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Old 05-27-2011, 08:48 PM   #1
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Generator caution

I often read where a forum member has purchased either a new or used "contractor" style generator to mount somewhere, probably in a nice box for power. I'm certainly the last person to say "don't do it" since no one has could ever say I have done things the conventional or even the right way, and you should never tell me "you can't do it that way'" or "that won't work that way"

Our fine lawmakers have pretty much mandated that over the road trucks will have axillary heat and cooling. Everyone wants their "stuff", but no one wants trucks to come to their neighborhood. Lawmakers who work in an air conditioned office, drive an air conditioned car, stop for a drink at the air conditioned bar and go home to their air conditioned house (or mistresses house) say that I can't idle my truck to get a good nights rest. It doesn't matter that it might be 120, or -20 degrees outside. And, yes they will write you a ticket, make you shut down and come back later and write another ticket because you have a pet in a hot truck. (There are, after all, laws against that)

Since I'm too cheap, or broke to spend $10,000 on a HVAC made for trucks, I have had and learned a few lessons about generators and power units. I put these thoughts out for your consideration.

1. Gas generators that aren't made to go merrily down the road, don't have a carburetor that is made to bounce. Unless you turn the fuel shutoff off it WILL leak into the motor and at the very least will be flooded when you try to start it. That means you can't have some nice remote start inside because you have to get out and turn the fuel on.

2. Air cooled generators are VERY noisy.

3. Cheap diesel generators start hard, or not at all in the winter.

4. If you drive anywhere in the winter, that treats the roads for snow and ice, you WILL have electrical problems. Probably in the generator or controls.

5. Air cooled generators are VERY noisy.

The last gas generator I had was one of those very nice (and expensive) inverter units and although it was air cooled was very quiet. I had a nice diamond plate box made for it to keep it out of the elements. It had adequate air flow for cooling and a nice door on top to fill the fuel tank. Very pretty. I still had to get out and turn the fuel on and off, but there are compromises to most designs. I think I used it for about two years. All was well until THE FIRE. I had just filled the tank (did I mention that you also have to carry a gas can. You can't just pull a semi up to the gas pumps.) I was sitting inside when it died, looked in the mirror and saw smoke. I grabbed the extinguisher and rushed back. The fire was somewhere on the back. I emptied the extinguisher and thought it was out, but it started up again. I had to get it out of there. When I am loaded there is a brand new mini van above that generator. When I pulled it out, gas came out of the vented cap. (I had just filled it) some of it splashed on me. While I was rolling on the ground putting my fire out some neighboring truck drivers came and finished putting out the fire. I was VERY LUCKY. No damage to my truck or load and only $2000 damage to the truck next to me. Slightly burned hand and insides of both legs. (yes, gas splashed THERE). I think that a rubber fuel line had leaked, but I never opened it up to look, it went into the dumpster at the truck stop.

That scared me. I now have an Onan quiet diesel, I'm on the second one. It's plumbed into the fuel tanks and I have remote start inside the cab. It has always started, even at 20 below. It's so quiet that the only way to tell if it is running is the light on the switch and the clock on the microwave. I have all of the power I need.

This is very wordy for me, but I thought I had to put some of my concerns to you.

Dick
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Old 05-27-2011, 09:17 PM   #2
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Re: Generator caution

I dislike Onan. I loathe my POS Onan. I despise Onan authorized crooked dealer/repair POS morons. This is the second Onan with apparently the same exact thing wrong with it. We will not buy another POS Onan. Did I mention that I don't like Onan? I've got our old Onan in the same condition we picked it up from the repair shop... it's in PIECES. Anyone want to buy a POS Onan?
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Old 05-27-2011, 11:24 PM   #3
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Re: Generator caution

Comparing an Onan air-cooled gasoline RV generator, like the (old?) 6 kW "Emerald" line, to a liquid-cooled "Quiet Diesel" generator, because they both say "Onan," is like saying a Yugo and a Mercedes-Benz must be the same quality because they both come from Europe.

In a former job, we had three Emeralds that we would rotate to keep one mobile office ready to run, and we could (and did) swap them out in the parking lot in an afternoon. That is, when the bus wasn't at the dealer's to have the genny of the day fixed in situ.

At my present job we have three 12 kW Quiet Diesels installed on two trucks. The first truck was built with two, so it would have a standby spare. This has turned out to be overkill (though in a continuous operation you could do an oil change on one while the other took over the loads). The second truck gets more use, and has only one Quiet Diesel with no backup. The only problems we've had were required oil changes, and sometimes a dead battery if the genny wasn't started for 6 months. We now specifying the same model for any possible future trucks, so we could forklift the spare unit off of the first truck if a newer one ever went down.

The problem with a fine piece of machinery like this, is that it probably costs as much as the remainder of the average home-brew skoolie project combined.
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Old 05-28-2011, 12:37 AM   #4
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Re: Generator caution

I really don't give a flying fig about how much better one Onan is than the other. Based on my experiences with Onan's authorized repair people (and some other folks experiences with various authorized repair personal all across the country) I want nothing to do with Onan. I don't want an Onan, not the Microlites like what I have or any other Onan. But that is just my experience.
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Old 05-28-2011, 10:13 AM   #5
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Re: Generator caution

Not to get in to a pissing match if you dont like Onan..... what do you like? I am looking in to generators and getting the feel of the land from people. I know we all have our likes and dislikes (one reason why there are more than one auto/bus makers) of what we purchase. To be honest I would be pissed too if I had 2 units and they ended up in the same condition? I would be standing on someone desk demanding a new unit or they would be wearing the broken one as a bow tie?


Thanks for sharing.


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Old 05-28-2011, 11:33 AM   #6
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Re: Generator caution

I have really yet to hear good tings about any groups repair folks. They all seem to want to sell you a new generator and if it breaks down, sell you another new generator. As for the noise factor.... I find that many manufacturers are skittish about listing them. About the only folks interested in "quiet" generators are the RV folks who boondock. Everyone else kinda goes "oh that's nice, you say its quiet" and they never look into the differences of the decibel levels. At this time, we are not looking into a generator. I am loading 4 to 5 deep cycle marine batteries into one of the battery bays on our bus (no, not golf cart type since they are all too tall for our box). Everything will run off the battery bank either as 12vDV or with 3 or 4 dedicated inverters (sized for that particular load), with the exception of a few high powered appliances (like the air conditioner) or appliances that will not be used when we not connected to full hookups (like the washer, LP dryer and dishwasher). I have been in too many campgrounds with "dirty"power. The power panel (Intellipower PD4045...$200 including shipping) will have a smart charger that will charge my battery bank while on shore power.... kinda like a big UPS. The 160 amp bus alternator will charge the battery bank while going down the road and should keep the bank up enough to get us thru a couple of nights in a parking lot. We prefer to spend 2 nights wally docking and then one night in a campground (dump tanks & refill the fresh water) when traveling.

Based on how WE will be using the bus (fulltimers), we feel this will work for us (mostly full hookups in campgrounds with 2 or 3 nights wallydocking in a parking lot). I have to set up a switch just in case my starter battery ever fails, I can use the house bank to start the bus or just use a jumper cable... or pull one battery out of the bank. BTW, my battery bank sizing spread sheet (based on a solar system battery sizing spreadsheet) says I only NEED a 250 amp (2 batteries) battery bank but I am leaning towards 500 amp (4 batteries). At 4 deep cycle marine batteries which will cost $350 that is still far cheaper than any "quiet" generator. Inverters $220. That's a total of $570 not counting the power panel which I would need anyway since it is my smart battery charger and my 12vDC/AC power panel box. I've been working on setting up a battery bank for years (started out on the Eagle coach). I have studied our energy usage and looked into solar (still too pricey considering how we would to use it) and generators. It was while we still had the Eagle, with it's huge AC/DC alternator that I started thinking about dumping the generator out of our energy setup. While the skoolie alternator is about half the output size of the Eagles alternator (that alternator also powered the coach air conditioner system along with everything else), it's still quite adequate to power our house bank while driving down the road. No over-the-road air though. I might look into an aftermarket auto air conditioner for over the road use. I'm not a big fan of air conditioning. In a campground, we would have shore power to run the air unit. While wallydocking, we will have the day/night marine solar fans moving air and the bus windows open. We can't see needing air for a couple nights a year a good enough reason to invest in a generator. BUT THAT IS OUR SITUATION. And with our previous/ongoing dissatisfaction with generators in general and Onan in particular, it is our solution. Later, we may change our minds. But that is later and I really doubt it. It's been hitting low to middle 90's here already and I only turn the A/C on just before David comes in from working the cart. And I wouldn't be doing that if we had better air circulation inside the RV and some shade. By 6 PM the heat starts dissipating into the RV. So I switch the rooftop A/C unit from fan to air for a couple of hours then open back up the RV. I hate a closed up "house"... It's almost as bad as wearing shoes (if God had meant for me to wear shoes, I would have been born with them).
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Old 05-28-2011, 11:49 AM   #7
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Re: Generator caution

To the OP; your problem was probably a fuel line destroyed by E10 fuel. I have had fuel lines ruined by it on motorcycles and other power equipment. Luckily, I can get no ethanol fuel, and I burn it in EVERYTHING I own. No more carb cleaning and fuel line replacements.

Bonus is that I get better fuel mileage and despite the added cost, 4 cents less cost per mile on my F150 5.4V8
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Old 05-28-2011, 11:23 PM   #8
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Re: Generator caution

Avoid the whole fuel spilling, carb leaking, hard starting crap by doing what I did...buy a propane powered generator. Problem solved!
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Old 05-29-2011, 11:26 AM   #9
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Re: Generator caution

jkindt

I have to kind of agree with you on propane. It does solve a lot of problems when it comes to carb and fuel issues. Only thing I dont like is mounting a large tank in the frame section. In that odd event you take an impact that could compromise it in some way?

Im really really leaning that way. I have been rebuilding carbs on all my power equipment here recently.


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