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Old 10-10-2014, 16:58   #1
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How Do You Use Your Generator?

My present boat (just started my sixth year of ownership of her) is the first boat I ever had with a diesel generator.

When I first starting using her, I used the generator extremely sparingly -- I almost counted the minutes when it was running, and tried to figure out the optimum most efficient charging regime, and spent some time thinking about timing of generator runs, etc., etc., etc.

Now I have gradually drifted into not bothering. Is the system voltage sagging a little? Crank it up. Need some hot water? Crank it up, and put an electric heater on in the heads so the shower experience is gorgeous. A lot of work in the galley? Ditto. So I find myself running the genset a significant percentage of the day when I'm on the hook (or on my shore power-less mooring), maybe 4 hours a day in total when I'm on board and without shore power.

I've started to rationalize this with the thought that this is a heavy duty, continuous-duty rated generator, 1500 RPM, which should be good for 10,000 hours, and I've only just cracked 1,000 hours after 13 years. At this rate, the boat will be 130 years old before the genset is ready for an overhaul . Of course, I'm burning a little more diesel fuel than I would be if I were managing the generator runs a little more closely, but it seems to me that this might actually be worth it, in order to never worry about power.

The change in mentality is regarding the running generator as a normal state, not something you do exceptionally only after you start to suffer for lack of power. I fear that I've slipped into a kind of mobo mentality, but it sure feels good!
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Old 10-10-2014, 17:06   #2
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Re: How Do You Use Your Generator?

Just run it when you want - that is the entire purpose of a generator.

The only thing I would consider is the load - try to keep it at least 50% loaded, even if that means turning on the AC in the winter while your water heater is going…

Mark

Edit: I assume you are being a good neighbor...
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Old 10-10-2014, 17:49   #3
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Re: How Do You Use Your Generator?

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Originally Posted by colemj View Post
Just run it when you want - that is the entire purpose of a generator.

The only thing I would consider is the load - try to keep it at least 50% loaded, even if that means turning on the AC in the winter while your water heater is going…

Mark

Edit: I assume you are being a good neighbor...
Being a good neighbor doesn't figure into the equation -- because my generator, a three-cylinder 1500 RPM unit, inside a sound enclosure, which is in turn inside a lead-foil lined sound-proof engine room, is completely inaudible from other boats. There isn't even the sound of splashing water because the genset has a water lift muffler.

Yes, I take care to keep a load on. I don't think 50% is really necessary, but below 25% (so 1.6kW) I would have concerns.

But this isn't really about all that -- I'm interested to know how people use their gensets and whether anyone has gone through a similar evolution.
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Old 10-10-2014, 18:01   #4
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Re: How Do You Use Your Generator?

We have to use our diesel generator to run the washer/dryer away from shore power (and if you have shore power, you probably have a laundromat close by). The gen enables appliances for either need or convenience without worrying about running down the house bank. For example, on the hook, the gen enables air conditioning. As you point out, if you take good care of it, it will last a very long time.
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Old 10-10-2014, 19:14   #5
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Re: How Do You Use Your Generator?

We run ours guilt free for an average of two hours per day, usually during the cooking hours. First thing in the morning and a hour or two before dinner. All cooking is via electric induction stoves or infrared oven, plus our water maker is turned on, fuel polisher, hot water heater in order to increase the load.
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Old 10-10-2014, 20:22   #6
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Re: How Do You Use Your Generator?

I too started using the genny sparingly - but 'evolved' to 4 hours a day while on the hook: 2 hours in the morning and 2 hours in the evening. After 6 years of ownership, my genny hours are almost caught up to the main engines. I always keep the genny under load. Given the cost of fuel (relatively low), and additional maintenance required (oil change would happen at least once per year even without use) I'm over the sparing use approach.
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Old 10-10-2014, 20:53   #7
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Re: How Do You Use Your Generator?

I have a Northern Lights 5kw. The first year I didn't use it continuously. After that, and we just completed our twelfth season, we start the generator, switch over the AC panel, then unplug the shore power before leaving the dock. It goes off when we return and have the shore power plugged back in. We run our HVAC full time so we always have conditioned air down below. It is in a lazzarette, then in a custom sound enclosure, and has a water lift muffler. You can't hear it 20 feet from the boat, and in the cockpit just above the lazarette it is 65 decibels. I have just under 3,000 hours on it and it runs flawlessly. I had a valve readjustment and new injectors this spring, service oil, impellers and belts and that is it. I burn between .25 and .3 gallons per hour, between 6 and 8 gallons in 24 hours. We ran it continuously while crossing the gulf twice last fall and this spring. Our longest continuous operation between shore power was 99 hours while traveling from Mobile to Demopolis against heavy current this past spring.

It should go 10,000 hours, so it should be good for another 24 years. It ought to outlive me. We use our boat like a condo and in 2003 when we commissioned it with satellite tv, microwave, full electronics and computers, we took some heat from the purists that think sailing should be like camping out. Now a lot of boats are equipped like ours. We spend an average of 75 days a year on it and that's because my wife is comfortable as am I. If you have one, use it.


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Old 11-10-2014, 10:11   #8
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Re: How Do You Use Your Generator?

You have the right idea. The only down side is not being able to monitor main diesel usage unless you have a day tank. Or are able to stick a stick in your tank marked in gallons/ liters.

Enjoy yourself don't sweat the small stuff. If it needs overhaul it only makes the hole in the water a little deeper.
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Old 11-10-2014, 13:09   #9
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Re: How Do You Use Your Generator?

Monitoring the fuel usage would be nice. There are a couple of ways to do it, but I just keep track of my hours and multiply by .3 for the generator and a factor for cruising on my Yanmar 3GM30F. I am always pretty close, but really would like fuel totalizers that were accurate. For a diesel, you have to monitor fuel in and then subtract what is returned by engine.


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Old 11-10-2014, 13:30   #10
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Re: How Do You Use Your Generator?

Quote:
Originally Posted by J Clark H356 View Post
Monitoring the fuel usage would be nice. There are a couple of ways to do it, but I just keep track of my hours and multiply by .3 for the generator and a factor for cruising on my Yanmar 3GM30F. I am always pretty close, but really would like fuel totalizers that were accurate. For a diesel, you have to monitor fuel in and then subtract what is returned by engine.
Nothing simpler -- Maretron | FFM100

Not very cheap, but very, very useful for the main engine so you can understand fuel burn versus speed in various conditions and keep up with how much you're using. Puts the data on your N2K network and allows you to read l/h, or l/mile from any display on your network.

I have this on main engine but not on my genset, but there's no reason why you couldn't do both.
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Old 11-10-2014, 13:37   #11
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Re: How Do You Use Your Generator?

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Originally Posted by Dockhead View Post
Being a good neighbor doesn't figure into the equation -- because my generator, a three-cylinder 1500 RPM unit, inside a sound enclosure, which is in turn inside a lead-foil lined sound-proof engine room, is completely inaudible from other boats. There isn't even the sound of splashing water because the genset has a water lift muffler.

Yes, I take care to keep a load on. I don't think 50% is really necessary, but below 25% (so 1.6kW) I would have concerns.

But this isn't really about all that -- I'm interested to know how people use their gensets and whether anyone has gone through a similar evolution.
Though your generator may be silent, it still emits diesel fumes. Thinking of the boat anchored downwind from you is the neighborly thing to do.
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Old 11-10-2014, 13:37   #12
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How Do You Use Your Generator?

Dock head: is the Maretron system both supply and return meters for $395 or is that for each meter? Also, how do you display your useage on your network? Can you buy a display to go with it?


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Old 11-10-2014, 13:49   #13
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Re: How Do You Use Your Generator?

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Originally Posted by J Clark H356 View Post
Dock head: is the Maretron system both supply and return meters for $395 or is that for each meter? Also, how do you display your useage on your network? Can you buy a display to go with it?
You need two flow meters and the one network device I linked to. From memory I paid about $1000 for all of it.

If you have an NMEA2000 network you don't need anything else, probably -- various displays you have will display the fuel rate, miles per liter, etc.

If you don't have an NMEA2000 network you can just choose one of various displays which are capable of displaying fuel data (e.g. Maretron DSM150, but probably the Garmin, Raymarine, and Simrad ones will be better), buy an N2K "starter kit" (which is a bit of backbone, terminators, and power supply -- rather inexpensive) and wire it up as a freestanding display.

While you're at it, if you have a Yanmar engine, you can buy a Maretron harness that will put all your engine data onto the same display, so you could have, for example, RPM, temp, oil pressure, and fuel flow on one screen -- very handy (and that's what I have). You will like it so much that you will find yourself changing all your instruments over to N2K -- assuming you don't already have it.

If you go here: http://www.maretron.com/products/dsm250.php
and click on the "Screenshots" tab, you'll see what data can be displayed on this.
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Old 11-10-2014, 13:55   #14
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Re: How Do You Use Your Generator?

Thanks. I have an old 2003 Raymarine HS2B and The old NEMA 0183. When I upgrade, I think I'll get this system and put it on both my Yanmar and Northern Lights. It looks extremely helpful when cruising.


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Old 11-10-2014, 14:07   #15
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Re: How Do You Use Your Generator?

JC.
Just to clarify were you referring to having a wife or the generator?
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