Almost New Propane generator died--What next

We just purchased a 20kW Generac Centurion propane generator and installed it [hardwired] at the end of January. We planned to temporarily use it as a primary power source, soon to basically charge a battery bank for inverter use [just collecting batteries and looking for the right inverter]., but thought we could use it for waking hours for a short time [a month or two].

However, after we put 180 hours on it [didn't realize at that power level that we had to baby it] it quit putting out AC. AFTER the fact, we were told that using it without being hooked up to the grid nullified our warranty...no warranty info was included in our shipment there were no hints on the sales pages/specs etc prior to purchase [the time when such info is critical] that this was the case and nothing in the owner's manual or installation that mentioned it either, on the "warranty" page it was just about emissions which really only applies in places like California etc...

We contacted a service guy and he sold us a non returnable regulator to replace the one we had but it didn't fix it...that was 150 bucks...a service call will be 455 dollars and that is IF they happen to bring the right part, otherwise we start over w/another 455 bucks and a second trip out. I am outraged.

Prior to purchase, I asked a million questions, specifically told the sales person I emailed what we wanted it for etc and not a word to warn us. iMHO, the company is shyster-y..they've tossed my good faith into the garbage and refuse to [so far] stand behind the brand new product....

.they advertise in such a way as to suggest it would be an optimal power source and it turns out that had we used it like we might in a hurricane etc, it would have lemoned out even sooner. We are devastated after paying 4300.00 for this thing, and left with nothing but [thank goodness] a gas gennie we already had [but which is not hard wired to the house so requires extension cords all over] and a future full of more and more money spent.

I wouldn't suggest their products to my worst enemy. IMHO, the fact that the information was not available prior to purchase, nor came with the packet of manual/installation etc is the same thing as a scam. They know many people are starting to go green and are withholding pertinent info to selll high-ish ticket items, knowing full well they won't have to stand by it, due to convoluted warranty language and in our case, no warranty info at all beyond 3 yrs/2000 hrs etc....nothing about nullifying, again, no warranty info was included in our shipment.

This has been a virtual nightmare, as we sit here under a foot and a half of snow [and still falling] with all of our hopes dashed to pieces.

the only off grid propane gennie I can find is a generac but its only 6 kW and won't run a house, its intended only for interaction with other off grid systems [solar/wind etc]. I am at an utter loss and had no idea on earth that a "whole house system capable of running a house [and we only have 960 sq ft] with two central air conditioners" would fold like a house of cards. Solar is too expensive to do right now or all at once even, so our option was to charge battery banks, and use a big inverter to run the house....if that is a bad idea, please somebody stop me...:0/ but we are in the sticks, hooking up to the grid almost as expensive as the solar configuration, we have little choice. HELP

Comments

  • BB.BB. Super Moderators, Administrators Posts: 29,511 admin
    Re: Almost New Propane generator died--What next

    Annje,

    I am sorry to hear about your problems... Yes, another major manufacturer last year said that their generators would not be warranted if used off-grid (a major reason people buy generators :grr).

    To get you going again... This is winter and you have no AC needs... What size genset do you think you would need? Generally, keeping the genset small and loading it around 50% minimum AC wattage will be more full efficient than running a monster genset with your light winter loads.

    Finding small to medium sized propane powered generators is getting hard to do right now with the new emissions regulations.

    However, there are some good options out there (used RV Onan gensets, propane conversion regulators) that should get you going quickly.
    And here is a discussion about the diesel/propane choice.

    -Bill

    PS: I moved this to its own thread... I think it will get you more help aimed at your situation and not get confused with the previous thread.
    Near San Francisco California: 3.5kWatt Grid Tied Solar power system+small backup genset
  • icarusicarus Solar Expert Posts: 5,244 ✭✭✭✭
    Re: Almost New Propane generator died--What next

    First, find a good generator mechanic. If it is not putting out A/C it might well be any one of a number of things, many are curable. Control boards come first to mind. A good genny guy should be able to diagnose it pretty easily.

    The next question is to determine how and why it failed. I would also read the fine print to see what it says about off grid, and I would also take my warrantee claim further up the corporate ladder. I might not hesitate to call a lawyer.

    I would also post your experience here, as these guys are way more into generators than we are over here.

    http://www.smokstak.com/forum/forumdisplay.php?f=90

    I have had some experience with Generac smaller units and I have not been very impressed.

    Good luck,

    Tony
  • PhotowhitPhotowhit Solar Expert Posts: 4,996 ✭✭✭✭
    Re: Almost New Propane generator died--What next
    annje wrote: »
    They know many people are starting to go green...

    Please do not confuse your self or others in thinking a batery based system is "green" it can at times be cost effective, but is rarely if ever the most effiecent use of resources.

    I live off grid, but I can only say I'm green in my frugal use of resources.
    Home system 4000 watt (Evergreen) array standing, with 2 Midnite Classic Lites,  Midnite E-panel, Prosine 1800 and Exeltech 1100, 660 ah 24v ForkLift battery. Off grid for @16 of last 17 years. Assorted other systems, and to many panels in the closet to not do more...lol
  • techntrektechntrek Solar Expert Posts: 1,372 ✭✭✭
    Re: Almost New Propane generator died--What next

    Sorry to hear about your problems. I have a Generac, too, with an ongoing problem so I understand where you are coming from. I'm active on a forum run by Ziller Electric (generators-only, no competition with Windsun) where I recommend you go for some good advice. There are diagnostic manuals available - online and free - which can walk you through all possible diagnosis steps.

    It is widely known on genset forums that off-grid use is generally a warranty killer. It is in the Owner's manuals, too. Here is a quote from mine, and mine is 6 years old.

    THIS WARRANTY SHALL NOT APPLY TO THE FOLLOWING:
    • Air-cooled units used for prime power in place of existing utility power where utility power is present or in place of utility power where
    utility power service does not normally exist.
    4.5 kw APC UPS powered by a Prius, 12 kw Generac, Honda EU3000is
  • nielniel Solar Expert Posts: 10,311 ✭✭✭✭
    Re: Almost New Propane generator died--What next

    THIS WARRANTY SHALL NOT APPLY TO THE FOLLOWING:
    • Air-cooled units used for prime power in place of existing utility power where utility power is present or in place of utility power where
    utility power service does not normally exist.

    it would be interesting to hear from them of examples of approved usages that would not void the warranty.
  • Blackcherry04Blackcherry04 Solar Expert Posts: 2,490 ✭✭✭
    Re: Almost New Propane generator died--What next

    I'v converted several Water cooled " Marine " generators to ground mount units. You need a radiator and a electric fan and sometimes a pump and muffler. The Onan's in 3 to 6 KW are excellent candidates. Some of the newer ones from 10-20 KW are a little tricker to do as they have aluminum manifolds, but most have a industrial engines that are also used in forklifts so parts are plentiful. ( Toyota, Mazda and Mitsubishi ) Kohler's are good and Westerbeke's. If your going to do one look for one with a closed cooling system, then your only cooling the heat exchanger water. They are all 1800 rpm and the Onan's 3-6 have twin opposed cylinders and are the same generator with different carb jets and breaker. ( I guess it was cheaper that way ) and they built the same one for 30 years and it's easy to find parts.

    I have a friend that has one hooked up to a Hot Tub and uses it for cooling without any modification and has a heat exchanger on his Hot water heater. Using the waste heat is a good thing.

    Let me add this, since we were talking Propane. Most Forklifts run on propane, so the carbs are available. The only thing you have to watch is the governor system to make sure they are compatible if your converting one for that.

    As pointed out, size matters. I have a 20 KW, It burns 2 gal per hour. I only need a 10-12 kw Max ( 1 gal per hr ) to run everything, it was a costly decision on my part to ever go that big. If I was doing it again, I'd buy a 8 kw and learn to live around it. 90% of the time I am throwing away fuel and 80 amps of electricity.
  • arkieoscararkieoscar Solar Expert Posts: 101 ✭✭✭✭
    Re: Almost New Propane generator died--What next

    I would try to see if Generac would trade in your gen. for one of their Ecogen propane generators. It's much smaller than what you have but is warranted for your situation.
    * Built specifically for this application, it is the first automatic standby generator to be warranted for off-grid use when used in an alternative energy system.
    * Engineered to easily integrate into the existing inverter and battery storage system.
    * Runs on environmentally friendly, energy-efficient propane gas that is already stored and available at many off-grid locations.
    * Features Generac’s own V-Twin OHVI® industrial engine, the only engine developed specifically for generator use. The low speed makes it the quietest in the industry, with noise and vibration levels drastically less than comparable solutions.
    * Simplified maintenance with unprecedented 500 hour maintenance intervals saves time and money.
  • techntrektechntrek Solar Expert Posts: 1,372 ✭✭✭
    Re: Almost New Propane generator died--What next
    I have a 20 KW, It burns 2 gal per hour. I only need a 10-12 kw Max ( 1 gal per hr ) to run everything, it was a costly decision on my part to ever go that big. If I was doing it again, I'd buy a 8 kw and learn to live around it. 90% of the time I am throwing away fuel and 80 amps of electricity.

    I feel the same way and mine is only a 12 kw model. Nobody talks about how expensive they are to RUN, they just focus on how much it will cost to buy and install. Mine uses 1.5 gallons per hour at 50% load yet my average load is closer to 400 watts. Which is partly why I later installed a battery bank and inverter - to lower the run-time of the genset. Generators run most efficiently at full load so now I run my 400 watt baseline on the inverter 3/4 of the day, then load up the genset 6 hours a day with my heavy loads like water heater and well pump, and charging batteries.
    4.5 kw APC UPS powered by a Prius, 12 kw Generac, Honda EU3000is
  • BB.BB. Super Moderators, Administrators Posts: 29,511 admin
    Re: Almost New Propane generator died--What next

    To throw in a comparison, a Honda eu2000i running 400 watts uses around a 1/10th gallon of gasoline per hour... (yes, propane to gasoline is not an equal comparison in BTU per gallon of fuel).

    Sizing the genset, possibly having two generators (large and small) to power your loads plus using a battery bank+inverter for powering off-hour loads can really save you quite a bit of fuel.

    This hybrid solution has been used in Africa to save fuel for village level use too.

    -Bill
    Near San Francisco California: 3.5kWatt Grid Tied Solar power system+small backup genset
  • icarusicarus Solar Expert Posts: 5,244 ✭✭✭✭
    Re: Almost New Propane generator died--What next
    6 hours a day with my heavy loads like water heater

    Sort of begs the question why one would use a electric water heater. Pre-heat solar coupled with a demand gas or propane hot water heater is way more efficient.

    Tony

    Ps this thread also begs the question as to why a generator should care what it's load is? I can understand a manufacturer not warranting something in 24/7 commercial type service, but if a 20 kw genny is designed to put out 20 kw why should it make a difference. Secondly, unless the genny was chronically overloaded in it's short 160 hour life why should anyone accept that failure regardless of whether or not it was being used to power an off grid house or not. Personally, like I said before, I would go up the corporate ladder, including the retailer and Generac Corporate. Failing that, a small claims law suit might help, or hiring a lawyer.

    I know a case where a snowmobile replacement engine was warranted for 12 months. It was installed in March, and not even run again until the following March. It failed on day one of running. Even though it was technically out of warrantee the owner fought it and was given another engine install. Now it helped matters that he was a tenacious lawyer and he fought it on principle, and probably lost money on the deal, but that wasn't the point.
  • techntrektechntrek Solar Expert Posts: 1,372 ✭✭✭
    Re: Almost New Propane generator died--What next
    icarus wrote: »
    Sort of begs the question why one would use a electric water heater. Pre-heat solar coupled with a demand gas or propane hot water heater is way more efficient.

    Ps this thread also begs the question as to why a generator should care what it's load is? I can understand a manufacturer not warranting something in 24/7 commercial type service, but if a 20 kw genny is designed to put out 20 kw why should it make a difference.

    My home doesn't lend itself to solar thermal - its surrounded by trees and is 200 feet from a good solar location. Any easy problem to solve for PV but moving glycol 400 feet round-trip isn't so easy. Currently I have the WH on a timer and its surrounded by 6" of extra insulation which helps. My long-term goal is to get completely away from propane.

    I agree with you about gensets - to me 20 kw is 20 kw. If the engine is rated to last 3000 hours (what Generac says theirs should last) I don't see why it matters if you put that on over 3 years or 30 years. But, in the world of genset manufacturers somehow there is a difference between a standby generator (intermittent use), a prime power generator (8 hours/day) and a continuous power generator (24 hours/day). :confused:
    4.5 kw APC UPS powered by a Prius, 12 kw Generac, Honda EU3000is
  • VicVic Solar Expert Posts: 2,970 ✭✭✭✭
    Re: Almost New Propane generator died--What next

    Hi annje,

    Sorry to hear about your generator problems. Too bad you found this site after the purchase.

    I just went back to look at Generac's info on their site, and, yes, the Warranty exclusion for Off-Grid is well buried in quite a lot of gibberish.

    The dealer/reseller has a responsibility to help the customer select the correct generator for their application. This dealer/reseller let you down. As others have said, you should consider writing Generac a letter stating your problems with the generator, who you bought it from, and ask what they CAN do for you.

    Residential stand-by generators seem to really be deisgned to run 10-20 hours per year, and as such, wold be off warranty with (quite often) less than 100 hours.

    The problem with your generator MAY be fairly simple to fix, but I expect that most of the controls are built into only a couple of modules, which may be fairly expensive. It is possible that the issue with your generator is simply a loose connector/connection, or something similar.

    Most everything has already been said by previous posters. Find a good mechanic, who, hopefully llives close to you.

    IMHO, the warranty exclusion for off grid uses must be based on experience. Guess that it may be based upon considerably longer run time experienced with off grid use. A 20 KW genset is large, but charging batteries, pumping water etc often adds up to a lotta hours. Your genset racked up 160ish hours in a couple of months IIRC/as I read it.

    I have no particular affection for Generac, but they can and do make good gensets, which are often seen in large commercial and industrial sites. Peahaps they can help you.

    Good Luck, 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.
  • Blackcherry04Blackcherry04 Solar Expert Posts: 2,490 ✭✭✭
    Re: Almost New Propane generator died--What next

    There can be some strange things with generators. Being from the Houseboat world most have Westerbeke's. The 12.5-15 have a circuit breaker hidden in the side of the electrical connection box on the opposite side of the generator from control panel. I'll bet I reset 10 a year for people that have no output and do not even know it exists. It a magnetic type and will trip on shut down if the engine diesels and jerks.
  • System2System2 Posts: 6,290 admin
    Re: Almost New Propane generator died--What next

    When I bought our Generac SG15 1800 rpm 15 Kw propane unit the manufacturer did not exclude "solar use" but now does.

    When I had a coolant level sensor, alternator and voltage regulator failure at only 400 hours, I requested they at least replace the failed parts but they refused saying they don't warranty their generators for primary power use nor solar applications but only for "stand by" use.

    I explained to them I didn't use the generator for "primary source power" as it serves only as a "stand by" battery charger during winter running with exercise hours only 60-80 hours a year (not more than 2 hours at any one time).

    I wrote them a letter of disappointment without response.

    I am planning to replace the Generac with a new 20 kw Onan brushless unit which uses an exciter in the can versus brushes and slip rings. My understanding is only larger genny's use exciters but Onan is offering a smaller Kw unit . I don't know what their warranty policy is.

    As posted before, I wouldn't build an off grid system without a reliable 1800 rpm generator. It may run infrequently but when you need back up to boot the battery bank on a frigid winter morning, you really need it.

    My experience is Generators are very expensive to repair so I will buy the best one I can afford with the broadest warranty possible. Many of them are sporting more and more electronics which can only be serviced by a factory tech making reliability even more important.
  • stephendvstephendv Solar Expert Posts: 1,571 ✭✭
    Re: Almost New Propane generator died--What next

    I went the 1500rpm diesel route and I'm not so convinced that this was the best choice. The difference between it and a similar sized 3000rpm diesel is substantial, around here the difference would have bought me about 1.5kW of PV.

    No matter how reliable the generator it's still a stinky, noisy mechanical device. Some static panels that just sit there for 25+ years are so much more appealing. With more PV it could be reasonable to only run the gen for only an hour at a time or so, and so reduce the need for a continuous rated 1500rpm unit.

    Disclaimer: I don't have any PV yet :D so I may be overly optimistic, but if I sized it to meat 90% of my consumption in december, then adding another 1.5kW to that will surely help a lot.
  • chevensteinchevenstein Solar Expert Posts: 100 ✭✭
    Re: Almost New Propane generator died--What next

    My 7 KW Generac (I didn't buy it, unit came with the property) started depositing metal shavings in the oil filter with maybe a few hundred hours service (no meter, unsure of exact amount). Then, on a sub-zero morning here it petered out and died after the entire intake, carb, and air cleaner assembly loosened and fell off the side of the engine. I got it back together easily enough but I would never, ever, ever buy something like this for this for a situation where it is depended upon and someone who is very handy is not around. Heck, I can rebuild the things and have several backup units and I still don't like it.

    I will replace it with a marine style unit with a propane conversion when I get around to it (or the lawnmower engine on it grenades).
  • keyturbocarskeyturbocars Solar Expert Posts: 375 ✭✭
    Re: Almost New Propane generator died--What next

    Boy, now I can see why some people refer to Generac as Genejunk!

    The suggestion to join the SmokStak group is very good. There are some very smart generator guys there. They might be able to help you figure out the problem with your 20kW generator.

    I picked up an older Onan 6kW DJE diesel generator at a state auction and even though it had very low hours, it had some issues. The guys there helped me sort it out and after replacing a few parts, I got the beast running. I chose this older Onan 6kW because of it's excellent fuel consumption, legendary longevity, and conservative power output rating.

    Edward
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