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Old 02-06-2011, 09:31 PM   #1
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Tips for a newbie using a generator?

This may seem like a basic question...
But I've never owned a boat that had a generator aboard.
Few questions...
Can I run the generator to charge my batteries, then run my lights/appliances off the batteries?
Do I run the generator when I need to have a high load that would be more than the batteries can handle?
If I am running the engines daily while cruising, is that enough to keep batteries topped, or do I still need to run the generator?
If I have the boat on a mooring all summer, can I run my fridge constantly, and have the generator kick on automatically to charge the batteries and keep the fridge running?
I also have solar panels, need to sort that out.
(I can't answer too many specific questions, as I have not had a chance to go through the whole boat at leisure, we've had about 8 feet of snow in the last few weeks).
Any other advice is greatly appreciated
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Old 02-06-2011, 09:41 PM   #2
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RE: Tips for a newbie using a generator?

Yes- assuming you have a battery charger wired in the engine room, if you fire up the generator and switch from shore power to generator, you will be charging the batteries and can do anything that requires 110V just as if you were tied to shore power.
Do you have an inverter as well? I assume so since you are asking if load gets too much for the battery.
If you are running the engines, depending on your house battery bank, you should be fine overnight. Generally speaking, in our past boats, we could anchor all day using the 12v system (head, lights, water pump, radios, etc.). We would power up the generator for 20-30 minutes as we cooked dinner to A) cook and B) turn on the air conditioning b/c it is hot in the south). This would recharge our batteries such that we could anchor out all night with anchor light on, etc.
If you are on a mooring and want your generator to kick on automatically, I have no idea how you could do that. Best option would be to set up your solar panels to charge your house batteries and keep the fridge on 12v mode.
If you don't have an inverter and a decent house battery bank, you may find it is cheaper to run the generator a little bit (under load) each day to charge things. After you factor in the cost of the inverter and all the batteries, well, you can buy a good bit of diesel for that cost. But- it is nice to not have a generator running in an anchorage.
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Old 02-07-2011, 12:27 AM   #3
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RE: Tips for a newbie using a generator?

Even it it was possible, which I'm sure it's not on a 1984 Marine Trader, automatically starting and running a generator unattended at a mooring sounds like a recipe for disaster.
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Old 02-07-2011, 03:47 AM   #4
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RE: Tips for a newbie using a generator?

"Can I run the generator to charge my batteries, then run my lights/appliances off the batteries?"

Yes but it is very expensive in gen set time and fuel used.


"Do I run the generator when I need to have a high load that would be more than the batteries can handle?"

Yes but it is far cheaper to use a following inverter if the high load is just transient.

"If I am running the engines daily while cruising, is that enough to keep batteries topped, or do I still need to run the generator?"

Depends , but with a sailboat style 3 stage V regulator you have the best chance of full batts.

"If I have the boat on a mooring all summer, can I run my fridge constantly, and have the generator kick on automatically to charge the batteries and keep the fridge running?"

Yes if you dare .

I also have solar panels, need to sort that out.

2 large solar panels will take care of the refrigeration requirements of a GOOD!!! DC reefer.


Soiunds like the boat is set up /equipped to be a dock queen , and you will need to convert to a cruiser.

Then you can stay out or on a mooring almost effortlessly , and rarely will need the noisemaker , mostly just for air conditioning.
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Old 02-07-2011, 05:59 AM   #5
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Tips for a newbie using a generator?

Can I run the generator to charge my batteries, then run my lights/appliances off the batteries?
Yes, when you run the genset the batteries will be charged. All of your lighting is 12 volt and runs off the batteries.

Do I run the generator when I need to have a high load that would be more than the batteries can handle?
Your generator powers your battery charger which in turn will charge the batteries. The charger knows when the batteries are topped off.

If I am running the engines daily while cruising, is that enough to keep batteries topped, or do I still need to run the generator?
It should be but of course, when you are anchored, you will be drawing from the batteries.

If I have the boat on a mooring all summer, can I run my fridge constantly, and have the generator kick on automatically to charge the batteries and keep the fridge running?
Yes, you can do both, if your fridge is a dc model it will pull from the batteries. There are electronic devices that will start your generator automatically.

I also have solar panels, need to sort that out.
I just completed an electrical budget for purchasing a solar panel for my boat so I know you can power your fridge from solar. You'll need to calculate your entire electrical load for your boat to be certain you will have the right size panel however; on my boat it was 43 amp/hrs a day.

(I can't answer too many specific questions, as I have not had a chance to go through the whole boat at leisure, we've had about 8 feet of snow in the last few weeks).
No snow here in Florida......

-- Edited by marinetrader on Monday 7th of February 2011 07:00:46 AM
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Old 02-07-2011, 07:35 AM   #6
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RE: Tips for a newbie using a generator?

Along a related line, how comfortable are you guys in warm climates running the diesel genset at night for air conditioning? I'm concerned about carbon monoxide though I have 2 CO detectors. Do you put your life in a detectors hands?
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Old 02-07-2011, 07:39 AM   #7
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RE: Tips for a newbie using a generator?

Diesel creates very little CO. I personally would not worry about it with a diesel boat but definitely used to worry about it when we had gasers!
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Old 02-07-2011, 08:27 AM   #8
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RE: Tips for a newbie using a generator?

Thanks for all the info guys, I'm hoping to take a weekend when it warms up and the snow melts (at this rate... might be June...) and go through the boat from stem to stern. I am not sure, but I think the fridge that is aboard now is 110v only, not 12v - but will check it out. Also, not sure I'd need to keep the full size fridge cold daily while I'm off the boat, perhaps a better solution would be to buy one of the little dormitory fridges that I can run on a much lower 12v load, and have the solar panels keep it running while I'm away from the boat.
At this point, I plan to keep the boat in Maine on a dock or mooring for the summer, and drive up there by car from Boston every weekend, and cruise around Maine a bit, so would like to be able to at least keep some food cold during the week aboard.
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Old 02-07-2011, 11:17 AM   #9
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Tips for a newbie using a generator?

when we went mooring for a week, we would run appliances (12 and 110v alike) off the batteries.
once a day (preferable when we would go a wash up or have dinner/lunch ashore we would run the genset (generator) for an hour or two to recharge the batteries. we dont have a/c so the power we use is mainly cooking/hot* water/fridge.
i noticed (to my dismay) that some of the other boats in the mooring were running their gensets all day long..

would love to hear more success stories about using solar-panels. how are they wired into the circuit etc?

-- Edited by Per on Monday 7th of February 2011 12:18:58 PM
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Old 02-07-2011, 11:22 AM   #10
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Tips for a newbie using a generator?

I would personally be very hesitant (i.e. I would not do it) to run a generator without someone aboard. Too easy for something to go wrong....fire, exhaust hose burst, etc. Just like I would not leave my boat with the main engine running, if the gennie is running I am there or extremely nearby keeping an eye on it.

7Tiger- I wanna cruise maine too! *I can't imagine how beautiful it would be to cruise up there.


I wish I won the lottery- I swear I'd pack the family up on a very appropriate passagemaker and cruise the heck out of her up the NE coast, down to the islands, PNW, etc. *Unfortunately I am a "few" years away from retiring!!


-- Edited by Woodsong on Monday 7th of February 2011 12:24:10 PM
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Old 02-07-2011, 12:03 PM   #11
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Tips for a newbie using a generator?

Quote:
7tiger7 wrote:But I've never owned a boat that had a generator aboard.
Everybody's generator use will be different depending on their circumstances.* Up here (PNW) air conditioning is fairly irrelevant.* There are boats that have it but they tend to be larger, newer, more luxurious, and probably came with it from the factory.* I'm not aware of people going out and adding air conditioning to their older boats.* Heat is another matter, however

Generators become a necessity on an all-electric boat---- AC fridge, electric range, big entertainment center, etc.* These are the folks that run their generators for a good part of the day on the marine park docks, for example, because without it they can't cook or watch TV.

Just as a single point of reference with regards to generator use, we run ours once a day for about an hour during a cruise on days we are not going to be running the main engines going somewhere.* We usually run the generator in the morning on these days to heat water, which will then stay hot all day, and throw a charge back into the house battery bank.* Our refrigerator is AC/DC and our stove/oven is propane.

If we are going to be running the boat, as long as the run is at least an hour that will heat all the hot water we need that day and the engine alternators will charge up the battery banks.* So we have no need of the generator at all on those days.* And other than the hot water issue, we don't need to run the generator every day for the sake of the batteries.* We're pretty conservative with our use of DC so we can go for two or even three days I think without running anything, generator or main engines.* The only draw on the batteries will be the refrigerator and whatever lights we turn on.* We generally use an oil lantern for an anchor light (just because we like it) so we usually have only one or two lights on at night before we go to bed.

Other boaters who use their TV or sound system a lot, have kids who are forever turning on lights, and otherwise use a lot of DC in the course of a day will run their generators more often if they aren't using their main engines on a daily basis.

Oh, there is one other time we'll use our generator and that's when we retrieve the anchor.* A previous owner installed a salt water washdown pump powered by a 1 horsepower Westinghouse AC motor.* It puts out a hell of a lot of water but it needs AC to do it. Our inverter will power it but we don't want to put that load plus the anchor windlass load on the batteries.* So we start the generator to power the AC washdown pump.

Everybody's generator needs will be different.* We have no need to run ours underway so we don't.* I do agree with what others have said though--- we would never leave our generator running without someone on board who knows how to turn it off if it developed a problem. Of course we have a very old generator so the odds of it having a problem are higher than if we had a nice new Northern Lights

*


-- Edited by Marin on Monday 7th of February 2011 01:04:48 PM
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Old 02-07-2011, 12:08 PM   #12
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RE: Tips for a newbie using a generator?

You all in the PNW are lucky to not need air conditioning. Many boaters down here in the south turn the generator on just when they are leaving the dock and do not turn them off until they are back into the dock. I have sold boats less than 2 years old with only 50-60 hours on the main engines but 600 hours on the generator. Very common down here in the south to see high numbers on the generator, especially on more typical cruisers and MY's.
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Old 02-07-2011, 01:13 PM   #13
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RE: Tips for a newbie using a generator?

Conversation between me and (in red) Bill Kimley of Seahorse Marine:

I don't*choose the genset.* Its cost is high and I would usually expect to have access to electrical power (110-volt AC) at docks and rely on batteries elsewise. Actually a smart move, noisy and crowds the engine room. Only useful for air-conditioning while anchored. Most times dock power will handle the aircon. For those few hot nights at anchor check out http://ducktalk.net/eve/forums/a/tpc...61/m/804104522*.* Fans are included in all spaces.
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Old 02-07-2011, 01:24 PM   #14
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RE: Tips for a newbie using a generator?

A southern boat/boater could not really be in the cabin much without air conditioning. It could be done I suppose but it would be so miserable I'd rather stay on land than spend the night in an enclosed cabin with no fresh air in 90 degree temps. On our past boats (haven't had the trawler for a full summer yet to see how she reacts), when we were playing outside all day and would go in the cabin to cook for dinner (with air conditioning turned off all day), it would easily be around 90 degrees inside. Way too hot down here to not have air conditioning if it is possible to have it!
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Old 02-07-2011, 01:35 PM   #15
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RE: Tips for a newbie using a generator?

marinetrader gave you the corrrect answers.* the autostart controll is available for under $200 from several suppliers.* Without regard to whether you should be on board or not, they work well and can be adjusted to turn on the genset when there is a demand for 110v for example or when the battery voltage drops to a certain value, or several other parameters that you can select.* We don't have one now, but have used them in the past very successfully.
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Old 02-07-2011, 03:15 PM   #16
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RE: Tips for a newbie using a generator?

Quote:
Tonic wrote:

Even it it was possible, which I'm sure it's not on a 1984 Marine Trader, automatically starting and running a generator unattended at a mooring sounds like a recipe for disaster.

I would certainly agree with that.* 100%.
*
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Old 02-07-2011, 03:19 PM   #17
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RE: Tips for a newbie using a generator?

Quote:
7tiger7 wrote:*I am not sure, but I think the fridge that is aboard now is 110v only, not 12v - but will check it out. Also, not sure I'd need to keep the full size fridge cold daily while I'm off the boat, perhaps a better solution would be to buy one of the little dormitory fridges that I can run on a much lower 12v load, and have the solar panels keep it running while I'm away from the boat.
A "dormitory fridge" does not operate on 12 volts DC, it operates on 120 volts AC.* If you plan on leaving the boat on a mooring with only solar panels to keep the batteries charged to run a refrigerator (and your bilge pumps), you will need to buy the most efficient marine DC refrigerator that you can find and afford.

*
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Old 02-08-2011, 11:48 AM   #18
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RE: Tips for a newbie using a generator?

so being somewhat a newbie some of these posts require further explanation:

why would you not want to leave your boat with the generator running? (i am not talking hours or days)


12V fridges: is it less efficient to have a 110v fridge using a system with inverters? even with a solar panel this energy can go thru the inverter system and power 110v appliances.

btw, the only time you really need a generator is extended days mooring or anchoring and i have noticed many boats not equipped with a generator brings along a gas powered portable generator. sure its not optimal but certainly an option rather than installing a generator in the engine room.
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Old 02-08-2011, 03:02 PM   #19
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RE: Tips for a newbie using a generator?

Quote:
Per wrote:so being somewhat a newbie some of these posts require further explanation:

why would you not want to leave your boat with the generator running? (i am not talking hours or days)
I'll give you one example*that happened the first week of January.* When the dock master and one of his helpers shut the water off due to the below*freeing temps at night, they drain the lines then blow them out with compressed air.* They use the pole that my electric is on because the boat next to mine is the owner of the marina and they use his meter.* So they shut the power on both sides (not sure why)*to connect the compressor up.* The problem was that they forgot to turn mine back on when they finished, the owner of the marina never has the power hooked up to his boat (to cheap).* My boat was without electric for at least one day maybe two*and the heaters were off on my boat.* The temps went down*to the high twenties both nights and there was no heat on my boat.* Luckily I came down to the boat the second day and fixed it.**

Now I'm not going out to buy the kit to do an automatic start would have been nice to have backup power.* Especially if it had gotten really cold.* I can't seem to find anything that cost less than $1,200 to start the gen-set and throw the breaker form shore to gen-set.
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Old 02-08-2011, 04:14 PM   #20
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Tips for a newbie using a generator?

Quote:
Per wrote:

so being somewhat a newbie some of these posts require further explanation:

why would you not want to leave your boat with the generator running? (i am not talking hours or days)
The original post indicated that he was thinking of leaving his boat on a mooring all summer and, as I guessed, he didn't mean as a liveaboard but as something he would visit on the weekends only.* I don't think it's that big a deal to leave a genny running while you, mabe, take a quick shore trip.* After all, I doubt that any of us constantly monitor the genset gauges once it's started.* But to have one start up by itself, with no one on board to check initial water flow, oil level and pressure, etc, etc* and then run for a while each day of the week seems like it could be hazardous to the life of the genset, if not the boat.

There may be generators out there with sufficient safeguards(?) but I wouldn't trust mine and I suspect the OP's isn't that sophisticated either.* *
*


-- Edited by Tonic on Tuesday 8th of February 2011 05:16:03 PM
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