Propane Generator Questions

Discussion in 'Homesteading Questions' started by Kirk, Nov 24, 2003.

  1. Kirk

    Kirk Well-Known Member

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    We live on the grid, I am considering a generator for power outages. My major concern is being able to power my Dialysis machine for extended outages. It would need to run nine hours per day (at night really) and draws 750 watts. I figure we would be want to be able to keep the fridge cold and run the well long enough to get the days water.
    Our house has a propane wall furnace and a nonelectric propane space heater which would keep the house warm enough to survive. We have a 500 gallon propane tank on the "keep full" program. I keep about 30 days worth of dialysis supplies onhand which could be streched to 60 days if needed. I want a propane generator because of the stability concerns with storing gasoline or diesel, long term, in quantities large enough to keep me alive
    Questions: 1. How much power does a portable gas generator lose when converted to propane or should I consider a ready made for propane one? 2. How big of a generator would I really need? 3. How much gas per hour should I expect the generator to use? 4. What other things do I need to take into consideration when looking for a generator?
    Thanks in advance for your responses.
    Kirk
     
  2. mysticokra

    mysticokra Well-Known Member

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    I saw a 15KW propane generator at Home Depot this weekend.
    The turnkey installation was about $4,000.

    Given your medical concerns, you could probably deduct this as an emergency dialysis system.
     

  3. comfortablynumb

    comfortablynumb Well-Known Member

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    you may want to consider a solar panel array and battery bank exclusively for your dyalisis machine. no feul to store, next to no maintenance and no moving parts to wear out.

    solar power can al;so be used tio generate hydrogen and oxygen fuel, conversion from gasoline to hydrogen is not difficult either.

    another alternitive would be meathane generator, from a septic tank/digester. these are quite common setups in rural india, where farm waste is put in, gas comes out.

    if you are lucky to have a natural gas well, you have all the fuel youll ever need.
     
  4. fordy

    fordy Well-Known Member

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    i think you have overlooked a big part of your power requirement(s). I.E...airconditioning.......if i was on a diaylasis for hours at a time I wouldn't want to sit in a hot house. A gen set of sufficient capacity to power your whole house would probably need to be in the 30,000 watt size. You wouldn't beable to afford the fuel. What you need is maybe a 10kw gen set that runs off propane with an Automatic Switch that will bring the gen set on line when the grid power is off. 10 kw will run 2 , 8000 to 10,000 btu window air conditioners, a frig. , ceiling fans, a water well that runs only when necessary, interior lights, etc. If.....you have a big refrigerated cooling system....You will have to TURN it off until the grid power comes back ON. You will also have to COOK with gas and utilize passive gas heating during the winter. A 10 kw , propane system will probably use 10 to 15 gallons of gas per 10 hour run cycle. Gasoline\propane powered generators are NOT very efficient. A 10 kw Onan Diesel gen set is really the way to go. But, they will run about $7,000 for a new unit and probably give you a service life of 20,000 hours IF you do the required maintanence. ............fordy :dance:
     
  5. Kirk

    Kirk Well-Known Member

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  6. If I might suggest a couple of things.

    A) Consider a multifuel generator(uses propane, natural gas, and ordinary gasoline without modification)

    B) Construct a producer gas plant to power a generator as a backup to everything else.(Producer gas is also known as wood gas, a flamable gas made by heating wood in a metal container free of oxygen. Simple plans are on the web.)

    C) Be prepared to pay a large amount for any reliable generator.(Its one thing to buy a cheap generator for simple power outage, and another matter entirely if your life depends on a medical process powered by a generator.)

    Best of luck to you.
     
  7. Swampdweller

    Swampdweller Well-Known Member

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    Diesel engines will run fine on used oil, thinned with kerosene, 5 to one.
    That makes for real cheap fuel, per gallon, and both fluids have _indefinite_ shelf lives. I am actively using such a fuel in 5 large diesel engines and will gladly share more info if anyone is interested.

    Swampdweller
     
  8. For the longest life and reliability go with a Lister Genset. They only use diesels which in your case can be bought ready to run on gaseous fuel like propane or natural gas. Because it's a diesel it will outlast any gasoline engine. Listers are reknown for quality.


    If the price of a Lister is too high buy a COMMERCIAL quality Generac propane powered unit. The ones powered by the GM V6 engines are excellent. FWIW, you won't find the commercial grade units through businesses like Northern Power or retail outlets even though they carry some of the Generac models.. Generac has a separate page on their website for the commercial units with a link to the distributors in each state.

    Given your needs, I would not buy a genset that's typically sold for home use. You need absolute reliability. Both the gensets, I mentioned run at 1800 rpm for less wear and longer life than the cheaper units running at 3600 rpm.
     
  9. Please post your information. Thanks.
     
  10. Swampdweller

    Swampdweller Well-Known Member

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    I've shared a bit of info on used oil as fuel in the "hard times coming....best way to invest money" thread on this forum. Check that out and I'll gladly answer any questions.

    Swampdweller
     
  11. I went to that thread and read it. Not bad.

    Except for including gasoline in the list of thinning products. How is it that the gas does not blow the engine apart with the high compression of the Diesel?
     
  12. fordy

    fordy Well-Known Member

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    Personally...You wouldn't catch me running Mazzola in my $$7,000 , diesel generator. .........fordy :D :no: :dance:
     
  13. Swampdweller

    Swampdweller Well-Known Member

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    Gasolene is more volatile than kerosene, but, mixed with oil, it tames down considerably. I've not pushed the limits with gas, so I can't say exactly what ratios are safe. I do know that I've used gasolene that had gone "bad" as a thinner for the diesel, with good results. I also know that Caterpillar recommends 1 gallon gasolene to 5 gallons strait diesel in the event of a winter emergency (cold snap) to keep the regular diesel from gelling up. If you can do that with thin diesel, I imagine you could go three gallons oil to one of gasolene and be fine, winter or summer. I've yet to try it. I like kerosene. It's amazing what these diesels can burn....so long as it's clean. The kicker is that the heavier viscosity of oil actually increaes the life of the injector pump. My experience, so far, is that it's best to start the engine on thinner fuel, say, strait diesel or 3 parts oil/one kerosene, then, when the engine is up to temp, switch to a heavier blend. I preheat my fuel to 110-120 F. 180 would be better.
    I'm obviously uncertain of your specific application or questions, so I'll stop here and answer point for point if you like.

    Swamp
     
  14. Swampdweller

    Swampdweller Well-Known Member

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    You sure could. The first problem you'd have is carbon deposits in the combustion chamber. That could be prevented by preheating the fuel, adding a thinner, or assisting the burn with propane or a hydrogen generator. You could also run water vapor through your intake. That adds power (same concept as a steam engine), steam cleans the entire upper cylinder area, which would add years to the life of the engine....and keeps the engine running cooler, which is another power boost in itself.

    And, for the record, I paid 52,000 for the backhoe, 65,000 for the bulldozer,
    38,000 for the excavator, 17,000 for the truck, and 5,600 for the Deere 4020.

    I've had as much as 80% oil in the hoe and the tractor. A tank of oil gives me 20% more working time than diesel fuel.

    Details, details.....

    Swampdweller
     
  15. I would be applying the used oil in a Diesel Tractor and using it to tend a small farm.

    I'd like to hear more details of how you filter the oil.

    Thanks.
     
  16. Swampdweller

    Swampdweller Well-Known Member

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    Filtering is THE key. That said, it is all but eliminated by a process that I have discovered--sedimentation. Profound, isn't it.
    I put all oil from any source (no thinner, just oil) into 300-500 gallon overhead fuel tanks with a valve on the bottom. Gravity is a wonderful thing. Water goes immediately to the bottom. Open the valve and drain it off. Impurities all sink, but they take time. Crack the valve once a week or so and let the oil flow until it flows smooth. Use the sludge to treat your pole barn posts and fence posts. I have several barrels of oil that sat for over five years. It is the cleanest stuff, almost translucent. That it how I "discovered" sedimentation. Plan to let you oil sit for as long as possible. When you are ready to burn, run it through a 10 micron spin on filter. Another thing I learned by chance is that heat is a wonderful thing. I cut a 1000 gallon LP tank in half to make a woodburning stove for the shop. I mounted a 300 gallon overhead fuel tank above it to assist the burn with used oil. After one burning season, I opened the valve one summer day, and the oil came out clean and almost clear. Why ? The heat from the woodstove sped up the sedimentation, considerably.
    Another thing I did on my 4020 was to run the fuel through a one half inch pipe that I hose clamped to the exhaust manifold for a preheat. I also have two fuel tanks on the tractor and start on thinner fuel until the engine is hot, not warm, FULL operating temperature. Summertime, pulling hard all day, is the best use of oil fuel. You can just about go 100%. Winter is touch and go. Your injector pump will last longer for the added lubricity in the oil fuel, summer or winter, but it may break if you fire up on cold, thick oil in winter.
    Thinner is a must. I am planning on piping in a small quantity of LP gas through the intake manifold to assist the burn and replace ether for cold starts. I'll let you know how that goes.

    Swamp
     
  17. Gary in ohio

    Gary in ohio Well-Known Member Supporter

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    I would contact the Dialysis machine manufacture and get some imput from them on using a generator to power your machine. Generators dont always put out the cleanest or most stable power. They have peaks and valleys on voltage and freqency. You might want to use a battery and quality sinewave converter charged by a generator. This way a smaller generator is needed and you get cleaner power for sensitive medical devices.
     
  18. Just get a diesel generator. Yes they are more exspenive then gas but are more durable in the long run. Diesel fuel stores fine for long periods aslong as you add fuel stabilizers. I worked for many years as a boat mechanic on diesel and gas engines they would store a minimum of 6 months some for a year or more and run fine off of stabilized fuel.
    As was said by someone you can use "other then diesel" to run diesels.
    Well this is true but SHOULD ONLY BE DONE IN AN EMERGENCY. Don't take a $4,000 plus generator and put anything but diesel in it unless you have to. Besides if you can afford the generator you can afford fuel!
    In all fairness though the gentleman who stated the used oil and kero mix is correct in saying it will "work". Anything that will combust around 600 degrees or less will work. The problem being diesels work off a slower burn then your typical gasoline engine. So when you alter that burn rate for LONG TERM usage you will have negative performance effects.
    I would not bet my life on solar power unless I Knew how to repair and was able physically to maintain my ENTIRE system. From repairing the panels to the wiring to any hardwire/electronic controls. The reason being it is much easier to find somebody to rig an engine to run then to solder a hardboard.
    I don't like propane and would not advise it, to volatile. Unless you have a run away detroit nothing is safer/better than diesel.
     
  19. Runners

    Runners A real Quack!

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    Kirk,
    I got a 10kw propane genset with an auto-transfer switch - dirt cheap from a remote cable tv site. They ARE out there, used, but VERY well maintained, and CHEAP - in the 10-30KW range. Mine dates back to the late '70s, with a great Wisconsin Robin Engine. Everyone has been upgrading their systems, they ARE out there. Still good, 12v Gell cell batteries can be had for free. Just ask around.

    These things were sold as package units, with the transfer switch included in the mount, so they're very simple to hook up. Talk to your local cable TV tech., telephone tech, cellular tech and see if they got one they're getting ready to move out - be sure to tell them WHY you want one - you got a good reason, they might help you out.


    We have SEVERAL Generacs and Onan gensets, as a small part of my job, I have to make sure they run. Do not buy a Generac, ever! In fact, I wouldn't ever buy a diesel unless I lived in Flordia. Without a tank heater (engine block) diesel's don't like to start in cold weather. How much does it cost to run a 1500 watt tank heater? $$ OUCH! If you live up north, and your power goes off in the winter, it'll be too late to plug in the tank heater. We keep our heaters on, 24/365 - those diesel engines are 180 degrees and we still have problems starting them. Oh, yea, they start for all the PM tests just fine, but let an ice storm roll through, and if it's a Generac, it's "iffy". The engines are not made by Generac, but by every Tom, Dick and Harry, some domestic, some foreign - I can't read the script on half of the smaller ones, maybe it's chinese?

    One thing about water cooled generators, they might be quieter than air cooled, but "wet stacking" is a huge problem if they don't run long enough. Diesel gensets need to run till their HOT, the oil needs to get hot - or moisture is gonna take it's toll on your unit. Without stabilizers, gas goes bad, reformulated gas absorbs moisture, etc., diesel gells in cold weather, not so with Propane. Components on diesels are expensive to replace!

    My old propane generator starts and runs like a champ, warm weather or cold, rain, ice or snow - and I don't have diesel or gas smell around the house to contend with. It's hooked right into our 500 gallon propane tanks regulator (at the house), like the furnace - simple, neat and easy to deal with. It ran it off a 5/8" garden hose during last hurricane, sitting on the basement stoop (49hrs). Now I got the automatic transfer switch installed, with all the circuits I want to maintain "normal living" during an extended outage. This includes the well pump, electric water heater, 90% of the lights & outlets, freezer, fridge, ceiling fans, furnace, etc. I left the electric stove and AC off the system.

    If you've already got a gas generator and want to convert to propane or multi-fuels, check out this web site for conversion kits.

    http://www.propane-generators.com/

    So far, we've suffered a power outage each month. From a minute or two, to 49 hours. I'm glad my family will not be out there trucking diesel or gasoline when things get really nasty.... Unfortunately, I'm one of those guys that gets called out because of it.

    If I had to buy a NEW residential size, I'd be looking for a HONDA 10-12kw electric start and convert to propane. Derate 10% for propane. Forget the multi-fuels if it's a residental unit, set in place, never to move again. My neighbors and I started with those 5KW gasoline extended run $500 units... I'm making mufflers for them to quiet them down so we can sleep... They're fine for temporary portable power out in the field, but I wouldn't trust one to keep my Dialysis machine running.

    Whatever you do, OVER SIZE! When the smaller units start loading up, the frequency/voltage drops and all kinds of terrible things happen to devices with electric motors (well pumps, furnace blowers / pumps, fridges, freezers, washers / dryers). We lost a bunch of compact flourscent lights and a nice stereo due to an intermittent miss on our other unit... some stuff is pretty sensitive.

    That's my 2cents worth.