In the Shop
As a farm machinery mechanic and writer, Dan brings a hands-on approach that only a pro can muster. Along with his In the Shop blog, Dan writes a column by the same name as well as the Shop Series for Farm Journal magazine. Always providing practical information, he is a master at tackling technical topics and making them easy for all of our readers to understand. He and his wife, Becky, live near Bouton, Iowa.
Nearly Something For Nothing
Nov 01, 2008
It's that wonderful time of year between autumn and winter, when the storms that sweep across the country can't decide if they want to be rainstorms or snowstorms. So they split the difference, and we endure bouts of ice and freezing rain that often leave rural areas without power for days on end.
Many farmers already have back-up generators. Some are pto-driven and powered by tractors. Others are gas-powered generators that range from 2,500-watt portable units used by weekend campers to hulking stationary units necessary to supply power to large livestock confinement buildings. If you're a farmer or live in a rural area but don't yet have a back-up generator, consider this: it is an odd fact that in many cases, buyers can purchase a gas-powered welder/generator for nearly the same price as a gas-powered generator without
the built-in welder.
Even if you don't do a lot of welding, the concept of getting the welder for nearly free makes a welder/generator a viable option for most farmers. A 10,000 watt gas-powered generator/welder will not only provide basic power for a farmhouse during a power outage, but is handy as a portable power source for dozens of jobs around the farm far from 115-volt electrical outlets.
When shopping for a welder/generator, be sure to compare apples to apples. By nature, a welder/generator tends to be heavy duty. At first glance, simple generators with equal wattage may seem cheaper than welder/generators, but if buyers shop carefully and compare "peak power" output along with the quality of the gasoline engines that drive the welder-less generators, it's not hard to see that with all things equal, the welder is nearly free when you buy a welder/generator.
Warnings, disclaimers, etc.: Any generator used to power a home or farmstead during a power outage must be connected through a cut-out that physically disconnects that individual circuit from the local rural power grid. Generators "hot-wired" into a house's electrical system can backfeed into the local grid, and pose a danger to electrical workers trying to repair the system. Some rural electrical system workers have been rumored to "pulse" a brief charge of power through a system before making repairs, to overload and "blow out" any illegally wired private generators backfeeding the system.
To determine how big of a back-up generator your operation needs, add up the starting amperage loads of all appliances and electric motors that will be on the circuit. Start-up amperage is generally 3 to 5 times the running amps listed on an electric motor's information plate. For a list of common start-up amp loads, visit the websites of Miller Electric, Hobart, Lincoln Electric or other mainline generator manufacturers.