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Portable generator to power garage workshop?

6864 Views 6 Replies 7 Participants Last post by  Manitario
Hey, guys-

I've been fortunate enough to be in a rental house for the past couple of years with a 60-amp sub panel in the garage, so powering all of my woodworking tools & machines hasn't been a problem. However, my landlord is kicking us out (selling the house), so I need to find another rental house with a garage pretty quickly.

I live in the Los Angeles area, where most houses have "detached" garages with little or no electrical running to them. So, I'm thinking about installing a small panel in the garage and powering it with a portable generator. Some of my machines (jointer, table saw, dust collector) run on 220-volts and I'll likely need to power a window AC unit, too.

Any of you guys power your shops with portable generators? If so, what size did you get? Other than it being noisy and having to constantly refill the gas tank, are there any problems with this type of setup?

- Jason
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I can't help much, as I don't have a portable generator system but I have a permanent backup generator for my house and I can tell you you will need a fairly big generator, to meet your plans. I also recommend checking out the voltage regulator capability on whichever generator you go with because some of them do not hold power levels that closely. You need steady power levels, both volts and amps, to not damage the motors on your equipment.
There may be restrictions on 'permanently' mounting a generator in a static application as the primary power source. Generators can out put inconsistent power so you may want to ensure your unit has sufficient capacity. If I were your neighbor I may have a bit of a problem with the unsteady nature of the revving and idling of the generator while you are working. It is probably easier to 'get used' to a constant noise but as your generator will be responding to the work load on it it may be pretty hard to ignore. Wouldn't it be cheaper just to run more power?
It would cost you less to run electricity to the garage than using a generator. Unless maybe a diesel one which starts at 10G's. You always can lease the garage (if it is detached) for a duration. Also, the landlord might give you a break on the rent if you run the electric to the garage.
Depend on the size of the motors you have to start and run.
And how many motors you have running at once.
A horsepower is ~735 watts and you need about 2 to 3 times that many watts to start a motor.
So, if you have a 3 hp motor that's about 2200 watts before allowing for efficiency and conversion loss and you would need about a 6000 watt generator to start it.
The bigger the generator you have the better this will work.
I'd go with a 10kw unit if it was me; especially for running a machine and a dust collector and an air conditioner.
Here are a couple that would comfortably power a shop. Also figure 1-5 gallons an hour for fuel. For powering a shop I would go diesel and nothing under 15k watts.

When it's all said and done you could probably have a separate 200 service set on the garage and be money ahead. Or you could sell power to the neighbors.
I have a gas 5000W generator that won't even fire up my mitre saw without its breakers tripping; our house has a 7000W backup generator that runs on propane and cost about $6500 to get installed. Conversely it cost me $1400 to run 100amp service to my garage about 50ft from my house…
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