Wednesday, 22 February 2012

How to Convert RPM to Hz

   As you can see on today's "Google Doodle", it is Heinrich Rudolf Hertz's birthday today.  So I thought it was a good time to post the easiest way to convert your engine's revolutions per minute to the electrical frequency. In order to convert rpm to Hz you need to know how many poles your alternator has.  This is usually labeled on the alternator tag.  Since most generators have a frequency meter I most often use this formula to see how fast the engine is rotating or how many poles the alternator has if it is not labeled.

RPM = (Fx120)/n

where:  rpm=Revolutions per minute;    F= frequency in hertz;    120= constant;    n= number of rotor poles

    A diesel engine typically has 4 poles so that it can run at 1800 rpm to maintain 60 Hz.
    1800= (60x120)/4

    A gas engine may have 2 poles which means it must run at a speed of 3600 rpm in order to maintain 60Hz.
    3600= (60x120)/4

    Most gensets have a frequency meter on the control panel.  It may be a dial indicator style of one with teeth that vibrate at different frequencies.  Smaller generators usually do not have any gauges on their control panel, except for maybe an oil pressure gauge mounted directly to the block.  In this case I use my clamp on meter to read the frequency.  I have a Greenlee meter and there are some features that I do not think are very practical.  The main one is that I cannot read frequency using the voltage scale so I must use the clamp.  This means I can only read frequency when there is current flowing through the cable I am clamped to.  For my load tests I like to take a no-load reading and a full load reading but I cannot see the change in frequency until I apply some sort of load to the line.
    Hope this was useful :)

Tuesday, 21 February 2012

Pros and Cons of Natural Gas Fired Generators

    A large percentage of the generators I see every day run off natural gas.  There are a lot of pros and cons to using natural gas for your emergency generator and of course it almost always comes down to the cost.  Here are a few things that come to my mind when I see a NG generator.
    I live in the Vancouver area and we are well overdue for a major earthquake.  Often times when there is a major earthquake the power goes out.  This is all well and good when you have that emergency generator that you aren't even aware of hiding somewhere in the basement behind a boiler.  In the event of an earthquake the natural gas lines are usually shut off which means at least half the buildings in the downtown area will be 100% without power.  Diesel generators will not have this problem and most of the larger buildings will be fine.
    Load testing makes up about 50% of my work.  I take a dummy load to apply full load to the generator and make sure it can handle it.  The small gas generators are rated for propane or gasoline and using natural gas de-rates the generator.  Natural gas engines have a power output of 30% less BTU per unit than that of propane or gasoline.  You have to be careful when loading a "15 kw" generator that you do not overwork the engine.  I have tried applying full rated load to several small natural gas generators and they bog down terribly.  Why don't they label the full load rating for natural gas as well?  If the question is "why?" the answer is always money.  I'm sure from a salesperson's viewpoint it sounds less appealing to mention "oh by the way for your application this 15 kw generator is actually only good for up to 12 kw."  For the most part these generators loads never exceed 60% of full rated load anyways but you definitely want to be aware.
    Natural gas burns a lot cleaner than other fossil fuels.  It still produces greenhouse gases, unlike propane, but it emits 30% less carbon dioxide than oil.  If natural gas does leak it is lighter than air so it rises up rather than creating a potential bomb.  I think the major pro for using natural gas for your generator is the convenience.  You never need to worry about what the fuel level is at and how you are going to refuel it.  You don't have to worry about the diesel getting old or doing a chemical test for water.  Unlike a diesel engine you don't have to worry about priming the fuel system or changing fuel filters.
    My main "pet peeve" with natural gas fired generators is that they are usually back in a dark corner of a boiler room that is over 30 degrees celsius and are right on the ground making it a pain to work on them but that's just me whining :)

Small Onan natural gas generator
The brains of an Onan generator.  The switch inside is to manually start the generator rather than running from the transfer switch.  If there is no switch you just pull off wire #2 on the terminal strip
 The first time I have seen a Coleman generator installed at a business.  It was a natural gas unit as well.
 A small Kohler natural gas unit.  It has a belt driven starter/DC alternator hybrid.

Monday, 20 February 2012

C3PO Ratchet

If this ratchet could talk I definitely feel confident that it's voice would sound exactly like C3PO

Saturday, 18 February 2012

When the zombies take over, how long till the electricity fails?

According to the answer on the Straight Dope if a zombie apocalypse were to occur (one where it is spreading rapidly causing immediate chaos) this is how long you can expect your power to stay on:
Coal power (16% in Canada):  as short as 2 hours (up to 18 hours if you're lucky)
Nuclear (12% in Canada): 500 days if no abnormalities or equipment failures occur (which is very unlikely) .. for those in Pickering it could be up to 700 days based on amount of fuel stored
Hydroelectric (60% in Canada):  several weeks
Natural gas:  1-3 days

Since small issues come up constantly, they figure within 24 hours almost all the power would be out.
Keep that diesel tank topped up for your generator ;)

The Straight Dope: When the zombies take over, how long till the electricity fails?

The Ten Commandments of a Diesel Operator

(As seen at the Stave Falls Power House)

The Ten Commandments of a Diesel Operator

1. The Engine is thy Engine; thou shalt keep it clean and in adjustment that thy life in its company may be long, and thy boss mayest give thee advancement.

2. Know thy Engine in all its parts and functions; else thou shalt be in darkness in some unholy place in the bush.

3. Be thou not wise in thine own conceit. Remember thine Engine’s factory instructions and keep them holy, lest repairs at night be thine undoing.

4. Be thou not loose in the jaw hinges; no man knoweth all about Diesel. Then truly absorb much knowledge and exude little save on request, and he who doth shall gain great repute among his fellows, and the favour of his superiors.

5. For all the things in life that thou desirest thou shalt also pay penalty and for the wisdom of experience no less. Advice from the multitude usually costeth nothing and is generally worth not that.

6. From the books of Diesel practice thou mayest know what to do and when, but only costly experience or the lips of man truly wise may tell thee the instant of when and true values of how; also thy knowledge of what and when shall but plague thee with smoky exhaust which damneth thee before all knowing observers.

7. God maketh the earth to rotate endlessly without bearings or good lubrication; leave not thine Engine so, else thou shall be blistered in the boss’s wrath.

8. Curse not thine Engine when it turneth not; curse rather thine own stupidity.

9. Steam engines and gas may operate though sloppy, a Diesel not so; with gauges and mics be thou ever busy.

10. The eternal eyes watch universal operations, but thou shalt not rely upon them as to thy Diesel; thine own eternal vigilance is the price thou payest for thy job.

Tuesday, 14 February 2012

Fun with a Power Generator (funny video feat. a cute Russian kid)


You have been warned!

Two atoms were walking down the street one day, when one of them exclaimed, "Oh no - I've lost an electron!" "Are you sure?" the other one asked. "Yes," replied the first one, "I'm positive."

New Truck

A while ago I got a new truck which means no more overloaded, worn-out Safari van for me!  The truck has it's issues sure... the slide-out is quite high and makes it a struggle for me to lift load banks and batteries onto it and the front seat doesn't provide much room for my paperwork.  I seem to have adjusted and made it work and the satellite radio and A/C don't hurt either ;)
Here are some pictures of it:

The slide-out loaded up with oil and load banks.

The side doors for parts bins and oil, gloves, etc.

The truck is NOT a 4x4 which means it is no good for a lot of those backroad Whistler sites but hey I'm not complaining.  I am just happy to finally have a working horn and a windshield with no cracks! It's nice to feel safe:) 

Now to work on my trailer driving skills and I'm all set!

Sunday, 5 February 2012

Stave Falls Power House

I sort of stumbled on the Stave falls dam.  I live in Maple Ridge and my mom was visiting from Ontario so I took her to Hayward lake to check out the beach and trails and BAM there it was.  My boyfriend now works for BC Hydro so we can visit the museum for free and I definitely intend on taking advantage of that.  It's very cool... and apparently haunted ;)  Here are some pictures.  The main thing that surprised me is how small generators with the same kW ratings are now.

An early 100kW generator
 A shot of the generator room.  Those things are huge!  The apprentices got the lucky job of actually climbing IN the generators to clean them out.  It was so loud most of the employees ended up going deaf.
 The largest of the generators.  You can see how huge the tubes are for the water.

 In case you can't tell.. that's a HUGE crane.

 That's just the exciter.. again.. HUGE.
 Oil filled breaker

 The old sleuces

 Even the old loo is maintained :)

 Made in Peterborough, ON (my hometown)
 Just to show you how big everything is compared to myself haha.
 Big generators need huge wrenches!
 You're going to need to put a bit more effort into it than that.
Here we go :)
 The old man-lift.

 That's one gangster electric car!
 That's about 600 lbs in batteries alone right there.

 Straight out of a horror film.

 After going through the museum we then did the long hike around Hayward lake.  It was beautiful but quite tiring!
 Tons of berries to snack on along the way.
 The old railway bridge
 Apparently they're closing down the beach this year which sucks because I really want to go swimming there it looks awesome.

 Jonah on the footbridge.
 Steelhead falls... I think?  I will have to doublecheck the name.
 And that ends and amazing day!

Whistler Area

Well I am way overdue for an update on here.  Here are some pictures from Whistler last fall.  I was servicing the generators at the Bell and Telus towers which conveniently have some stunning views of the mountains and valleys.  The weather (for the most part) was warm and sunny and it hardly felt like "work".  Here are a few pictures but they really don't do it justice.

View from my first site in the Garibaldi area

 I thought this moth was pretty mean looking!
 This is what most of the units look like.  That is a built in load bank so it made my job quite easy :)
 There was a deck built with no apparent purpose other than to enjoy the view.  I like their style!
 I had some issues finding my way to this site and then I downloaded a "tower locator" app.  Oh technology what would I do without you?  After I was completed on the couple units here I was heading down and caught up with a group of mountain bikers on the logging road.  I wanted to ask them if they knew where a toilet was since I was about to burst but I guess they thought I was coming to give them crap for using the road on a weekday because they literally ran to their vehicles and sped away.  Oh well... oh and yes I did make it to a bathroom.

 A shot of the ski hill and Alta Lake from the "rainbow park" tower site.  This site had the most stunning view in my opinion and it was an awesome hot and sunny day.  Changing oil doesn't seem so tedious when you turn around and remember "oh right..  it's beautiful here.. no big deal".
 Another shot of the ski hill.  I admit I forget which picture is Whistler and which is Blackcomb.
Oh and the "cottages" on Alta Lake are RIDICULOUS.  I want.

More pictures to come.