Best Cold Weather Starting Fuel for a generator?

SaggysSaggys Solar Expert Posts: 52 ✭✭
What fuel source is best in cold (-20 degrees), for cold weather starting of a generator? I have propane and it finally died and am thinking of replacing with a Honda EU2000 gas model. Do these start in cold weather? It seems like gasoline is preferred over propane in other generator threads I have read.
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  • CariboocootCariboocoot Banned Posts: 17,615 ✭✭
    Re: Best Cold Weather Starting Fuel for a generator?

    -20C or -20F?

    Having just gone through an extended period of -30C (-22F) weather I can tell you nothing wants to start at those temps! I had to put the propane heater (which didn't want to light) on the wood splitter for two hours to warm it up enough to get it to run, then let it run another hour before the hydraulic fluid was thin enough to work the ram properly.

    In general propane will atomize at fairly low temperatures if there's enough pressure behind it. But there's the rub: temp goes down, so does pressure. If the tank is fairly full it will still work but guess what? Tank level goes down, so does pressure.

    Gasoline will start at -20C no problem (that's -4F). It will also start at -20F with some effort. You might need to give it a shot of ether.

    Diesel fuel congeals at those temps, and even if you have the "Winter additive" in it they don't want to start. When we had diesel equipment to use in Winter it was block heaters, canvass covers, salamander heaters, and ether in addition to the propanol in the fuel. It could take hours to get one to fire. Further North they just leave them running and pray the fuel doesn't gel.
  • SaggysSaggys Solar Expert Posts: 52 ✭✭
    Re: Best Cold Weather Starting Fuel for a generator?

    -20 degrees F, I would have a 500 gallon propane tank to use when I get it plumbed and filled. I also have a propane fuel Onan 2.5lk with a weather enclosure. The thing I like about the Honda is you can warm it up inside the cabin easily.
  • Blackcherry04Blackcherry04 Solar Expert Posts: 2,490 ✭✭✭
    Re: Best Cold Weather Starting Fuel for a generator?

    If you get the Honda EU 2000 make sure it has the Heated crank case breather hose on it. If you don't it will frost up and freeze inside and blow the oil out. You can get it as a kit if it doesn't. I just take mine inside, with a quick disconnect you can do the same with propane. I have a gas model.

    http://www.2wheelpros.com/oem-parts/honda-power-equipment-heater-kit-breather-06390-z07-c20-part.html?gclid=CKiP64eu0bwCFQsSMwod7w4A1g
  • SolarPoweredSolarPowered Solar Expert Posts: 626 ✭✭✭
    Re: Best Cold Weather Starting Fuel for a generator?

    Natural Gas and Bio Diesel (diesel generators) are the best that result in best efficiency and low carbon emissions no matter the cold.
    High compression engines work better, the colder the condition.
  • SaggysSaggys Solar Expert Posts: 52 ✭✭
    Re: Best Cold Weather Starting Fuel for a generator?

    Thanks for the tip on the EU. What powers the heater?

    I think bio-diesel gels in the winter, so that would not work for us.
  • SolarPoweredSolarPowered Solar Expert Posts: 626 ✭✭✭
    Re: Best Cold Weather Starting Fuel for a generator?

    If you have glycerin in the bio diesel..YES, However a clean ASTM spec bio diesel shouldn't gel at all, as the glycerin levels are under 5%.
    When I worked for sirona bio fuels a sister venture with blue sky bio fuels we would actually use the spec we couldn't sell as ASTM spec to consumers and used it to heat the boilers and generators for the plant, only 10% of energy consumption was on grid. It would get to 30* F in the bay area winters and the generators, and boilers would start up just fine, and those were fuels with heavier glycerin content, the down fall was that the filters would have to be changed monthly, some batches were so bad the filter change would be twice a month.

    The high cost of filter replacement is all you would really run into. Or if you don't use VITON hoses and injector tips standard tips and hose rubber will coagulate and degrade from the bio diesel grade.

    You could always run whats called the 50/50 blend. 50% petro diesel, 50% bio diesel so even if the spec doesn't meet astm standard the petro diesel prevents any type of gelling.

    Although diesel sells for more at the pump per revolution because of torque, diesel engines will producer a higher kWh per revolution than a standard unleaded or propane generator so you actually save money.
  • Blackcherry04Blackcherry04 Solar Expert Posts: 2,490 ✭✭✭
    Re: Best Cold Weather Starting Fuel for a generator?
    Saggys wrote: »
    Thanks for the tip on the EU. What powers the heater?

    I think bio-diesel gels in the winter, so that would not work for us.
    It plugs into the back of the receptacle behind the front panel, so the generator powers it when it's running ( 10 Watts ). I don't know if it's on all the Generators offered on-line, some may include it and some not. Just a heads up in case you didn't know about it.
  • mike95490mike95490 Solar Expert Posts: 8,614 ✭✭✭✭✭
    Re: Best Cold Weather Starting Fuel for a generator?
    Natural Gas and Bio Diesel (diesel generators) are the best that result in best efficiency and low carbon emissions no matter the cold.
    High compression engines work better, the colder the condition.

    I've to say, while in THEORY, a heat engine works better in a cold environment, even pump diesel gels in cold weather. And getting a cold diesel engine started takes heaters and lots of battery juice to crank.
    So any temps cooler than frost, a cold block of diesel engine is not your friend, unless you have a couple of good proven starter batteries. Got to run a intake heater & / or glow plug, and get the thing spinning fast enough to fire.
    If it's really cold, a gasoline engine converted to Natural Gas (not propane) would do the trick.

    I'm off grid, and have 2 diesel generators, and can't keep them "heated, warm and ready to go". Generally the cold weather solution is block heaters, blankets, several batteries and ether. I don't have power for all that, so my go-to cold weather generator is a clone Cold Start lister diesel. I have to run 5w oil, or it's so thick I can't crank it.
    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 ,

  • SolarPoweredSolarPowered Solar Expert Posts: 626 ✭✭✭
    Re: Best Cold Weather Starting Fuel for a generator?
    mike95490 wrote: »
    I've to say, while in THEORY, a heat engine works better in a cold environment, even pump diesel gels in cold weather. And getting a cold diesel engine started takes heaters and lots of battery juice to crank.
    So any temps cooler than frost, a cold block of diesel engine is not your friend, unless you have a couple of good proven starter batteries. Got to run a intake heater & / or glow plug, and get the thing spinning fast enough to fire.
    If it's really cold, a gasoline engine converted to Natural Gas (not propane) would do the trick.

    I'm off grid, and have 2 diesel generators, and can't keep them "heated, warm and ready to go". Generally the cold weather solution is block heaters, blankets, several batteries and ether. I don't have power for all that, so my go-to cold weather generator is a clone Cold Start lister diesel. I have to run 5w oil, or it's so thick I can't crank it.

    This reminds me of a conversation I had with a friend of mine and weve been getting more into the rewnewable energy generators. This natural gas generator always starts and it recycles 98% of its exhaust heat.

    Compared to Diesel generators this is much more efficient.
    5kWh generator, and we are looking to install one for a friend in MT.Shasta.

    Its called the purecell model 5.
    http://www.clearedgepower.com/energy/purecellmodel5system/
  • CariboocootCariboocoot Banned Posts: 17,615 ✭✭
    Re: Best Cold Weather Starting Fuel for a generator?

    Natural gas and bio-diesel are not available everywhere, therefor they may be irrelevant as potential fuels for the OP.
  • SaggysSaggys Solar Expert Posts: 52 ✭✭
    Re: Best Cold Weather Starting Fuel for a generator?

    I think the comparison should be between propane and gasoline. Natural gas is not available, diesel and bio-diesel is available but nothing else we have uses it so natural gas and any diesel is out for us.
  • mike95490mike95490 Solar Expert Posts: 8,614 ✭✭✭✭✭
    Re: Best Cold Weather Starting Fuel for a generator?
    Saggys wrote: »
    I think the comparison should be between propane and gasoline. Natural gas is not available, diesel and bio-diesel is available but nothing else we have uses it so natural gas and any diesel is out for us.

    When it's really cold, gasoline takes lots of choke, which automatic systems may fail. And propane may not build enough pressure.

    I've heard the answer for propane is to install a special liquid feed system with the pressure regulator near the engine, and a small electric heat tape to warm the liquid propane. Not sure exactly how they do it safely, but your LP dealer should know about it if it's that cold in your area.
    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 ,

  • westbranchwestbranch Solar Expert Posts: 5,182 ✭✭✭✭
    Re: Best Cold Weather Starting Fuel for a generator?
    mike95490 wrote: »
    and a small electric heat tape to warm the liquid propane. Not sure exactly how they do it safely, but your LP dealer should know about it if it's that cold in your area.

    The heat tapes available here have a temp sensor at the end that turns on the power at ~Freezing 0*C/32F. they are designed for water pipes.
    http://www.lowes.com/pd_23997-72436-AHB-112_0__?productId=1068425
     
    KID #51B  4s 140W to 24V 900Ah C&D AGM
    CL#29032 FW 2126/ 2073/ 2133 175A E-Panel WBjr, 3 x 4s 140W to 24V 900Ah C&D AGM 
    Cotek ST1500W 24V Inverter,OmniCharge 3024,
    2 x Cisco WRT54GL i/c DD-WRT Rtr & Bridge,
    Eu3/2/1000i Gens, 1680W & E-Panel/WBjr to come, CL #647 asleep
    West Chilcotin, BC, Canada
  • BB.BB. Super Moderators, Administrators Posts: 30,055 admin
    Re: Best Cold Weather Starting Fuel for a generator?

    I believe natural gas and similar (like propane) engines need to run at a higher compression ratio to be more efficient. A simple gasoline engine converted to gaseous fuels is not as energy efficient.

    Of course, natural gas is much cheaper than other fuels on a BTU/$ price (maybe ~1/3rd the cost of gasoline in our area). Also, natural gas does not have road taxes which helps a lot too vs taxed gasoline.

    -Bill
    Near San Francisco California: 3.5kWatt Grid Tied Solar power system+small backup genset
  • SaggysSaggys Solar Expert Posts: 52 ✭✭
    Re: Best Cold Weather Starting Fuel for a generator?

    Thanks guys, I will try my Onan LK propane fueled next winter and if it does not work out I will be looking for a Honda EU gasoline model.
  • softdownsoftdown Solar Expert Posts: 2,916 ✭✭✭✭
    Re: Best Cold Weather Starting Fuel for a generator?

    Why in the world is natural gas being mentioned in an off grid thread about genset starting fluid. Natural gas availability means that you are "on the grid."

    Batteries help gensets start in cold weather. A battery is much, much more effective than a pull cord. Manual chokes are better than auto chokes. Thin oil, think 5 weight, can help quite a bit. If ether doesn't work, nothing will. Diesel just hates weather below 0F.

    Bottom line: some gensets like to start. Others do not. That is why I specify when buying a used genset - "Buy one that likes to start." That can be tricky of course. The seller has plenty of time to "warm up the genset" before meeting with the buyer.

    Quality genset is one of the most important items for off gridders. I live in the boonies, neighbors are constantly crashing their gensets. Constantly. One guy has five broken gensets despite the fact that he can repair them. So I am currently looking at slightly used Honda's. Eventually gas mileage pays for itself.
    First Bank:16 180 watt Grape Solar with  FM80 controller and 3648 Inverter....Fullriver 8D AGM solar batteries. Second Bank/MacGyver Special: 10 165(?) watt BP Solar with Renogy MPPT 40A controller/ and Xantrex C-35 PWM controller/ and Morningstar PWM controller...Cotek 24V PSW inverter....forklift and diesel locomotive batteries
  • jonrjonr Solar Expert Posts: 1,360 ✭✭✭✭
    Re: Best Cold Weather Starting Fuel for a generator?
    softdown wrote: »
    Why in the world is natural gas being mentioned in an off grid thread about genset starting fluid Natural gas availability means that you are "on the grid."

    Some of the gas stations around here sell compressed natural gas (CNG). Of you can compress it yourself at some on-grid location and then transport it off grid.

    I am available for custom hardware/firmware development

  • SaggysSaggys Solar Expert Posts: 52 ✭✭
    Re: Best Cold Weather Starting Fuel for a generator?

    The natural gas statement is valid, I do not think it is within twenty miles of us. Well it has been a year and I still have not set up our Onan as our primary generator yet. I bought a portable Coleman 4000 watt gas powered generator and it is working and starting just fine for now. We may convert our propane Onan to gasoline.
  • icarusicarus Solar Expert Posts: 5,400 ✭✭✭✭
    Re: Best Cold Weather Starting Fuel for a generator?

    The great advantqge of the small EU series Hondas, (1000/2000) is that they are small enough to park inside somewhere to keep warm. When I leave for a while (days or weeks) in winter, my water line freezes to th Elaine level, and I need to run a genny for about ten minutes to run the heat tape. (the system self drains daily, but eventually it will freeze, but PEX tubing can take repeated freezing without damage)

    When I get home, I get a fire lit, and even it it is -40 with in a couple of hours the genny is warm enough to start easily. The rest of the time, genny use is quite rare, so I seal the gas cap vent, drop the genny in a rubber maid box under my indoor bench, then it always will start.

    My larger gennies need heat, and Nowdays I almost never run one. If I need the shop genny (a a 2900 Mitsubishi I leave it exposed to the sun, but out of the wind, and it warms enough to run fine. My old Onans are really hard to start below zero, and the old Lister diesel won't even hand crank over much below zero.

    The advantage of propane is that the fuel doesn't go stale, but as has been stated, propane won't vaporize at all at -40. Even at -20f a big enough BTU load on a tank can have it "run out of gas" pretty quickly. As an anecdote, once when I was a kid, my father an I were staying in a remote camp that only had a propane stove for heat, no wood stove. It was -58 overnight one night, and stayed below -30 for a week. The first night, with out thinking we went to bed, only to wake up a couple hours later noticing that therre was no gas. The tanks we full, but they would not vaporize. We soent the next week, alternating tanks every few hours, bringing one in, setting it across a pair of saw horses WH th a Coleman lantern und it to heat it enough to run for a couple of hours. The frost on the tank was several inches thick each time we brought one in. It was a long week. As a result, I made sure that if fr no other reason, having a stove in that kind of environment is essential for safety.

    Tony

    Icarus
  • CDN_VTCDN_VT Solar Expert Posts: 492 ✭✭✭
    Re: Best Cold Weather Starting Fuel for a generator?

    Use a buried propane tank & larger the tank the less outside freezing . I have a 1/8" 3mm vac tube in the intake manifold . I prime with gas or ether , always starts .
    My under tanks are 250 & 500 sizing . I drip transfer from 100# tanks when propane is on sale
  • softdownsoftdown Solar Expert Posts: 2,916 ✭✭✭✭
    Re: Best Cold Weather Starting Fuel for a generator?
    jonr wrote: »
    Some of the gas stations around here sell compressed natural gas (CNG). Of you can compress it yourself at some on-grid location and then transport it off grid.

    Had no idea. How does the price compare to propane? There is less energy in nat gas, the price could reflect that.
    First Bank:16 180 watt Grape Solar with  FM80 controller and 3648 Inverter....Fullriver 8D AGM solar batteries. Second Bank/MacGyver Special: 10 165(?) watt BP Solar with Renogy MPPT 40A controller/ and Xantrex C-35 PWM controller/ and Morningstar PWM controller...Cotek 24V PSW inverter....forklift and diesel locomotive batteries
  • softdownsoftdown Solar Expert Posts: 2,916 ✭✭✭✭
    Re: Best Cold Weather Starting Fuel for a generator?
    CDN_VT wrote: »
    Use a buried propane tank & larger the tank the less outside freezing . I have a 1/8" 3mm vac tube in the intake manifold . I prime with gas or ether , always starts .
    My under tanks are 250 & 500 sizing . I drip transfer from 100# tanks when propane is on sale

    Burying a propane tank is a bigger task than one may think. Around here, they are essentially dug up and inspected periodically. Pretty expensive as my memory serves me.
    First Bank:16 180 watt Grape Solar with  FM80 controller and 3648 Inverter....Fullriver 8D AGM solar batteries. Second Bank/MacGyver Special: 10 165(?) watt BP Solar with Renogy MPPT 40A controller/ and Xantrex C-35 PWM controller/ and Morningstar PWM controller...Cotek 24V PSW inverter....forklift and diesel locomotive batteries
  • BB.BB. Super Moderators, Administrators Posts: 30,055 admin
    Re: Best Cold Weather Starting Fuel for a generator?

    Natural gas does not liquefy at "normal" pressures and temperatures--So to have any sort of "useful" energy storage, generally natural gas tanks are very high pressure (around 3,600 PSI for CNG cars and the issues that go with that).

    -Bill
    Near San Francisco California: 3.5kWatt Grid Tied Solar power system+small backup genset
  • softdownsoftdown Solar Expert Posts: 2,916 ✭✭✭✭
    Re: Best Cold Weather Starting Fuel for a generator?
    BB. wrote: »
    Natural gas does not liquefy at "normal" pressures and temperatures--So to have any sort of "useful" energy storage, generally natural gas tanks are very high pressure (around 3,600 PSI for CNG cars and the issues that go with that).

    -Bill

    hmmm...I wonder if scuba tanks could be modified to hold cng for extreme cold weather scenarios. But I seriously doubt that a cng retailer would fill your scuba tanks for you. Scuba tanks are normally filled to 3000 psi for diving.
    First Bank:16 180 watt Grape Solar with  FM80 controller and 3648 Inverter....Fullriver 8D AGM solar batteries. Second Bank/MacGyver Special: 10 165(?) watt BP Solar with Renogy MPPT 40A controller/ and Xantrex C-35 PWM controller/ and Morningstar PWM controller...Cotek 24V PSW inverter....forklift and diesel locomotive batteries
  • BB.BB. Super Moderators, Administrators Posts: 30,055 admin
    Re: Best Cold Weather Starting Fuel for a generator?

    Look on EBay for used tanks--They seem to be available there.

    CNG Tank | eBay


    And they cannot be re-certified after they "expire":

    http://www.government-fleet.com/article/story/2010/05/what-happens-when-your-cng-tanks-expire.aspx
    In the 1990s, the NGV industry created CNG cylinder certification standards. Cylinders built to meet the original (1992) version of Standard NGV2 were designed for a service life of 15 years, with labeling requirements setting a "Do not use after" date. A 1998 revision extended allowable cylinder life certification to 20 years. The 2007 revision raised that figure to allow a 25-year lifespan.

    $500 used, $5,000 new for a set of vehicle tanks????

    -Bill
    Near San Francisco California: 3.5kWatt Grid Tied Solar power system+small backup genset
  • CariboocootCariboocoot Banned Posts: 17,615 ✭✭
    Re: Best Cold Weather Starting Fuel for a generator?

    Gasoline is wonderful stuff.
  • Alaska ManAlaska Man Solar Expert Posts: 252 ✭✭
    Re: Best Cold Weather Starting Fuel for a generator?

    One of the good things about the Honda is you can keep it inside and not worry about how cold it is. I keep my Yamaha inside and roll it out into -40°F regularly in the winter. I do throw a moving blanket over it at those temps to try and warm up the combustion air some.

    I should note that this winter I have yet to see even -25°F. As the saying goes, "I'm Lovin it". Best winter ever for the Interior.
  • oil pan 4oil pan 4 Solar Expert Posts: 766 ✭✭✭✭
    Re: Best Cold Weather Starting Fuel for a generator?
    -20C or -20F?

    First one then the other it looks like.

    Bio diesel gels horribly even at not so cold temps.

    Fuel gelling can be fixed by a coolant powered fuel heater. I have had gelling issues with my diesel truck but filter clogging problems didn't happen till after the engine is warmed up.
    Use a mechanical thermostatic valve to warm fuel up to say 90'F with coolant.

    Solar hybrid gasoline generator, 7kw gas, 180 watts of solar, Morningstar 15 amp MPPT, group 31 AGM, 900 watt kisae inverter.

    Solar roof top GMC suburban, a normal 3/4 ton suburban with 180 watts of panels on the roof and 10 amp genasun MPPT, 2000w samlex pure sine wave inverter, 12v gast and ARB air compressors.

  • BB.BB. Super Moderators, Administrators Posts: 30,055 admin
    Re: Best Cold Weather Starting Fuel for a generator?

    I can only imagine what it is like to live in extreme cold.

    Here is a small town in Siberia near the Arctic Circle (lots of pictures):

    http://www.wired.com/2015/01/amos-chapple-the-coldest-place-on-earth/

    I am sure pictures do not do justice to "the cold":

    Attachment not found.

    -Bill
    Near San Francisco California: 3.5kWatt Grid Tied Solar power system+small backup genset
  • CariboocootCariboocoot Banned Posts: 17,615 ✭✭
    Re: Best Cold Weather Starting Fuel for a generator?

    We're having a yo-yo year here; it has been -37C and +7C with half a metre of snow and complete thaw. :p

    My son-in-law worked up in Baffin a few years back; -70C temps. So cold fully charged batteries go 'dead' in seconds as they lose their internal heat and the chemical reaction stops. Silicon extension cords break like glass. Yeah, extreme cold can be real fun. Not.
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