Thoughts on Generator Quality

BigwoooBigwooo Solar Expert Posts: 60 ✭✭
I ordered a 12RES Kohler generator, but the plant is behind in production and the dealer doesn't know when he will have one in stock. I live in Mexico and may not be in the U.S. long enough to wait for them to ship it. The company I bought from is offering me a 17kw Guardian for the same price in order to get me a generator before I have to head south.

I've read some pretty poor reviews of Generac in the past. Does anyone have any opinions about the quality of Generac standby generators?

Is the quality of Kohler worth waiting to get it at another time?

Thanks for your opinions.

Comments

  • chevensteinchevenstein Solar Expert Posts: 100 ✭✭
    Re: Thoughts on Generator Quality

    I'd say they're of about the same quality - they're both 3600RPM residential standby (intermittent duty) units. Noisy but fine for occasional non-critical use. If you require serious reliability and quality then look for something that runs at 1800 RPM and has a cast iron liquid cooled engine, such as a diesel Cummins/Onan or Kubota unit.
  • BB.BB. Super Moderators, Administrators Posts: 30,494 admin
    Re: Thoughts on Generator Quality

    For me, I did enough conservation that any of the "typical" emergency gensets are way to large for my home. And running a 10kW unit to provide (for me) a typical 400-800 watts (excluding microwave) is just terribly fuel inefficient.

    If you are powering continous A/C loads, pumping, etc., that approach 50% of the genset's rated capacity--at least you are nearing fuel efficient operation.

    Large gensets need lots of stored fuel (if not natural gas) for practical multi-day+ operations. And even then, when running off of natural gas, you could be looking at ~$1.00 (+/-) per hour costs just for fuel.

    -Bill
    Near San Francisco California: 3.5kWatt Grid Tied Solar power system+small backup genset
  • icarusicarus Solar Expert Posts: 5,400 ✭✭✭✭
    Re: Thoughts on Generator Quality

    Bigwoo.

    What is it you are planning on using the genny for? Occasional emergency use is different from once a week charging duty for a few hours, vs regular two week runs during outages, vs standby for outages that occur once every couple of years.

    As Bill is oft to mention, size genny for it's expected load. Running a genny at 20% load 90% of the time is a waste of fuel and it hard on the genny. On the other hand running a small genny at 95% load all the time is also hard on the genny.

    If it were me, I would find a 1800rpm continuous duty unit. I prefer air cooled Onans for long term duty as they are bullet proof, and very simple to service and maintain. You live with noise and not quite as good fuel economy, but for standby, load heavy use, it they are hard to beat in the 5-10 kw range.
  • BigwoooBigwooo Solar Expert Posts: 60 ✭✭
    Re: Thoughts on Generator Quality
    icarus wrote: »
    Bigwoo.

    What is it you are planning on using the genny for?

    It will be used once in a while when doing things like laundry exceed the solar output, or when there are too many cloudy days (which is rare). It will also be used once in a while when I want to do a little welding, or run some larger power tools. I need 9000 watts to run the welder. It will also be used to provide extra charging when non-power-conserving friends or family stay in our guest house ;)

    The use will most likely be pretty minimal, but I wanted a large enough output so that on the occasions when I want to use my table saw/welder or other high power tool, there would be enough amperage available.

    I'm trying to avoid spending $7000 plus for a primary unit. A standby unit is more in my budget right now.
  • icarusicarus Solar Expert Posts: 5,400 ✭✭✭✭
    Re: Thoughts on Generator Quality

    Knowing what your loads are now, I would suggest that your buy 2 generators, so that you can run them efficiently. If 90% of the time you are only using them to do laundry, or to supplement your PV a Honda Eu2000 would be perfect. Even paired, a couple of Eu 1000s would run a washing machine (I think) 2Kw of Honda Eu will run a 40 amp Xantrex TC charger.

    It would be crazy to run a 9 kw unit regularly for such loads. The other thing you might look at is a ONAN welder/generator combination, but while that would work for both, it still wouldn't be very efficient.

    An ONAN cckb 10 kw 240 rig can be had for under $500. They are pretty hard to find. They were a 3600 rpm unit that was built from the 1800 rpm cck platform, just spun faster. Pretty bullet proof, but not as bullet proof as the 5kw cck.


    Like I said, if it were me I would consider two, of not three! A Eu 2000i can be had for ~$900 in near new shape so two of them would be ~$1800. An Onan welding rig can be had for under~$1000 if you can find one. (Other people make welding rigs as well). The two hondas tied together with a parallel kit would give you 4kw and ~30 amps @120vac. (I can't remember if the 2000 has 240vac capability or not, the 3000 series does). The Eu2000 should run a 13 amp wormdrive skillsaw just fine. I run mine off of a 1600 watt older honda, along with my Makita table saw.

    Tony
  • chevensteinchevenstein Solar Expert Posts: 100 ✭✭
    Re: Thoughts on Generator Quality

    I think icarus has nailed this: I have the same needs (supplemental charging of off grid power system and welding/high draw tool loads) and went with two generators. Though in my case the solar supplemental unit is a high speed, noisy, low quality 7KW unit that I got for free and the welder/tool generator is a beast of Westinghouse 100% duty cycle trailer mounted welding rig made in the 50s that I got for $450. Aside from planning to replace the solar unit with a small marine genset (I like the Westerbeke units - I'm planning to do co-gen via the marine heat exchangers), I am very happy with this arrangement.
  • MangasMangas Solar Expert Posts: 547 ✭✭✭✭
    Re: Thoughts on Generator Quality

    Good advice from everyone but my two cents.

    Of course, with a grid tie system generators become less of a consideration.

    I have an industrial grade 1800 rpm propane fueled Generac with the H100 digital control panel. Long lived, easy to maintain and they come in I believe 5kw to 15 kw outputs. When you consider their longer life expectency and reliability, personally I wouldn't waste money on anything less. You do need to have some reserve fuel delivery infrastructure and be able to get the fuel delivered to it.

    The main reason for having one is backing up the off grid systems' batteries and providing added power whenever you need it. With nothing else to rely on, I want that flexibility and capacity.

    I wouldn't use my system to power a welder. I'd buy a small stand alone mobile welding generator for that purpose.

    Before my I built my off grid system, I used those nifty EU 2000 Honda units for just about everything. Amazing what they'll run and they're simple to service and stingy on fuel. If the system is small you can live with them but I'm spoiled and don't want to be limited in what I can do within reason.

    Over time out here, I have come to realize I needed a good back up generator to take the apprehension out of living off grid. I don't judge its necessity so much as how many hours it runs as what it protects me from.

    I guess it becomes a matter of what you're willing to live with vs a good generator's one time investment.
    Ranch Off Grid System & Custom Home: 2 x pair stacked Schneider XW 5548+ Plus inverters (4), 2 x Schneider MPPT 80-600 Charge Controllers, 2 Xanbus AGS Generator Start and Air Extraction System Controllers, 64 Trojan L16 REB 6v 375 AH Flooded Cel Batteries w/Water Miser Caps, 44 x 185 Sharp Solar Panels, Cummins Onan RS20 KW Propane Water Cooled Genset, ICF Custom House Construction, all appliances, Central A/C, 2 x High Efficiency Variable Speed three ton Central A/C 220v compressors, 2 x Propane furnaces, 2 x Variable Speed Air Handlers, 2 x HD WiFi HVAC Zoned System Controllers
  • peterakopeterako Solar Expert Posts: 144 ✭✭
    Re: Thoughts on Generator Quality

    I agree with MANGAS i have HONDA generator as backup backup. but my main backup is a 1500RPM (50 HZ)diesel generator.

    Greetings from Greece8)
  • backroadbackroad Solar Expert Posts: 185 ✭✭
    Re: Thoughts on Generator Quality

    I don't know what kind of mon;ey that you were interested in spending on a generator, but I can highly recommend one of the Perkins powered gensets from Hardy Solar (Hardy Diesel). Since my fire last year that took out my entire solar setup, I purchased a 15K Diesel Perkins and am totally pleased with it. Running the household including a freezer and a room AC unit, I'm using about a half gallon of Diesel fuel an hour. There aren't many of the gas units that will do that. I've currently got about 2400 hours on my genset and expect that I will last me the rest of my life with just a little bit of maintenance. Life expectancy of most of the gas generators is hopefully about 1000 hours.

    If you do call Hardy, be sure and talk to Kim. She is very capable and can give you way more information than you probably want. Just let her know that Dennis from Bagdad, Az suggested you call. There is an added plus, that she ships for free......
  • backroadbackroad Solar Expert Posts: 185 ✭✭
    Re: Thoughts on Generator Quality

    I think that I need to add that DID NOT need to purchase the 15K unit to power my household. A smaller 8K would have done just a wonderful job.

    I went with the large 15K unit to have ample power for my very large air compressor and my Miller MIG welder. Shop toys do hold a priority.
  • Dave AngeliniDave Angelini Solar Expert Posts: 5,181 ✭✭✭✭✭
    Re: Thoughts on Generator Quality

    One of the features of the Trace and now Xantrex battery based inverter/chargers is they do Gen Support. This feature is perfect for systems that use a small generator as when a large load starts (well pump) the generator just keeps pumping it's energy into the battery and the battery supplies the extra energy to the load. Try that with a non X.:grr

    Pretty amazing to watch an 1100 AH 48V system run on a little 1KW Honda.
    What is even more valuable is that big systems with Gen Support can run on most
    any generator and when the prime mover is down, (and it will be) there are easy options.

    And yes Xantrex/Schneider is in my 401K................
    "we go where power lines don't" Sierra Mountains near Mariposa/Yosemite CA
     http://members.sti.net/offgridsolar/
    E-mail [email protected]

  • nielniel Solar Expert Posts: 10,300 ✭✭✭✭
    Re: Thoughts on Generator Quality

    backroad,
    sounds good that we have another choice for a good generator. how long has yours been running things for, about a year or so?
    btw, i got a chuckle on your comment and i know you meant 'it will last'. "
    and expect that I will last me the rest of my life with just a little bit of maintenance.":p:D
  • blackswan555blackswan555 Solar Expert Posts: 246 ✭✭
    Re: Thoughts on Generator Quality

    I will also recommend the Perkins powered sets, preferably with a Stamford alternator, I look after several, one is over 30 yrs old and runs 7 hours a day on the limits, another has done 30,000 + hrs, keep them serviced, they go on for ever,

    Have a good one
    Tim
  • dwhdwh Solar Expert Posts: 1,341 ✭✭✭
    Re: Thoughts on Generator Quality

    If it were me in that situation, I might be looking at these:

    http://www.millerwelds.com/products/enginedriven/
  • backroadbackroad Solar Expert Posts: 185 ✭✭
    Re: Thoughts on Generator Quality

    Yes, I've been on generator for almost a year now. Until just recently, it was running 24/7, being the only power to the household. All that was left from the fire, were 6 very charred 125watt Mitsubishi panels. The new inverter is a Magnum 4448 and I really luv it. Charge controller is an outback With only the 6 small panels and 8 395ah crown batteries, I only run the generator a couple of hours a day. The battery voltage has never seen under 46.5 volts.

    I had given a lot of thought of going with one of the lincoln or miller generator welders, but I was steered very hard away from them by the dealers that sold them. On a 24/7 type of operation, longevity would not be good and fuel economy would be worse. I have a neighbor that has a large miller unit that he ran on for a bit and he decisded the same.

    I've got all the pieces to set the Perkins up for auto start. Just have to get the son over to do the electrical. Even as simple as it is, I'm leaving all of it to the electrician in the family.
  • VicVic Solar Expert Posts: 2,993 ✭✭✭✭
    Re: Thoughts on Generator Quality

    I'm in Tony's camp. Am almost an 'application-specific" genset person ... Have four of the Honda Inverter generators -- 1000, 2000, 3000, 6500, Plus the Kubota for high-current maint charging the batts, and other large loads. The 1000, and 2000 are lugged around for anything that needs portable power. The 2000isa will run a Skill worm-drive saw and an electric Jack Hammar. The 1000 will run small portable pumps (really sump pumps) for moving water around.

    Seems crazy, and it is ! But this approach is very flexible. The lil Honda 1000isa is about 40 lbs wet ... very easy to carry. my 2.5 c worth. Vic
    Off Grid - Two systems -- 4 SW+ 5548 Inverters, Surrette 4KS25 1280 AH [email protected], 11.1 KW STC PV, 4X MidNite Classic 150 w/ WBjrs, Beta KID on S-530s, MX-60s, MN Bkrs/Boxes.  25 KVA Polyphase Kubota diesel,  Honda Eu6500isa,  Eu3000is-es, Eu2000,  Eu1000 gensets.  Thanks Wind-Sun for this great Forum.
  • icarusicarus Solar Expert Posts: 5,400 ✭✭✭✭
    Re: Thoughts on Generator Quality

    Current collection, most of which run,

    2 Honda Eu 1000's and a parallel kit, Honda 1600 ix (?) Mitsubishi 2900 120 vac (wish it was 240, but I bought it for $50. 1950' Lister SL2, 5 KW 240 diesel, 1948 Onan, cck 3 kw auto start. 1960's vintage ~350watt B&S powered something or other, 1940's vintage 300 watt DC military surplus B&S powered unit, (Never could get it to run reliably!) Out side under a shed, under a tarp is a nice c1930 Kohler DC auto start rig. Ran fine last time it was started about 20 years ago. Various other parts and pieces lying around. I really need to move some of these out of here! I actually did get rid of a Honda ex 1000 this fall to a member here!.

    Tony
  • westbranchwestbranch Solar Expert Posts: 5,183 ✭✭✭✭
    Re: Thoughts on Generator Quality

    Dave I went to the Xantrex site and read , quickly , the specs for most of the Inverter / chargers.

    From what I understood these units will switch TO mains/gen power if the load is too much for the battery, or did I miss something in the specs to explain this: " the generator just keeps pumping it's energy into the battery and the battery supplies the extra energy to the load"..

    Reason I ask is, I really could make use of that feature... but what I read doesn't tell me that can happen:
    From the Freedom HW specs for example: "Built-in 30-amp relay to automatically transfer between inverter power and incoming AC utility power"

    Puzzled,
    Eric
     
    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
  • mike95490mike95490 Solar Expert Posts: 8,755 ✭✭✭✭✭
    Re: Thoughts on Generator Quality

    The XW inverters have 2 different AC inputs. One for flakey Genset power, and one for stable Grid power. As I understand it, when the genset is on, any power not needed for the loads, is diverted to battery charging. When the loads overwhelm the genset, the inverter "assists" the generator.
    If grid power shows up, the auto-transfer switch kicks in, and passes grid power through - disconnecting the inverter and genset
    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 ,

  • BigwoooBigwooo Solar Expert Posts: 60 ✭✭
    Re: Thoughts on Generator Quality

    Thank you for all the great ideas. Backroad...so sorry to hear about your fire. I really like the generator you're using though. Unfortunately propane is much easier for me to get and store than diesel. It is going to definitely be worth looking into though.

    Whatever I get I'll have to import into Mexico where I live and transport it 850 miles south. It would be easier with one generator that would fulfill all my needs. I definitely do have some great ideas to consider though. Back to the drawing board.

    Muchas Gracias for all the input
  • backroadbackroad Solar Expert Posts: 185 ✭✭
    Re: Thoughts on Generator Quality

    I understand the ease of availability and storage. Keep in mind that propane provides considerably less power than diesel and uses better than twice as much fuel as in gallons per hour.

    It can be a tough decision and I wish you all the best.
  • Dave AngeliniDave Angelini Solar Expert Posts: 5,181 ✭✭✭✭✭
    Re: Thoughts on Generator Quality
    westbranch wrote: »
    Dave I went to the Xantrex site and read , quickly , the specs for most of the Inverter / chargers.

    From what I understood these units will switch TO mains/gen power if the load is too much for the battery, or did I miss something in the specs to explain this: " the generator just keeps pumping it's energy into the battery and the battery supplies the extra energy to the load"..

    Reason I ask is, I really could make use of that feature... but what I read doesn't tell me that can happen:
    From the Freedom HW specs for example: "Built-in 30-amp relay to automatically transfer between inverter power and incoming AC utility power"

    Puzzled,
    Eric

    Here is a link. Only the SW's and now XW do this BTW

    http://www.xantrex.com/xw/

    The classic use of this feature is an offgrid application where the "dependable been working for 10 years generator goes bad" It is the dead of winter and you have to pump water from a 500 foot well with a pump rotor surges. The scenario of charging the battery with a small generator on other makes of inverters is not possible as it is charge or invert only. With gen support you set the current limit for the generator and it just maintains that current with the balance coming from the battery when the well pump comes on.

    This is really "special" when it is snowing and you are out of water!
    "we go where power lines don't" Sierra Mountains near Mariposa/Yosemite CA
     http://members.sti.net/offgridsolar/
    E-mail [email protected]

  • stephendvstephendv Solar Expert Posts: 1,571 ✭✭
    Re: Thoughts on Generator Quality
    Here is a link. Only the SW's and now XW do this BTW

    ...and the SMA Sunny Island, and the Victron Multiplus and Quatro and the Studers.
    But sadly, not the Outbacks.
  • Dave AngeliniDave Angelini Solar Expert Posts: 5,181 ✭✭✭✭✭
    Re: Thoughts on Generator Quality
    stephendv wrote: »
    ...and the SMA Sunny Island, and the Victron Multiplus and Quatro and the Studers.
    But sadly, not the Outbacks.

    I was just refering to Xantrex models that gen supported as the OP said he had looked for that feature in a Xantrex marine unit I believe. How do you like the models you refered to?
    "we go where power lines don't" Sierra Mountains near Mariposa/Yosemite CA
     http://members.sti.net/offgridsolar/
    E-mail [email protected]

  • stephendvstephendv Solar Expert Posts: 1,571 ✭✭
    Re: Thoughts on Generator Quality

    Ah, gotcha, thought you were referring to all inverters in the whole wide world :D

    I have no experience with any of those I listed, but I do know quite a few people who swear by the Victron's. Their Quattro could be quite interesting, 2 AC ins and 2 AC outs more designed for marine use where it will automatically connect to shorepower or gen power, whichever is available.
    The Studers are by all accounts solid machines but a pain in the **s to configure, nigtomdaw might have more to say about these...
    The Sunny Island offers the most features integrated into the unit and can't be beat feature-wise (but since the OP is on the other side of the pond, I think the Xantrex kit works out to be cheaper over there).
  • System2System2 Posts: 6,290 admin
    Re: Thoughts on Generator Quality

    I have read through the discussion and here is food for thought. Started with a Generac in 2000 and had to have the bearing/brushes ect. rebuilt in 2007. This is when we found out the Generac's are not warranted for solar use. We choose to rebuild the generac to have as a back up or to use for lighting and possible back up power for our shop. As far as my research has gone I believe the Kohler power systems generator is the only one that is warrantied for solar (off-grid) systems. Make sure that your generator battery has a trickle charge to its battery or it may not start when you need it. As my husband is a welder he purchased a lincoln gas welder/generator (gas) to supply heavy pulling welding tools.

    I hope this helps. Good luck:D
  • nielniel Solar Expert Posts: 10,300 ✭✭✭✭
    Re: Thoughts on Generator Quality

    "This is when we found out the Generac's are not warranted for solar use."

    just what does this mean for no generators are really meant to be hooked to solar? generators are meant to run in the absence of power independently, unlike solar which is able to run with utility power present for gt systems or independently run as in off grid. generators generally aren't stable enough to feed in a gt arrangement as this would be the only time solar would possibly be thought of to meet a genny. even if generators were able to feed the grid to mix with a solar gt system, this would be senseless to do as the genny power is so expensive to produce. as to being a standby power source for a solar setup, this should not make any difference to generac or any other genny manufacturer as it is being used in the absence of all other power. as such generac does not know or see what power source it is replacing and should not make too much of a difference as long as the voltage and frequency is a match and the generator can supply the loads with enough power.
  • mike95490mike95490 Solar Expert Posts: 8,755 ✭✭✭✭✭
    Re: Thoughts on Generator Quality
    This is when we found out the Generac's are not warranted for solar use.

    Right, who needs power in the daytime, nighttime is when you need light ;)
    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 ,

  • icarusicarus Solar Expert Posts: 5,400 ✭✭✭✭
    Re: Thoughts on Generator Quality

    I know that my neighbour had trouble with a Mitsubishi (that I now own as a result). The issue was that the DC side of the PV was causing some sort of ground loop that was interfering with the voltage regulator on the AC side. He went through 3 controllers before he sold it to be for $50. I was able to discover the problem in consult with Mitsubishi, and they bellied up to the bar after explaining that their service "specialists" continued to replace the control at out expense without ever finding the real problem, they send me a new controller. Has worked fine since. This event is profiled somewhere on this forum a couple of years back.

    Be careful having AC and DC play together,

    Tony
  • MangasMangas Solar Expert Posts: 547 ✭✭✭✭
    Re: Thoughts on Generator Quality

    Niel pretty much summed it up.

    Before I bought my back up Generac, I compared it to most of the competing gas vs propane brands.

    My four year old 1800 rpm Generac industrial propane model has about every conceivable feature you could ask for including an industrial grade power unit and a sophisticated laptop compatible digital programmer/diagnotic head unit. Also, the service and spare parts are readily available.

    As far as I know they are not widely advertised in everyday tool catalogues but are available through larger Generac Generator Dealers. Runs quiet, slow and all I've done so far is change the oil and filter.
    Ranch Off Grid System & Custom Home: 2 x pair stacked Schneider XW 5548+ Plus inverters (4), 2 x Schneider MPPT 80-600 Charge Controllers, 2 Xanbus AGS Generator Start and Air Extraction System Controllers, 64 Trojan L16 REB 6v 375 AH Flooded Cel Batteries w/Water Miser Caps, 44 x 185 Sharp Solar Panels, Cummins Onan RS20 KW Propane Water Cooled Genset, ICF Custom House Construction, all appliances, Central A/C, 2 x High Efficiency Variable Speed three ton Central A/C 220v compressors, 2 x Propane furnaces, 2 x Variable Speed Air Handlers, 2 x HD WiFi HVAC Zoned System Controllers
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