Ok Folks, here’s the conclusion of the generator series, including understanding diesel and the authors overall recommendations. We hope you found this series helpful!
by Guest Author Ted Blanchard
Understanding Diesel Generators
Operational economy depends in part on the cost per unit volume of your fuel. Diesel generators are generally more fuel efficient (quarts burned per hour for a given power output) than gasoline units, but the overall cost efficiency can be lower depending on what the fuel rates are at the pump.
Ag diesel, or “died diesel” or “red diesel” which is only to be used (legally) in agricultural equipment like farm tractors will run a diesel generator just fine and costs much less than automobile diesel because there are no taxes added to the per gallon price. Use of died diesel in street automobiles is not legal and the fines are very high if you are caught doing so. Because a warmed up diesel engine may also be able to run on other fuels such as kerosene, cooking oil and even home heating oil (also generally tax exempt), it gets high marks for flexibility in a TEOTWAWKI environment.
Author’s Recommendations-Diesel Generators
Given the various pros and cons of the different fuels and their associated generators (note that I did not put it the other way around), my preference for an emergency, backup or transportable generator is a diesel-fired unit with an integrated water blocker and sequential fuel filters. I even have a recommended family of units, all military surplus. They are the MEP-002, MEP-003, MEP-004 and even MEP-006 systems, which can be found on auction sites including this one. A MEP-002 is 5kW continuous, 6.25kW peak generator; a MEP-003 is 10kW/12.5kW and so forth. They are all battery start units and ruggedly built. They can be used for 120VAC single phase, 120/240 single phase and 208 VAC three phase which makes them very versatile machines.
An MEP-002 can typically be acquired at auction for something under $1000, and a MEP-003 for $1000 to $1200. Often, they have very low hours on them (mine had 163 hours on it, meaning it was barely broken in). A brand new commercially available 10 kW gasoline powered generator will generally set you back more than that, and have a fraction of the usable lifespan. Granted, you may have to drive a ways to pick up your military surplus unit, but the results will be well worth it. Be sure you read and understand the auction site’s rules regarding buyer’s premium (if added) and sales tax for the location currently housing the unit. Some units are trailer mounted so you may have to do title transfer unless you plan to park it in one place indefinitely and don’t care if it isn’t titled in your name. One other consideration is the 24Volt starter on the MEP-00X units. They use two car batteries in series, so to keep them charged, you either need to get a 24V trickle charger, or charge one battery at a time with a 12V charger, or run the generator unit regularly to top them off. The last approach is best because relying on any system that you do not regularly test and maintain is unwise at best and outright dangerous in the worst of situations.
The MEP-00X series have a setup where you can draw fuel from the integrated tank or an external source such as a 55-gallon drum and the unit includes the pumps necessary to make this work. Some units will even come with the bung adapter and extra fuel line. Some also come with a long, high capacity power cable. Some have a sound enclosure already installed, so the noise is very tolerable, without having to build your own enclosure. They run at 1800 RPM, consume little fuel and – when properly grounded – have decent EMP protection for the internal circuitry. Spare parts are readily available from a variety of sources. The units are designed to be operated and maintained by high school grads, so no special skills are required (no offense to you high school readers). They are all made to mil-specs and come from some of the best manufacturers out there. They cost you and I (as taxpayers) eight to 15 times what you can get them for at auction, depending on the rated capacity, so it’s your duty to derive some benefit from all that Government spending.
Regardless of your choice do your homework, take necessary safety precautions, test the system regularly, rotate liquid fuels if you use them, and keep the tank and generator well maintained. It could be the difference between surviving and thriving in a grid-down world.
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