Generator room safety questions

Discussion in 'OnBoard Electronics & Controls' started by Ted Royer, Aug 29, 2018.

  1. Ted Royer
    Joined: Jul 2018
    Posts: 18
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    Location: Houston Texas

    Ted Royer Junior Member

    I built a bulkhead separated generator room in my lazarette for my Honda 2KW gen set. I would like to run the unit with the lazarette closed to lower the noise and will have a remote hand activated shutdown. Here are my protections from the issues as I understand them:

    CO poisoning: I will vent the gen set exhaust via hose directly from the get set muffler to an overboard at the bottom of the transom. The room is sealed from the rest of the boat but I will have a ventilation fan pulling air out of the engine room creating negative pressure in case my exhaust hose or the gasketing leaks and gases somehow find a path through the bulkhead and into the boat. I will have of course a CO monitor (maybe two) in the living area of the boat.

    Heat removal and overheating protection: The exhaust fan will be running continuously while the gen set runs, pulling air in from a separate vent. I do not have a way yet to monitor the temperature in the room except for bulb type temperature gauge.

    Gasoline fumes/fire/explosion hazard: Since its a hand start gen set, I should have an opportunity to detect the smell of gas when I open the hatch before I start the unit up. I hope the ventilation system will keep fumes moving out of the room if a leak begins after I get the unit started. Currently, I have no plans to put an explosion proof LEL (Lower Explosive Level) gas detector in the room, but it could be done.

    Here are my questions:

    1) The room is made of fiberglass and epoxy covered plywood. What can I use as fireproofing/ fire retardant for the room interior to slow the total destruction of the boat down while I fight a fire?

    2) I would like to have a brush-less (i.e. non-sparking) vent fan in case I get fuel fumes in the atmosphere in the room, so I am thinking a low voltage AC fan, fed from a 120 x 24 vac transformer fed from the inverter, which is fed of course from the battery bank. Obviously a DC fan would be simpler. Does anyone know of a true brush-less (non- spark producing) DC vent fan?

    3) What else I am missing?

    Any thoughts/comments would be appreciated.
     
  2. Sparky568
    Joined: Jan 2017
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    Location: Northeast USA

    Sparky568 Junior Member

    I have to say this is an inherently bad idea. The generator is manufactured to operate in an open well ventilated environment. I see you’ thought of most things but I need to point out the exhaust. If your going to use hose you will need to introduce water to cool the exhaust gases. So you will need to add a pump of some sort.

    So in short after adding fireproofing, ventilation, heat / gas detectors, exhaust cooling and other safeties (I would include a self acting fire extinguisher in case something fails), it would be cheaper to just install an appropriate marine generator. If your just looking for battery recharge look at solar or if that isn’t feasible look at 12 volt DC generators.


    http://www.hamiltonferris.com/categories/DC_Generators/9

    All-In-One DC Generator System - MARINE https://www.whisperpower.com/US/4/2/273/products/genverter-series-(var.-rpm)/m-gv-3-(dc-generator)-marine.html


    If you insist on doing this you also need to add one more thing. Lots of insurances.
     
  3. Ted Royer
    Joined: Jul 2018
    Posts: 18
    Likes: 0, Points: 1
    Location: Houston Texas

    Ted Royer Junior Member

    LOL! Yes this has had me friggin' worried too. Just what I want, to have to jump in the water mid ocean to keep either me or someone I love from having their skin catch on fire. All agreed, I will rethink the whole thing and thanks for the feedback.

    My loads are high though (water maker, ice maker, etc.) so I will need a gen set running at least a couple of hours a day. I have solar as nav equipment backup power but for the normal big items no amount of solar will work.
     
  4. missinginaction
    Joined: Aug 2007
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    Location: New York

    missinginaction Senior Member

    I use a 1KW Honda inverter generator, the smaller version of what you've placed inside your boat. I use an inverter generator so obviously I'm not one of those people who goes nuts about the issue of CO. You need to be smart about it though. Portable fuel should be kept outside the boat. A couple (maybe more depending on the size of your boat) good CO detectors, with the ability to show you CO concentrations in parts per million should be located in the main cabin and sleeping areas. You said you'll use an exhaust hose? I'm assuming this is a steel pipe rather than a hose? Engines inside the hull need a robust, leak proof exhaust system. Exhaust needs to be incorporated into the engine design. People do fabricate exhaust extensions for inverter generators but I'd be skeptical about using them because of leaks. I'll post a photo that shows my little installation. The inverter feeds a battery charger and handles house loads except air conditioning. When I need the AC running at anchor I use the generator as a feed for the battery charger and run my house loads off of a larger (3 Kw) onboard inverter. The system works well and is safe. Good luck and be careful out there. Think it through.
     

    Attached Files:

    Last edited: Aug 30, 2018
  5. BlueBell
    Joined: May 2017
    Posts: 468
    Likes: 39, Points: 28
    Location: Victoria BC Canada

    BlueBell Ahhhhh...

    You may want to rethink your position.
    Hemoglobin (what carries oxygen in your blood), has a ~250 times greater affinity for CO than for O2!
    And with a half life of ~6 hrs, it is extremely deadly.
    CO is about neutrally buoyant in air so it could be anywhere in your living space.
    It's a great way to die, if that's what you're in to.
     
  6. missinginaction
    Joined: Aug 2007
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    Location: New York

    missinginaction Senior Member

    You've gotta read my post Blue. I've two high quality CO detectors inside my boat. One right inside the companion way door and one in the V-berth. They not only issue an alarm when CO levels rise, they provide me with real time and peak CO level indications when CO is detected. I've done some tests with the detectors and here is what I've found:

    Although the little Honda generator does indeed produce CO (if I place the detector directly in the generators exhaust stream I'll get a reading of around 400 PPM), I've never had CO in the cabin as a result of the generator being in operation. The same holds true for the Yamaha outboard. This is regardless of wind direction. Keep in mind the Honda generator is a very small engine with a very small exhaust stream.

    I do notice CO in the cabin (runs from 30 to about 80 PPM, usually on the low end) when the boat's main engine is in operation. This is dependent on prevailing wind direction. A following breeze is pushing some exhaust into the boat. I really don't need a detector to know this, I can smell it.

    I've noticed CO in my cabin while docked at a marina, on a number of occasions, when an adjacent or nearby boat fires it's engine(s). This again is dependent on prevailing winds.

    The Consumer Product Safety Commission states that "Most people will not experience any symptoms from prolonged exposure to CO levels of approximately 1 to 70 ppm but some heart patients might experience an increase in chest pain. As CO levels increase and remain above 70 ppm, symptoms become more noticeable and can include headache, fatigue and nausea. At sustained CO concentrations above 150 to 200 ppm, disorientation, unconsciousness, and death are possible." I don't have any heart problems and have never noticed any physical symptoms, even when exposed to low levels of CO in the 30 PPM area.

    I understand your position BlueBell and respect it. I hope you respect mine as well. I understand how CO effects a living organism and take common sense precautions to protect myself and my passengers when engines, generators or heaters are in use. I stand by my original statement. CO needs to be respected, not feared.
     
  7. Ike
    Joined: Apr 2006
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    Location: Washington

    Ike Senior Member

    Well here we go again. I suppose long time members of this forum will know that I am adamantly opposed to using portable generators on boats, even if they are out in the open. Not only are they a CO and fire hazard, there is a serious risk of shock hazard if they are not connected correctly to the boats electrical system. There are very good reasons why the US Coast Guard, ABYC, ISO and other regulator and standards organizations are also opposed to this. The requirements for marine generators have a purpose. Those portable generators meet none of those. Their only attribute is they are cheaper than a marine generator. But if you make all the modifications need to make the portable safe you will have spent just as much as if you had purchased a marine generator.

    Also about the comment about lots of insurance; you won't be able to insure it. Marine insurance often requires a survey and no certified marine surveyor is going to ok a portable generator.
     
    BlueBell likes this.
  8. missinginaction
    Joined: Aug 2007
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    Location: New York

    missinginaction Senior Member

    elecrical panel.jpg
    I certainly didn't intend to start some big uproar. We're all entitled to our opinions and I respect and agree with BlueBell on the CO issue. That's why I take the proper steps to monitor CO levels on my little boat at all times. Ike, you're absolutely right about portable generators being a potential fire hazard and a serious electric shock hazard. Ike, notice the photo of the transom of my boat. You'll see a couple of SureCan portable fuel containers back there. They are never in the boat, they live on the transom. I wouldn't think of storing portable fuel containers in my boat. Now we still need to look at the shock hazard. I'm sure you're talking about the floating neutral that is found in these portable inverter generators. Of course the AC system on a shore powered boat must be neutral floating. But what do you do when running the generator and there is no shore side ground? A solution to this is to make up a neutral/ground jumper by using an Edison style plug. I simply installed a small jumper in the plug connecting the neutral (white) and the ground (green) screws. Once this was done I reassembled the plug and pumped it full of silicone. Voila! Now the neutral and ground are bonded at the generator and the plug is weatherproof. Power from the generator flows through a Hubbell shore power inlet, through a 30 amp Bluesea Systems breaker and into a Xantrex inverter, just as plain old shore power would. The inverter has a built in transfer switch. The inverter output travels to a half dozen receptacles around the boat, all of which are covered by a GFCI that is built into the inverter. One last thing, I even took time to build a platform into the transom of the boat so that the little generator would not be subject to spray that would certainly get it wet had I just put it on the swim platform.

    BlueBell and Ike, I agree with you 100% that for most boaters the use of a portable might pose some hazards. In this particular case though I've found the little generator to be a delight to use and as safe as regular shore power. I respect your point of view and hope that you can see that with attention to detail these little generators can be practical, efficient and most of all safe. The key is attention to detail. When I designed my electrical system I put a lot of time and effort into it. I have no wish to be electrocuted on my little boat.

    Regards,

    MIA
     
  9. BlueBell
    Joined: May 2017
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    Location: Victoria BC Canada

    BlueBell Ahhhhh...

    I think a little bit of arsenic is okay too...
     
  10. philSweet
    Joined: May 2008
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    Location: Beaufort, SC and H'ville, NC

    philSweet Senior Member

    The fuel system on a portable generator is intended to be out in the open. There's a vent switch on the cap. Unit won't run closed, and will vent fumes when open. Do not store or run in an enclosed space on shore or on a boat. Best place on a boat is on the swim platform. They take the occasional swamping better than you might expect. Mine is about 20 years old and has spent several of those on the deck of a boat. Also, do not secure it or chain it to anything. Just leave it sit there and hope nobody takes it. So far, so good for me. Mine sat on deck on a mooring in Beaufort SC for a couple years until I brought it back to my RV.
     
  11. SamSam
    Joined: Feb 2005
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    Location: Coastal Georgia

    SamSam Senior Member

    MIA, I would also wonder about co outside in the lower cockpit. As the transom/swimplatform area can become deadly, so it seems possible the lower cockpit area might become in the right conditions. Anchored with the generator running in a slight breeze comes to mind.
     
  12. SamSam
    Joined: Feb 2005
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    Location: Coastal Georgia

    SamSam Senior Member

    I'm thinking most gasoline fires on a boat start off with an explosion, which is a complication to just putting out a fire. There's a subsection on this forum under Propulsion that has to do with DIY Marinizing regular engines, there might be useful things there.
    DIY Marinizing https://www.boatdesign.net/forums/diy-marinizing/
     
  13. BlueBell
    Joined: May 2017
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    Location: Victoria BC Canada

    BlueBell Ahhhhh...

    Yes, Attwood makes a 3" and 4" diameter DC, ignition-protected fan.
     

  14. missinginaction
    Joined: Aug 2007
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    Location: New York

    missinginaction Senior Member

    Well, the OP was asking about putting a portable generator inside his boat. I don't think that's a good idea, just because these air cooled generators are designed for outdoor use. There is a lot of discussion about CO, and I understand people's concern. People are right to be concerned about CO but there is no reason to fear it. As I said before I keep two good CO detectors on my boat. They give me a reading whenever CO is detected and an alarm if certain criteria are met (time and concentration). This past season I docked just a few slips away from our club's gas and transient docks. I noticed that I'd get CO readings when people started their boats and I was downwind from them. I get some CO from my own boats main engine when there is a following breeze and I'm running slow (breeze from astern). I've rarely (maybe once or twice) noticed CO in the boat when the little Honda generator was running. When I did notice it, the concentration was in the neighborhood of 15 to 30 parts per million and it didn't persist long enough to generate an alarm. According to the consumer products safety commission I could be exposed to this level of CO for days and suffer no ill effects. In spite of this, I will continue to keep CO detectors in my boat and keep an eye on things. Regards, MIA
     
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