Author Topic: Selecting a diesel generator?  (Read 5828 times)

Offline idbound

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Selecting a diesel generator?
« on: November 24, 2009, 03:50:33 AM »

Greetings!

Any advice regarding the selection of a diesel generator? I have been watching the local want ads/craigslist and have seen a few deals on some 6kw gen sets but they look to be cheap junk. Though I would like to buy top of the line, I cannot afford it right now. I had a external power outlet installed that terminates in my home's power center and will be fabricating an interlock to manually transfer to gen power (after turning off most of the other breakers).

Any brands to stay away from?

Thanks.

IDBound

pubcrawler

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Re: Selecting a diesel generator?
« Reply #1 on: November 24, 2009, 04:47:48 AM »
Greetings!

Any advice regarding the selection of a diesel generator? I have been watching the local want ads/craigslist and have seen a few deals on some 6kw gen sets but they look to be cheap junk. Though I would like to buy top of the line, I cannot afford it right now. I had a external power outlet installed that terminates in my home's power center and will be fabricating an interlock to manually transfer to gen power (after turning off most of the other breakers).

Any brands to stay away from?

Thanks.

IDBound

It is only slightly off topic, but I would look into Lister / Listeroid diesel gensets.  The are big, heavy duty work horses.  Plenty of info out there on interesting applications. But they aren't cheap per se - unless you are handy and don't mind working on refurbishing one.

Otherwise, the cheap route and diesel doesn't go very well together.   A diesel motor capable of generating 6kW is northward of $500 retail for the import type models.

Other options for you include ex-military gen sets and perhaps cobbling together your own setup.

I'd be highly weary of a new or almost new diesel genset that is $1k and under cost.

Generators in general vary greatly based on original build quality, where they have been stored, who has operated them and the number of hours on the unit.  Some folks put their generator out in the muddy muck it seems like and encourage the poor thing to rust away while mostly being unused. This is likely alot of what you see combined with the gensets people beat up at job sites.

Of course I must ask, with budget being a concern, why not just make do with a gasoline genset?  They can be had much cheaper.  Bought my American branded one a few years back new at big box store for $600 or less.  It's does quite fine minus all the fancy features like interconnect and such (although could be wired to such- but still a manual recoil start generator).

Offline bubtech

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Re: Selecting a diesel generator?
« Reply #2 on: November 24, 2009, 08:28:58 PM »
only one caution with a lister type engine, be prepared with lots of tools and spare parts.  you will be messing with it A LOT to keep it maintained.  They are bullet proof, but they do take maintenance.
B

Offline idbound

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Re: Selecting a diesel generator?
« Reply #3 on: November 25, 2009, 11:37:32 AM »
Thanks all for the info.

I drive an old dodge diesel 4x4 and am planning on getting another smaller diesel 4x4 to replace my wife's daily driver so I wanted to try to stick with the diesel gen vs. gas. I plan on installing a 300gal tank for diesel so I can take advantage of dips in the price of fuel when they occur (not to mention plans on growing rapeseed for personal-use bio diesel).

I have tools and used to turn wrenches back in the day so I am ok with tinkering. I plan on taking a few diesel mechanics courses at my local technical college next year after learning to weld...

I can probably spend up to $2k right now on the gen. There seems to be an influx of china made USA branded gens floating in my area lately. I was looking to see if anyone had recommendations as to what engine brand (not the whole unit) too keep an eye out for (ie..kubota, onan, yanmar etc) and what to stay away from?

Thanks again!

IDBound

pubcrawler

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Re: Selecting a diesel generator?
« Reply #4 on: November 25, 2009, 11:05:36 PM »
Thanks all for the info.

I can probably spend up to $2k right now on the gen. There seems to be an influx of china made USA branded gens floating in my area lately. I was looking to see if anyone had recommendations as to what engine brand (not the whole unit) too keep an eye out for (ie..kubota, onan, yanmar etc) and what to stay away from?

Thanks again!

IDBound

The Yanmar import brand seems like a good one. They've been making diesel motors since 1912. Their complete generators aren't cheap. However I believe this Ebay seller is selling a rebadged Yanmar - the model info matches up. Looks promising for the motor/engine at under $500:

http://cgi.ebay.com/NEW-10HP-DIESEL-ENGINE-ELECTRIC-START-10-HP-L100AE-DE_W0QQitemZ180436240398QQcmdZViewItemQQptZLH_DefaultDomain_0?hash=item2a02d6880e

Harbor Frieght sells brushless generator heads you can couple to a motor - might be the ticket to a DIY gen set. Haven't used one of gen heads yet, but they are priced reasonably and look fairly heavy duty.

Onan at least to be a very popular higher end brand. Onan is now owned by Cummins. Their generators tend to be very serious, higher power (220V and above).

Offline Cacinok

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Re: Selecting a diesel generator?
« Reply #5 on: November 26, 2009, 08:11:01 PM »
only one caution with a lister type engine, be prepared with lots of tools and spare parts.  you will be messing with it A LOT to keep it maintained.  They are bullet proof, but they do take maintenance.
B

this actually doesn't match w/ what i've read all over the web regarding listeroids.  there's anecdotal reports of listeroids running in 3rd world countries for years and years, only being stopped to have the oil changed.  that being said, you do have to spend time getting them cleaned up and setup if you get them new from india - the quality control sucks.


OP, i'd avoid the cheap chinese diesels unless you're looking for a temporary stopgap.  they work, but i wouldn't have faith that they'd last a long time.  for a long term solution, look at the kubotas, cummins, perkins, etc. 

Offline bartsdad

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Re: Selecting a diesel generator?
« Reply #6 on: November 27, 2009, 01:30:39 AM »
John Deere uses the Yanmar in their small units. The one in my little tractor has been a good engine so far.

Onan , owned by Cummins, is one of the largest and most trusted names in Generators. Cummins makes more diesel engines under 300 hp than any other company in the world.

Perkins is owned by Caterpillar and they also make one hell of a product.

An important issue to look at is the availability of service and service parts. The more common the product, the easier it should be to find what you need.

Good luck on the search.

Offline bubtech

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Re: Selecting a diesel generator?
« Reply #7 on: November 28, 2009, 07:29:06 PM »
this actually doesn't match w/ what i've read all over the web regarding listeroids.  there's anecdotal reports of listeroids running in 3rd world countries for years and years, only being stopped to have the oil changed.  that being said, you do have to spend time getting them cleaned up and setup if you get them new from india - the quality control sucks.


OP, i'd avoid the cheap chinese diesels unless you're looking for a temporary stopgap.  they work, but i wouldn't have faith that they'd last a long time.  for a long term solution, look at the kubotas, cummins, perkins, etc. 
Yeah I am talking about the Indian Listers and their initial setup.  Once the kinks are worked out and it is burnt in it should be fine for a good long time.
B

Offline Cacinok

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Re: Selecting a diesel generator?
« Reply #8 on: November 30, 2009, 11:00:51 AM »
Yeah I am talking about the Indian Listers and their initial setup.  Once the kinks are worked out and it is burnt in it should be fine for a good long time.
B

gotcha.  definitely have to clean and prep them first, then they'll run forever.

Offline idbound

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Re: Selecting a diesel generator?
« Reply #9 on: December 04, 2009, 10:39:28 PM »
Thanks all for the information. I'll keep looking for the right setup. Have a great night!

Offline RadioKrafter

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Re: Selecting a diesel generator?
« Reply #10 on: December 05, 2009, 08:45:57 AM »
I have a 20KW CAT installed in our detached garage (1st picture).   This is an 1,800 RPM model (very important) and is rated at 100% duty.  Check as many are advertised by peak KW with the 100% duty rating, which is usually somewhat lower, in the fine print.

We live on a farm in Hurricane country so I elected to bite the bullet and get something reliable.  Our genset is piped into the 1,100 gallons of fuel storage for the tractor, truck and an oil furnace for 1 of our buildings.  Incidentally, farm diesel = heating oil (in the south) and vice/versa.  It is dyed red because the purchase price includes no road tax.

We have a manual change over switch (shown in the 3rd picture) and NO auto start.   If I'm not home and the power goes out, who cares?  I don't want the generator starting and transferring on its own as I' would not be home to do any power management, discussed below.  We also have layered fuel filtering which consists of a marine (Raycor) filter with a water separator and 5 micron element in line ahead of the engines fuel filter which has a 3 micron element.   I keep plenty of both filters on hand.  There is also a shut off valve for the fuel just before the 1st filter.  (Filter and valve are in the second picture) Keeps the fuel in the line from siphoning, provides yet another way to shut the engine down and allows me to change the filters w/ minimum diesel spillage.

20KW will run pretty much the whole house 80 amps @ 220V or 40 amps on each 115V leg.  At 10KW, the fuel consumption is 0.8 gal/hour which is a fraction of what a like gas generator would use.

Even at 20KW, some power management is required.  When I start it, pretty much all the breakers are off when I pull the transfer switch handle.  Will power up breakers on each side of the breaker panel (fed by 1 of the 2 220V legs on the generator) until what we need is powered up.  If its a long outage, 20KW will easily run a hot water heater or even a 4 ton air conditioner (but not both + other things).  So, we may run the water heater for a few hours in the morning for showers (that was a blessing on about day 10 of no power when Isabel went through here) then if its really hot out, cool the house for the evening with the A/C.

Downsides:

Its LOUD!  We're not speaking about exhaust noise.  Rather, its machinery noise.  Even though the engine is water cooled, you can hear it running 1/4 mile away on a quiet night.  So, in a fan situation, count on running a diesel genny during the day as the sound signature screams: "I have power."

Diesel fuel has microbes which naturally grow in it.  They die and fall to the bottom of the tank and float around in the fuel.   The longer you keep the fuel, even on a treatment program, the more crud will be in the tank.  I build a fuel polisher which is an electric motor driving a rotary gear pump.  On the input side of the pump is the fuel filter from a Clark diesel forklift housing a 10 micron element.  We installed a valve at the bottom, low side of the tank.  'Bout twice a year I'll drain off a bucket of of fuel which will have the most gunk in it then, hook up the fuel polisher to that valve and the output into the fill port of the tank; run the motor 4-5 hours and it pretty well scrubs the glop out of the fuel.

Plan to have other spare parts on hand.  I keep 4 Raycor elements and 4 engine mounted elements.  When running with a load, 100 hours on run time = 6,000 miles drive time so I keep 3 oil filters and enough oil for 3 changes.  On a long outage, oil change intervals can really get away from you.  During Isabel, we ran the generator 180.2 hours and I ended up changing the oil once.  I run synthetic oil for longevity and to assure adequate lubrication during the first 5 minutes of a winter run.  Mobil Delvac 1 is synthetic oil for diesel engines.  Regardless if you use synthetic or dino-based, oil intended for use in a diesel engine is REQUIRED.  The same is true for coolant.  Other parts to have on hand are a fan belt and air filter.  You don't want to be shut down because a fan belt broke.....

One addition I'd like to make but is fairly optional here but would be required if you lived up north is a block heater.  When that engine is 25 degrees and you have to start it, the engine can be balky to light off AND the cold oil slow to lubricate.

Final downside is up front cost.   An 1800 RPM generator NOT made in China is not cheap.  This one was $6 grand when I bought it in like 1998 plus $1,100 for an electrician to install the manual transfer switch.  An auto switch would have cost as much as the generator for just the switch alone.  I installed the fuel piping and wired the generator to the transfer switch which saved a lot of $$.










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RadioKrafter