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pandora
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Anyone have a suggestion for standby whole home generator?

Since I'm doing a large renovation and am upgrading from 200 to 400 amp service. My electrician has suggested building in capability for a standby generator. He is suggesting 2 200 amp automatic transfer switches with something called DLM that he claims will allow the generator to shed and add load based on draw.

His suggestion is a 20K air cooled Generac. These run around $4,000.

Installation and purchase of the transfer switches with DLM on major appliances and heat pumps is in the $1,800 range (parts and labor) exclusive of any generator.

He seems to think Generac is the most popular brand at this time, and the quality of their products has improved.

Just about every home repair box store I visit (Lowes, Home Depot, even Sears) seems to have a Generac near the front door.

I have a lot of IT equipment run through the house, is there any significant advantage or disadvantage to a Generac vs another brand? It has to run on propane, and I'd prefer the lower maintenance of air cooled. This more or less puts me in the 20 K ball park.

He claims a 20 K standby generator (of any type) with an automatic transfer switch and DLM can run my home without requiring individual circuits to be connected.

I'm not so concerned about the DLM or even load estimates, but am concerned about noise from the generators (we will be using Insteon on our power lines) and also about the quality of the sine wave produced (will it affect my PF sensitive PC's for example).

Does anyone have a link comparing the electrical quality of power produced by various generator brands? For example how well shaped the sine waves are, and how much noise is created? Then reliability and of course price.

Thanks.
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nunya
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Generacs are fine. If you want to hold off on the generator purchase, have them install "generator ready" load centers. They are made by Siemens / Murray. They are a little nicer than the giant box ATS.

A liquid cooled generator will outlast an air cooled generator, but there is significant additional expense.

High end generators are going to be Kohler or Onan. Just under that Cutler-Hammer. Then comes Siemens, Generac, and Guardian (all made by the same company).

With a 20 kW set, fuel source is going to be a major consideration. Will you have propane available (250-500 gal tank)? Will the gas company be able to supply enough NG? I've had plenty of people ready to buy, but the gas company simply could not meet the demand without re-piping the whole street.
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pandora
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said by nunya:

With a 20 kW set, fuel source is going to be a major consideration. Will you have propane available (250-500 gal tank)? Will the gas company be able to supply enough NG? I've had plenty of people ready to buy, but the gas company simply could not meet the demand without re-piping the whole street.

The only fuel source can be propane, my oil tanks are gone, and there is no natural gas supplied to my street.

Looking at gallons per hour, it appears a 500 gallon tank would be a better than a 250 gallon if I want my home to run more than a single day on the generator.

Thanks for the additional info provided in the unquoted portion of my reply. I guess Generac will be good enough. They seem cheap and common.
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nunya
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So do Ford and Chevy, but they get people to work every day.


pende_tim
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reply to pandora
You may want to get the propane company involved to make sure the 500 gal propane tank will have enough surface area on the liquid propane to boil off enough gas to supply that kind of load.

It should work but I would ask someone just to be sure.
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IowaCowboy
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reply to pandora
Maybe you should consider a diesel generator since gas is not available there if you want to power such a large load. One of the drawbacks though is fuel storage

Powering 400 amps off of an LP generator is a large load and will burn through a tank of propane pretty quickly. Maybe you could decide which circuits you absolutely have to power (such as fridge, lights, heat/AC, etc) so you can go with a smaller generator and your propane supply will last longer.

I personally went the portable generator/manual transfer switch route since I don't have a gas line coming in, nor do I have propane (other than enough to power a gas grill). Everything in this house is electric (including heat, which is expensive). The circuits I am powering with the generator is the fridge, downstairs heat, interior lights (including the circuit that powers medical equipment most importantly), an most of the wall sockets (TVs, computers, and window A/C units). Everything else, water heater, stove, microwave, washer/dryer, upstairs heat, and garbage disposal will be non-functional during a power outage.

Fortunately we have city water (no well pump) and we do not have a leaky basement (no sump pump required).

I bought the generator during the October snowstorm and waited a good two hours in line. Lowes had a shipment of 800 generators that day and they had 46 left by the time it was my turn. I bought it sight unseen. Of course the lights came on a couple of hours later after being out three days (did not have to use generator). Had I not bought the generator, I'd would have been out a good two weeks.
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reply to pandora
Since you are planning on installing a propane fueled generator, if you plan on replacing many of your appliances including the space and water heating system, calculate the annual cost to operate propane and electrically fueled equipment. If the cost is close between the two, then consider replacing your water heater, range, dryer and space heating system with propane fueled appliances. Remember the cost of electricity is regulated and the cost of propane is not so it is difficult to predict the future operating cost of propane fueled appliances.

By using propane fueled appliances you can reduce the load and required capacity of your generator. I was advised by an acquaintance who owns an all electric home and has a 20 KW air cooled Generac Generator that it uses from 30 to 35 Gallons of propane a day if operated continuously. Consider run time and how many days it would take for your propane supplier to refill your tank in the event of some kind of catastrophe that results in a long term power outage. Buy your propane tank rather than renting it so you can purchase propane from the dealer with the best price. Keep copies of the receipt for you tank handy if you change propane suppliers because most suppliers require that you prove that you own the tank and not rent it.

Here is a packaged Briggs and Stratton Generator which includes a transfer switch for a split 400 AMP Service Entrance:

»www.norwall.com/products/Briggs-···ATS.html

Remember a 400 AMP Service Entrance can handle a load up to 96 Kilowatts. The generator included in the package can supply 20 Kilowatts.


nunya
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The 400A service is probably really a 320A service, and probably overkill. Most POCO's across the nation stop at 320A single phase service. After that, you're paying for 3 phase or forced to work within the confines of the 320A single phase.

We don't know anything about the demand of the OP's house, so it's tough to speculate.

I will say, it's better to limit the number of items you'll be running on generator power and get a smaller generator. But, it's a persons prerogative to say, "by God, I want everything to work seamlessly when the power is out!". I just wouldn't want to pay their propane bill.

OP, if your house is still in the construction phase you should probably do some quick research on propane appliances if you are going to have a tank installed anyway.
Quite often, even propane beats operating costs of electric heating appliances. Electric resistance heat is very inefficient.

As an example, I just installed a 12 kW set for a rural customer on LP gas (500 gal buried tank). Their furnaces are LP backup, with heatpumps. In normal operation, when the heatpumps can't keep up, the LP furnace kicks in.
We set up the ATS contactor to prevent the heat pump from running at all when on generator power. It goes into "Emergency Heat" and only runs the LP furnaces. This is all done LV with the thermostat. A significant load reduction which allowed them to downsize the generator considerably.

I have all gas heating appliances except the range. I can run my entire house comfortably on 6 kW. Sure, there's no A/C, but fans are better than what my neighbors have (big fat 0).
We can only run one burner on the range, but that's a small inconvenience. In the winter, I'm nice and toasty at home. They are in a hotel or Aunt Mabel's basement while the pipes are freezing and bursting back at their house.

Someone posted a link to Norwall above. I like them and have purchased from them in the past. They are often cheaper than local wholesalers, even with shipping.
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pferrie3

join:2005-01-27
Boston, MA
reply to pandora
as far as the computers, and any medical stuff invest in a few good quality ups that can handle the varying power quality of whatever generator you choose.

with regards to the rest of the house I would figure out what you could live without if main power is out ..as in do you really need lights in the bedroom at night when the power is out, can you live without the blender.. you get the point

on generator power this should be what's important:
food - so fridge
water - if you have a well
heat or cooling - depends on where you are
cooking

then the few luxury's :
hot water
your living room
basic lighting so you can see

... so if that 20K air cooled Generac will handle all that and more then, there you go

also find out how much fuel it uses per day based upon your load calculations for the stuff above and you will know how big a propane tank you might need

good luck with your renovation.

and as they usually say around here
PICS PLEASE

Bob4
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reply to nunya
said by nunya:

Electric resistance heat is very inefficient.


Nitpick: Don't you mean to say electric resistance heat is very expensive? I thought it was 100% efficient in that all of the energy consumed goes into heating the house (at least for electric baseboard heating).


49528867
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said by Bob4:

Nitpick: Don't you mean to say electric resistance heat is very expensive? I thought it was 100% efficient in that all of the energy consumed goes into heating the house (at least for electric baseboard heating).

Well if we shall nitpic, then Nunya is quite correct, burning propane to spin a generator to power electric resistance heating is quite inefficient compared to burning propane to heat a home .

Wayne
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AndrewG2

join:2006-01-20
Niagara Falls, ON
Nitpick of nitpick of nitpick....

If the genny is installed in the basement, then all that "inefficiency" goes somewhere, i.e. into heating the surrounding air... unless the flue used is particularly inefficient and it dumps a lot of heat out of that. Anyhoo, I would not think there would be a great deal of difference, if the genny is under teh same roof, and there's air mixing with the upstairs.... if it's in it's own shed, then different story.

Propane... I wouldn't like to rely on propane for anything essential... the problem is, it's a "waste" product from natural gas processing, BUT, only in relatively small quantities... ergo supply is constricted... therefore if it gets "too" popular, price will go nuts. Then also it is coupled to natural gas supply/demand issues through an amplifier as it were... if NG goes expensive or in short supply, propane gets even more so, if NG goes supercheap then barring profiteering propane may go cheaper. The caveat with that, is when NG goes real cheap because they can't sell it, but also it doesn't create demand, i.e. it's a mild spring, gas fired power stations don't come online to run everyone's AC...but everyone is BBQing... then there's not the throughput of NG at the wellheads to make the propane, so it goes spendy... If at all possible, I'd go for LNG...


49528867
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said by AndrewG2:

Nitpick of nitpick of nitpick....

If the genny is installed in the basement, then all that "inefficiency" goes somewhere, i.e. into heating the surrounding air... unless the flue used is particularly inefficient and it dumps a lot of heat out of that. Anyhoo, I would not think there would be a great deal of difference, if the genny is under teh same roof, and there's air mixing with the upstairs.... if it's in it's own shed, then different story.

Nitpick of nitpick of nitpick of yet another nitpik....

Generators installed indoors will have their operating heat and exhaust removed from the room they are installed within to the outside of the building, as such any heat generated only heats the outside air and the room that the generator is installed within...

It's due to some silly little code regulating the way indoor generators are required to be installed.

Wayne
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Jack_in_VA
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reply to AndrewG2
said by AndrewG2:

Nitpick of nitpick of nitpick....

Propane... I wouldn't like to rely on propane for anything essential... the problem is, it's a "waste" product from natural gas processing, BUT, only in relatively small quantities... ergo supply is constricted... therefore if it gets "too" popular, price will go nuts. Then also it is coupled to natural gas supply/demand issues through an amplifier as it were... if NG goes expensive or in short supply, propane gets even more so, if NG goes supercheap then barring profiteering propane may go cheaper. The caveat with that, is when NG goes real cheap because they can't sell it, but also it doesn't create demand, i.e. it's a mild spring, gas fired power stations don't come online to run everyone's AC...but everyone is BBQing... then there's not the throughput of NG at the wellheads to make the propane, so it goes spendy... If at all possible, I'd go for LNG...

If there's nothing else available Propane has to be used. Simple deduction.


nunya
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reply to Bob4
No. Electricity is very inefficient. It's only 100% efficient at the point of use. Generating electricity and getting it where it needs to be is where the losses occur. It usually ends up being about 40-60% efficient. Normally more towards 50% since we get most of our power from coal.
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Bob4
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Thank you for the clarification.


cowboyro
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reply to Bob4
said by Bob4:

Nitpick: Don't you mean to say electric resistance heat is very expensive? I thought it was 100% efficient in that all of the energy consumed goes into heating the house (at least for electric baseboard heating).

That is correct, it is inefficient as the ratio between heat energy produced and electric energy used is 100%. As opposed to a heat pumps where it is in the 260-300% range depending on outside temperature.

Mr Matt

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reply to pandora
downloadGenerator Ef···.xls.zip 2,103 bytes
Effenciency Comparison
I ran a calculation on the relative efficiency of diesel vs propane powered generators see the chart above.

The Onan generator in the chart varies from 18% to 26% depending on load. There are three different diesel generators listed, all efficiency ratings are based on full load fuel consumption for those generators.

Regarding the relative cost of propane vs electric appliances, I included a description on how to calculate the relative cost in another thread here:

»Heater / Central Air recommendations.

For my situation I calculated the cost of propane vs electric fuel by dividing the kilowatt hours used into the total bill which comes out to about $0.13 per kilowatt hour. The cost for heating water with propane using a storage type water heater with a 70% efficiency and $4.00 per gallon cost for propane works out to an equivalent cost of $0.2132 per kilowatt hour. In order for the cost of propane to be equal to the cost of electric fuel the cost per gallon of propane would have to be less than $2.44.



IowaCowboy
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reply to Bob4
said by Bob4:

said by nunya:

Electric resistance heat is very inefficient.


Nitpick: Don't you mean to say electric resistance heat is very expensive? I thought it was 100% efficient in that all of the energy consumed goes into heating the house (at least for electric baseboard heating).

I can tell you firsthand that while electric baseboard heat is very efficient, it IS very EXPENSIVE to run. One winter (when it was unusually cold for this part of the country, our electric bill for one month (I think January of 2004) was over $350. For me running the A/C (one portable and one window unit) in the summer 24/7 during a heat wave does not even cost as much as running the electric heat in the winter. And this is to heat a 936 sq ft living space.

I do not want to turn this into a political discussion (as this is not the forum) but electric heat is expensive enough to qualify our family for fuel assistance even though we are not classified as "low income" (as we are more middle class). I also want to mention that the electric rates in this part of the country are among the highest in the nation. If we heated the house with a cheaper source of heat (such as natural gas), we could pay the heating bill on our own without assistance.
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Bob4
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My natural gas bill (heat and hot water only) has been as high as $438; that was in February 2009. Even last winter, it hit $344. But my place is double the size of yours.


cowboyro
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Shelton, CT

1 edit
reply to pandora
said by pandora:

His suggestion is a 20K air cooled Generac. These run around $4,000.

That seems grossly exaggerated. I have a 2350sqft house, all-electric and the highest momentary load (for more than 1sec) that I've seen in months of monitoring was below 15kW. That with both heat pumps, the range and the drier running.
This is 3 days worth of power usage in Feb 2011 when I registered the highest momentary use.



If you have propane then it makes sense to use it for heating in an emergency - so your highest load would be greatly reduced. To me it makes no sense to use propane to produce electricity at 25% efficiency and then turn it back into heat at 100-300% efficiency.
said by pandora:

Does anyone have a link comparing the electrical quality of power produced by various generator brands? For example how well shaped the sine waves are, and how much noise is created? Then reliability and of course price.

That will highly depend on the load that you connect. In theory the waves are sine with no load connected. Once you connect a load all bets are off. Connect a heater? Will likely stay sine. Connect a massive load with a switching power supply? No more sine. However many current electronics couldn't care less about the shape of the wave - just think that a typical UPS feeds a somewhat square wave.

AndrewG2

join:2006-01-20
Niagara Falls, ON
reply to 49528867
Ah right, but if you were to rig a heat exchanger to pipe the genny heat back inside, you probably would not need to run it for heat per se, apart from a couple of weeks of the coldest winter.


herdfan
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reply to pandora
This past summer as a result of the derecho that came through my area, knowing power was going to be off a week, it seemed like a good time to buy a big generator. We lose power several days a year here, so we had previously considered one. The small 5500 would get us through in the winter (gas heat) but it was a pain and this past summer most gas stations did not have gas so it was almost useless.

So I went down to HD and bought the only Generac they had, a 17/16 kW. It is rated for 17kW on propane and 16kW on NG. But since my HG is fairly high BTU, I figure I am closer to 17 than 16.

Mine came with the EZ-Switch transfer switch which let me chose 16 circuits. It come pre-wired with 3 240V, but needing only one, I changed out the 50 and 40 am breakers for 4 20's. Initially I just rigged it to get us through the week without power, but then we sat down and figured which circuits we needed. After the needs: refrigerator, garage (extra freezer) A/C & heat, we started going through what others we needed. Added a bathroom for showers etc, my daughter's bedroom, the media room, the kitchen lights and island receptacle circuit and a couple of others.

We figured we could run a couple of extension cords to the 2 hot water heaters (they are gas, but one has a power vent and the other a circuit board) so they could operate, and from the office (got to have internet ) to run some lamps in the living room.

With that setup, we figured we would be able to get by fairly comfortably. Upgrading to a 20kW would have just cost another grand and not really gotten us much more.

But If I ever build another house, it will have a full panel on a big 45-60kW generator.

pandora
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reply to IowaCowboy
said by IowaCowboy:

Powering 400 amps off of an LP generator is a large load and will burn through a tank of propane pretty quickly. Maybe you could decide which circuits you absolutely have to power (such as fridge, lights, heat/AC, etc) so you can go with a smaller generator and your propane supply will last longer.

I think it's 83 amps on LP for a 20 KW Generac, about 10 gallons of propane an hour. 500 gallons would last 2 days at full load. The DLM permits running a whole home by cycling on and off heavy load appliances. The DLM stuff is new to me, but seems to permit a smaller generator to run a home during power failures.
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pandora
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reply to nunya
said by nunya:

OP, if your house is still in the construction phase you should probably do some quick research on propane appliances if you are going to have a tank installed anyway.
Quite often, even propane beats operating costs of electric heating appliances. Electric resistance heat is very inefficient.

We already have a number of propane appliances, but the draw at full load for a 20kw generac is much larger than our 45 gallong tank could supply. Even if the tank could keep up, it'd be dead in about 4-7 hours depending on load.
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pandora
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reply to nunya
said by nunya:

OP, if your house is still in the construction phase you should probably do some quick research on propane appliances if you are going to have a tank installed anyway.
Quite often, even propane beats operating costs of electric heating appliances. Electric resistance heat is very inefficient.

We already have a number of propane appliances, but the draw at full load for a 20kw generac is much larger than our 45 gallon tank could supply. Even if the tank could keep up, it'd be dead in about 4-7 hours depending on load.
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pandora
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1 edit
reply to Bob4
said by Bob4:

said by nunya:

Electric resistance heat is very inefficient.


Nitpick: Don't you mean to say electric resistance heat is very expensive? I thought it was 100% efficient in that all of the energy consumed goes into heating the house (at least for electric baseboard heating).

We will be installing 2 four ton 18 SEER heat pumps with electric resistance axillary heat. Already installed is a Geospring heat pump assisted water heater.

Oil has been removed from my home, after 7 years with a heat pump, it was fine. Last winter we had 1 day when auxiliary heat was required. The newer units are more efficient and have better cold weather performance.
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pandora
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reply to Mr Matt
said by Mr Matt:

I ran a calculation on the relative efficiency of diesel vs propane powered generators see the chart above.

The Onan generator in the chart varies from 18% to 26% depending on load. There are three different diesel generators listed, all efficiency ratings are based on full load fuel consumption for those generators.

Regarding the relative cost of propane vs electric appliances, I included a description on how to calculate the relative cost in another thread here:

»Heater / Central Air recommendations.

For my situation I calculated the cost of propane vs electric fuel by dividing the kilowatt hours used into the total bill which comes out to about $0.13 per kilowatt hour. The cost for heating water with propane using a storage type water heater with a 70% efficiency and $4.00 per gallon cost for propane works out to an equivalent cost of $0.2132 per kilowatt hour. In order for the cost of propane to be equal to the cost of electric fuel the cost per gallon of propane would have to be less than $2.44.

Matt most diesel generators are liquid cooled, and require extra maintenance. Additionally, I'd be concerned with several hundred gallons of diesel oil sitting for perhaps years as the generac would be the only load.

We currently use about 40 gallons a month of propane and have a 45 gallon tank. With 2 new fireplaces, and a cooktop, the use should increase slightly.

500 gallons would cycle in about a year, for diesel, at 12 minutes a week on a generac or other brand, it could take a decade or longer for 300-500 gallons of diesel to cycle. Does diesel remain stable for a decade?
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pandora
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reply to cowboyro
said by cowboyro:

said by pandora:

His suggestion is a 20K air cooled Generac. These run around $4,000.

That seems grossly exaggerated. I have a 2350sqft house, all-electric and the highest momentary load (for more than 1sec) that I've seen in months of monitoring was below 15kW. That with both heat pumps, the range and the drier running.

After remodel the house will be approximately 5,000 sq ft. We will have 2 4 ton heat pumps running 4 A/C zones.

The electrician has suggested a 20K unit, guess I could ask him for more information about why he made this suggestion.
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pandora
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reply to herdfan
said by herdfan:

But If I ever build another house, it will have a full panel on a big 45-60kW generator.

DLM allows the generator to shed and add load as needed. I'm still not entirely clear on the technology, in places it indicates an ability to rotate heavy loads. My electrician indicates this permits a smaller generator to feed a home than would otherwise be needed.

Heat pumps, hot water, well, oven, and other high power loads can be cycled on and off as needed to keep the generator from overloading.

Our last electric bill for the older (smaller home, 3,200 sq ft) was about 2600 KWH over 28 days. 93 KWH per day, 3.8 KW per hour if all use was average.

The house is going from $3,200 sq ft, to about 5,000 sq ft, and we are moving from a 14 SEER 3.5 ton heat pump to 2 4 ton heat pumps. Our old boiler was removed, and in the past 2 weeks (for which we do not have a bill) the hot water heater was changed to a GE Geospring heat pump assisted unit.

I anticipate the larger home, and electric hot water heater (even with heat pump assist) will consume a bit more electricity than our older home. The new heat pumps are variable speed, as are the air handlers. A lot of this is new to me, and I'm unable to predict exactly what my new usage should be.

Aside from the basic home infrastructure, about 4,000' of Cat 6, and 2,500' of RG 6 is being installed, as is an alarm system, and a 16 channel surveillance DVR (of which we anticipate setting up 8-10 initially).

It is a lot of change for us.
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