Redundancy on the homestead

Most people look at having what they need as mostly a now thing. That’s not to be confused with wanting what you need when you can get it.

When we moved to our homestead we basically had one of everything we needed and we took great comfort in that. We quickly found out that wouldn’t cut it. There are things you need a backup for and even a backup for your backup. Our first experience with this was with our generator. We came to our homestead to live off grid and needed a generator before we got our solar and wind power going. We brought a great running generator that we had for a couple of years. It was able to power our RV and the power tools we planned to use to build the house. After the 1st month of heavy use it decided to go to the happy power plant in the sky or wherever generator spirits go when they die. It had a wonderful safety feature to protect the engine from catastrophic failure, a low oil cut off. I checked the oil diligently for the 1st few weeks and it stayed full. A week later the oil level got too low and the low oil cutoff switch did not work.

These things don’t happen during convenient store hours but rather late at night. We had also sunk most of our money into buying the property and everything we felt we needed to live there.

The next day after choking on sticker shock from the price of new generators I found a used Briggs and Stratton 8500 watt generator. It ran great and we could afford it so I brought it home. It was great for several weeks and then it died. The same thing happened, the low oil cutoff failed and the motor burned up. I would never buy one of these generators again.

After some research we decided to buy a new Champion generator at Tractor Supply co. It was the cheapest one I could find because it was all we could manage at the time. Tractor Supply offered a 30 day return or replacement policy which with our track record seemed like it would work to our advantage. They ended up giving us around 10 more generators over a years time. While it saved us a lot of money they almost always stopped working at times when we needed them the most. We realized three important things from this experience, quality matters, most generators are only made for occasional use and having a backup or 2 was an absolute necessity. If you want a long lasting reliable generator you will need to get a commercial or industrial generator. These are made to run for long periods of time. When we checked the prices on these generators we knew we couldn’t get one without incurring debt, which we’re against. I decided to try to find a used one. I looked on Craigslist and Facebook marketplace. Much to my surprise I found someone selling a Generac commercial grade generator for only a couple hundred dollars. I was excited so I contacted the seller immediately and asked when I could come pick it up. I wanted it now before someone else got it. The seller put me off for a week due to his work schedule. I needed a generator right away so I looked until I found someone selling an industrial grade Mitsubishi generator. I went and picked it up and was thrilled with it. It ran great and it was my first generator with an electric starter. That was very exciting after countless hours in frigid temperatures pulling and pulling the cord to get our generators to start. If at all possible get a generator with an electric starter. A day or two later the first guy was ready to meet me with his generator. Since I was able to purchase the Mitsubishi generator for only $150 I thought it would be a good idea to have a backup. I met the guy and bought the Generac for $140. The total cost of both generators was less than the cheap one I bought new. I have had and used both of them for a year and a half and both are still working fine. I also developed a habit of watching for other commercial/industrial generators that were being sold cheap. As a result I also picked up a 6500 watt water cooled commercial Honda generator for only $150 and a small 1400 watt commercial grade Honda for only $75. Those deals don’t come along everyday but if you’re paying attention you can find them. We now have our solar and wind turbine up but it’s nice to know that when needed I will have at least one working generator at all times, even in the middle of the night.

A couple of side notes I would like to leave you with, I can’t begin to express how much better it is to have an electric start generator. We tried propane generators because they are supposed to last longer and we connect a big tank to it so it would run longer than a gas generator. They seemed great at first but when the temperature dropped to 10 degrees F and below it wouldn’t start. The regulators and valves are prone to freezing up and blocking fuel flow.

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