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The Emergency Preparedness
Tip o'da Week

More on Homemade Generators (Part 4)

The material presented on this page is intended to start you thinking about what you can do today that might someday save your life. If nothing else, our "Tip o' da Week" might just make your life a bit easier when a disaster strikes. We do not present topics that cost a lot of money (like structure reinforcement.) These are "do it yourself" projects and are relatively inexpensive.


FireBox stove in use with fire powered pan charger - Hatsuden Nabe

Introducing the Hatsuden Nabe

The Fire-Powered USB Thermoelectric Generator and the Firebox Folding Stove

Google
 

Homemade Generators

-- More Tips --


A completed generator

The Tip O'da Week dealing with building a home made generator, can be found at a new location from this link.


And now, we are proud to present the fourth in the multi-part series on emergency generators:

Briggs & Stratton Starter Repair Kit

Some time ago we were contacted by Chris Horsley from "Colleton Tool Company" in Walterboro, South Carolina.

Chris sent us a sample of a starter repair kit for a Briggs and Stratton gas engine.  Chris developed the starter repair tool kit now marketed by Briggs and Stratton, part number 5054, available from any Briggs and Stratton dealer.

Chris noted that many folks in the rescue community carry a similar kit with them to ensure their equipment will be ready when they need it.

"Should a starter pull rope snap during an emergency, having a replacement kit on hand could easily save a life.  When minutes count the ability to repair a generator or jaws of life on the scene is very important.  Not only should one of these kits be available in each emergency response crews tool kits, but each crew member should be trained in replacing starter springs and starter pull courts."

I have not personally priced this kit, but after having replaced a spring in a Briggs and Stratton engine a few weeks ago, I know the tool enclosed in the repair kit is worth more than any reasonable price Briggs and Stratton might charge!  This is a must have item for anyone who really depends on their gas powered generator.

A Note from TheEpicenter.com:

And let me tell you from experience, replacing a spring the old fashioned way is a big pain!  I've done it, and wasted far too much time getting the spring installed and tensioned.

Thanks again to Chris for bringing this great kit to our attention, and the folks from Briggs and Stratton for making it available for "do-it-yourself" types.


A Message From: Don Kulha

Most of us depend on energy, in one form or another in our daily lives and in emergency situations when it's available.  Recent tips on the Epicenter have talked about emergency power generation and conversion (such as DC-to-AC inverters).  Many folks have taken responsibility for their power one step further.  They make all their own power all of the time.  At last estimate over 100,000 homes in the U.S. were independently powered.

Home Power magazine (www.homepower.com) is billed as "The Hands-On Journal of Home-Made Power."   It is about independent power generation with a heavy emphasis on the use of renewable energy and kindness to our environment. Solar, wind, hydro, hydrogen and other energy technologies are discussed as are their practical implementation in real world situations.  The magazine's emphasis is hands-on; their goal is to empower folks to take their energy situation into their own hands, whether they're building a home in Washington or getting their first electric light in the home of a rural Chinese peasant.

Over the past 8 years as the magazine has evolved so has the industry and the body of knowledge in the field.  Energy production and processing is no longer solely the realm of the electronics wiz or hacker.  The components made today are generally reliable, well thought out, efficient and many carry U.L. approval.

A popular feature of the magazine, "System Reviews," looks at working systems, ranging from solar cattle watering systems to full-size homes.  The reviews discuss the component selections, site considerations, cost, implementation and performance of these systems.  System components such as batteries, inverters, solar panels, windplants, and controls are reviewed and compared.  An important consideration in any independent power system is energy conservation, i.e.., using the most efficient equipment and appliances.  Numerous articles have covered topics such as efficient lighting and refrigeration, passive solar and solar thermal energy (such as water heating and solar cooking) and solar water distillation.

Many articles on "home-brewing" have been published covering things like battery chargers, generators, towers for windplants, solar water distillation units and cookers.  For anyone considering independent power generation with the thought of using renewable sources Home Power magazine is an indispensable tool.

--Don Kulha

Home Power Magazine, published bi-monthly, approx. 114 ppg, $22.50/yr in the U.S. @ POB 520, Ashland OR 97520, USA, Subscriptions and Back Issues: 800-707-6585 (Visa/MC), Editorial and Advertising: 916-475-3179, Web site http://www.homepower.com

Don says, "I've been a big fan and booster of Home Power for the last seven years and have produced the CD-ROM "Solar1" which contained much of the text and graphic material from the first 35 issues of the magazine.  I'm producing "Solar2" which will improve on the first CD and should be available in March '97 (hint: hence I'm hardly unbiased.)  Day to day life finds me working as a computer tech, printing T-shirts and on occasion herding satellite parts cross-country.  During the recent flooding on the Russian River here in CA I worked with RACES (ham radio volunteers) and assisted with communications at the Red Cross evacuation center.  My day-to-day transportation includes a solar power system including 5 PV panels, two large deep-cycle batteries and a 1000w sine wave inverter."


Generator Brackets

We've had several visitors send us E-mails asking what our generator bracket costs (the one discussed in the 3rd series).  As we hope you know, the bracket we discussed is available for purchase from TheEpicenter.com, but based on the number of questions about the price, I guess that wasn't clear.

TheEpicenter.com crew has designed a simple way to carry out the bulk of this project!

Universal Alternator mounting bracket

We have designed and manufactured a simple, one piece universal mounting bracket specifically for this task!  This bracket bolts to the motor (using a universal bolt pattern), and allows the alternator to bolt directly to the bracket.  The bracket also has an integral belt adjustment slot which allows the alternator position to be adjusted, which serves to tension the belt.

Stop by the following page to order one!

Power productsPower related products


Emails from Visitors

Below is a collection of E-mail from visitors that many of our viewers might not have seen.  If you have comments, feel free to send an E-mail by clicking on the link.

I just wanted to comment about the Tip Oda week segment.  (The Home-Made generator)

Because of the expense of bringing electric service to my very rural home, my wife and I supplied power to our entire 1300sq ft. house (for 2 years) with a home built generator like the one featured in your Tip Oda Week segment.

We did own 10Kw military surplus generator but quickly discovered that the homemade D.C. generator used far less fuel to do the same job. (the A.C. generator was over-kill).

We converted our house to run entirely on 12v D.C except for the Television which used a 300w inverter. We were able to use all of our conventional light fixtures with 12v bulbs purchased at the auto parts store.

Since we now have electric service at our home, my Home-Built generator has found a new home bolted to the front bumper of my Ford pickup truck ( beside the 8000lb Warn winch) and has a second job running an air compressor.  It gets some strange looks but its well worth it in times of trouble.


From: (outdated e-mail)

O.K. I don't know if this is going to be of much help.  But it  has all ways captured my interest.  A long time ago in Mother Earth  News magazine I seen a article on making a 12 Volt welding  rig using a high output alternator on a car.  It was used to  do light welding in remote places.  I don't even know if this is  possible but if it is, it might make for a interesting article for those of use who want to stay prepared and don't have the  big financial resources to do it all out with name brand items. If its possible I'd like to know what you think of the idea.

P.S. I love your page its been very informative and a big  help in more ways than one. Keep up the good work!


From: (outdated e-mail)

It's sometimes tough to start a generator during a cold  blizzard (never saw a hot one).  I cheat; I run a hose  from a propane torch into the carb of the generator or whatever small engine I'm trying to start.  The propane flow is small but enough to let the engine run at idle and warm up until the carb vaporized the gasoline.  Then just turn  the propane torch off and run the engine normally.

This works because propane vaporizes much easier than gas and has a much broader range of explosive mixture.


From: (outdated e-mail)

Bryan; Just a follow-up on a long-since-past discussion we once had:

To quiet down my Coleman 8hp/4500w generator, I clamped a piece of 3 in.  ID flexible stainless steel hose onto the engine muffler (3 in. OD) and clamped the other end to a generic truck muffler ($16) which also has a 3 in. connection.  I used about 3 ft. of hose in order to provide flexibility (the engine shakes at stop/start and vibrates vigorously during operation).  It's not extremely portable, but it's pretty easy,  there's no significant exhaust back pressure,  and it drops the sound down to the point that I can hear the valves clicking. It's a good solution for someone who plans to use the generator only in his own back yard.  If I need to haul it elsewhere, I always have the option of going "stock" and leaving the big muffler behind.

Regards...


From: (outdated e-mail)

Comments:

For me I consider emergency power a must to survive.  We have a  12.5 kw 120/240 volt, 1 phase, (52 amps at 240v) diesel genset  that is mounted in our motor home.

We can leave or stay, can live in the motor home for extended time.  I am in the emergency generator and controls business ..I am sure you understand my feeling for proper  emergency power source.

If anyone has any questions on emergency power and/or control of same, feel free to ask, I've been in the business over 23 yrs, been to all levels of schooling at Onan, Caterpillar genset and other control schools.


From: (outdated e-mail)

Thanks for a great web page!  I am particularly interested in the muffler arrangement you came up with for your Coleman unit.  I would like to do something similar, but I am concerned about burning a valve or doing some other damage due to an improper configuration.  Do you have any additional tips, plans or insight on this matter?

Thanks...

Guess I don't know as much about it as you do! I never thought about burning a valve by my modification. How does that work?

Excessive resistance to the exhaust gas flow (as MIGHT be created by an improperly sized/installed muffler) may cause  harmful heat buildup around the exhaust valve. MIGHT is the operative word.  Your installation may actually improve the gas flow if the muffler/pipe system resistance is less than the stock unit.  On the other hand.... If you haven't had any problems to date, then it sounds like you're in good shape.

Mark Whaley gave me a good lead on a B&S "Super-Lo-Tone"  (P/N 493963) muffler for $31.45 plus shipping.  I'll pursue that and fall back on the car muffler approach if I strike out.

Thanks for your response.  I really appreciate it.
--Mike


From: (outdated e-mail)

I like your plans and idea about the emergency generator.  I am planning to build one somewhat like the one described here only using a 230 amp Leece Nevelle internally regulated alternator and a little larger motor built on a modified hand cart (dolly).  This will allow me to jump start diesel engines which require a large amount of current and also use a bigger inverter (1000 watt). with the addition of a small aluminum panel I will install a volt and amp meter to monitor the output.  Ok, it is something a bit bigger, but allows me to get a unit running in short order without running a long run of extension cords or taking a generator out to hook up a small battery charger.  I small fog light mounted on a adjustable height rod also allows me to have a work light for working at night.


From: (outdated e-mail)

Good Morning

I am hoping that you may be able to assist me with a query concerning the  use of a standby generator and the problem I am having in getting it to  run my LP Gas combination boiler (furnace).

My reason for contacting you is as a result of a recommendation from a  colleague on a UK conferencing service who suggested I search your web  site for info.

I live in a rural part of England in a modern timber house.  Unusually for  the UK in this area, I did not install a solid fuel fire in the house  when I built as I do not like open chimneys in houses and a good closed  system was going to be pushing my budget a bit too far!  As the area I  live in is prone to power cuts occasionally, I decided that I would put a  changeover switch into the power supply to allow me to run the house on a  Gennie and to also supply power to keep the balanced flue gas boiler  running and so keep hot water and heating going.  The technique works fine  apart from the fact the boilers electronic equipment does not like the  "flavor" of the electricity provided by the gennie.  It has been  suggested that the reason is that the control equipment uses the AC  wave form as part of it's monitoring system. Dunno how though!!  It is not  a problem with a dirty power supply with peaks or surges, as all the  other electronic gear in the house works fine such as PC's and faxes.

Having read your web site with great interest, I wondered if you could  make any suggestion as to a means of resolving this hassle.  At the  moment, I have to rely on small bottled gas butane heaters for heat when  the power goes down which are messy, damp and not particularly convenient.  As you will be aware, when the power goes, it is always in cold, bad  weather and all of a sudden everyone wants bottles which then go into  short supply.  I maintain 2 spares, but heat from my nice, big gas tank in  the garden with hot water appeals far more :-)

I have consulted with generator suppliers locally but they tend to be  baffled!

Regards


From: Carl First
Subject: Home brew generator

1) GM alternators need 12 volts on the field (F) to start producing power  (they do not self excite).  So make sure the battery has a good charge. 2) I think the newer GM alternators with the single belt system rotate the  other way.  The are identified by having the multi V pulley
carl


We also had a question from a visitor that we hope someone out there can answer.  (We were unable to answer it.)

From: (outdated e-mail)
Subject: HTML form submission

Your general comment:

You should mention the use of propane powered generators.  I am currently  on a mission of finding a propane powered generator for use during  snowstorms/ice storms.  I live in a remote area in the Blue Ridge Mountains,  and have a 350 gallon propane tank which fuels my furnaces.  I have heard  that propane generators are available, and it seems that this is much better  than storing gasoline.

...And a great response to the above question:

From: (outdated e-mail)

This is in reference to the request for info about a propane powered    generator.  What I suggest is check with the dealer that sells you your    propane.  They can set you up with an adapter that fits on top of a    standard gas carburetor.  This allows the use of propane as fuel but also    gives you the option to use gasoline if you wish.  I used to sell propane    hookups for irrigation motors and vehicles.  It is advisable to run    gasoline through the carb every once in a while to allow the gasoline    carburetor to remain usable and help in keeping the engine in good shape.     The propane gas tends to dry the system out. Our policy for a vehicle    was after two tanks of propane (300 gallons) we would run half a tank of    gas.  After that we would switch back to propane.  The dealer can help    you set up a generator to run in this manner.  If you have any additional    questions feel free to contact me direct.


From: (outdated e-mail)

Subject: Re: home-made generator cooling

Dear Epicenter Crew,  I've enjoyed reading the information found in your website and have found that your earthquake/storm advice meshes nicely with what we on the coast of the Gulf of Mexico have learned from many,  many hurricane seasons.  Thanks for making such valuable info available.

I have just read of your improvised generator that uses an automotive alternator and a horizontal-shaft Briggs&Stratton type engine.  Your research indicated that if the alternator is required to put out its maximum rated amps (70 or so) it will soon overheat and fail.

That was a comment for David Hooper in Canada. IMHO, this is not a problem  but I haven't tested it under full load. The fan still works when turned in  a reverse mode, but with much lower flow rates. And it pushes air into the  alternator, not pulls it through.

Remember that the temperature in an engine compartment is much higher than  the alternator will ever see running in free air.

My question is: can a fan of the typical household type be used to blow cool  air on the alternator, thus allowing it to run at higher outputs and with less risk of overheating and failure?  It seems to me that the small amount of energy that a fan draws would be greatly offset by the extra cooling that a steady stream of cool air might provide.

Yes, that is an option. Another option is to use some J&B metal weld (metal  epoxy) to attach external heat sinks to the alternator case (if you are  really worried about it.

My reasoning is two fold (please pardon its amateurish nature).  I have in the past been able to use a tiny 2-amp battery charger to recharge a dead car battery.  The output required to do this caused the little charger's thermal protection to quickly trip off.  Then, I aimed a common household fan on the charger and found that it was capable of outputting its maximum (whatever that might be) without tripping its thermal protection circuit. Also, an automotive alternator like the one you're using ordinarily lives at under hood temps of about 200 degrees F. (I'd think) in the summertime, so all you'd have to achieve is a way to keep the alternator from getting over its normal operating temp of about 200 degrees (right?).  It seems like a fan-forced stream of cool air could do it.

Oops, jumped the gun. Yes you are correct.

Besides, this method of fan-forced air cooling worked, after a fashion, on air-cooled VW Beetles for decades.

I'd perform this experiment myself, but I don't have the resources.  You have the resources and the opportunity to design, build, and market a small and inexpensive generator set.  I hope you do.

Thanks again for all the info.

Kerry


From: (outdated e-mail)

Subject: Re: question about PC300 and PC500 inverters I have a question about the PC300 and PC500 inverters you have for sale.  What type AC is the output?  squarewave, modified sinewave, true sinewave? Also, what is the conversion efficiency of each?

Answer: They are both modified Sine wave. 90% efficiency.


From: (outdated e-mail)

I have a question and I hope you can help me.

I need a used Generator to run a modern Machine shop.  The shop has devices that range from 1/2hp to 10hp. Let say the total horse power of the devices is 120hp and the Generator runs for 18 hours at maximum load, six days a week.

What KVA and type of a diesel driven  generator can you recommend to me?  Bye  the way, this is for Nigeria.(Line AC 220V/50HZ).

Thank you.


From: (outdated e-mail)

Dear BJ,

I have to ask about the voltage regulator on your home brew generator.  I understand the importance of built-in regulator on the generator but what prevents the generator from overcharging the battery?


From: (outdated email)

We are interested in building a generator, or purchasing one.  My husband would like any help you have to offer.  He was thinking of used possibly,for the next time a power outage occurs.  Which could be today! Thank you.

And a good one from David Hooper:

.....The best advice I have ever seen is in the series of tips in the Tip o' the Week at the EPICENTER page:

Don't get too large a unit or the gas consumption will leave you "powerless" very soon, but one that is too small is not going to do the job.

Evaluate your absolute needs, not your "I would like to" list.

In the worst case, think of getting TWO.  A larger one for short duration, power-hungry needs, and a small, quiet one for on-going use for the 2 or 3 days (or longer) that it may be needed.  (All of this is on the Epicenter page, so I'm repeating myself here.)

I had built one, because I needed a 12 V source to recharge race-car batteries between rounds of racing, and to recharge batteries on my travel trailer when I am camping away from "all services" campgrounds.  It just happens to be also useful for long-duration use (with an inverter added) for the home. Hence my contribution to the TIPS area on the Epicenter. I also have a 2500 Watt Homelite unit for short-duration, high power consumption needs, but with the 5 HP Briggs & Stratton on it, it is both noisy and hungry.  An even bigger, 4500 Watt unit could power most of a modern house, but you could look at a gallon an hour or worse, so you may have to keep 100 gallons or so around.  (How's your fire insurance?)

Go back to the first TOWs on EPICENTER, plus the fuel storage one I submitted.  There were 2 on "How to choose & Use a Generator, followed by my rebuttal ("a collection of tips...."), and then the fuel storage one.  Then, most recently, the further plans on building one yourself.

If you are creative, you can keep the costs down even more by junkyard scrounging.

If you look at a used one, be sure that BOTH the powerplant section and the engine section are good.  I bought my Homelite used, and then had to rebuild the engine (worn crankshaft).  Total cost came to worse than the price of a brand new one, and I still have a well-worn powerplant section with who knows how much wear & tear on it.  Grrrr!

Anyway, get one big enough for the furnace fan (I sure hope you are NOT running electric heat - You'd need a "humoungous" one to power that set up!) or fan on your wood stove or whatever, and enough for a light or two.  The 'fridge will stay cold, as will the freezer, if you can plug them in for an hour or two a day (and keep the doors shut!).  Alternate running the furnace with the fridge and you never need to have both going at once!  Oversizing beyond that might start to get into the "I wanna" area, not the "I gotta" size.

Good luck!

Good planning is NEVER wasted.  (The best part about NOT planning is that your disaster will come as a complete surprise, without your having to spend a lot of time worrying about it first!)


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