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Tuesday, January 3, 2012

How to Fly a Genset

As you may have heard, we got a new Genset - a nice new 20kva 3ph genset courtesy of a grant. Great Lister Petter Engine, fantastic generator coil (from the UK) - but where it was put together as a 'set' is unknown... But we have some guesses.... We were buying to a tight budget and already had to go over the grant for the total installation by over 50%, so we were tight, so some problems are to be expected... So, today, we came to do the 100hour servicing . and with it, we are happy to summarise the 'Engineering Report' for the first 100 hours. Please do note, we are remote, we cannot call on the supplier for problems, we are 'on our own' after purchase out here. So, some of these things may surprise you for a 'BRAND NEW PURCHASE' - fortunately, we take an 'aviation approach' to solving problems. Let us summarise first....

1. Battery provided was 50ah - the unit needs 100ah for a smooth start. Cost: $150
2. Coolant in Unit was 'tap water' ONLY. Replaced with 'hot climate' coolant. Cost $20
3. On first fuelling realised that the filler hose was leaking. Replaced : Cost $10
4. On first fuelling also realised fuel gauge was not working. Cost TBA
5. On first fuelling realised that the fuel gauge was mounted without a gasket, using self tapping screws and the top of the fuel guage boss had holes in it (on the sides)- hence if fueled fully, fuel leaked liberally. Cleaned up mess and made note NOT to fill tank right up until sealed (not easy without a working gauge). Fitted VDO gasket from CH801 fuel sensor and BOLTED Cost: $15 and some bad words
6. Filler cap and neck snapped - UV degradation on the plastic. Cost TBA. (using a clean rag to 'block' temporarily - remember it is the holiday season...
7. Fuel filter clogged at 25hours - on trying to replace filter found that it was 'badly installed' and way over tightened - broke filter wrench and had to hammer a screwdriver through it to remove - after a long battle... anyhow....changed with courtesy filter provided with unit. Cost: broken filter wrench (replacement $25 thanks to a 'filter wrench donkey' on holiday - cheer Paul!) and some bad words
8. Bolts on fan-to-radiator mounting not tightened on arrival. Easily fixed.
9. loose wires and hoses in several places. The ubiquitous Tie-Wrap applied in aviation fashion
10. Discovered that although only burning about 3l/hr of fuel, ran out of fuel after 30l on a 60l tank. Confused. At first service investigated - discovered that the fuel pick up neck only reaches half way down tank - and is very tacky.... VERY tacky. Cost: TBA
11. Exhaust manifold needed tightened to reduce exhaust spatter in housing.
12. Radiator overflow is direct to the interior of the unit. Added 'expansion tank like system' as per Rotax 912 install!!! Cost: ingenuity and a empty bottle of coolant!

So, yes, we are thrilled with this unit - it gives us site wide power and enables us to run the mini-clinic building. Yes, by working to a tight budget it makes more work to 'sort out the problems'. When we are working on fixing the genset, we are not working on our mission. It is counter-productive - but we are cash-limited. All the same, we could have problems with a more expensive unit too. What is good is that Patricia is more than comfortable doing the service, and ran it like an aircraft operation. Engine clean, general inspection, even used an aero-shell funnel for the oil replenishment and always filters fuel in using a Mr Funnel - the same as we use on the aircraft (if you don't filter your fuel you will have problems here - guaranteed!).

So, our little genset is going to undergo some fuel system mods. We are not happy with the supplied system. No finger screen, no in line filter before the fuel filter and only half of the fuel is usable - AND we cannot do a tank drain for water... We will now source a 200litre drum, make a fuel adapter for it, including an intermediary tank with a return line port and will be carrying out servicing at approximately half the recommended service intervals, just like the planes. We love our engines, and we rely on them.

So, we are now 'flying a genset'. It will have its own checklist and, of course, we will always check for oil pressure in the first 3 seconds or immediate shut down.

Welcome to Africa. Welcome to the need to be more maintenance and preventative maintenance aware, for without it, you will surely have more problems than you are already in line for!

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