Electric start generator

James WilsonJames Wilson Registered Users Posts: 24
I can see that we are going to need an automatic start generator for our off grid home. Currently we don't always have enough sun for solar or water for hydro and have to run a generator.

Usually we don't have more than about 300 watts for a load, but will load up to around 1200 watts for up to about a minute occasionally. We can easily equalize with solar after a couple of sunny days so we don't use a generator for that.

We have a Trace 4024 inverter and I'd like for it to start a small generator automatically.

We have a 6 KW WEN diesel from a going out of business sale, but WEN have basically no support, can't even get a manual to fix the thing. It didn't even last a year.

We also have an eight year old Coleman 1850 that we keep having to repair. When this works it does a pretty good job, but has no electric start. It's easy to pull start when it's working, but we'd like for the Trace inverter to automatically start and stop the thing. We also don't want to have to run outside in the freezing cold and rain to start and stop then generator.

I've been looking at small Honda generators like the EU3000IS and
EM3800SXA. Does anyone have suggestions, advice, or experience with a situation like ours?

Thanks!

Comments

  • BB.BB. Super Moderators Posts: 26,837 admin
    Re: Electric start generator

    Here are a couple threads discussing Autostart and the Honda eu3000i:

    Automatic Generator Starting
    Honda Eu3000i vs Eu2000i


    One of the suggestions in the above threads (from Tony/Icarus) was to look for used RV generators... The are cheap and pretty reliable, plus have electric start.

    I agree with your plans to find the smallest (and most efficient) generator you can. The bigger stuff just drinks fuel unless you are running near 50% capacity or more... Running below 50% (or in some cases 25% for the Honda eu2000i) is just a waste of fuel--so you want to look at the size of your continous loads (such as battery charging). A 6kW generator running a 500 watt battery charger is just not cost effective.

    -Bill
    Near San Francisco California: 3.5kWatt Grid Tied Solar power system+small backup genset
  • James WilsonJames Wilson Registered Users Posts: 24
    Re: Electric start generator

    Thanks for the links, I'm learning a lot of the practicalities of actually living full time off the grid.

    I have learned to be more careful about being sure that these are maintainable - I can't find any information on the WEN, no manuals available and taking the covers off just to find a fuel or air leak is a major ordeal.

    The Coleman is a little better, but you need to switch over to Briggs and Stratton for the engine parts and the parts can be a bit difficult to find. And the recoil starter is RIVITED on!

    Honda seems to have much better maintenance support and even has manuals online. I'm still researching final word in automatic start of a small generator though.

    BB. wrote: »
    Here are a couple threads discussing Autostart and the Honda eu3000i:

    Automatic Generator Starting
    Honda Eu3000i vs Eu2000i


    One of the suggestions in the above threads (from Tony/Icarus) was to look for used RV generators... The are cheap and pretty reliable, plus have electric start.

    I agree with your plans to find the smallest (and most efficient) generator you can. The bigger stuff just drinks fuel unless you are running near 50% capacity or more... Running below 50% (or in some cases 25% for the Honda eu2000i) is just a waste of fuel--so you want to look at the size of your continous loads (such as battery charging). A 6kW generator running a 500 watt battery charger is just not cost effective.

    -Bill
  • icarusicarus Solar Expert Posts: 5,090 ✭✭✭✭
    Re: Electric start generator

    I would personally turn the Coleman into a boat anchor! They are a POS! Not terribly stable on the voltage or the hz, noisy, not very fuel effecient, etc, etc, etc!

    I would look seriously at what you really need for back up, or for battery charging. I would then by a genny that you would be running at it's peak efficiency. Figuring out how your system is likely to grow in the future would be a consideration as well.

    The Honda Eu series has a great Rep, as do some of the other Japanese brands for reliability and fuel efficiency. On the other hand, a classic older Onan can be had quite reasonably and will run forever. The trick is that they are fuel eaters especially if they are running at less than optimal efficiencies.

    As Bill suggests, running a 20 amp charger on a 5kw generator makes no sense. I have run the Xantrex TC 20 on a Eu-1000 for several years. It won't run a TC-40, but the TC 40 runs just fine on an older 1600 watt non EU Honda.

    Tony.

    PS I have so many generators! I have a great Mitsubishi 2800 that I got for $50, a Honda EX1000 salvaged out of a dumpster, another honda ex 1600 that came from somewhere, as well as a B&S powered Coleman I let my nephew take apart just to see how it worked. In a box under my bench,,,, the best place possible for it. (Not to mention the 1948 3 kw Onan, and the 1952 Lister SL2 Diesel!

    Tony
  • BB.BB. Super Moderators Posts: 26,837 admin
    Re: Electric start generator

    Just to be clear, I was not suggesting that James was running a 20amp/500 watt charger on his 6kW diesel--I was just making suggestions about how to conserve fuel--and guessing a bit from the loads he mentioned.

    I have no other information about James' configuration.

    -Bill
    Near San Francisco California: 3.5kWatt Grid Tied Solar power system+small backup genset
  • icarusicarus Solar Expert Posts: 5,090 ✭✭✭✭
    Re: Electric start generator
    BB. wrote: »
    Just to be clear, I was not suggesting that James was running a 20amp/500 watt charger on his 6kW diesel--I was just making suggestions about how to conserve fuel--and guessing a bit from the loads he mentioned.

    I have no other information about James' configuration.

    -Bill

    No, no, I got it.

    I was just reiterating the point that running Xkw of genny to only burn 500 watts is not very efficient.

    Tonh
  • James WilsonJames Wilson Registered Users Posts: 24
    Re: Electric start generator

    After reading the advice here and doing a lot of research I've decided to get a Honda EM3800SXA with the battery tray kit and control kit for remote start. This is the smallest generator that I could find with fully remote start.

    I looked at the EU3000i, but the manual control of the choke sort of negates any possibility of any remote start or automatic start. There are remote start kits that handle this, but they are expensive and rather involved. I want something that can actually be fixed if something goes wrong and I'm not around to fix it.

    While I can easily go outside and pull a recoil starter on a 1000 watt generator I need something that will be run automatically if I'm away for work for several days. I'm finding that I'm getting less and less interested in babysitting and fiddling so much with systems as I get older and just want them to work with only routine maintenance.


    Anyone looking to buy a WEN D6000 diesel generator? It has electric start and there is no choke to fuss with, but there is a "Run" lever to latch, the ignition switch can be paralleled for remote start. This was a great generator for all of the high wattage equipment in use during the house construction and it has no problem equalizing a battery bank. I don't want to ship this, but if you're in the Western North Carolina area come on over!

    I'll post my experiences hooking the new generator up to my Trace 4024 when the Honda arrives. Thanks for all of the advice!
  • icarusicarus Solar Expert Posts: 5,090 ✭✭✭✭
    Re: Electric start generator

    James,

    How is the fuel consumption relative to the Eu3000 at the anticipated load?

    Tony
  • James WilsonJames Wilson Registered Users Posts: 24
    Re: Electric start generator

    Here's my theory:

    If the Honda EM3800SXA generator comes on automatically it will be because the batteries are close to being discharged to 50%. That means that they will need charging and we will still need some power for the house, maybe 30 to 400 watts, depending on the time of day and what's being used.

    If I set the Trace 4024's charger to charge at about 1.3 amps and we have about 300 watts of house load the generator will be about half loaded

    The generator is supposed to run at 15.6 hours on 6.6 gallons of gas at half load - that's about 0.42 gallons per hour or about 0.42 gallons per KW hour.

    That's the theory anyway... :)

    icarus wrote: »
    James,

    How is the fuel consumption relative to the Eu3000 at the anticipated load?

    Tony
  • icarusicarus Solar Expert Posts: 5,090 ✭✭✭✭
    Re: Electric start generator

    It's too bad you need the auto start,,,

    It seems that the fuel consumption is about double that of a Eu 3000 running /12 loaded or a Eu 2000 running about full bore,,, something about .22gph.

    Tony

    PS I think that drawing your battery down to 50% is too far if you do it routinely,,IMHO. The trade off is shorter battery life, or higher fuel costs to keep them charged. Obviously if you spend and extra $400 worth of fuel to keep a $1000 battery bank going 2 extra years,,,,what is the better deal?

    T
  • James WilsonJames Wilson Registered Users Posts: 24
    Re: Electric start generator

    It's too bad that there aren't any remote start 1000 watt generators commonly available...

    Most of the time we have enough sun in the sky or water in the creek to manage with no need to run a generator.

    We will probably do fine most of Spring and Fall and all of summer. There are only about three months when we need to run a generator two or three days a week for an hour or two a day - around five gallons per month in Winter.

    If only the creek would run well all year - if it would run 10 gallon a minute all year we wouldn't need a generator or solar...




    icarus wrote: »
    It's too bad you need the auto start,,,

    It seems that the fuel consumption is about double that of a Eu 3000 running /12 loaded or a Eu 2000 running about full bore,,, something about .22gph.

    Tony

    PS I think that drawing your battery down to 50% is too far if you do it routinely,,IMHO. The trade off is shorter battery life, or higher fuel costs to keep them charged. Obviously if you spend and extra $400 worth of fuel to keep a $1000 battery bank going 2 extra years,,,,what is the better deal?

    T
  • icarusicarus Solar Expert Posts: 5,090 ✭✭✭✭
    Re: Electric start generator

    Do you have any generator now?

    If so,, for the ~$800-1000 you are going to spend on the Honda, could you add some panel capacity to make up the shortfall?

    Tony
  • James WilsonJames Wilson Registered Users Posts: 24
    Re: Electric start generator

    The beginning of this thread has some history of my generator situation - I'm keeping the little recoil start 1800 watt Coleman as a backup to the Honda generator and I'm going to sell the 6 KW WEN Diesel.

    The Honda will cost about $2,300. If I could still get $4/watt solar panels that would only get me 575 rated watts - without shipping, mounting, all of the miscellaneous install materials and labor, and another charge controller - my MX60 is maxed out.

    This would also start the solar panels creeping into my garden space and I would have to cut down a bunch of trees. I'm in sort of a valley so I don't get full use of the solar panels.

    I don't want to burn gas, so I'm trying to minimize it as much as I can, but I do need something to protect the batteries while we're not here or the house is in use by someone that isn't and electrical engineer.

    icarus wrote: »
    Do you have any generator now?

    If so,, for the ~$800-1000 you are going to spend on the Honda, could you add some panel capacity to make up the shortfall?

    Tony
  • mike95490mike95490 Solar Expert Posts: 7,283 ✭✭✭✭
    Re: Electric start generator

    When the genset comes on, why not diverit it's full output to the charger?

    Your batteries would be low enough that they should accept full charge rate, and the house usage would still come off the inverter, as normal.

    What is the trigger to switch the genset off, 80% charge, 90%, any higher than 90, and you are in a fuel wasting trickle charge, IMHO
    Powerfab top of pole PV mount | Listeroid 6/1 w/st5 gen head | XW6048 inverter/chgr | Iota 48V/15A charger | Morningstar 60A MPPT | 48V, 800A NiFe Battery (in series)| 15, Evergreen 205w "12V" PV array on pole | Midnight ePanel | Grundfos 10 SO5-9 with 3 wire Franklin Electric motor (1/2hp 240V 1ph ) on a timer for 3 hr noontime run - Runs off PV ||
    || Midnight Classic 200 | 10, Evergreen 200w in a 160VOC array ||
    || VEC1093 12V Charger | Maha C401 aa/aaa Charger | SureSine | Sunsaver MPPT 15A

    solar: http://tinyurl.com/LMR-Solar
    gen: http://tinyurl.com/LMR-Lister ,

  • James WilsonJames Wilson Registered Users Posts: 24
    Re: Electric start generator

    This is sort of where I started from - When using a generator the Trace 4024 switches loads to straight generator power, the inverter no longer powers the loads and starts charging.

    This is more efficient since you are no longer going through the inverter to power your loads.

    One problem with this is that if you have a small generator - if it's charging batteries at near its capacity and something like a washer goes into spin cycle the inverter will drop the generator out and free run for a while, then try again to see if the generator is back up to speed. So if I run the generator at the middle of its capacity it is more fuel efficient in more ways than one.

    Also, my thought is that the batteries charge more efficiently at a moderate charging current (around 1,300 watts into my Eight Rolls Surrette S-530 batteries) for a long time as the generator is directly powering the loads rather than blasting them full, turning off the generator, then running off of batteries (with their charge and discharge losses) again. The sun will give them a complete charge within a few days - we don''t have unending months of clouds here like some places that I have lived.

    It's usually only at night that I have to run a generator, even on the darkest days I can make about 500 watt hours. Usually these very cloudy days don't last a week or come with enough rain to run the hydro 24 hours a day - then I'm set! Sure wish the creek were a little bigger!

    These are some of the practicalities that I'm learning from actually living off the grid. This forum has been very helpful - I didn't know that generators ran most efficiently at half load until I read it here.

    I'm anxious to get the generator in and get it set up with the Trace 4024 for auto start. I'm sure that it will take some experimentation to figure out the set points for generator cut in and cut out. There are many metrics and variables to achieve peak efficiency. I don't know what voltage I would set the generator to to cut out since voltage isn't a real good indicator of state of charge and I don't really want the batteries to go into absorb or float since that will leave the generator mostly unloaded. I'll have to moitor the charge current to see what to set cut out to.

    I'll usually end up with a sunny day soon that will completely charge or even equalize the batteries within a day or two so partial charging shouldn't be a problem.

    I am also installing a Pentametric battery monitor - that may be the best thing to use to start and stop the generator.

    When I get this all connected I'll hope for cloudy days so that I can test it! :)


    mike90045 wrote: »
    When the genset comes on, why not diverit it's full output to the charger?

    Your batteries would be low enough that they should accept full charge rate, and the house usage would still come off the inverter, as normal.

    What is the trigger to switch the genset off, 80% charge, 90%, any higher than 90, and you are in a fuel wasting trickle charge, IMHO
  • BB.BB. Super Moderators Posts: 26,837 admin
    Re: Electric start generator

    By the way--just to let the newcomers (and remind old-timers know):

    Personal one-off sales of members personal solar related equipment is allowed here. Please avoid links to EBay.

    If you are interested, please post a private message or a short note here with contact info to discuss the details.

    -Bill B. (as moderator)
    Near San Francisco California: 3.5kWatt Grid Tied Solar power system+small backup genset
  • James WilsonJames Wilson Registered Users Posts: 24
    Re: Electric start generator

    I ended up getting a Honda EM3800SXA with the electric start kit and remote start kit. The dealer was glad to have the business and put it all together and tested it.

    The remote start is wonderful! I haven't hooked this up for automatic start from the Trace 4024 yet, but it's nice to be able to reach over and have it start without needing to get the flashlight and get bundled up to hope that the old generator would start without trouble.

    I set the inverter/charger to use 1200 watts for charging. There is still enough power left over for the normal house loads and will even start the water pump without dropping the inverter/charger's relay.

    Next we'll see how much will go into interfacing the generator with the inverter...
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