In George’s typical style, first we must ’set the stage’.
Reference to previous articles about this Gen Set.
In Previous posts, I’ve shared that Zach lives in a house with Natural gas, he’s a lucky Boy, as this usually means you can live in far greater comfort during a power outage >IF< you have enough backup generator power to run your natural gas furnace blower motor, a few lights, the microwave, and of course, keep the entertainment set running in the family room or living room where the family usually gathers.
You don’t need to attempt starting the furnace motor while the microwave is running, and the Kill-A-Watt can be plugged in where you have these larger loads, so you can monitor frequency and voltage to know how the generator is doing >before< you add them to the generator. As we know, few people do their best thinking during a power outage, especially when you have children under foot. In order to relieve you of the burden of thinking, you need a check list and a flash light. Two copies are a good idea, one nearest the Generator Transfer switch, and one in the Kitchen. One item you need put on your list is to put the Furnace thermostat on the coldest setting, so you are not surprised when it starts when you might have a max load. Load management is fairly easy with a small generator, but it does require a plan.
A generator adequate in size to get you through, VS a large lightly loaded machine means you make less of an investment in the generator, and you make a KWH of electricity for far less fuel. This means you operate longer on the fuel you have, and we never know how long that will be as we are living in less certain times I believe. Of course we know that diesel has a lot more energy density than gasoline which means you’ll make more power with each gallon you have stored on site. and it can be stored with far more safety than gasoline.
Zach’s house is 200 feet or less away from two houses that were severely damaged when a gasoline can was ignited next to a cedar fence between two houses. I’m not sure the fire department has ruled on the ‘root cause’, there was one story told that the gas can was next to the garbage cans and there was also some oily rags that may have went up in spontaneous combustion. What ever the situation, when the gasoline went up, the flames were two stories high and the flames and intense heat entered the attic via the bird blocks under the eves into both houses. It’s noteworthy that the siding was ‘hardy plank’, a product made of concrete and other fire resistant materials, and it’s very popular here in the North West for good reason. Of course, the cedar fence was dry during the summer when this happened, and added to the heat and intensity of the fire, (cedar for fencing is typical in this region) and I am sure the hardy plank eventually buckled and twisted which allowed the intense heat to ignite the underlayment at some point. I witnessed that the Fire Department had to string hoses for a long distance, and perhaps that’s why the houses were so severely damaged? Why in a newer neighborhood was there a need to string hoses so far? certainly a topic of another discussion, but more food for thought before you consider storing gasoline on site.
Now on with the story of developing a User’s Guide, and perhaps you’ll help by adding your comments, just keep scrolling to the far bottom of this article.
The best user guides are developed when things go wrong, and the lessons incorporated into the guide. I just got off the Phone with Dave C., and Engineer in Southern Oregon who runs an off grid power plant 24×7. He recently had a governor failure, and there was no over-speed shut down. He lost some equipment because of it, and it leaves us to ask.. Just how many things will we monitor, and how sophisticated will our shutdown system be?
I think he might have caught the problem with a monthly routine. You start the generator and note that the frequency and voltage are in deed where you expect it to be. Now you add a test load, the same load you use for a test load each month. Is the voltage and frequency the same as last time? from no load to near fulll load? Excessive droop is a sign something is different, and may indicate wear or a fault of some kind. KEEP A LOG!
A lot of problems can be caught early, but you have to be looking for them. Commercial Operators (at least the smart ones) have a lot of routines, and their employees must take readings, record them and initial them. You should consider adopting their procedure. Murphy will assure something really simple fails and make you look like a fool at the worst time ever if you don’t!
Here’s where we start… How to use the simple remote start panel, and a reminder.. the decompressor takes the strain off the starter and allows you to start the generator with a partially charged battery, that’s why it’s part of the design.
>>>>>>>beginning of guide>>>>>
- Make sure All switches on the transfer switch panel are down! It is important that no loads are on the generator when you attempt to start it.
- Check the Generator for fuel level, there is a fuel gauge built into the tank. Ideally, it should be full, also check that the vent on top of the tank is open.
- Note that the Battery Indicator is lighted, this is powered from the Generator’s start battery. The battery powers the relays and other things necessary for remote start.
- Move the Fuel Switch up to the ‘ON’ position, the switch handle should glow green.
- Hold down the Decompressor Button and hold it down with one finger.
- Push the Start Button and release the Decompressor Button in about the same time it takes you to say the word ‘one’. Monitor for the sound of a running engine, also watch the Generator AC output indicator, it should start to glow as the generator picks up speed and should be glowing bright when the generator is up to speed.
- The Kill-A-Watt is a good monitor tool, and you should use this in the kitchen or family room to monitor the frequency and voltage. If you see a voltage of less than 110 volts AC, you need to reduce load, and or check the Frequency. Ideally the Frequency should be 60HZ, but 58hz to about 61 Hz is normally acceptable with most home appliances.
- Voltages over 130 volts >can< damage appliances, and we need monitor for this possibility.
- Move switches on transfer switch to the up position to power tem via the generator.
- It is important to remove all loads from a Generator BEFORE you intentionally stop it.
- >Move all of the Transfer switches ‘OFF’ the Generator (to the down position)<.
- With all loads removed, move the Fuel Switch to the down position and note that the green light goes out. It a minute or two, the Generator should run out of fuel, and stop.
Precautions and Running Notes:
Your Fuel tank is generous in size, one of your largest loads will be the furnace motor, and it’s likely you might see the lights blink when this motor comes on and off.
If you close the vent on top of the fuel tank for any reason, open it before you run the generator or it will likely run out of fuel in the middle of your outage. when the tank is full, there’s little reason to keep the vent closed.
The goal is normally to conserve fuel and keep lights and appliances not in use off, as you don’t know how widespread your outage is, and whether you can get more fuel close by.
Diesel Fuel will keep for a LONG time if you keep water out of it, and keeping your fuel tank topped off is key in areas like wet and sometimes humid Western Washington.
One important strategy is to consider keeping large loads from running at the same time. An example is the furnace and the microwave, it will be prudent to use these one at a time, and if you attempt to run them both, monitor the voltage with the Kill-A-Watt.
Motors draw a lot of current at start, and unless you monitor closely you should not run the garbage disposal, vacuum cleaners, or other loads.
Remember that Frequency and generator RPM are directly related, if you see a lower Frequency, there may be a larger load on the generator. You could adjust the throttle upwards, but you don’t want the voltage to go over 130 volts with no load. So if you turn the throttle up with a load, you need consider what happens when the load is removed.
Generator Loads A,B,C,D,E,F
Breakers inside the main panel are marked as per their assignment to the Generator transfer switch.
Monitor the battery condition: This is best done with a volt meter, also verify that the trickle charger that keep the battery charged is working
Generators need a monthly run to keep their parts lubricated and to keep rust from forming. A 20 minute generator run per month will extend the machine’s life, and give you confidence it will work when you need it.
Oil should be changed at 100 hour intervals.
The end for now.. GB