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Old 09-12-2016, 04:29 AM   #1
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GENSET: Beta(Kubota) vs. Northern Lights

Feedback please on choosing between these two excellent units. This will be a single genset boat so reliability is paramount.

Beta: 1500rpm, natural aspirated, 3 cylinder, 1.1 liter displacement, 58db sound level, single or 3 phase available, 10kw@2.7 liters/hr fuel

Northern Lights: 1500rpm, natural aspirated, 3 cylinder, 1.5 liter displacement, ?? sound level, single or 3 phase available, 10kw@3.8 liters/hr fuel

The difference in fuel usage is the NL is tier3 and the Beta is not. This is not an issue.
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Old 09-12-2016, 05:10 AM   #2
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Tough call. NL has a great reputation, so on one had they would be my first choice.

But I'm also a big fan of Kubota engines. I've had 5 of them over the years, 3 of them currently, and they are completely bomb proof. They just run and run and run.

What is the generator end on the Beta?

There are probably other consideration too like voltage regulator, governor, etc.

And that's a big difference in fuel consumption.
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Old 09-12-2016, 06:00 AM   #3
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Just got some suprising feedback from a genset expert on Northern Lights.

He had always thought like many of us that they were sort of on top of thevpyramid, but several recent engineering solutions with several Northern Light gensets left him wondering.

I would look long and hard and make sure you are getting what you pay for. I like many will pay extra for quality or engineering if it is truly there....now I have my doubts.

Can't remember the specifics or I would have posted them....maybe this thread will reward me with a refresher email describing those specifics.
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Old 09-12-2016, 06:22 AM   #4
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I went to the Beta Marine website and cannot find the unit you referenced. Their 3 cylinder unit is not 10 kW at 1500, more like 7.5 kW. Also the safety shutdown devices are fewer on Beta. Beta claims their units are Tier 4 and list higher fuel use than you mentioned. Could you cite model numbers for each?
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Old 09-12-2016, 06:28 AM   #5
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Had a phaser for a few yrs now been good like the simple design of it
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Old 09-12-2016, 06:29 AM   #6
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I would lean toward the NL. The international dealer network/support is probably one of the best.
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Old 09-12-2016, 06:42 AM   #7
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I went to the Beta Marine website and cannot find the unit you referenced. Their 3 cylinder unit is not 10 kW at 1500, more like 7.5 kW. Also the safety shutdown devices are fewer on Beta. Beta claims their units are Tier 4 and list higher fuel use than you mentioned. Could you cite model numbers for each?

The 10kw vs 7.5 may be the difference between 60hz and 50hz operation. Both gensets should derate the same at 50hz.

Also, keep in mind that he's outside the US so other models may be available/still available that have been phased out in the US (and maybe the EU too).
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Old 09-12-2016, 06:54 AM   #8
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The 10kw vs 7.5 may be the difference between 60hz and 50hz operation. Both gensets should derate the same at 50hz.

Also, keep in mind that he's outside the US so other models may be available/still available that have been phased out in the US (and maybe the EU too).
Both the Beta UK and US websites show Mako is comparing apples to oranges. Beta's 3 cylinder unit is not output comparable to NL's . That is why the Beta model number would be nice to know.
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Old 09-12-2016, 06:58 AM   #9
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I really like the Beta Marine propulsion engines, but here in the US Beta generators are somewhat of a secret: no mention on the NC website and only one page on the NW website. Lots more info on the UK website though.


I would look at local service support and make your decision based on that.


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Old 09-12-2016, 07:51 AM   #10
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Ok guys, where are the inverter generators that the frequency is not regulated by engine RPM. Honda pioneered this technology as far as I know with their lines that allow daisy chaining of 2 generators. Yamaha and Honda, perhaps others are out there.

The daisy chain option does not sound very applicable for our needs but to have the flexibility of the engine running at 900 RPM at low load then spinning up to say 2800 RPM under high load might be desirable. The amps are provided to the inverter from the stator and sent on down the line at the proper voltage and frequency at a pure sine wave flow.

As I recall Panda is doing this and it does seem the other providers are sitting on their hands. Where are the high end marine diesel genset manufacturers on this? Seems like the future, after all this technology appears to be well proven.
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Old 09-12-2016, 08:26 AM   #11
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I think the generator+inverter works well for small sets, but becomes impractical and unnecessary for larger sets. The inverter/generator combo helps quiet down what would otherwise be a screaming 3600 RPM generator. And it addresses frequency and voltage regulation where small motors are less capable of handling transient loads.

But when you get into bigger generators, even the portable gas sets are straight engine/generator. 7kw appears to be the biggest inverter generator that Honda builds, and most of their 6-7kw models or conventional design. Now bring in an 1800/1500 RPM marine set, liquid cooled, wet muffler, and the noise problem is gone. And they have bigger engines with more reserve power and better regulation. And if your boat has an inverter and batteries, then you effectively have an inverter/generator already.
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Old 09-12-2016, 08:27 AM   #12
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Ok guys, where are the inverter generators that the frequency is not regulated by engine RPM. Honda pioneered this technology as far as I know with their lines that allow daisy chaining of 2 generators. Yamaha and Honda, perhaps others are out there.

The daisy chain option does not sound very applicable for our needs but to have the flexibility of the engine running at 900 RPM at low load then spinning up to say 2800 RPM under high load might be desirable. The amps are provided to the inverter from the stator and sent on down the line at the proper voltage and frequency at a pure sine wave flow.

As I recall Panda is doing this and it does seem the other providers are sitting on their hands. Where are the high end marine diesel genset manufacturers on this? Seems like the future, after all this technology appears to be well proven.
Can't imagine wanting to listen to a generator surging and slowing all night as different air conditioner compressors switch on and off. I'll stick with the constant white noise of a single speed generator.

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Old 09-12-2016, 08:27 AM   #13
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not sure if it is good to have a diesel going up and down with very variable loads...but I am sure some electronic dampening could be added.


couldn't be any worse than stop and go traffic on a truck diesel...even though that is considered "harsh conditions"...and yet many keep rolling along.


I would love to see this tech before I need a new genset...if it is practical for diesels.
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Old 09-12-2016, 08:55 AM   #14
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Lots of ways to configure inverter tech with ac or dc generator, batteries and/or alternators to get an integrated system. Part of that could be a stand alone diesel driving an inverter generator. The tech is certainly available to do that.

A few downsides: High amperage inverter tech is expensive. Lots of sensitive electronics that don't like lightning. Many find engines reving up and down very annoying, me included. Weedeaters, leaf blowers, dirtbikes, chainsaws are in part annoying because of highly variable pitch. Everytime an AC cycles on, gen will rev up.

I like the simplicity of a rotating field synchronous generator. At least it SHOULD be simple. Use tranformer exciter, and there are no electronics needed. You can use an electronic AVR, those are pretty reliable and a spare can be carried.

Regarding brands, NL is a good machine, but I don't think it the pinacle of gennie engineering. Brands like Onan, phasor, nextgen, norpro, westerbeke, and others do a good job. Never seen a beta gennie, but they do a decent job on prop engines.

Kubota, shibaura, mitsubishi, isuzu, yanmar drive engines, all good stuff. Pretty much all that is used. My fave is Kubota. Absolutely rock solid and parts are everywhere.

Things I don't like on a gennie: Aluminum exhaust manifolds/heat exchanger combos. Corrosion ends up being an issue like on westerbekes. Too much computerized stuff like on Onans. Capacitor exciters on little units, sloppy voltage control. Anything with less than three cylinders. Anything not direct drive at 1500 or 1800rpm, though those tend to be issues on little machines.

I find the three cyl actually smoother than the fours. Getting 10kW at 50hz on a three means a big three, might be stuck with a four. A four at 1500 won't be too bad.
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Old 09-12-2016, 08:59 AM   #15
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not sure if it is good to have a diesel going up and down with very variable loads...but I am sure some electronic dampening could be added.


couldn't be any worse than stop and go traffic on a truck diesel...even though that is considered "harsh conditions"...and yet many keep rolling along.


I would love to see this tech before I need a new genset...if it is practical for diesels.
I think he's more worried about disruption to his sleep than strain on the engine.

This concept has existed for a long time in a disaggregated form. Inverter + batteries + generator. Loads are services by inverter + batteries, and when batteries get low, generator starts and recharges, usually carrying the load directly at the same time. We have a house that has run like this for the past 17 years. Technologically the house is nothing more than a boat that has run severely aground.

The bigger the batteries, the less cycling of the generator is required. Other sources of power can be mixed in too like solar, wind, and main engine alternators. Our generator runs for 30 minutes an month in the summer just to exercise, and worst case 8hrs every 3 days in the winter when the sun don't shine and we are using the place heavily.

The little Hondas take that to the other extreme with a very small battery coupled with a continuously running engine, but at variable speed.

Most boats don't have autostart generators, but they could. One complicating factor is that to power from the generator on a boat usually requires positioning a shore/gen selector switch which is hard/expensive to automate. And unless all loads run through an inverter/charger, it's hard to cut loads to the gen when stopping and starting it. Again, it's solvable, but increases complexity and can get expensive.
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Old 09-12-2016, 10:07 AM   #16
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Back to the original question...

We know about the prime mover, Kubota...

What generator end is on the Beta? Marathon, Stamford-Newage, Leroy Sommers???

How is the generator end sized compared to the prime mover?

This is extremely critical because generator ends are rated by the manufacturer for a certain output at a specific heat rise. Putting a generator end in a hot bilge then pulling a max load out of it will cause a higher winding temperature than the same generator end sitting on a pad mount for example. Did the packager (beta) take this into account and oversize the generator end?

I ALWAYS size a generator end to pull its rated KVA load at no more than 80 degree temp rise continuous , corresponding to the NEMA B standard when specifying a marine generator end.

Did BETA do this?????

Then there is a host of other questions I would be asking, but the first step is to get the generator end questions answered, then move forward.
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Old 09-12-2016, 10:11 AM   #17
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Gents I appreciate your suggestions for what questions that need to be answered. I will be in touch with the UK main office and try to get some answers. Right now I'm in a rush to take the kids out swimming - it's nighttime and we can only go out at night when the temp cools off below 100 degrees.
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Old 09-12-2016, 10:14 AM   #18
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I would choose based on ability to get service where I'm going to be using the boat. For the US, I'd choose NL since it's so widely known and supported. Elsewhere, I don't know how the support compares.
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Old 09-12-2016, 05:26 PM   #19
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10kWe - Northern-Lights M843NW3.7 = 66.2dB(A) @ 1 Meter, in the soundshield.

The BETA 10 = "less than 60dB(A) @ 7 Meters, in the soundshield" per their website.

BetaGen - Beta Marine

Yep, they are much quieter if only you start measuring further away

As well, we have three dealers in the Persian Gulf:

Gulf Power and Marine - Saudi Arabia
Technology Ventures - UAE
Global Engineering Solutions - Oman

The guys at Tech Ventures are the most active of the three.

Questions/concerns about NL gensets - just ask.
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Old 09-12-2016, 06:23 PM   #20
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I saw Westerbeke name thrown around as a credible provider....Beware... They assemble good solid units....But... When parts and work is needed you, may as I have, find an albatross around your neck. They price gouge to the max. How does a 3cylinder $211 head gasket or a $700 exhaust elbow sound?

You to the Westerbeke HQ is not a customer but the "end user". After neglect taken to the point abuse from one of their dealers, they (Weaterbeke) would not even answer my e mails and not put my calls through to a decision maker. I finally got a call from a parts distributer (in Houston) that could not even sell me anything, (gotta order from a dealer) nothing more than an assigned "get rid of him" guy to make me go away.

After reading the BIO of the CEO with the same name as the company that he said his Daddy built, a light came on, I will leave the dots for you to connect.

Know this going in....if ya have one...sorry, welcome to the club.
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