Delco light plant batteries

Discussion in 'Alternative Energy' started by HermitJohn, Feb 28, 2009.

  1. HermitJohn

    HermitJohn Well-Known Member

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    Not sure why but got to reading about these. Those old glass jar batteries were interesting. I vaguely remember an article or pbs show back from 70s about somebody still using this setup on day to day basis and they were bragging about being able to rebuild the cells at relatively low cost. Does somebody still make parts for these or did they just luck into and buy up some new old stock parts for future. How efficient were they compared to modern storage battery. I doubt much has really changed in how lead acid battery functions other than maybe slightly more efficient plate design. Course lawyers would have a field day with any company making such things today.

    Not lot info on these, the Delco Light Plant search just gets restorers who hook 3 car batteries together (32V system but apparently will work with 36V battery setup) in series to show the mechanical parts of their restored Delco plant work, they arent really interested in using them, just demonstrating them. Not sure where you find 32V light bulbs...

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  2. farminghandyman

    farminghandyman Well-Known Member Supporter

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    at one time you took batteries into a rebuilder and they would melt out the lead and make new plates and build you a new battery, using the old case,
    it may have been a larger company or a back room in a garage,
    s battery rebuilding manual on the url below,
    http://www.powerstream.com/1922/battery_1922_WITTE/batteryfiles/chapter11.htm

    but there was also a diffrent type of battery that did not lose it ability to work like the lead acid battery not as much capacity, but nearly a forever battery, called a Edison battery, or a Nickle Iron battery,
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nickel-iron_battery
    a current one made in china, http://www.beutilityfree.com/batterynife/Flyer.pdf
     

  3. Jim-mi

    Jim-mi Well-Known Member

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    A friend of mine has a set of edison bats. Interesting story of how he got them. But they sit (a few hundred pounds of them) in his shop waiting for that rainy day project.
    The input-output efficiency is not good on those Edison bats . . .but if I could get my hands on a set . .I sure would.

    I shudder to think if a person wanted to make a **legal** effort to open a "battery repair" shop and he went for 'permits' from all the alphabet agencys..............
     
  4. HermitJohn

    HermitJohn Well-Known Member

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    Hmm, could have been bank of edison cells that was in that article or program. And they were just talking about replacing the electrolyte. Too long ago, but I remember thinking that was neat deal.

    Looked at the beutilityfree.com site that sells the chinese cells. Not cheap by any means, but enough advantages to be seriously worth consideration. They dont freeze and they dont outgas. New cells can be added to the mix at any time with no problems. Given some kind of reasonable care and they can last half century. Gotta appreciate those kind of qualities.
     
  5. Ed Norman

    Ed Norman Well-Known Member

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    When my dad was a kid they had a Delco light plant. REA came thru and strung the wires and hooked to their farm house, right into the existing Delco wiring. He and his brothers ran around flipping light switches and watched the 32V bulbs explode. Grandma was not amused.
     
  6. HermitJohn

    HermitJohn Well-Known Member

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    I never got to see any of the stuff work, but my paternal grandparents had house that was state of art in pre REA days. Had Delco plant that had rusted into a lump in the basement by time I remember it (damp basement is poor storage place for mechanical equipment). Had water storage tank in attic that windmill filled then had gravity fed running water. And of course grandma had wringer washer that originally had the kick start one lung gas engine but had been converted to electric motor.

    Now I did eventually own and use one of the gas washing machines during 80s when I lived without electric. Never saw working Delco plant and only could wish for windmill water set up like in granparents house. that especially was a nice well thought out bit of engineering but house would have to be tall and substansial to support that kind of weight in attic.

    And I think if everything thought out, a modernized version of Delco plant could be quite practical for light and refrigeration even today. Its never going to be economically practical for a system sized to do what you can hooked to the grid. People have become very dependent on a lot of power hungry electric appliances not to mention the convenience with no maintenence.
     
  7. Windy in Kansas

    Windy in Kansas In Remembrance

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    Perhaps until I was age 10 or a little younger we used a 32 volt Delco light plant which charged a bank of the glass encased batteries. I tend to remember that the light plant would run most of the time while mom was doing Monday washing and running the 32 volt Twin-tub Dexter wringer washer. Later in the week, perhaps on Friday, the light plant would again be started so that ironing could be done with a 32 volt iron and recharge the batteries in preparation for the weekend. After all, we couldn't be expect to live without Fibber McGee and Molly, Dragnet, and a few other Saturday evening radio shows.

    HermitJohn a few years ago while crossing a set of railroad tracks a worker had the door open on a battery operated "hot box" detection unit. The detector seeks out overheated journal bearings of rail cars and gives notification if any need attention. Anyway, I could see that the batteries were of the glass jar type. I actually stopped and visited with the maintenance attendant for a few minutes and he allowed me to look at the set up from outside looking in. I don't know if any of the glass battery units are still used but with that in mind it might be a starting point.

    Seems to me that a person could take a battery rebuilding course and convert the knowledge to making glass batteries instead of reusing conventional battery shells.

    I still have a few of the old glass battery jars which were retained after we disposed of our system after REA finally agreed to hook up our farm. The glass jars are great for making large quantities of pickles. Over the years I have seen a few at yard sales and a few on Ebay.

    I have similar thoughts about going off grid with a system similar to what you have described---which was almost exactly like our farm set up only we had tanks, Delco, etc. in out buildings instead of in the house.

    My brother has an old light plant/generator for 110 volt which I gave him. He has since replaced it with a modern generator as he knows too little about maintenance to keep it going. It is a Fairbanks Morse unit. It needs rings desperately and I have to wonder about availability of them as well as gaskets, etc. needed to do the job properly.
     
  8. HermitJohn

    HermitJohn Well-Known Member

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    Windy, bet those glass jar cells in railroad hotbox were edison cells. From what I've found on web about the edison cells, they were originally hoped to be answer to early electric cars. That didnt happen but they found uses in forklifts and other industrial uses. Railroads were big buyers of them cause they were so reliable and long lasting as backup power. Exide bought out the Edison battery company around '72 and discontinued them. Now only made in one plant in China and one plant in Hungary think they said.

    The glass jar batteries used with most delco plants were lead acid, but found one mention of a guy still using delco plant with some salvaged Edison cells in glass jars. Says its the perfect match. Edison cells (nickle-iron) like fast charging (within reason) and can handle overcharging. Lead acid batteries dont.

    As to rebuilding old hit and miss engines, there seems to be quite a group of enthusists out there that restore them as hobby. I have no idea where they find rings and gaskets and such though these engines were low rpm so stuff didnt wear out near as fast as small engines today. I would assume if nothing else a machinist could find a simular size available piston with rings available and make it fit. I know people do that with car engines mainly to raise compression and such. Still the economics of relying on an antique engine requiring custom parts maybe not the best.

    I also had found an old Homepower article on using a modern 5hp engine with a car alternator and posted about it in another thread. Perez said the 4.5hp Honda he used at time of article managed 13000 hours of service without overhaul. He ran it like 2200rpm. Used like 3/4 gallon gas in 5 hour. Thats not too bad. 13000hr is just flat out amazing for small gas engine even with regular servicing though the lower rpm helped a lot I imagine. He said maybe to expect more like 5000 hour from simular Honda. Got his moneys worth there even at full retail price. He even came up with a circuit to replace car type voltage regulator so as to provide better charging of a battery bank.

    There are also tiny diesel engines showing up on ebay. no idea as to quality but come as small as 3hp. Should be pretty fuel thrifty. Perez said a 3hp gas engine can run a 35A car alternator. A 5hp gas engine can run a 60A to 100A alternator.
     
  9. WisJim

    WisJim Well-Known Member Supporter

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    Back in the early 1980s I got some used batteries from the railroad, and they were Exide or CD plastic cased cells just like the smaller cells used by the phone company, where I also got used batteries. Even back then the newer batteries had clear plastic cases, not glass. I found that the railroad was much harder on batteries than the phone company was, and the phone company batteries lasted for years, while the RR ones were just about worn out when I got them.

    Edison (nickel iron) cells are less efficient than lead acid over their charge/discharge cycle, but might be preferable due to their longer live, if you have lots of excess charging sources available, such as an oversized wind generator that produces twice the electricity that you need. I know a few people that have used Edison cells with their off-grid systems over the years, but all of them that are still off-grid are now using lead acid batteries, because of charging efficiency and other charging related concerns--one is that Edisons take a much higher voltage than their nominal voltage to reach full charge, than lead acids do.
     
  10. HermitJohn

    HermitJohn Well-Known Member

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    Windy, did a google and found this site with lists of people supplying parts and services in relation to rebuilding old hit-miss/flywheel engines.

    http://www.enginads.com/bizcards.shtml


    This guy says he can supply piston rings for anything:

    http://www.enginads.com/otto/

    I am not endorsing any of these people or businesses and sure there are others providing simular services/products.

    Also found interesting mention from guy on one website that ran an old flywheel engine (got to stop calling all flywheel engines hit-miss cause they werent) running off wood gas generator somebody in distant past had cobbled out of an ammo box and using it to run a car alternator. He said he was going to make a webpage just dedicated to that setup but hadnt as of yet. Now that would be very interesting.
     
  11. HermitJohn

    HermitJohn Well-Known Member

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    As I said, found little to no useful info using Edison cells with solar. However they apparently dont mind being undercharged, dont have a memory, etc, so assume you could ramp up size of battery bank to make up difference. Sure I dont know, as a little knowledge is a dangerous thing. Also just no info on the Chinese Edison cells other than place selling them, all I found was info from ancient American made Edison cells people had salvaged. Be nice to find reports from those actually owning and using the Chinese cells with solar panels. The Chinese cells are supposed to be a modern German design whatever difference that makes.
     
  12. PyroDon

    PyroDon Well-Known Member

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    for those looking for a small generator to keep batteries charged
    I would suggest state and county auctions. often times you can find the flashing arrows from road construction .
    These have a small lister diesel engine attatched to an alternator along with a battery bank . these things will run for days on 5 gallons of fuel
    here is an example
    http://www.purplewave.com/cgi-bin/mnlist.cgi?090304/6267
    sorry this one has had the alternator removed
     
  13. HermitJohn

    HermitJohn Well-Known Member

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    I had seen one of these Petter engines with generator all painted up on a pallet on ebay. Wondered where it came from, couldnt imagine some individual bothering to import one. Would never have thought of a flashing arrow hiway construction sign. The Petter have a good rep, but not like the old Lister flywheel diesels that turn low rpm. Still for the price, couldnt go too wrong if it ran decent. They are noisy though, have heard them running along the hiway.