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Old 12-18-2013, 03:50 PM   #1
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Northern Lights vs. Kohler

It's time to upgrade. I'm tired of trying to find parts for my old Onan. The replacement has been narrowed down to either a Northern Lights or Kohnler. I'd go with the NL but the Kohnler is way cheaper for the same KW. Do you guys have any pros or cons on these two in the 9 KW class?
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Old 12-18-2013, 04:02 PM   #2
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Originally Posted by dhiggins View Post
It's time to upgrade. I'm tired of trying to find parts for my old Onan. The replacement has been narrowed down to either a Northern Lights or Kohnler. I'd go with the NL but the Kohnler is way cheaper for the same KW. Do you guys have any pros or cons on these two in the 9 KW class?
Northern Lights all the way, again I'm little biased. I feel the Koehler is too electronic, at least the versions I saw at FLIBS this year. A generator should be a simple thing, not something you plug into to your computer via a usb cable. Here's one I found on ebay during a quick search. $6500 not bad.
http://www.ebay.com/itm/GENERATOR-9K...bb5334&vxp=mtr
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Old 12-18-2013, 04:07 PM   #3
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Kinda like engines. We all have our favorites but in the end, there are a few you(or I) would stay away from. Then there are the rest that should be just fine as long as you take care of them. That is where those two brands land. If I had the choice and money was not an object, I would go with the NL...and that is strictly based on rep. But there is absolutely nothing wrong with Kohler or Onan. I would do my due diligence of course. Sometimes there are certain models within a particular line that are less favorable than others.
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Old 12-18-2013, 08:01 PM   #4
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I can't comment on the Kohler, but we have 12kw (1300 hrs) and 20kw (1700 hrs) NL and would not trade them for anything. Both run well, are amazingly quiet in their sound enclosures, and we have not had any issues whatsoever with either one.
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Old 12-18-2013, 08:12 PM   #5
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Westerbeke in the running?
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Old 12-18-2013, 08:19 PM   #6
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higgins: I just recon'd my Northern Lights in a local shop here. If you had seen and heard what I did in that shop while I was working on it, you'd know not to go with the Kohler. Looking at the difference in windings alone would convince you. They've been in the gen business for 30 years and rarely see a Northern Lights for anything. Kohlers are all over the shop. I'd buy a used or recon Northern Lights to a new Kohler anytime.
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Old 12-18-2013, 09:01 PM   #7
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The only thing I can think to add, which you probably already know, is that a genset that runs at 1,800rpm is better then one that runs at 3,600. All things being equal of course.
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Old 12-18-2013, 09:05 PM   #8
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The only thing I can think to add, which you probably already know, is that a genset that runs at 1,800rpm is better then one that runs at 3,600. All things being equal of course.
Yep. Plus when's the last time you've heard of a Lugger break down?
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Old 12-18-2013, 09:29 PM   #9
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Originally Posted by dhiggins View Post
It's time to upgrade. I'm tired of trying to find parts for my old Onan. The replacement has been narrowed down to either a Northern Lights or Kohnler. I'd go with the NL but the Kohnler is way cheaper for the same KW. Do you guys have any pros or cons on these two in the 9 KW class?
As suggested, Westerbeke is worth a look. The quality of the install and ongoing maintenance will overshadow the name on the side. My vote is NL, Westerbeke and then the others.
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Old 12-18-2013, 09:57 PM   #10
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I was to the NL shop in Seattle. Very well run and clean. Every thing double checked. Staff very helpful and proud of their work . NL first chice.
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Old 12-18-2013, 10:09 PM   #11
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Onan is now Cummins in Australia. Does that apply in USA too?
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Old 12-18-2013, 10:17 PM   #12
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Onan is now Cummins in Australia. Does that apply in USA too?
Yep.
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Old 12-18-2013, 10:52 PM   #13
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I'm hesitant to comment here because I'm honestly not as familiar as I'd like to be with the newer Kohler marine generators.

What I do know is that Kohler makes a very good generator. Actually everything Kohler makes is very good quality.

When my Westerbeke needed a new generator end due to bearing failure along with some catching up on defered maintenance from the previous owner I was quoted approx 8500 for a new 8kw westerbeke and 12.5k for a new Northern lights 9 kW.

Knowing the quality of the Northern lights units, and being a Marathon generator dealer I didn't even think about the westerbeke.

The northern lights generators use Marathon generator ends. Which are arguably the best made. That's not to say you do not occasionally get a bad one, but they are very well built heavy units.

So, back to the op's question, I'd opt for the Northern lights, but not because there is anything wrong with the Kohler line.
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Old 12-19-2013, 07:31 AM   #14
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Kohler/Deere are installed in a lot of larger yachts and have an excellent service history.
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Old 12-19-2013, 07:45 AM   #15
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Kohler versus NL

Quote:
Originally Posted by healhustler View Post
higgins: I just recon'd my Northern Lights in a local shop here. If you had seen and heard what I did in that shop while I was working on it, you'd know not to go with the Kohler. Looking at the difference in windings alone would convince you. They've been in the gen business for 30 years and rarely see a Northern Lights for anything. Kohlers are all over the shop. I'd buy a used or recon Northern Lights to a new Kohler anytime.
I haven't studied the internals enough to know the difference between the two but it may be the reason you see more in the repair shop is the relative numbers in the market place. In my survey business I see by far more Onans and Kohlers in typical production models going back many years and continues to this day. Given enough time and/or abuse they all end up in the shop or replaced sooner or later...
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Old 12-19-2013, 08:42 AM   #16
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Given enough time and/or abuse they all end up in the shop or replaced sooner or later...

Yep ... new bearings, low IR, any number of reasons to pull them for a shop service.

When the engine reaches the point where it is uneconomical to repair and the generator end is still good, it goes to the shop where it can be prepared as a replacement for one that failed or the owner didn't have time to wait for a rewind or bakeout.
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Old 12-19-2013, 10:33 AM   #17
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Will only report as a NL owner and 3000 hours it has worked as designed, happy owner.
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Old 12-19-2013, 11:04 AM   #18
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Is it fair to say in the 8-12 KW range that whether NL, Westerbeke or Kohler (1800 rpm versions) all will give good service for a long time if set up correctly and maintained properly? If so it then becomes a cost discussion. The notion that Ford is better than Chevy seems a large part of this discussion.

My experience with marine gensets suggests, aside from desultory maintenance, improper exhaust setup and water entering the generator end are the primary causes of success or failure.

Given the smarts of Parmenter even a Panda can work!
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Old 12-19-2013, 11:08 AM   #19
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Will only report as a NL owner and 3000 hours it has worked as designed, happy owner.
I've a friend who clocked 3000 hours out of his GAS Westerbeke before he sold his Tolly 44.
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Old 12-19-2013, 11:10 AM   #20
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Is it fair to say in the 8-12 KW range that whether NL, Westerbeke or Kohler (1800 rpm versions) all will give good service for a long time if set up correctly and maintained properly? If so it then becomes a cost discussion. The notion that Ford is better than Chevy seems a large part of this discussion.

My experience with marine gensets suggests, aside from desultory maintenance, improper exhaust setup and water entering the generator end are the primary causes of success or failure.

Given the smarts of Parmenter even a Panda can work!
I would agree with that.

I think marine generators die more from lack of use, than actual use, at least in the pacnw and I suppose other areas where air conditioning is not as frequently used.
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