Ice Storm

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Dean Huster
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Ice Storm

Post by Dean Huster » Sun Feb 01, 2009 12:44 pm

Gee. The National Weather Service's forecast hit right on -- unfortunately. We were slammed with two days of freezing rain here in SE Missouri (and for quite a distance around us). We've been without electricity since Tuesday and probably won't have it back for another week yet. Two-thirds of the local electric coop's 30,000+ customers are without power. It's like a war zone around here when you look at the trees -- the worst ice storm I've ever been in, anyway. I'll be busy for at least one or two months with the chain saw and there'll be no lack of firewood for the next few years as long as I can keep what I cut sheltered and insect-free. Most trees are either missing a large percentage of branches or have been split down the main trunk. I'll have to cut quite a few down and replant, hoping to find some that are more ice-damage-resistant. Right now, we're staying at my mother-in-law's about 12 miles to the north where she has electricity. Lots of BIG limbs from old oaks are across our longish driveway and force us to park by the county road and walk to the house. We won't cut those branches yet because they serve to deter possible looters while we're away.

Anyway, it comes down to the fact that it sure would have been nice to have a decent-sized generator, since we're all-electric -- with a well for our water. Not a generator to be found around here anywhere, of course, and if it isn't that way already, I'm sure that chain saws will be in that catagory also -- glad I just bought a new decent-sized Stihl a couple of months ago. I'm to the point of considering making a custom generator mounted on a small trailer, possibly capable of 20-30 KW, maybe driven by a small Volkswagen diesel engine. It would make a really neat project for controlling output voltage and frequency and later even adding an auto-start, auto-transfer function and just keep it parked in a small ventilated shed and permanently connected in place. Of course, 20-30 KW will run the whole house and maybe be an overkill and not practical for other portable generator uses that I'd have. It's just a thought, though. I'll probably settle into something in the 5-10 KW range so that it's easier to haul to the jobsite.

Dean
Dean Huster, Electronics Curmudgeon
Contributing Editor emeritus, "Q & A", of the former "Poptronics" magazine (formerly "Popular Electronics" and "Electronics Now" magazines).

R.I.P.

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jwax
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Re: Ice Storm

Post by jwax » Sun Feb 01, 2009 1:34 pm

You have my understanding and sympathy Dean!
Here in upstate NY we had our ice storm in December- I was without power 2 days, but some had to wait a week.
Causes one to consider the survival necessities- water, heat, food, fuel. I got used to camping at home with the propane stove, and hand-cranked lighting. Keep your tanks topped off, and best of luck!
John

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haklesup
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Re: Ice Storm

Post by haklesup » Sun Feb 01, 2009 1:44 pm

I see no reason one could not attach multiple heavy duty alternators to an engine and attach high power inverters to each of those to make AC power. Need to look at the cost of say 6 alternators vs one large generator of the same current capacity (and 6 inverters etc.). An engine should have way more than enough HP to supply as amny alternators as you can fit (1000W will need at least 2hp after accounting for efficiency losses) since it dosen't need to move the car too.

For that matter, I think everyone should own a 1000W or 2000W inverter and a decent (12 gague) extension cord so that their own car can be used to make portable power for short durations. For exampe I bet this one could start and run your pump for a few minutes that you need it.

http://www.harborfreight.com/cpi/ctaf/d ... mber=92464
This will easily power a 20A household branch circuit, maybe even 30A for ~$350 per branch (plus what it takes to mount another alternator on your VW)

Check your alternator power rating. A 2000W inverter will overload a small car or even a light pickup without an upgraded alternator. At full load, the alternator will provide significant resistance to crankshaft rotation. Upgraded pullys and belts may also be advisable.

Keep warm, we're expecting record highs again here (65F at 3pm) and drought forcast for the rest of the year. Send in the rain dancers. I don't need to plan for a freeze but earthquakes are an entirely different matter.

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jwax
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Re: Ice Storm

Post by jwax » Sun Feb 01, 2009 2:41 pm

Reminescent of this thread from last year-
http://forum.servomagazine.com/viewtopi ... lternators
Sounded like that project worked out very well!

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Bob Scott
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Re: Ice Storm

Post by Bob Scott » Sun Feb 01, 2009 3:40 pm

Dean Huster wrote:I'm to the point of considering making a custom generator mounted on a small trailer, possibly capable of 20-30 KW, maybe driven by a small Volkswagen diesel engine. It would make a really neat project for controlling output voltage and frequency and later even adding an auto-start, auto-transfer function and just keep it parked in a small ventilated shed and permanently connected in place. Of course, 20-30 KW will run the whole house and maybe be an overkill and not practical for other portable generator uses that I'd have. It's just a thought, though. I'll probably settle into something in the 5-10 KW range so that it's easier to haul to the jobsite.
There is weird weather everywhere. I've been here in North Vancouver for a quarter century and we've never had snow on the ground last so long. It snowed in mid December and it's still here. Normal years we MIGHT get a bit of snow ONCE a season, but it melts within a day or two.

Dean, please keep us informed as I'm also interested in doing some type of backup power system. I also was thinking about using a VW diesel, but I don't know how much fuel they consume on idle. How about a genny that runs on and is connected to your natural gas line? You could even use the waste engine heat by piping the coolant to a radiator inside the house. (You have to leave the engine outside for safety and insurance reasons.) Whatever you decide, it would probably make a good article for a LOT of people.

I suffered through a power outage just over a year ago in December. The outage only lasted 4 days, but by the time it was over I couldn't stand the smell of wood smoke and burned candle wax any longer. I'd settle for something to power just the furnace blower motor.
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Bigglez
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Re: Ice Storm

Post by Bigglez » Sun Feb 01, 2009 10:43 pm

Dean Huster wrote: Anyway, it comes down to the fact that it sure would have been nice to have a decent-sized generator, since we're all-electric -- with a well for our water.
...
I'm to the point of considering making a custom generator mounted on a small trailer, possibly capable of 20-30 KW, maybe driven by a small Volkswagen diesel engine.
While I don't have any first hand experience with rotary machines to offer, a
former co-worker was "above the snowline" when we lived in the mountains,
and after a couple of multiple day winter outages took on the generator project.

He was off petrol by them, and used diesel for their cars and the generator.

The key was to find a four pole genny so the engine turned at 1800 RPM instead
of 3600, making it much less noisy!

Dean Huster
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Re: Ice Storm

Post by Dean Huster » Mon Feb 02, 2009 2:26 pm

Yeah, the more poles the better normally for lower engine speed, but then you have to watch out for the torque and horsepower curves. I'd want to keep the engine RPM where it could best handle high inrush currents. But if the normal routine would be lower-power loads, the lower engine speed (and presumably lower noise and fuel consumption), maybe lower RPM would work. I haven't even begun to research anything -- especially a low-cost generator. The engine is easy for the most part. Anything I'd get I'd rebuild anyway, just to be sure I had something reliable. Either that, or I'd use it in non-critical applications for a couple of years to check it out and assure myself of a good match to the requirements and then rebuild. The idea is to keep it on the cheap as much as possible.

Dean
Dean Huster, Electronics Curmudgeon
Contributing Editor emeritus, "Q & A", of the former "Poptronics" magazine (formerly "Popular Electronics" and "Electronics Now" magazines).

R.I.P.

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jwax
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Re: Ice Storm

Post by jwax » Mon Feb 02, 2009 2:41 pm

Here you go Dean-
http://www.harborfreight.com/cpi/ctaf/d ... mber=45416
Just add a 20 HP motor, and some kind of speed control.

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dtief
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Re: Ice Storm

Post by dtief » Mon Feb 02, 2009 7:07 pm

My 1942 generators are pretty quiet.

1200RPM, and water cooled engines goes a long way to make them quiet.

http://home.comcast.net/~davidtief/gen.html

The small one you really have to listen for, even if it is running in the garage.
The only thing noisey about the big one is the radiator fan.

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Joseph
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Re: Ice Storm

Post by Joseph » Tue Feb 03, 2009 1:45 am

running in the garage


Watch out about carbon monoxide. Recently a man came home from work, apparently got distracted, and went into the house without turning off his car.
He and his wife perished.

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jwax
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Re: Ice Storm

Post by jwax » Tue Feb 03, 2009 2:33 am

I'm sure dtief is aware of the CO dangers and has a carbon monoxide detector or two working in the garage, even though it appears the exhaust is piped outside. :cool:
That's a beauty of a machine dtief! Where did you get it?

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dtief
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Re: Ice Storm

Post by dtief » Tue Feb 03, 2009 5:55 pm

I always make sure their is ventilation when running them.

The small one I got from a ham radio friend, pretty much in operating condition. I added a remote start / stop / choke to it.

The big one was in a field. One time a friend & I were riding by it, so we stopped to look at it. The owner told me I could have it if I could haul it away. It needed a couple of valve springs, valves, a connecting rod bearing, brushes cleaned. It had near zero hours on it. NO wear on anything.

Future plan is to put them in a shed set up with feedlines & exhaust vents, etc.

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Bob Scott
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Re: Ice Storm

Post by Bob Scott » Tue Feb 03, 2009 6:41 pm

Sorry, error deleted. I must rethink this.

The harbour freight generator has 7KW normal output.
There are 746 watts in a HP.
So 7 KW = 9.4 HP
Gas engines HP are overrated by a factor of 3:1.
Gas engine needed is 3 * 9.4 = 28 HP

See, now it doesn't make sense. Harbour freight recommends a 20HP engine, as Caesar points out in the following message. The PDF attached to the link recommends a 16 HP.

This is exactly the bind I get into when I'm designing something. Stuff doesn't add up.
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CeaSaR
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Re: Ice Storm

Post by CeaSaR » Tue Feb 03, 2009 6:45 pm

Hi Bob,

From the page linked to:

"Build your own belt-driven brushless generator
3600 RPM
Uses a 20 HP gas or diesel engine for maximum performance
Circuit breaker protected "

Right under the photo of the gennie.

CeaSaR
Hey, what do I know?

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kheston
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Re: Ice Storm

Post by kheston » Tue Feb 03, 2009 8:01 pm

Dean,

My multi-alternator idea was hatched out of a desire to charge batteries fast and shut the generator back off as quickly as possible. It does work well, thanks in no small part to this board. My needs are different than yours, however. I'm running a couple of stationary camper/trailers twice a month and it sounds like you'll be running a whole household daily. The mobility you're looking for presents some challenges were you to involve batteries as well.

You mentioned a small VW diesel-driven unit, here's one: http://utterpower.com/vwdieselgen.htm I've been looking for a cheap Wabbit for about a year with which to build one of my own, but anything you can run bio-diesel in sells at a premium when you're this close to San Francisco and Berserkely. You might have better luck in Missouri where there are fewer pairs of Birkenstocks per capita.

Be sure and look at Otherpower.com for some ideas. Listeroid diesels are a favorite there...try dragging one of those to a job site.

Utterpower also lists ways to get cheap Chinese generator heads here: http://www.utterpower.com/ST.htm Your need may be more immediate than mail order can deliver, but they're worth a look.

HTH
Kurt - SF Bay

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