Converting an electric generator to run on homemade bio-gas is a good idea if you have a source where the gas can be tapped on a regular basis and a consistent supply. The most common sources of bio-gas are agricultural waste, manure, sewage, food waste, and municipal waste.
Basically, the gas is produced when organic matter is broken down in the absence of oxygen. The gas is then directed through pipes to where they are going to be used. Most people use bio-gas as fuel for cooking and heating but you can also use it to power electric generators.
Majority of electric generators these days run on fossil fuels such as gasoline, propane and even ethanol. However, with a few minor modifications, some of these generators can be converted to also run on natural bio-gas. There are companies that manufacture conversion kits which enable this transition from oil to bio-gas. The difficulty in modifying the generator depends on the brand and corresponding complexity of the machine’s energy-burning mechanism. In fact, some generator manufacturers even put out detailed tutorials on how their products can be modified to operate on bio-gas or natural gas. This is often done through corporate responsibility initiatives that aim to come up with clean and sustainable sources of energy.
In order to convert a regular 2000-watt electric generator to run on bio-gas, you are going to need a conversion kit. Among the most trusted manufacturers of these kits is the Virginia-based company US Carburetion from which you are going to need the company’s Type C Tri-Fuel kit. This conversion kit makes use of an adapter that is installed between the air cleaner and the carburetor. This is a popular choice among engineers and mechanics because installing it does not require drilling into the carburetor. The kit also comes with a regulator accompanied by a purge pin or what is commonly referred to as a push pin primer.
In installing the kit, you need to follow all the procedures and safety precautions detailed in the manual. This is to prevent problems in the future like gas leaks. After installing the kit, you need to regap the spark plug so that it will now measure 0.5 millimeters or about 0.02 inches. For the spark plug to work, you have to fit the gas hose with a moisture remover and flashback arrestor. An ordinary cotton wool or brass wool can do the trick.
The main drawback of using bio-gas to power an electric generator is that it can be hard to kick-start. Starting the engine can take more than just a few tries. Some people fix this problem by cranking the generator on gasoline first to kick-start it then immediately switch over to bio-gas. The gasoline serves as the priming fuel. Others bypass the regulator by utilizing a low pressure bio-gas system. Furthermore, bio-gas also contains hydrogen sulfide which can be corrosive to the engine. With that said, you might consider building a hydrogen sulfide scrubber with a chamber filled with steel wool. This will significantly help in keeping the electric generator’s engine clean and operational.
Watch a for a later article from us with some ideas for generating your own bio-gas for use in systems like the one we just described.
Gordon's expertise in the area of industrial energy efficiency and alternative energy. He is an experienced electrical engineer with a Masters degree in Alternative Energy technology. He is the co-founder of several renewable energy media sites including Solar Thermal Magazine.