Email of the Day from down Under.

I always enjoy questions from our Cousins down under.

Ever meet a Yankee or Canook that didn’t enjoy themselves when they visited down below?

From: Kerin Whitxxx <>

Subject: Listeroid

Message Body:

G,Day  mate, wonder if you can help me out with a problem I have with a twin cyl Listeroid.  Starts & runs like a clock, however it seems to be getting hot.  Have the water supply set up to a 44 Gallon drum. The water has nearly boiled!  On inspection of the water inlet & outlet the inlet is 80% covered over by the casting, the outlet is probably 60-70% the same way. Is this normal ? I thought it maybe to slow the amount of water through the engine. If not how can I rectify the problem if it is one ? Thanks for any help you may be able to offer me.

Cheers Kerin.



I do open up these water ports a bit, and some are blocked a little too much.. I use a quarter inch die grinder and a carbide tool to do it. A round file does it too, just takes a bit longer. Don’t get carried away, don’t cut into the area where the stud passes through the water jacket, as you don’t need that large of hole. One Kiwi I know thought bigger was better, he cut the stud nearly in half with his port improvement grinding!  I’d guess that about half the area of the typical flange found on these engines is all you need in a proper thermal siphon set up.

We can learn a bunch about cooling a Lister when we cool it with water from the garden hose, with a 3000 watt resistive load per cylinder, it doesn’t take much water flow to cool the engine, of course cooling tanks are different, as we circulate water that grow far warmer.

For continuous duty in warm weather, 44 gallons is NOT enough  cooling capacity, for thermal siphon systems.  Fact is, a single cylinder 6/1 might need more than double that on a very hot day with a continuous full load. We need remember, diesels make little heat under no load or light load conditions, so an engine powering intermittent work could get by with a far smaller tank.

Painting the outside  of the tank jet black can help, and near boiling isn’t all that bad, allowing the top of the thermal siphon loop to become uncovered is where the bad news starts, making sure there’s a good reserve above that top connection is key.. Some of the old set ups had a valve in the lower hose.. the operator could choose whether he operated in hopper cooling mode (boiling off water and removing excess heat via the steam)  or thermal siphon mode that removes the task of checking water often, and engine damage if you lose too much cooling water.

There are lots of ideas in our DIYer community, in so many ideas, we add failure additional failure points to simple and reliable power plants. People look to Autos for ideas, some add cooling water pumps driven by a belt, and some even use belt tensioners off an auto.

How many hours of over the road travel does it take to equate to 100,000 miles traveled? 6000 or 7000 hours? Some of the older Listers in off grid locations might have 40,000 hours or more on them, a cooling water pump might be the weak point, and it might cause an unattended engine to run till an overheat brings it to a stop. Unattended power plants that run long hours might be designed different than those run for back up use.

So many choices, and an overheat alarm is smart when your cooling system grows more complicated than the tank cooled system..

Hope this helps, and remember, boiling means a lot of heat is carried off in steam, with a properly designed system with a water reserve, that can be a good thing, it’s like backup protection.

All the best…








This entry was posted in DIYer Generator, Off Grid Power, Questions & Answers, Slow Speed Engines and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink.

11 Responses to Email of the Day from down Under.

  1. Bill knighton says:

    Adding the radiator valve from napa recommended by utterpower seemed to help in every way, especially when using biodiesel or svo.

  2. George B. says:

    Bill , thank you for adding this comment, there is a lot of good and bad information on the internet, and I have met people who have taken thermostats out of new cars thinking they were optional!

    It is wise to bring an engine up to operating temperature quickly, a cool engine is full of inefficiency, and can cause extreme wear in liners and other parts.

    Critical thought allows us to know that heat takes energy to create, and moving heat off the engine when it is unnecessary takes more fuel. But this may be the least of the problems in doing so. That Thermostat is a critical part of a cooling system.

    Now you will read elsewhere that thermostats can stick, and even some who suggest there’s problems with thermal shock and more. I personally don’t think they have a clue as to what this thermal mass takes in order to see a temperature change 🙂

    All one need do is calculate the BTU value of approximately 1/3 of the fuel being consumed, and figure what that among of heat can do in making a quick temperature change..

    Running an engine too cool is a BAD thing.

  3. Bill knighton says:

    As recommended I put a small hole in the thermostat to let out the bubbles and I think even if the thing stuck completely the steam could escape fast enough to keep the engine not much above boiling temp.

  4. Sam Sabey says:

    Hey Kevin,

    Since its getting cooler here down under (I’m in Melbourne) is the any way you could use that heat via a heat exchanger in the drum to heat up some hot waters to pump through some of those hydronic heating radiator things?

    In summer the lister could also heat a pool 😉

    Sam, @samotage

  5. David says:

    I have a few ideas on cooling.

    On my lister, I got a radiator off a Subaru ( just what I can get from my fathers wrecking yard, any car rad would do) and as it was a cross flow unit, I turned the thing sideways so the passages went up and down and the inlet and outlet on the radiator were high and low.

    The suby radiator was a good height for the lister ports and I could get a straight shot into the bottom inlet with a decent climb to the top of the rad from the outlet. I used the radiator cap but spliced a T fitting in the top hose and connected that to a header tank so the thing was always full and had room for expansion and didn’t need to be under pressure. I found the heat would climb into the header tank as I took care to make sure the T was at the very highest point in the loop.

    The suby radiator has 2 fans and running just one of them at 12V was as expected complete overkill and cooled the water to ambient temp which is of course too cold. I spliced a 21W tail light in the circuit to limit the fan speed and that was more than enough to keep the water cool enough but not cold.

    These fans last years in automotive use and even if they are not powered up, they are still spinning most of the time when the car is driving through the air going through the radiator. As such, I’m more than happy with their long term reliability.
    In any case, It would take nothing to put a snap switch onto the engine block so if the main fan failed, the other one came on if it detected an over heat situation.

    Another thing with an electrical fan would be to blow it across the 44 gallon drum. There is a lot of surface area on a drum and moving air takes away loads more heat than static air. I’d say if an engine could survive on a 44 alone, it would be fine with the same setup just with a fan moving the air across it.
    This could be done with either a car fan or a cheap household one.

    I know George likes the KISS principle and I thought of some things with that.

    I believe if the radiator was placed at an angle to still allow thermosyphoning but had a duct placed above it say 3ft high, the heat from the rad should cause a draft effect and pull more cool air through that way. I think with a radiator that’s used for cooling a 100HP or more engine, the draft although slight would be sufficient.

    Here in Oz, V8 commodore radiators are easy and cheap to get and are rated to 400KW cooling capacity.

    Another idea with ducting a radiator would be to shoot the exhaust out behind the radiator causing a venturi effect. If the engine runs the radiator cools, it would be that simple. It really doesn’t take much airflow I found through a car rad, even one from a small 4 cyl car to keep up with my 6/1 at full tilt. Use a larger rad with a greater area and that draft will pull even more heat.

    Personally, I like the radiator system with the header tank. With a bit of tilt on the radiator I think a decent size one would keep a large stationary engine plenty cool even without a fan. If a fan was used and failed, the engine will never be able to get above 100 and a simple snap switch could sound an alarm or activate a cut off solenoid on the fuel rack if the engine was out of earshot or monitored.

  6. Ron says:

    Those passages need to be clear. Be carefull when cleaning casting flash out of the ports in the head as the cylinder bolt passages are close alongside the coolant passages, and you don’t want to grind into the headbolt passages by mistake.

    The biggest issue I have come across with thermosiphon is… well people just don’t follow the rules:) The coolant line must exit the head and immediately turn upward. The more vertical it is, the better. It is best that it continue upward untill it reaches the point where cooling begins. In the case of drum cooling that is where the line connects at the top of the drum. As mentioned this point must always remain submerged below the coolant level, and it must be connected to the drum in such a way as that no air can be trapped at the top of the line. The line must always remain 100% full of water. The bottom line returning from drum to the cylinder should be slightly downhill from tank to engine, at the worst, it shoud be no less than horizontal.

    A 44 gallon drum, I am assuming is in imperial gallons, so would be what we refer to here as a 55 gallon drum? 34″ tall X 24″ diameter. Heat dissipation from a drum is completely dominated by evaporation. IE, at 210Fcoolant into 60F still air, an open tank sheds 3600 BTU/SQFT/HR. The metal skin will only shed 360 BTU/SQFT/HR at those temps. What this means is that the top must be removed to get best heat dissipation. So lets add it all up. The drum sidewall is 17.8 SQ/FT, the bottom is 3.14 SQ/FT for a total metal skin area of just shy of 21 SQ/FT. So with the above listed temps, an open top drum will loose 7500 BTU/HR thru the metal skin. The open water surface area is 3.14 SQ/Ft @ 3600 BTU/HR = 11,304 BTU/HR for a total of 18,804 BTU/HR from a 55 gallon drum. This will decrease slightly with higher ambient air temperatures. Heat dissipation will increase significantly with wind/airflow around the tank, and it will really increase as the coolant reaches 212F. That is the cool thing about drums, they are really self regulating. As soon as they start to boil, they carry a ton of heat away from the water.
    That 18.8KBTU/HR figure is almost exactly 1/3 the BTU content of the fuel burnt by a 6/1 at full load(and very close to heat outputs I have measured from my 6/1:)) SO for say a 12/2 engine, the drum will only support a bit over 1/2 load if thermosiphon is plummed correctly for optimum flow. Drums are great if you don’t have a radiator, but even a small auto radiator will handle the heat of a 12/2, and you can run a fraction of the coolant and add antifreeze and other corrosion and cavitation inhibitors that are good for a long engine life…

    • George B. says:

      Good addition Ron, we could write a book to cover it all.. and if I were to put all that has been written at utterpower alone, it would be thick as a book 🙂

  7. Butch says:

    Been wanting to ask if you know the OEM application(s) of the NAPA thermostat you recommend on the CD? This would help me source them as the ‘tards at my local NAPA say that number does not compute??? Realize that our NAPA is staffed with people whom only have seen the under side of a car when they drove by a roll over accident.

    Thanks, Butch

  8. Kerin Whittnall says:

    Thanks for taking the time to reply guys, some good ideas floating around. Seeing as though I have about a dozen car wrecks lying around, with radiators & thermal fans I might make up some brackets & give it a go ! I live outside of Darwin in a rural area with no grid power within cooee. So don’t really need the hot water for anything. If that fails I have a thousand lt iso that I will convert & see what happens.

    Regards Bear

  9. Robert Leonard says:

    My Amish friend and his father was responsible for populating the local Amish community with Listers for years. He taught me quite a bit about the Listers before his untimely passing far before his time.

    His rule for a convection cooling system was one 55 gallon drum to cool a single, two for a twin. The Lister books state the same thing.



    • George B. says:

      Good info Rob, we know it’s a rule of thumb, lots has to do with the amount of load, the temperature and more. A Lister CS lightly loaded has a lot of trouble staying warm when it’s cooler 🙂

Leave a Reply