1. #1
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    Default anyone run an inverter on their pumper?

    In the process of putting together a wish list for the new pumper. Obviously lighting is a priority. One of our members brought up an inverter instead of a diesel generator. What are your feelings on that? Personally, I feel inverters are better used for small vehicles with only one or two small electrical draws. From what ive used, they have a fixed rpm that needs to be maintained to supply power. How will that effect pump rpm's? I don't want to be in the position of gating back discharges because the engine is running higher to provide lighting. Opinions?

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    Keep in mind that the inverter will draw off of the vehicle's 12v electrical system. Most apparatus have an over taxed electrical system to begin with before you start converting it into AC power as well. Also... truck stalls, you lose your lights. Batteries die, you lose your lights. Alternator craps out, you lose your lights.

    With a generator, it is seperate from the rest of the truck. The generator doesn't whether the rest of the truck is malfunctioning, or even running. You can shut the truck off and leave the generator on if you really want (assuming it isn't a PTO generator).

    Like you originally thought... Inverters are great on little vehicles where a generator is not practical.
    Even the burger-flippers at McDonald's probably have some McWackers.

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    Default It can be done, but......

    It all comes down to three things: the spec, the alternator, and the load draw.

    A proper alternator spec should read something along the lines of:

    "The alternator shall be capable of maintaining charge of the entire electrical system, with all components turned on, at the engine manufacturers recommended idle speed, at 200 degrees fahrenheit."

    -or something like that, I can't remember it verbatim right now. It basically says the alternator should be able to maintain the system, with everything turned on, with the engine idling, at 200 degrees (under the hood) temperature. We have a 1978 Hahn with a 320 amp Leece-Neville alternator. It also has an invertor (can't remember the make or size) that runs two 1500W quartz lights. Engine speed, when concerning the invertor vs. pumping, isnt a concern. As long as it's idling, the invertor works properly. Additionally, if and when your spec is written to match these requirements, a load shedder, which is one of many manufacturer's favorite ways of sucking additional money out of you, will NOT be needed! And when the salesman tells you that NFPA requires it, tell them when the NFPA helps you pay for the truck, then the NFPA can dictate what goes on it. Not everything the NFPA RECCOMENDS (NOT requires!) is good!

    Have you considered a hydraulic generator, such as an A.M.P.S., or the equivalent? I really dont understand why anyone nowadays would want to even consider a completely seperate diesel engine to run a generator. It's nothing but more headaches! Another engine to change the oil in, filters, etc etc etc. Not only that, but a properly installed hydraulic genset can be installed inside the pump compartment, utilizing wasted dead space! Save the deck above the pump for a pre-piped master stream device! Hydraulic gen sets can be run off a seperate PTO. With the exception of some small items, there is virtually NO maintenance! Engage the PTO and forget it!

    http://www.a-m-p-s.com/ehp_home.html
    http://www.fabcopower.com/welder.html
    http://www.onan.com/onan/cmhg/index.jsp

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    We used to run one, but you are limited on the output.

    Check out a hydraulic generator, such as the Harrison Hydra-Gen. you might find it gives you everything you are looking for.

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    I agree with George..............I would try and get a diesel generator that runs off the same fuel tank as the truck. Our neighboring deparmtnet recently bought a hydraulic generator for their older first due Sutphen engine........'77 you there ?? I would not use an inverter on anything larger than passenger type vehicle.
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    Thanks for the input guys. We haven't had any experience with a hydraulic generator yet. Im not ruling it out, Id just like to see how it compares to the diesel set. I like the idea of running it in stand-alone setups. Is it worth it to run the transmission to supply the generator? Im just looking at the worst case scenario: our pumper sitting for 5-6 hours either supplying ac lighting to a large incident or ac to a special needs facility. What about overheating? Really, the oil change or two a year for the diesel set isn't a major project for us. Also, if absolutely needed, the diesel set could be unbolted and removed for service. Is that possible with the hydraulic? All things being equal, does the hydraulic compare equally spec wise?

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    We have one pumper with an inverter and have to be very careful about flatening out the electrical system while pumping. We only have 2 quartz lights (500w ea I believe) and in about 20 minutes you'll notice them getting dim. At about 30 minutes if you have the reds on the wig wags stop for lack of juice. 45 minutes in and just about all the lights are dim. Its actually possible to drain the batteries so flat that the alternator loses its excitment and stops producing altogether until all loads are removed and its allowed to sit at 1500rpm for 15-20 mintues. In short, it sucks. NMfire is 100% right.

    Our other trucks run PTO generators, on Amps, one Harrison, and the third I'm not sure about, its an engine mounted belt driven unit. The belt driven required you keep you RPM's up, the other two like higher RPMs but its not required.

    FWDbuff, while I like PTO hydraulic generators, I would not completely dismiss stand alone units. I see two major advantages for them.

    1st, you don't have to run the 500HP engine to keep 2 lights and a fan on. That save wear and tear on the beast and makes things a lot quieter if you are in a situation to shut off the pumper (long standby on a downed wire or car in ditch).

    2nd, you can pull the unit off the truck and use it remotely. Up here in Maine we had a wicked ice storm a few years back. We had thousands of mile of downed wires, it was days before power was restored. The FD I was with then had portables on the trucks. We pulled one Honda generator off our water truck and used it to run our dispatch center (the back up batteries ran dry the 1st night). Two more went to the elementary school which was being used as an emergency shelter and kept the furnace and well running there. In all, 4 of 5 portable generators ended up being used in some critical capacity (kept one on the extrication rig). Had we been equiped with nothing but PTO units we would have had to tie up the rigs to perform the same missions until other generators could be found (and they were as scarce as hen's teeth).

    One other reason to go with a stand alone is that they are cheap compaired to a Harrison or other hydraulic unit.
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    Here's the link for Harrison Hydra Gen.
    http://www.harrisonhydragen.com/

    I think that there are a few misconceptions about hydraulic generators. First, they can be used while the engine is at idle, so you don't have to wind it up. Secondly, it doesn't have to run off the transmission, it can be tapped of the PTO, greatly reducing the load. Third, I think you will find that it produces an electrical current that is far more stable than a conventional generator. That makes it far more desirable if you are going to be using electronic equipment like computers or some hazmat equipment. Lastly, maintenance is almost non-existent-one fluid change every year or 500 hours.

    Check it out. Keep an open mind.

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    Thanks for the link and the feedback. I'll check them out and try to present them fairly. Like I said, all things being equal, we should have the best. I realize we may pay a bit more, but space is at a premium as well.

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    I would think you would want both an inverter and a generator. Our new Pierce has a hydraulic generator, but we are thinking of installing small inverter, also. We have several mobile generators that can easily be carried to where they are needed.

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    NO WAY IN THE WORLD

    We had one on our Squirt, never again would I ever consinder an inverter on a pumper or ladder.

    RPM's must be high to run inverter and unless you have a seperate motor for your pump, this will make it hard to control RPM's for pumping Operations and still maint. high RPM's for inverter. We had a ladder too with it's own PTO to confuse matters even more.

    If you want a inverter I will give you ours, I just have to take it out of the trash pile first. We removed our inverter and replaced it with a Honda Genorator, best move we made.

    I would like to shoot the guy that say lets put an inverter on a pumper...

    So stop thing about it. Inverters S@%#

    NEVER AGAIN
    Last edited by Captain12; 08-03-2003 at 11:07 AM.

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    Hhhmmmm... we run an inverter on our pumper, with x2 300 watt halogens on telescoping poles at the back of the truck. Since I am usually the pump op at most of our calls, I am the one who 'see's all' as it were (not counting the Chief of course LOL).

    We also have a stand alone generator on our Rescue truck, running x3 300 watt halogens, plus outlets for the sawzall and any additional lights.

    Given the noise level etc of the Rescue truck vs the pumper, I will go with the pumper any day - if it runs out of fuel, we have also just "lost" the pumper too. Also, to date we have not had any problems with power draw while running the inverter and pump together and full emergency lights too. We idle the truck at 10000 rpm when sitting. The last time I used both at the same time was a couple months ago (ya I know some of you will be laughing at that part ) during our auto wreckers fire. It was 0230ish, and we had something like 12 cars burning. We had a 2-1/2 main line, running to 2 attack lines, and all lights running. We were there for about 1-1/2hrs, and I never had a problem with any of the systems onboard.... other than needing a water refill from the Tanker .

    I don't know much about the other systems that have been discussed, but as with anything mechanical, do the homework and if you can, go visit other stations who use the gear. We like what we have and it works well for us, but who's to say there isn't something better out there. Good luck in your search, Quint1driver.
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    Post inverter

    I have had the oppertunity to use a diesel gen, hyd. gen. and an inverter. The diesel is great but as stated in other replies you have a mainteance issiue. The inverter is just not powerfull enough to run what you need. The hydraulic gen. is the way to go. Almost mainteance free ( check the fliud level ) they can run forever. Most come as a self contained unit and run off the pto port in the side of your transmission. ( our transmission is an New world model 4060 ). We have been on scene of motor vehicle acc. for 6 or more hours and never miss a beat. Hope it helps

    Lurch3639

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    An inverter WILL work just fine as some have noted ASSUMING THE ALTERNATOR IS BEEFED UP AND CAN KEEP UP WITH IT AT IDLE. I have seen many many new apparatus where that just doesn't happen. You are basing the reliability of one system on another one. Personally, I prefer the redundancy of having two seperate non-dependant systems. If one craps out, the other can keep going.
    Even the burger-flippers at McDonald's probably have some McWackers.

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    Originally posted by MalahatTwo7
    We idle the truck at 10000 rpm when sitting.
    Realy?? Wow, a gas turbine powered fire truck!

    Sorry, couldn't resist.

    I have to echo NM here, if you spec your alternator right, for the load you want to carry, you should have no problem.

    There are, however, limits to how big you can go with the inverter. Our rescue pumper runs a total of 5000 watts of lights without blinking an eye and still has plenty of power (15Kwatts to be specific) to run wet vacs, sawsall or any other tool we need.

    To do that with an inverter you'd need nearly 500amps from your alternator, not counting what the truck needs to run (watts = volts X amps).

    My previously mentioned pumper which has the inverter needs 100 amps to run the two 500 watt flood lights (83 amps plus a 15% efficiency loss in the inverter) , and probably another 80 amps to run the lights and electronics of the truck. Say you've got a 250 amp alternator you're gonna lose a chunk of capacity due to heat (usually about 20%) and if you're running at less than the alternator's optimum RPM you've lost capacity there too, so the problem I have is not enough power comes from my alternator to run my 2 flood lights at pumping speeds, hence the truck's electrical system farts out.

    Then you need to consider the wiring you need to run 100 amps of power to the inverter, its gonna be the size of Hulk Hogan's arms.

    In short, to repeat myself, go with a PTO or stand alone.
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    I will go with the pumper any day - if it runs out of fuel, we have also just "lost" the pumper too.
    Not for nuthin', but if the pumper runs out of fuel, the pump operator just better start running and hope I crap out before he does.

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    Originally posted by GeorgeWendtCFI

    Not for nuthin', but if the pumper runs out of fuel, the pump operator just better start running and hope I crap out before he does.
    It might also get hit my a meteor.
    Even the burger-flippers at McDonald's probably have some McWackers.

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    I agree with the hydraulic generators. I think they are great. You don't have the noise, and they can run much more than a portable generator. We had ours added a couple years ago to our 1989 Sutphen engine. The only problems we have had with it were just problems with the installation because the company that did it did a very poor job, but that's another story. Plus you save compartment space, which you can never have enough of........

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    Thumbs up

    I guess i have to throw my 2 cents in. It comes down to a balance of what you really need and how much you can throw at it. We just took delivery of a full size rescue no pump or water or hose. Were going the hyraulic route when we were convinced by one of the reps before the tender went out to consider a PTO unit. We decided on a Onan Protec. it gave us more power for less money. Of course the only setback was keeping th truck running but we always have it running. As for power requirements it has lots of reserve. 35000 watts, we run 6 1500watt focus lights off it and our Duo simo pump for the Rescue tools. Enough extra for the light tower in the future.

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    Is there a difference between a hydraulic generator and a PTO generator?

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    George- A Direct-Drive PTO driven gen set has a shaft coming off the PTO port of the tranny directly into the set. Not a bad concept, and the one we have on our rescue truck works great. However, you must maintain higher RPM's, and you are also limited to weather or not the manufacturer will be able to install the normally-sized gen set in the allocated space (somewhere "down under").


    A Hydraulic Gen Set is also driven off the PTO port of the tranny- a SMALL pump (at least in one manufacturer's case, I can't speak for the others) is attached right to the PTO port. The hydraulic hoses are then attached to the pump, and they in turn, are ran to the gen set itself- again which is VERY small. I am not quite sure how they make such powerful generators so small. Anyhoo, 90% of the systems I have looked at on pumpers, are installed inside the pump compartment- using dead space!!!! There is virtually no maintenance! Change the filters every 3,000 hours, and top off the fluid once in a while! (We had to top ours off for the first time in 2 years just last week- and I think we added like 3 ounces?)

    FTM-PTB-EGH-RFB!

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    Thumbs down Nothing Good came from our Inverter

    On our 96 Pumper we spec'd a 4kw inverter to save compartment space. I was to power 4 500w halogen lamps and an extension cord for 1 exhaust fan, well below the capacity of the inverter. The inverter lasted about 4 year, not much use. At that time it fried itself. It was service by the manufacturer. Put back in service did not work long before more problems surfaced. It ended up frying the truck alternator. Authorized repair shop said alt was too small and more damage to inverter. Replace alt with largest available from freightliner at approx 2grand and serviced inverter, still can't power a single 500w light. Unit is now out of service and we are looking for alternate power sources like a hydraulic genset. Contacted Truck dealer and they stated they no longer install inverters (as of mid 97) due to all the problems and maintenance issues with them. As a department we will never install an inverter again, won't even move current inverter to pickup truck for small amount of scene lighting.
    Ralph Connor
    WVFD
    www.WilliamstownFD.com

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