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Discussion Starter · #1 · (Edited)
Long story short, I found a good deal on this unit. It literally had never been run by the previous owner, only tested at the manufacturer. I don't have much experience with larger generators so I am curious what others here think on the apparent build quality.

Details:
Honda GX690 engine
MLCB - 50 amp (Blue Sea Systems double pole linked breaker)
Main leads from alternator (L1, L2, N) - 8 gauge

The assembly is from Central Maine Diesel. It is their claimed 15kw (13.5kw running) unit - 56.2a continuous/62.5a starting. I looked in to the company a bit trying to find a manual and it appears they went belly up around 2019. There are numerous horror stories from customers of theirs online. That makes me question the build quality. For what I paid for this thing I'm really not too concerned, more curious than anything. I couldn't get an engine for what the whole set up with a cart and 15gal tank was.

This is the bigger unit I own that is part of the NG/LP conversion sets I'm working on in another thread. That's another subject so we'll leave that there.

From doing some welding before and load testing circuits the past couple years I know a circuit breaker doesn't necessarily break at its' rated amperage, only if that amperage is sustained over time to heat up the breaker will it then "break". I've pulled over 60 amps on peaks (not for long!) on a "30 amp" rated breaker with running amperage in the mid to upper 40's. That was a square D QO load center breaker, though. I would say that is a higher quality breaker. I am not sure what to make of the Blue Sea Systems tandem used on the generator. There seem to be mixed perspectives in reviews online. Though, with being rated to 62 some amps staring - does it make sense that there is only a 50 amp breaker? I have not load tested this unit yet, but I would hope that the breaker would break before the engine would bog down. My small open frame rotary does not - the engine will die before the breaker trips.

The generator is out of commission. It has a good bit of oil in it (more than 1/2 way between lower and upper limits on the dip stick, yes the indicator light in the pic below appears to be on but I honestly never looked at it - just the old fashioned dip stick), but its been sitting for a few years. I test fired it after cleaning plugs and ensuring it would turn over (had the plugs out and cranked the starter). Since it has old oil I am going to drop it and the filter then start fresh before I run it and break it in. It does run great, though. I just don't want to "run it" on the oil and filter that's there. I have parts on order. I doubt I'll have time next week to mess with it, probably the week after at this rate.

For what it is worth, I can't see the specs on the capacitors. I'll have to rotate them if I can so the labels are visible.

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Discussion Starter · #2 ·
For comparisons sake - this is Northstar's version of a 15kw unit with the same engine:


It uses a 14-60 plug and the panel shows the breaker is "58 amps". That seems like a strange number to me.

I have no idea what the internals look like on the Northstar version.

One of my concerns is the voltage regulation of the unit. I would venture a guess the unit I have is about as cheaply made as it can be so that might bring in to question the robustness of the electrical output - hence starting the thread, really. However, I don't think there is much to go wrong with the actual alternator - its copper windings and magnets. If it were to be overloaded and overheat, then yes that would be an issue. But there aren't any parts in the alternator that would just "go bad" as far as I know.

Now, the capacitors in the box and breaker are another story - the parts that are post-winding leads (the black leads going from the terminal posts back in to the alternator with what look like a fabric/woven sheaths).

I tried to rotate the capacitors but they are strapped in pretty tight. I will see if I can unbolt the box housing from the alternator instead when I get to it.
 

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Looks ultra-clean! Nice new-unit condition. Change your oil and filter and have at it! See maintenance schedule from Honda in your other thread.

a circuit breaker doesn't necessarily break at its' rated amperage
Circuit breakers have two functions: instant for shorts and thermal for overloads. The thermal allows for higher motor startup loads to momentarily overload the breaker without tripping.
 

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Discussion Starter · #4 ·
I happened to come across an 18k unit from Winco that oddly enough shares the exact alternator that is on the unit I have. The casting and guards are all exactly identical. That doesn't mean the guts inside are exactly identical, but I would guess there is a good chance they are. That surprises me - I was under the impression Winco built their own alternators. I can't imagine Central Maine Diesel purchased Winco alternators. I don't think the price point of the one I have (when new) would have been what it is. But - maybe? The electrical box with breaker and outlet does differ a bit.

Does anyone have any insight on the alternator market? Could it be a lot of companies share alternators and do the wiring however they individualize it?

 

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they can do what they want with any gen head..
with that said not all gen heads are the same.
some are way way over rated...
others are the other direction and are over built!

so on the cmd gen head snap some pix of the head tag for us.

and on northern tool built gear we have yet to have a bad one on their north star house brand.
it is pretty good. and it uses real honda gx motors..
not sure who is making the gen head for them.
but it is made and spec just for them.
 

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Discussion Starter · #7 ·
they can do what they want with any gen head..
with that said not all gen heads are the same.
some are way way over rated...
others are the other direction and are over built!

so on the cmd gen head snap some pix of the head tag for us.

and on northern tool built gear we have yet to have a bad one on their north star house brand.
it is pretty good. and it uses real honda gx motors..
not sure who is making the gen head for them.
but it is made and spec just for them.
OK on all.

If the heads are different inside, why would they all share the same housings?

The Northstar 13k starting/10.5k running unit was way up on my list in the past. For a new unit, watts for dollars it is a reasonable deal for a quality unit. From what I know about Northstar generators - they are as you state and have quite a following.
 

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In the details they claim it is a "Mecc Alte" alternator made in Italy.
Central Maine Diesel sold a lot of units with various engines driving Mecc Alte alternator heads.

 
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Discussion Starter · #9 ·
Central Maine Diesel sold a lot of units with various engines driving Mecc Alte alternator heads.
How are you so sure? Do you have other information than the product listings from the website that say the alternators are as you state?

I don't have any info on the alternator on mine. See below for the exterior. See earlier in the thread for inside the electrical box.

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there are a couple of other brands of heads that are real good as well.
if the avr style unit works for your power needs.

most are intended for construction and heavy use.
harsh environments etc.
 

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How are you so sure? Do you have other information than the product listings from the website that say the alternators are as you state?

I don't have any info on the alternator on mine. See below for the exterior. See earlier in the thread for inside the electrical box.
That looks like a Mecc Alte S20F-230 15.5KVA or S20F-200 14.4KVA...
2 POLE SINGLE PHASE ALTERNATORS – CAPACITOR REGULATION

Specs:
Manual:
 

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Discussion Starter · #12 ·
there are a couple of other brands of heads that are real good as well.
if the avr style unit works for your power needs.
I assume the AVR in your reply is "Automatic Voltage Regulation"? I am not entirely following what you are saying. The voltage regulation is done with, what I suppose I am assuming are, the capacitors in the electrical box. I can't see the labels enough to read them so that is just an assumption. Maybe they are more complex than "just capacitors".

If I get 60hz AC at 120/240v that is all I really care about. Sure, lower THD is ideal. I am curious to find what the waveform shows when I get around to load testing it (after I get the oil changed).
 

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Discussion Starter · #13 ·
If that is the case - that answers the root of the thread - if the generator really does stack up to being a 15kw class unit. Per the spec of that alternator it would appear to be.

However, I am not 100% sure because of the price point of the generator when new. Given other units in the 15kw class with a GX690 engine are north of $4k - how is the $3175 pricepoint possible? From my understanding Central Maine Diesel went out of business/closed up shop some time in 2019. So there are 2 years between now and then for pricing to loose sync with inflation during that period so I don't know how fair it is even to use the $3175 figure listed on their site.

If there were markings or a manufacturers label on the alternator I have then that would be easy to verify. I am not sure why they wouldn't put a label on the alternator somewhere very obvious, however I have not looked underneath the unit where the frame is or inside any of the black vent covers.
 

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From my understanding Central Maine Diesel went out of business/closed up shop some time in 2019.
Well, their email address is still alive and being serviced, the web site is registered and functional and the phone number works...

Central Maine Diesel
PO Box 563
Hampden, ME 04444

Toll-Free: 1-888-899-0603
Phone: 1-207-941-1188
Fax: 1-207-941-1189
E-Mail: [email protected]

I am not sure why they wouldn't put a label on the alternator somewhere very obvious
Not sure why you're concerned about the Mecc Alte head... They're one of the leading alternator builders. Winco and many other builders use them, too. There would have been a Mecc Alte data plate on it originally, but some genset builders seem to try to hide the origin of the alternator.
 

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Discussion Starter · #15 ·
Well, their email address is still alive and being serviced, the web site is registered and functional and the phone number works...
I've tried both emailing 2 different addresses of theirs and called numerous times. In my research on them I found the building they were in was for sale and that was in 2019. No idea when they left the building. Their facebook account also has no activity of theirs since 2019. So it appears they just up and left operations. I do find it strange their phones are still on, but their voicemail is full and the message you get is for faster service to email them - which there are numerous reports of never getting messages back from them, period, in the past couple years. The reports of customers who have had prior conversations with the company leaves a lot to be desired - like them switching the conversation from the concerns of the customers to flat out not being able to answer specification questions accurately (such as the burn rate of engines with the different fuel types and the wattage production of them when run with different fuels).

So again - I have my concerns. But, like I said in the first post, I am more curious than anything because for what it is I didn't put much money in it.

Not sure why you're concerned about the Mecc Alte head... They're one of the leading alternator builders. Winco and many other builders use them, too. There would have been a Mecc Alte data plate on it originally, but some genset builders seem to try to hide the origin of the alternator.
I don't necessarily have concerns about a legitimate Mecc Alte head. I don't believe 100% this IS a legitimate Mecc Alte head yet.

I did a good bit of research in to Winco generators a couple years ago. Their WL12000HE-03/A model was one I was considering (along with the 13kw starting/10.5kw running Northstar). I was under the impression both Winco and Northstar wound their own alternators. Furthermore, when I was at Northern Tool checking specs right before I dove in to my "research" (and the dive was because the salesmen and manager at the store I was at did not have the knowledge to answer what I was asking at the time) they did mention the Powerhorse brand in that it was their best clone of a Honda engine and Northstar assembly for a reduced pricepoint.

Additionally, from what I can see on the 15kw starting/13.5kw running Northstar - the alternator they use on that unit is the same casting and vent covers also.

So I am very surprised. If they are all actually using legitimate Mecc Alte heads that is at least OK, I'd think. It contradicts what I thought I knew about some brands winding their own and I'm not sure I like that. However I got to that conclusion, it is bad in the sense of it being "false information". If manufacturers were clear on what parts they use that would eliminate the question and be a more ethical presentation to the customer.

From what I could tell (and if you look at the picture of the binding post/terminal block in the OP you can see a glimpse of it) the alternator windings are copper so it wasn't a reproduction clone wound with aluminum, unless they put an enamel coating on the wire that makes it look identical to enamel coated copper....
 

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yea hard times these days...
a lot of places not able to keep up...

and this is why we do private bench mark testing on the gens...
some are good and others well not so much.
so far the real honda eu inverter gens are holding up ok.
as well as the real north star units, and the larger cat gens.

it would be nice to have a rewind / full production shop here in the states!
good money in it on the larger stuff.
but the haz mat, and workers is a thing... the old guys who are good are at that age that they are done....
and it is a real job! or trade...
 

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Discussion Starter · #17 ·
I don't necessarily have concerns about a legitimate Mecc Alte head. I don't believe 100% this IS a legitimate Mecc Alte head yet.

I did a good bit of research in to Winco generators a couple years ago. Their WL12000HE-03/A model was one I was considering (along with the 13kw starting/10.5kw running Northstar). I was under the impression both Winco and Northstar wound their own alternators.
....
So I am very surprised. If they are all actually using legitimate Mecc Alte heads that is at least OK, I'd think. It contradicts what I thought I knew about some brands winding their own and I'm not sure I like that.
and this is why we do private bench mark testing on the gens...
some are good and others well not so much.
so far the real honda eu inverter gens are holding up ok.
as well as the real north star units, and the larger cat gens.

it would be nice to have a rewind / full production shop here in the states!
good money in it on the larger stuff.
but the haz mat, and workers is a thing... the old guys who are good are at that age that they are done....
and it is a real job! or trade...
So if I am reading what you said correctly you are saying that there isn't a place in the US that DOES make alternators like these, period, due to the hazardous materials (chemicals) and people that have the know-how (lost trade)?

I am trying to read between the lines on your claims with the North Star units. I am not sure what your background is with generators - what type of service, business, industry, or personal use? I assume if you have extensive background with these units as your posts suggest - it is a pretty well equipped (with regards to generators) business. So I am curious - if many manufacturers make generators with the same "guts" (engines/alternators) - where do you see in your "private benchmark testing" the shortcomings of various units? Again, with the same engines and alternators between various manufacturers - if there are shortcomings my hunch is those are not necessarily the engines and alternators, but the other electrical components - namely voltage regulation.

On top of that - one of the big questions I have now is that on total harmonic distortion/THD. Inverter generators generally are said to have low THD, rotary generators - not so much. There are some that do.

If the alternators are largely all the same (passing windings through a magnetic field) - how is it one generator company can claim low THD on theirs and other generator companies do not?

I have heard that the only way to overcome high THD is to "regenerate the AC wave". This could be done by rectifying to DC, then using an inverter to do the recreation of the AC wave - and is the principal used in Inverter style generators from the get-go.

But that doesn't answer the question of how a rotary generator can have low THD. A rotary generator produces power in AC, the alternator itself spinning at it specified RPM is what generates the AC power - not an inverter.

As I understand THD - that comes from loading. As you load the alternator the current and voltage can become out of sync (more so with higher reactive loads than resistive loads - the hypotnuse between the resistance and reactance is the apparent power, the more reactance the further the phase shift). If two rotary alternators on two generators are the same alternators - how is it the loading of either one able to throw off the harmonic distortion any differently than the other? You can't change the reactance of your loads, other than to not run them. Therefore, between two alternators feeding that identical load set - what changes between those alternators and the load that allows one unit to produce lower THD than another?

If it is in the voltage regulation - then the bit of knowledge I've had on needing to "regenerate the AC wave" to remove high THD is not correct - you can use the same AC wave produced by the alternator and filter it differently to clean up the power - like how ever the method is on regulation with a "better quality" generator.

So that is what I'm curious about - with all your testing - what constitutes a "good generator" and what constitutes a "doesn't meet the mark" generator? And what is your "mark" you are trying to hit or exceed?
 

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I don't believe 100% this IS a legitimate Mecc Alte head yet.
Oh ye of little faith... CMD definitely used (uses?) Mecc Alte alternators. Please understand that I'm not guessing here; just stating facts. CMD generator questions come up all the time. Looks like you have one of their better, simpler products there, with the Honda GX690 and Mecc Alte alternator just joined up on a frame.

Here's a little bit about MECC ALTE ALTERNATOR SOLUTIONS
  • We are a worldwide group providing alternator solutions with our sales plants and manufacturers in Italy, the UK, China and India. Each facility is concentrated on the production of world-class alternators, with complete manufacturing in Mecc Alte SpA and Mecc Alte Power Products in Italy (1 – 5,000kVA), Mecc Alte UK in Great Britain (1 – 3,000kVA), Mecc Alte Haimen in China (7.5 – 3,000kVA) and Mecc Alte India in Pune India (6.5 – 750kVA). This network of factories is additionally supported by wholly-owned subsidiaries based in Australia, France, Germany, Singapore, Spain and the USA who specialise locally in the sales, distribution and aftersales for all Mecc Alte's alternator solutions. We have a vertically integrated production structure; we control everything we do from the lamination die manufacturing right through to the final electronics.
  • We continue to believe that our employees are our most important asset: professional, skilled, experienced and committed, they remain the critical reason for our success. Our products are so successful due to their high quality and reliability - this is because our people provide real added value.
  • We employ over 1,200 people throughout the world and we invest heavily into our ongoing training program to ensure that they are able to make a significant, ongoing contribution to our expansion.
  • We only make one kind of product. That’s why we’ve been totally focused on producing high quality alternators since we were established in 1947. Today, we have factories or distribution centres in every continent and we’re the world’s largest independent producer of alternators. Our independence is very important to us... and to our customers because we never compete with any of them in the end market. (We don’t sell complete generator sets.)
  • We believe that we’re a totally unique company because of the special combination of qualities that set us apart from our competitors. We offer the highest levels of global support to our customers and we put them at the forefront of every single decision we make, which continually spurs us on in terms of our continuous development, product innovation and constantly evolving product ranges.
I was under the impression both Winco and Northstar wound their own alternators.
They may wind some, but for example if you follow that Winco link you posted, then click on Downloads and then Generator Spec Sheet, you'll see that it's a Mecc Alte S20F alternator.
I've tried both emailing 2 different addresses of theirs and called numerous times. In my research on them I found the building they were in was for sale and that was in 2019. No idea when they left the building.
They've been gone from 29 Carey Circle for a while... That is a cleaning service now. I assume that the P.O. Box address may belong to a successor company that purchased the assets, or perhaps the principals just downsized into an internet company.
 
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My Aurora Generator 13 kw diesel uses a Mecc Alte alternator but it has electronic regulation. Aurora positions their products as premium quality (and I agree.)
 

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Discussion Starter · #20 ·
Thanks for all the replies through the thread.

I was working on some of my other engines today and before I shut everything up for the night I went to tear in to the 15kw unit. I figured I would look under the alternator to see if I found any info. Sure enough - theres the data plate/sticker right smack on the bottom of the unit.

Mecc Alte S20F-230/2 is the "type" on the unit. Good stuff.

I see it was made in 11/2014. Does that date the overall unit at all? Combined with the emissions sticker on the engine - both have 2014 dates but that doesn't necessarily mean the "generator" was assembled in 2014.

I do find the bottom of the data set interesting - "10% overload for 2hrs within a 24hr period". It is rated to 15kva (essentially kw) so the 10% overload would be 1.5kw more, or 16.5kw. My interpretation of that information, and the rated 13.5kw number from the generator manufacturers' specs, is that the ratings are actually conservative - the alternator is capable of more, but for some head room they downgrade the ratings. I like that.

Bear in mind, power-wise the 13.5kw rated running load is still several kw higher than I was considering in the past. When I was running numbers then I wasn't taking in to account the central AC here. What I was adding up was a 240v 6kw draw water heater and a well pump that runs about 1800w @ 120v, or a single leg amperage of 40a to bring the overall wattage requirement of the minimum generator spec to 9600w - running, or 12-13kw peak starting. I am looking forward to load testing this unit to see if it will hold up to the loads here (need my oil filter order to come in so I can drop the old oil and put new oil in and a new oil filter on the unit).

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