Using car as generator for house power

Discussion in 'Gen 3 Prius Accessories and Modifications' started by ED9593, Oct 31, 2012.

  1. techntrek

    techntrek Member

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    Well there's a straw-man argument. "We couldn't possibly have any problems with natural gas systems in this country because its been 24 years since a major earthquake in a heavily populated area in the US." Right, it will never happen again (look up the New Madrid fault zone - it has a high chance of a major quake and from a NG utility standpoint will cut this country in half). Or an eruption from the sun which will wipe out our high-voltage electric grid - permanently. That partly happened in 1989 too, so that can't possibly ever happen again (12% chance of that happening in the next 10 years). You glossed over the other example of a loss of NG service which happened in my area - recently - without any earthquake at all.

    Over the last several pages over the last month you are the one that has argued "crazy facts" over and over and I (and others) have corrected you.

    "Who cares about saving an extra $20 a day when your power is out."
    Nope. $94 to 120 a day in savings. You still don't believe it.

    "These 10KW 220V China generators are cheap and they run on propane, natural gas and gasoline. They are the perfect solution for me."
    Multiple people pointed out that this thread is about using a Prius for that job. And doing it using 0.13 gallons of gasoline an hour instead of 1 gallon of gasoline, or 1.25-1.5 gallons of LPG an hour.

    Multiple times you've insisted that the Prius can't do the same job as a 10 kw LPG/NG.
    Its been shown to you that the Prius can surge well above 10 kw, support 6 kw for an hour, and 3 kw forever. Which is exactly what a 10 kw generator does since most of the time a whole-house generator is only needed for a few hundred watts, then a few thousand watts for a few hours, and brief surges to its max. The Prius does the same.

    "You cannot go to dinner because your house is connected to your only method of transportation."
    Multiple people pointed out that you can unplug the house and drive away - and do it for many hours without jeopardizing the food in your freezer.

    "Before Sandy when was the last time the power went out for more than 24 hours? I bet it has been more than 20 years" "I live in an area were the power might go out 3-4 times a year for 1-4 hours. I think that is more typical for most people."
    You assumed nobody lost their power anywhere for more than 24 hours before Sandy, for at least 20 years. Right. Multiple people jumped in with examples of recent long outages.

    "I have a TriFuel 10KW generator ... connected to natural gas 24x7. ...I have many tanks of propane ...If that runs out I can still use gasoline. I believe that is a better plan then a single fuel Prius."
    You assumed that people only keep one backup - the Prius - around the house, so if they run out of gas they are sunk. It was pointed out that others have multiple energy sources - LPG, NG, large battery banks, wood - too.

    "I do not see the benefit of saving $80 a day with a rigged inverter on the Prius ...the best thing is I can leave the generator running and drive to the store to get some milk."
    Others pointed out that many of us already have too many engines to take care of so one less dedicated genset can be a good thing (I count 7 gasoline engines at my house, I used to have 3 more). I said "having more than one tool in the toolbox for power backup can save you a ton of money and give you a backup for your backup."

    Then you posted 3-4 links for your generator over several pages. Why?

    So there you go, 3+ pages of arguments from you over the last month.
     
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  2. Netbook

    Netbook Junior Member

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    Here is my reply again.

     
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  3. bwilson4web

    bwilson4web BMW i3 and Model 3

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    In this we agree:
    I would add some of us have Prius and choose to add what gives us an incremental return on investment, 1-3kW of emergency power. Power whose source is tested daily; low fueling overhead; quiet, and; all but free from carbon monoxide hazards. But we're not suggesting buying a Prius to use as an emergency generator but expanding the Prius envelope as an emergency generator.

    Toyota has already seen the wisdom of this when after the Tsunami they now offer it as an expensive option in Japan. But like the Cal_Cars pioneers and their Prius plug-in conversions, individual owners are showing the way.

    There is history in adding functionality to systems. For example, the F-18 replaced the F-14 and A-6 as both a fighter and bomber and the F-16 and F-18 fighters now both have bombing capabilities. Multi-mode systems tend to get more use than single-use, dedicated systems.

    Had you presented a generator that uses its waste heat for hot water and house space heating, it might have made sense. Add a catalytic converter and decent muffler, it becomes safe and tolerable. In the meanwhile, the next phase for Prius emergency power is how to approach co-generation and alternate fuels . . . the type of engineering problem I often wake up after dreaming about it in the morning.

    So we'll have to agree to disagree about the value of infrequently used, noisy, air-cooled, standalone, toxic gas emitting, dedicated, emergency generators versus adding emergency power capability to our Prius.

    Bob Wilson
     
  4. patsparks

    patsparks An Aussie perspective

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    Bob, no need for mufflers as this system does just that, it heats your water can heat your hame, and it produces electricity from natural gas with no noise.
    Clean, efficient on-site power.
    I guess it would also run on propane with some adaption. Don't get me wrong though, I love the idea that a Prius can be used as backup power and I love your work on that.
     
  5. ralleia

    ralleia Active Member

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    Though I may disagree with Netbook on the notion that I am currently willing to consider the possibility of my beloved Prius as source of emergency backup power, I do very much agree that a quarter-century major earthquake scenario is quite myopic--even stupid perhaps--if one is aware that some Prius drivers live outside major quake zones.
    Heck, here those of us going for engineering licenses don't even have to go for the quake requirements, so I'm not about to dump thousands of dollars of personal funds into excessive worrying over gas lines with a fraction of a percent chance of sustaining damage.
     
  6. techntrek

    techntrek Member

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    Oh yes, we agree to disagree. But you didn't mention the blind side attack claiming I'm the one that's been argumentative for the last month and that somehow I like it (what?). That was you, I've proven that. The rest of us have been defending the use of our Prii on this Prius-related board.
     
  7. techntrek

    techntrek Member

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    You forgot "gas guzzling". ;)
     
  8. techntrek

    techntrek Member

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    It doesn't matter where you live, there are always multiple modes of utility failure (all utilities, not just NG). People in the plains may not worry about earthquake damage but a tornado will wipe out NG just as fast - destroying above-ground junction and pumping stations or taking out electric lines miles away. On the east coast I don't worry much about earthquakes or tornadoes, but a hurricane will do the same as a tornado. I pointed out already that a hurricane did that very thing close to me - no electric meant no NG after just a few hours. A few million people in Tennessee and Kentucky don't care about hurricanes but their New Madrid fault is potentially far worse than any fault in California. The list goes on.

    There are thousands of things that can go wrong upstream from your house that will stop the flow of NG in a disaster - pipes, pipe junctions, pumps, dozens of electric feeders. Gasoline or LPG on-site eliminates most of those failure modes. You are making the same mistake as Netbook and assuming that just because one possible source of failure can't happen to you, you are safe. As an engineer you should know that chaos never takes a break - its the natural state of the universe. Saying "my NG supply is safe" is very myopic.
     
  9. Rebound

    Rebound Senior Member

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    I have a few questions.
    1) A 2000 watt inverter will work?
    2) Modified or pure sine wave?
    3) I'm familiar with the panel which receives line voltage from the power company. It receives 125 Amps from the pole and passes 100 A to the sub-panel that powers our home. A few additional breakers power our A/C, Furnace, detached garage, and the outlet for my Prius. I attached a photo. How do I wire the inverter into this panel? It looks like I can easily disconnect power from the pole by throwing the 125 A breakers.
    4) Distance from my car to the service panel is a straight shot about 30 or 40 feed down my driveway. What sort of cable would I run from the inverter inside my car to my service panel?

    I installed the circuit and outlet for my Prius, so I know how to safely work on my panel. I'm just not familiar with what I'll need to install to tie the inverter into my home.
     

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  10. ralleia

    ralleia Active Member

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    Yes we have tornadoes in the midwest.

    However, tornadoes tend to be extremely localized events.

    In the event that a tornado occurs that is not extremely localized (take the tornado that wiped a significant portion of Joplin, Missouri off the map), you don't need natural gas any more because you don't have a house to use it.

    In any case, if we lost natural gas in our house, we would not be in any difficulty. All we would lose is fast hot water, and the stove if we ever convert from an electric stove to gas.

    We heat with an efficient model of wood stove, which requires neither electricity nor natural gas to function.

    In a pinch we have used it to cook during the winter as well.

    So we don't need our NG at all. But as I said, the midwest is not subject to the kind of disaster that would disrupt that supply while the demand is still there.

    What would y'all need the NG for anyhow after a major quake in California?

    When the power goes out, even the people with gas central furnaces are freezing to death in their own homes.

    No power to drive the central fan motor, after all.
     
  11. Rebound

    Rebound Senior Member

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    Folks, this thread would be a whole lot better if we just stuck to the mechanics of getting electricity out of a Prius instead of a discussion about how to plan for every possible disaster contingency.
     
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  12. techntrek

    techntrek Member

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    If you are tapping the 12 volt system don't waste your money on anything more than a 1000 watt inverter - that is the most it can handle continuously. I would bet it could handle brief surges above that which would be entirely handled by the 12 volt battery, but that battery is small and is a deep cycle design which isn't designed to handle surges. Bottom line, keep your loads below 1000 watts.

    At 1000 watts a pure sine wave inverter will be expensive, modified sine wave is cheap. However, there are advantages to pure sine wave. Most appliances operate more efficiently on pure sine wave, especially motors. Some rare appliances can be damaged by modified sine wave, such as some shavers with built-in chargers and I found an X10 controller which I almost fried in a test. Some things like furnace blowers now have electronic control boards which will not run from modified sine wave.

    The right way to hook up your inverter is to have a subpanel installed, with a transfer switch to swap the loads from one source to the other. Then there will be a plug - on your case a 15-20 amp plug - on the wall which will allow you to plug a regular extension cord between the inverter and that wall-mounted plug. That won't be cheap. There is a way to do it the wrong way with no subpanel or transfer switch but I won't recommend it or describe it. You could kill a lineman, you could blow up your inverter.

    There is a better cheap option if you want it. Run an extension cord through a window to power your TV and a light. Have your furnace's power line converted so it has a plug that plugs into a dedicated outlet - this isn't to code in most areas but not dangerous. Less than an hour's job for an electrician and many wouldn't have a problem doing it. Then over the winter you could plug your furnace into your inverter via an extension cord.

    Doing the better options above, make sure you spend the money for good 10 or 12 gauge extension cords. Don't use cheap 12 or 14 gauge cords (smaller number = bigger wire).
     
  13. bwilson4web

    bwilson4web BMW i3 and Model 3

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    quote="Rebound, post: 1764878, member: 62808"
    I have a few questions.
    1) A 2000 watt inverter will work? - There is only 1 kW sustained but you can draw extra power from the battery for 10s of seconds. I'm using a 1.5 kW in my wife's car and it draws excess power from the battery at 1.5 kW load for about 20-30 seconds . . . long enough to get a motor spinning.
    2) Modified or pure sine wave? - Sine waves solve a lot of interface problems but their efficiency in the past has not been so great. They do go through extension cords fairly well. A modified sine wave tends to have higher efficiency but you need to test loads before an emergency to make sure they don't overheat or have other issues. They have a higher loss through an extension cord.
    3) I'm familiar with the panel which receives line voltage from the power company. It receives 125 Amps from the pole and passes 100 A to the sub-panel that powers our home. A few additional breakers power our A/C, Furnace, detached garage, and the outlet for my Prius. I attached a photo. How do I wire the inverter into this panel? It looks like I can easily disconnect power from the pole by throwing the 125 A breakers. - Leave it alone unless you have an electrician's license. Extension cords from the car won't risk the house insurance and work 'good enough.'
    4) Distance from my car to the service panel is a straight shot about 30 or 40 feed down my driveway. What sort of cable would I run from the inverter inside my car to my service panel? - I can't help on the panel.

    I installed the circuit and outlet for my Prius, so I know how to safely work on my panel. I'm just not familiar with what I'll need to install to tie the inverter into my home.
    /quote
     
  14. Rebound

    Rebound Senior Member

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    Thank you very much for the advice. I get it-- this solution drives about nine amps over an extension cord, not 50 amps through your house. It sounds do-able, except that I'll need to come up with a way to power the cable modem and router up in my attic. They don't draw much, so maybe a UPS will cover them... and maybe I can carry the UPS downstairs and recharge it if the outage is really long.

    Living in the SF Bay Area, I'm not too concerned about running my (gas) heater. Even in the dead of winter, we can survive just fine with blankets and sweaters. I have a Coleman camp stove in the garage which will handle cooking ( outdoors) if needed.

    Since I have a Plug-in, maybe I can power my EVSE from the inverter.... ;-)

    (Yes, that was a joke. Nobody is possibly that stupid).
     
  15. fuzzy1

    fuzzy1 Senior Member

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    Your electric utility won't trust the lives of its line workers to your memory and competence to throw that breaker. It requires a transfer switch, to mechanically guarantee there is no electrical path from your inverter or generator to their power lines. Otherwise, their repair crew could be injured or killed by your (or a family member's) mistake.

    Get a licensed professional to install this switch.

    The 12 gauge extension cord for my electric lawnmower will handle everything I need to run from a Prius inverter. A cord and power strip will automatically bypass all those hardwired and 'ghost' or 'phantom' loads that are not needed in these situations but are always plugged in and drawing some power. And it will keep other family members from inadvertently (or sneakily) turning on unnecessary devices that would overload the inverter.
     
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  16. fuzzy1

    fuzzy1 Senior Member

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    During an outage, can you jury-rig a light extension cord up there, and keep it from being a tripping hazard?
     
  17. bwilson4web

    bwilson4web BMW i3 and Model 3

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    Several thoughts:
    • Find a path for a long, light duty extension cord - it may take a couple of photos and tracing sketches in PowerPoint to map joints, windows, plumbing vent pipes, e.t.c.
    • Is there a 4-wire, phone line that goes into another accessible area - many 4-wire lines have two for the telephone and the outer pair for the old 'Princess' lighted dial. If the modem and router (two or one?) use a 'power brick', you might be able to send enough low voltage power from the other area, more accessible, to the spare-pair. It is light gauge wire so you'll want a fuse to protect the wire.
    • Consider installing Cat-5 ethernet run - looking a lot like a phone line, a Cat-5 cable from the attic to an easily accessible area is entirely possible, a dedicated circuit. By keeping the current flow limited to say 100 ma. it would provide another alternative power path with data options.
    But in the event of a power outage, will your cable modem service still be up?

    For the past four years, we've been using T-Mobil, unlimited data. During the four day, power outage in April 2011 when the TVA power lines were wiped out, we still had:
    1. Some cell-phone service and low-speed, limited data
    2. No cable TV but we did get HDTV
    We're using a T-mobile 'hotspot' and very happy. It has a battery and USB based, charging. We are 'grandfathered' with a $40/month, unlimited service. When we exceed the data limit, they just rate limit us down but no extra charges.

    Bob Wilson
     
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  18. Rebound

    Rebound Senior Member

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    I got it. I'm not going to bother with wiring my whole home to the Prius. I used to live in Big Sur, and power outages were very common. I could see the value of getting a big 40 or 80 amp generator and a big gas tank, and a transfer switch. But it doesn't seem necessary for my city life.

    I like the idea of having this portable electric power source. I'll more likely use it for camping or a family event than a disaster. Plug-in owner USBSeawolf got through Hurricane Sandy more easily because he didn't have to deal with the gas rationing and gas lines that came in the hurricane's aftermath. So you never know...
     
  19. DadofHedgehog

    DadofHedgehog Active Member

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    Rebound, consider one of these:

    Products | Reliance Controls Corporation
     
  20. Prius C2er

    Prius C2er New Member

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    Hi Bob,
    Thank you for all your helpful advice, I've enjoyed reading it.
    I am interested in setting up a removable 1000W inverter to my Prius C in case of emergencies. I'd like to connect and be able to leave hidden the wiring portion to the battery. When an emergency does come up I should be able to attach the inverter to the wiring. You've mentioned that Anderson connectors are inefficient for high current applications , is there another type of connector that you would recommend?
    Another simpler option would just be have the wiring end in ring terminals which are capped. In an emergency these caps could be removed and attached to the inverter. This seems like the simplest solution which offers the most efficiency but if there is a good connector that would do the job, it would be more convenient, even if it is just for emergencies.
    Also I would appreciate any advice you have on the necessity of a fuse in this setup and if you do what you would recommend. Thanks

    BTW, I was interested in connecting to the traction battery to be able to use a higher watt inverter, such as the 3000W inverter previously discussed. The problem was that the Prius C has a smaller traction battery with a lower voltage (144V). I haven't been able to find information about whether this smaller battery is able to support the same inverters that the liftback Prius can so it wasn't clear if it was worth spending more money to get a more capable inverter if the battery couldn't handle it.
     
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