Brian Rice explains how an old Villiers-powered 1.5KvA generator set carried his house through the worst that Storm Eunice could muster.
The story really started back in the late 1990s, when I received an email out of the blue from a complete stranger, offering me a small generating set that he had no use for. It sounded interesting so, as it was only a few miles from my workplace in Wiltshire, the next day by arrangement I had an extended lunch hour and drove over to have a look.
The gentleman had recently moved into a small cottage and the gen-set had been left behind by the previous occupants. We did a deal on the spot; a donation to a mutually acceptable local charity was proposed, and I came away delighted. I found I had acquired a 240-volt Villiers-powered 1.5KvA set, in hardly-used condition that, judging by the labels still attached, had been hired from a long-since defunct company during the three-day weeks back in the 1970s, but had never found its way back to the company depot.
Turn the clock forward a few more years and, having retired, I bought a new small shed for the mower and the garden tools. The Villiers was installed just inside the door, readily accessible and was ‘plumbed up’ with a separate lamp and switch from the mains power in the shed, which happened to be a sensible move.
Occasionally it had a run, producing clouds of smoke initially which quickly cleared (maybe the oil sump was overfilled?) and sometimes, to give it a load, I ran my electric mower or hedge trimmer off it. After all, everyone or everything has to have a bit of work to do at some time, just to keep fit and healthy!
Anyway, another 15 years passed by, bringing us to the present day – well, February 18th, 2022, to be precise. Storm Eunice came with a vengeance. During the morning the power faltered, and went off. After a few minutes it came back on, but soon went off again, this time for some hours. Luckily we had boiled water and filled flasks.
Towards the end of the afternoon we heard reports that a tree had brought down a high-voltage cable and that our power supply wasn’t going to be restored any time soon, so it was time for action! I ran an extension cable from the shed in the gathering dusk, and set up spare reading lamps in each downstairs room. As it got darker, I set the Villiers’ choke, turned on the fuel tap on the full tank of very stale E5 petrol and, with a flourish, gave a pull on the rope start. The engine bust into life, I reset the choke and we had light… and smoke! I shut the shed door and came in.
After some minutes, while wondering if the old engine was producing sufficient power for the central heating pump as well, I noticed that the lights were flickering – why? The penny soon dropped, so I ran back out into the wind and rain and opened the shed door. Almost immediately the misfiring ceased, and the little set began running smoothly once more! With no ventilation, the engine was trying to inhale the carbon monoxide it had produced itself – its own exhaust fumes – and opening the door had restored the oxygen levels.
Some hours later, and after just one more top-up of old-stored E5 petrol, the power was restored and the engine was turned off. Panic over! Now for the next storm…
This article is from the latest issue of Stationary Engine magazine, and you can get a money-saving subscription simply by clicking HERE
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