So I'm considering purchasing a genset to run on SVO to serve as an primary power generator out on my rural property (not my primary residence) and I'm wondering what the best option is. I'll be powering a 1/2HP submersible pump and a small popup camper that will be running a small air conditioner for half the year (Im in Texas). Itd be nice to have a genset big enough to run most if not all of a 2000 square ft house as an emergency/backup when I eventually build out there as well.
I've compiled a short list of what Ive discovered so far as my primary options:
-Lister/oid engine genset(such as those sold by http://www.generatorsales.com ). These have the distinct advantage of being low RPM with very basic mechanical injection and even manual crank start, so they have a high MTBF. Many people have reliably run these on SVO and they seem particularly suited to SVO fuel due to their simple and rugged design. However, their slow 650 or 1000 rpm speed is also their downfall when it comes to their suitability to run a generator since a fairly large 12HP 650rpm one will only get you about 6.5KW out of the generator. Thats a $4k genset that gets the same amount of power as a $700 gas generator at 1/4 of the weight. These listeroids are also made in India or China, are difficult to obtain and perhaps get parts for, and are expensive to ship.
-Dedicated modern industrial diesel genset (such as those sold by http://www.imperialdiesel.com/ ). This is a modern diesel engine mostly made in America with mechanical injection that operates at 1800rpm. Slower than an automotive diesel but still faster than a lister engine and thus somewhat lower MTBF than the lister. The 10KW gensets can be had for about $4k street price. They are also quite huge, around 1000 lbs. I dont know a lot of anecdotal evidence about converting these to run ON SVO but given that they are fairly uncomplicated engines without electronic injection or the like, they should be easy to setup with a two-tank system or perhaps even a single tank using direct electric resistance heating of the engine block, injectors and injector lines (ala fattywagon) as well as coolant heating of the fuel filter and fuel lines via FPHE. The downside of a dedicated genset like this, as well as the lister, is that it would not be running constantly (2-3 weekends out of the month and the odd whole week during the year, unless there is a genuine SHTF scenario) and thus it might develop corrosion by sitting idle for so long.
-PTO driven generator on a SVO-converted tractor (such as those sold by Northern Tool ie: http://www.northerntool.com/webapp/wcs/stores/servlet/product_6970_36914_36914 ) . These I have heard of many people successfully converting various tractors to run on SVO and it makes sense to me to only have ONE engine to maintain rather than several dedicated ones. Of course, this does create a single point of failure and I can't use my tractor for all the other stuff I want to use it for while I'm running the generator. However, I could get myself a bank of AGM batteries and an inverter to charge with the PTO generator periodically and run off the battery bank most of the time. The main advantage is that I don't have an engine sitting idle most of the time collecting dust and corrosion, Ive got one engine that can serve many tasks (like planting/harvesting oil crops and powering an expeller press) and doesn't sit idle, plus since I'm only buying the generator and not the whole genset, I can get a 13KW PTO generator for around $1300 (plus the cost of the small trailer to haul it around on). Of course, theres the issue of converting the tractor to SVO and where to mount the tank, etc. etc but I suppose thats a relatively minor issue since Im sure lots of people have done that before.
Which would be the better option? Are there other options I havent considered that dont require hooking up to grid electric or running on solar/wind (those are currently not options for various reasons)?
I don't think that in THIS situation ANY VO fuelled genset is optimal. The main reason is that it will sit idle for long periods. This will almost certainly lead to polymerization of the fuel in its tank. If you already have VO fuel you are using for other purposes you might overcome this problem by making certain that you completely fluch the genset fuel system whenever you expect it to be idle for more than a week AND use a portable fuel tank with freshly processed wvo to run it.
Polymerized wvo fuel is usually not a major concern. But in a scenario like the one you describe it most likely will become a major headache involving changing plugged filters very often.
Low RPM large piston indirect injection diesel engines work best with wvo fuel. But for the scenario you describe I think you will probably never break even on the costs of a diesel genset converted to run on VO. As you state a gas engined genset costs so much less that you can probably run one for a very long time on gas (or better yet propane) before the costs equal the investment in a diesel genset.
Well, my goal is not to operate a genset for less money, my goal is to be as self-sufficient and self-sustainable as possible. I want to reduce my reliance on fossil fuel or really any external inputs as much as possible when it comes to energy. I want to be able to produce as much of my own fuel and energy as possible.
Ideally, I'd like to grow my own fuel crops using tractors, generators and oilseed presses that run off the VO I produce. I wish it were possible for all of these engines to be the sort that are "single-tankable", since I hate that I would have to rely on fossil fuels for starting them up (and even if i were to make biodiesel I'd still need external sources of methanol and lye), but I suppose it would be a matter of approximation.
of course it would be more efficient/cost effective to run on dino diesel, gasoline, or LP, but thats not what my goal is... my goal is maximized self-sufficiency energy-wise. Where I am forced to go two-tank, I expect to be purging my engines after use and using an external tank. I have not heard that storing oil for a long time necessarily results in polymerization, I always understood that polymerization results as a reaction to the material the oil is in contact with and its not merely a function of time.
Given that, which one of these options would approximate my goal the most?
It IS actually mostly a function of time, heat, and Oxygen availability. After that moisture, acid levels, and finally metal ion availability comeinto play.
If cost is not a major consideration I still suggest using a gasoline powered genset initially to determine how much generating capacity you need now. You may find that you can sequence the major power draws (air conditioning/well pump) to allow you to use a smaller genset than you now imagine. You can probably sell it as a backup generatro once you have replaced it with a converted diesel genset.
(or keep it as a more easily transported backup generator)
For long term (sustainable) off grid power from VO fuel I don't think you will want to consider anything but a well made listeroid which closesly matches your power needs. They are simpel to work on and due to several factors tend to be significantly more reliable on VO than other small diesel gensets. They are unfortunately NOT very transportable when properly installed.
If you are bound and determined to use a wvo fuelled genset from the beginning I suggest using a plastic fuel tank and filling it to the very top whenver you are done temporarily using the generator. Be certain that you only use very well prefiltered and dewatered wvo and always purge the engine with petrodiesel when shutting it down.
There may be more info on wvo gensets that will help at: http://www.websitetoolbox.com/mb/voconversionbasics?forum=71252
As for your longtime goal it begins with doing a lot more research. Every bit of information you can find on VO fuel will help you make more informed decisions. And there are a LOT of them that will have to be made on the path to your goal.
Frankly you may be better off with solar or wind power if your goal is self sufficiency. Especially if cost is not a major consideration.
Well, since I live in central Texas, wind power is pretty much out of the picture, this part of the country is consistently given the absolute lowest rating possible on those "wind power resource" maps you see published in alternative energy publications. Our average windspeed here is less than 8mph for most of the year. I would need a VERY big VERY tall wind turbine to get any kind of reliable power, and thats just not feasible.
As for solar, I am convinced that the photovoltaic market is still SEVERELY overpriced and that once the thin film panels from companies like Nanosolar start hitting the retail/mere mortal market, prices on standard silicon photovoltaic panels as well as the thin film panels will plummet, but that may be as much as 2 years out from now. I'd like to start with some kind of solution that I can work with now.
Also keep in mind I live in Texas. In this part of the country, heating is almost a non-issue. What is a huge issue is air conditioning. I dont care how many people lived before the mid-20th century, this place is simply uninhabitable from June to October without some form of compressor driven air conditioning. No amount of efficiency upgrades, passive solar home layout or any other pre-engineering will alleviate this essential requirement for tolerable living in the Texas heat where we have 5-6 weeks of near constant 100F+ days with 80% or more humidity. Evaporative cooling and air-sourced heat pumps are not effective due to the humidity. The difficulty of drilling through shifting limestone and clay with a high water table makes ground sourced heat pumps difficult as well (incidentally, this is also why there are no basements in Texas). Even high efficiency air conditioners have a significant power spike when they come on, so living off grid means having the power necessary to run an A/C of some kind under any conditions, no way around that.
I really like the idea of a Listeroid engine and have been doing a lot of research but the information out there seems so fragmented and conflicted. Ive read the listeroid.com forums and utterpower.com, but I can't find decent straight talk on exactly where I can get my hands on the right size 650rpm listeroid engine *FOR THE RIGHT PRICE* along with all the components I'll need to run it on SVO and generate sufficient power for my needs. The ones at generatorsales.com have lots of neat features including resistance/coolant heat WVO conversions, but their price markup over the base price for the engines themselves is INSANE. I just dont think labor, even skilled labor, is worth that much. Are there better places to look for the components to my Listeroid genset, especially if Im willing to do the work of assembling all the pieces myself to avoid horrendous markup? Whats the ABSOLUTE cheapest source for just the engine itself, freight included?
you might want to check this out. Also has a waste product gas/electric generator in development. Website isn't the greatest, but a very knowledgeable guy.
1984 Volvo 240
Elsbett 1 tank/glow plugs/injector nozzles/FPHE/fuel filter heater system, block heater, ILH
20%Kero, 80%WVO winter blend
Just a couple random thoughts:
1) mechanically powered heat pumps will be more efficient than electric, when conversion losses are considered. The a/c system in a vehicle is easy to convert to stationary use, or you can buy a commercial heatpump with v-belt drive. You won't need as large an engine if it's directly driving an a/c compressor, compared to a genset. Seriously consider using a refer-trailer system - Mercedes and Perkins IDI engines are popular and easy to convert to SVO.
2) dry oil keeps longer than undried oil.
3) Plastic is better than metal.
4) Avoid galvanizing and copper.
5) Filter well before storage.
6) Don't leave svo in the engine for any length of time.
7) don't idle the engine on svo - the engine needs to be HOT before switching to svo (it doesn't need to have been running to be hot enough to switch over).
8) cold oil stores longer than hot. Frozen oil might store practically forever. A walk-in cooler would "leak cold" into the rest of the house.
9) listeroids are great trade-goods. If you get the wrong size, it will be easy to sell.
Or - consider making alcohol (ethanol) to run a slightly converted gasoline engined generator. Central Texas is the middle of wild Mequite bush country, honey mesquite usually, mesquite beans usually have a higher content of direct sugar (sucrose) than sugar cane, from what I read you should be able to distill around 300 gallons of alcohol/acre of mesquite beans, and it will be available again next year. I have been running my 500cc 12 hp single cylinder riding lawnmower all summer on E85 ethanol, more power, more MPG, The lube oil stays MUCH cleaner, I like it. I am considering doing this on my Arizona property. You could even use the sun dried spent bean biomass material to fuel the fire under the distillery boiler.
I have an older (1800 RPM 1966 telephone company standby generator) Kohler 15KW trailer mounted gen set that is powered by a Waukasha 4 cylinder spark ignited (magnito) engine, The carborator on this engine has an adjustable main jet, as does my riding lawnmower, I only have to adjust the main jet screw less than a turn to change between running on gasoline or alcohol. Same thing for the two different gasoline engined welder/battery chargers that I have (I do have to swap out the main jet on one of these as I have not yet found an acceptable replacement carborator with an adjustable main jet).
If you have to have a diesel you might check with your local military surplus dealer, a REAL surplus dealer, not a retail camping store, There is usually one someplace that deals in heavy equipment. they will have several sized military diesel generators to choose from, from 3KW up to 50KW. I have not read of anyone converting these to burn SVO but I suspect it can be done. These generators are designed to be run and serviced by 20 year old kids in absolutely terrible conditions so are considerably overbuilt with all sorts of added filtering and safty devices. These will likely be 1800 RPM gensets but some of the bigger ones are 1200 RPM. They are popular with remote ranches so may cost a bit in ranch country.
Then there are always the 7-10-12KW 1200 RPM refurbished railroad reefer generators that have 2-71 Detroit Diesel 2 cylinder 2-cycle diesel engines, don't know how they take to SVO, and they are rather noisy engines.
Some of the Onan brand industrial generators use Stanadyne DB2 rotary injection pumps . It would be far better to choose one with a plunger type injection pump .
This link might be helpful if you looking at older industrial generators -
1994 F250 IDI 7.3 NA E4OD
Remember that the forum search/"find" feature does not include the archives . Search the forum archives here-
Speaking of those 2-71 Detroit Diesel gensets, there's a guy in Houston who usually has one or two to sell. He refurbishes them all the time. I'm thinking 12.5kw for $2,000. I've emailed him in the past, drop me a note if you are interested. I was very interested in doing the same thing as we have a good net-metering law.
By the way, are you wanting to be an energy island or connected to the grid?
There are a variety of crops (some wild and invasive) that have a high oil yield and that grow in our part of the country. Just a thought... and maybe a temptation for more research.
Good luck and please keep us posted on your decisions and running experience.
2002 F-250, 7.3l on WVO since '04
'82 VW Rabbit diesel 1.6l na
'83 GMC 6.2l Class C RV
'85 F-350, 6.9l flat bed
'85 E-350, 6.9l cube van
2 Mercedes 300SD's
3 Chinese Changfa-style diesel generators- 12kw, 8kw & 7.5kw
Mitsubishi 3 cyl diesel generator/light tower
Kubota 2 cyl. diesel, water cooled air compressor
Onan 12.5kw air-cooled diesel genset
I run my company entirely on renewable energy including electricity from generators running on biofuels.
We have been testing & selling the Lister Type engines w/ vegetable oil conversions for over a year and they have performed beautifully in the field.
The Lister engines have indirect injection and are very tolerant of alternative fuels like vegetable oil.
We utilize the engine's waste heat and a 12 V heater to heat the vegetable oil to about 160 degrees. The high temperatures thin the vegetable oil, giving it the same visciocity (thickness) as diesel fuel.
We are currently offering a single cylinder 3,000 watt and 6,600 watt with this type of conversion.
Follow this link for more information:
Follow this link for more information on how our pre-heating system:
Central Maine Diesel
First of all... welcome to the forum!
I am impressed with the package you are offerring.
Not just the VO converison but also the electric start option, seperate 12v generator, etc.
There is room for improvement but there always is.
I think that you can probably simplify the conversion a bit lowering its cost AND making it more effective.
And in my experience it is best to have all VO conversion components isolated from the severe vibration that listeroid tend to produce.
You may also want to consider offering a (heat) co-generation option or air-conditioning compressor option.
I am very glad to see someone offerring a ready to go out of the box listeroid genset option given the great difficulty most individuals have in even buying a listeroid in the US nowdays.
Lots of German companies offer single tank genset with indirect injection Kubota engines.
There is a fair bit of info about these in this report which examines German and Pacific countries experiences running vegetable oils in different applications (including gensets)
The Lister CS is also a good option.
This study shows tests from palm oil in a Lister IDI
www.obed.org.uk Open Biofuel Engine Development - Collaborative biofuel engine tuning.
your best bet is to contact me, I sell wvo generators, from 5.5 KW to 125 KW. They are with a two tank system, one small tank with diesel to start up and a big tank for wvo.
Email me at: firstname.lastname@example.org
More info might result in more inquerys.
These generators are specially built to handle vegetable oil, they have two tanks, the piston rings have been replaced with ceramic and the hoses are synthetic to handle the acidity of the oil.
READY SOURCE GENERATORS WITH OPTIONS Oct 1, 2008
GENSET MODEL ENGINE MODEL FREQUENCY
(SINGLE PHASE) RATED
(common Steel canopy) PRICE
(stainless canopy) 1.5mm
WD6500 186FA 60HZ 5.5KW 6.5KW 1,750.00 wvo /
GF3 8(10)KW YDY385 60HZ 8(10)KW 8.8(11)KW 5,370.00 5,820.00 Adding extra cost USD1000
GF3-12KW YDY485 60HZ 12KW 13.2KW 6,050.00 7,490.00
GF3-15KW YDY485 60HZ 15KW 16.5KW 6,050.00 6,600.00
GF3-20KW YDY485 60HZ 20KW 22KW / / /
GF3-20KW Duetz Weichai R3105ZD 60HZ 20kw 22kw 7,070.00 7,572.00
Adding extra cost USD1100
GF3-24KW Duetz Weichai
R3105ZD 60HZ 24kw 26.4kw 7,230.00 7,730.00
R3105ZD 60HZ 30kw 33kw 7,330.00 7,830.00
GF3-40KW Duetz Weichai
R4105ZD 60HZ 40KW 44KW 9,500.00 10,199.00 Adding extra cost USD1300
GF3-50KW Duetz Weichai
R4105ZD 60HZ 50kw 55kw 9,680.00 10,371.00
GF3-64KW Duetz Weichai
R6113ZLD 60HZ 64kw 70.40kw 12,370.00 12,076.00
Adding extra cost USD1500
GF3-75KW Duetz Weichai
R6113ZLD 60HZ 75kw 82.50kw 12,880.00 13,588.00
GF3-100KW Duetz Weichai
R6113ZLD 60HZ 100kw 110kw 14,150.00 15,026.00 Adding extra cost USD1600
GF3-120KW Duetz Weichai
R6113ZLD 60HZ 120KW 132KW 15,850.00 16,500.00
All the engine EPA. Gen-set with + assist 12V DC Fuel pump trickle charger, spin on filters. Water and fuel separator, with 170 controllers and bottom tank for 12 hours larger tanks can be ordered. Options are is follows with automatic transfer switch on board add 950.00 if client wants super silent 51db add $750.00 for super quite OPTION WITH DUAL TANK RECYLCLED VEGTABLE OIL / DIESEL ADD $ 1250 freight factors to port au price are aprox $ 500-750 per unit container 20ft can hold 10 - 20kw 3950.00
The 2nd study quoted by vegburner is consistent with a few other studies using palm oil in single cylinder engines. It is bothersome if accurate. Are there studies that can refute this? We should read the actual result and not just the conclusion of the maker.
I have a blog at SOLARFLORIDAHOME.COM where I discuss many aspects of living off-the-grid. It's called "Solar Living in Florida Blog". My diesel/SVO generator is one of the topics I write about, including a relay wiring diagram of the system that enables me to run my generator on either SVO or diesel. Free fuel is a great thing, so I maximize the use of SVO in my SDMO 15kw generator with its Mitsubishi diesel engine. Hardly anything to modify, just hook the diesel and SVO fuel lines to the three port fuel valve, and the relays do the timing and switching for SVO heating, and purging at shutdown. It's been working great for almost three years now...
SVO_Relays.jpg (40 Kb, 33 downloads) SVO Generator Fuel System
Welcome to the forum Tom,
I am impressed by your control system AND the very clear, neat, and useful diagrams you have provided in the PDF docs on your blog.
I found however that the one labled "lo_tide_power_system_history.pdf"
is damaged and will not open.
Thanks for posting.
I hope you will post more information on your off the grid svo power system.
I am sure there will be questions.This message has been edited. Last edited by: danalinscott,
Hi Tom - I'm curious as to how many hours you have put on the generator?
SVO Consultations; Component/Kit Supplier; SVO Conversions; since 1999.