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Standby Generator Starting in cold weather

Discussion in 'Home Power and Microgeneration' started by RF Dude, Nov 28, 2005.

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  1. RF Dude

    RF Dude Guest

    Scenario 1: Emergency diesel generator in a non-insulated outdoor
    enclosure. In winter, the 1500W coffee maker (also known as a water jacket
    heater) is brewing continuously since the thermostat is set to ~27C/ 82F.
    Big waste of energy and a high cost for this parasitic power.

    Scenario 2: Air cooled Lister generator set is available as surplus. Love
    to buy it, but they were originally mounted indoors where the room
    temperature kept them warm. I don't have such a room in my house. If
    mounted outdoors, what options exist to keep it warm and ready to start when

    Scenario 3: Natural Gas (vapor) engine. Does this engine need to be kept
    warm like the diesel? I'm thinking the coffee maker temperature can be
    severly reduced to say 0C/32F or even lower?

    So the overall question is how to reduce the parasitic operating cost of a
    standby generator in cold weather while it is waiting for a power failure?

    RF Dude
  2. Dale Farmer

    Dale Farmer Guest

    INsulate the enclosure Work to make the enclosure more airtight,
    Perhaps some ducting with a blow-openable vent shutter. If the thing
    doesn't actually need to be auto start and can await you going out to
    set some stuff up, a propane fueled water heater in the coolant loop
    that you go out and manually fire up prior to cranking.
    Insulate the battery box and put in a tiny heater there.

  3. m Ransley

    m Ransley Guest

    I dont understand your thoughts, do you need to keep your car warm to?
    I dont. Run synthetic oil if you are, water cooled warm up fast.
  4. SQLit

    SQLit Guest

    Every diesel I have ever worked on or around was a pain in the ass to start
    if it was cold. Every water cooled engine had a "coffee maker". Every air
    cooled one had a dip stick heater to keep the oil warm.

    You might consider that if you were to disconnect the 1500 watt heater, on a
    really cold night with no power you could be in for a long haul getting the
    beastie started. Especially with NG. NG does not vaporize well at cold
    temps. Once warmed up they seem to run fine.

    Insulate the enclosure and the coffee maker would cycle to keep the engine
    at temp. No insulation and it will run most of the time.

    Lastly check with the engine manufacture and see if you could lower the
  5. Guest

    A farmer friend of mine has a sure-fire way of starting his big White
    Field Boss if a surprise snow storm catches him without the block
    heater plugged in and he has to blow the lane to let the milk truck
    in. He just pulls the air intake, fires up his BernzoMatic soldering
    torch, and lays it in the intake for about 3 minutes. Then it's just
    hit the starter, and go.
  6. Answer1: As any diesel engine operator knows, it isn't the temp of the
    cooling system or the base oil, that stops a diesel from firing up at
    low temps. It is the temp of the AIR going in the Intake Manifold.
    Rip out that "coffee Maker" and attach the Old Ladies 1000 Watt Hair
    Dryer to the Intake Manifold and give it a few seconds to blow HOT
    Air down the intake pipe, then roll over the engine, an POP your running
    on the second compression cycle. WHy do you think Long Haul Truckers
    carry Hair Dryers in their rigs? It is not to dry their hair at
    truckstops....Just what do you think the purpose of a GLOWPLUG is?

    Answer2: See answer1: I have seen Listers started, in -20F weather,
    in unheated enclosers, in less than 30 Seconds, using answer1. Hot
    air is your bad you can't fly Rush Limbaugh down when
    you need to start up...... (joke).....

    Answer3: Never had a Propane or NG powered engine so can't say...

    See Answer1 for a good way to keep standby operating costs to a very
    minimum. The Hair Dryer only runs for a max of 90 Seconds at 1Kw
    and the engine will be running with very little sweat. Use a good
    Multiviscosity OIl like Delo 400 15W40 or if your really cold (below
    -50F) 5W40 and forget about all the other BS. Mix you fuel 50/50
    with Diesel #1/Diesel#2 and your good to below -40F. In alaska we call
    that WinterMix diesel.

    Bruce in alaska
  7. daestrom

    daestrom Guest

    Perhaps you're thinking of propane. It doesn't vaporize easily when its 0F
    or below. But 'natural gas' (mostly methane) is a vapor at much lower
    temperatures and wouldn't be a problem.

  8. Can you turn this heater down? You don't want to keep the generator
    _hot_ all the time, just warm enough to start when it's cold.

    My air-cooled 8.2KW NG generator's never failed to start or run it's
    weekly exercise cycle in a Boston suburb, if that helps. I use
    Mobil-1 synthetic 5W30, FWIW...
  9. RF Dude

    RF Dude Guest

    Thanks for all the reply's. Lets recap for the diesels:

    1) Turn down or shut off completely the 1500W kettle. Perhap control it
    with an external thermo that turns it on at say 32F/0C or even a few degrees
    colder. Experiment a bit to find the temperature that will still reliably
    start the genny. Increase the engine warm up time before applying a load.
    2) Use synthetic oil, or a 150W oil pan heater to allow the machine to turn
    quickly when the starter engages.
    3) Use the engine glow plug. But I haven't found an engine controller yet
    that will automate this process for unattended operation. Say use the glow
    plug under control of a pre-heat timer. The controller would engage this
    pre-heat only under 40F for instance. I have seen engine controllers that
    have a glow plug button, but an operator must be present to engage this
    (presumably after a no-start condition).
    4) Sounds like I'll have to monitor the battery very well. Trying to run a
    glow plug for 3o seconds AND crank the engine would require a healthy
    5) An insulated engine enclosure with louvres that seal when engine doesn't
    run is the best approach, but will add cost.

    Would putting 120V trace tape heating on the intake manifold along with some
    insulation assist in a hot first gulp of air?

    A bus driver told me they used to use Either to start them in the dead of
    winter. But the engines weren't too crazy about it.

    Gasoline engines start at very cold temperatures, so I can't imagine why a
    NG engine wouldn't do the same. Looking at the Kohler 40 kW machine, the
    V-6 is the same engine as in a GM Astro van. So one would think that only
    the coldest prarie days need the coffee maker, just like a car.
  10. Dale Farmer

    Dale Farmer Guest

    A friend has a US navy surplus diesel genny with a small gasoline tank,
    fuel pump and a spray nozzle into the air intake. Turn on the pump, which
    also cranks a small magneto to provide sparks for the igniter, and suddenly
    you have a fire in the air intake. Wait a minute, then crank the engine.
    This was referred to as the arctic weather add on kit in the manual.

  11. RF Dude

    RF Dude Guest

    I have to hand you the award... this is the best suggestion yet... if not a
    funny one!
  12. SQLit

    SQLit Guest

    Absolutely correct. I fat fingered the letters. LP is what I was thinking
    I had a LP on top of a 5K hill above sea level that gave us fits every
  13. Guest

    The engine will start cold if you can get the LP flowing. You need
    heat for the evaporator.
  14. Me

    Me Guest

    VERY BAD Idea, that.....Ether is a good way to kill te engine ....
    especially is you don't understand the reasons that it works and why it
    would be a VERY BAD Idea.........

  15. Newby

    Newby Guest

    Please enlighten us (me) why ether is a bad idea.

  16. Steve Spence

    Steve Spence Guest

    air cooled lister? hmmm.... all the ones I've seen are water cooled.

    We start our detroit diesel 2-71 (outdoors at -40) with no preheater,
    just a shot of ether. Hard on starters. Boxing it in and putting a
    propane water heater inline with the cooling system.

    Our neighbors propane ford powered 30kw unit won't start in cold temps
  17. Steve Spence

    Steve Spence Guest

    diesels need heat to start. With no glow plugs, they can be a bear to
    get running once the mercury gets south of rediculous.
  18. The way I start my diesel generator is as follows. I flip the "glow
    plug" switch on for a minute, and then flip the START switch.
    Do they have glow plugs?
    Note that it is not very easy to have a simple standby heater that
    would not be prone to disastrous failures (such as fires due to, say,
    mice building a next next to it etc).

    If your diesel does not have glow plugs, and does not start from hot
    air blown into air intake, I would invest in some sort of propane
    torch powered from propane tanks. Could be the safest and cheapest
    solution. This assumes that your diesel lives in some enclosure.

  19. Guest

    Then explain to me why MANY deisel engines came from the factory with
    ether start???
    Works good on a deisel if done right - but it IS murder on spark
    ignition gasoline engines.
  20. It works on diesels designed for it, and can ruin diesels NOT designed
    for it. My Onan DJE is not designed for ether start and there are
    numerous warnings against using ether. It has glow plugs instead.

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