Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Got Power? Storm Season's Coming

Having made it through another Winter without an extended power outage - I grew up in the country, where this is noteworthy -- I still find myself thinking of emergency power.

You can pick up a little gas*-engine genset for not much, depending on how ambitious you are; if you want to run the air-conditioner and dryer, that'll cost more, ditto handy features like autostart and a transfer switch. They run. They're noisy and it's a lousy idea to refuel 'em while they're running.

Or you can go old school. Ever hear of a Lister Cold-Start Diesel engine? Me neither, not until a reader sent me a marvelously gadgetary link. Upshot: it's a 1929 design, slow-revving and well-suited to stationary applications. Well-executed examples have very long service life and, once you've chased the bugs out, they just run and run.

Downside? Well, the weight-to-horsepower ratio is shockingly bad. And if you're going to assemble one from a barebones engine and generator, it is a learning process. But as one Floridian found it, it pays off, and in far more than simply electricity when the hurricanes howl. Read. Enjoy. Admire!

Semi-related, the alcohol-burning desk fan:


Can't afford. But do want.

* Petrol, that is. You can get LP/NG versions, nifty fixed thingies that live outdoors in an unobtrusive metal housing -- but will the heating-gas be on when you need it?


B said...

I own a 2 cyl 15 kw (peak 22kw) lister.

You should come up and see it some time.

It will start at -10 c, but it takes a few tries.

Mine will burn veggie, diesel, WMO, or nearly any oil, once started and warmed up.

Roberta X said...

Well, I'll be! --Sure, Tam & I wold love to see it!

B said...

THe best part about these is that they are essentially emp proof....
(Except for the rectifier pack, but I have about 30 of those.)

Standard Mischief said...

I wish I had space for one, and I already know that link you linked to upon the word "Florida".

The big advantage in what Mr.B says is that they'll probably run on waste motor oil, which is a nearly untapped resource around here. I wonder what people would say if you pulled up to the county waste oil station and started pumping stuff out?

The disadvantage I'd add is that you just can't buy an engine, I think you have to assemble one from "spare parts" because of government regs

Of course, I've only drooled over one, never seen it in the flesh.

David aka True Blue Sam said...

About 40 years ago I saw the movie "Death of a Gunfighter." In one scene shot in the saloon there was a hot air engine powered fan running. That is the one thing that stuck in my head about that movie.

B said...

"Well, I'll be! --Sure, Tam & I would love to see it!"

You'll have to come here...the downside is of course, the weight.....the upside is that few people will be able to steal it.

(and if they can, I'm gonna let them have it...shooting anyone who can pick one up will most likely just piss them off)

og said...

Where's you get it, B? I've been looking for one but haven't found anything in a reasonable price range with delivery. I've found a few old Lister-petter air-cooleds, but nothing like that.

B said...

I bought the engine from a guy in OK, and the generator from, built the base and fuel tank and assembled it. Took about 3 months. Did it about 5 years ago.

It's a JOB to build one from scratch. There is a learning curve.

You can't buy them (legally) anymore AFAIK, due to EPA regs.

Lots of info on though, if you find one.

They are very fuel efficient, but can be a bitch to start in cold weather. They will burn nearly any oil once warmed up.

If you really want one I can most likely find you an older engine....

Old Grouch said...

Dang, one of these would fit right in with my 250 gal furnace oil tank.

"You can't buy them (legally) anymore AFAIK, due to EPA regs."

Stupid government. You'd think they'd allow it for emergency service applications. But I guess they prefer that everybody fire up their fireplaces or burn their houses down by spilling gasoline. (Actually, I'm sure they'd prefer we all freeze in the dark.)

Stranger said...

I can't say about Indy, but the natural gas stayed on in the aftermath of both Camille and Katrina. The problem is that you are limited by the delivery system to about a 13KWH NG genset.

That's probably plenty for normal ops at, as I recall, 39 42 N. But you can ask your gas supplier what their BTU hr rating is and convert to see whether it's enough for you. (Don't forget you have to feed the furnace and the genset.)

Here at 31 20N, in an after hurricane emergency with three freezers, two fridges, a coffee pot, various and sundry people, plus a pair of ham stations with approximately 5,700 watts of total dissipation in shacks whose no refrigeration temps top 150 degrees in the summer, that's not enough. By nearly half. Sigh!

Supposedly, a standard diesel gen set will go 30,000 hours or so, while most of the gas burners are gone in less than 1,000. And I have a lot of experience wrenching BS motors! Yack!


Anonymous said...

I was at best distracted by it until it dawned on I that it has a Stirling engine in it.

Now, I'm considering how many calories I can cut out of my budget to afford one. (Ok, I could stand to cut a few out anyway...)

Phssthpok said...

As far as I know the single cylinder China Diesels are still available. I bought a 12.5KW CD/ST gen-set off ebay two years ago and, while not as graceful or efficient as the Listers (they run at 1800 vs. 800 RPM, they are quite rugged and are also 'cold start' with a hand crank.

URL to photo of my gen-set:

Roberta X said...

That's a nice genset!

Owen said...

Stirling engines are pretty sweet. I've wanted to combine a sterling engine/generator with a large thermal mass and solar-thermal panels for a long time. Throw a masonry heater in there, and my 12 acres of trees, and I'm set for heat and electricity for a long time.

B said...


You can make that china diesel use thermosyphon cooling with a manifold like this:

this will prevent you from ever running the hopper dry...

THey aren't hard to make and they work well. you can run them to a radiator or a tank for cooling.