how much gas and generator time we saved with the Genverter setup.  During this time we were missing the power contributions from the 420+ W solar panels outside.

Loads on the system

Its been 11 years on the property and we have accumulated more electrical loads all the time.  I haven’t taken a full inventory my office netbookof everything plugged in, but I’ll try to paint a reasonable power picture.  To start with we have the large refrigerator that is well documented.  I run my netbook and screen probably 5 hours minimum, and then we have the two teenager desktops that run 2-4 hours a day.  In the evening it is not unusual to have 3 or 4 23W compact florescent lights on and then there is the LCD TV and satellite receiver plus DVD player that may be used a few hours a day between everyone.

Oh, I also forgot to mention the “chick light” that we had on 24 hours a day.  Its in a muck bucket with rescued chicks from the outside flock for various reasons.   I don’t know all the reasons but Jackie agrees with the kids so they stay.  It is a 25W incandescent work light that provides warmth, comfort, and quiets the peeping.

Timing of the measurements

I started the list of generator running times on Labor Day weekend.  Adding this list to the, “its your day to start the generator” chore was not welcome news to Eric or Ondra.  Weekend measurements are more worst case then weekdays because we stay up later, watch movies, etc.  What really made this time worst case, was that we had company Sunday night and Monday and this added two more laptops to the equation.

Better than generator only? – yes!

The generator was always started when the battery bank indicated the total charge was between 65-70%.  Typically it was run twice a day.  Depending on how discharged the batteries are, we saw a charge rate of 60 Amps or less.  The most time consuming part of the charge occurs above 90% because the current is 20A or less.   Here is the runtime data we collected:

  • Saturday runtime = 6 hours
  • Sunday runtime = 5 hours
  • Monday runtime= 5.3 hours

Unfortunately the record has some spots missing on the total power per day, but Saturday’s total was 3.1KWH.  The range of total daily consumption can range between 3-3.6KWH per day for our place this time of year.

Savings over a generator only?  Yes.  Compare the generator run times to the situation of running the generator 17 or 18 hours a day, just so power is available when people are awake!  Even if we don’t have enough solar to be 100%, the panels sure help keep the batteries charged and I look forward to adding them AGAIN shortly!

Do you have any whole house measurements to share?  Was the real life information helpful to you or your plans?  Tell us about it in the comments below.

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2 Responses to Genverter powered home – real data
  1. Arild Jensen
    September 25, 2011 | 12:25 pm

    My wife’s uncle lives on an off grid farm that has been that way for a century. the past decade he has used wgat is effectively a genverter system although it is far more powerful than Marshalls concept. The generator is 10 kilowatts because the 350 foot deep submerged well pump needs that much power to start. The battery bank consist of quantity 8 6V batteries wired in series to give 48 volts. L 16 batteries are used to give a reasonable run time on one charge. This is expensive but not as much as the quoted $50,000 or so to run a powerline in over a mile through swamp and forest lands.

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