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Old 02-13-2015, 09:59 PM   #1
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Generators. The Good, Bad and The Ugly

Looking for a used boat also means looking at used gen sets that come with them. Anyone willing to give feed back on what they think of the gen set that they have? For proper evaluation please include Brand, Size, What You Like and What You Don't. Any and all comments would be greatly appreciated.
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Old 02-13-2015, 10:34 PM   #2
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Type:Onan 6.5 MKMD. came with boat, hour meter stuck @ 1370, I realized when it did not change. Reconditioned, according to Onan agent sticker, and paint over everything. Not the OEM genset.
Plus: Quiet, in sound shield, no vibration, starts easy, runs well, churns out power.
Neg: Had to replace start/stop solenoid. Screw mount fitting for fuel filter turned out deformed, fine just after changing filter, then leaked fuel, heaps! Mechanic found me a 2nd hand replacement. A water/exhaust gas separator might be good, despite no complaints received.
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Old 02-13-2015, 10:53 PM   #3
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I have heard good things about Onan. Thanks.
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Old 02-13-2015, 10:53 PM   #4
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Anyone willing to give feed back on what they think of the gen set that they have?.
Sure. Our 1973 boat has a similar vintage Onan MDJE, 7.5kw, two cylinder diesel generator in it.

What I like about it: It was free. It works. It's a pretty robust unit. It puts out a lot of power if you need it. It's a low-speed generator (1800 rpm?) as opposed to the high speed units (2600 rpm?) so it doesn't have an annoying (to me) loud buzz. With regular use and proper servicing and maintenance, it has a reputation for lasting "forever."

What I don't like about it: It's much bigger and heavier than a modern generator. It puts out a LOT more vibration than a modern generator. The vibration has been known to cause problems with some of the circuit boards. Parts are expensive when you need them. It puts out more power than our boat needs. Wen have a propane galley so only need 5kw at most.

What we'll replace it with if it becomes too expensive to keep running: A Northern Lights generator of some 5 kw or so.
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Old 02-13-2015, 11:16 PM   #5
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I never thought about the rpm issue. I do know that a unit that is too large for your usage is not a good thing. I see a lot of Northern Lights out there. Appreciate your comments.
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Old 02-14-2015, 12:05 AM   #6
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Westebeke 12.5kw. Love it. More than enough kw for our needs. Best thing about it is it starts every time. Second best is it's very quiet.
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Old 02-14-2015, 12:19 AM   #7
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Northern Lights 9KW

The good:

Perfect size for the boat. The quiestest generator in its class. Works perfect. You do not even know its running.

The bad:

Cost.
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Old 02-14-2015, 01:53 AM   #8
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We have Northern Lights 20 KW and an 8KW. They came with the boat.

Good? So far, over three years, everything. Quiet (in sound shields), no vibration, no issues so far at all, maintenance is fairly easy.

Bad? Haven't really found any bad so far although as KSanders mentioned, if buying new, they are at the top end of the cost curve.
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Old 02-14-2015, 02:07 AM   #9
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We have a Westerbeke 10kw in a sound shield. Easy to service. Not too loud. Reliably starts and runs as long as needed. We have reverse cycle heat/AC so we run it when we need heat, which is most of the time. Keeps the batteries charged and the water hot when we are not under way.

I plan to install diesel hydronic heat eventually. When I do, this generator will be way too big for my needs. We have a propane stove/oven too. Until then it is fine. Glad to have the power.
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Old 02-14-2015, 02:27 AM   #10
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The Onan MDKD is 3 cylinder, the MDJE Marin has is 2 cyl. The MDKD also runs at 1800rpm, but does not have vibration. People onboard comment on its quietness, people on an adjacent boat who I told apologetically it would run for an hour said they had not heard it.
That said, there are plenty of other good brands out there. A good sound shield is a must.
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Old 02-14-2015, 04:37 AM   #11
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We have a Northern Lights, came with the boat. Only complaint is the sound insulation had turned to rubbish and had to be replaced after eight years. Is that to be expected?
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Old 02-14-2015, 04:51 AM   #12
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30 year old Westerbeke 8kw. Have replaced everything but the motor, including ac end (the windings). Have rebuilt the sound shield. Since we do not use airconditoning the biggest load is two large inverter chargers and a 1500 watt water heater. With all three units on the hertz drops from 61.2 to 57.5 for the first ten minutes. If had to replace would get Northern Lights 6.0 kW.
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Old 02-14-2015, 05:16 AM   #13
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Marin View Post
Sure. Our 1973 boat has a similar vintage Onan MDJE, 7.5kw, two cylinder diesel generator in it.

What I like about it: It was free. It works. It's a pretty robust unit. It puts out a lot of power if you need it. It's a low-speed generator (1800 rpm?) as opposed to the high speed units (2600 rpm?) so it doesn't have an annoying (to me) loud buzz. With regular use and proper servicing and maintenance, it has a reputation for lasting "forever."

What I don't like about it: It's much bigger and heavier than a modern generator. It puts out a LOT more vibration than a modern generator. The vibration has been known to cause problems with some of the circuit boards. Parts are expensive when you need them. It puts out more power than our boat needs. Wen have a propane galley so only need 5kw at most.

What we'll replace it with if it becomes too expensive to keep running: A Northern Lights generator of some 5 kw or so.
Same genset, 1980 vintage, same experience. To that I'll add:

Outside the boat, no-one even knows it's running. Inside, it'll rattle your teeth right out of your head. The sound shield is old and not very tight, so I'm not convinced it's helping much. My problems so far have been with the raw water system, hopefully I've got them all addressed now.

I'm not ready to invest in a Northern Lights. If you find a used boat with one of those installed, that would be a huge plus. I will bring a Honda 2000i on longer trips as a backup, and try to keep the Onan alive for as long as I can.
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Old 02-14-2015, 06:31 AM   #14
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I have a norprp. Have had no problems don't know the age I have had boat for 10 yrs. This gen came out another boat think it is 25 yrs old don't know I have 3800hrs on it. Now a boat that my friend has was new in 07 just replaced his kolher it had 2200hr it was braking down seveal times a year
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Old 02-14-2015, 07:59 AM   #15
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Have a northern lights 4.5 kW with sound shield original to boat (25 years).
Pros: 1800 rpm, 3 cylinder, very quiet outside or on bridge/aft deck.
Plenty of power for normal use (no ac)
Reliable mostly.
Cons: would be very expensive to replace.
Somewhat loud in salon, but not excessively so.
Been very happy to have it, my last boat had a Kohler 5k 2 cylinder gasser; noises as a bastid'!
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Old 02-14-2015, 08:33 AM   #16
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If you find a used boat with one of those installed, that would be a huge plus. .
I just bought a boat that came with a 12KW NL generator. I've heard nothing but "good" about these sets......we shall see!
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Old 02-14-2015, 09:00 AM   #17
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Have a 6 kw NL. Latches on enclosure are a bit of a problem. Had to replace exhaust elbow, 2007 vintage. Runs great and is very quiet. Exhaust is split, water exits under boat, gasses out the stern.
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Old 02-14-2015, 09:23 AM   #18
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Kohler, 8EOZ, 8Kw, 1800 rpm on a 3-cylinder Yanmar diesel. Works. It's in a soundbox, so impeller and zinc changes not as easy as they could be otherwise.


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Old 02-14-2015, 09:29 AM   #19
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Westerbeke 8kw. 30 years old. Poor maintenance issues from prior owners due to poor access led to some overheating shutdowns.... but runs well now. A bit noisy with the old sound shield missing some material. The coolant recovery hose fitting at the filler neck needs periodic cleaning out. All in all, happy with it.
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Old 02-14-2015, 09:33 AM   #20
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Northern Lights is considered the Cadillac of marine generators. Fischer-Panda is considered the Yugo (although not in price!!!, so maybe like the pre Ford Jaguars.). Virtually any 1,800 rpm generator is better than any 3,600 rpm generator.

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