Kohler home generator nightmares

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chanks
chanks Registered Users Posts: 5 ✭✭
Hello folks...would this be the correct message board for discussing kohler home standby generator problems?

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  • BB.
    BB. Super Moderators, Administrators Posts: 33,532 admin
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    Good Evening Chanks,

    You can ask your questions here.

    Take care,
    -Bill
    Near San Francisco California: 3.5kWatt Grid Tied Solar power system+small backup genset
  • chanks
    chanks Registered Users Posts: 5 ✭✭
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    i bought a 2020 kohler 14kw RCAL home standby generator in sept of 2020. When i first got it, i had trouble for the first 6 months with not starting for self tests, failing during power outages, hunting, running for a couple minutes then just die, just wasnt right..error codes were low crank voltage, locked rotor shutdown, and ATS comError. These errors came up what seemed to be random. Every time the generator messed up, it was always one of these codes, even if the generator acted different than before, if that makes any sense. Installer came out two different times...once adjusted gas pressure(natural gas), then said it was the controller. He said he was gonna order one and he would be back. Well, the installer went out of business about a week later so there i sat. 4700 dollar paper weight. Now most the time, i was able to get it started manually, but a couple times, it just wouldn't run at all. I was discouraged and decided to forget about it for a while before i called kohler. On the self test at the end of march, "the demon" generator cranked up and ran a perfect test...all on its own. I said, "wow" Between march 2021 and dec. 2021, all self tests went flawless. There were 6 power outages, generator performed as it should. Nothing was ever done to the generator..it just started running right. Ok, january 2022...here we go again. Same problems as stated above. This time i called kohler. They are sending a tech to check it out...will update. Any ideas?
  • BB.
    BB. Super Moderators, Administrators Posts: 33,532 admin
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    I would check all electrical connections that the installer would have to touch/make. See that they are tight and free of corrosion. For higher current connections, make sure there is no browning/blackening of connections/wiring.

    For connections you can access in the genset... Make sure connectors are fully seated--And where you are at now, I would "tug" on each wire into a connector and make sure the are properly crimped and seated.

    As an aside... I had a multi million dollar voice mail system pulled from the field and returned to our company because of a simple wire connector where the contacted was not fully seated into the connector--I could see the contact was not fully seated in body of he Molex connector (and it happened to be an emergency shutdown sensor wire).

    When you have "random" failures--Looking for loose/diry/etc. connections is where I start.

    -Bill
    Near San Francisco California: 3.5kWatt Grid Tied Solar power system+small backup genset
  • chanks
    chanks Registered Users Posts: 5 ✭✭
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    Thanks Bill.... the way that thing acts, your ideas makes sense. I'll sure mention that to the tech
  • chanks
    chanks Registered Users Posts: 5 ✭✭
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    Generator repaired...replaced control board, and battery. Everything working as it should....i think---
    I got a question... on these kohlers, is it normal for them to rev up and down (hunting i think its called) during the first 10 minutes of the weekly self test? When its set on "test unloaded", it hunts the first 10 minutes on low rpm's, then revs up and smooths out....but when its set on "test loaded", it doesn't do the hunting thing, just runs smooth thru out the test. We ran 3 or 4 self tests set both ways, and a couple simulated power outages. Good thing was, it started automatically for all tests. It had not been starting at all the last couple months. Hopefully we got it fixed. I was just concerned about the hunting during testing. Any body got any thoughts? thx..
  • mike95490
    mike95490 Solar Expert Posts: 9,583 ✭✭✭✭✭
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    unloaded, the generator may be at the edge of the governor limits - which is sad, because unloaded is when the inverter is sensing the stable frequency.
    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 ||
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  • BB.
    BB. Super Moderators, Administrators Posts: 33,532 admin
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    You might want to test and install a ~100-150 Watt rough service bulb in the genset/garage to load the genset a bit... A 150 Watts is not going to be noticeable on your genset during real outages, and may help stabilize the genset RPM during warmup.

    homedepot.com/p/150-Watt-A21-Shatter-Resistant-Dimmable-Incandescent-Rough-Service-Work-Light-Bulb-Soft-White-2700K-431635/204384238

    -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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    Also make sure you have sufficient gas flow rate.  You did not say if running on propane or natural gas.  Either can have problems but natural gas is usually more problematic.  Generators take more gas flow rate than normal home usage of range or hot water heaters so feed may be undersized to run a generator.  Cold temps with propane can reduce vapor pressure creating a flow rate reduction.  Natural gas has some normal variance in its methane concentration.

    Any hunting of rpm governor feedback loop will usually cause a hybrid inverter to disconnect from generator since inverter has very slow frequency tracking feedback loop. Home backup generators should have electronic speed control with stepper motor throttle.  They are usually pretty solid unless there is fuel flow limitation.
  • chanks
    chanks Registered Users Posts: 5 ✭✭
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    Thanks for the input folks. However, i'm dum as a sack of birdseed when it comes to this generator. Don't fully understand some of the stuff you guys wrote. About the fuel im using, its natural gas. The first installer i had adjusted it 3 or 4 times till he figured it was right. When the tech was here a couple weeks ago, he didnt say nothing about gas flow...now i wish he would have checked it. I'm guessin its something i aint qualified to do. But the thing has started automatically and ran a couple tests now, and i did another power outage simulation and it performed as it should, so, I guess the question i got now is...Should i be worried about anything?
    What about testing "loaded"? The first installer said test "loaded" so it wont hunt during testing (and it don't when testing loaded) and second tech said no, test "unloaded" cause it puts un-necessary wear and tear on the machine when testing loaded. The manual says test loaded, or unloaded, .... flip a coin?
      We got the monsoon season comin up with guaranteed power outages down here so we'll see what happens...
     Thanks again for your guys input
  • Leo2022
    Leo2022 Registered Users Posts: 2
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    Hello! I’m not in AZ (I’m in NJ). I hope I can post my Kohler generator-related question here (but would be happy to start a new thread). I’m brand new to the forum. 

    I have a 2011 20kW Kohler generator with a RDC controller. The battery died. After replacing the battery, it gave the NoEc (No Engine Code). An authorized Kohler dealer did a general tune up (oil change, etc.), then told me he can’t access the menu (and indeed he can’t) and the controller needs to be changed to upgrade it by installing a kit (cost: $1,200), or the generator replaced (+$5000). The tech said that even if we were able to reset the controller to factory settings (and he does not know how without accessing the menu), every time the battery dies, I would have the same problem, because it is an old controller, which cannot be updated software-wise. 

    Is the problem indeed that the RDC is now obsolete l, or can I swap it with another RDC if I find one? Also, at this point, would it be worth unplugging the entire controller, let it sit a few minutes, plug everything back, to see if that resets it to factory settings? Thanks!

    The generator was running fine before I had to replace the battery. So, I’m hesitant to throw it away. Yet, it seems that for $1,200 I would not even get a new controller, but some adaptor kit Kohler sells). And, of course, I’m upset they would do that “tune up” when they knew from the start that the controller was old, was giving that error, and they could access the menu. 
  • Ralph Day
    Ralph Day Solar Expert Posts: 1,019 ✭✭✭✭
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    I have a decades old Simpower generator with a Nissan 3 cyl diesel engine.  As it aged (I got it 18 years ago) the controlling systems degraded.  First it would shut down for no apparent reason.  Fixed that by disconnecting the fuel cutoff solenoid.  To shut off you had to manually move the cut off lever.  No shutdown safety.

    Next the auto/manual/off control failed.  Wouldn't start and run.  Removed that and put on a key switch.  The relays all worked (it's old school except for the controllers), so now it's a totally manual on/off generator.  No problems since the switches were installed.  I only ran it manually anyway, just now there's no automatic on/off or safety on/off capability.  Plus I have utility power now.
  • Leo2022
    Leo2022 Registered Users Posts: 2
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    Ralph Day said:
    I have a decades old Simpower generator with a Nissan 3 cyl diesel engine.  As it aged (I got it 18 years ago) the controlling systems degraded.  First it would shut down for no apparent reason.  Fixed that by disconnecting the fuel cutoff solenoid.  To shut off you had to manually move the cut off lever.  No shutdown safety.

    Next the auto/manual/off control failed.  Wouldn't start and run.  Removed that and put on a key switch.  The relays all worked (it's old school except for the controllers), so now it's a totally manual on/off generator.  No problems since the switches were installed.  I only ran it manually anyway, just now there's no automatic on/off or safety on/off capability.  Plus I have utility power now.
    I hear you, Ralph. Going manual is not quite an option for me. We really need a stand-by generator here, to avoid basement floods. 

    I’m still hoping to be able to put my generator back on its feet. It was running just fine before the battery died. 
  • Ralph Day
    Ralph Day Solar Expert Posts: 1,019 ✭✭✭✭
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    Basement floods, been there done that.  The floods were only 1 inch deep, but wet everything.  The solution was drain and ditch.  The sump pump pit's bottom was bedrock.  From there to the road ditch there's about 16" of drop.  Excavator with a hammer hoe (3rd time) got me a 6 inch big O pipe to within 100 feet of the road, then a ditch from there.  No sump pump running anymore.

    I ran a Radon gas test a couple of years ago and found that I was about 3 times the level where you should do something.  Yikes.  Only been 38 years breathing that.  I put a cover over the pump pit, a 12 volt fan venting it outside and the next test went from 660 bequrels per cubic meter to under 18.  A lot of Radon infiltration from the floor and footing drains into the house.    Maybe $100 for plywood, 2x4s, sealant, lexan...much cheaper than the remediation companies or on-line fans and such.
  • GeoffO
    GeoffO Registered Users Posts: 6 ✭✭
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    Hi All - I'm in southern OR, off-grid with a 2015 Kohler 14 RESA generator. OK to ask questions here even though I'm not in AZ?
  • BB.
    BB. Super Moderators, Administrators Posts: 33,532 admin
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    Welcome to the forum GeoffO,

    The forum is for worldwide use... Feel free to use as you need.

    Also, I suggest you start your own discussion/thread--That way we don't confuse your Q&A with the original poster's here.

    Also, just an FYI, our host NAZ sells and ships US and world wide too (not just Northern Arizona, USA).

    Take care,
    -Bill "moderator" B.
    Near San Francisco California: 3.5kWatt Grid Tied Solar power system+small backup genset
  • GeoffO
    GeoffO Registered Users Posts: 6 ✭✭
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    Thanks Bill. I'll start a new discussion thread.
  • HiAltitude
    HiAltitude Registered Users Posts: 12 ✭✭
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    Kohler 14RESA Generator. Emergency Stop Shutdown Error that will not clear 

    Hi, I'm new to the NAWS Forum (even thought I bought my Schneider System through them).

    I have a 2019 Kohler 14RESA Generator @ 254 hours that is giving a Emergency Stop Shutdown Error that will not clear so you can hit Run.  (you reply Y to clear the error but it goes back to it). It stopped running with this indication several times but it was possible to clear the error. The 100 hour servicing has been performed regularly. 

    This generator DOES NOT have an emergency stop button installed and according to the Kohler Service Manual, this is the only way that this error would occur.  I checked the wiring where you would insert the Emergency Stop kit and it is functioning correctly.  All the menus function normally, you can review the settings. 

    Is it possible that the controller/software has failed and this is the way that it is indicated?  

     Has anyone else had this occur and been able to get past the error or had a Kohler technician service it and get it running?  What was the result?

    thanks for any enlightenment.