View Full Version : Use of a generator

16-10-07, 16:33
Anybody experienced using a Paguro 4000 generator? Successful? Any issues, reliability, servicing, parts? Does it need to be loaded to avoid glazing, and if so what sort of consumption is needed?

16-10-07, 18:07
No sorry, never heard of it. Can I instead please make a general comment on generators: having had one (Fischer Panda) now for six years, I have determined that it is the main source of problems onboard, bar none. In hindsight I should have gone for solar panels much earlier; quiet and maintenance free. Is that not the description of the dream equipment on a boat?

Why do you want a generator?

17-10-07, 00:09
IHOO generators are not very efficient. If all one wants to achieve is charging the batteries and whilst doing so run some equipment on 230v. Far better to have the generator running an alternator and then using an invertor.
We have a FP 4KVA Gen Set. One of the worst mistakes we ever made! However, having said that it is now coming into it's own by running when we use our washing machine! Reason being that our invertor is not big enough to cope with the load. FP is NOT the 'bees knees'. Their after sales service is awfull. There is a long story to all of this which is not something to go into on a forum.
We run our boat with a wind generator & solar panels, with the genny as a 'back up' & for the washing machine. Unfortunately lack of use and underpowering is the worse thng that can be done to a Gen Set.

17-10-07, 05:06
I also have a FP, 4kva model, I had serious problems with the early model, which expired after only 90 hours, it was an early all raw water cooled version, a nightmare. I replaced it with an all fresh water cooled version, which (touch wood) has been very reliable. Their after sales service in UK was excellent, also good in Holland and service in Mallorca was also excellent. If doing it again, I would go for a 1500 rpm unit, with larger output, but it would have to fit through my engine room hatch, which is one of the reasons I have a small one.
Paguro, also use the farymann diesel I think, which is a reliable small unit.
I would not purchase any unit which wasn't completely fresh water cooled, as a lot of these small units aren't, the engine is, but the generator is sea water cooled. A nightmare.
I also advocate the use of solar and have 180watts at 24v available. Wish I had more!

17-10-07, 07:18
We have an FP 6 which has run for the past 4 seasons with only a minor water leak. Its FW cooled with heat exchanger its done 2000 hrs. All we do is change the oil and filter/belts/impeller and had the tappits done in Mallorca.

17-10-07, 08:20
Almost identical experience and hours to yours - FP 6 Fresh water cooled and no serious problems.

As a general note, the generator is absolutely essential to our way of cruising life. I have 2 x 185W solar panels which is large but I use the generator to do the initial battery charging after the overnight, which allows us to use other mains equipment at the same time.

I would not liveaboard without a generator (other than in a marina).

17-10-07, 08:44
I too have had nightmares with F-P (new, installed by F-P approved dealer). If you can get away with solar plus wind plus occasional engine alternator, I suggest you do. But, as others say, it depends on your requirements.

17-10-07, 08:50
Why is it that some of us seem to have few, if any, problems with generators and others have nothing but trouble? The same is not true of main engines so it cannot (presumably) be to do with basic skill on the part of the skipper.

Mine gets daily use in the summer for two to four hours a day. My fuel is properly filtered and I service it (oil and filter changes) on time.

What problems have you (and others) had? It would be nice to nail this issue as it really needs explanation!

17-10-07, 09:37
I wish I knew the answer to that question!

I don't have details of which model it was, I have just scoured my computer for the pdf of the manual I had 3 computers ago - it doesn't seem to have migrated so I can't give details.

This was heavily used and to maintain a 1,000 AH battery bank and religiously maintained. It lived in a nice big, dry, engine room. It was great when it worked, but it failed repeatedly with 2 'classes' of problem. 1. Its main control board failed, and was replaced, several times. 2nd was an issue with the raw water system, I don't recall the details. It also failed to charge its own battery! We were constantly told that this just needed a tweak here or a tweak there, to make it run on longer after the main batteries were fully charged, but it never managed to reliably maintain its battery. The installer, and F_P themselves visited repeatedly for all of these issues. After loud complaining, F-P did a total replacement under guarantee -after 18months. I don't know if this resolved all the problems - I have now 'moved on' from that boat so thank heavens I am no longer responsible for its kit.

The boat was UK-based so we were always dealing with the same dealer and F-P themselves, it would have been a nightmare if we had been on the move all the time.

This was a big and complex boat with ruthless maintenance schedules and the genny was far and away the no 1 headache.

17-10-07, 10:18
Doesn't sound like the typical owner-skipper liveaboard scenario!

The raw water side of the FP is a bog-standard Jabsco pump.

I wonder if some bright sparks had been using the generator start battery as a source of power for some electrics? (I saw this once on a 24V yacht where they wanted 12V for a particular bit of kit).

Interestingly, FP replaced it under warranty after 18 months, which seems to confirm their policy for total customer satisfaction.

17-10-07, 10:38
Mine doesnt charge its own battery, has to have a seperate 12volt mains charger. This must have been a lot bigger engine/genny than mine, they were meant to be more reliable?? Anyway, I have had trouble with my new one, for some reason, never found out what, the genny side went short circuit, internaslly in the windings?? Well the main windings were replaced, (expensive) and the genny has given not a moments trouble since, in about 1500 hours.

17-10-07, 10:39
Fascinating that some say a generator is essential! We have a very ancient suzuki generator which we never use because even when working it doesn't produce enough. then we have a wind gennie, plus three solar panels. If we are an anchor for a long time we put up the second wind.genny.

This is plenty. If we are using a bigger tool (eg for metalwork) then we might run the engine for alternator power, but otherwise, even keeping the fridge on (no freezer) we have found this sufficient in a Brtitish summer, and much of the year further south.

Our washing machine (newly acquired) is a very small jobbie that does use quite a bit of power. If we needed it in an anchorage (as opposed to a bucket), then we would need to run the engine for that too.

Certainly, it has been low on our list of acquisitions, compared to easier-maintenance kit.

17-10-07, 11:09
No it wasn't a typical owner/skipper arrangement. It was a 24V system, but the battery was certainly not used for anything else. They were several, big, dc-dc converters for that job.

I doubt that you will find a typical 'yacht' that was more meticulously maintained or harder worked.

We were not happy with F-P's response. The genny spent more time dead than alive. Bits were eventually replaced but we had to fight for anything to be done under the warranty. Because it was not safety critical we often went for weeks on end without a working genny.

But, as you say, many people seem to be very happy with their genny's. I may be wrong, but F-P do seem to generate more than their fair share of issues, but it may be that as a % of those installed, they are no worse than others. It was very frustrating for such a small and apparently simple piece of kit to give continual grief. I do not understand why this should be so.

If I knew a genny would be reliable, I would certainly want one on a liveaboard; they really should be quiet, fast, efficient ways of charging batteries. But if I anticipated such grief I would certainly not want one.

[Just found it. It was an AGT 4000]

17-10-07, 11:15
This is plenty.

[/ QUOTE ]What does 'plenty' mean? Plenty for you isn't plenty for me (or Mrs L. who would not live on a boat if she had to forfeit all her comforts).

We run one or two laptops as often as we like, plus a TV and DVD player. We have all the lighting we want, without economising, and a watermaker that runs on dc.

We also have aircon and although we don't often run that at anchor other than at the peak heat of the day in July/August.

We also have an electric immersion heater for the domestic hot water and by running the generator I never need to run the main engine.

I don't see why we shouldn't have the same degree of comfort living in our home afloat as the rest of the world enjoy in their homes ashore.

I have 370W of solar which is huge compared to most folk but even that doesn't provide enough for our needs so the only way is a generator. If you look around the anchorages in the Med, 50% of the liveaboard (or semi-liveaboard) family cruisers have a generator, either a fixed diesel or a portable. Those who don't would like one but haven't the space to keep it. If you have bought a washing machine I think you will soon want a generator that actually produces as much as you need. There is no point in carting around one that doesn't!

I would not call a generator a 'high maintenance' item. Having said all that, it's going to die next time I use it to teach me a lesson, but the truth is that it has been a valuable and low-maintenance piece of kit since we started living aboard in August 2004. Even then it had over 800 engine hours on it so it has seen some use!

Anyway, when it comes to usage of water and electricity, "plenty" for you is not necessarily "plenty" for someone else - it all depends on the degree of deprivation you are prepared to put up with to live on board. We don't accept any deprivation - we expect the same standard of living afloat as ashore. Not surprising since the boat is our home.

17-10-07, 11:23
Absolutely - plenty is a personal term. It sounds like you have lots of electrical items you like to use, as you say your boat is your house. Personally, we're heading off on the boat to get away from it all, so don't want a TV, have big water tanks to do without a watermaker, open the hatch instead of using A/C, use the laptop to watch DVD's, get hot water from the engine and don't have a washing machine. We have a wind genny and are putting solar panels up (around 100W to begin with). We don't mind running the engine every couple of days to boost charge the batteries or heat the water up - IMHO what's the point of having two engines that need two lots of maintenance and two lots of spares? If you can use your engine for all your charging needs, then thats fine, after all with one less engine you've got one less set of filters to change on a regular basis.

Each to their own I suppose - but we haven't got a generator, and don't see it as high on the list of priorities. We may invest in a small Honda petrol jobbie for running the odd power tool or as an emergency back-up, but only if we find a good one at the right price and have some spare funds at the time.


p.s. Many liveaboards and long distance cruisers I've spoken to have highlighted Generators and Watermakers as the two biggest sources of problems aboard - this is not personal experience but just what I've heard. I'll have plenty of stuff to look after without maintaining these two big ticket (price!) items that we can happily manage without.

17-10-07, 11:43
ISTR that you have a 24V system on the yacht? You could trickle charge the generator battery with nothing more than a resistor for over-wintering. As you say in a different thread, you are never going to get a battery fully charged unless it gets up to 14.3V fairly regularly but you want it to fall back to 13.6V for float (where it can sit indefinitely unless the battery is actually in use).

The alternator windings on my FP are water-cooled and have a temperature cut-out. Shortly after I had taken over the yacht, I tried out a regime of running the genny at high output and it wasn't good. Once the alternator thermal trip went, there was discernible smoke from the exhaust (not huge, but visible), the engine did not sound as happy as it did at lower powers. Now I run at about 60% (15A, the maximum is 25A) and seldom let the output go above that. It does, on occasion, when a hairdryer or kettle is turned on, and that's fine, but I don't leave it for a long time. I am convinced that this is better for small generators.

Maybe your FP does not have water-cooled alternator windings, and maybe any thermal trip came in too late or not at all? Cooling the alternator is one of the biggest issues in a 50/60Hz generator and is one of the main reasons why high frequency windings feeding dc to a static solid state invertor is attractive as the iron losses are much lower with higher frequencies. This used not to be possible or affordable until low cost, high voltage, high frequency power transistors became widely available.

I am convinced that working on reduced load it is better for small yacht engines as well, given that they don't have a continuous commercial rating, but people just will not accept that. Diesel and petrol engines are very happy all day long from 15% to 60% of their load.

17-10-07, 11:48
p.s. Many liveaboards and long distance cruisers I've spoken to have highlighted Generators and Watermakers as the two biggest sources of problems aboard - this is not personal experience but just what I've heard. I'll have plenty of stuff to look after without maintaining these two big ticket (price!) items that we can happily manage without.

[/ QUOTE ]Re Watermakers, that is often said in this forum, and it is what is often said when I talk to people who don't have them, but everyone I know who has (and uses) their watermaker is happy with it. Some never get to grips with it so it sits unused - you do need to get the manual out and make an effort to become completely familiar with the equipment and the technology. It's where motor cars were in the 1960s, not entirely fit and forget but one you have one you would never want to go without.

17-10-07, 11:54
I tend to agree with Lemian, I live aboard 100% (unless I'm working) then I'm on a rig anyway! I dont need to get away from it all, I've always as long as I can remember been away from it all! We have TV for DVD's etc, but it's also my computer screen and chart plotter. We have washing machine, because I like to keep stuff clean and bucket doesnt do it for me or Mrs englander, also laundrettes in meddy very expensive, watermaker we also have, if you have washing machine you need watermaker really. Genny is much better than main engine, you will knacker your main running it at no load at revs to charge batteries etc. I like to be comfortable, when living aboard, thats all there is to it. So does Lemain.
There's is no need for watermakers to be problematic, they just need a small amount of care, and running every few days for a few minutes to keep the water going through them sweet. Not really aproblem, also with some common sense, it's fairly easy to do everything at the same time, make water, do washing charge batteries, make hot water.
Anybody can "rough it" I choose to not go camping, it's my and my wifes choice! I like to have choices.
That's not to say everybody who doesnt do it my way is roughing it, just different strokes for different folks!

17-10-07, 11:56
To be fair - I have heard the some people who never have a problem with them. I think they key is regular usage and regular maintenance.

In Yachting World this month there is a feature that mentions them and someone who put one on solely for the ARC, reckoned it cost 10 per litre of water it made as it was only used for the one voyage!

I think its something that needs using with common sense too. I've heard of people who fit a watermaker and then take a water tank out to create more stowage - clearly disasterous when it breaks! Also, some get used to unlimited water and then find rationing and not having daily showers very difficult when the watermaker breaks down.

Talking to people at SIBS suggested the people with most problems are those who fit them a couple of weeks before setting off on the ARC - they need time to understand them and make sure they're working properly.

I think your analogy of 1960's cars is spot on.

One day I'm sure they'll be as easy to maintain as a Webasto heater (or simalar) and just require an annual service. Until then though they still seem to require almost constant attention to make sure they work as intended.


17-10-07, 12:02
My alternator is also fresh water cooled, they all are in the FP range now, the original one I had, was raw water cooled, that was a problem.
I agree I never run mine at max load, just dont need to, make water, then wash whilst charging batteries. Or make water, charge batteries. But not all three at the same time. My water maker is a 96 liter an hour one, so doesnt need to be on for long. I like lots of water! But have to apy for it somehow! Thinking of fitting a 120amp alternator on one of my main engines, so I can run it when motoring. Already have a 3kw inverter, which gives 6kw for 1 minute, enough to start the watermaker, then the alternator will take over.
The 12volt charger was alreaqdy fitted to the boat, so it gets used for charging the twin 12v genny batteries, also for charging my motorbike battery!!

17-10-07, 12:26
To be fair - I have heard the some people who never have a problem with them. I think they key is regular usage and regular maintenance.

[/ QUOTE ] That's not really true of the Spectra. If the watermaker is in service then you should run it every couple of days, or flush with fresh water and it will be OK for a week, or if longer then you need to flush it and leave it filled with a bacteria and mould inhibitor. It takes half an hour to do that. Other than changing the pre-filter every three days to two weeks (depending on how dirty the seawater is) there is no maintenance. Just turn it on, wait for the product water to run sweet, and switch over to let it got to the tank. Easy, a ten year old could do it.

Quite honestly, the Spectras are so easy I can't see what the fuss is about UNLESS you want to take them apart then you need the same sort of skills that you need in taking the head off a 1960s lawnmower. I am not plugging Spectra, it is just that I know that product. If I was starting out again and had to buy new then I would probably DIY and build from scratch though I doubt anything quite reaches the energy efficiency of the Spectra.

As for cost per litre; we make about 150 litres per day. I can assure you I don't spend 1500 per day on the watermaker! I think it costs us about 0.02 per litre including the storage chemical and filters. That's about the same as most marinas and much more convenient.

17-10-07, 12:30
I'm not talking about the fresh water cooling system for the engine but water cooling for the alternator itself. Alternators are terribly lossy.

I've never thought about it before, but I presume that must be sea-water as the fresh is rather too hot? Don't know, I'll look it up the next time I have the manual out.

17-10-07, 12:32
we make about 150 litres per day

[/ QUOTE ]

wow - 30 gallons? In this case I would definately invest in one!! So much for the cruiser who uses 1/2 gallon per person per day!!

Appear to have drifted the thread off generators here ... sorry!


17-10-07, 12:47
wow - 30 gallons? In this case I would definately invest in one!! So much for the cruiser who uses 1/2 gallon per person per day!!

[/ QUOTE ]I usually run at half power - 30 litres per hour. Full power gives 60 litres per hour. Englander's is 95 litres per hour! At full power mine uses 20A dc, 10A at half power, so I can comfortably make 30 litres per hour from solar.

17-10-07, 12:54
Ah! You have now hit on the problem which FP had, they couldnt source an insulation material for the alternator, which would work with engine coolant temps, that's why they used to use raw water, now they have an insulation, they cool it with fresh water from the engine. All the corrosion problems they had disappeared.

17-10-07, 13:48
Ah! You have now hit on the problem which FP had, they could nt source an insulation material for the alternator, which would work with engine coolant temps, that's why they used to use raw water, now they have an insulation, they cool it with fresh water from the engine. All the corrosion problems they had disappeared.

[/ QUOTE ]I've got the manual out and mine states that the alternator windings are cooled by seawater and the cut out is at 160C which sounds right. Coolant of 70C+ sounds wrong to me, wrong for the enamelled copper wire and the lams.

It's just as well that we are having this discussion as I have overlooked something. In the manual, within the technical description, not in the maintenance section, it says "It is totally necessary to carry out further servicing regularly in addition to the usual servicing tasks......this includes checking the coolant terminal block and the generator front cover...considerable corrosion can....be caused....the Terminal Block is especially important as it acts as a sacrificial anode...if signs of external corrosion are visible the Terminal Block must be removed to examine the inner casing....the zone between the generator end plate and the generator casing must be regularly examined...removed....(at least once a year)...if traces of corrosion are present...."

Unfortunately, the terminology in the pictures doesnt match the words but I think that the "generator end plate" is the "front cover" and is the large circular plate with 18+ bolts on it, and a gasket. I think that this reveals the water passages and the windings though I have never seen windings in seawater before (mind you, I am not a specialist on rotating machines or power).

So I shall be having a good prod about in the next few weeks - I don't want to lose the genny due to neglect.

17-10-07, 14:03
Also in the FP manual the fact that the motor is only rated to provide 80% of the rated electrical output and that at loads between 80% and 100% the output volts can fall outside spec... 205V. That supports the 60% figure I gave. In round figures target on continuous of 50% of rated output as a maximum. For very long runs, e.g. 18+ hours per day, I would target 30%.

17-10-07, 19:08
We have a Northern Lights 6kw. My husband, a mechanical engineer, likes it. We also have scads of solar panels, so the generator is mainly for watermaker, washing machine, etc.

18-10-07, 07:59
Yes, you have an older model, mine was the same as yours and had horrendous corrosion problems, check yours, mine is now engine water cooled, IE fresh water, they changed a couple or three years ago, to solve this problem.