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Discussion Starter #1
Hi folks,

I need to buy a generator to run construction tools and a well pump (1-2 hp), maybe occasionally a 1kw window AC unit (not all at the same time), and eventually charge batteries for my off grid farm. The eventual system will include wind and solar, with the generator for heavy loads and battery charging. Fuel can be LP gas or diesel.

However, I need something cheap to start -- like under $500. Is there a cheap generator that supplies clean enough power at an appropriate peak voltage to charge batteries? Or should I just get a cheap-o portable gas generator for use now, and get something better later to charge the batteries and connect to the overall power system?
 

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Can't resist

Wow you use "cheap" and "clean power" in the same sentence.

At $500 bucks it is strickly----Buyer Beware

I would use the cheapie ONLY for the construction "Skill saw"

Use it at your own risk on any of those other items.

Think about how much it would cost you to replace the well pump if "cheapie" damages it.
 

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Discussion Starter #4
Ok, so I'm dumb, I get that. Please help me educate myself. I've read catalogs, spoke to a couple of generator dealers, read all about Listeroids, read about diesel and LP gas, and I still don't know what I need. I have a good basic understanding of batteries and wind plants and solar collectors, but I can't find any good information about what kind of generator would fit an alternative energy system.

Can someone point me to some good basic information about the benefits and applications of all the various types of generators? A web link would be a great start.

Thanks
 

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my son-in-law runs a generator only store. His web site is

www.huntsvillegenerator.com

He may be able to help you. He has from the small Honda 1000's to the large Kohler and Winco;s for industrial use.

He has helped the construction workers around here, he might be able to help you - but he will probably see about selling you stuff you might need. If not the gen's, probably the xfer switches -

Check out his site and call if you wish. Afternoons are best as he's installing gens before noon.

Angie

PS": He's an EE and is interested in alternate energy sources.
 

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Home Power Magazine is a good place to start. They've had many articles on setting up off grid situations. www.homepower.com You can buy past issues, research their site for which issues. Also some libraries carry the magazine.

Also search this site for info on generators as there have been several previous threads.

Here are a couple of links.

http://www.backwoodshome.com/articles/thomsen28.html

http://www.backwoodshome.com/articles/thomsen43.html

They also have another article but you'd have to pay for it to download it.

BTW, you don't mention what your battery set up is, so that makes it tough to recommend a generator. My first generator was given to me, but I had to buy a gas Honda engine for it @ $600+. After a year of working this way, the old 4KW Generac (peak) wasn't really up to the task of charging the 12 x 6 v batteries well and I replaced it with a lightly used 7.5 KW diesel for $5000, which was a deal IMO. The difference in running my place and charging the batteries between the two, cheap and expensive, was like night and day. I also didn't have a pump to worry about or air conditioner as you do, which draw high loads. I mostly used my cheap generator for battery charging and running tools.

For cheap, I'd try Ebay or Craigs List and if you're patient enough, you may find something that could work short term until you can afford a proper generator. I've also seen a new 5 KW Champion generator at Costco in the $500 range, but I have no experience as to whether they are any good or not or how long they'd last.
 

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Discussion Starter #7
Thank you for the links, and for your brother's info, Angie. The batteries I've been looking at are surplus gel batteries on eBay:

http://cgi.ebay.com/ws/eBayISAPI.dll?ViewItem&item=160123520635&ssPageName=MERC_VIC_RCRX_Pr3_PcY_BIN_Stores_IT&refitem=160128294315&itemcount=3&refwidgetloc=closed_view_item&usedrule1=CrossSell_LogicX&refwidgettype=cross_promot_widget

I will only be running my well pump occasionally, turning it on and running it continuously for a few hours, to fill a storage tank. That and power tools are the minimum requirements for my initial generator. When my whole system is complete, I figure my peak loads will max at 7 kW, and typically run much less. The only electric loads will be CF and LED lighting, small window AC, occasional microwave or other 1 kW brief load appliance, well pump, shop tools, and super energy efficient fridge and freezer. Not many people, so it's easy to manage simultaneous use. When it's hot enough to run the AC, for example, I'm not in the shop, I'm laying on the kitchen tile with a wet rag on my head.

Eventually plan a Bergey 1 kW wind plant and some solar (would prefer larger wind system if possible). The wind blows a gale at my place year round (annual wind over 16 mph). I also have the possibility of a tide-driven generator.

Sounds like the cheapest possible fuel-driven generator won't work, but I know for a fact that I can spend a lot of money for something that *also* won't work. I'd like to find the sweet spot there :) I really appreciate the expertise in this forum -- I'm learning a lot lurking here.
 

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Go to centralmainediesel.com-I bought a 12.5kw Isuzu gen with a 5yr/5000hr 100% written warranty for 5195.00 shipped FREE to my door in S.Al...what a great machine-I run Central air,pool,everything in house at 60hz-NO voltage drop.....this is such a difference from the complete POS chinese gen I stupidly bought cheap and spent 3500 in parts to keep running for 6yrs in my offgrid home...YOU GET WHAT YOU PAY FOR...I know someone will come on and go on about their 300.00 gen that they ran for 20yrs but it's BS and the voltage/hz variance was propably so bad they could'nt understand why their appliances failed....Do yourself a favor and spend the money....
 

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Ok, we do what you are saying. We are off grid, use a 1 hp well pump into a storage tank (3000) gallons. It is uphill of everthing so we are gravity fed from there.

We use a cheap Generac from Home Depot, and have it wired to a box with two breakers. One for the 220 well pump, one for the inverter/house wiring. We can be charging batteries (through the inverter) and running tv, lights while well pump is running, but I cannot do laundry until after the well pump is off. It only takes about 70 minutes to fill tank several times a week in summer, once every two weeks or so in winter...

The inverter charges the batteries for us (smart charging)
We run the gen about 4 hours each night. That is when the batteries charge and we do laundry, watch tv etc.
That way the batteries are full for the next day.
We have gone through an old gen/welder, and a new generac, and now the generac we are using, in 3+ years. We are good about changing oil and filters. Also let it warm up before flipping a breaker, always flip the breakers off and wait for it to cool some before turning it off. I put a piece of plywood over it when rains or snows, otherwise it is just sitting outside. (We have no neighbors)
This gen actually has lasted the longest, probably has well over 2000 hours on it. I think, without going to look at it, it's a 7500 watt.

We also run the gen during the day if we need power tools etc.
The key is to use a good inverter to do your charging for you.

Although when our inverter was in for a fix once, we bought a cheap car charger from Wally world, that had smart charging built in, and used it for a couple months no problems.

To get a gen big enough to START a 1 hp well pump, you need to get into the $7-800 range I think. You need to be over 5000 watts.

I have been tempted to get a smaller cheaper gen to run for everything but the well pump so this one would last longer, using it just to fill water tank...

All that being said we also have a Listeroid in a crate waiting for us to get a powerhouse finished for it to live in. We hope that will last us "forever".
 

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We have a 24 volt battery system, charged by PVs and wind, and a Trace sinewave inverter to run everything. We have a 24 volt DC generator for our standby generator to charge the batteries if no wind or sun.
 

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The newer breed of inverter\generators seem to be a very sweet combination.
Honda now has the 1000i, (((the "i" is the inverter models))) the 2000i, 3000i, 5000i and I think a 7000i--(pricey)
Yamaha has had a very reliable 2800 out for some while (inverter\gen. ) They also have a couple newer models.

If you can nudge your gen budget up to around $2000, you will be a whole lot better off.

Thanks to all the other folks who also look unfavorably towards the cheapies.

Also beware that a place like northern tool (and others) sells generators with "Honda" motors hooked to cheap generators.
So all your getting there is a decent motor powering another *poorly regulated* generator . . . . . .not a good deal . . .in the long run.

I'll get off my soap box...........
 

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Discussion Starter #12
Great information! If a listeroid is coupled to a good gen head, can it supply clean power or does it fluctuate too much? Anyone know where I can find a listeroid dealer on the mid-Atlantic coast?

Rather than spend a few grand on the generator up front I may just go ahead and get the wind mill, batteries and inverter set up first. I can add solar and a kickin' generator later, when I'm rich :rolleyes:

The cheapie generator is ok to run the power tools, isn't it? All the contractors I know run gas generators that run a few hundred bucks.
 

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Oh, and thanks Jim for the tip on Northern tool. I was confused by that very thing, why their Honda generator was so cheap.

I think I need to learn more about generator heads and power regulation in particular. Is there a "Generators for Dummies"?
 

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Those Listoride's shure are tempting (read veggie oil).

Now if, like Wis-Jim, you were to hook up a hefty 24 volt alternator\genertor to the Listorid you wouldn't need to worry about speed varying.

But then you would be starting and stopping the lister to often . . . . . . (because with that combo, you could charge a batt bank pretty fast)

Bottom line; I don't know how stable the lister's speed is.

fun to think about.
 

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Ah, Listeroirds... a topic near and dear to my heart! I picked up a Lovson 12-2 last spring, as well as a 10kw head for it. I'm still putting it together, but hopefully some time this month I'll get it done. SO will really like having full time power at the property.

For the people that don't know about it, take a look at the Lister Forum. Be warned that there is some politics/personality conflicts/controversy and questionable information on it. If you sift through that, however, its a gold mine.

Another site with information is the Utterpower.com site. If you plan on getting a Listeroid for power, I highly suggest getting the Listeroird Longevity CD that George sells.

Last warning: the Listeroids from India are not a plug and play engine. Unless its been done already, they should be dimantled/inspected to ensure long life. If you treat them as a engine kit, however, they're great engines.

I plan on running my as an offgrid power generation system. Waste veggie oil, used motor oil, biodiesel. Propane injection to clean up the combustion at low power levels. Heated injector lines and head. I'll use the waste heat to heat the shop in winter as well.

Michael
 

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Michael, I'll be right over so I can help you put that thing together. . . . . .

At the MREA fair I was so intrigued with the Lister clone that a guy had running . . . . .wow.
 

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I found out that one of the people selling listeroids on eBay is only about 30 miles down the road from me. Will have to get over there to look at his engines one of these days. If I was currently looking for a generator, some kind of simple diesel would be first on my list, and the listeroids look like the best choice in a new unit.
 

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In a post above it is stated that Listeroids are not a 'plug and play" motor but should be taken apart to check components????WHY-for cripes sake buy a good genset to begin with and forget this cheap stuff-10yrs down the road you will be MUCH happier...right now I'm running a 50/50 bio mixture and have had no problems-will go 100% once I have my own bio setup..
 

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zant said:
In a post above it is stated that Listeroids are not a 'plug and play" motor but should be taken apart to check components????WHY-for cripes sake buy a good genset to begin with and forget this cheap stuff-10yrs down the road you will be MUCH happier...right now I'm running a 50/50 bio mixture and have had no problems-will go 100% once I have my own bio setup..
Besides having a very high "coolness factor," the engines are designed for very long life. The original Lister engines have been known to run for more than 50,000 hours without being rebuilt. Rebuilding is cheap and easy. The engines are slow speed, and very quite. Mechanical noise is louder than the exhaust, which is minimal with the right muffler. If you're going to be running this thing 24/7, then it makes a difference. The Listeroids have the potential of matching the original in longevity, if care is taken. If you don't care that you only get 2000-5000 hours out of the engine, run it as is. It may surprise you with its longevity. Indian manufacturing is a crap shoot, however.


If you want a plug and play system, pay the money for a modern diesel generator. If all you want is a generator for occasional use, get a modern diesel one.

If you want a fun project that can produce power from a variety of fuels, and has the potential to last for a long time, go with the lister(oid). You can save the money on making bio by just burning the WVO.

It all comes down to your goals and comfort factor. Some of us like to (can't resist) tinkering. For others, they just want to pay money, and have things work without any inconvenience. Its a personal choice of which way you go.

Michael
 

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In found out the hard way why there is a price difference. Honda makes two lines of engines.
1) Cheap ones - the shroud around the engine is all black.
2) Good ones - the shroud around the engine has the trademark Honda red on most of the cover.

With the cheap engines, you are buying the name and not the quality that should go with it.
 
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