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Fuels and Alternative Fuels Materials or substances that can be used as a fuel, waste oils, vegetable oils or animal fats, which can be used alone, or blended with fossil fuels.

Fuels and Alternative Fuels

Generators, Large Loads and Off Grid Living


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  #1  
Old 04-09-2018, 09:21:48 PM
csareb csareb is offline
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Default Generators, Large Loads and Off Grid Living

just a little fyi for those interested. Home depot sells 120v 1500w elements that fit most hot water heaters, they work well and make hot water on generator power much more economical fuel wise.

I used to have to fire up the EB11000 to heat the hot water tank, but with these 1500w elements it can heat fine off the smaller house generator if the air conditioner isn't running. its a large hot water tank and takes about 3 hours to heat up to 150 degrees (thermostat goes to 165 but i have it set on 150). also allows me to run the water heater off a little EM4000 if the main generator is busy with air conditioning or cooktop.
With large enough batteries and a sizeable solar array this also brings electric hot water within reach of a solar/inverter setup as 5kw continuous load inverters exist (and this would only pull 3kw), but such a system would still be cost prohibitive.

I typically run the water heater 6 hours a day, gives hot water for everyone to take a good hot bath, then it gets disconnected, which is something that goes with the territory living off grid. I'm sure most people here know this already, but what a lot of people who decide to live off grid dont realize is its a lot different than having commercial power. things like hot water and refrigeration have to be sceduled and operated as needed, and things like electric cooktops and water heaters need separate wiring circuits brought outside to be fed separately by a separate dedicated generator for that purpose. An electric welder will need its own generator also, as will the workshop itself. yes that is a lot of additional fuel consumption, but if each heavy load is used only as needed it doesn't ammount to that much more since the majority of the time 4500-5000w will be sufficient to power the rest of the house. How many watts each generator needs to be will vary depending on your appliances, but the point is you use these big loads as needed, not always on/on demand as you would on commercial power. Sure a large enough generator could make this unnecessary but it would also dramatically increase your fuel costs.

Using large loads only as needed, and 5kw continuous power, my average monthly usage is about 450-460 gallons of gasoline depending on if its a 30 or 31 day month. That is running fuel-efficient Honda generators, with a small 24vdc battery system for emergency lighting during oil changes/maintenence work (4 6v gold cart batteries recharged off a switching power supply set to output 28vdc and a charge controller). All lighting is LED, aside from a single 24v halogen tractor light used when working on color-coded electrical wiring.

as for shop/welding, weld with acetylene as much as possible, personally I prefer to do so anyway and can make a much prettier weld with a torch than with electric anyway. use the electric welder only when absolutely necessary, and run it off some heavy iron. a 16hp cast iron briggs 7.5kw genset is bare minimum, a 10-15kw onan or Kohler genset would be ideal.

plan to have a lot of fuel on hand, but only 150 or so gallons more than you use in a month so it gets rotated often. gasoline is the most readily avalible fuel but it doesnt keep for long. diesel is nearly as readily avalible and will keep longer, while lp can be difficult to obtain but will keep forever.

just a few thoughts on the subject I thought I'd share.
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Old 04-09-2018, 10:34:14 PM
Vanman Vanman is offline
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Default Re: generators, large loads and off grid living

How about heating the water for free using the waste heat from the generator?
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Old 04-09-2018, 11:29:02 PM
pegasuspinto pegasuspinto is offline
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Default Re: generators, large loads and off grid living

I assume you are off grid because you are simply located too far from commercial electric power? You're spending well over $1000 a month on fuel and there are a LOT of other costs!

In my area 1000 would buy 10,000 kilowatt hours of electricity, give or take. That's nearly enough to have 14 kw electric load continuous all month!
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Old 04-09-2018, 11:40:27 PM
Odin Odin is offline
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Default Re: generators, large loads and off grid living

What are your options like for firewood?

Instead of using a generator to make electricity and then heating up water with that, maybe it would be more economical to heat the water directly that way and only use the electric elements to keep it warm for a short while longer as the fire dies.

Or if you have tons of firewood or other biomass available in significant quantity, time to get yourself a boiler and steam engine to turn your generator- and use the exhaust steam to heat your washwater and preheat the boiler feedwater.

It kind of defeats the point of being off-grid if you have to rely on significant quantities of gasoline/diesel to power your generators I think. The only other way I can think of to avoid that would be to greatly expand on your ability to harness solar and wind power, and store the power you get for later use.
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Old 04-09-2018, 11:53:32 PM
csareb csareb is offline
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Default Re: generators, large loads and off grid living

yeah there is no electric service out here

---------- Post added at 10:53:32 PM ---------- Previous post was at 10:44:59 PM ----------

firewood is readily avalible which I use in a woodstove for heat.

a steam engine generator is something I plan on doing. One of the many projects for this summer.
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Old 04-10-2018, 12:17:19 AM
Vanman Vanman is offline
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Default Re: generators, large loads and off grid living

Looking at it another way, burning fuel in a heat engine to drive a generator to use electricity to heat something is likely somewhere around 15% efficient. You're throwing away *almost* all of your fuel.

Burning the fuel to heat something directly is around 75% efficient, and so would use 1/5 as much fuel, and put zero wear and tear on the generator set. You're then using most of your fuel.

Collecting the heat from the water jacket on the generator engine while the electricity is being used for some other purpose uses no fuel at all for the heating. It's not 100% efficient, it is infinitely efficient. It adds no additional wear and tear to the generator set, it uses zero additional fuel. FREE.
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Old 04-10-2018, 12:24:49 AM
csareb csareb is offline
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Default Re: generators, large loads and off grid living

very true, which is precisely why I dont use the water heater for more than a few hours a day. just long enough for bathing, of course it is still a wasteful means of doing so.
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Old 04-10-2018, 01:00:03 AM
Thaumaturge Thaumaturge is offline
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Default Re: generators, large loads and off grid living

Sounds like you could do with a bit of planning to get that fuel bill down.

I myself live totally off grid. I realize that living with a family is a different situation. I'm by myself.

My usual fuel consumption is less than 20 gallons a week. That could be reduced substantually if I had better mobility and was able to do a bit more utility work, such as swapping out a bad engine on one of my smaller generators or setting up more and better solar panels and some better battery system.

As it is I'm running very low wattage on a Predator 4000. While I get about 14 hours run time on a tank of gas, that is still up to 4 gallons a day. (Usually less, but in the winter I run a 1500 watt area heater, mostly for convenience. Propane catalytic heater is much more economical, but is a PITA to have to attend to roughly every twenty minutes turning off and on.)

I use LED lighting. My other loads are mainly USB type chargers that I use to charge my Android tablet, cell phone and a bunch of external charger packs. My Internet system takes a total of 28 Watts powering my wireless dish, my modem and my WiFi hub. I also have a small 600 Watt UPS that charges whenever gen is running and will self start without power input (a lot won't). Anyway, the UPS will run my Internet for up to 100 minutes without having the generator running. Very convenient for doing a quick google search and email check or to drop in here to see what might be talked about.

In the summertime I have the additional load of a small Dometic RV fridge which draws about 300 Watts on first power up and then throttles back to about 175 Watts. I only power it off generator but (being just me) that is enough to keep foods in freezer compartment frozen.

For your application, I'd consider getting an electric start gen to drive on demand water heaters. Far more economical than heating a big tank of water. Start gen, take shower, turn gen off.

I've tried using an Inverter gen, but all the cheap ones are quite frankly unreliable and virtually impossible to get parts for. The high end models just cost way too much and really aren't designed for full time usage.

What I would like to do would be to get a bunch of old golf cart or fork lift batteries that get charged off of solar, a small wind generator and off a charger anytime a gen is running. I have a bunch of inverters from 100 Watt car cigarette lighter outlet powered up to a 2500 Watt unit that MUST be located right next to batteries (totally melted a set of jumper cables trying to power just a small microwave off a car battery.) So answer there is to mount inverter right next to battery pack and to kludge in a wireless remote switch to turn it on and off.)

Wind isn't a good option for me, as, though it is "breezy" roughly 3/4 of the time out here, the average wind speed stays pretty low (with sudden gusts up to 50mph). But most the time the wind speed stays just barely above kick in speed for a wind charger.

Just a few ideas for you. I'm in total agreement with Vanman's suggestion about using waste heat from gens to heat water. Problem with that is most heat exchangers are made out of stainless steel (to handle very corrossive fumes) and are therefore very pricey.

I'd really like to build a custom APU unit that was aimed at the off grid market. One that sucked every erg of usable energy out of fuel used. Using long life average low RPM inverter gen technology, heat exchanger water heating and on demand start-stop smarts.

Doc
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Old 04-10-2018, 02:04:39 AM
csareb csareb is offline
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Default Re: generators, large loads and off grid living

Thanks.

I use LEd lighting too, and only run the fridge during daylight hours in winter as it is purposely located in the garage so it runs as little as possible. internet is 4g charged from a usb charger. no microwave just a small 120v cooktop and a coffee pot, though in winter the woodstove is used for most of the cooking.

just the one AMD pc and LED monitor, and a couple smartphones. little Persephone uses the pc to watch her dvds a couple hours a day but other than that its only used to post here and google things/shop online, and for homeschooling which my wife does while I'm out in the workshop repairing small engines or working on various projects usually.

most of the time we run off a EZ5000 when heavy large demands arent needed, though most of the time an EM4000 would be sufficient power as we found out while I was replacing the carb on the ez5000 recently.
When the weather warms up a little I'm going to switch to the em4000 or a EB5000 as the main generator, while I give the old ez5000 a good complete overhaul its been well maintained, but it has around 9000 hours on it so it could use it.

yeah i like the idea of using waste heat too. I dont mind buying a lot of fuel, but I would like to be able to make use of as much of the avalible energy from it as possible.
Yeah Stainless is expensive, and a pain to work with. nasty stuff to weld too.

An APU like that would be perfect. I would buy one in a heartbeat.

---------- Post added at 01:04:39 AM ---------- Previous post was at 12:52:05 AM ----------

The ez5000 and the EB11000 i bought new, the others I got off CL and Ebay for next to nothing as they needed minor repairs.,
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Old 04-10-2018, 09:09:44 AM
Odin Odin is offline
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Default Re: generators, large loads and off grid living

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Originally Posted by Vanman View Post
Looking at it another way, burning fuel in a heat engine to drive a generator to use electricity to heat something is likely somewhere around 15% efficient. You're throwing away *almost* all of your fuel.
Burning the fuel to heat something directly is around 75% efficient, and so would use 1/5 as much fuel, and put zero wear and tear on the generator set. You're then using most of your fuel.
Its worse than that. The traditional locomotive pattern boiler with manual stoker firing would run from 50-75% thermal efficiency depending on how well maintained it was and how skilled the fireman was at keeping the fire intense and clean-burning without excess air or soot production. You can get up to around 80% with more modern automated fire controls and the use of a mechanical stoker, but efficiencies higher than that are not possible for a stoker with any technology I know of. Modern condensing gas or oil furnaces have a stainless steel condenser in them that reduces the exhaust gas temperature back down to maybe a summer's day heat, these condensers cannot be used with solid fuel because the soot and flyash will plug them up.

As far as engines go, the typical locomotive or traction engine was a mere 5% efficient on a good day. If you used a cutoff governed engine such as a Corliss or one with a Rites governor you could push that to 12%. To get any higher it is necessary to use a compound engine. Modern power stations, using steam turbines and a condenser, can push 35% efficient by using a supercritical steam generator and expanding it all the way back down to a vaccum as well as recovering the waste heat for the facility's domestic heating needs. Some power stations even supply hot water to the neighboring community.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Thaumaturge View Post
I'd really like to build a custom APU unit that was aimed at the off grid market. One that sucked every erg of usable energy out of fuel used. Using long life average low RPM inverter gen technology, heat exchanger water heating and on demand start-stop smarts.

Doc
Similar. For some time now I've wanted to come up with a converter system wherein you had like 4 available input terminals, AC or DC 0v-400v. Each input is then converted using SMPS technology to a 300v DC internal bus. From that internal bus you then run your battery management system to charge a battery grid, discharging from the battery grid back onto the bus when the inputs are too low to maintain bus voltage. The DC bus output can then be used directly for loads that can handle it, for instance resistance heating. Loads requiring AC then go through the typical inverter system, and you could conceptually package the inverter as for instance a 120v 40A unit to run 2 household branch circuits or a 240v 30A appliance module that takes the 300v DC directly off the main bus and converts it to what the appliance requires.

Such a system would be able to utilize any incoming renewable energy no matter how dim the evening sky or how little the wind was blowing that day, as the SMPS could be configured to draw as much wattage as was available without causing excessive currents that might damage the load.

If one of the inputs was occupied by your idea- a biodiesel powered generator producing DC, you could really push the efficiency envelope. Such a generator could throttle down during periods of low load, and being a volume governed diesel would sip fuel at idle even at high RPM. I think the system efficiency on the electrical components alone would be at its maximum, and if you connected the engine's cooling jacket to a secondary heat exchanger for domestic hot water service you could push the efficiency even higher.
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Old 04-10-2018, 09:37:10 AM
Russell Walker Russell Walker is offline
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Default Re: Generators, Large Loads and Off Grid Living

Off grid I guess has several different meanings. Hope you don't have a full time Job while you haul all that gasoline. How big is your deer camp generator?
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Old 04-10-2018, 10:01:54 AM
Thaumaturge Thaumaturge is offline
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Default Re: Generators, Large Loads and Off Grid Living

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Off grid I guess has several different meanings. Hope you don't have a full time Job while you haul all that gasoline. How big is your deer camp generator?
Off grid: No connection at all to public utilities. Particularly the power grid. Myself I own multiple generators from a Honda EM400 up to a surplus 6.5KW Diesel MEP. Nowadays I have a local young handyman who runs for fuel and groceries once a week. I'm retired.
Doc
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Old 04-10-2018, 10:17:07 AM
csareb csareb is offline
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Default Re: Generators, Large Loads and Off Grid Living

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Originally Posted by Russell Walker View Post
Off grid I guess has several different meanings. Hope you don't have a full time Job while you haul all that gasoline. How big is your deer camp generator?
I make more than enough money working from home.I'm a mechanic, welder, blacksmith, farmer, and professional breeder of livestock guardian dogs. I have a DVM and a PhD. just so you know, and run a small private practice for the breeding buisness I run.


smallest generator I have (working) is an old 1000w winco/3hp briggs 120vAC

smallest modern generator I have is a Honda EU 1000

smallest modern non-inverter is an EB3500

smallest (non working/needs repair) an old Honda E300

Largest generator I have is a 25kw Allis Chalmers with inline 6 cyl engine I'm in the process of restoring (engine runs but no power output, suspect its a fault with the brushes or voltage regulator)

largest (fully working) would be a 15kw katolight with wisconsin inline 4cyl engine (was originally NG but I changed out the carburetor to convert it to gasoline.

largest single cylinder would be a 16hp briggs cast iron/7500w genset I use to power a small electric welder when needed. (though I much prefer to weld with a torch so this unit doesnt get a lot of use)

Largest Modern generator I have is the EB11000

Diesel wise, I have a 1-71 detroit 8500/9000kw (fully working)

a 12kw onan (needs work. can get started with Ether on a warm day but no power output) needs stator rewound and new pistons/rings just havent gotten to it yet. something I will be doing in the next month or so.

and a 100kw Cat (generator is good but the engine needs completely rebuilt. turns over but won't start. fuel pump is fine. havent had it apart yet but I suspect bad rings, or valves stuck open.)
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Old 04-10-2018, 10:38:34 AM
Newoldstock Newoldstock is offline
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Default Re: Generators, Large Loads and Off Grid Living

Just a thought for the hot water if you took a gas fired water tank and ran exhaust gas from the generator through it you could pre-warm some water.
I can not say how hot it would be or maybe even if it was too hot under some conditions.
The important thing is when the generator is running waste heat is being captured.

You could make a small fire box and put it in a gas fired water heater.
I have done that, and it takes very little scrap wood and perhaps no more than one or two small 15 minutes firings and most of your days water needs would be covered.

A drain water heat ex changer can pull some heat from the waste water to preheat water going into your electric tank too reducing the amount of energy you need to heat the tank.


You can make this yourself pretty easily, just be sure to observe the direction of flow because this is a counter flow system for best heat recovery.

---------- Post added at 10:38:34 AM ---------- Previous post was at 10:33:25 AM ----------

Just a thought for the hot water if you took a gas fired water tank and ran exhaust gas from the generator through it you could pre-warm some water.
I can not say how hot it would be or maybe even if it was too hot under some conditions.
The important thing is when the generator is running waste heat is being captured.

You could make a small fire box and put it in a gas fired water heater.
I have done that, and it takes very little scrap wood and perhaps no more than one or two small 15 minutes firings and most of your days water needs would be covered.

A drain water heat ex changer can pull some heat from the waste water to preheat water going into your electric tank too reducing the amount of energy you need to heat the tank.


You can make this yourself pretty easily, just be sure to observe the direction of flow because this is a counter flow system for best heat recovery.
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Old 04-10-2018, 10:44:36 AM
Tracy T Tracy T is offline
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Default Re: Generators, Large Loads and Off Grid Living

just my $.02 but I learned years ago electricity is the worst source to heat anything. last year I bought a gas fridge as of date a 100 lb cylinder cost approx. $38 and last right around 10 weeks. I am considering the purchase of a on demand gas water heater next. we have cooked with gas for the last 20 years and also have a gas clothes drier. I am not off grid but well on my way to do so.
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Old 04-10-2018, 10:57:05 AM
csareb csareb is offline
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Default Re: Generators, Large Loads and Off Grid Living

Thank you. That system looks like it would be simple to fabricate.

the exhaust gas heat exchanger would be simple too. GX340 header pipes are readily avalible from go cart suppliers online, weld up a bit of flex pipe to connect to the heat exchanger, then another flex pipe coming off the heat exchanger outlet attached to another length of pipe and bolt the original Honda muffler to that pipe.

adding a fire box to an old LP water heater would be easy too. I have a good supply of scrap iron I can use to fabricate a nice fire box

---------- Post added at 09:57:05 AM ---------- Previous post was at 09:49:22 AM ----------

yes I am aware LP would be more efficient, but have to be careful with LP consumption. closest supplier is 75 miles away, whereas I can get Gasoline and Diesel fuel in a small backwater town 20miles away.
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Old 04-10-2018, 11:10:56 AM
Tracy T Tracy T is offline
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Default Re: Generators, Large Loads and Off Grid Living

my information may be dated but according to my truckers fuel finder exit 11 exon in Paducah has got you covered with lp.
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Old 04-10-2018, 11:17:07 AM
csareb csareb is offline
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Default Re: Generators, Large Loads and Off Grid Living

Thanks. It had been a while since I checked on suppliers. I had been buying from a welding supplier that I also purchase Acetylene and Oxygen cylinders.
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Old 04-10-2018, 11:19:07 AM
Newoldstock Newoldstock is offline
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Default Re: Generators, Large Loads and Off Grid Living

Does not need to be fancy.
Just a simple box tray you can pull out to clean and empty with some draft control.

The fire has to be small and should no burn more than 15 minutes.
Too much fire too long will overheat the system, this is very very easy to do.

All you need is kindling size wood.

Kart headers are notorious for cracking and breaking.
Run the flex directly off you OEM exhaust to heat ex-hanger of that is how you plan to go
Wrap it to avoid burns.
You will need constant flow in that system to avoid boiling the water, I would set it up to convection flow to the tank.

Stop by a hydraulics shop and see if they have an old water/oil cooler ( can type ) something like this

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Old 04-10-2018, 11:30:09 AM
Tracy T Tracy T is offline
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Default Re: Generators, Large Loads and Off Grid Living

looked them up on the net they are still in business and claim to service Lp cylinders, phone number is 270 575 9200.
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