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Phil, Mechanical Engineer
Category: Home Improvement
Satisfied Customers: 8702
Experience:  Retired contractor, 51 years experience
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Hi. Can you tell me if getting a 500.00 monitor for my generac

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Hi. Can you tell me if getting a 500.00 monitor for my generac standby generator is a reasonable thing or not very useful. Is it more of a toy than anything else? My boyfriend is in a wheelchair and thinks he NEEDS it. Thanks

Welcome to Just Answer!


Generac makes a low cost light duty generator made to sell cheaply to home owners, they have enough trouble on their own without adding any complexity such as a monitor, that will simply add to the service expense in my opinion.... I am 100% sure though that the Generac sales person will disagree. That is my view however.


The best insurance is to run test it at least twice a year, more frequently would be better, Hospitals test theirs monthly. thats the only way you can be sure it will start when you need it.


Let it run for ten minutes at each test,




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Customer: replied 4 years ago.


You are welcome... unfortunately that is my opinion based on my own experience and the reports from other shops.. I am sorry you chose to rate me poorly on that account.


I find that it is a disservice not to be honest and direct with a person on such issues. I have seen thousands of dollars spend attempting to re mediate such situations, and failures in emergency conditions because monitors were relied on instead of periodic testing.


I notice your stellar record here on Just Answer... the poor service rating you gave is particularly distressing in light of that. Do you have any suggestions on how I should address such situations in the future.





Customer: replied 4 years ago.

Yes, do not slam Generac but try to make recommendations on the pros and cons on monitors in general. I was asking about the monitor in addition to the weekley"exercise" the generac does on it's own. Try to sound more unbiased,ok...if possible. I need to know about the monitors,pros and cons and the facts.Thanks

Hello again, thanks for the feed back. I need the model number of the Generac in order to look up the monitor for it and the other features


its on the name plate riveted to the unit near the gas and electrical connections






Customer: replied 4 years ago.

Hi. We don't have it yet but are getting a 14K. not sure liquid or air cooled. Which is better?Thanks

Hello again, Liquid cooled is always a lot better than air cooled in most applications, it allows the engine to run cooler.


However water cooled generators can suffer freeze damage if not properly maintained in very cold weather. in some of those cases a person might wish they had an air cooled machine.



The most reliable generators on the market run at 1800 or 1750 RPM (revolutions per minute)...and can be either air or water cooled. All of the commercial machines are water cooled.


the least reliable machines run at 3600 RPM and are air cooled... all of that is well worth looking into. RPM is generally stamped into the name plate on machine along with the model and serial number... look for that.


You can unfortunately buy a bad machine from more than a few companies with previously good names... these use the brand name to sell into the low priced market.


I have seen generators fail after 10 or 20 hours run time, and then had the manufacturer tell me that the machine was built for 'short term emergency use' not for full time use.... generators of that type are often rated that way...'emergency use, back up generator'. thats a red flag in this business.


The better machines are rated for full time use... for power failures that might last weeks you need a machine rated for full time use. For power failures that might last a few hours, once every year or two... you might get by with a generator rated for emergencies only.



In cases where lives are on the line, those running at 3600 RPM and rated for emergency use only are not a good choice... generally all of those run at 3600 RPM...that is the easiest way to spot them.


A generator used for convenience only, not for serious life support issues, can be of lesser quality...and that is always a matter to be decided by each person according to their circumstances.


One major brand I have used, and respected internationally will void your warranty if the valves are not adjusted every 20 to 100 hours of run time... thats a $300 to $400 job if its done on site, such as installation at a home... it is not rated for full time use. I use them on my truck to run power tools occasionally.





Having said that, (its my duty to be complete and honest) I am sure some people get lucky and get by just fine with the light duty high RPM machines.... its a bit like anything else. In my case for instance I buy the cheapest appliances i can find, I just replace them when they fail. With tools or roofing however, its different, i buy the best.


There is a place for either option.


Read the warranties carefully... be sure it covers the unit 100% parts and labor for at least one year.


A bad warranty looks good, but on close reading only covers parts that never fail... and leaves everything known to fail out or limits the warranty on those to 60 days, *parts only.. when the part is $5 and the labor is $500 so to speak. Thats a worthless warranty and how to spot them.



It is always better to select the larger capacity kilowatt rated machine when backing up a home and plan on running it at *half of its rating... so that if you want to back up 5 kilowatts of load, buy a 10 kw generator.


If you want to run an air conditioner it is important know that those draw 300% more current to start than it takes to run them... you need plenty of generator to start air conditioners. That subject needs to be understood fully. We can discuss that if you wish.


Let me know what you think so far, we can go from there without time limits.




Customer: replied 4 years ago.

So far so good,Phil.....Is the 14K generac for full time use?

Also, the electrian says a 14K is fine to run all 3 AC's but after reading this I am concerned. How can I find out about the warrenty. I LOVE that you brought this up!!!!Thanks!

Customer: replied 4 years ago.

Hey Phil....You got me thinking so I went on amazon to their cust reviews and low and behold the Kohler looks better!1,000 more for a 14K but better warrenty and reliable,too.

Hello again! Very well done on your research!


However I must let you know that you still need to be sure its not a 3600 RPM model if you want a long term durable generator, and do go over the warranty with a fine tooth comb and all the other issues I mentioned. $1,000 may not be enough of a differential to get you the generator you need. If you can get me the model number of the Kohler I will look it over for you


We can discuss those issues without limit.... any time you wish to give me a positive rating will erase the earlier poor rating I had regrettably earned earlier.






Phil and other Home Improvement Specialists are ready to help you
Customer: replied 4 years ago.

HI PHIL....Generac is 3600!The 14K kohler when I checked the spec sheets is 60 or 50Hz. Can you help me find one that is in the RPM range you suggested? Please tell me more about the AC's too.Thanks

Customer: replied 4 years ago.




Hello again, thanks for the excellent rating !


Tell me about the part of the country you are in, weather and humidity big your house is, and if you have air conditioning you will want to run in worst case conditions.


Aside from that, installation is a big expense, it doesn't cost much more to install the next size larger, and will be more reliable long term



Customer: replied 4 years ago.

Hello...Yes, we are in for at least a 3rd of the year. We have 3 window AC's. I lookes at reviews for the 20K generac on amazon which look a lot better than the 14K. Also, is a remote monitor a good idea if we get a Kohler? Is Kohler a lot better?Thanks for your expertise and time!

Hello again, you are in luck with the window air conditioners.... you can get by easily, by starting them one at a time, and only cooling one room in an emergency.


Air conditioning is the biggest and hardest to start load in the house. Tell me if you have electric or gas heat and if you want to run heavy electric appliances or not and what they are...


Is your water heater and stove gas or electric.



The fewer appliances you intend to run in emergency mode the smaller the generator needed.


the 20KW generators get better reviews because they run under less stress, and that makes them more reliable. Most people tend to under size the generator. it will then fail to start the air conditioning, that is a primary cause of complaints.




For the Generac the model 005951-0 wireless remote with remote test starting would be worth the money, especially in bad weather... the one with the test starting feature would be much less useful.


Kohler has similar options...


Let me know about your other loads and which ones you want to run in emergency mode, we can go from there











Customer: replied 4 years ago.

Lots, Phil....we have electric but are having gas lines put in for the gen. We have electric water heater,heat, stove/micro,lights,sump,coffee pot, internet,AC,washer/dryer and probably a few more things. Contractor says we can get by on 14K but you're right that a larger one would have less stress. Thanks....Also, is the monitor to let you know if somethings wrong during a storm?

Hello again. The monitor will let you know if anything goes wrong in a storm, however it is electronic in nature, along with the generator controls...and all of that is vulnerable to electrical spikes and lightning... those very commonly ruin a lot of generators and other electrical equipment.


You need the generator to be exceptionally well grounded and I recommend Isolating the power to the monitor with a UPS unit... thats a bit extreme.. However without it these things can easily be damaged. The quality of the installation is paramount...the person who installs it needs to be a specialist.


You will have to install an absolutely massive generator if you wish to run all of the heavy electrical appliances in emergency mode.


Most people decide just to run the refrigerator, one or two window AC units, the TV... and a few lights.


If your electric clothes drier and water heater and stove draw 15KW as a wild guess, you would need to add 20KW to the generator sizing in order to run it all at one time... there is a lot of strategy involved here. and a lot the electrician needs to know about the wiring, and how to set it up so that can run it all, but only one large appliance at a time.





First step is to decide what you want to run in an emergency and how much you want to invest in an emergency generator.


I recommend choosing the minimum, and changing out a few electrical appliances you want to run in an emergency to gas... if some of the appliances are old, now would be a good time to do it.


These are key issues...give that a lot of thought, then read the voltage and amperage or KW ratings off of the larger appliances you wish to run in an emergency.. post those readings here....lights are not significant enough to list for this purpose.



Water heater, rated at 230 volts and 20 amps. thats 4600 watts, or 4.6 kilowatts.



There are other issues related to going with gas and cutting your day to day electricity bill dramatically. The new smart meters are designed to penalize heavy usage severely..every home will have one within the year.


Let me know deep you want to get into all those issues, it will take hours of engineering time, I will post those as answers if we go that way.












Customer: replied 4 years ago.

Hi Phil....What if the electrician just performed something called "usage metering"with everything going full blast+AC's and this will tell you how many KW you need?


By the way, several guys here in Lambertville won't install Generacs!LOL!Would you be more comfortable recommending a 17 or 20K generac?I heard the newer Generacs are better?Thanks and Have a nice evening.

Hello again, Very few homes have electrical services sized for the total connected load... its generally not done. That is because almost never are all electrical items running at once in the house, So the service is sized to handle only part of the load at the judgment of the engineer and building code officials who approve the design


these are called Diversity issues. Typically 70% of the total load is used.




You can size that generator any way you want however.. if you get me the total usage reading you could use that to size the generator and that would generally over size the generator by 30 to 50% and that would work very well.


It is virtually never done however. Because generators are expensive and if used for emergencies its more economical to back up only critical functions. Your choice however.




Regarding Generac units. Very few contractors will turn down a project. If they are refusing to install generac equipment that should tell you a lot about the companies reputation. Such contractors have had bad experiences with that brand.


You have to make the final decision, the criteria i gave earlier about any unit running at 3600 RPM is key data, I have seen other units in that class fail as well, You need to buy something that has very good local service. if the local people will not install it, then there will be problems getting local service.. without reliable repair service on any brand you select, you will be in trouble.


that service needs to be well established, not a new dealer who just took on the brand,


That goes for Kohler, Onan and other brands as well.


If I bought a generac it would be a 20KW generac from a local established dealer only and I would never run it at more than 15KW for longer than 5 minutes an hour









Customer: replied 4 years ago.

Hi Phil, Thanks for that. I think I'll get a 14K Kohler. What do you think?Thanks

Hello again, if you have a local Kohler dealer, one with service facilities, and the loads you choose to run on the generator do not exceed 10KW as a rule, then that would be my choice as contrasted to Generac.


You could wire that to run the whole house, then watch the monitor to be sure you are not running for more than 5 minutes an hour, over 10KW... put off clothes drying or using the oven etc as necessary to achieve that.


That should generally be workable... have other back up for heat however, a fire place or gas furnace and water heater etc.... a lightning storm can kill the electronics on the generator set.


Tell me how far away you are from a well established Kohler dealer please, we can go from there.




Customer: replied 4 years ago.

Hi Phil...Thanks for that. The electrician is going to charge 6,300 to install the 14K Kohler. Isn't that a bit much given that i found one on the HD website for 3,700? Do electricians usually charge that much?Thanks again!

Hello again, there are many issues,


- Price does not guarantee quality. All electricians are not equal,

- Experience in the task and a decade or longer in the business and checking

references is about the best you can do.

- Small, one or two man electrical contracting shops are the best deal as a rule.

- The longer you shop the more you will learn and the better choice you will make.


$3,700 is a fairly competitive price.




You can cut the costs by building your own generator pad, build it 6 feet from the house if possible, not closer than 3 feet. Check manual that comes with the generator for other details and warnings... and build it away from windows and neighbors, and as close to the electric meter and breaker panel as you can. Ask the contractor you select to advise you on the location as well. The top of the pad should be at least 4 inches above grade.


Stay in touch as necessary.








Customer: replied 4 years ago.

Thanks again more thing...I just read a blog from an electricain in WA state and someone said a certified Kohler guy must do the start-up or the warranty will be null and void. Do you know if this is true?

Hello again,




If it fails and is found to have been installed or started up incorrectly the warranty is void.


if it has been installed correctly by other than the qualified people listed, the warranty starts from the date of manufacture. So that if the generator has been sitting in storage for a year or two, there will not be much left of the warranty.


Installation and start up are crucial on these units... you need an experienced and qualified man or company, those will be Kohler certified... you will need a lot coaching on how to use the monitoring system as well.


Stay in touch as needed.



Customer: replied 4 years ago.

Thanks Phil....Have a beautiful day!

Customer: replied 4 years ago.

Hi Phil. Do you know if it's easier or harder to install the Kohler or generacs? Does the monitoring system come with the gen?Thanks,Phil!

Hello again!


either generator will cost about the same to install.. The monitoring system that allows remote start is additional in each case




Customer: replied 4 years ago.

Thanks Phil...Just wondering if the Kohler is easier to install. is it ok to ask the electrician for references?Thanks so much!

Hello again, the connection process is about 90% identical for either unit,,, the Kohler is easier to install by a minor amount because it is better equipment,. I would not let that be a deciding factor however, The installed price difference should not vary by more than ten percent


Regarding references, thats always a good idea, but those can be faked,... as i said earlier not just any electrician is qualified to do this work... you need one that has installed many of these systems before, If you get the average electrician he is liable to have trouble with it, and that will cost you dearly in the end.





ask for references on several of his previous generator installations.



Customer: replied 4 years ago.

Thanks so much ,Phil....I really appreciate it. I'm trying to learn as much as possible about volts, amps and wattages. It's pretty interesting. My dad and gramp were electricians and I have one bro who is an EE and one who is a really good electrcian. G'Night and sleep well.Thanks again.

Hello again


It all starts with atoms... study atoms a bit first, study how the electrons fly around the nucleus


I worked with a scientist running an electron microscope a few years back... an atom of silicon looks like an egg a microscopic piece looks like eggs in a crate of eggs..... the electrons form a cloud... around each atom... thats what you are seeing with the electron microscope




Copper atoms for instance have a center. like the sun in our solar system... the sun is the center and the planets are the electrons in our solar system so to speak




the two electrons farthest away from the center, (called the nucleus) break away easily,,, and can move down a chain of copper atoms... the actual number of those electrons moved per second is called amperage (thats a few hundred thousand electrons per second)

the force which they are propelled is called the voltage


Voltage times amperage equals watts, thats the same as current


watts is a measurement of power




Like a river, the more water (amps), and faster it flows (because of voltage pressure) the stronger the current so we get V x A = watts.


this is over the head of many electricians but not over the head of EE's



If you get that firmly in mind ....after a few hours mulling it over, you will have the basic data necessary to work with electricity


Without that you will be lost... then study from there.





DC current is direct current... it goes from one pole of a battery to the other pole, it flows like a river in just one direction, thats just one example however


AC current flows back and forth, the same electrons are pushed back and forth in the wire. thats called alternating current... AC


Your house uses AC current,, it cycles back and forth 60 times a second,




for the rest of the story find a high school physics book that talks about electricity and you will learn the rest of the basics... the older the book the better, chemistry books talk about the electrons, and which atoms work best for conducting electricity. the metals mostly.




at the very very high end we have the complete mystery of what an electron actually is,... we have no clue, we only know how to use them to do some things.,.. we are like babies in our understanding. The huge hadron collider in Cern switzerland smashes attoms together in an effort to find what they are made of


So far we have a few dozen parts, called quarks, muons, and etc, we are like cave men in our understanding, so far we only know enough to blow ourselves up... and destroy all life on earth,


we are trying to get smarter.




a man named Nicolai Tesla was ahead of us by miles, he died many years ago. we are still attempting to understand what he did.


As man named Maxwell born in the 1800's wrote equations that we are still trying to fathom today... he was a very smart man.... we may be regressing.due to the NEA, its hard to say, NEA is the National Educational Association.


I sat across board room tables from many of the folks in the nuclear weapons business... thats where I learned that anything run by the goverment goes south,


I was asked to testify before congress a while back.. thats what I told them.. I said, if you keep screwing with us engineers, its going to end badly.


waste of breath






Good luck in your studies




Customer: replied 4 years ago.

Hi Phil..hope you are well and enjoying the millions of particles that make up your current(lol!) weather pattern. Can you tell me if 124,000 is the btu's needed for a 14K Kohler?Thanks,Kate

Hello again, you forgot to metion the millions and millions of particles that make up my mocha drink. You can do that with soda water, ovaltine and instant coffee you know.


Click here for a conversion calculator


48,000 btu/hr per KWH your gen set is rated at 14KWH. thats 14 kilowatts per hour.


There are efficiency issues.... an air conditioner will generally use one killowatt to run one ton of air conditioning capacity 1 KW per ton. so that your 14K generator would run a 14 ton air conditioner.


****however your 14k generator would not START at 14 ton air conditioner because the starting load is 3x more than the running load **** thats a key issue.


Your 14K gen set would easily start most 3 ton air conditioners however, and have room to spare if you are running it with the total running load under 10KW.


Study that up a bit, let me know it makes any sense on your end.








Customer: replied 4 years ago.

Hello....Mocha....YEY!!!!! Too bad Newton didn't have these for his enjoyment!

When the plumber asked about btu's yesterday I asked the justasnswer plumber and he said 124,000btus but what you say and the conversion site say makes more sense. Why the discrepancy?thanks,Kate

Hello again. BTU's vs Kilowatts can be figured as i have below to size a generator to handle an air conditioner.. thats the figure you got from me.


The plumbers figure derives from fuel input to the generator in order to output 14KW

thats a different issue. Calculating that can be laborious, having to do with the efficiency of the machine and the average load.




See natural gas consumption section near the bottom of the page...


Running at 50% load average, it would use 140,000 btu's worth of natural gas an hour.

so that the plumbers estimate was about as close as you can get for these purposes.

since you will never, ever be running at exactly 50% and the fuel efficiency changes with the barometric pressure and air temperature. You need that data to size the fuel line.


however the mfgr provides that for you in the installation manual.







It takes a 1 ton rated refrigeration machine, running for 1 day, (24 hours) to produce 1 ton of ice (2,000 lbs of ice)


That is how a 1 ton capacity machine is defined and that would be vital to sizing the generator to run a home with air conditioning





Phil and other Home Improvement Specialists are ready to help you