Generator life cycles

Discussion in 'Off Grid Living' started by Harbin, Aug 1, 2013.

  1. Harbin

    Harbin Monkey+

    I've seen some wildly varying numbers here and there, but would like to find info on how long various grades of generator will last (actual usable lifetime). I've heard a generator like Generac, or other store bought "emergency backup" models have roughly a total life of 2000 hrs, including backup models. I called and talked to the manufacture of my 10kw (20kw surge) Porter Cable (Honda 20hp engine) and was told a total life of 1500-2000 hrs, so that was consistent. Anyone know how long a "Prime Power" generator would last? I found a 15kw military (trailered) generator for sale locally for $3K, just trying to get an idea of how long they will go. These generators allow for much more service, so I'm assuming they would last substantially longer. Any ideas on useful life?
  2. DarkLight

    DarkLight Live Long and Prosper - On Hiatus

    @BTPost responding in 3...2...1
    Motomom34 likes this.
  3. ghrit

    ghrit Bad company Administrator Founding Member

    Many generator set manufacturers have different names or variations for their ratings, so it is
    important to know how those ratings compare to the ISO standards. For example, Caterpillar
    defines five basic generator set ratings:
    Emergency Standby Power (ESP),
    Standby (no ISO equivalent),
    Mission Critical Standby (no ISO equivalent),
    Continuous and Prime.

    (Yeah, I know the reference link shows only four. Dunno what to tell you.)

    Cat ® generator set ratings differ in certain respects from those defined by ISO 8528-1, but will always meet the minimum criteria set forth by the standard.

    ISO-852 8 identifies four ratings:

    • Continuous power
    • Prime power
    • Limited running (LTP)
    • Emergency standby power

    Note carefully that different mfrs use different names. You have to relate the names to the standards.

    Attached Files:

    Last edited by a moderator: Jan 30, 2015
  4. Harbin

    Harbin Monkey+

    That white paper from CAT was fantastic, thanks!
  5. BTPost

    BTPost Stumpy Old Fart,Deadman Walking, Snow Monkey Moderator

    Harbin.... as I Generate ALL my own Power, with Diesel Gensets, and have for over 2 decades, and have been Asst. Chief Moderator, over on (A Genset and Old Machinery Site) for 15 years, I have a deep Knowledge Base on your question.

    Most of the Gensets in the Power Range (3 - 20Kw) one would look for, to power a Single Family outfit, will be under 20Kw. These units come in various sizes and Rpm Configurations, but rarely do they conform to the Ratings of the BIG OEM UNITS, (100 Kw and Up) like those from CAT, Cummins, Detroit, John Deere, or others. The criteria you really need to look at for longevity of Operation, is Operational RPM of the unit. There are usually four Categories, here.

    1. 3600 Rpm (Screamers) These are Two Pole AC Gensets. typically you find them in BigBox Stores, and in Chinese KnockOffs of the Honda, Gensets and Engines. They are the 200) Total Operational Hour Units. (You are VERY Lucky to get 2000 Hours out of ANY of them) They have NO Oil Filter, and are Splashed Lubed. Many have Plastic Parts in the Drive Train. These are "Total CRAP" in the Generator World. No smart Individual would buy one, if their LIFE was to depend on it functioning, in a Power Outage.

    2. 1800 Rpm .... These come in a few different varieties.

    a. The Consumer Class Generators. These are one SMALL Cut, above the Screamers. They have REAL Honda Engines, or the corresponding version from Briggs & Stratton, Tecumpsa, Etc. They may be Splash Lubed or have a real Pressure LubeOil Pump. These will have a 5000 Operational Hour Life, if you take Excellent CARE, and do the Required Maintenance. There are a few 3600 Rpm Units that fit into this class.... They usually are NOT worth reBuilding, at "End of Life".

    b. The Contractor Grade Generators. These are the ones you see out on the Job Sites. They Run ALL Day Long, powering Skill-saws, NailGun Compressors, and the like. They have Oil Filters, on Pressure LubeOil Systems. They have an Operational Life in the 5 - 10K Hour Range, If and ONLY IF, the Periodic Maintenance is strictly paid attention to. The are fair Gensets, for Backup Home Power. There are a very few of these in the 3600 Rpm Class.

    c. The RV Grade Generators. These are the Old Onan, and Kohler, type units that have been around for ever. These are ALL 1800 Rpm Only Units. You can find these around in RV Junkyards for Cheap, or on eBay, and CraigsList. Used ones with very few hours, are readily available, for less that $1KUS, depending On Size. (Kw Rating) They are ALL Pressure LubeOil designs, with Filtering. they can be converted to Propane or NG Gaseous Fueled, with Aftermarket Kits. They will have Operational Hour Lifetimes in the 10-20K Range, and can be rebuilt, easily if you can find the Parts. ( Onan was bought out by Cummins a while back, and they have trashed the Parts & Service for the Onan Line, but there are still Parts available for the Common Onan Engines)

    d. The Heavy Duty Small Backup Gensets. These are the Onan J Series, Kohler Commercial Series, and Generac Commercial, Generator. This are the Top of the Line from these OEMs. The Onan J Series was build in both Air, and Liquid Cooled, Versions. They also came in Spark, and Diesel Versions. They came in Single, (3Kw) Twin, 6-7.5 Kw) and 4 Cyl.(12-17.5 Kw) versions, all designed around the basic J Series Parts, that were interchangeable thru the Series. These are the BIG Daddies of the small Genset World. They are rebuildable. they have operational Lifetimes clear out to 20K Operational Hours. These are the units that you find in Grocery Stores, Fire Houses, Small Businesses, that require Emergency Power. These are what you find at Remote Microwave Sites and Cellular Sites. These units will run 24/7/365, as long as you change the LubeOil, LubeOil Filters, and Fuel Filters, every 200 Hours of Operation, and keep the Fuel Tanks full. These can be found for less than $2kUS on eBay and CraigsList, if you look around, and sometimes you can find a real deal, on one for less than $500US, with less than 2000 Total Operational Hours on them. These will run for 10K Operational Hours, before a Head Job, and easily 20K Operational Hours before an InFrame. These are QUALIT Units.

    3. 1200 Rpm.... These are the Long Run Generators. These are the Lister Diesel, and Detroit Jimmy Diesel Gensets. The smallest Jimmies are around 20Kw, and they suck lots of Fuel, but they are totally rebuildable, and have 10K Operational Hour between major rebuilds, which are cheap due to the number of them around. The Lister Diesel Gensets come in both Air and Liquid Cooled versions, and Single, Twin, Three, and 4 Cyl Versions. They are good on Fuel Consumption. They are very rebuildable, HOWEVER, they are British, and Parts are a bit more expensive. I sold a 4 cyl Liquid Cooled 12Kw Lister Genset, that had an Extended Run LubeOil Tank, that held 60 USG of LubeOil. This Genset came out of an Remote Alascom Microwave Radio Site, on top of a Mountain. It had 120K Operational Hours on it, recorded in the Maintenance Log, and was InFramed every 40K Operational Hours, whether it needed it or not. The Extended LubeOil Tank allow it to run24/7/365, continuous, for 6 Months at a time, with LubeOil and filter changes every 6 Months. When I bought it, they had pulled it out because the Load at the site had been up'ed to 17Kw, and it was just to small. It had just been InFramed 6 Months before. The Lodge I sold it to, is still running it 5 years later, with just Periodic Maintenance, and very happy with their $3KUS Purchase. If you can find one of these reasonable, then buy it....

    4. 1200 or Less Rpm..... These are Specialty Engines, that are from a By-Gone ERA.... These are the Lister, FairBanks/Morse, Witte, Altlas, and the like. They are Massive in Weight, for their Power Capability, but once rebuilt will last dang near forever. My FM 45B Diesel 2.5Kw was rebuilt 10 years ago by a friend, and will still be plugging along, when my Grandchildren are Dead and buried. these can be Air or Liquid Cooled, and many just used a Barrel of Water, as a Radiator, that you just topped off every morning. These are the Slow Turners, and that is what allows them to LAST FOREVER. Parts are rare, but they can be found, OR made, if required. There is NOTHING Like them being built these days. but they are a Treasure, if you can find one. They come in all Sizes from 2 - 50 Kw, and weigh anywhere from 500 to 20K Pounds, or MORE.

    Well that is the state of Small Electrical Gensets in Todays World.......
    end of Lecture "Small Electrical Gensets 101"
    Last edited by a moderator: Jan 30, 2015
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  6. DarkLight

    DarkLight Live Long and Prosper - On Hiatus

    ^^^ This is why you want BT to comment on the generator stuff!
    Alf60, VisuTrac and kellory like this.
  7. franks71vw

    franks71vw Monkey+++

    Great words BT....I have a rebuilt 671 jimmy with new back end i am wanting to trade out for a 1200rpm 4 stroker. Although they scream a lot and mark there spots... these engine just run and run and can idle on 5 psi of oil. Everything is rebuildable on them including the fuel pumps and injectors. but 100kw is way to much for my needs.
  8. Airtime

    Airtime Monkey+++

    In recent years there has been a migration towards 1800 rpm for the big boy gensets. This eliminates the need for a big a$$ gear box to up the shaft speed to 1800 for the generators. Cummins even announced about a year and a half ago a 4000 hp diesel with the rated power at 1800 rpm which accommodates direct drive gensets. I've seen the thing and it is huge, 8 feet high and 14 feet long, 95 liters and 16 cylinders. Arrrr.... Arrrr.... Arrrr....

  9. Harbin

    Harbin Monkey+

    BT- you sir, are a wealth of information. Holy crap. I actually had to read through that a few times. If that was all off the top of you head, that's amazing. I've been keeping an eye out for an RV generator, but having read your post I'm going to broaden my search quite a bit. I found 2- 5kw used units at a yard sale that wouldn't run, took them home and after a little TLC got them humming along and sold them for a profit- hoping to put that and the sale of my 10kw towards something better. Thanks again!
  10. BTPost

    BTPost Stumpy Old Fart,Deadman Walking, Snow Monkey Moderator

    Been doing that stuff doe at least three decades.... Look around for an Onan J Series Diesel... 2 Cyl (6-7.5 Kw) or 4 Cyl (12-17.5 Kw) these are the same type engines that are on the .MIL MEP-002a, and MEP-003a Gensets... Different GenEnds, and they are 24Vdc, but the engines are Onan Proud....
  11. fmhuff

    fmhuff Monkey+++

    BT, I've seen the old Listers running at speed (hundreds of RPM's not thousands) and like many things old was almost musical in nature. So what does one of these beast use fuel wise per KW? Minimum and maximum would be good to know as well. I'm thinking about 5 KW would be adequate. I read somewhere the average American home uses less than 10 KW peak?
  12. BTPost

    BTPost Stumpy Old Fart,Deadman Walking, Snow Monkey Moderator

    I have never operated a Lister diesel Genset so I do not know the answer to that question. However, if you really want to know, there is a fellow named Roland Hayes, over on who is a reTIRED Design Engineer from Lister/Petter, and will be more than happy to give you exact details on any specific Lister or Petter Engine....

    Many small Outfits here in Alaska get along with just 3Kw. A few of the bigger Outfits, use 5-6Kw, and most of the Commercial Bush Places run 20Kw Gensets.... I suspect that a Single Family Residence could get along with 6Kw, if they just watched the Loading, on it and planned their daily Load Management, properly. That is the critical Part of the equation, Load Management.

    If you only run one BIG Load at a time, (Washer, Dryer, Stove, Hot Water Heater, Furnace, Etc) then 3 Kw will usually be enough for a SFR. (Single Family Residence) If you want to run two BIG Loads at a time, then you need 6Kw, and three Big Loads, adds up to 10Kw.... If you want to run your BIG Loads like you were on the Grid, then 20Kw is what you need.... Think Green Acres, with the guy up on the Pole only plugging in what he actually needed to be running....
  13. ghrit

    ghrit Bad company Administrator Founding Member

    I can say that as a small user, I get by rather nicely on my 5500W machine; it is bigger than I need. The monthly average for me is right around 400KWH with freezer, well pump, and no A/C. (Propane water heater helps a lot with the low consumption.) I can also say that the base 500KWH per month used almost universally for base pricing is WAY low, most homes will run quite a bit more than that. Before you lock in a buy, check your electric bills for your usage, and start thinking about how and when the bigger loads are spread out over a day.
    kellory and BTPost like this.
  14. fmhuff

    fmhuff Monkey+++

    BT thanks, I didn't want the Lister spec per se but wanted to know about what the fuel consumption would typically be for a typical house. I now live in Flathead county Montana. Gets fairly cold in the winter and warm in the summer. Too many clouds in winter to take much advantage of solar.

    We want to build our home mostly off grid for independence reasons which is why I'm researching the possibilities. I've read your Bio and you probably know just about everything I'm interested in house wise. Thanks.
  15. BTPost

    BTPost Stumpy Old Fart,Deadman Walking, Snow Monkey Moderator

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  16. BTPost

    BTPost Stumpy Old Fart,Deadman Walking, Snow Monkey Moderator

    DarkLight and Icefoot like this.
  17. toydoc

    toydoc Monkey+++

    What options for just replacing the engines with a better i.e. slower RPM engine?
  18. BTPost

    BTPost Stumpy Old Fart,Deadman Walking, Snow Monkey Moderator

    Likely the Load just grew bigger than these Gensets can provide... So they are reTIRing the Gensets for the next bigger size. That is waht usually happens when this kind of thing comes up.... If you guys could get the whole deal for less than $1.5KUS it would be a STEAL..... These easily go for more than a Grand, each, on the used market.... ......

    @DarkLight, @Icefoot, @-06, @tulinar, @STANGF150 Just a Note: 1 Day left on this auction and the Price is only $440.00US.... someone is going to STEAL these two Gensets, VERY CHEAP......
  19. kellory

    kellory An unemployed Jester, is nobody's fool. Banned

    If i lived closer, I'd split the cost at that price, with someone. i paid more than that for my 4400wt RV portable. If they work, diesel, and a trailer mount? what's not to like?
  20. Cruisin Sloth

    Cruisin Sloth Special & Slow

    Trailer and Generator , Onan 7.5 RV GenSet -

    Closing right now 7for the longest,,then bids to over 25 in minutes of 20 .
    1510.00 won 2 sets & a trailer.
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