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Old 10-30-2012
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Learning to live with less than 2K a day

Hurricane Sandy has knocked out power all around us here in central NJ. Two years ago before Hurricane Irene I purchased a Champion 2000 watt inverter type generator, similar to a Honda in concept. For $350 I couldn't pass it up. However my wife was pissed that I had bought a toy we didn't need. A couple of months ago during the summer the power was out for a day and it kept us from losing a freezer full of food, paid for!

Last night around 8 PM the power went out, and after driving around today I'll bet it will at least a few days possibly a week or more before it comes back.

I have an electrical background, so my house was converted to virtually all flouresent lighting in the first couple months that we were here, 25 years ago. The stove, water heater, and dryer are natural gas. I've been slowly converting to LED, because we never liked the warmup period for fluorescents, so my wife used that as an excuse to leave them on! So our power use, and bill is really quite low. When our heater was replaced about 10 years ago I popped for a variable speed inverter blower. So it comes up to speed slowly as the burner heats, no big inrush.

Lots of people went out and bought much larger generators, 5500 to maybe 8000 watts. Wouldn't want to be inconvenienced you know. Well the first thing is how do you connect it? Unless you had a transfer switch installed you'll be trying to run everything on extension cords, including stuff like the heater that don't have a plug.

These big generators that will run everything have a big problem. They run at full speed all the time, just to keep the 60 Hertz frequency. They have tanks that typically will run them for about four hours. That is typically about 2 gallons per hour. So every four hours you'll be refueling this thing, day and night at about $7 per hour for fuel! Try that for a week!

Running from 8:00 this morning until we turn in around 10 tonight used about 3 gallons of gas. All the lights in the house work. The heater works, the big screen TV works, my laptop and FIOS work, the refrigerator works, and a couple of times a day we turn it off for a few hours to let the big freezer run instead. I can't run the microwave, unless I turn everything else off. However I still have gas cooking and an oven.

This generator, like the Honda can be paralleled too. If I got a second one I could occasionally run them both, and then life would be very much like normal. However I think we can easily get by for a week on just this little bugger. I pity the people in the huge lines at the few open gas stations with the trunk full of five gallon gas gans, trying to get enough for just one day!

For those of you with generators. You change the oil in your car every 5000 miles don't you? That's 100 hours of run time. If you want your generator to last at all, change the oil at least that often!

Gary H. Lucas
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Re: Learning to live with less than 2K a day

Got a big gen set 8000 I think , wired transfer switch plug in the side of the house. We live out of town power goes out once or twice a year. I can run the whole house and a tank last 12 or more hours. The gen is basically not under load most of the time.
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Re: Learning to live with less than 2K a day

How does the delay work for engine spin up when suddenly connecting a 2000W load?

Yeah 3600 RPM is just too much to run continuously. We have a 1000W with a Briggs and Stratton 3HP but I know that at 3600 RPM it only has about 2 months of life at that speed. Since it's small and it doesn't get used much it does the job.

One of those 6HP air cooled diesel engines at 1800 RPM with a 2000VA generator on it would be great. It would use half as much fuel as a gasoline engine and probably last 8,000+ hours. You could probably run it on cheaper gasoline with some 2-stroke oil mixed in once you got it warmed up.
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Old 10-31-2012
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Re: Learning to live with less than 2K a day

For a moment I thought you meant learning to live with less than US$2000 a day!! Won't that be heaven.
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Re: Learning to live with less than 2K a day

my briggs and stratton --dont remember if it was a generac or some other b &s model--ran for 12 hours on a tank of gas--was 5000wtt machine- weighed in at gawdawfully heavy.... my honda has lasted now 10 yrs--looks like it, also...rough life on a boat.....glad you got good use of yours...awesome!
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Re: Learning to live with less than 2K a day

I've got to wonder how hard it would be to take a cheap generator apart and use the generator portion with our diesel engines.

I suppose you'd have to gear it up like 3:1 to get a diesel idle of 1k rpm to make 3k rpm on the generator - but really, how hard would that be to put on a power take off with a gear / lever to actuate it?

BTW, those Champions have a recall notice out, fuel leaks..
It couldn't cost as much as a installed generator (5k for little bitty ones).
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Re: Learning to live with less than 2K a day

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Originally Posted by trantor12020 View Post
For a moment I thought you meant learning to live with less than US$2000 a day!! Won't that be heaven.
Yeah. I was expecting a thread about some pimp-like behaviour by some insanely rich people.
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Re: Learning to live with less than 2K a day

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Originally Posted by chucklesR View Post
I've got to wonder how hard it would be to take a cheap generator apart and use the generator portion with our diesel engines.

I suppose you'd have to gear it up like 3:1 to get a diesel idle of 1k rpm to make 3k rpm on the generator - but really, how hard would that be to put on a power take off with a gear / lever to actuate it?

BTW, those Champions have a recall notice out, fuel leaks..
It couldn't cost as much as a installed generator (5k for little bitty ones).
It wouldn't be hard at all. The caveat is the diesel would have to run at steady rpm the whole time. You wouldn't be able to throttle it up while the generator PTO is engaged. Volts would spike, too much current in the generator windings... the generator would get cooked.

The alternator on your vehicle is being used exactly like you are imagining. The difference is the AC in your alternator is passing through a diode bridge (the voltage regulator) to make DC. As to the cooking part when the engine is revved- look at the sheer size of the windings for the tiny bit of output the thing is rated for. Alternators are way overbuilt, but they have to be to survive. The output current is also all over the place due to the variable RPM of the engine. It's really dirty power which is why your cell phone battery doesn't last long when you use a car charger all the time. (That is why a good power inverter with your household phone charger works so much better. It's slower, but your battery's life will be a whole lot longer.)

So, effectively, your main engine could very well become a diesel generator whenever the PTO is engaged. It would work just fine. Your electricity would just be that much more expensive to generate. (Hours on your main, fuel, etc)

Last edited by ShoalFinder; 10-31-2012 at 11:06 AM.
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Re: Learning to live with less than 2K a day

The alternator on a car engine puts out a AC at a high frequency which varies directly with the speed of the engine. The voltage is maintained at a constant ~14 volts by the regulator which adjusts the current going in to the thing in the middle which spins, called the field winding. It gets converted to DC by a rectifier and the battery smooths it out so the frequency doesn't matter. Alternators have a minimum speed at which they can put out the correct voltage at the rated current. This might be 2000 RPM with a 2.5:1 belt ratio.

You can just get a high current alternator like the people put on cars for their high wattage audio systems, and then put that on the boat. You could increase the belt ratio a little bit to make sure it is spinning fast enough when your engine is idling, or to allow you to idle even slower. Car alternators have to be able to handle 15,000 RPM because people rev their cars up to 6,000.

Then go buy a 2000W inverter (150 amps at ~13 volts) and run everything off that! As long as your diesel is loaded down and warming up all the way it won't be harmed by a slow idle.

Last edited by steel; 10-31-2012 at 11:30 AM.
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Re: Learning to live with less than 2K a day

There are generators designed specifically for residential applications that are fueled by natural gas. They are very efficient. They have an automatic transfer switch so when the power goes out the generator kicks in and all you have is a short power loss. What gets powered back up on generator power depends on the size of the generator and the homeowner's needs/wants.

The only thing you have to do is maintain it properly but any backup generator requires regular maintenance, maybe only once or twice a year. The nice thing about natural gas power is you don't have to worry about the fuel going bad.

I worked on a job where a large office building was converted over to natural gas power because, in the long run, it was cheaper in terms of utility costs. This setup was being installed on other buildings in the area as well.
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