Tips for a newbie using a generator?

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7tiger7

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Jan 16, 2011
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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
:)
 
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.
 
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.
 
"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.
 
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......
smile.gif


-- Edited by marinetrader on Monday 7th of February 2011 07:00:46 AM
 
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?
 
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!
 
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.
 
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
 
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
 
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
smile.gif


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
smile.gif


*


-- Edited by Marin on Monday 7th of February 2011 01:04:48 PM
 
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.
 
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/f/6011093161/m/804104522*.* Fans are included in all spaces.
 
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!
 
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.
 
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%.

*
 
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.

*
 
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.
 
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.
 
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
 
I wouldn't feel comfortable*with someone*in my marina*having engines starting and stopping while he wasn't in attendance.* There are scenarios in my mind which are disturbing.*
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DC fridges come in two styles.

The AC- DC units for boats and RV's are not particularly efficient as power is expected at most times.

AS is the transplanted house fridge and inverter combo.
The demand for max internal volume and the cost of high quality insulation usually means thin side walls .Extra insulation can be glued on.

The Alternate energy folks (houses not grid powered, or 3rd world ) have far more efficient , tho more costly units.

Engle , Sun Frost and many others can get fridges that will usually only need a pair of 85W panels.

***

Batt charging with noisemakers is usually very inefficient as the first 85% can go fairly rapidly (with a good V regulator ) or very smart charger,

BUT the last 15% always takes a couple of hours , or you LOOSE the capacity of the last 15% , which then works the entire bank even harder.

Solar is grand as it has the time to bring the house to 100% often enough to help the batts service life.
 
Has anyone purchased a house/ dorm fridge that will fit in place of the Norcold/ Tundra 8 cubic foot fridge? Our Norcold gave up, and 3 years ago replaced it with the Tundra 12/120 model. It never cooled well and finally quit about 2 months after the warranty expired.
I installed saddle taps and added freon a few months back and it cooled better than ever for about 2 months then quit. I suspect a leak.
I plan on trying for a recharge and to look for leaks this weekend.
I would prefer a straight 120 VAC home unit but I haven't found one that would fit.
I have 24" wide , 23" deep and 55.5" tall and no more without MAJOR remodeling.
 
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)


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.
1.* Leaving a generator running unattended:* What happens if there is an oil pressure or overheating problem?* what if the intake becomes blocked by debris?* You would need a generator with built in safety systems i.e. a generator that was designed to run unattended.

2.* 120 volt refrigerator efficiency:* 120 volt refrigerators, especially "dorm" refrigerators are designed to be cheap, not efficient.* On the power grid, the supply of electrical power is virtually unlimited.* Dual power marine refrigerators are designed with the limited availability of power in mind.* Some have technology that freezes a plate when power is available (shore or engine alternator) and then uses the frozen plate to lower the power requirements when only battery power is available.* Using seawater cooling is another way of improving the efficiency.

3. Gas powered portable generators:* These generators are not designed for the marine (wet) environment.* While they will work for a while, rust and corrosion will quickly begin to cause problems.* More importantly, there are some serious safety issues with these generators.* Carbon monoxide can quickly and silently kill people.* Unless the generator is placed where exhaust gasses are blown away from the boat by the wind, occupants can suffer CO poisoning.* Marine generators exhaust under or very near the water.* Storage and handling of gasoline on board can be dangerous.* Portable generators do not have the safety features required for gasoline inboard and I/O engines.* Fuel vapors can come from the fuel system and even raw fuel.* On land, this is not a problem.* Stored on a boat, it can be.* Pretty much, the only places a portable generator can be safely operated or stored on a boat are the same places where it will get wet from rain or sea water splashing.

*
 
JD wrote:


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.
A little inginuity and twenty dollars worth of parts could net you a battery powered alarm that would sound when you lose shorepower to your boat.* If the marina staff accidentally cuts power to your boat, the alarm will remind them to turn it back on.* If something else happens, the noise should allert them to contact you.

*
 
rwidman wrote:1.* Leaving a generator running unattended:* What happens if there is an oil pressure or overheating problem?* what if the intake becomes blocked by debris?* You would need a generator with built in safety systems i.e. a generator that was designed to run unattended.

I have yet to see a marine generator that does not incorporate automatic shutdowns for low lube oil pressure, high coolant temperature and high exhaust temperature.

Diesel generators run at remote unmanned mountain top sites for months on end without a worrywart hovering over*them waiting to fend off a disaster. Lighthouses use an automatic backup diesel generator in exactly the way the poster wants for his boat, and those sites used to rely completely on diesel generators that only saw a human when the fuel tanks needed topping off.
 
Per, Forklift:


You guys shoud read the old posts on fridges.
I'll repeat myself here, briefly.
AC/DC fridges are made for the RV market, not the marine market. They are AC with a built in inverter. The conversion losses going from DC to AC are huge.
Case in point: I have a Norcold box (all that is left of the original installation). It came with AC/DC. It used over 10 amps DC and ran most of the time. I needed two banks of house batteries to keep up, and it was a challenge. I converted to a Danfoss DC only unit, fit in the back with plenty of room to spare. It now uses only 2.7 amps DC and doesn't run as long to stay cold. Its now been in for 12 to 14 years without a hiccup. I now have one bank of house batteries and have no trouble keeping up.
I will be keeping that configuration. I have replaced the front panels of arborite on the fridge with Stainless Steel, so it now looks more like a high end household fridge.
The conversion was done locally, by a guy called "Freddy Freezer" who had a name for doing boat refrigeration. Cost more than a new AC fridge, but well worth it.
 
Last summer I decided to leave the boat unattended while at anchor for an hour or so with the Generator running while we went to shore to let the dog relieve himself. As we were pulling away from the boat in the skiff my wife asked: Are you going to let the genrun while we go to shore? Sure no big deal, let 'er run and charge up the batteries a bit. After an hour or so we came back to the boat and noticed that there was no wet exhaust! As we climbed aboard we were greeted with the acrid smell of something burning as well as a little smoke. Obviously the generator wasn't running. It had shut down with an overheat condition caused by a seized up*Fresh/Anti freeze*water pump. After the pump seized the engine continued running for a few minutes until it over heated, meanwhile the V-Belt that is powered by the crank pulley continued to run across the frozen up pulley on the pump until it got so hot that it melted the rubber. How close was this to catching on fire, I really don't know. But I assure that it was a close call.* Guess that I'd have to say that leaving the generator running in an unattended vessel is a bad idea.

-- Edited by Rob on Wednesday 9th of February 2011 11:33:41 AM
 
Look up Nova Kool, popular with boaters, truckers and RVers. They are very efficient on AC. I never run it on DC, only on AC through the inverter. I scrapped my Tundra when it went on the fritz and got one three years ago. The key to any fridge or freezer longevity is adequate top and bottom ventilation.
 
Rob

Why did the impeller go out? How long was it in service?*It would have*failed whether you were on the vessel or not.
 
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