Thermoelectric Generators

Chip Fetrow tacos at
Tue Dec 11 23:27:42 CST 2012

I have looked at various load shedding controllers for both the  
generator, and for day to day use.

Virginia now has time of day and other metering plans for power.   
These controllers will limit peak load during high cost hours to lower  
the power bill.  Turning off the hot water heater for a while is  
generally not an issue.  They will actually modify your clothes dryer  
to allow it to continue to roll the drum and blow air, with the heater  
elements off.  They will also disable the auxiliary heat and emergency  
heat strips in your heat pump, and even disable the heat pump entirely.

Of course, using such a smart power controller can lower the needed  
capacity of the generator too.  So far, I have yet to be convinced  
that such a controller is a good investment, mostly because it takes  
five to seven years to pay for itself.  I am also not sure how my  
really smart dryer would react if its heaters are shut off.

Like you, I COULD do it manually, but I worry what would happen if I  
were not home.  Only one thing happens if a generator occurs if it is  
overloaded -- it stops.  That is not good.

I also want to take the water jacket heat and circulate it under my  
sidewalks and driveway.  I have absolutely no problem with going off  
grid for power in order to melt snow.  Using electricity from Virginia  
Power to melt snow it just far too expensive, but generating  
electricity in order to use the free heat to melt snow is a very nice  

I once had a radio station generator off grid for 15 days -- big ice  
storm.  I had to daily go to a gas station for diesel and pay for road  
taxed diesel to run the generator.  The price of fuel, and the  
required service once power was restored was well less than HALF of  
the price of electricity from the coop.  I actually considered  
installing two prime movers (main and alternate main, so we would have  
a back up) to cut our energy costs in less than half, but all it would  
have meant would have been MUCH more work for me, and no thanks from  
management.  I actually did this near Seattle for a temporary  
installation.  The cost of bringing in power to the site was just too  


On Dec 11, 2012, at 5:37 PM, <wb4jfi at> wrote:

> FYI:
> You may not need as big of a generator as you think.
> I have two separate 200A breaker panels with separate feeds from the  
> meter. There are two larger A/C units, plus a third ductless mini- 
> split for the shack, and lots of other electrical stuff. (My next  
> door neighbor had recently installed a 20kW Generac)  When I first  
> looked at a whole-house generator, every company said that I needed  
> at least a 38kW generator, some even confirmed that with Generac.   
> The cost was north of $35,000, and the generators were all water- 
> cooled small automobile engines.  No way was I going to afford that,  
> and I wasn't going to mess with car engine generators either.   OF  
> course these electrical contractors were not the brightest bulbs in  
> general, one even told me that the joule was named after a famous  
> Chinese person.
> Then, I found an electrical company that was subcontracting on some  
> other work here.  I told him of my story, he looked at the panels,  
> and told me that Generac has an ATS that uses smart technology (the  
> Nexus line), which can shed loads based on current loading.  That  
> way I only needed a 20kW, nat-gas, air-cooled Generac unit.  So far,  
> it has worked wonderfully.  The cost was one-fourth of what others  
> were saying.  I had planned to implement "manual load shedding" (me  
> tripping breakers as necessary) to reduce the load requirements, but  
> the Nexus will do that even if I am not home at the time.
> In an unprecedented resolution, the generator came in on-time and  
> under-budget.  I realize that I WILL pay for that sometime in the  
> future.
> So, check out the newer, smarter technologies out there.  You may  
> not need as big a generator.
> 73,
> Terry, WB4JFI
> -----Original Message----- From: Chip Fetrow
> Sent: Tuesday, December 11, 2012 5:04 AM
> To: tacos at
> Subject: RE: Thermoelectric Generators
> Well, most people don't prepare at all.  Not at all.  I basically feel
> they deserve to freeze or starve.
> They don't even have a dozen AA cells in the freezer or 'fridge.
> You have got to wonder.
> I have only a 2 kVA Honda Inverter generator.  It runs mostly
> everything I need except the HVAC.  Still, I have had neighbors come
> buy to ask to plug in cell phone chargers.  I not only allow it but I
> give them an outlet strip.  I allow as many to plug is as appear.  I
> have dozens of outlet strips as a result of decommisioning a radio
> network, so iI could likely accomidate a hundred chargers.  It would
> be a real mess on the front porch.  I don't recall more than six
> plugging into the generator.
> I plan to get a 40 kVA generator for the entire house.  Of course, my
> wife and I need to become employeed, a problem for both of us right
> now.  However once we have jobs and don't have to worry about the
> bills, I will install a 40 kVA generator and put two or three 10
> Ampere outlets on it for those living closest to us.  Hey, they need
> to live with the noise, even though I plan to buy a low noise gen-set.
> They can plug in there 'fridge or some other low load.  If they want
> to plug in something larger, the breaker will trip.
> HEY, IT IS FEE.  Get over it.
> --chip
> On Dec 10, 2012, at 1:00 PM, tacos-request at wrote:
>> Message: 1
>> Date: Mon, 10 Dec 2012 10:56:26 -0500
>> From: Richard O'Neill <richardoneill at>
>> To: Tacos AMRAD <tacos at>
>> Subject: Thermoelectric Generators
>> "They were actually using these in NYC shelters to charge things like
>> cellphones after Sandy. They apparently work pretty well."
>> Mark,
>> So, these devices do have some practicality after all, at least in   
>> an urban environment - following a major calamity. Can you direct  
>> me  to any links that describe their use following Sandy's  
>> passage?  Personally, in that sort of situation I'd place far  
>> higher priority  on obtaining shelter, potable water and food than  
>> recharging a cell  phone. My, how times have changed. I suppose  
>> these devices are now  considered essential for urban folks used to  
>> a daily reliance on them.
>> I can see where such a puny power source such as this could be a   
>> life saver for those otherwise unprepared for an infrastructure   
>> collapse. Few really are. However, the fact that these devices   
>> require three to five hours of burn time to recharge a cell phone   
>> seems pitifully inadequate for all but the most dire circumstances  
>> -  which did exist for so many for far longer than they ever  
>> expected.  The Boy Scout motto about always being prepared is still  
>> good advice.
>> Richard
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