Feeling a bit more prepared – PTO generator

Two weekends ago I went and picked up a 12kw pto generator I had been eying on Craigslist for a couple months. It had dropped in price from $1400 (which I thought was high, but fair if you were going to buy a new one), to $1200, finally to $1000. For that I got the generator (about $1400 new for a 12kw, $1000 for a 7kw), pto shaft ($75 used to 200 new), a 3pt carryall the generator is mounted to ($100), and a full house disconnect / transfer switch (knife style rated to 200A, the guy told me $500 new and I believe it). My tractor has 19hp at the PTO, good for about 10kw continuous.

Last weekend was my preparing for winter weekend. Part of that was verifying the suicide cord was wired right, then shutting off the power to the house and running the house off the generator for a few minutes. I could barely tell when the well pump kicked on (here we have shallow wells and therefor only have about 1/2-1hp well pumps). I had previously checked the starting amperage (using a cheap Harbor Freight clamp on multi-meter) and it peaked at around 30 or so amps for a split second. The well kicked on while ALL circuits were on (so all the lights were on, furnace may have been running, etc). There were no issues at all running the house, though the tractor and generator were fairly loud in the garage (but probably quieter than a normal generator).

This year I’ll be using a suicide cord and backfeeding, though I will probably make an interlock to prevent errors. It IS a lot to remember. Flip all breakers off including the main, then plug in both sides of the cord, get the PTO up to speed, then flip on the generator breaker and the backfeed breaker, than start turning the other breakers on. Next year I want to get the nice full house transfer wired in and then have a wire run to the pole barn so I can put the tractor in the pole barn to get it a bit further away from the house for noise purposes (and so I don’t have to have the garage door open potentially in the middle of a storm).

So in addition to verifying the ability to run the house on the generator I also brought the snowblower in for seasonal and routine maintenance. Everything is now greased and oiled. I also discovered while going through the manual that I had the wrong bolts for one of the shear bolts, so when I was at tractor supply I picked up the correct size/grade of bolts. The auger bolts have a special bolt that has a groove cut or rolled into it, but the fan uses normal grade 5 bolts. While I was there they had a Big Buddy heater for $90, which is as cheap as I’ve ever seen it. For comparison, amazon currently has it for $130. Tractor Supply had it on black friday for $100, so the $90 was a really good deal. My motivation for picking this up was primarily that it holds 2 tanks, so in the event my wife needs to use it she is less likely to need to have to find and change out the tanks. Also it has a low pressure quick disconnect for hooking up to a bulk tank (of course, you can always use the hose that converts to a disposable tank threads), though that hose looks to be in the $40-50 range so I may just use the cheap style like this ). However, you are NOT supposed to bring the grill tank inside! I found why today working in the garage when one of my heaters had a small leak where it screwed into the tank. I’m not sure exactly why, but I smelled propane coming from the connector. Propane is heavier than air, so if you have a leak 20lbs can cause quite an issue if it does leak and doesn’t ignite right away (and this leak did not ignite, even though I could smell the propane from a couple feet away!!!). So I MAY use one of the adapter hoses in the garage while I am there, but that is one of the reasons I like refilling the 1lb tanks and using those; it is more portable and less likely to leak IN USE. They CAN leak in storage though, but that is true of both cylinders that have been refilled and also cylinders that have simply been used at all. Contamination can lodge in the valve and cause a leak. This is why I store all the tanks in the garage.

I also lucked out when I went to sams for some normal stuff, as I was going through the isles I was going to pick up some pinto beans for canning (this sams previously didn’t have beans but added them about 6 months ago). They had their organic black beans, normally $11 for a 10lb bag selling for $6 for a 10lb bag! I got all 4 bags they had out on the shelf. It did not look like a sale though or an instant rebate situation, it looked like what they’d normally sell it for now. Now I have about 45lbs of black beans to can, this should last us at least a year or two. I’d like to get a few more bags as that is the cheapest I’ve ever seen black beans. I picked up a 25lb sack of pinto beans, I’m not sure if I’ll add those to long term storage or can them up as well.

So from a preparedness standpoint the last couple weeks have been pretty productive! I spent today working on cleaning and organizing in the garage so there will be room to park for the winter. I am nearly done there, I also had a bit of time to get my tarp up on the pole barn so rain (or in the not so distant future, snow) wont be able to blow in any more. All in all, its been a pretty good couple weeks and I still have this coming weekend to do a bit more.

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