How to / DIY > Generators

Slow speed alternative fuel engine + battery bank = powerful option

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So I've been on a learning journey of alternative power for a few years now. That is what lead me to this forum. Through my research I have found a theme of "fandom" of alternative energy ie solar, wind ect. however, for a lot of people these types of power producers are not practical. For example, I live in a residential neighborhood with lots of trees so wind and solar on my house would be an absolute joke. Hydro is not an option either (as it is for most people). That left me with one choice a backup generator. I scored a 5kw diesel Yanmar L100 engine about 2 years ago for $400 with 1 hour on it (retails for 4-6k). After the fact I started to do the math of how many gallons of fuel I would go through to keep that sucker running in a power outage, I was quickly discouraged and realized I could only keep it running for a couple days at most with my on hand fuel supply. This lead me to do a lot more research and I discovered an old gem, the Delco-light farm power plant. This has to be one of the oldest commercially sold home power systems. At that time (1920s) there was no PV or wind generators to slap on your roof. But there were good old lead acid batteries and engines with generators/alternators. These systems were solid and gave many years of useful service. This concept seems to be the best option for long term (1 week +) power outages. Pick the fuel efficient generator of your choice coupled with an inverter-charger, batter bank, inverter charger, and a transfer switch and you have a pretty simple and solid backup power system. I figure for $1.5k you can get a fair amount of 6v golf cart batteries, another $1k for a good inverter-charger, hook that to a manual transfer switch ($200) and a generator that needs a little work can be picked up very cheap. You will have a system that will kick the shorts out of just a plain backup generator or a PV/wind system (depending on location). All for the cost of a good new generator at retail price. So I'm planning on selling a few of my generators I have and putting those funds in to a battery bank and inverter-charger. I would love any input, comments, or rebuttals on this style of system so I can improve my plan.

I have been on the lookout for one of those myself. Kohler made them as well in both AC and DC variants. I have come to the same conclusion as you. While I do intend to have enough solar to carry the constant loads and offset some of the evening/night and seasonal loads a good back up generator has always been in my plans. The weather here is just too unpredictable to rely solely on solar. I like that those little light plant sets range from 1-2kw. Seems they would be pretty efficient if one had to run it for a couple of hours a day.

The only drawback I can think of is that one is stuck storing Gasoline. Diesel is much easier to store long term and Propane stores pretty much forever. I plan to have a couple of options as far as a back up generator. I have several diesel gen sets and a couple that are Gasoline/Nat Gas/Propane capable. I don't want to limit myself to one fuel. Plus a back up for a back up is just, well, ......

Thanks glort, I'm sure I could get away with a few panels on the roof. I do have a lot of shade and trees but some used panels are available. I'm defiantly going to do a diesel generator, currently building a Kubota EA300 geny right now. As far as voltage I saw leaning towards 48v but am defiantly open to 24v. I'm not familiar with buck converters at all, if those are really good I'll have to think about using those. As far as charging the battery bank with a generator I liked the idea of an all in one inverter charger, but if you used buck converters you would need a separate 24v inverter and a separate Ac to DC charger to charge the bank with a regular 110v/220v generator.

It seems that diesel isn't dropping as fast as gasoline. I wonder why, isn't it all based off the price of crude oil?

Anyways, here is one of the units I was looking at to be the "brain" of the system:

It will charge that bank with PV and or 110v AC power from a generator or the grid and has 110v output from a built in inverter. This seems to be the most straight forward option, and it would do everything you would need the system to do.

Thatís a good idea to stock up. There is actually a business where my family is from where you can buy as much fuel as you want at todays price and use it over time. You basically pay for it in advance and come get it with a card as you need it.

There are also more expensive and better built ďpipísĒ/inverter chargers available from companies like Magnum. But they are typically $1700 US for the unit. 2-3kw of solar would not be possible in my location, small suburban lot, not a ton of good roof space, my roof has 4 planes, so only one small section faces south. Iíll do some research on the Taiwanese units and maybe pick up a big drum and fill it up with fuel!


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