Generator - Remote Start

Hello.  This isn't really an ePMP question, but I thought I'd ask the wonderful and knowledgable people here for help.

I have a few Solar Power sites, and for the most part they do OK. As these sites have grown over the years, with more gear on the towers, we've upgraded the amount of Solar Panels and the amount of Batteries and so on - and again, for the most part, we don't really need to worry about it.

Except for this time of year.  I'm in Canada, and Nov/Dec/Jan, the Sun is pretty much gone by 4:00-4:30 PM or so, and we don't see it again till 9:30-10:00 AM. Technically it's up longer than that, but it's so low it's pretty much getting dark(ish) from about 4 PM till 10 AM.  And then, if it's overcast for a few days, there's been essentially zero sun.

We do have generators on site, and I fuel them up and start them and leave - they can charge the batteries until they run outta gas and they stop and all is well.  Sometimes that's only 4 times / winter - sometimes it's twice a week, depending on the year.

SO - I'm looking to not have to drive as often, and looking for a small generator capable of auto-starting.  We already do have a remote relay on site, so we can close and open a switch from here.  We don't need it to sense voltage or anything necessarily, since we can monitor that remotely as well.  We basically need an electric start generator that we can start by throwing a switch here.  That means that it needs to be able to turn on the fuel petcock, activate the choke, start the generator, feather off the choke - and then when we want it to stop, it needs to be able to stop and turn off the fuel petcock again.

There are remote start modules for $300 - $500 - $1000 that can attach to certain generators, but they are mostly built for cabins/cottages - so they are 7000-10000 watt generators (and $10,000 cost) and I really only need to run a battery charger, and I use a 2000W $500 Inverter/Generator now and thats just fine, just that I need to drive, pull the choke and pull a cord.

So, I'm looking for advice on how to remotely activate that, the generator or controller would have to automate fuel-on/choke-on/start/choke-off and then stop/fuel-off with the flip of one switch.

PacketFlux has a product that you're looking for.  I'd look there first.

Hi, thanks. :)  I've looked at thier site, and I don't find any Generators.  I do see some relay control boards, but I'm not sure that get's me any further ahead, since we already have Digital Logger relay control.

Maybe I'm just not seeing the Generators on their site?

From what I've heard they've taken them off the website until the new boards are polished up.  They still exist out there and I know people are happy with them deployed.  Might try calling to see if you can snag one before it gets any colder.

They have no generators.   

You will have to look at some of the Gen Set manufacturer's web sites, such as Onan, Generac, Honda to find anything.   

I would also suggest that you go to Home Depot, Lowes, Tractor Supply, maybe Cabellas and other retail stores like that to see if they have any Electric Start generators. 

Find the manufacterers that they carry, go to the web and see what those manufacturers might be selling.  

What you are looking for is a small generator like the road contractors carry around on the back of their trucks to run their saws, drills and other power tools.  Most of them I see that that have small generators that are electric start.

Anither place to look for generators is on the wwgrainger web site.  They should have them.

Hi.  I appreciate the replies.  We already have generators on site, and electric start generators are also easy to come by. I have one for my RV, works great for that application.

The problem isn't 'electric start' or 'remote start' it's that I'm looking for a complete ''remote AUTOstart' solution - where it can turn the fuel petcock on and off, where it can turn the choke on and off, and where it can start/stop the generator.

Electric start is the easy part - but on my RV generator, I still need to turn the Fuel Petcock on, and I need to pull the choke - then press the Electric Start button and release it when I hear the generator running...  and then feather the choke back in. Plus, when you shut them off later - if they are going to sit for a while with gas in them, then you need to go close the fuel petcock again.

Even on ''remote control start generators'' - you typically have to walk out to turn the fuel petcock on & off at least. Some of them have auto chokes, but they often have a key to turn them 'on' and then a second 'start' button.

I have been calling generator manufacturers and HomeDepot and Honda power equipment dealerships and so on - as well as calling Magnum and and so on - but either A) Everyone's solution is a 16,000 watt cottage generator (which I don't need anything that big) or it's a B) controller board, but they don't tell you which generators it'll work with, or C) the generator uses 3 galons per hour because it's way, way to big for our battery charging needs.

So, I was hoping someone on here would use Solar at a remote tower, and would have a ''been there, done that'' kinda solution. :)  I was hoping to not have to re-invent the wheel, if someone already had a 'turn key $2,000 solution' to my conundrum. :)

find a 5kw generac gardian gernerator.      runs on LP or NG.    they have a manual operatation mode via eletric start.  no choke of throttle to mess with.  

use a relay to fire the remote start, and and to stop engine run.  

any device that supports tossing a relay via SNMP should do the job for you, if you've got a device that can report back battery voltage via SNMP, you can use that to trip and SNMP event to trigger off your relays.  most network monitoring software can be tricked into handling that for you.

i belive packet flux site monitor can do all of that for you.   you're looking at spending about 3,000 for generator, and packet flux goodies plus fuel. 

and its logged ;) 

I haven't used a relay to trip those particular generator on and off, but I use them for auto backups at some of our sites. work great. 

I haven't seen any kits to do all of the work for a gas generator though, moviting the throttle etc etc. 

Hi.  Yes, we alsready have a  Digital Loggers Din relay - we use that to be able to switch devices on/off - to power cycle switches or other devices.  So - there is aready a relay which can switch on/off anything - that could be used to turn the generator on and off

We also have a Voltage Monitor board at each - so we graph them with MRTG and PRTG.  So, we can certainly program them to auto-start and stop at cetain voltages, although it'd also be simple enough for us to manually close a relay and turn the generator on, and to manually turn the generator off 4 hours later.  Based on what we're doing now (driving on site) manually switching it on and off would be OK too.  Automation would be nice of course, but not absolutely necessary.

I was hoping to use a much smaller generator. We basically have 8 batteries at each site, which is usually enough, but we sometimes need to run a generator for a few hours once a week or so - if it's been really cloudy in the winter. Just to charge batteries, a $3,000 US$ generator is a bit spendy for me. That'd be about $5,000 Canadian.. or $10K for both sites.

I know I'm a cheapskate ... but it really feels to me that with the sub $1000 inverter generators electric start, that this should be doable - IF they have auto-choke and auto-fuel petcock. We use generators that size right now, and they are really perfect for our needs, except of course we need to drive on site to start them. So it seems that since many of these small generator/inverters now have a push-button remote control to start them from inside your RV even...  but everything I can find still has a manual choke & fuel petcock.

So, I was hoping someone on here had already solve dthis puzzle and knew of a consumer size solution, without me having to re-invent the wheel here.  :)

Here is an example of our Voltage Graphs by the way.

This site has 2,000 WATTS of Solar and 8 Deep Cycle AGM batteries (SOLAR - RENEWALBLE)  120 AH each. It has an Outback FM80 charge controller MPPT and it also has a voltage sensor board that displays the voltage on a webpage, and also via SMTP for programs like PRTG to graph.

As you can see on the graph, the sun comes up just before 10 AM here and the solar puts the bulk charge voltage up to 14.3 volts fairly quickly.  It then does it's absorbtion phase for about an hour, and then it floats at about 13.6 volts till the sun goes down around 4 PM.

So, for us here - the biggest challenges in the winter are:
A) The daytime hours are so short - usually about 10 AM to 4 PM - about 6 hours is all
B) Batteries are less efficient in -35 degree weather, that's just Chemistry

C) Lots of overcast, snowing, ice-crystals in the air - blowing / drifting ground snow

This was a sunny day yesterday and things charged fine and that's a perfect graph. But today is much more overcast, as you can see on today's  data as the right side of the graph.  If the weather is not co-operative for enough of that potential 6 hour window, we lose that whole day's charging.

In the Summer, our days are more like 5 AM till 10 PM, so we can typically go a week or more of overcast days in the summer. In the winter, it's dark for 18 hours per day to start with, so we need to have some generator backup from time to time if we have 18 hours of darkness and then a couple back to back overcast days.