natural gas generator to run house?

Discussion in 'Homesteading Questions' started by Granny Sue, Oct 19, 2010.

  1. Granny Sue

    Granny Sue Well-Known Member

    Jan 12, 2009
    Does anyone on here use a natural gas generator as their main electrical source for their home? If so what are the pluses and minuses of such a system? Is it noisy? require a lot of maintenance? costs to operate? We have free gas and I'm playing with this idea but don't know anyone who has such a system.
  2. TnAndy

    TnAndy Well-Known Member Supporter

    Sep 15, 2005
    EastTN: Former State of Franklin
    I would install one as a backup, if I had free gas. I would also make sure everything in the house that could use gas ( stove, oven, water heater, dryer, house heat ) was on gas, and that would reduce the need for electricity considerably.

    But I doubt I'd install a generator for the purpose of generating ALL my electricity using gas, because I suspect when you factor in the cost/life of the generator, the maintenance, you'll STILL be way above grid power prices.

  3. ryanthomas

    ryanthomas Well-Known Member

    Dec 9, 2009
    The ones intended for backup power would not be a good match. They generally require an oil change about every 200 hours of run time. And while they're not nearly as loud as portable gasoline generators, they are certainly not quiet either. I doubt they would last more than a year or so running continuously. And they're expensive for the large ones that can run the whole house.

    But maybe a homemade system made from an engine salvaged from a small car, with a natural gas carburetor. Even then, I would only run it part of the day and charge batteries for the low load times.
  4. farminghandyman

    farminghandyman Well-Known Member Supporter

    Mar 4, 2005
    say a good quality car engine, will last 250,000 miles, now a generator will run a either 1800 or 3600 rpm, lest just say the 1800 rpm which is cruising speed for many engines,
    OK lest divide that by 60 for 60 miles an hour, which results in 4166 hrs of use, in that 250,000 miles, now lest divide that by 24 hours,, that is 173.58 days, or not quite 6 months,

    now say you have a true industrial engine, that may last 10,000 hours, or about a years of use out of it,

    now if you did the generator, a battery bank and a good inverter that has a generator switch that will charge the batteries when needed, your run time if the battery bank is properly sized, may be in just a few hours a day, vs continuous,

    and you would most likely still want a full voltage generator for power, beyond the capacity of the inverter so you can power larger items.

    I did see a system that used a set up similar to what I described, as well, but they went a step farther, they used the wasted heat, (radiator, or the water heated via the engine), and used the heat that was produced by the engine to heat water and could be used for home heat as well via a heat exchanger,

    this set up I am talking about, they use the generator on wash day, pumped water, generated power for washer, (and possibly dryer), and charged the batteries on that day, and he would try to keep power tool use to that day as well,
    (now the story I am referring to was in Alaska and not free fuel, but if you could reduce your wear use down to say 1/7 of 24 hours run, in sted of getting 6 months of use out of a engine one may get 3 to 4 years out of it,

    just some ideas,
    Last edited: Oct 19, 2010
  5. ||Downhome||

    ||Downhome|| Born in the wrong Century

    Jan 11, 2009
    Im envious granny! for one your down in WV where I so want to be but to top it off you have free gas!

    FHM has it down, you could get by with a backup gen setup.

    the key as he points out is you don't want be running 24/7 even a commercial quality setup.

    use it for the heavy loads and as needed and as a backup to other battery charging methods such as pv and wind and if your real lucky hydro.

    in looking for a place down there I have come across places with a NG gens and free gas leases. though no PV or wind installs.

    I would think,though I never looked into it you could change the orifice in a absorption fridge (propane) over for NG and that would kill alot of you around the clock high power need. the little fridge I have on high actually becomes a freezer.

    my plan was to do something like that and use it to make ice for a Icebox, though I'm going to bet you have a root cellar and maybe even a good place for a spring house.
    then if you got the gumption you could even set up an ice house.

    first step is to size your requirements, then do your shopping and comparisons.
    basically a feasibility study.

    as far as noise with a properly sized muffler you should not have a lot of noise and if you
    aim the exhaust up that will cut it down too.

    here's a diagram I worked up,though on my ideal system I would not have the utility power so the first transfer switch would not be in the system. I figure for a low end system 1500-2500 the gen will be the bulk of that and that's not any pv or wind power.
    you can go up from there though.


    ats-auto transfer switch
    ags-auto generator start circuit
    cos-cut out switch

    part of my plan is modifiying the inverter slightly by installing too jacks one for a relay to plug into to turn off the inverter and another to control the ags by tapping into the low voltage alarm on the inverter to call for the generator start.
    Last edited: Oct 19, 2010
  6. I also live in WV , also have free gas & I've been beating my head against the wall trying to figure out a feasible way to generate electricity using natural gas . Other than a back up generator , no luck so far .
  7. PastTense

    PastTense Active Member

    Mar 22, 2010
    Could someone explain how you get free gas?
  8. dragonjaze

    dragonjaze hating the 'burbs! Supporter

    Sep 8, 2010
    N. IL, wishing I was in W WA

    but seriously, I was wondering too. Is this a low income program or???
  9. Our Little Farm

    Our Little Farm Well-Known Member Supporter

    Apr 26, 2010
    Some folks have gas rights with their properties to wells on their land or close to their land.
  10. Bearfootfarm

    Bearfootfarm Hello, there anybody in there.....? Supporter

    Jul 12, 2006
    Eastern North Carolina
    If I had free gas, I'd be looking for a steam powered generator system
  11. texican

    texican Well-Known Member

    Oct 3, 2003
    Carthage, Texas
    If you have a gas well on your land, or your land is in a gas unit, AND the original gas unit had a free gas clause, you can get free gas. 99 times out of 100, they'll not 'allow' you to hook up. If you hook up anyway, they'll know immediately... but, if you confront them (nicely, of course), and inform them of your right, with documentation, they'll have to go to court to get you disconnected.

    I'm on free legal gas. None of the owners of the gas well 'like it', but there ain't diddly they can do about it. Back with my first 'run-in' with the company (after I went guerrilla and hooked up) I checked with the district judge... he gave me some free advice (outside of his office) saying to do it, if they wanted to disconnect me, it'd come before him, and he had a feeling that he'd rule in my behalf. Helps having friends in high places!

    If you have gas wells in your area, and have had them for decades (NO one hardly has free gas rights in new lease contracts), find out if your land is in a lease, and find the original lease papers.... and check for a free gas clause.

    [this is what I do for a living... read old deeds]

    I have a gas stove, gas heaters, gas hot water, even gas lights. All my research on gas generators says NO. I've had hopes for over a decade that fuel cells would become mainstream.

    Wanting to build a gas fired kiln, so I could make my own floor and roofing tiles... will be heating a greenhouse as soon as I can get er built...

    Life is Good when your energy bills are zero.
  12. farmgal

    farmgal Well-Known Member Supporter

    Nov 12, 2005
    One dont run the generator constant. You run for maybe an hour to charge battery packs.

    I have a gaswell. Never had any problems with hooking anything into it. Get sweet royalty checks also. life is good.

    the generators do make noise but you can enclose it. I guess they make some that are more quiet than others. Hook up a wind mill also. It is illegal in many places to just run generator for environmental pollution reasons.
    Last edited: Oct 19, 2010
  13. In my case my father-in law owns the mineral rights under my property . When he leased the gas rights out it was stipulated in the lease that the property would get unlimited free gas if they drilled on the property . At the time he also owned the property & I bought the property from him . They drilled 1 well & it's a good one & they have a site surveyed out to drill a second well . My father-in-law gets a nice royalty check monthly & I get free gas .
    I've also searched the web for a residential size natural gas air conditioner & it seems they don't make them anymore . From what I've read they were made several years ago .
    Last edited by a moderator: Oct 19, 2010
  14. fordy

    fordy Well-Known Member

    Sep 13, 2003
    Whiskey Flats(Ft. Worth) , Tx
    .............After thinking about this situation it seems that the most logical answer is also the most capital intensive.........First off you have (5) sources of "Free" energy.......Sun , Wind , Natural Gas , Hydo and Wood assuming you have trees on your property . Almost all homesteaders have the sun and wind , and the very privilaged have natural gas too boot . So , too maximize the utility of your resources you need too think "Big" , this is where the capital comes in . Of all the 5 sources only (2) are Potentially 24/7.....wind and natural gas , and logically , only natural gas is the true and trustworthy 24/7 provider . This is where an individual should consider investing in a wingin of about 20kw . if possible . Generating electricial energy fron natural gas involves (2) choices , an internal combustion engine\generator OR steam engine\generator . This is where a homesteader might want too consult with a mechanical engineer as too which has the longest service life vs. investment required , and my guess is , IS that a natural gas powered engine would be considerably cheaper than a steam engine .
    .....................Almost every natural gas well here in north texas has a natural gas powered compressor which takes Ng from the pipeline and pumps it BACK into the well because the well , often times will not voluntarily produce gas because the pipe is full of salt water so the compressor provides the energy too push the salt water too the surface which allows the well too push its Ng too the surface where the two are separated . Now , the reason I bring this UP is because a person could take a compressor engine and replace the compressor with a generator . Most of the compressor engines made by CAT are Diesel engines converted too run on natural gas ! Which means they have very long service lives , IF they receive regular maintenance . We are talking 20 to 30,000 operational hours or more . And , really the most logical thing to do is too try and purchase a natural Gas powered generator at a large auction like Richey bros. I have no idea what the cost factor might be but I'd look at something in the 20 to 30kw range which wouldn't require a real large engine .
    ........................It takes 1 Hp = 746 watts , so 30kw divided by 746 = 40 Hp , or 50Hp at the most ! That translates into a 3 or 4 cylinder , INline type configuration engine . That would seem too be a financially feasible option . , fordy
  15. Granny Sue

    Granny Sue Well-Known Member

    Jan 12, 2009
    A gas well was drilled on our property in 2007. I didn't want it but since we did not own the leasing rights (we do own 50% of minerals on that parcel) I could not prevent the drilling, hard though I fought against it. So we have this well on one of the best building sites on our land, a prime location. They paid us for surface damage, right-of-way, etc. For our part of the mineral rights we get a monthly royalty check and free gas, which is stipulated in the paperwork for our well so I have that in writing, which some neighbors do not.

    The well has been in for 3 years; we're just now hooking up to the gas because the well is 1/2 mile from our house and we had to run all lines ourselves. No one even checks to be sure it's safe, leak-free, etc--it's a do-it-yourself operation all the way. We have a gas cooking stove and will be installing a gas hw heater, dryer, and furnace. Not sure about gaslights, but plan on getting a gas fridge from Lehman's. I would like to generate some of our power, so the advice above, though some of it is over my head!--is helpful. I've looked at generators big enough for our needs and the costs look like about $10,000. Then there is the installation, battery banks, a building etc. Since we're both almost 60, I'm not sure this is cost effective--I expect to be on this farm another 20 years, but beyond that? Who knows.
  16. davel745

    davel745 Well-Known Member

    Feb 2, 2009
    Try this guy he can get something for you.

    I too suggest you only run the generator for a few hours a day.

    The natural gas generators last a long time. The run very clean and with normal oil changes and air filters I would think you could get 10 years out of a unit without a major tear down.

    Best regards,