Key ignition switch convert questions! Generator.

Discussion in 'The Projects Forum' started by kyresearcher, Jul 20, 2012.

  1. kyresearcher

    Thread Starter New Member

    Jul 19, 2012
    Hello all, I just made an account as I have been googling all week trying to come up with a solution or an idea to a small project I am doing.

    ok, I have a 10 horsepower key ignition snowblower that I am about to convert to a generator. The generator will trickle charge (6) 12volt battteys, as a group, as well as keep (6) other 12 volt batterys in another group charged as well. I am keeping the trickle batters set up as a 12 volt group, where the other 6 batterys will be set as a (3) clump 24 volt group.

    I am using (2) alternators from a 1985 ford f150 in line from the generator, the alternators will be independent.. meaning 1 alternator will work the trickle charger, as the other alternator will keep the 24 volt group charged.

    Now I have a small 410 watt power converter that I use from time to time when we lose grid power to keep my smal items like alarm clocks, fans, tv, laptops, lights, and other small things, now this converter will begin to sound an alarm when the battery has drained to 10.5 volts, along with the alarm, a red led light will come on as well.

    My question is kinda in two parts, first of all, what can I use for a very short budget to make a way for the generator to auto start when the batterys have been drained to 10.5 volts? and is their any way I can use the converter idea? like the converter sends the signal to sound the alarm as well as the light when the battery is low, can I hack into the converter so that when the converter senses the batterys are low, it sends the signal to the alarm, but instead bypass the alarm and auto start my generator?

    Here is a little more detail on what im doing, hope it will help..

    As I mentioned above, we lose out power several times a year due to the sick grid in my area. Last year we lost our power in the winter time when it was -8 degrees. I pulled my truck near the house and set the idol down a bit to slow the gas consumption, the truck with a full 16 gallon tank will idol at about 300 rpm for almost 32 hours. I dont know if thats good, bad or eather, but what I am doing is doing away with the truck to power and making my own generator, but I dont want it to run all the time.

    I dont want to tie into my grid power with the generator at all, as I would prefer do away with the grid power all together, the current battery setup i have takes care of all my house hold needs including central heat and air as well as the electric water heater, french door fridge, and washer and dryer. (not with the 410 converter tho ;) .

    I haven't taken the snow blower apart yet, but i know it works perfect, starts every time and runs very smooth. Now Im assuming that since the snowblower has a key start, then it has an on board battery, as well as a small generator to charge that battery.

    The alternators are new in box, only opened to make sure the ywere the right ones for my truck.

    All the battery's are new, bought less than 2 weeks ago for this project.

    I am planning to buy a 8000 watt converter with a 16000 watt peak.
    (would like to find a way around this)

    Fuel for the snowblower motor is mixed with hydrogen made on the spot
    (tested and works well)
    The snowblower has a 1.5 gallon tank and will run about 3 hours with only gasoline, and will run for 7 hours with the hydrogen mix.
    The hydrogen is created using 2 separate 12 volt battery's crossed to make a single 24 volt source, I also need a way to send a signal to the 24 volt battery bank to start the hydrogen process. I dont know if the same thing can be applied to both the start of the generator and the start of the hydrogen generator. I have made generators i nthe past, but only for on the spot jobs like primitive building.. Any idea's on this whole thing? if more info is need please let me know. Thanks
  2. #12


    Nov 30, 2010
    Idea 1: Break your post down into smaller parts.
    Idea 2: Post this in the Projects section.
  3. Wendy


    Mar 24, 2008
    #2 is my job, for beginners. Free of charge.
    #12 likes this.
  4. DMahalko

    AAC Fanatic!

    Oct 5, 2008
    Auto start requires basically a miniature computer and a program. Something like Arduino is likely good enough.

    - Solenoid to pull choke, with spring return when off.
    - relay for engine run, with OFF being the default.
    - relay for starter, with OFF being the default.
    - Alarm/alert signal to you if there is a problem.

    - Tachometer to monitor engine speed. You may be able to read the raw AC output of one alternator as a tach, simply using a transformer to pull the alternator volts down to a level compatible with an Arduino input.

    (Though, using an alternator as a tachometer requires some fun math to figure out pulley speed ratios and number of poles on the alternator, to know how many pulses per second equals how many RPM. An actual electronic tach might be easier but I personally don't know of any.)

    Code (Text):
    2. -> Pull choke
    3. -> Engine Run
    4. -> Engine Crank
    5. While cranking
    6.    Every 0.5 sec read the tachometer.
    7.    Is the engine speed near or at idle speed?
    8.       If yes, then stop cranking and exit this cranking loop
    9.    Otherwise keep cranking until 20 sec reached
    10.    -> Stop Cranking
    11.    Wait 60 sec for starter cooldown
    12.    -> Start Crank attempt again for another 20 sec
    13.    If attempted crank five times
    14.        -> Release choke
    15.        -> Stop Engine
    16.        -> Stop Cranking
    17.        -> send an alert/alarm via cell phone, messaging, or email
    18.        Quit.
    19. End cranking
    20. count down 15 sec
    21. -> Release choke
    22. If engine stops, go back to cranking attempt.

    - Throttle/engine speed control, using a stepper motor to pull on cable, and a sensor to read the actual cable position.
    - Sensor on choke, to make sure it actually moved when pulled by the solenoid.

    If this sounds like too much work, you may be able to buy an automatic engine starter that already does all this and more. but expect to shell out some $$$$.
  5. kyresearcher

    Thread Starter New Member

    Jul 19, 2012
    Thanks for the reply, Do you know if their is software available to perform these functions? I have a server that I use for security cameras with auto start on motion.
  6. DMahalko

    AAC Fanatic!

    Oct 5, 2008
    Unknown. This is an obscure topic. You'll need to do some Googling of your own, probably.

    Interfacing a combustion engine to a PC for starting and operation is likely to be far more difficult and complicated than dealing with Arduino or similar, just simply because a PC can do so much more.

    I can wave a place like this at you:

    ... but it's still all up to you to figure out how to write programs for your PC to interface with these digital / analog I/O cards and USB interface boxes.
  7. wayneh


    Sep 9, 2010
    The snowblower is an inefficient way to charge a battery, IMHO. It's probably got a magneto to provide charging, but this captures only a tiny portion of the engine's output.

    You worry me with the talk of hydrogen. If you've made hydrogen using electricity and now you're returning the hydrogen to make more electricity, well that's just crazy. Stop making the hydrogen in the first place and you'll pick up a lot of extra electricity. Perhaps you're venting excess hydrogen off-gassed by the batteries under charge and feeding that to the air intake of the motor? I suppose that could make sense.
  8. DMahalko

    AAC Fanatic!

    Oct 5, 2008
    I didn't notice that part. Collecting the outgas from batteries and piping it to the engine may be a novel way to reduce charging losses, but the actual problem is that you're sending too much power to the batteries, faster than they can absorb it.

    Back off on the charging rate, or add more battery cells in series to raise the string voltage, and you won't have so much hydrogen off-gassing, and your batteries will likely live longer.


    Hunting the web for more info on hydrogen outgassing, I see this:

  9. wayneh


    Sep 9, 2010
    Excellent point - I knew the scheme didn't sound right but anyway it was just my speculation for a "reasonable" reason to use hydrogen. Making hydrogen on purpose is unreasonable.
  10. cork_ie

    Active Member

    Oct 8, 2011
    Hi OP.
    Your original post is a little ambiguous as it is unclear which bank of batteries is doing what.
    My understanding is you have two battery banks entirely separate ,1 battery bank is 12 Volt and the other is 24 Volt.
    They are charged by two alternators also entirely separate. I assume that both alternators have built in voltage regulators to control the voltage appropriately on each bank, i.e. you will need a 24 Volt alternator to charge the 24 Volt bank, otherwise you will have all sorts of issues and drive your project into the stratosphere of complication and expense.

    What is the system voltage of your snowblower engine? 12V or 24V ?
    I assume you are using the 12 Volt system to power your inverter as you mention a minimum voltage of 10.5 Volt.

    If my assumptions are correct then the first thing you need to do is to continuously monitor the voltage of the 12 Volt bank and trigger an alarm as soon as it drops to 10.5 Volt.
    Simultaneously you need to start your engine and allow it to run at a suitable speed until such time as the batteries are nearing fully charged and then shut down the engine again. I assume you may also need to monitor the engine for low oil pressure and overheat, so that it can be automatically shut down in an emergency.
    Can you please draw a rough sketch of your layout and let me have details of the engine voltage and startup requirements i.e. do you need to apply a manual choke etc.
    Arduino as previously mentioned is one way of doing it, but there are far simpler ways of achieving this. Also bear in mind that it is not a good idea to start the engine from the same battery bank as that supplying your inverter or Arduino as they simply don't like the sudden voltage drop caused by the starter motor.
    We can ignore the hydrogen generation for the moment as that is an entirely separate issue and can be easily incorporated as a stand alone system that only works, once the engine is running.
    If you let me have all the details I will try and work out an automatic start system for you.