Options for running an inverter during a power outage.

Living in the country means that sometimes the power is going to be off for extended periods of time. I know that I could buy a whole house generator and be done with it but I’m not ready to make that kind of investment yet. Especially since my wife is always trying to get me to move. I also could buy a portable generator but I’d like to save that idea for another thread.

I have a couple of 700 watt inverters that I will generally break out when the power goes off. My electricity requirements are pretty low in these situations. All I really want is to run my LCD TV, my DVR and my WiFi. I’m not worried about heat, the fridge or freezer.

My options for powering the inverters are either of our vehicles or a 25 horse lawn mower. One vehicle is a 2 liter Subaru and the other is a 3.5 liter Honda. Are any of these internal combustion solutions better than the other? My Honda Ridgeline also has a 400 watt inverter built into the bed so that could be used as well.

Your advice/suggestions would be appreciated.

Just wanted to mention that I’ve seen videos where folks have modified Prius Hybrids to power their homes during outages.

Here’s one story.

Interesting. The thing I’d really want to power is the oil burner. Twenty years ago (Jan. 1998) we lost power for a week and some didn’t get power back for a month or more. Ice storm. But I don’t have a Prius. A light bulb or two would be nice. Unfortunately, the fridge and freezer are power hogs.

I have a friend who rigged up a used alternator to a B&S lawn mower engine. They are mounted to a piece of plywood and use a simple fan belt to transfer power. As I recall, he had to experiment a bit or do some calculations to get the pulley ratio right, but it seems to work just fine. He runs a 2000 watt inverter using this rig, but he has told me that he thinks he could go a lot larger with the the inverter. He already had the alternator, the engine, and the inverter, so he only had to buy the pulley(s) and belt. I noticed that he does keep a car battery across the alternator output and he has to fiddle with the governor a bit. I never know if he’s full of BS or not, but he claims 6-8 hours of run time on a gallon of gas.

We have a fireplace and a backup propane wall heater so heat isn’t really an issue.

One-time bump. Anybody? Beuller?

OK, those are not generators, and their alternators will not produce that much power during idling, the alternators are basically spinning just fast enough to maintain the needs of the car.

What you want to look for is how good the batteries are, and use them but not over use them. It may take several hours of highway driving (not a couple of hours, not a few hours, but several hours) to put back what you took out even if you let the car idle.

However if you can get the idle up to perhaps 3000 RPM (by whatever means) you may be producing enough for some load.

So in short, buy a portable gas generator, I have one, 15 yrs old, gas, works fine - 2 oil changes over the years + using gas stabilizer), much better then the inverter solution I tried before I bought a gas generator.

Look up the vehicles and find out the size of their alternators (how many amps).

You might consider a portable generator (gasoline or propane). For example one well reviewed unit is the Honda EU2200i 2200-Watt 120-Volt Super Quiet Portable Inverter Generator available for $1,000 on Amazon. But other brands are significantly cheaper.

To save money you might look on Craigslist for a used one.

Just to mention that rating is not what you get at idle, but at a specific RPM range, which is usually on the very high range. At idle it may be about 10% of the rated output. Now there are alternators made for low RPM’s however those are usually used in cars/trucks (usually trucks) with dual alternator setups where one would be a ‘normal’ alternator and one would be a low RPM alternator.