Friday night, at 8.19 according to the log, I finally managed to start the generator by clicking a button
on my PC.
More importantly, it shut down correctly afterwards - And I could repeat the cycle.
Now, when the voltage hits a certain point, the generator can automatically kick in, run for a specified time, then shut off again.
Here's an extract from the logfile (UK date format):
12/10/2008 12:59:26 Voltage is at 24.40 initiating auto start of the generator
12/10/2008 12:59:26 Starting generator
12/10/2008 12:59:26 Fuel pump on
12/10/2008 12:59:27 Starter motor on
12/10/2008 12:59:27 *****Oil light is Off
12/10/2008 12:59:28 Starter motor off
12/10/2008 12:59:28 Generator started
12/10/2008 13:29:27 Stopping generator
12/10/2008 13:29:27 Generator stopped
The process checks the oil light is on after turning the fuel pump on, then checks it is off after the starter motor has run for a specified time. If not, there is obviously something wrong.
In the end it was surprisingly easy to do, a bit of a steep learning curve though.
I used a Phidget 888 interface card
and their Precision Voltage Sensor
, a few small relays (electronic switches), one big relay for the starter and a bit of programming to pull the whole thing together.
It all looks a bit temporary at the moment, that's because it is. The white board you see is a breadboard, where you can push wires and components into a board, rather than using solder.
I discovered quite quickly that it was a mistake to solder (sodder for you guys in the US) everything in place while learning about the various relays and wiring configurations. I killed a few small relays in the process, and also bought a few that were too tough for the interface kit to switch with it's 5V, low current, output.
Next will be to install a kind of master relay, mostly because of the way I've wired the oil and fuel warning lights, finish off the programming, do more testing, solder everything onto a proper board then mount the lot into a robust container. Oh, and I also need to plumb in and label the control cable and house the generator in a weatherproof place.
When the concept of starting the generator remotely, based on low battery voltage, was first mooted, it just seemed like such an impossible task. Now, it's a reality.
With the automatic generator startup, along with the automatic switch
Andy installed, that generator simply becomes an extension of my battery bank for all the boat's power requirements.
Labels: electicity, electronics, generator, mains, power, remote start