I've recently (re?)discovered Lister engines and ST Generators.
For those of you with a strange mechanical penchant, or a wild-eyed post-Apocalyptic wishlist, here is the toy for you! It's a piece of early 20th-century British design, now made in India. Runs a house with 9000 watts on .3 gallons of biodiesel per hour (!!!) and can be serviced with flat rocks and grass clippings (well, almost.) They weigh quite a bit, but who cares? No MOS chips, integrated circuits, explosive fuels, or cheap metal parts that aren't meant to be serviced by the owner. Rumors are for some of these engines lasting >100,000 hours with regular maintenance. Wow. Plus, they're just neat machines to look at - dinosaurs that earn their keep.
There's a video on the rocketboy site that shows one running; they're only a bit louder than a dryer outside if you muffle it appropriately. Price is around $2200 with decent-sized engine and generator head; quite reasonable, when compared to any other 100% duty cycle generator you might care to cost out. Links: utterpower.com, oldstylelisters.com, poweranand.com, f1-rocketboy.com/lister.html.
Maybe when my back porch patio concrete gets put down in the spring, there will be a nice corner with a mini-ISO containing fuel and a Lister genset!
Boing Boing editor/partner and tech culture journalist Xeni Jardin hosts and produces Boing Boing's in-flight TV channel on Virgin America airlines (#10 on the dial), and writes about living with breast cancer. Diagnosed in 2011. @xeni on Twitter. email: firstname.lastname@example.org.