Generator Runs on Charcoal

After a power outage last Summer that happened while we were stuck at home sick with Covid, I began piecing together a solution to use a large portable generator to provide emergency power to my house if need be. I had a 30 amp inlet installed on my house so I could hook the generator up to my panel and run the essentials in a power outage. Of course, I was planning all along to use my charcoal gasifier to fuel it so I could run it even if I couldn’t get gasoline (or it got too expensive :expressionless:). My current gasifier was going to be good enough for basic testing, but I am in the process of building a much larger gasifier. I made a video of my initial setup and startup of the generator on charcoal. It was very exciting.



Thanks for letting us hear that particular inverter-generator run on both fuels Bryan.
I’ve been wanting to hear that.

If you move your mixing closer to the carburetor inlet you will decrease your cranking up times.

By the end of your video, you had gained that Black Hands Freedom look for sure.
Steve Unruh


Congrats on your first powered charcoal run Bryan , , but now the first run is over please don’t run again without some filtering otherwise i think that nice generator will have a very short life , the chances of the filter being too fine and hence stopping the engine running was not the problem i think , because when you first started your fan even you were surprised by how much suction there was before you lite the gasifier , i bet it was more likely you had air leaks in the pipes to and from the filter .
Also when you were showing us how much fuel it had used i noticed what looked like water drops hanging from the lip around the top , make sure you run some petrol through your generator for 5 mins to help clean up your carb other wise you will notice it starting to corrode pretty quick …
Anyway good luck and hope to see lots more on your build .


Hi Bryan,
Can we see a sketch of your gasifier and charcoal retort?
I made something similar a while ago. We could swap ideas and experience.


My tlud (Top Lit Up Draft) charcoal maker.


Thanks for the reminder about running on gasoline for a few minutes to flush the carb. I actually ran the generator on gasoline for about 10 minutes after my gasifier test because I was testing out a couple other tools. Now, I’ll remember to be intentional about running it on gasoline post-gasifier usage. This whole
gasifier setup is very temporary. Yes, this setup has a plethora of potential leak spots. My goal is to have a whole system that is welded and airtight from the gasifier to the filter to the outlet of a cooling rack (to get rid of a lot of that moisture), and the only flexible piping would be from the cooling rack to the engine.


Currently, my retort consists of a 5 gallon steel bucket
with a couple holes drilled around the bottom that I fill with maple branches/limbs and throw in the fire pit.

As I am planning to move beyond the hobby stage of gasification(finally) and into a more serious dependence on charcoal gasification for engines, I am hoping to develop a more serious charcoal production system. I have a motor and am working on putting together a charcoal grinder. I still haven’t decided on a retort design. For me, the easier the better.

I can throw together a drawing of the gasifier. Basically, it’s a “Simple Fire” design with a 2 inch pipe in through the bottom of the tube and a 2 inch pipe cap with 4 quarter inch holes drilled in it for the nozzle. The nozzle has held up very well so far.

I am also on the process of building a new, larger gasifier that can handle longer run times between refills.


Hi Bryan , just in case it does happen , i found that the butterfly on the throttle and the choke are the main sufferer of damp and dirty gas a very thin layer of dust gets into the stems of the butterfly’s and seizes them up in as little as a few days of non use even after a run of petrol afterwards so if i remember before a period of non use i would go out and open close both just to free them off i think because we have to dissimilar metals the alloy part always does this last thing you need on inverter generators are the servo motors packing up .
My issue of dirty gas all went away with better filters so don’t underestimate the importance of a good filter , i have a main filter and a final inline filter that does a great job of stopping the moisture and fine dust getting into my engine , its a pool or spa inline filter its only about 4 inches in dia by about 8 inches tall with a small basket inside that i fill with cat litter crystals it absorbs all the moisture in the gas and helps contain the fine dust too . i just clean and reload after every run in less than 2 mins .


A spray with some rubbing or denatured alcohol could help clean them up. Little spray of it with the engine running or when shut off just wipe with a rag.


What really works well is to spray some shots of that “Purple Power” into the carb as it is running. If I suspect overly dirty gas or tar, I will douse it in there, about five to ten shots.


Here are a couple pics of the nozzle as of now. The pictures aren’t the best, but I couldn’t unscrew the nozzle, so I ended up using an endoscope and sticking it down in the gasifier. You can actually still see the casting seam across the diameter of the cap.



Nozzles definitely fare better when it’s under the reaction and not beside it, looks good!


Hey Bryan,
That’s a perfect description.
I think a tlud (Top Lit Up Draft) is the dirt simplest way to make charcoal. I started out by using three of the 2-1/2 lb coffee cans stacked on top of each other and little steel collars to hold them together. I still use that one to make charcoal for my bbq. My neighbor let me cut a bunch of dead limbs off his apple tree a couple years ago. I live in Colorado where we have a semi-arid climate so finding dry wood is no problem. But a tlud will just smoke if you put green wood in it. Link to an early version of my coffee can tlud.
So, … cutting up all that wood is a chore. I’m working on a wood chunker, but it isn’t done yet. WK made something out of the rear end of a semi tractor. I can’t really have something like that here in suburbia. My chunker will take up about the same amount of space as a lawn mower and weigh about 120 lbs, if things work out.


I’ve thought about making a blower powered TLUD for faster cook times.
Take two 55 gallon drums, cut part of the bottom off of one and weld it to the bottom of the other. Main barrel has holes in the bottom to act as a grate for air to flow through.

Have a pipe welded into the new bottom section, add a valve of some sort for shutting down. Use a bilge blower or mattress blower to force air in from the bottom. The leftover from the second barrel could be used for the afterburner. When you’re done just close the valve and set a lid on it to let it cool down.


Hi Cody, could you do a simple drawing of what you are talking about? I think I know but I am not sure.
Thanks Bob


You’d have to weld this bottom to the false bottom to ensure it’s airtight, and the blower will make sure the air flows evenly through the false bottom. Make it into Swiss cheese.

Bruce Southerland has made an iteration of this idea using the perforated drum of a washing machine.


Okay the bottom will take a beating but if you put another bottom plate in with spacers that can be removed with holes in it. That can be replaced would be better. This would save your barrel.
It could be a no weld too. Just stack it on the lower barrel piece, when when done with the cooked batch set the barrel on the damp ground to seal the bottom off. This is what I do. Cover the top tight with rocks on top. Let it cool for a couple of days or water it down.


I have had a thought similar, but based on the fact that the the yields from my charcoal making are usually about 2/3 the volume of the wood I started with, and thinking that a 55 gallon barrel might be a good sized storage container. So 2/3 of 1.5 barrels equals 1 full barrel
I have increased the draft on my coffee can tlud just by adding more cans on top to form a taller chimney. If I add two cans it blasts pretty hard. Three and the lowest can turns orange yellow and starts to collapse.


Here is my easy no weld Top Light Up Draft Charcoal maker that I started with.

I have found that filling the second barrel 3/4 full I would end up with a full bottom barrel of charcoal. Very little smoke if you use dry wood. The two barrels are touching but not a air tight seal so air can come in at this spot also and at the bottom. The bottom barrel can be also used for storeage if you have more barrels.


Hi Bob , you asked me about my retort a few weeks ago , i still not finished mine off but i made one for the yard 2 weeks ago , this is what it looks like .
I cut just a tad under a 6 inch hole and then slits around the dia of the hole

i then bend up the slits , then i get my stove pipe and put a few slits around the bottom and the top of the tube .

then i put the crimped end through the drum and self tap screws through the tabs and into the pipe just to keep it from moving around too much .

I then try and cut a hole as small as the pipe will allow in the lid ,but due to the pipe moving when being filled it sometimes moves off centre and so a bar needs to be welded in and against the stove pipe to keep it central , that i did not do here .

I then just wrap as much insulation as i can manage around the side and bottom of the drum

I then wrap tin around to protect the insulation sides and bottom

and then fill and burn , i seal the top lid on with screws and place mud around the flue pipe to seal off some of the gases that escape

This lot was burning for just over 2 and bit hours as it was mainly pine with some gum on top , when loaded with hard wood split to normal wood heater size it takes a little over 4 hours .
I have another open burn hopper that makes continuous charcoal and i will take some photo’s or video of it the next time i fire it up


I’m also in the process of building a solar panel system to supplement the generator and provide renewable energy. I’m not quite ready to go off-grid yet, but this setup will reduce my reliance on the utility company and will help me be better prepared for power outages. I’m still tinkering with the setup and making changes, but overall I’m very pleased with the results.