questions about fuel and generators (incl. a legal one)

Hello, I am considering taking a house 'off grid', and would be grateful for help with some of the following questions:
1) how easy is it to run an generator fuelled by PARAFFIN(known in the US as 'kerosene', i.e. '28sec', the type of oil used in most oil- powered domestic heating systems in the UK)?
2) how easy is it to get hold of, and run, a generator fuelled by SOLID FUEL, e.g. coal or wood or both?
3) how easy is it to run a generator fuelled by DIESEL? And surely if you do, you don't have to pay petrol-station prices? Is there a legal way to avoid paying the excise?
4) what about running an oil-fuelled generator on cheapo COOKING OIL? Is this practicable? Is it legal?
Cheers,
john
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I'd be amazed if any of these ways of making electriciity was cheaper than buying it off the grid. I'd also be amazed if any of them was better for the environment than buying it from the grid. I would worry about the noise - the continuous humm of even a well silenced generator is quite wearing for those who live within earshot.
Using those fuels for direct heating is another matter. For electricity I'd use PV panels, possibly a wind turbine if I lived somewhere extremely windy.
I used to live off grid on a boat and did heating by coal and oil and electricity from PV. Cooking from bottled gas. You can get oil fired boilers that do not use any electricty (Kabola for example).
Robert
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I'll be using solid fuel and maybe also oil for heating.
Very interested in an oil-fired boiler that does not use electricity. Where does the force come from to work the water pump? Does it include a small generator to output a current to do this? (I've always thought that would be a good idea). Or does it do it without involving electricity at all??
Cheers,
John (still looking into PVs too)
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On Thu, 10 Apr 2008 02:04:20 -0700 (PDT), John Nagelson

It could work by natural convection of the water, as all central heating did before the 60s, when water pumps were too noisy. You needed large diameter pipes and put the boiler low down - often in the basement.
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My boat had a Kabola stove. This burned red diesel and was fed by gravity - there is a small float chamber with an adjustable needle valve to control the flow. The oil drips into a thing like a chip pan where it evaporates abd burns. The radators were fed by gravity (convenction). I believe yo ucan run it on buring oil or kerosene as well.
With the Kabola, about half the heat comes out of the boiler itself, so you should put that in the main room, not in an outhouse. THis is the one I had:
http://www.kuranda.co.uk/kabola-heating/kabola-natural-draught/kabola-e5-100.html
Robert
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John Nagelson wrote:

Gravity feed.
Any good range type system - aga or rayburn - adapted for oil will do space heating very very well with no need for elelctricity, though our aga does modulate the oil flow between 'high' and 'low' with an electric themostat.
It also solves most of your cooking needs.
If you use a large bore gravity feed to a hot water tank, that does hot water as well.
Heating other bits of the house? Well if you have chimneys or put in steel flues, the solid fuel wood burner stoves are fabulous if you have access to your own wood supply.
That takes electricity out of the heating/cooking systems completely.
Leaving a lower amount needed for mostly lights, and electronics stuff.
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On Thu, 10 Apr 2008 01:13:41 -0700 (PDT), RobertL wrote:

Quite. We have a house that's "on grid" but was "off" for a while a couple of years ago. To get around the problem we used a 2.5kW petrol genny. A back-of-the-enveope calculation at the time showed that the cost of fuel made our electricity x10 - x14 more expensive than from a commercial supplier. Although I can't prove it, I am firmly convinced that the generator was much less efficient than a power station - using any fuel. It also didn't have any of the scrubbing tech. that commercial power stations have, or a catalytic convertor - so it emitted a load of unpleasant stuff into the atmoshpere, apart from the CO2.
There's also the worry about generator failure. If that's your only source of power, when (not if) it breaks down, or you run out of fuel than you're stuffed. I would expect that a generator rated for continous running would be many times more expensive than the ones you get at B&Q.
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Peter Lynch wrote:

You're right. The efficency of producing electricity in bulk is about 35%, that's higher than the efficiency of an internal combustion engine alone, nevermind the generator part.
I wonder if you could use a Stirling engine and use that to run a generator. The Stirling engine can have an efficiency of up to about 80% and can run on almost any heat source. If you're off the grid maybe you could park it on top of the aga or something and have the cold cylinder outside through a wall
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Why? There is no way you will generate electricity cheaper than that from the grid.
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On Thu, 10 Apr 2008 00:52:43 -0700 (PDT), John Nagelson

Not hard, just consider cost to buy and maintain, the storage of fuel and the noise of the engine to you and to your neighbours.

That sounds VERY hard, requiring a boiler and steam turbine. Leave that to the public utilities.

Diesel and kerosene are essentially the same but with different tax rates.

I guess legal but smelly (assuming you mean used oil) with the same noise issues as fuel oil but also problems with moisture contamination and corrosion, securing a reliable source and performing whatever filtering and purification are needed. It may also have problems of solidifying in cold weather.
You never asked about LPG/propane which is another possibility. I run a 40kW LPG generator with automatic transfer just as a backup during power failures in a place where the power does fail all too regularly.
Tony
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Yes indeed - basically a steam engine, but there were a lot about in the UK until about 1950, although I guess maintenance would be a problem!

Many thanks for this info, which is new to me! This means I could get a Honda diesel generator and keep the paraffin in the kind of tank used for fuelling heating systems.

I meant buying big bottles of economy cooking oil from Asda's, as some people do for unlawful use in their cars. I think using it in a generator would be lawful (unless someone on uk. legal otherwise).

Quite a lot of kW! Hadn't considered LPG. Is it poss to get smaller generators using this as fuel?
Cherers,
John
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Perfectly legal for road use since changes in the revenue regulations:
http://www.hmrc.gov.uk/briefs/excise-duty/brief4307.htm
However the price of new vegetable oil has doubled in the last 12 months or so to around 1 / litre - so only just compares favourably with road diesel - and is totally uneconomic compared to kerosene for non-road applications.
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Someone who buys it from Asda's as cooking oil still needs to pay 27.1 pence per litre to the government in tax if they use it as vehicle fuel:
http://www.vegoilmotoring.com/eng/legal-stuff
John
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Out of date website. New regulations came into force 30th June 2007.
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Anthony R. Gold wrote:

Is that true? Wow. I've learned something new this morning... I wonder which important nugget of knowledge that will force out in order to make room ;-) Like the time I took a wine tasting course and forgot how to drive..
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(not quite so) Fat Sam wrote:

<snip>
No
Or at least, only in the same sense that diesel and petrol are the same - y'know, carbon, and hydrogen, and all that - and while a number of motorists persist in checking the petrol-diesel similarity for themselves, most conclude it isn't, really.
Derv and gas oil - now you're talking.
--
Kevin Poole
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On Thu, 10 Apr 2008 09:36:52 +0100, "Anthony R. Gold"

Only with a steam engine or a gas turbine (?!)

A steam piston engine would work, if you could get hold of (or make) one.

No they're not. You're thinking of DERV (white diesel) and gas oil (red diesel). The latter carries no fuel duty and can be legally used in a generator, though I don't know how difficult it is for an ordinary joe to get hold of. I expect marine suppliers have it.

You could mix it with diesel in a diesel generator, or use it to fire a steam engine.

All the same, hardly cheaper than electricity off the grid.
If the OP wants to save money on his electric bill, it's best to do it by avoiding electric space and water heating, electric cooking, air conditioning, appliances on standby, battery chargers on all the time, replace incandescent lamps with fluorescents - IOW all the standard economy measures.
--
Max Demian

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wrote:

Sorry, what I meant was only that the relevant issues of equipment cost, fuel storage and noise are very much the same.
28 seconds burning kerosene (used for home heating and JetA) and 35 seconds burning diesel have somewhat different specifications such that kerosene is less viscous and less prone to freezing at low temperatures but more likely to vapour lock at higher temperatures. In fact they are sometimes interchangeable and in cold weather vehicle fuel suppliers often add some kerosene into their diesel to improve the low temperature performance.
Tony
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Anthony R. Gold wrote:

A certain person I know adds 50% of '28 second' to every 1/2 tank of diesel he buys.
It runs..smokes a bit.
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I guess that is for fiscal rather that cold climate reasons.

At least it doesn't have any red dye :-)
Tony
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