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Building Your Own Generator and Alternative Fuels

diygenOff grid power systems commonly include a generator for backup when the sun and wind are not enough to keep your batteries charged. We have built our own inexpensive gensets using small engines (lawn mower) and car alternators. Gasoline is expensive, and refilling a generator every few hours can be dangerous and messy, along with high carbon monoxide output, so we show how to convert small engines to run on propane, methane (natural gas which includes biogas), and gasoline. Home made charge controllers and battery maintenance is also covered.

Check out the free resources at:


Hydrogen – Oxygen Generator (HHO, Hydroxy Gas, Brown’s Gas)

Producing hydrogen / oxygen mixed gas for the purposes of heating, cooking, and absorption refrigeration.

There’s a lot of pseudoscience surrounding the production of a hydrogen oxygen gas mix. Sometimes called Brown’s gas, HHO, and other terms, it’s been assigned mythical properties by many.

Joe Cell –
Stanley Meyer –

Some actually believed, or attempted to get others to believe, that a car could run on water, using an on-board electrolyzer powered by the engines own alternator.

Others believe that drastic emissions reduction and mileage gains can be had by make a hydroxy gas booster for a gasoline or diesel powered vehicle.

We will attempt to carve off the pseudoscience, and document the actual processes involved, including the power consumed in the the process, and the amount of gas produced, for the purpose of eliminating our propane consumption and replacing it with a gas we can produce ourselves from non-fossil fuel sources.

Our source of power, by necessity, is 1200 watts of solar panels, with a set of two 420ah 6v batteries for storage. This will allow us to continue to produce gas even when the sun is not shining.

My initial design will be 2-3v per cell, using stainless electrodes. Not necessarily the most efficient, but good enough for initial testing. This will be a poor man’s DIY project, as cost is an issue.

Stay tuned.


The Off Grid Generator

ef4500iseWe have had a variety of generators over the years. Like most newbies we started out with the cheap department/hardware store B&S for about $300, and when that didn’t last the winter, we upgraded. When we had fewer solar panels, we depended on the generator more, so we looked at long life diesels. We experimented with a 50 year old Detroit that was way too big for our needs (and too noisy), and needed constant attention. We had a lister for a while, but that was a assemble yourself item, and it found a deserving home at Woodhenge. for the last two years we have had a Honda EU6500, and we have been very happy with it. Now it’s time to get another, as the Honda is bigger than we need, since we are slimming down our requirements, and number in our household. Our gen of choice at this point is a trifuel (gasoline, propane, natural gas) Yamaha EF4500iSE from US Carburetion. It’s has the 30 amp 120v plug we need for the camper (the Honda maxed out at 25amps), and comes propane ready, which is important to us. low emissions, quiet, lighter weight, long life, and perfect for the mobile lifestyle we are embarking upon.


Composting Toilets, Homebuilt Generators, and more

We are working on a number of projects today. It’s -25F outside, so it’s a good day to stay indoors near the wood stoves. Even the generator wouldn’t turn over, even with the recoil start. Brought it in next to the wood stove to thaw out. The worm beds are under construction, and we ordered a inexpensive bucket toilet with lid as one of the food sources for the worms. Many folks use sawdust or peat, but we use recycled Coconut fiber. For info on how it works, read about it at

The other project is a rebuild of our propane converted B&S 10hp Generator. We smoked the coils on the alternator, and have decided to rebuild it as a DC battery Bank Charger. We bought a 108 amp GM alternator, and are belt driving it from the 10hp B&S propane powered engine. More pics to come on that project.


Convert Your Generator to Tri-Fuel

Is your gasoline generator hard to start? Does your fuel seem to go bad? Today’s ethanol fuel can cause all kinds of issues for small engines. Propane burns cleaner than gasoline, and stores pretty much forever, virtually guaranteeing instant starts when an emergency arises. Methane capability means you can produce your own fuel from decomposing manure or vegetable matter. Follow along as we convert our Coleman Generator with a easy to install and use Century Fuel Products conversion kit.

Get the details on producing Methane Fuel at


Alternative Energy Discussion Groups

Where do you go to ask questions, and talk with others about renewable energy topics? We have a series of discussion groups on a variety of topics related to living off grid, solar energy, rain water harvesting, and more:

12VDC_Power – We’re here to discuss 12VDC alternative power systems for off-grid homes, whether off-grid by choice or necessity. We’ll talk about any type of generation — wind, solar, hydro or whatever. And, we’ll also discuss storage and distribution systems for 12 VDC. And, not to eliminate anyone, we’ll gladly talk about 24 and 48 volt DC systems too. Our planet is rapidly running out of fossil fuels, and the pollution from those is destroying our environment. It’s time to utilize renewable energy and that’s why our group is here.

AlRutanMethane – This is a working group dedicated to developing methane digesters. This work was started by Al Rutan, The Methane Man.

AxialFlux – This group is dedicated to the Axial Flux Permanent Magnet Alternator, as designed by Hugh Piggott, with additional development by Dan Fink and Dan Bartmann of Otherpower, Steve Spence of Green-Trust and Jim Juczak of Woodhenge. This alternator uses rotating magnets and a fixed stator with handwound 3 phase coils. This design is applicable to wind, water, engine, even human and animal power.

DIYSolar – Home of the DIY Solar Install Guide This is a support group for those who want to install their own solar power system. There is an ebook, “DIY Solar Install Guide”, found at The eBook tells how to install your own solar power system. Includes tips on siting the panels, battery maintenance, and sizing a system.

DIY_Propane_Gen – Discuss convert your gasoline generator to multifuel, propane, methane and gasoline. There is an ebook, “DIY Propane Conversion eBook”, found at

DIY_Generator – This is a working group for home built generators and battery chargers for off-grid applications. We discuss instrumentation, smart charging, inverters and battery banks, and other off-grid components. The results of this group has been distilled into an eBook.

DIYVeggieDiesel – This is a support group for those who want to convert their diesels to run on vegetable oil.

DIYElectricVehicles – Building and modifying vehicles for human power, electric assist, and solar power.

HPWD – The discussion of any type of equipment or transportation using human muscles, usually leg muscles with cranks and chains. This includes generators, mills, drills, presses, boats, planes, and land vehicles. If a human muscle powers it, it’s on topic.

LogHomeTalk – Over time we have become a small log home community, separated only by distance we have become friends. We share a common goal of wanting to live in a log home. We also share the joy and pain of reaching that goal.

RainWater – A group dedicated to harvesting rain water as our source of water for household and garden needs. Water collection, purification, and storage will be discussed. Cistern construction, water conservation, system sizing and other topics are welcomed. Photo, Diagrams, and instructional material can be found in the files and photo’s section. Members may list photo’s of their installations. Links to other helpful sites are found in the links section. Grey water recycling is most pertinent, as are any topics that promote water conservation and non-aquifer depletion water sources like distillation of dew or sea water.

Resource_Conservation – Discuss tips for conserving energy and resources, and using it more efficiently. Download the guide from the files section.

SimplyOffGrid – This is for people who want to live off grid, at the same time, want to keep it simple as possible. If you are like minded, then you are welcome to join! We are all here to help each other out and to learn from common experience and research. Please post your links and research here so we can all glean from it. Book reviews are great too! Please share your experience, links, research and any tried and true ideas with us!! We share ours!


Veggie Hatz Generator

We are in the process of converting the Hatz Generator to run veggie oil. On warm days like today (71F), the Hatz will burn veggie with no conversion. As the temps cool below 55F, the oil gets too thick to flow through the stock filter. What is needed initially is a electrically heated filter, as this is a air cooled engine. Our vehicle conversions use coolant heated filters. The next step is a heater for the fuel tank. We are using a 55 gallon drum for the veggie oil, and a stick on heating pad that runs on 120vac. This power comes from the generator itself, which is started on diesel first. We will post pictures and more documentation as the project goes forward. We are on day three of Hatz Veggie Power.


VeggieGen fixed, Turbine generator, LED Maglight Conversion and More

It was a very busy day at Green Trust. First we installed the new water pump on the VeggieGen. I’m happy to say it’s up and running, and smelling like french fries. We have full power once again.

Next we went to our friends the Martin’s and worked on their new Gas Turbine Generator. Almost got it to light off …

Next we continued siding the woodshed with slabwood to keep of the snow and rain off the firewood.

Finally I converted my MagLight to a high Intensity LED. All in all a very busy but satisfying day.


Auto Transfer Switch installed, Geodesic Quonset lumber arriving.

The first load of lumber for the Geodesic Quonset was delivered. Construction starts immediately.

The Automatic Transfer Switch for the VeggieGen was installed today. It worked flawlessly. With the generator off, the battery bank powers the house through the Cobra HighGear 2kw MSW Inverter. Since this Transfer Switch is set up for 220vac, the two hot positions for the inverter (shorepower) are jumpered to supply 120vac to both sides of the AC Panel. Do not do this if you have a 220vac breaker feeding a 220vac appliance. The VeggieGen (3 phases of 120 vac per phase) has two 120vac legs feeding the generator positions on the transfer switch. The output of the switch feeds the main breaker of the AC Panel. The wire is 10/3 with ground which handles the 30 amps per leg we can pull from the gen. 30 seconds after the Generator is started, power flow to AC panel is smoothly switched from Inverter to Generator. The Computer and Satellite Receiver don’t even see the change. You can also get more info on our PV/Wind System at our Wiki Site.

Automatic Transfer Switch – Two 50 amp hots and one 70 amp neutral switched.

2kw Inverter, 30amp charge controller, and other PV System Components

12 volt, 675 ah Battery Bank – Six 6 volt Trojan T-105

50 amp generator powered Battery Charger


How to obtain clean drinking water

Our recent trip to Anguilla reinforced upon me how we take clean drinking water for granted. On a fairly arid Island surrounded by salt water, drinking water is a scarce commodity, dependent upon imported fuel to run desalinators. I was able to examine some great examples of rain water harvesting (which most everyone there does), but no one drinks it, they buy water, either in 5 gallon jugs, or pay the water truck to fill a tank. I was able to demonstrate our DIY Berkey Water purifier, and explain how atmospheric water generators work. First the Berkey:

This non-electric (gravity) water purification system will purify up to 6000 gallons in the basic kit, 12000 gallons in the advanced kit, or 18000 gallons in the deluxe kit. It will purify rain water, ground water, or even greywater. All you have to provide is two food grade buckets (4-6 gallons) with lids. The square 4 gallon units can accommodate up to 4 filters, the round 5 & 6 gallon buckets can accommodate up to 8 in a pinch. The more filters you have the more GPH output you can supply.

See your purchase, and checkout:

All kits below include our DIY rainwater, solar water heating, and greywater recycling edocumentation set. Shipping is Free in the USA lower 48.

Basic DIY Berkey Kit $125 (two filters, faucet, and instructions):

Advanced DIY Berkey Kit $220 (four filters, faucet, and instructions):

Deluxe DIY Berkey Kit $299 (six filters, faucet, and instructions):

Replacement filters $99 (twinpack):

Arsenic/Fluoride option $60 (comes in sets of 2, screws onto above filters, need 1 for each filter in bucket. If six filters, need 3 sets):

Another option is a Atmospheric Water Generator. Although this option requires electricity, it uses a dehumidifier to pull moisture out of humid air, and runs it through a filter. We have run these units on solar power.