Saturday, 6 July 2013

Northern Lights - Reliable Onboard Power At Last

If you follow this blog you'll already know that early this year our Onan generator died, with a frustrating control board fault.   We decided to ditch it, as it was probably the most unreliable piece of kit onboard. A month later it had been removed, and sold.  Amazing.
We selected a Northern Lights unit to replace the Onan, though pricing in Thailand was steep.   Looking further afield we found we could save 15% by buying in Singapore, or even Australia.  Then we contacted the reseller in Taiwan and received an even better quotation, for delivery into Penang, Malaysia.  

So we sent the money, they shipped the generator.  We arranged for trans-shipping to Langkawi in Malaysia and craned it on board without any duty or tax. Brilliant.  

Whilst waiting for the delivery we prepared the base for the unit, relocated the genset fuel tank and generally worked to improve the installation.  New fuel hoses, new filter mounting, revised electrical wiring, new exhaust hoses, water supply hoses etc.  We got down onto the hull platiing and refurbished the paint systems there as well.  Then we repaired the sound absorption treatment on the bulkheads.  Literally hundreds of working hours later everything was ready and the new unit was craned into the lazarette.  You can see the installation area in the image at left, and the happy captain above ready to slide the unit into position. We bolted it down in Langkawi, then sailed on south to Penang to complete the installation.

It was shipped as a 110 volt / 60 cycle unit, so we also needed to convert it to 220 volt / 50 cycle.  With guidance and documents from the Taiwan vendor that was a simple task, and we commissioned the unit about five weeks ago here in Penang.
Our immediate observation is that it's even quieter than the Onan was - it's really quiet.  Of course it's a 3 cylinder unit, whereas the Onan had 2 cylinders, but it also operates at considerably lower RPM.

At this point it has run for a grand total of 16.5 hours, nothing compared to the 3000 the old Onan racked up, but we do have a really good feeling about this unit.

For a start, I can get to work on the water pump within about 5 minutes of starting, compared to the 40 minutes it took to disassemble the Onan.  In fact I can get to anywhere on this unit really quickly - the housing is a really neat design.

Finally, its 25% more powerful than the Onan was, yet occupies virtually the same footprint.  It runs our refrigeration, battery charger, aircon and other general loads all at the same time without complaining.  So far, we are very impressed - well done Northern Lights.

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