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Old 15-03-2005, 17:11   #1
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Question What about those Whispergens ??

Does anyone know anything about the Whispergen?

I am going to neeed electricity and heat, so I was looking at this system for both.

www.whispergen.com

I wrote to the company to ask for some information (asking if they could prove the cost model vs. standard genset) and never got a reply.

The science behind them makes a lot of sense to me, but the fact that it's so new, and that the company never responded to a SALES inquiry makes me a little nervous.

Any thoughts?
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Old 16-03-2005, 01:49   #2
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From what I know, they are very well made. I was nearly on the test team for these things when first developed here in NZ a few years back. It was voluntary and I just didn't have the time. But I was very interested in the idea and did abit of my own research into the thing. Back then, there was only the AC model. First time I have seen the DC unit. But the AC model disappointed me as a power generation unit. It produces an enormouse amount of heat, so the issue of heating is not a problem, but the AC output was way too low for me to consider this a generator at the time. But the DC unit maybe worth a look. I see it is 800W, and this would cope with Battery charging with ease. The only problem would be what do you do with all that heat.
Let me know if you don't get a reply in the next day. I can phone them from here and tell them to check there Emails. Very unusual as Kiwi's are pretty good at the internet stuff. And most uncool to think a Kiwi is letting the side down.
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Old 17-03-2005, 13:41   #3
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Wow!

Hi Alan,

Thank you for the input on the Whispergen. Based on its technology, it seems to be the ideal unit for power production - DC, no maintenance (almost), very clean buring, and most of all... SILENT!

I was curious about the heat production as well. For instance, we are now looking at buying our cruising boat and will likely spend a lot of time from close to Canada, all the way down to the Venezuela. Those are two very distinct climates. I would like to run this single unit in both climates, using the heat as primary heating when in colder climates, and producing no cabin heat at all in warmer climates.

I am really just looking for any cost comparison data they have on buying a Whispergen vs. a standard diesel genset. (ie: fuel consumption, power output, maintenance, initial purchase price, heat, etc.. etc... for a marine application)

I had emailed them about 4-6 months ago, so they probably won't find my request now. If you know anyone there I could get in touch with, it would be very helpful.

Thank you,

Sean
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Old 17-03-2005, 21:57   #4
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Would you like me to get THEM to Email YOU??? If so, PM me your Email address and I will call them. I don't know anyone personally there, but it is not too hard for me to give them a buzz.

You worded what I had as a thought. How economical is it as just a DC generator. 800W is not a lot when compared to a Genset and my thoughts were, if you didn't want the heat, then you are exhausting a lot of energy to waste.
Full tilt, the DC unit uses 0.75l/hr of fuel. I would say that is about the same as most deisel gensets of much larger output.
Plus I am not sure if flatout is a continuouse rating or not.
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Old 20-03-2005, 01:38   #5
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Is the concept valid, and is the product necessary?

Hi, Sean:

I think there's a substantial amount of discussion about the Stirling Cycle on the Web but I've yet to see knowledgeable independent reviews which think it's time has come. One reason is that, along with a lack of track record, there's little supporting infrastructure - e.g. you may not have heard back from the NZ outfit simply because it's a small biz and they are juggling lots of balls right now. When you reflect on the fact a liveaboad cruising boat needs bulletproof systems, new technology promoted by limited resources and without a long track record just doesn't seem to conceptually fit. This doesn't mean it won't...eventually...but then again, maybe it's like other novel, innovative ideas that just can't migrate to mature systems of practical value. The question is whether that's a gamble you want to take...

I'm also wondering about the nitty-gritty of the ratonale, at least insofar as the marketing poop offers it up:

1. Heating: current diesel-fired heating systems come in two versions - water heating and air heating. The view of water heating is that it's great as a long-term (e.g. liveaboard) application as the piping is typically run around the boat beneath the cabin sole or nearly so, and so you get not just warm air via the heating registers but a warm thermal mass. However, the downsides are that it generates huge amounts of condensation beneath the cabin sole, takes quite a while to build up the thermal mass, the unit runs for longer periods of time (which requires such a system to offer this longevity) and of course fuel burn consequently goes up. So far, water-heating models, deployed in about 50% of the boats here in N Europe, fail much more often than the air-heating systems, principally because the water heating methods were originally built to heat up commercial truck engines before they were started, and so weren't intended for this kind of long-term use. These issues aside, it leaves me wondering if you'd want to live with a heat-producing system that's burning most of a gallon of fuel each hour, or even a minority of a gallon. E.g. I compare this with a bulkhead-mounted diesel/kero heater we use on WHOOSH which runs for perhaps 10 hours on approx. .75 gals of kerosene. It doesn't do the same wide-spread, even heating of a distributed system, but we use a small fan to push the warm air around the main cabin and in 45+F temps, it makes things very pleasant after perhaps 20 mins of heating-up time. The whole Canadian system (from Force 10) costs perhaps $500 and is simple to maintain. For sustained use in lower temps (e.g. living aboard in Vancouver marina), this wouldn't be adequate but you then have other simple/inexpensive options like multiple kinds of electric heat. If you hope to be independent of shorepower AND live in sustained, near-freezing temps, your heat source has to be absolutely beyond question...and a new technology from a new company of limited resources doesn't conceptually fit, as discussed above. (As e.g. when compared with a DC-powered diesel-fired heating system that's been around for decades). So the rationale escapes me when I dig into the detail...

2. DC power generation: They pitch this product as making AC power available for AC appliances via an inverter but on a more efficient and presumably more cost effective basis than an AC generator. My question is: How did we get to needing the AC appliances in the first place? There are a lot of cruising boats with AC power generation onboard, so I realize my perspective varies from the approach of some cruising folks...but I think it's fair to ask to what extent you want to set yourself up for dependence on AC appliances. And to that extent, is an AC power generation source your best answer? You will notice that on cruising boats with big systems (e.g. a beefy reefer compressor), they will sometimes opt for a mixed 24V and 12V DC system, which allows them to power big motors more efficiently using DC and/or they find other ways to meet their needs (e.g. heating water in some non-AC dependent fashion). It would seem that the more one can meet his/her needs via DC equipment, then the more that solar & wind DC sources can be relied on, at less cost and with less fuel dependence, with less complexity of systems, and without the inevitable efficiency losses one faces when moving between DC and AC or vice versa. And above the trees and to consider the forest for just a moment, doesn't a long-term cruising goal suggest that the simplier the systems, the more redundant they are, and the more easily systems can be fixed or replaced, then the happier one would be? As a reverse illustration, there is an older Amel across from us right now that uses 5 DC motors in normal operation (3 furling motors, windlass, thruster), has a big AC fridge, and is dependent exclusively on an autopilot for self-steering (a critical system since it's a husband/wife crew). All of this boils down to total dependence when offshore on their generator, something they appear to be content with...but of course the question is whether this makes sense for the next person.

It would be great if this system we're discussing were taken aboard a cruising boat and then the boat sailed perhaps several years and many thousands of miles. The feedback would be invaluable, and yet it would be just one data point and we'd wish for a hundred more. This is a good example of why technology is slow to enter the cruising boat marketplace. It isn't just that we're stuffy traditionalists; there's a lot to consider between the promise of the core technology and what it's like to live with these things and, at times, critically need to rely on them.

Jack
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Old 21-03-2005, 00:22   #6
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Hi Jack, now firstly, I am a little in the grey area here with memory. But I don't think this is a small company making these things. The original design was for the UK market. The concept was firstlym as a central heating system. But with the concept of the stirling engine, it was taking some of that heat and making it turn something mechanicaly at the same tiome, that they thought why not generate electricity. So the Original concept was to have one in every house, all hooked up to the national grid and supplying electricity back to the grid. But the electricity was not a lot and certainly not capable of running an appliance. But thousand of these could help with reducing load on the grid whilst at the same time providing heat in the homes.
The DC version appears to be something newer and a higher output.
I suppose I should visit the sight and read up and catch up to where they are at.
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Old 21-03-2005, 01:49   #7
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Alan, your comments are a lot about the concept. I too value the notion. It's the suitability for a real cruising boat, when track record, logistics, reliability and support are all considered, that I'm raising.

Also - and my apologies to anyone whom I offend by saying this - after living much of the last two years in Britain, I find it a real stretch to imagine anything mechanical or electrical can be invented and built here that, long term, will provide simplicity & reliabilty.

Jack
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Old 21-03-2005, 12:52   #8
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No sorry, I wasn't clear. They are made here in Christchurch NZ. Whispergen is a sub company of two of the biggest Energy suppliers in NZ, so thye have big financial backing. 400 Whispergens were placed into the UK a few years back, for evaluation. They were so succesful, that they now have an order for 80,000 of the things.
You can be sure that if they are NZ design and manufactured for an overseas market, they will be well made, reliable and add upto what ever specifications are printed about them.
I am going to try and contact the company today and see if I can't get someone to comment on here about there product and answer the general question imposed here. It is unfair for me knowing very little about them to speculate on their behalf.
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Old 22-03-2005, 00:41   #9
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Alan, that would be a good idea...and perhaps get us closer to Sean's original post, too.

Jack
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Old 22-03-2005, 01:15   #10
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I contacted them this morning. The lady I talked to was very pleasant and extremely helpful. She also handles the DC version of the units. I lead her to the site via the phone and she found the threads. So I was expecting a reply when I got home tonight. But obviuosly nothing so far. I did think during the day, that she won't be able to reply unless she becomes a member. I hope that doesn't stop her.
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Old 22-03-2005, 18:27   #11
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Guess she's not in sales/marketing... :)

It will be interesting to see when or if the woman from Whispergen makes her presence known on this site. It's a rather large opportunity for them to get in front of several hundred prospects. It's also a great test of their commitment. It will be interesting to see what happens.

Euro Cruiser... you really did wordsmith a lot of my fears about the units. It's the track record that gets me most. I probably should have explained that I didn't buy their AC/inverter theory. I am 100% sold on DC as a main power source aboard boats, mainly for the fact that I can suppliment power generation with solar, wind, etc... without any substantial losses in energy capture and use. I would have used the Whispergen as a DC generation source only... no inverters if possible... maybe an inverter for the odd AC appliance you want to run. Definitely not to rely on.

Before I go on... I'd like to see what the woman from Whispergen comes up with regarding their value proposition (yeah... I'm still DEEP in corporate life...ha ha ha) It really is important though... to see how this unit will save $ over the long run.
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Old 22-03-2005, 23:58   #12
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Alan & Sean:

Thanks for following up for all of us, Alan. I'm unplugging the broadband modem we borrowed and so will be absent for a while. Hopefully, I'll find some useful info when I return. The best single source of info IMO, BTW, would be referrals to folks using this on 'real' cruising boats who've been away from marinas. Not that it's the only source to hear from...but that's from where the dirty little secrets will emerge.

Jack
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Old 25-03-2005, 21:47   #13
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Great to see so much interest in our product, the WhisperGen, and I'm sorry for any lack of response to past enquiries. I'm not sure how that has happened as we have a person virtually full time monitoring enquiries received via our website, logging those enquiries and making sure that every one of them gets responded to. Needless to say we'll be reviewing our processes now to find where the gaps are.

Having just had this site brought to our attention a few days ago (thanks Alan), we will certainly be responding to issues raised here. Most of our team have taken the opportunity for extended breaks over Eastern but our product support team will be back on deck early next week.

Rest assured that, while we may be a small company by international standards (120 staff, mostly in Christchurch), we are committed to our markets and looking forward to expanding them. The WhisperGen has been commercially available in Europe for over 6 years and we have many happy customers.

Bill Highet
COO, Whisper Tech
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Old 28-03-2005, 09:18   #14
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Bill & Crew:

Thanks for personally responding, and for the promise to share more info once everyone is reassembled.

In the course of sharing your comments, I'm wondering if you can offer a specific referral for me. We have been wintering in London, will be heading back down the South Coast via Southampton area, and then across Biscay to visit Spain & Portugal this season. We'll be in a number of yachting areas and, since you mentioned Whispergen had been intro'd over here in Europe for 6 years, I'm hoping you might be able to refer me to a real 'live' customer who can talk about its use in the real world of boating. This may of course not be possible; not all customers sign up to be voluntary salesmen, too. But it's a thought and I'd welcome any referrals you think you help me eliminate my skepticism regarding the long-term viability of these systems on yachts that bash their way into the hinterlands and return, where reliability is everything. No one will know the answers like someone who's using their Whispergen in that fashion, I suspect...

Many thanks for joining us on the Board!

Jack Tyler
WHOOSH, lying St. Katharine's Haven, London
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Old 28-03-2005, 15:34   #15
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Thanks Jack - we're happy to provide such information but we are not supposed to be promoting our product via this website. I didn't see my earlier note as 'promotion' as I was responding to an enquiry, but as we are now starting to talk specifics, we should take that discussion 'of-line'.

My e-mail address is bill.highet@whispertech.co.nz - if you provide me with a phone number or e-mail address to that address then I will make sure you are contacted directly and given the information you have requested.

Regards

Bill
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