Friday, 15 February 2013

How To Silence a Kohler Control Panel

The main nuisance of working on a Kohler generator is that the entire time you have the switch out of Auto the panel alarm quacks at you.  I will often take off the battery cable but if you do not have access to the battery charger than this isn't always convenient.  The trick is to screw a 10-32 machine screw into the centre hole of the alarm buzzer and pinch it so that it cannot vibrate.  You just have to be careful not to over tighten it because the sound of the alarm gets altered and sounds even worse (yes it is possible).

Kohler Troubleshooting Guide

It's rare that I find a complete operator's manual, especially for the older units so I took a couple pictures of the troubleshoot page and the explanation of the wiring diagram (the actual diagrams I have access to through work).  I thought it might be a handy information to share because it more or less applies to any generator make.  Click on the pictures to view them larger.

Sunday, 5 August 2012

Generator starts up "randomly" when the power is still on

This was the second time I received this complaint that the generator keeps starting up when the power has not gone out.  Sometimes it just starts up and shuts down after a little while or the resident goes down and shuts it down manually.  The most common cause of this is that hydro coming in is lower than the under-voltage setting of the transfer switch.  One site I went to was in south Vancouver near SW Marine Drive where hydro apparently experiences a lot of brown outs.  The transfer switch was reading that hydro was less than the low voltage setting so it told the generator to kick in and then hydro would come up a couple volts and the generator would shut off.  This time it was a small portable Honda generator at someones house hard wired into a Simson Maxwell transfer switch.  The voltage for this system is 240 volts and the UVS is set to start up the generator when voltage drops below 216vac.  I took a reading of hydro voltage coming in and it was only 210vac.  The fix for this is simple you just adjust the potentiometer for the UVS until the LED is on consistently (not flickering) and then turn it counter clockwise another full turn to prevent the generator from starting unnecessarily.
The 5kw Honda gasoline generator

Simson Maxwell transfer switch/control panel combination with ES52 engine control

The guts of the switch

The strip along the bottoms controls all of the timers for the transfer switch

 You can see the UVS and the small potentiometer (on the gray box below it) as well as the red indicator LED (to the right of the pot)

Thursday, 19 July 2012

MTU (Detroit Diesel) Filters

A little while ago when I was doing all the units for the city of Abbotsford I had to do some "gravy" jobs of going to new sites and filling out a data sheet.  You have to take down all model and serial numbers as well as part numbers for filters, batteries, etc.  You also have to take note of how a load test would be performed on the unit (how much cable, where to set up, where to park, more than one person required....)  It is a very easy and clean job so I was pretty happy.  Plus I knew that since they were all city units and I would have to be escorted to each one by a city worker that visiting a few sites would turn into a full day job.  Oh the joys of working on city worker time!  
I was filling out the data sheets for a new MTU engine and thought I was losing my mind because I could not find the oil filter(s).  I was looking around everywhere thinking they were possibly plumbed remotely or hidden somehow.  It ended up they were right on top of the engine in front of my face.  I already have a bit of a love-hate relationship with Detroit Diesel engines (or MTU same thing).  When I look at the way these filters are mounted I can tell they aren't the easiest to replace.  I love spin on filters and loathe filter cartridges almost passionately!  These filters are upside down on top of the engine to make sure that the largest amount of mess possible is made.  I definitely would change these guys before warming up the engine!  Not only would you have hot black oil spilling everywhere, including the ECU which is the filters next-door-neighbour, but you also have the piping hot exhaust to bash your knee against while you try to climb over the engine to reach the filters.  I realize not everyone is as vertically challenged as I am but I think it would be an inconvenient situation no matter your height.  Oh and on top of that it is a sub base tank mounted unit with the tank sunken into the floor with a big gap around it the perfect size to drop all of your tools down or in my case my body down!  You would have to step over the gap and do a balancing act on the frame while straddling the fuel priming panel and reaching around the exhaust to  pull off the filters.  You would want a telescopic magnet for this one for sure.  The first picture shows where the filters are located so you can get an idea of what I am whining and complaining about and the second shows "the gap". 

Tuesday, 12 June 2012

Why a proper exhaust system and raincap are necessary

    I was asked to take one of the girls in the office out with me for the day.  The reasoning was so that she could get a better understanding of what the service techs do and how much time to schedule for a job.  I had a fairly easy load test planned so that I could explain things as I went along and not worry about rushing.  Of course with my luck it didn't work out that way... the rad had a major leak and we could not run the engine on or off load.  So we packed up and went to a small Kohler generator for a cell phone tower to do a load test and oil change. 
    When I pulled the dipstick it was milky white and the engine would not even attempt to crank.  I took an "oil" sample and as you can see in the video it was mostly water.  The engine had been filling up with rain water from the exhaust and when it went to do it's automatic weekly start up it became hydraulically locked.  The cause of this was that the rain cap was mounted on a bit of an angle so that the exhaust would blow straight out of the enclosure.  This angle set it up perfectly so that the wind could blow open the cap and the rain could pour.  Also because of the angle the drain holes in the exhaust tubing would not let the water drain unless it was over several millimeters high in the pipe.  The photo of the exhaust pipe and rain cap is a bit hard to see because I had to take it through the grates of the enclosure but you get the idea.
    The part that blows my mind is that with both of these sites the fault could have easily been reported before hand and not wasted so much time.  When I arrived at the first site with the rad leak the onsite said "Oh and by the way a while ago there was a big stream of water coming from the generator"... Oh great!  Maybe you should have given us a call "a while ago"?  For the cell phone tower they have their generators set to run and transfer once a week every week.  The transfer switch showed that it failed to start on it's weekly test.  I wonder how many weekly tests this alarm came up showing it failed to start and who is monitoring it!  So I didn't get to show the service coordinator what a regular preventative maintenance is like but at least she got to see how often we show up to jobs and are unable to complete the work.

Wednesday, 23 May 2012

What is wrong with HHO (Water Power)?

The video above shows a man using water to fuel an Onan generator, a welder/cutter, and his car.  It sounds amazing but there are a lot of reasons why it is not as magical as it sounds.  You use the process of electrolysis to break down H2O into HHO allowing the engine to run off of hydrogen.  After dealing with batteries for a few years I definitely don't feel that hydrogen is a "safer" fuel than gasoline or diesel like the video is saying.  Hydrogen is safe while in a tank but can be explosive when exposed to oxygen.  The main issue is that electrolysis requires electricity.  You are using electricity (which may not be generated in a clean way depending on where you live) to convert water to HHO to fuel an engine to turn a motor or transmission etc.  Any time you convert power you experience an energy loss (otherwise we would have perpetual motion).  If you skipped the middle man and just used the electricity to power the motor then you would eliminate a point of energy loss and the need for keeping a hydrogen bomb under your hood.
I still think it is a super cool concept and may be a better fuel source for a welder or cutter. 
Long story short:  It takes a lot more energy to produce the HHO than it actually ends up providing.

Added note:  I feel it's necessary to emphasize how ironic it can be to use (dirty) electricity produced by a coal fired generator in order to avoid burning (cleaner) fuel in your car.  No I am not saying the world should be powered by diesel!  I think there should be more focus on using energy sources that already exist (hydro, wind, solar)  and when you have a sustainable source you don't need to worry so much about energy loss during conversion.  I guess I am lucky to live in an area where the majority of the power is hydro but I am aware that there are still so much reliance on oil and coal.

Thursday, 10 May 2012

Where shirts go to die (Part 1)

Do you ever wonder what happened to that ugly shirt your aunt Ruth gave you for your birthday when you were 12? Well chances like most unloved tshirts it got cut up and used as rags. I could make so many puns about them being "washed up" but I'll refrain. Here are some goodies that I destroyed today.

I am very willing to bet that the Halloween pattern was once one of those lightweight turtle necks that every kid wears at some point. Only in Vancouver would someone brag about their poor driving. Apparently the receiver of the Houston shirt did not quite feel the same as the giver.. And the quickie one is hilarious since there is no back to the shirt there is really no context!
Plenty more to come these are just the winners for today :)