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Old 01-24-2017, 04:48 PM   #1
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Generator Auto-Start

Has anyone here at TF used one of these on their boat? I found an advertisement for it in one of the many boat porn magazines I get.

Auto Generator Start - Stand Alone | Magnum Dimensions
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Old 01-24-2017, 04:54 PM   #2
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Had one on one of my motorhomes, most of your higher end m/h have them. Not that I had a higher end coach just ordered it with the unit.
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Old 01-24-2017, 04:56 PM   #3
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I found it on line for about $260. Wondering if it would be useful in marine application.
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Old 01-24-2017, 05:11 PM   #4
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Does it work the pre-heat too?
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Old 01-24-2017, 06:33 PM   #5
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Does it work the pre-heat too?
I've not seen one smart enough to tickle another relay (let alone time it based on ambient temperature)

I do feel like "auto start my generator when batteries get low" can now-a-days be translated into "I need some/more solar power"
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Old 01-24-2017, 06:38 PM   #6
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Does it work the pre-heat too?
The one we had did,16KW Onan.
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Old 01-24-2017, 08:52 PM   #7
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Gabe here: I worked in a boat yard for a short stint and we installed a similar unit. It had a preheat function but the timer was set, no matter the temperature. You could do any time you wanted, but it was a pain to go in and change it.

It was a really cool addition though. One day I'll get around to installing the same. Great for long shore days or in case of power outage
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Old 01-24-2017, 09:32 PM   #8
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The web page says it works with Northern Light and others that have glow plugs, so should be able to handle it.

One thing to look for in auto start on a boat, and I don't know if this unit can do it, is a programmable limit on total cranking time if the gen doesn't start. Cranking pumps water into the lift muffler (most generators have them), and over cranking can cause flooding back into the engine with very nasty results. The couple of gen start controllers I've dealt with have such a feature, but it's only a very small sampling, and doesn't include the Magnum product.

Also keep in mind what breaker and selector switch settings might have to be changed to bring a generator on-line. This is often the harder problem to solve. You really shouldn't start and stop the generator with loads connected. If all it's powering is an inverter/charger, they usually have built power qualification and only cut in the load when the generator is up and running. But that's not always what the powering arrangement is on a boat.
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Old 01-24-2017, 09:37 PM   #9
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That's the last thing I would want on a boat. Gennies screw up often enough, and are tough enough to troubleshoot without adding another layer of complexity.
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Old 01-24-2017, 09:42 PM   #10
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OK, in full disclosure I have been dealing with generator auto start systems professionally for over three decades, and currently engineer auto start solutions for generators as part of my business enterprise.

In short...I do this for a living.

Generator autostart systems are used on every automatic backup generator. They come in a huge variety of configurations as part of the generator product lines of every majot brand of generator out there.

A modern day generator auto start or generator control panel does much more than just start the generator. It also monitors the generator paramaters on both the engine and the electrical side. Thinds like coolant temp, oil pressure, RPM, voltage, current and a host of other things are monitored, displayed locally and often times transmitted to remote panels and or alarm systems.

The main player in the retrofit market, and I say this because companies have come and gone are Deep Sea Electronics PLC and Murphy. Personally I like Deep Sea because of their wider variety of product offerings.

The industry standard to command a generator to start and run is a contact closure, with the generator control panel sypplying the circuit voltage and the device commanding the generator to run closing a set of contacts.

On a boat the best use of this would be to tie the generator control panel to the alarm output of a State Of Charge Meter. Ste the alarm trip to 50% battery capacity, and the alarm release at 90% or 95% and the generator will cycle the batteries properly. A great use of this is a boat with no shore power, such as at anchor or on a mooring.
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Old 01-24-2017, 09:46 PM   #11
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This sort of thing is pretty normal for domestic emergency generators. Automatic switching from grid to generator. Timed running for generator's battery charging. (The genset I was a little too familiar with was a Generac running on propane; I don't think it was a diesel, so no glowplugs. The big emergency generator I was even less familiar with was a diesel running on Philadelphia Gasworks natural gas.)

It must be possible to finagle the water-filling-the-muffler-on-no-start problem. Perhaps the raw water pump could be run on 110v from the genset.

It's only money. (Oh, dear; ksanders was typing while I was. I went back in and added this.)
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Old 01-25-2017, 03:24 AM   #12
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I know incredibly little about such things, but found Ample Power DC diesel generators and auto starting/control systems an interesting read:

https://www.amplepower.com/products/...tic/index.html

More on their EnerMatic System Controller:

https://www.amplepower.com/products/...tic/index.html
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Old 01-25-2017, 05:00 AM   #13
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That's the last thing I would want on a boat. Gennies screw up often enough, and are tough enough to troubleshoot without adding another layer of complexity.
Yup! I like the peace of mind that simplicity brings.
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Old 01-25-2017, 05:24 AM   #14
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If I felt I needed that feature on a particular day on the trawler, I think I would rather just let the generator run all day. If I felt I needed it more often, I'd solve the problem that required it. I worry more about an issue starting than running all day.

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Old 01-25-2017, 08:57 AM   #15
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How many here live in areas with severe winters and rely on shore power to keep their batteries charged, heat their boats, or are tied to mooring balls in remote locations with cold winters? This is where such a system would make sense, especially if you had to leave the boat unattended for some reason.

A couple winters ago our town got seven feet of accumulated snow in two days and lost power for three days. The road to the marina was closed for three days due to fallen trees across the road and downed power lines. Thirteen boats sank. That's a lot of boats down in a town with a population of 9,000.

This winter we had two cold snaps of -15C (5F) with northerly outflow winds gusting to 50 knots that went on for weeks. If the power had gone out, more boats would have probably gone down.

Definitely not for everybody, but for outliers in areas with brutal winters it might make sense. That, and occasionally hearing a whisper quiet itty-bitty teeny diesel DC battery charger kick in automatically once in a while would be pretty cool
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Old 01-25-2017, 09:10 AM   #16
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How many here live in areas with severe winters and rely on shore power to keep their batteries charged, heat their boats, or are tied to mooring balls in remote locations with cold winters? This is where such a system would make sense, especially if you had to leave the boat unattended for some reason.

A couple winters ago our town got seven feet of accumulated snow in two days and lost power for three days. The road to the marina was closed for three days due to fallen trees across the road and downed power lines. Thirteen boats sank. That's a lot of boats down in a town with a population of 9,000.

This winter we had two cold snaps of -15C (5F) with northerly outflow winds gusting to 50 knots that went on for weeks. If the power had gone out, more boats would have probably gone down.

Definitely not for everybody, but for outliers in areas with brutal winters it might make sense. That, and occasionally hearing a whisper quiet itty-bitty teeny diesel DC battery charger kick in automatically once in a while would be pretty cool
If the boats sank because the bilge pumps drained the batteries in 6 days, might be time to fix the leaks or at least increase the size of the battery bank.

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Old 01-25-2017, 09:34 AM   #17
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There were probably more than one or two things contributing to each boat going down; neglect and/or bad maintenance being high on the list. Just illustrating there could be geographical areas on the extreme northern or southern fringes where such a system might be worthwhile.
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Old 01-25-2017, 09:52 AM   #18
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Also keep in mind what breaker and selector switch settings might have to be changed to bring a generator on-line. This is often the harder problem to solve. You really shouldn't start and stop the generator with loads connected. If all it's powering is an inverter/charger, they usually have built power qualification and only cut in the load when the generator is up and running. But that's not always what the powering arrangement is on a boat.
Good point! You would have to preset the load breakers, some off, some on, so that stuff isn't damaged by low frequency and voltage during starts and stops. Not worth the risk to me.
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Old 01-25-2017, 10:47 AM   #19
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Having the ability for your generator to come online automatically could be very handy if you...

Leave your boat at a transient dock with no power
Leave your boat at a mooring
Leave your boat at a slip that has frequent power outages.

For those that say you should last on battery power... That is just not practical for everybody. We have fridges, and freezers, and in my case I have networking and alarm systems that don't turn off.

Swtching from shore power to generator power automatically is easy if you se a transfer switch.

As far as the issue of pre-setting breakers, in practicality I start and stop my generator all the time and have never pre-set a breaker or even fiddled with them. I just start the generator. Never had any equipment damaged in many years of operating that way.

Ski, troubleshooting a generator with a engine controller installed is actually easier than a generator without one. You can easily see at a glance what caused the generator to trip offline.
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Old 01-25-2017, 10:57 AM   #20
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Thanks Kevin for the info. It sounds my old genny would be too old for one of these systems....
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