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Old 09-05-2010, 02:16 PM   #1
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Well, the summer is almost over, it being Labor Day weekend, and have decided that installing a small 4-5kw diesel generator is the thing to do. Thought I would drop the "seed" and see if anyone out there knows of a used unit, and any "pointers" on installation.

Kurt
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Old 09-05-2010, 04:05 PM   #2
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Hi Kurt,

Don't know of a used diesel genset in the size you are planning for, but I would like to share our experience which is echoed by other people we've met. That is--think small and then even smaller when it comes to your genset.

We have an 8kW Onan that was brand new (still in the crate in the PO's storage unit) when we bought the boat. We installed it and found that we cannot really load it up properly for efficient usage and probably won't ever be able to do so. We use it 1x/month for a few hours to keep it exercised. At that time, we turn on every electric appliance we have including some hefty tools, washer/dryer, electric space heater, electric hot place, and so forth to load it up and still we cannot fully load this large genset.

Now, of course you propose 4-5 kW which is more reasonable but...we find that, during our regular use of a genset at anchor, we commonly use less than the continuous output (1.6 kW?) that our very efficient Honda EU2000 (gas portable genset) provides. We have friends, also on a large boat, who also have similar or more electrical appliances than us (they have high capacity watermaker, refrigerator, freezer, washer/dryer, as well as more navigation electronics than we have) with the same problems of not really being able to efficiently use their diesel genset. They purchased two Honda EU2000 (which can be used in combination to provide your boat twice the kW of a single genset) and use the two together as appropriate--for example for the larger inductive start up load of their freezer and then use one alone after startup. The particular gensets adjust their fuel usage dependent upon load and thus one can run anywhere from 5 hours (full load) to 15 hours (less than half load) on a gallon of gas.

These small Honda EU2000 gas gensets must be used outside and of course require that you carry gasoline but we have found this use to be far most cost effective, quiet, and appropriate than running our very large diesel genset. The cost of purchase, in the USA, is quite low as well--around $900 each.

As you size your diesel genset, you may wish to really calculate the load requirements and get as small capacity as you possibly can for electric appliances that you think you will run directly from the genset and not through an inverter off your batteries.

Just last week we met another couple with a 6 kW genset which they never use--too big for their needs. Small, small, small, smaller...

Good luck
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Old 09-05-2010, 06:18 PM   #3
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Originally Posted by Kurt O View Post

Well, the summer is almost over, it being Labor Day weekend, and have decided that installing a small 4-5kw diesel generator is the thing to do. Thought I would drop the "seed" and see if anyone out there knows of a used unit, and any "pointers" on installation.

Kurt
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your load requirements are really the take-off point in this. In my case, when I run the 5kW Westerbeke 5BCD diesel genset, typically the AC will also be on. The air condx itself will draw 12-15A, the AC fridge 10-12A. That load is about half the genny output but there is nothing wrong with it just loping along. If simultaneously the batteries were real low and needed charging, plus the 8-10A for heating up pop tarts in the microwave, the unit would still crank with the meter reading perhaps 40+ amps... still below rated. Mostly I find it will be producing around 15-20A draw. If space and weight are not the issue, I'd not go for much below 4kW output imho. Certainly no more than 8kW, which should be enough for any Marina Queen. But I forget, those come with twinned 30A umbilical cords in the standard package already. Now if you really need that oomph consider a floating condo, not a sailboat.

Gas Hondas are light and relatively quiet, a BIG thing you'll hear a lot about when running any genset. ( I'm not trying to be punny). There is a good reason my engine compartment is lead-lined and it's not only against nuclear radiation. The electric high tension coil and fuel injection of a modern gas engine work well in lab tests but salt corrosion and a damp environment will work against you. A bucket of salt water will likely kill a gas unit but not a diesel. There is also the kaboom factor of gas vapor to consider plus that you will have a single fuel and a common tank. For a few days running a sturdy jerry can may suffice but for extended trips that may not be enough. Also, per volume diesel contains many more calories than gas. Gasohol (ethanol added) is even worse.

It is mainly the volatile vapor issue of gas that is the concern. Cars do not blow up on a regular basis, except in Bagdad perhaps. Yet they do regularly leak gas as evidenced by the dissolved asphalt in parking spots. Engine compartments in cars are open from below for a good reason... cooling and ventilation. On a boat at sea no-one can guarantee against a tip-over, a sharp object falling and puncturing, chafe and wear and tear or a seam splitting open on a plastic canister or a fuel line snagging. And there is very little ventilation in the bilge or lockers.

Just that something is rated X doesn't mean it really should be running X. ( Oops, CraigsList could rephrase that.. ) For instance, it's quite likely you may want to buddy up with a SOL neighbor in an emergency to keep both your fridge/freezers running off your generator. Also, wear and tear will be reduced running your unit at a lower rather than at full load. Plus, fuel efficiency will be up. Many boats have water makers and those hog a lot of power, so add that to your equation. ( I don't use but have a legacy one, which may have influenced the PO's decision to go for a bigger genset )

Some power tools require a 2-3 times higher amperage on start-up than the plate-rated one. Lesser gennies may not handle that in-rush current load. Quite often they also are puffed up in specifications by the manufacturer. Meaning tests with hi-octane fuel and zero transmission losses with resistive loads ( as opposed to inductive ) etc. Such conditions are not the real world on a boat.

There were several diesel units on both Ebay and Craigslist recently at quite decent prices, perhaps a sign of the times. Kubota is a big-engine name but they also make some very good small ones. I can put you in touch with a retired "Mr Diesel" who gave me glowing reports about his unit, installed on his stinkpot. He absolutely was infatuated with it. ( But he also sails! )

Ivo
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Old 09-06-2010, 12:03 AM   #4
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Linn,

I do NOT suggest that anyone use a gas genset INSIDE the boat. It is used OUTSIDE the boat, on deck. No problem. Also, store fuel on deck not below. Treat it the same way as a small outboard for your tender. We've used our Honda EU2000 for the year-and-a-half we've been aboard and we used it prior to that on our other boat for a bit over 2 years. Works great, sips fuel, and if someone is really comparing cost per KW, you can't beat it. The old style of diesel genset (that one finds used) will go through a lot of fuel since it has to run at a certain engine RPM to provide AC properly. If one manages to purchase a DC diesel generator with an inverter (this is the system setup the Honda EU2000 gas genset uses) it will pay for itself quickly. Unlikely to find one of those used, I'd think, though.

Kurt, We all have our "choice" AC appliances aboard and in our case we have lots of tools (air compressor and air tools as well as other power tools), a washer/dryer, icemaker, and a few of (work related) full-size computers that get used from time-to-time. On the other hand, we don't have a hot water heater, microwave, refrigeration (other than the icemaker), watermaker, air conditioner, or many comfort-related electrical kW "hogs." Suggest that you tally up your expected usage, pay attention to motors which will take a big hunk of electricity upon startup and work from there.

Do let us know if you manage to find a nice DC diesel generator at a good price, we'd love to hear that someone is doing well with that.
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Old 09-06-2010, 12:07 AM   #5
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Thanks, Ya'll for the great information, currently I am using my 2.8kw Yamaha gas generator on deck. I should have mentioned that we are currently sailing a Vagabond-47, and have room to install a diesel generator below decks. We have found running our generator on deck over the past several years to be uncomfortable, due to the fact, we feel we are disturbing others in the anchorage. Believe a generator (after reading your comments) of some where beteen 4-5kw will support our needs.
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Old 09-06-2010, 12:19 AM   #6
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OK Redbo, I won't call you lil' any more and you may at least call me Linnu. Linn is... well... too girlish ( giggles ) Linnu is a bird in Estonian and there may be some connection to my head..???.

I'm glad and happy you had good results with the on-deck Honda without problems. Time is too early to tell though but with care and perhaps some repellent sprays maintenance is feasible even in the long term. Building my house off-grid I've run a Briggs & Stratton Cheapo-Depo unit and I found it quite the gas guzzler. Yes, it was perhaps half the Honda cost, so caveat emptor. A boater moored close by me is quite irate with his gas-Honda OB engine. It's a new unit but was twice to the shop already and it apparently always is a carb/fuel issue. Perhaps a mechanics incompetence too, so take it as just an anecdote for FWIW .

During a passage or rough conditions I still would prefer a below-deck unit. If not for the noise issue then for the extra protection that is afforded below. While the actual decibels may be quite reasonable the monotonous drone can get to some people. Especially the neighbors, as we usually tend to enjoy our own noise. To me that noise says: "Great, it's running just fine"

Ivo
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Old 09-06-2010, 05:50 AM   #7
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Some gas generators can be very noisy. We spent a bit of time in Newport Beach on a mooring this spring and were told by several neighboring boats that they didn't even know we were using our genset on deck. On the other hand, there was a small cheapo gas genset being used on a boat far away from us (say 10 moorings away) whose genset was so noisy that people I talked to on my cel phone were asking me what the background noise was AND when hubby climbed the mast to do some work, we had to talk to each other on our cel phones or radio because that boat's genset was making it impossible for us to talk while he was up the mast. Really. It does make a difference.

I imagine that if seas are rough and we wish to use AC, we might be quite happy that we've got the diesel genset below decks to use--even if it is way oversized. Thus far, it hasn't been an issue to use the Honda on-deck. Though, using it at anchor we put it on the aft deck (locked to the boom gallows) but using it underway, because of the mainsheet and all, the Honda would be used midships where it is locked to the fife rail at the base of the mainmast (and only 6 feet from the shore power inlets on the front of the charthouse).
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Old 09-06-2010, 05:39 PM   #8
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RedBo

You are certainly no Luddites, with a spare generator system! Few are so lucky though, and they will need to make an 'either or' choice for generator. There just is no single size that fits all and in every situation.

I am a bit surprised you can run the genny under way though, does the inherent tilt not make lubrication/sump levels an issue or have you fixed up a work-around for that? Most user manuals seem to specify and want a level set-up but perhaps that is for fuel and carburation issues. Having your shore power AC navel gozinta right next to the gozouta of the genny does make it handy... and very naval too.

Time to go for a hike in the hills now. I've been splurging far too much attention on the threads and keyboards the last few days. Partly because I'm still hunting down widgets to take to the boat next week. While molly-coddling two wantonly spoiled cats.. er, Excellencies.

Ivo
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Old 09-07-2010, 12:54 AM   #9
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We know several cruisers who do have a small gas genset for use on deck and a large diesel one below decks. Don't think we're all that special. If one has a big boat and a pre-existing diesel genset with the boat that is too much capacity for most times...well, you end up with a smaller one on deck, too. Hard to justify pulling out a functioning large diesel genset and installing a bit smaller diesel one at several thousand dollars when you can just pick up the very efficient EU2000 I mentioned for between $800-$1000 US with low operating costs to boot. And, use your monstrously large genset if needed from time to time.

We have never yet run either genset while underway. Being generally low-tech and doing fairly short hops (longest non-stop leg between anchorages to date was only 36 hours), we've had no reason to do so. We do charge up the batteries at anchor and I imagine that the 36 hour leg we had woulda required us to run the genset at some point except we happened to motorsail for a lengthy part of it so the batteries were charged via the engine.

The EU2000 manual states that it requires servicing every 100 hours of use--and that creeps up on you pretty quickly each time--I must admit that we do NOT service it every 100 hours but rather every few months. Don't know why one would think it's a high maintenance thing which must be perfectly level, etc. Some of the anchorages we've used it in are rock-and-roll roadsteads and it works just fine. Its been on through several downpours (while running) and a sat (not running) on deck during a few gales at anchor with saltwater spray blowing all over it. Sat (not running) tied to the fife rail while we motorsailed through a gale, no cover, plenty of rain and saltwater...Doesn't seem to matter. The little thing keeps on going when called upon. Albeit, I do consider it to be a "throw away" item at some point. Looking at our log, ours has seen a lot of hours. During a heavy work-on-the-boat and work-on-the computers spree while at anchor, we logged 1500 hours on it in about a 6 month period. The Honda was on more than it was off during that 6 months. In the 1-1/2 years we've lived aboard this boat (including that heavy 6 months) we've used it 2100 hours and have used the 8KW diesel genset 51 hours. We bought the EU2000 in late 2006 to power a diving hookah and a few things on our previous boat. We used it 260 hours on that boat. So...it has 2360 hours on it and seemingly going strong, still. If it stopped working tomorrow, I'd feel that we've gotten our money out of it and then some. Would have to go out and buy another though!

Again, I don't think it's all that unusual for a large cruising boat to have both a fixed genset and a portable one. Like us, many people have gas gensets to run tools, hookahs, air compressors, or other things.

Fair winds,
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Old 09-07-2010, 04:48 AM   #10
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RedBo

After having just perused the EU2000i info I am very impressed with the specs. The Big Ah-ha moment was when I found the unit actually powers an inverter directly off the generator output. That way (I presume) the rpm's can be lower during low demand and it can achieve good fuel efficiency. Silly me, as I had assumed it was just another plain vanilla generator.

The manual didn't say much about level operation, except "do not run it on it's side", kinda like the "do not eat the dessicant". The marine engine manuals are quite specific on mounting inclinations usually. Bearings may run dry or conversely excess oil can get cuisine-arted into a froth causing low oil pressure and other issues.

As to the 13-14A power output, it is a nice clean regulated sine wave and good for computer electronics and certainly most power tools, except for the heaviest. ( can it start up a Skil-saw for instance?) For any air conditioners or bigger freezer/fridge combos it may choke, croak and smoke, though not necessarily in that order. The manual says essentially the same thing but in a much nicer round-about PC way though.

The heavier diesels would still be my choice if your normal loads are in the 20-30A/120VAC range. For me, that is a normal load and I simply run the intermittent usage microwave oven or vacuum cleaner off the batteries via the 2kw inverter. The solar panels take care of the batteries on a normal day. For running the fridge or air conditioner, the diesel needs to crank. Your specific loads and usage are quite frugal so if you need to computerize all day with small demands.. hey, it works for you so what's more to say?

As to maintenance, your near-continual use is likely a godsend. "Use it or lose it" is true for all boat systems. The heat will keep condensation out of the crankcase, the fuel gets continually renewed without going stale and jets and linkages are exercised. The devil makes work for idle hands, as the saying goes. With the hours-of-use data you gave you are certainly getting your money's worth. The 3-year warranty also seems a very good deal in your (high-usage) situation.

I did come away a bit depressed though after reading. The manual said "Printed in Japan". Presumably the machine was also made in Asia. Now why in tarnation could it not have been designed in Detroit, built in Toledo with the manual printed on recycled pulp, in Boise perhaps? Just think of all the jobs it could create. If the USA can launch and land Tonka-toy rovers on Mars and remotely joy-stick them from JPL or wherever, what's so hard to put the nuts and bolts together to make a decent generator here? Too many pompous self-serving nuts and dolts in DC ? Come on kids! You can design and build something still better right here. Now go for it!

OKaaay! After that little rant at least I am feeling soooo much better!

Ivo
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