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Delco and other Low Voltage DC Light Plants Antique Generators, Light Plants, Typically 24, 32 or 48 volt although some are 110 volt. DC Lamps, Motors and appliances.

Delco and other Low Voltage DC Light Plants

Delco Light Power Batteries for Farm Electrification Service


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  #1  
Old 05-26-2012, 07:00:35 PM
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Default Delco Light Power Batteries for Farm Electrification Service

I am pretty happy today, since I have never seen one of these before. I am guessing that the batteries were stacked inside this crate and carted around with the engine and dynamo. Found it at the spring antique sales around these parts. Any info or old photos would be appreciated!
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Old 05-26-2012, 09:24:48 PM
Delco 32 Volt Delco 32 Volt is offline
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Thumbs up Re: Delco Light Power Batteries for Farm Electrification Service

I have several in my collection and occasionly see one at shows. Having said that you have one in the best condiation I have ever seen in 50 years of collecting. It is pristine cherish it......Steve
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Old 05-27-2012, 07:35:16 AM
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Default Re: Delco Light Power Batteries for Farm Electrification Service

SDP, I have one of those crates also and yours is in real nice shape.
These are shipping crates for ths battery cells or maybe the acid. I don't know if the cells were shipped dry.
A battery set is way too large for that crate and the batteries were normally mounted permanenty. The individual cells are 2 volts each and are series connected to make a 32 volt set, that requires 16 cells.
This is how they were normally set up. Somewhere in one of my manuals ther is instructions on how to make a stand for the batteries from the crate or crates.



This is a Western Electric 1500 watt plant with a set of Universal brand batteries. Battery cells were offered in a variety of sizes to fit individual needs or pocketbooks.
Oh yeah, the term battery originally was intended for the entire set of individual cells but has turned into meaning one battery.
The dictionary defines battery as a set of identical items as well as a few other meanings.

A 110 volt battery charging light plant required 55 cells plus a 5 or 6 cell reserve and the set usually cost as much or more then the plant. Usually owned only by the richer customer. The 32 volt plant was targeted mainly for the poor dirt farmer.
And as long as I'm expalining stuff, the 32 volt sets were a comprimise between the number of cells require and the size of the wire needed to carry the current.
A 6 volt plant could use a car battery but would require something like triple ought wire to carry electric to the barn.

Last edited by GeneratorGus; 05-27-2012 at 07:51:21 AM.
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Old 05-27-2012, 05:47:13 PM
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Default Re: Delco Light Power Batteries for Farm Electrification Service

GeneratorGus
I have been collecting Delco Light plants for 40 years.
I have often wondered why 32 volt was chosen and who decided that was the standard. Your post is the first time I have ever seen anything that might answer my questions. Where did you find the info?

You sure have a great collection, What brand is the power stand that is in the Western Electric photo?

Thanks
Jeff
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Old 05-27-2012, 07:45:01 PM
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Default Re: Delco Light Power Batteries for Farm Electrification Service

It is amazing how much you can learn by spending a few bucks on what most people would consider decoration or yard art. The wording on the crate caught my eye near the end of the sale with a few thousand folks passing it by during the day. I recently picked up a 0.9 KW 32 VDC Fairbanks Morse Dynamo down in Portland, so I guess my next purchase will be a battery cell.

Thanks for the info and the pictures gents. Can't get enough of Harry's site here.
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Old 05-27-2012, 09:45:11 PM
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Default Re: Delco Light Power Batteries for Farm Electrification Service

I always wondered why they picked 32 volts instead of a multiple of 6 volts IE 30 or 36 volts.
Maybe to keep people from using 5 or 6 car batteries?
Everything else evolved as multiples of 6 - ie 12 volt cars today, 24 volt large trucks. Even military is 24 or 36.
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Old 05-28-2012, 02:21:31 AM
SoTexRattler SoTexRattler is offline
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Thumbs up Re: Delco Light Power Batteries for Farm Electrification Service

The older diesel shrimp boats down here on the Gulf Coast were always equipped with nominal 32vdc electrical system.

I expect before diesels took hold, there were probably quite a few Delco 32v gensets in the holds of the real old gasoline powered wooden shrimp boats.

The main diesel engines had 32v starters (big) and DC generators/(alternators later).
Frequently the older DC boats I went on service calls on didn't have very good voltage regulation. They had rheostats for charging adjustment.. Those batts would really stink up the hold when they had them on a good boil. (43v!)
New wheelhouse electronics installations had to endure some significant voltage excursions in use. Pretty brutal...

The boats typically had two banks of 4 each, 8volt L-A batteries in series. Each 2v cell in a battery of 4 cells was about 8"x8"x10". The old 8volt batts I remember were big black hard rubber cases with rope handles.

I always wondered why 32v on boats also!
A 36V nom. system would have made more sense to me but 32v they were...
Everything ran on 32vdc:
They had 32v lightbulbs, 32v carbon arc spotlights, 32vdc brush type refrigerator compressor(belt driven), 32vdc fans, 32vdc CB radio, 32vdc Loran-A, 32vdc Radar, 32vdc VHF radio, 32vdc depthsounder...
Older AM ship-to-shore radios had mil surplus 28v Dynamotors.
Man, those big 28vdc dynamotors REALLY jumped to life when they were running off of 38vdc(charge voltage)!
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Old 05-28-2012, 07:48:42 AM
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Default Re: Delco Light Power Batteries for Farm Electrification Service

So Tex, 32 volts seems like an odd voltage to us because we think in multiples of the 6 and 12 volt auto batteries we grew up with.
But, when you think in terms of the 2 volt lead acid cell, your imagination is the only limit, except for odd numbers.

I often have people ask me where do I get the 32 volts for my light plants.
2-12s and and 8 will fill the bill, but I use 3-12 volt lawn and garden batteries and an 8 volt battery ain't cheap if you can even find one.

Light plants are very accomodating to 36 volts and the only problem I've ever had was one Delco that had a weak charging coil and it considered 36v to be a full charge and would shut the engine down. Most light plants will charge at about 38-40 volts.
Also most 32 volt appliance will work very well within a few volts either direction.

FD Chief and other guys, I've never seen the reason for the 32 volt plant in print anywhere. It's simple logic when you see wire size/distance charts (most light plant manuals have a page dedicated to this), and then add in the cost factor not only for the battery set but for the wire also.

Also, it's pretty difficult to electricute yourself on 32 volts, although there are those who insist all it takes as a flashlight battery.
Although you can get a pretty good tickle if you touch your tongue to the terminals of a 9 volt battery.

If you get into batteries and the different types of chemical combinations and voltages and the many things they were used for and the many different sizes and shapes (glass containers seem to be the favorite choice of early battery makers), you will likely get sucked into collecting them as I did.

The smallest I have is a clock battery and the largest is a lead acid jar that my grandson used to sit inside.

Last edited by GeneratorGus; 05-28-2012 at 08:00:03 AM.
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Old 05-28-2012, 09:07:54 AM
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Default Re: Delco Light Power Batteries for Farm Electrification Service

GeneratorGus



Who made the first home Light Plant?


Charles Kettering actually made his first unit for his mother and father.
He couldn't get them to move to town where life would be easier for his mother so he brought the conveniences of electricity to their farm.

I was at that point that he realized that he had something that could be marketed to the world.

I have always found it strange that the boating industry used 32 volts.

I suppose someone put a home light plant on a boat at some point and it took off industry wide.



Charles Kettering did a lot of research of Diesel engines also, he had a yacht with two diesels in it.

According to several of his biographies he would rather be in the engine room working on the engines than entertaining his guest on deck.

Jeff
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Old 05-29-2012, 12:01:49 AM
SoTexRattler SoTexRattler is offline
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Default Re: Delco Light Power Batteries for Farm Electrification Service

"I have always found it strange that the boating industry used 32 volts.

I suppose someone put a home light plant on a boat at some point and it took off industry wide."


That is what I figured since there were 32v appliances and accessories that would have been very handy for spending longer and longer times out in the Gulf.
The 32VDC belt driven refrigerators were fascinating when I'd go on-board to service the wheelhouse electronics.

Its all gone now, but to drive around the Aransas Pass Harbor back in the 1970's was a sight to behold. There were shrimpboats stacked 3 to 5 deep all the way around the harbor.

Every one of these shrimpboats had a slow speed single cyl "light plant" to recharge the 32v batteries. They all had a very unique sound since the exhaust pipe was long enough that it created a very loud "snap" or "crack" sound to each exhaust pulse.
Many were Lister or Petter diesel powered DC plants.
The harbor was filled with the sound of these 32volt DC plants all "cracking" along at slightly different RPM's while the vessels were manned in port.

We'd go onboard to service a radar and they'd fire up the charging plant to bring the voltage up to normal without running the main engine.

There were quite a few Marine Electric businesses in that town that specialized in repairing 32volt shipboard generators, lightplants and battery banks.
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Old 05-29-2012, 01:23:31 AM
Max Cox Max Cox is offline
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Default Re: Delco Light Power Batteries for Farm Electrification Service

The Railroads adopted 32 VDC early on with the development of the little steam turbo generators. Those ran through to the end of steam locos.
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Old 05-29-2012, 07:52:10 AM
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Default Re: Delco Light Power Batteries for Farm Electrification Service

Fd Chief
I have no idea who made the first light plant. Probably some kid fooling around in his dad's garage?

There is a lot of history on the electric subject and many names involved.
I believe generators were first coupled with steam engines.
Then on to any power source available.
Internal combustion engines were a natural progression.

I've never seen a definition for the term "light plant'.
I think early generators were used mainly for lighting, but I think the term would relate to an entire set up, that is generating unit plus batteries and switchboard.
Some were advertised as 10 or 20 light outfits, meaning that was the number of 20 watt bulbs they would light.

I just dug deep into my computer and pulled up some old stuff I scanned , a file I named Light PLant Ads. 64 different ads and a lot of different names for what the companies offered.
Home Lighting Plants, Farm Lighting Plants, Residence Lighting Plants, Electric Lighting Plants, Electric Lighting and Power Plants, and just plain old "Light Plant"
All of them sold an engine and dynamo, switch board and battery set as a package. Even the older sets with belt driven generators mounted seperately from the engine.

I'll post a few.

I like Fairbanks stuff so this is first. I have 9 or 10 FM different light plants
and a few diesels.






SoTex, I threw this last one in for you. This Montauk ad is the only one sold without the engine.
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Old 06-03-2012, 10:55:46 AM
Andrew Mackey Andrew Mackey is offline
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Exclamation Re: Delco Light Power Batteries for Farm Electrification Service

32 VDC was the power of choice for marine and railroad use. It followed home use as light bulbs and certain appliances were already in use and readily available when they were used out in the 'sticks. The Rural Electrification program put a lot of generater builders out of business, and took a lot of units off line, as commercial 110 AC was made available to people in rural areas.

Generater Gus, Batteries were shipped dry. There was a great chance that the glass case could be cracked or broken during shipping. The acid of the day was quite strong, and to prevent sipllage, it was shipped seperately, in one gallon brown jugs! After you purchased the generater outfit and the batteries, you built a rack (most often out of the shipping boxes), and mounted the batteries. You then carefully filled them with acid from the bottles, and let the battery pack set for 24 hours, in order to allow the charges and acid levels to equalize. The batteries were then topped off, and the unit given an initial charge. Battery condition was determined with checking the specific gravity of each cell. believe it or not, sometimes cell location would make a difference in the state of charge of a cell.

I had the privaledge of working with a Bell Tel battery technician, who was in our fire department. He wass in charge of the battery back up for our Gamewell alarm system, which used a bank of batteries to make 48 volts. One day, I saw him moving several of the 6 volt cells in the battery pack, and asked him why he was doing it. He gave me detailed info on how a battery's internal resistance would change with the specific gravity, over time, as the battery bank charged. i helped him take S.G. readings on the battery bank for over 3 years, and found that he was right! Batteries in certain areas of the bank charged more than others, and those cells had to be relocated so that they wouldn't overcharge. others that were weaker were located in the 'higher charge area, and thus equalization was maintained. Willy Hoppler and I maintained the battery pack, until his untimely death at a fire call. His death wis the only line of duty death in the 120 year history of our fire department. he is surely missed. After his death, I was told not to bother changing the battery locations, as I was taught, just maintain electrolyte levels, as changing the battery locations was not nescessary. Within a year, 5 of ther battery bank batteries failed, and at great exoense the battery bank was replaced (over $2,000). i again began movint the cells as S.G dictated, but was again told not to do it, by the chief of the department. Within 6 months, 4 of the 'new' cells were shot, and one even swelled so bad that it cracked the plastic case. the Gamewell technicians were called in, and the first thing they asked, was who tended the batteries. i was called to the chief's office, and we had a chat.

I was asked how the batteries were tended, and I gave them the specifics on how they were maintained. When I was asked about location equalization, I told them I knew the procedure, but was told by the chief that it was not nescessary. The tech seemed to be surprised that I knew of the procedure. i told him about being taught by Willie Hoppler, and the guy laughed. "You were taught by the best!" he said, he had apprenticed under Willie many years ago. He told the chief that I was quite right about relocating under and over charging cells, and that it must be done if the department wanted to keep the system operating properly. Eventually the gamewell system was retired for a new computer operated system, and the system was dismantled and junked, with the exception of the call boxes and the batteries. i got the batteries and used them many years on my battery and coil engines, as well as my F/M 32 Home light plant.
Andrew
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Old 06-05-2012, 12:08:02 AM
L Steiner L Steiner is offline
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Default Re: Delco Light Power Batteries for Farm Electrification Service

True about the trade off of batteries verses cost and wire size, but another important factor was the railroads already used 32 volts therefore bulbs and such was already available from suppliers.
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Old 06-05-2012, 05:55:09 AM
Kevin K Kevin K is offline
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Default Re: Delco Light Power Batteries for Farm Electrification Service

Quote:
Originally Posted by Andrew Mackey View Post
Batteries in certain areas of the bank charged more than others, and those cells had to be relocated so that they wouldn't overcharge. others that were weaker were located in the 'higher charge area, and thus equalization was maintained.
Andrew
Thank you for the interesting information. I would appreciate it if you would take the time to explain more about the equalization procedure. I'm sure many others would be interested as well.
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Old 06-06-2012, 10:36:58 AM
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Default Re: Delco Light Power Batteries for Farm Electrification Service

Well, I can see where temp would play a roll in that. Cells on the outer edge will be warmer or cooler (depending on room temp) then the cells towrd the center. We all know that temp effects the chemical reaction (why batterys loose their capacity in the cold). I can easly see where moveing them about would equalize the time spent at different temp enviorments.

I guess thinking about it, the one on the edge will always be cooler, with heat in the middle.
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Old 06-06-2012, 01:55:38 PM
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Default Re: Delco Light Power Batteries for Farm Electrification Service

Willy never got to tell me why the batteries charged like they did. They were wired in series. The Gamewell system used 20 A.H. 6 volt batteries with clear plastic cases. All cells were visible. The center cell on esch battery had a set of 3 plastic discs that floated at different specific gravities. Green was full charge, yellow was 1/2, red was 'dead', and if all were sunk, usually the battery was dead flat (only saw this once, when the power supply failed for a week). We didn't pay attention to the discs, Willie said they were for dummies who didn't understand batteries! There were 8 batteries in the battery pack, and all were wired with #6 fine wire links with leaded ends. brass nuts and bolts linked the battery links to the battery posts. The lead posts were cleaned once a month, shiny bright, as well as were the links and bolts. Any corrosion was washed off and neutralized weekly with a baking soda and water solution. Great care was taken that the neutralizing solution didn't get into the batteries!.

Besides the weekly cleaning, ALL cells were tested for specific gravity (acid content), and all readings were noted in a log we kept at the Gamewell station.

For those who don't know, Specific Gravity(SG), measures the amount of sulfuric acid in the battery electrolyte - the fluid that generates the electricity thru a chemical reaction within the battery plates. When fully charged, and fresh, a lead acid battery has about 35% sulfuric acid in the electrolyte. This translates to an SG of 1.265, on a hydrometer - a device made to read the SG of battery electrolytes. As a battery discharges, the sulfuric acid breaks down, depositing sulfates on the plates, as chemical action creates slectricity for use. As the acid is used, more sulfur deposits, lowering the SG, and increasing the resistance to electron flow, resulting in discharge and release of hydiogen and oxygen gasses. Charging the batteries forces the sulfur back into the electrolyte solution and off the battery plates, thus recharging the battery. Enentually, the loss of oxygen and hydrogen gasses will lower the electrolyte level. This loss must be made up by adding distilled water, to bring the level of electrolyte back to an acceptable level. Battery plates MUST NOT be exposed to air! If they are, they will degrade and break up, destroying the battery. You must not add more electrolyte solution either. If that is done, excess acid in the solution will cause a high self discharge rate, and will also cause internal damage to the plates. The only thing you should add to a lead acid battery is distilled water! Why distilled? you ask? Distilled water is neutral PH, and has no impurities that will affect the operation of the electrolyte. It is pure H2O, a combination of the gasses released during normal battery operation. For a good overview of battery function and operation, go to: WWW.Batterystuff.com/tutorial_battery.html Lots of good info there.

As for equalization, we noted that certain locations, the batteries were overcharging. Our weekly notes told us where these locarions were, and other areas where the batteries were constantly under charging, during normal operations. 'Normal' charge rate was 10 amps for the battery pack, allowing about a little over 2 amps per battery. We moved the overcharged batteries to the locations where the batteries were undercharged, and moved the low charge batteries to the points where the high batteries were. Highest charge batteries were put in the lowest charge locations, and visa versa - the lowest SG reading batteries were located to the highest charge locations. The 10 amp static charge was enough to counteract any self discharge, but if the alarm was sounded, the battery pack provided power to both the annunciater (the device that told the alarm position), and the selenoid power for the horns and the recharge compressor for the air rserve (it uses 250 PSI to sound the horns!) The station horns, still in use today, can be heard for 5 miles in any direction. More than loud enough to be heard by anyone in town, no matter where they are. If more than 2 alarms are sounded within a week, the Gamewell system would automatically go on high charge for 1 hour - a charge rate of 24 amps, or 5 amps per battery. Sometimes there would be many more alarms during a week, and we would find the battery pack with lower electrolyte SG than needed. The system would be then placed on high charge manually, until all batteries were fully charged. We would then come back later, after the charge was done, and recheck the SG of the battery pack, and then move batteries as charge dictated. More often than not, only an .025 differential was noted between batteries, but occasionally one would get above the 1.265 full charge rate. Then that battery would be moved to a lower SG reading location. Willie tried explaining that the electrolyte SG affected both charge and discharge rates. As batteries neared full charge, they tended to actually absorb more energy, lowering resistance and charging even faster than its neighbors. When this happenned, a lower charge neighbor did not get the same rate of electron flow, and therefore did not charge as fast. By moving the battery to a low rate area, it forced the lower charge batteries to catch up, while in his words'starving the high rate batteries a little', thus causing the whole battery assembly to charge evenly. The procedure worked! We seldom had a battery go below 1/4 charge less than any other cell, while the equalization moves were made. Occasionally adding water to a battery with low electrolyte levels made for false charge readings. When we added water, we usually came back that afternoon and then took readings, in order to allow the water to disperse into the electrolyte. If we found a battery with one cell with a low SG reading, Willie would take it out of the battery bank and take it home. He had a 2.2 volt cell charger from his days working with bell tel, and he would charge that cell until it reached the same SG as the other two in the battery. The battery was then re-inserted into the battery bank, and life would go on! usually this individual charge would set the battery straight, but once in a while it would not. Physically inspecting the batteries once a month was a must. With the old batteries (most over 10 years by my reckonning) plate condition was becomming an issue. Willie told me if a battery had a lot of 'gunk' or debris around the plates, the telephone company would dump out the electrolyte, fill the cells with water, and melt out the tar holding the plates in the glass containers. the plates would be removed, the glass washed out, the plates flushed off and the batteries re-assembled. fresh electrolyte, a good charge, and the batteries were again good for years of service. Not so with these plastic case batteries, once shorted, then they were shot. In all the time I worked with Willie, on the battery pack, until he died, we only had to replace 3 batteries. Once the equalization switching stopped, the whole battery pack failed within a year or so, and some of the replacements didn't last a year after that.
Andrew
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