Friday, February 20, 2009

Sometimes You Have to Spend Money to Make Money

As I have mentioned previously our generator died on us about a month ago.  The generator end burned out and we have been patiently waiting for the new one ($2500) to arrive at ICT (Indiana Custom Trucks)  so we could get it fixed.   We have been surviving without it, but we never truly realized just how much easier it has made our lives and how much money it saves us.  The generator we have is a Kubota diesel engine with an 8kw Powertech Generator End (yes, I know the cover says 7000, be we upgraded it 4 years ago).  It only burns about 1 gallon of diesel every 10-11 hours.  Where as the main engine goes thru a gallon of diesel about every hour!  Since diesel is running us around 1.90 per gallon, it costs us about $4.35 a day to run the generator vs $45.60 to idle the main engine.  Since we have been idling that frigging main engine for the past month, almost continuously in this frigid weather, we figure we have burned thru approximately $1276.80 of diesel (I have the receipts to back this up!). Usually we would have only spent around $121.80 with the generator!  Big difference huh?  The generator is also considerably quieter and smoother running.  We have been steadily in the 7.1-7.2 mpg range recently.  But with all the idling over the last month included, the mpg is now showing 1.2!  With numbers like this popping up we kept a close eye on what we burned when we were actually running down the road to rule out engine problems.  So we have every confidence we're still in the same range and will see those numbers rebound quickly now that the generator is fixed.

Please remember as you view these pictures that we had just run thru an ice and snow storm to get here this morning so the truck is covered in salt residue.

Pulled the stainless box top off to get to the generator.

Removed the access panels.

Prying the old gen end off.
Now they need to get the engine out to work on.

Engine completely out of box.
New gen end (rotor and coil) ready to be installed.

Tightening down the rotor.

Now the Coil.

Finally all the new wiring is connected.

Since we were going to be in the shop to fix the generator anyway, we decided to add a few upgrades while we were at it to help save even more on our fuel bills!  So we went with a new Discover gel battery and a generator power management system.  These two will allow us to cut down considerably on our generator running time.  

The Discover Battery is very efficient, durable, safe and green.  Their batteries are non-hazardous, maintenance-free and non-spillable.  Their higher active material to electrolyte ratios provide longer battery life and are designed for tough applications and repeated deep discharging.  The thicker plates used by Discover protect against deep discharge damage.   They also have a faster and more efficient recharging rate than standard flooded technology.  With 99.9% gas recombination there is no off gassing.  Some we have talked to about these new batteries complain about the price being to high at $725.  Keep in mind these are the same individuals who may or may not have a generator and are still using the older RV style 8D batteries.  We were replacing  4 Optima Bluetop Marine Batteries we bought 3 years ago and cost us about the same as this new battery.  Considering the older flooded style 8D batteries run around $350 they are a little cheaper initially.  However, there is a huge difference in longevity.  Typically the 8D's need to be changed out every 12 months and considering we got 3 1/2 years from the Optimas, we still came out way ahead.  We are told to expect the same or better life from the Discover Battery as we got from the Optimas, as well as longer periods between recharging and shorter recharging times!  Sounds like a win-win to us.  

So with this information in mind we set out to find a power management system for our generator.  We accomplished this by calling our friendly ICT Service Dept Manager, John "Woody" Wood, who always knows what is on the cutting edge in sleeper power systems. (He turned us on to the Discover Batteries too)  Woody recommended the Magnum Energy "ME AGS" or Auto Gen Start Stand-alone System for coach generators.  He said it has been a very reliable system that is priced competitively ($425).  Basically what this system does is start the generator based on the inside temperature of the sleeper or low battery condition.  It also allows you to specify "quiet time" so you can comply with park and rally rules or to enjoy a quiet nights sleep.  This system is completely customizable based on what ever variable the operator wants to set and allows for more efficient use of generator run time.  It also lets us leave the sleeper for long periods of time without worrying about the coach batteries.

We told him we could put the bed up. But apparently he was comfortable.  

I still can't believe he fit in there!

On the right is the Wizard Monitor & Converter which charges the chassis and coach batteries when the generator is running or we are plugged into shore power.  In the middle is the controller module for the ME AGS.  Those six very little gray turn knobs at the top are how you set it.  Its a good thing you only have to set this thing once!  Those little buggers are hard to turn with only your fingers!  On the left is the controller switch.  Up is on/standby mode for when you want the system to monitor the coach and batteries.  The middle position is off for when you want to run the generator full time and down is for test mode.

Combining the Kubota Engine with the Powertech Generator, Discover Battery and ME AGS we will be reducing our environmental footprint considerably and giving ourselves that warm, fuzzy feeling that we are doing something.  While we are enjoying those warm, fuzzy feelings we also will be laughing all the way to the bank at all the money we saved by reducing the amount of diesel we burn through.

Lets take a moment to look at the numbers, considering the life expectancy of each of these 3 items, and compare their cost vs idling the main engine.

$17.26/mth battery (3.5 yrs)
$11.81/mth ME AGS (3.5 yrs probably longer, but I decided to keep it in line with the others)
$69.44/mth Gen (3 yrs)

All three total $98.51 + $121.80 in fuel = $220.31 vs $1276.80 a month.  A savings of $1155 a month!  Plus we don't know for sure yet how large an effect the new battery and AGS will have on these numbers.  I think that is money well spent.  What is the old saying?  "Sometimes you have to spend money to make money."

PS-OK I know alot of you out there that drive are going to look at these numbers and ask what about all the time you are driving down the road.  Well, we spend more time sitting than driving with this job.  It can be boring, but hey, if they want to pay me to sit and watch or wait for something who am I to argue?

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