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Using LOR with a generator


cetacea

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Well this past weekend we had our annual Electrical Light Parade in Las Cruces, NM. As the Cub Master for a Cub Scout Pack, I lead the decorating of this year's float and went with a couple LOR controllers. We got the entire float decorated and ready to go. Before we left the shop where we did all the work, I tried out the sequences and all worked fine. However, I tried it out with the controllers plugged into normal 110 AC wall current. When we got to the parade grounds, we fired up the generator (a brand new 4000 watt 30 amp generator used for my trailer) to test things out. As soon as the generator started running, almost all of the lights on the float started to blink and flicker sporatically and at varrying intensities. At first I thought maybe there was a glitch or something, so I shut rebooted the laptop and even unplugged the controllers. As soon as I plugged them back in, the same thing. We only had 2 hours until showtime and I was getting very nervous. One of the leaders thought maybe it was a grounding issue, so I attached a grounding wire from the ground lug on the generator to the ground lugs on both controllers. Nope, that wasn't it! We even moved the generator as far away from the controllers as possible. Maybe it was a grounding problem with the generator itself? So another leader ran to his vehicle and got his generator. We swapped them out and guess what? It did the same thing. I ran the sequences anyways and they still worked, however when lights were supposed to be off they flickered and were dim. The show had to go on, so that is how we ran it. It was still a hit with the crowds and we ended up taking 3rd place overall (it is my personal goal to get first place next year)!

Does anyone know what would have caused this? Do generators create interference that is just not compatible with the LOR controllers? Is there a workaround such as a filter or line conditioner that can be used? There has to be a way to use LOR with a generator right? I sure hope so because I really have some good ideas for next year's float.

Any advise suggestions would be greatly appreciated.



Glenn

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Your problems were most likely caused by dirty electricity. Most smaller generators cheat in the production of AC current using a square wave. The electricity from your outlet is a sine wave. This works OK for most things but can wreck havoc on electronics.

Their are several ways to combat this. A larger UPS unit uses the 110 to charge it's internal battery. Power is supplied via an inverter that converts the 12v to 110. The 110 is sine wave and clean.

Some generators have a built in inverter to do the same thing. The Honda EU lines come to mind. These are not cheap. Larger generators (think trailerable) output sine wave. Honda also has the EB (?) series. While not true sine wave, uses electronics to come close. It is electronics friendly and can be rented from HD.

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It really seems to depend on the generator. Small generators are more likely to have imbalanced reactance or inductance that may throw off the voltage zero crossing, and the zero current points. On the other hand, we ran 20 controllers and a bunch of incandescent lights for two nights on a 175,000 watt generator, and everything worked perfectly...

I've heard stories that the Honda inverter based generators work well with LOR, which is kind of ironic, in that not all inverters work well with LOR either. I've also heard that the 4.30 firmware upgrade on the PC controllers really helps LEDs on LOR powered by cheap inverters, so it might be worth trying as well.

The bottom line is to try to remember to test any LOR set up with the generators that are planned to be used way in advance...

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A dual conversion on line UPS would probably do it.. And cost more than the Honda generator... Most of your typical consumer models are stand by units that just pass the power through with at most a light filtering, as long as line power is available. They only fire up their inverters when the power goes out.

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True. There are other alternatives but they are probably going to be single use for you and not cheap. Such as Furman voltage regulator ($500). A less expensive power conditioner like the Furman PL series. They run about $120 for a 15 amp unit and $200 for the 20 amp unit. I use the latter with my DJ gear and used to get an over voltage protection (shut down) when plugged into a standard generator.

Depending on your needs, might be easiest to just rent.

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How about just using a 12v to 120v inverter connected to the vehicle's battery? That would be much quieter as well.

If you do it again next year, why not go 100% 12 volt, using the DC controllers and LEDs?

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I have the Honda EU-3000 series generator. Works great with LOR !

O'scoping the output, darn near perfect sine wave.

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  • 2 weeks later...

Steven wrote:

How about just using a 12v to 120v inverter connected to the vehicle's battery? That would be much quieter as well.


Many of the inverters (especially the cheaper ones) put out 'dirty' waveforms just like many generators. Whatever you use for power, you want a 'true sine wave'.
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  • 2 weeks later...

Steven wrote:

If you do it again next year, why not go 100% 12 volt, using the DC controllers and LEDs?

Bingo. You would by pass the whole inverter issue all together and you're vehicle's charging system should have no problem handling an all LED load.
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  • 3 months later...

Hi Folks,



Just read this thread. Two years ago I tried to run my yacht-based light show on my on-board diesel generator (20KW). It had symptoms as were described earlier. My understanding from LOR was that the control circuits do NOT like AC whose frequency isn't rock stable. I was never able to make the generator work, although I have not tried it again since upgrading firmware and to LORII. I did install a sine wave inverter and LOR works perfectly on that. Generators (like some yamaha units) that are basically inverters with an alternator front end, are likely to work fine.



Jerry Budelman

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