Zach’s Remote Start Generator

Keep it simple

As you’ve heard before, I believe in Kiss Engineering, it’s always a challenge to draw a line somewhere…. to make something functional and reliable, and not enter into the complex. The temptation to install a micro controller is great because it’s fun, but KISS is always easier years later when you look at the equipment and ask.. did I really build this? Is this really my work? It’s amazing how foreign it can look even 5 years later without good documentation and of course knowing where it is.

Remote Start Panel

Remote Start Panel

Here’s a small hobby box from Radio Shack. The first switch is a single throw single pole switch. This Radio Shack part has an extra lead and a lighted green handle that is 12 volt powered. The switch must be turned on for the fuel to flow, when it’s on, it glows green for GO!  The second switch is a momentary push button, this is the decompressor and was added to increase the life of the starter and assure we can start the generator set with a weaker battery. The operator holds this button down, and then pushes the starter button down, once the starter has turned over for a second, the decompressor button is released.  The operator then looks to see if the red indicator in the upper right is glowing, or hears the generator make a clean start if it’s easy to hear. This red light indicates the generator is making AC power. It’s very bright at 120VAC, and since this is a PMG generator, we see it glowing lightly from just above idle and brighter with more RPM, it’s a fair gauge of what the gen shaft is doing as we monitor the start-up.

The smaller green indicator is always on, (unless the start battery is dead) this indicator is powered by the 12 volt start battery inside the generator enclosure outside up against the fence and away from the garage wall in this install. If you want to get fancy in your own designs, you can create a ‘ready to run’ list of items, and use and ‘AND’ function to lite your ‘ready to run’ light that you can check for as you get out of the car and go into the house.

The decompressor is a Honda automotive  speed controller part.. DIYer hacked to pull the cable attached to the decompressor lever in when 12 volts of battery is applied to a lead.. of course removing same drops the decompressor against spring tension.

There’s three 10 gauge leads between the generator and the circuit breaker panel, HOT, Neutral, and Ground. In addition, there’s a ground rod driven at the generator for good measure, and it’s bonded to the gen frame, panels, etc. The buttons and switches operate Auto type relays over 22 gauge telco wire a distance of 30 feet or so. The relays in turn operate fuel solenoid, decompressor and starter.

There’s also a trickle charger installed that keeps the AGM style battery charged up. and this unit has it’s own indicator that allows you to monitor it’s function.

Here’s an added drawing:



As we discussed earlier, diesel fuel is a far safer fuel than gasoline, and just a few months back a house suffered serious damage just 200 feet from Zach’s house due to a gasoline can catching fire near the garbage can outside. The diesel fuel will also store for years without gunking stuff up..

Once the gen set is running the operator can transfer up to six circuits onto the generator and he can watch two amp gauges to see how he is loading the generator. When the power returns, you simply transfer the loads back to commercial power and turn off the fuel. Teh Yanan clone does a great job restarting once the fuel is returned to the low pressure side of the injection pump.

With a remote start generator, it’s always smart to set a flag right at the remote panel to indicate the unit is ready for use. It’s often a learning experience what can go wrong and Murphy always finds something that can be wrong!  Example: Some operators might purposely close the vent for the fuel tank to keep moisture out and forget.

Murphy takes full advantage of this situation and the power outage arrives right in the middle of family night. You’re all watching a rented movie, eating popcorn, and out goes the lights! You jump to your feet, it’s your first opportunity to be the family Hero, and you strut into the garage, make a flawless transfer to generator power, and return to the family room with a big applause.

The wife hugs you, the kids hug you, the dog even drops by to give you a lick on the face, the kids have the movie back up, and there’s more pop corn going in the microwave and…. and…..the generator dies! You’re back in the dark, you left the flash light somewhere, you were just too excited, and don’t remember. It’s as dark as a Coal Bin at Midnight!  Yes, it was that closed air vent and a no fuel condition, but you hesitate to mention that possibility or you haven’t even thought of it yet.

I know people who have taken the injection pump out of the engine only to find the vent closed on the fuel pump later.

When you have equipment you need in an emergency, check lists are mandatory, one reason.. you don’t think best in the dark with others asking you how long it will be before they have power again. The check list might be.

Fuel in the tank?, Fuel Vent open? Lube Oil level OK?, Exhaust water trap valve closed? Etc..

Of course your mind will produce all kinds of possibilities, you are after all a DIYer! Interlocks, go and no go indicators, the addition of a vapor canister on the fuel tank, so you don’t worry about moisture condensing into the fuel, or perhaps your routine is to have a full tank at all times when the generator is in standby, and that’s part of your monthly check list. You have that oil pressure indicator installed, and of course it provides a shut down if it’s ever low..

Daddy spent all that time making or installing this contraption, not to mention all the money he spent and this is all the coverage we get?  Ten minutes? You’ll never erase a memory like this from a Woman’s mind. If it were a guy, he’d know to never use the event to score points in a future argument less he were to be accused of taking female hormones. Best you attempt to avoid the situation  with a good check list!

One example of problems is purposely shutting down the generator before you transfer back to commercial power or take the AC loads off. Depending on the type of equipment you are running, this can lead to problems, some loads may not be so happy. One of the more serious situations I’ve seen is a neutral coming loose in a commercial AC circuit breaker box WHEN a high amperage low resistance load was across one hot side and the neutral buss bar. This effectively put other appliances in the house in series with this low resistance load and effectively powering them across nearly 200 volts!

In Zach’s house, we have a great situation, the kitchen stove is natural gas, same with the water heater and even the furnace. This means we don’t have the typical 240 VAC loads to run, and we’ve chosen to wire the generator for 120VAC only and not worry about balancing loads across the windings.

I didn’t mention the Kill-A-Watt product here, but this device is as cheap as $19.95 and is a must for the generator owner, you simply plug it into the kitchen or family room to monitor voltage and Frequency of your power plant, for the price, I’d call it a must own monitoring device.

Here’s the rest of the story, This remote start box mounts on top of the generator transfer switch box. I plan to post the finished install soon.


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