Generator fun

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FlyingPenguin
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Generator fun

Post by FlyingPenguin »

The new house has a big bad-boy V-6 37 kilowatt whole-house generator with automatic transfer. Should be able to supply power for 5 - 6 days off my 500 gallon propane tank. They installed the battery (car type battery) 7 weeks ago and configured the generator. The tech explained how to run a test, I shook his hand and off he went. Then I read the manuals.

A week ago, with all the bad storms, I decide to test the generator. Easiest way to test it is to manually flip the transfer switches. Generator sees a loss of power and should start right up. Except.... NOTHING. Pull the panel off it and the control panel is dark. Put a meter on the battery and it's stone cold dead (about 1 volt).

I ASSUMED that the generator had some kind of built-in trickle charger that wasn't working. So I put my charger on the battery, charged it over night, and tested the generator the next day. Also called the generator company for a service call.

That afternoon my electrician was here looking at the panels to run a dedicated 20 amp circuit in the garage for an air compressor, and he finds a breaker on one of the outdoor panels labelled "Battery Charger". DOH! I never knew that was there, and the tech who set up the generator never turned it on. Apparently it's standard to use an external charger and you DO want a kill-switch or breaker so you can turn the charger off before removing the battery, so you don't short out the charger.

This generator also has a web-based monitoring system, which I initially didn't want to use because it's just another un-vetted IoT (Internet of Shit) device that I don't want on my network. Now I think I'd like to be able to monitor it's status to make sure the battery's ok, the bi-weekly test ran, etc.

Sadly there seems to be no way to monitor it on the local network. It wants to phone home to the manufacture's server and I'm supposed to setup an account on their site. SIGH. I'm having a network cable run out to the generator and it's, needless to say, going to be connected to my "untrusted" IoT/Guest network. I did email them to see if there was a local app I could run to monitor it without using the Internet. Surely they sell generators to enterprise customers who either can't have an un-vetted device on the Internet, or maybe have the generator located at a facility that doesn't have internet access? I would really prefer not to have some Chinese or Ukranian hacker randomly start my generator for the Lulz.

I can query the generator's status from the main panel, but that involves removing the cover off the generator which is ridiculous.

The generator DOES run a telnet server (that's how you confirm it's connected to your network). Maybe I'll try to hack the Telnet server when I get it hooked up. Can't find any info about it online, but I bet there's some query commands to get the generator status. Maybe I can write a script :D

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Pugsley
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Re: Generator fun

Post by Pugsley »

Wow 37K that's kinda huge... but your in Florida and need that power to run AC units. I have been thinking of getting a 10-15kw unit but man the automatic transfer switches are expensive for what they are.
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Re: Generator fun

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Ya. Big house, 400 amp service.
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Re: Generator fun

Post by FlyingPenguin »

I was a stage hand electrician in a previous life, and I had a pretty good "poor man's" generator setup at the old house. I had a 5.5Kwatt generator, and I made a cable coming off the 220 volt socket on the generator (with neutral) going to a pig tail. That generator was more than enough to run the house EXCEPT for the central AC (we had a small wall unit in the bedroom).

If the power went out, I'd kill the mains breaker, kill the central AC breakers, pull the panel cover (located outside) and hot-wire the pig tails to the main bus bars (after the mains so it wouldn't back feed). It took longer to roll the generator from the garage than it did to hot wire it. In 20 minutes I could have power from the generator up. Worked very well.

I had a test lamp connected to the mains to let me know if the power came back on.
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Pugsley
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Re: Generator fun

Post by Pugsley »

Ha! I know what you mean. Used to do live audio. Had to tap many mains to power the PA. Hated when we went to a place with 3 phase, especially if the stage had outlets in it. We would always tell the band to only use our quad boxes but it never failed that somebody used a house outlet and it happened to be on the 3rd leg we weren't using that they would get a good smack to the kisser during mic check.
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reno
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Re: Generator fun

Post by reno »

was there much of a price difference between buying a Generac and the Kohler you bought . to me Generac are the king of generator . this is the brand I see here in michigan mostly . also help install with my buddy a master electrician years back.
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Re: Generator fun

Post by FlyingPenguin »

Kohler is big around here. I didn't really have a choice. Contractor just gave me a price.
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Re: Generator fun

Post by wvjohn »

Space Shuttle class rig. Nice. I've got a 5.5 kw gas gennie and a bunch of extension cords, I can power everything I need (2 freezers, oil furnace. fridge, some lights and interwebz) but not my well. I asked my electrician about putting in a 220v plug/outlet in the well line, so I could plug in well but he said too much draw, and he really didn't want to do anything without a transfer switch. I'm hoping that the solar battery tech gets viable sooner rather than later as an alternative.
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Re: Generator fun

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I ran the well off a generator at the old house. The well was on it's own meter (predates the house) and I had a second generator setup for it. Didn't have to run all the time. I'd let it pressurize the tank and then shut it off. When the pressure dropped too low, I'd start it up again. Same deal as the house - I had a set of pigtails with a generator 220 plug I'd hot wire into the panel.
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Re: Generator fun

Post by Losbot »

That's a BEAST! I love it!
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Pugsley
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Re: Generator fun

Post by Pugsley »

I keep looking at surplus military generators but the only ones that are worth a crap are way to big and the smaller ones that are about what I could use are too expensive for the hassle of using them.
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Re: Generator fun

Post by FlyingPenguin »

Been awhile, but revisiting this. I actually HAVE found a solution to monitoring my Kohler generator using a local server. The free, open source Home Assistant server supports the my generator. I can monitor it via a local web page CP, or they also have an Android app:
https://www.home-assistant.io/

It would be nice to set this up locally and cut the generator off from the Internet entirely.

They have several options for the server. One if for the Raspberry Pi, but those things are expensive right now due to chip shortages. Another option is an OS install for any Intel/AMD x86 PC that has a UEFI BIOS. A low power Celeron Intel NUC would do the job. I believe I also have a spare Dell ultra small form factor PC that supports UEFI.

Need to play around with this.

This server OS, BTW, is a complete secure home automation system. Not only can you monitor and control your home IoT devices, you can also setup automation loops between devices that don't normally talk to each other. All I want it for is to monitor my generator, but you can do a lot with this.

What got me started researching this today is that the Kohler OnCue service is down. My app has been telling me it lost connection to my generator at 4am. I checked everything here and it's fine. My pfSense gateway shows the generator is connected to the Internet on the guest network and trying to send packets to Kohler's server. Contacted Kohler support, and they said they are having issues on their end (would be nice if they reported that on the website or app!).
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Re: Generator fun

Post by Pugsley »

Well I ended up getting a big dumb military generator at an auction. Was untested so took a gamble. Good news it just needed batteries, a fuel return line, and the 24vdc alternator. Other that that it runs great and makes good power.

Id post pictures but don't have a host any more. Its a MEP 005A. Here is a video of someones generator... they are all the same.



I have been running home assistant for a few years now. Got my weather unit tied in to it for automations based on outdoor light levels, temps. I also have it track my phone via if its connected to wifi or not It can use that to trigger stuff. Its great. Using mostly TPlink switches and outlets... never have issues with stuff dropping off. Hell this year I even got some outdoor units and was able to use it for the Xmast lights and now Block heaters. Its really slick the stuff you can make HA do. Also running it on a Pi4 2gig. Some how I just got lucky at Microcenter and they had some in stock. I had it on a 8gig I bought before covid and moved it to the 2gig a few weeks ago.
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