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Posted by Steven in Colorado Springs, CO on 5/2/2015

Well I have to say I didn't quite expect this little turn of events.


As long-time readers might recall I bought a 6kw Generac EcoGen generator back when we were just moving into the house. It's had its problems over the years with dead oil pressure gauges, a cross-threaded spark plug that required servicing of the manifold, and a burst oil tank line that didn't want to keep oil in the generator anymore. But it's served us well and done a solid duty and I never regretted getting it for a moment.

And then there was last night.

I knew the generator would run that night because we've had a lot of overcast and semi-rainy days as of late, which prevent the batteries from ever reaching float. That was okay though since I always have plenty of propane on hand, and as it happened I had just swapped out an empty bottle for a fresh one that afternoon.

So when the generator fired up at approximately 2100 (~9 PM), I didn't think too much of it. It seemed to run fine for a minute or two, then it began fluctuating and "stumbling" with the attendant power fluctuations along with it. I wondered if possibly I'd accidentally opened the propane valve on the tank too quickly and thrown the slug valve (basically a fail safe that engages if the main valve is opened too quickly, as if it had been broken off). The generator stopped, so I pulled on shoes and hiked up there to take a gander.

The generator's display when I opened it was most puzzling, as it read "RPM Error". THAT didn't make sense...a restriction on propane (which is what I thought was the problem) would cause an "Underspeed" error not an RPM one. Still, I shut off the propane and then CAREFULLY re-opened the valve, reset the generator, and went into the solar shed to wait for it to auto-start (as I knew it would since it hadn't run very long at all).

After a few minutes we'd passed when the generator should have started, so I went back out to check things and see what was going on. The same error was displayed on the status, "RPM Error". That's weird, I thought. I toggled it to manual and it TRIED to start, making a hearty click noise over in the stator area (which is what spins around to generate electricity in a magnetic field). What the heck? thought I and I angled the flashlight down to get a better look...

...to find a sea of motor oil covering the entire bottom of the generator's interior!

Quickly taking off the front cover, I noticed oil running out the bottom and into the pea gravel. I looked around at the source, thinking at first that the work I'd done to fix the oil line had come loose--but it was fine. I then looked over towards the oil filter....

...to find that it had literally fallen off its threaded mount and was sitting in a pool of oil on the floor!

I have NO idea how that happened. It would have had to have taken a long time to work itself loose like that...The attachment is a hearty threaded mount just like on a car. But when it did work itself loose there was suddenly no oil going to the engine. Which quickly got really hot--and seized up completely. The low oil pressure signal didn't even have a chance to trigger; there was still oil against the trigger.

So now...we suddenly had no backup power at all.

I did a bit of research on the problem before hitting the sack and it seemed to be both rare and catastrophic. Several folks have prevented it by wedging a support under the filter (it hangs about 3" off the bottom of the generator), a solution which seems both pleasingly low tech and more reliable than how it works now (zero support at all).

However there is a silver lining. When I got up this morning and began researching where to get a replacement I quickly discovered that Generac had FINALLY added to the EcoGen line with a new (well, mid-2014) 15kw unit! It produces 2.5 times the power of my existing (now dead) unit and better yet was already converted for 240V--I wouldn't have to invest another $120 to make that particular upgrade (FYI Generac, that's a stupid idea).

And so I whipped out my credit card, begged its forgiveness, and bought the 15kw EcoGen.

Now I've got to haul the old one back up the hill and get things ready for the new machine. I've got to say I'm looking forward to it though; having a bigger backup generator to replace what was arguably an undersized unit can't help but be a good thing.

More when it's here! Lots of money, but I'm excited too!

Steven in Colorado

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