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Onan vs Northern Lights

Discussion in 'Generators' started by Capt Ralph, Nov 11, 2018.

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  1. Capt Ralph

    Capt Ralph Senior Member

    Joined:
    Sep 8, 2004
    Messages:
    8,403
    Location:
    Satsuma, FL
    We have a good quote from Onan on a 21.5KW gen-set for a customer. We are hitting hard our Northern Lights vendors for a good price on their 20KW also.
    We are replacing a Hat's MD4 20Kw reef material pile.
    I noticed the later Onan's are coming with the Kobota blocks rather than the Shibaura blocks that N L & Onan shared. I have always been a Kobota fan but also have no complaints on the Shibaura either.
    Onan has fancy electrical thingies. N L has relays.
    N L has their own generator end. Onan uses the stanford-NextGen windings.
    Gear driven raw water pumps seem to be better on the N L.
    The N L heat ex-changer seems to be more serviceable.

    We also need the N2K I/O. The Onan would come with the J1939 and N2K option plugs into that.
    N L has a non company vendor to use for N2K I/O.

    Eager to read what other members have to say about these two packages.

    If you have any history on me, You already know I'm not a Kohler or Worse & break fan. Please don't bring that crap (no relation) up.
    Last edited: Nov 11, 2018
  2. Pascal

    Pascal Senior Member

    Joined:
    Feb 29, 2008
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    5,098
    Location:
    Miami, FL
    NL. In 8 years running a pair of 20 NLs I had fewer shut downs than in 2 years on a pair of 27.5 Ohnos with 1/4 of the hours
  3. olderboater

    olderboater Senior Member

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    Location:
    Fort Lauderdale
    We had Onan in that size range on our loop boat and had no issues with them. However, we've run our four NL's extensively and for a longer time without issues so if I had a choice, I'd always go with NL.
  4. motoryachtlover

    motoryachtlover Senior Member

    Joined:
    Jan 29, 2007
    Messages:
    256
    Location:
    smithfield, VA
    Last year I replaced my Onan 20 with a NL 20. Had an oil leak fixed under warranty. I did have an issue that I never would have figured out had I not been onboard when it happened. Anchored out and I heard the pitch of the genny engine change and major black smoke and soot on the water. Ran down to the engine room and it was about stalled out and opened up the sound shield and there is a rubber air inlet hose that has a clamp to hold it but it had walked its way up against the side soundshield and was sucked closed. Pulled the hose back and tightened the clamp and it fired right back up. Wonder if NL should have installed wire reinforced hose that would be less likely to get sucked shut. Minor issue but had I not been there it would have been a real pain to figure that one out.
  5. Bamboo

    Bamboo Senior Member

    Joined:
    Dec 19, 2008
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    935
    Location:
    Palm Beach, FL
    Not familiar with the Onan, but have quite a bit of experience with different NL- and think they are very very good.
  6. Trinimax

    Trinimax Senior Member

    Joined:
    Jan 18, 2010
    Messages:
    201
    Location:
    Trinidad and Tobago Yacht club
    For me what you said there,"Onan has fancy electrical thingies. N L has relays." would make the decision a simple one. Have had too many bad experiences with Onan and Kholer units not working due to some fault that was picked up by their overly complicated control system.
  7. Fishtigua

    Fishtigua Senior Member

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    Jul 20, 2007
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    2,670
    Location:
    Guernsey/Antigua
    As an ex-Onan dealer, the number of $800 control panel/PCBs we have had replace, just as units are out of warranty, is annoying. I'd stick with N/Ls too.
  8. Capt Ralph

    Capt Ralph Senior Member

    Joined:
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    8,403
    Location:
    Satsuma, FL
    Update
    The Onan rep was real good to us on his last quote.
    I sensed our customer really wanted the N L setup.
    I beat up our N L rep with the numbers.

    Less some blood loss and other sore body parts, a couple of extra days of wrestling, this morning our N L rep did beat the numbers and received his order check.

    I am happy to report a new 20KW Northern Lights has been ordered with the new design sound box and extra optional (below the tray) vibration isolators.

    Fyi, N L discontinued their N2K data box option a while back.
    A new N2K and auto remote start options have just been released by N L. It is factory installed only and is over $3000 extra.

    There are other simple N2K I/O boxes out there that will work with our planned inverter system and will be just at (maybe still under) the Onan budget when installed.
  9. Lenny

    Lenny Member

    Joined:
    Apr 27, 2017
    Messages:
    80
    Location:
    Miami
    We have older Northern Light 35Kw generators (2). 1200 RPM. Time to rebuild or replace. About the same price. Spoke to engineering department. They said that these generates are built proof and rebuild. When did you ever hear that from a company that sells new generators. A few years ago we added a PTO to one of the generators. Not easy and the factory went out of their way to help.
    My last boat had an Onan - new- replacement for a Kohler. First trip to the Bahamas from Miami. Injector system broke. Factory ok but not great
    Firm believer in Northern.
  10. GhostriderIII

    GhostriderIII Senior Member

    Joined:
    May 8, 2015
    Messages:
    356
    Location:
    Newfoundland
    Had Onan for many years replaced them with NL. Replaced them with remaned 453s