Camp Generator Automatic on and off


My goal is to have a simple generator at camp. One that starts automatically when you turn on a light switch and automatically shut off when you turn off the switch. There is no utility power at camp, so this is not a switching from one power source to another issue. We used to have a generator that did just as I described back in the 70's, but no one liked it as it was very loud, but we loved the convenience of it. We have a Honda generator now that is nice and quiet, but is a manual start and my wife can no longer start it when I'm not not there. I can add a starter to it, but she will still have to go out and start it, and she has some mobility issues. Hence the reason for me wanting all of this to be automatic.
I'm completely new to Arduino, so please bare with me. I know this can be done with Arduino as is probably very simple coding, but being completely new to this I have no idea where to even start?
Kind regards,

Are you thinking that if you turn on a light (one of many?), the generator must start or is there a dedicated switch that tells the generator to start up?

Yes, that's exactly what the old generator did.

Which - dedicated switch for the generator or any call for power turns it on?

I believe that turning on the light completed the circuit, that's about all I remember about it. So call for power.

I was afraid of that, though obviously that's the most convenient. I could probably McGyver some way of doing it in an extremely unsafe way, but I suspect it's a fairly simple circuit that is well known. Hopefully some of the other forum members have some input for you.

Sadly, it's proving impossible to google - everything I get is about automatic generators that come on at your house when there's a power cut.

This has NOTHING to do with "code", yet.
The first thing for you to do is describe in detail exactly what you must do in each step to start the generator. Then what you must do to shut down the generator.
From that detail, you can derive the additional physical devices necessary to duplicate your process.
Only then can you consider "code".

its a Honda EU2000i generator. I can install a 12 volt electric starter. As it sits now, all you have to do is turn a knob to the on position and pull the start cord, and turn the knob off to stop. Easy enough for me, but not my wife, and I'm not always there when she needs electricity. We've managed so far with an inverter for small stuff, but that's a short term solution.
It seems incredible that 70 year old technology cant's be replicated on a modern generator with these little computers, but it's become quite an obstacle?
WildBill, you're right about googling the solution. I hit the same roadblocks in my searches. That's why I joined this site.
Thank you,

It’s not really an Arduino problem, but how you signal via a “ dead switch “

You could I guess have a circuit whereby the generator is disconnected from the load and a battery circuit takes its place - operating a switch then makes a dc circuit that tells the generator to start , when it’s up to speed it switches itself into circuit and the battery out ( well other ways around!) . This can be done with relay logic.

Then you need to find a device to turn the knob on, just like you do and turn the knob off, just like you do. How will the electric starter be controlled? You will need to make that capable of computer control, as well.'
If you are serious, get a generator that is designed for remote starting, like an RV generator..

Come to think about it, I have friends with Honda generators that remote start and stop, remotely, with push buttons. I know they work from inside camp trailers and motor homes.

I think @Paul_KD7HB's suggestion is the best, by far.

To do this yourself, you need to do some significant work. You'll need some kind of low voltage feed to the mains circuit, so when a switch is closed current flow can be detected. Then this will need to activate the starter. Once the generator is running, you'll need some kind of automatic changeover device to disconnect the low voltage sensing circuit, and change over to the mains generator.

You then need to think about how to measure the mains AC current, so that when it becomes zero (all switches turned off), it shuts down the generator, and reconnects the sensing circuit.

All of this has to comply with electrical safety requirements, too.

Honestly, it's just way too much. Forget about the automatic sensing. Instead, as @Paul_KD7HB recommends, concentrate on remote starting and stopping by manual control. It sounds like off-the-shelf solutions are readily available.

1 Like