Automatic Generator Starting

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Hi everyone, I've been collecting components for my system for about 10 years now and finally installed at my cabin near Monticello, Florida this summer. It's been quite a learning process and reading this forum for about a year now has been a tremendous resource. The basic installation went very smoothly thanks in great part to finding most answers to my questions by doing searches here, and I have power up and running.

Now comes time to get past the basic stuff, and I could sure use some advice. Let me do a quick run-down of what is up so far:


800 watts in panels wired at 24 volts(2000 watts' worth more waiting to be installed as I acquire additional charge controllers, panel racks, and time.)

1375 AH HUP Solar-One battery, 12 volts, automatic battery watering system

Prosine 3.0 inverter, 12 volt model

Outback MX60

Honda EU3000is generator

I've been very meticulous in following the John Wiles' NEC publication which is probably why things have gone so well so far. I am heading up there Halloween weekend to do some more work ( I live in Vero Beach) and I would like to be able to connect the EU3000 so that it automatically starts up when the battery runs low, and shuts off when it tops off the battery. What is the best way to do this?

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  • mike95490
    mike95490 Solar Expert Posts: 9,583 ✭✭✭✭✭
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    Re: Automatic Generator Starting

    With the MX60 & > 1,000W, you are better off moving to a higher system voltage, or investing in a copper mine. (you will loose a fair amount of power in copper resistance)

    Do you have a large 12V investment (lots of 12V LED lighting and appliances?)

    I'm not familar with the "1375 AH HUP Solar-One battery", got any links for info about it, what would a 2nd one cost, or is this configurable to 24V ?

    So you can stick at 12V, and buy lots of heavy cables, and several more charge controllers, but if you went to, say a 48V system, 3000W of solar, downconverted to 56V (charging) = 53A, and you only need 1 MX60. [ I belive it has a 60A output limit, regardless of the voltage]
    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 ,

  • System2
    System2 Posts: 6,290 admin
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    Re: Automatic Generator Starting

    Thanks for the response.

    I do realize I'm at a disadvantage with 12 volts, however I've already bought the copper mine. Here is the link to the battery http://www.hupsolarone.com/specs.htm

    Buying a 2nd one would be $3,600, and also I would have to buy a different inverter since the Prosine I have only operates at 12 volts....another 2 grand. At this point it's more cost-effective for me to dish out the money for 2 additional Outback charge controllers, and I already have the wire so its a done deal. This is what happens when you start out small and learn as you go!

    At any rate the system is proving to be cherry so far and I'm not going to shoot myself over my lack of foresight. I do however, want to get things set up so the generator kicks in automatically when the solar isnt able to keep up. The Prosine doesn't have that ability on its own or at least I can't find the documentation on how, if it is. Is there some kind of control out there that will integrate with the inverter and charge controller to do this, or something that independentaly reads the battery voltage I can use to kick the generator off and on?

    -Jorge-
    -Jorge-
  • BB.
    BB. Super Moderators, Administrators Posts: 33,501 admin
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    Re: Automatic Generator Starting

    Other than reading the manuals for your controllers and the generator (plus, you may need to build/buy a 2 wire to 3 wire starter control)--I don't have a lot to add there... (like this--PDF), or these:

    Magnum Energy ME-AGS Automatic Generator Start
    Xantrex XW AGS Automatic Generator Start (Xanbus)
    Relay Generator Start 12 Volt Single Pole Double Throw

    And--if you don't have one, look at a battery monitor (Trimetric is good for low cost unit?)--I like the new Xantrex because the also include a programmable alarm output--set it up to kill the inverter or ring a bell/turn on a red light if the battery bank falls below your 50% (or whatever you choose) bank capacity.

    -Bill
    Near San Francisco California: 3.5kWatt Grid Tied Solar power system+small backup genset
  • mike95490
    mike95490 Solar Expert Posts: 9,583 ✭✭✭✭✭
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    Re: Automatic Generator Starting

    Two more items:

    1) you don't have enough solar now, to recharge the inherent losses in these batteries. The way I understand it, the cell chemistry in the forklift battery is "ruggedness" above all, so the plates don't get knocked apart. This comes at the expense of :
    A) "self-discharge rate", is often a fair amount higher than standard deep cycle
    B) "charging efficiency", again, a lower charge efficiency, meaning you will have to recharge with 130A, for every 100A you consume.

    2) Battery Equalization. Their maintenance page
    http://www.hupsolarone.com/maintenance.htm calls out bi-monthly EQ cycles are required. This will require a lot more current than your existing solar can provide. In your application, where your battery is "parked" equalization has 2 purposes, and I would perform it monthly.
    1) completely and equally charge all cells
    2) from the gas bubbles, this mixes and stirs the electrolyte in these giant deep cells.
    Since this is not getting shaken in a forklift, keeping the electrolyte mixed will now fall solely on the EQ cycles.
    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 ,

  • BB.
    BB. Super Moderators, Administrators Posts: 33,501 admin
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    Re: Automatic Generator Starting

    From the data sheet for the battery... Your recommended charging should be between 110.5 to 221 amps. To compare with our Rule of Thumb of ~5-13%, that would be 110.5/1,375= 8% to 16% rated charging current--makes sense--larger fork lift battery rated for / needing higher charging currents.

    110.5/221 amps x15 volts, that is between 1,658 and 3,315 watts (your solar panel wattage should be ~1.2x those ratings--if you are trying to go solar only most of the year)... Or, you could always schedule a solar+gen equalization 2x per month (depending on the size of your solar and AC charger).

    Looks like a very nice battery:
    Cycles To 80% DOD 2100 Over 10 Years
    Estimated cycles to 50% DOD 4000

    And a 7 year free replacement, prorated out to 10 years... Your solar panels might need to be 5-10% bigger because of the higher self discharge rate / charging losses...


    There are certainly worse ways to spend your money.


    -Bill
    Near San Francisco California: 3.5kWatt Grid Tied Solar power system+small backup genset
  • System2
    System2 Posts: 6,290 admin
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    Re: Automatic Generator Starting

    yep, I am aware that the currently installed solar is not sufficient to keep the battery happy if is being used, which is why the first thing I want to take care of is getting the generator in the loop. The 800 watts that are up are just keeping the battery topped off. the HUP specs call for a charger that large to bring the battery back from 80% DOD but there is no load on it, everything is on idle so far. The Prosine inverter has a built-in 120 amp charger that senses A/C input and makes full use of it so that should take care of anything immediate. Once the other 2,000 watts of panels goes up in the air (hopefully around christmas) I should be good with a combination of 2,800 watts of panels and the 120 amp charger from the inverter.

    Bill I think this one might be what I'm looking for http://store.solar-electric.com/regest12vosi.html Thanks, I will call Xantrex tomorrow and see what they have to say about connections.

    -Jorge-
  • BB.
    BB. Super Moderators, Administrators Posts: 33,501 admin
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    Re: Automatic Generator Starting

    Honda does a nice job of posting their manuals on the web in PDF form... You can download them from here.

    I took a quick look through the Honda eu3000i manual and looked at the schematic for the generator.

    1. Has manual choke--so may be an issue started unattended.
    2. Two independent poles needed... 1. for turning on the start relay, the 2nd for (what appears to be) shorting the magneto to ground.

    The manual says that you cannot leave the ignition switch on as it will drain the battery... I do not see anything where that really does happen (it appears that the magneto is shorted to ground when off, no connections when switch is on, and in start, starter relay is energized).

    Also, you want to only energize the starter for a maximum of 5 seconds.

    Lastly, I guess if you have a "complex" starting controller, you could use the oil pressure switch as an indication that the start cycle failed and to retry starting--if the module does not have an ignition/tach/vacuum sensor of some sort.

    There are, at least, four different manuals, depending on the serial number of the genset you have/buy... I only looked at the latest manual--and the scan of schematic is not that clear. You probably need to print it out and trace the wire colors and maybe even check against the actual unit.

    Short answer, I think you will need a more complex generator controller to auto-start the eu3000i... It really does not appear to be setup for doing this well without an extensive controller add-in.

    For example, some google searches of eu3000i remote start:

    Hayes wireless system (includes choke control)


    There are a few more out there (with google search)--but most are wireless so you may have to call and find out if they have a wired autostart (remote starting kit) of some sort. One company "pulls the choke" while the starter is engaged.

    -Bill
    Near San Francisco California: 3.5kWatt Grid Tied Solar power system+small backup genset
  • icarus
    icarus Solar Expert Posts: 5,436 ✭✭✭✭
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    Re: Automatic Generator Starting

    I can state from experience that EVERY Honda engine I have from outboards to generators, to atv, to stationary engines of every description NEED choking to start, even if they are warm. It looks like Bill is on the right track finding an auto choke mechanism.

    Tony
  • System2
    System2 Posts: 6,290 admin
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    Re: Automatic Generator Starting

    So I spent the last three days doing a couple of things. First was starting the EU 3000is at various times without the choke and it started every time. However like Icarus, this is the first Honda product I've ever had that started without choke and practically guaranteed that it will NOT once the weather turns colder.


    I also called Hayes equipment about this: http://www.hayesequipment.com/portable_generator_wireless_remote_start_kit.htm It's the only auto starter I found that had auto choke, but Hayes only has it in the wireless start. And they are clueless, like I am how to use it in a wired system.

    Option #2: Buy a kit to modify the generator to run on propane. This is attractive in 2 ways... half the price of the Hayes wsk-1 remote starter, and you don't need to choke the generator to crank up on propane.


    Another thing I was doing was exploring the ways to tell the generator to crank up. The Xantrex Prosine inverter doesn't seem to have the ability to do that, but reading thru it's manual, the Outback MX-60 does measure the battery's voltage and it does have an AUX output.

    Whatyall think?

    -Jorge-
  • SolarJohn
    SolarJohn Solar Expert Posts: 202 ✭✭
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    Re: Automatic Generator Starting

    Quote:

    I've been very meticulous in following the John Wiles' NEC publication which is probably why things have gone so well so far. I am heading up there Halloween weekend to do some more work ( I live in Vero Beach) and I would like to be able to connect the EU3000 so that it automatically starts up when the battery runs low, and shuts off when it tops off the battery. What is the best way to do this?
    .............................
    You might want to look into the Morningstar Relay Driver. You can use it to start your generator based on low battery voltage even if you don't use a Morningstar Charge Controller. Functionality includes the ability to set a delay before switching on loads, in order to let the generator get up to speed.

    I use my Relay Driver to switch my inverter on and off, depending on battery voltage. It works well. My batteries are protected from over-discharging. Check my blog for more information: http://solarjohn.blogspot.com

    John
  • BB.
    BB. Super Moderators, Administrators Posts: 33,501 admin
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    Re: Automatic Generator Starting

    Hmmm... Comes back to a basic question... Do you need the generator to autostart when there is nobody there to keep critical loads running (like fridge/freezer)--or could you live with load shedding until somebody returns to start the genset?

    For an alarm, load shedding, and true battery capacity, I would highly recommend the Xantrex LinkPro/Linklite Battery Monitors--The new ones can be programed to set a contact when true State of Charge falls below XX%. Use this contact to load shed/signal a generator, red light, etc. (I don't think I have recommended a battery monitor in at least the last 12 hours to anyone :roll: ). Chronic under charging / over discharging of battery banks is probably the number 1 cause of early life battery failure. Not keeping levels up with distilled water is probably second (from my readings here). Using a Hydrometer (and temperature compensating) and a good battery monitor are the only two quick and accurate ways to monitor your battery bank's health.

    If this is a true--need the generator to reliably start and run and shutdown (and alarm when there is a failure in the generator)--you might want to look at a real genset (perhaps even a prime mover, low RPM unit rated for 24x7 operation).

    While I am a big believe in the Honda euXXXXi family for really good price/performance (and low fuel use when powering small AC loads--typically found with small homes/cabins)--You might be better served by genset designed for this type of operation...

    As an alternative between the euXXXXi family vs a large 4 cylinder prime mover might be an Onan (or equivalent) genset pack designed for a large RV... Multiple fuel use, auto start, quiet, etc. I have a friend that installed a natural gas version in is remodeled home for emergency power.

    Keeping the Honda for an emergency backup / portable genset is still a good use of money.

    -Bill
    Near San Francisco California: 3.5kWatt Grid Tied Solar power system+small backup genset
  • icarus
    icarus Solar Expert Posts: 5,436 ✭✭✭✭
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    Re: Automatic Generator Starting

    The older Onans had legendary reliability. I have a 1948 3kw auto start that still runs as new. I don't use it much as it is a gas hog, (1gph) The newer Onans from RV are a dime a dozen from Craigslist or from RV wreckers. I have seen perfect 4 kw Onans for ~$200. I'm not convinced that they are as reliable as the older ones, but if they are taken care I would think they should hold up. I know of one in seasonal camp service that runs 10 hours/ day for 3 months a year, and has not had a problem. It is somewhat for fuel efficient, 6 KW, 3/4 gph with about 60% load.

    Tony
  • Redford
    Redford Solar Expert Posts: 38 ✭✭
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    Re: Automatic Generator Starting

    I have an EU3000is with a wireless starter. A company named Sungenie makes them and sells them on ebay. It works awesome and always starts on the first or second try as long as it is warmer than 35deg F. If the temp is any lower the genny will still start eventually, but I don't mind making the 20 foot long trip out the backdoor to start it manually. It's probably better for the starter anyhow.

    The way it works around the manual choke is by using an automatic servo that has two settings. One is momentary and the other holds the choke open for 3 seconds or so. It mounts on the air filter and you have to drill holes around the area.

    The good thing is you can start and stop the generator the normal way or use the Starting FOB. The problem is I like to start the generator with the eco-throttle off so it gets up to speed and warms up, THEN turn the eco-throttle on. I figure that would be easy to automate someday, so I could control it from inside the house.

    I have thought about automating the starting process based on voltage presets, or time windows, etc. and I would imagine that it would not be hard to do so. (Finding the time is another matter!)

    You would have to link your inverters alarm/signal port to send out an R/F signal which the sungenie would understand. That is beyond my scope, but I wonder if someone contacted sungenie they could work out an automatic FOB that could signal via R/F based on various constraints.
  • BB.
    BB. Super Moderators, Administrators Posts: 33,501 admin
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    Re: Automatic Generator Starting

    Just fell across a company (out of Canada) that makes Auto Start Controllers for generators...

    DynaGen Technologies


    Check with them and see if they can help with the Honda...

    -Bill
    Near San Francisco California: 3.5kWatt Grid Tied Solar power system+small backup genset
  • RCinFLA
    RCinFLA Solar Expert Posts: 1,484 ✭✭✭✭
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    Re: Automatic Generator Starting

    First, Prosine is push-pull floating output, meaning don't ground the neutral (large blade of plug) to electrical box or battery posts will be 120vac hot to ground.

    Not sure how you are using Honda gen to charge battery. If only using the battery charging port you will not be getting much charging power output (10 amps @ 13v).

    Also, Honda EU3000is inverter/generator is also push-pull floating output so don't try to connect it into a house power box as will have same issue as Prosine, but in this case the housing of the generator will shock you. You also might blowout the inverter in the generator. The inverter in generator itself is floating but there is a great deal of capacitance in the stator windings to generator chassis that will create a potential inverter damaging current if neutral side of plug and generator case are connected together.

    An isolation transformer on the Honda gen and Prosine can be used. I have a Yamaha EF3000i which is similar to Honda EU3000i. I use two 2kw isolation transformers to feed generator output into SW4048's. (Xfmrs are about 50 lbs each) Generator case is grounded via plug ground pin.

    If all you are doing is using extention cords then you are okay.
  • Gregr
    Gregr Registered Users Posts: 1
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    Re: Automatic Generator Starting

    Jorge-

    Looks like you dealt with the same issue I'm dealing with in July 2012 --- back in 2008. Did you ever figure out how to monitor the battery bank, and auto start the Honda EU3000 to recharge the batteries? If so, I'd love to find out what equipment you used to pull it off.

    Thanks
  • inetdog
    inetdog Solar Expert Posts: 3,123 ✭✭✭✭
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    Re: Automatic Generator Starting
    Gregr wrote: »
    Jorge-

    Looks like you dealt with the same issue I'm dealing with in July 2012 --- back in 2008. Did you ever figure out how to monitor the battery bank, and auto start the Honda EU3000 to recharge the batteries? If so, I'd love to find out what equipment you used to pull it off.

    Thanks

    If you have a programmer available to lean on, there is an open community around the micro-based controller board called Anduino. It has a bunch of general purpose inputs and outputs which are suitable for driving relays. You can get it to do anything you want given the right inputs.
    So instead of looking for a special purpose device or trying to roll your own completely, if someone would write an Anduino application designed for this purpose, anyone could use it on their own hardware. Going in the other direction completely, you could set up generator starting and stopping using adjustable voltage-sensitive switches and time delay relays mounted on a DIN rail.
    SMA SB 3000, old BP panels.
  • techntrek
    techntrek Solar Expert Posts: 1,372 ✭✭✭
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    Re: Automatic Generator Starting

    That is "Arduino"

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Arduino
    4.5 kw APC UPS powered by a Prius, 12 kw Generac, Honda EU3000is
  • inetdog
    inetdog Solar Expert Posts: 3,123 ✭✭✭✭
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    Re: Automatic Generator Starting
    techntrek wrote: »
    That is "Arduino"
    Neally?

    Thanks for the correction. :-)
    SMA SB 3000, old BP panels.