Generators-Seeking hard solid insider info

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Aug 20, 2003
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On 10/29 I posted asking where we could discuss portable generators. Got lots of good advice which matched up with my online research. I'm having the house wired for a transfer box. Now I'm looking for hard info on brands, performance, "clean" electric output and how important it really is, etc, etc. -I'm willing to spend extra for good quality, keep-it-for-years equipment. I've seen postings telling of fried circuit boards, burnt furnace blower and fridge motors, and computer damage. Don't want to save up front and have to spend on other repairs/replacements. So... Looking at units with Honda GX, Yamaha, or other proven engines. I have good local cycle shops in the area for Honda and Yamaha. Looking at Honda-powered Pramac or DeWalt (made by Pramac/Mecc Alte, a respected Italian based world-wide company). Pramac advertises less than 6% Total Harmonic Distortion for safety with modern electronics, circuit boards, and motors. Honda Inverter sets are bigger money than I'd like to spend. Do Non-Inverter Honda generators produce "clean" electricity (less than 5-6% THD?) If so, I'll go for the mid-range Hondas. How about the new Yamahas? The EPA/CARB
 

olddognewtrks

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CONTINUED FROM ABOVE (Looking at contractor/rental grade units of all brands). How about the new Yamahas? the EPA/CARB compliance (durability) rating is 500 hours vs Honda's 1000 hours, but both should last forever with good care. On-line manuals for units from a few years ago showed THD up to 35%, but how about the newer models? What about Northstar, Gillette, or WINCO brands. They're an on-line sale, and I don't know about servicing. Thanks in advance. Don't care to sit in the cold and dark, with rotting food, and a broken generator
 
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Wisconsin
I have a Honda 2000 watt generator. I've used it a handful of times over the years. If we lose power at the house for any length of time I can rotate it around to a few things at a time, fridge, freezer, ect.. I have the wood stove for heat. I don't feel the need and expense of a whole house generator, in our case.
 
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Hawkinsville Ga
Our primary generator is a Chonda 8k watt. Although I have to position/manually start the gen, it runs everything I need to run and includes four baths, full kitchen, full master and spare bedrooms, lower level lights/recepticles, water pump, and water heater and house alarm. Another kw or two would get me central air along with everything else.
 
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I am one of the more experienced generator users here. My suggestions remain the same. Name brand, open frame, conventional construction (engine/gen head) , contractor quality. Northstar makes a 390cc Honda powered unit, with a very high quality generator head. http://www.northerntool.com/shop/tools/product_200467366_200467366 The generator head is Italian on the above unit. I can't say for sure who makes the gen head, if it's a meccalte or not. I strongly suspect it is, as this is what Northern tools sells for raw generator heads. However, these units do work very well and are clearly very high quality. http://www.northerntool.com/shop/tools/product_200585439_200585439 This is the Honda brand with the same exact engine. It's more expensive. I am not at all sure the generator head is significantly different in overall, or output quality. HOWEVER, one thing to keep in mind. The Honda unit uses an integrated generator head mounting solution. So, if OEM type repairs are necessary down the road, it will probably be considerably more expensive. (I can't tell you if the Honda unit's engine will also accept a conventional J609b generator head, I suspect not) While Yamaha and others make some really good equipment, they are expensive and I'm not at all sure parts availability is as good. Pramac has a less positive reputation. I'd stay away.
 
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Joined
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You did not say what size you were interested in purchasing. Note: Any small single cylinder engine will produce a slightly non perfect sine wave. Due to the combustion event taking place once every 2 revolutions. There really is a slight acceleration on the power stroke, and slight deceleration due to load, the rest of the time. So, a non inverter generator will always produce a less than perfect sine wave. This matters not. As it's more than good enough for household use. A quality generator and proper hook up will be trouble free, with regard to power quality, sensitive electronics and so on. As with any generator, you must manage your loads within the capabilities of your generator. Failure to do so will result in problems.
 
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The reason I tend to shy away from inverter units for prime power, is simply that they can and do fail, and parts availability is problematic and EEEEEXXXXXXpensive. My boss' inverter board failed. Had to be imported, took 6 weeks. Cost almost as much as a new generator. 20 years down the road, those large capacitors and possibly sensitive electronic components will have degraded. And parts may not be available at all.
 
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The Electrician I work with installs the Generac brand. If you want to go whole house natural gas/LP
 
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op, don't worry about clean power, you should think about owning and maintaining for long term use and use that as a guideline for your decision. 1. Engine - watercooled honda or honda clone 2. Remote start option 3. LP or Nat Gas conversion, so you don't have to sit on stale gas 4. Noise - watercooled will be the quietest for output 5. exhaust 6. how much power do you actually need 7. how long will you be without power I live in west mi and we are getting one of our typical winter storms, I asked around and 6 days was the longest we have lost power. I 1st choice would be a Champion Generator on sale with remote start with an LP or propane. But I opted for a harbor freight 800 watt 2 cycle for quick go to generator. it was $89 (find coupon in popular mags) I have a inch hole drilled in my outside door for an extension cord. I use the power to keep my phone/internet and some lights going. I have a 2 gallon gas that should keep me going for a while. I do have a honda eu2000 which cost nearly $900, it weighs around 70lbs, I can safely say that this does not give me 10x the benefit. there is no end to the biggest gen you can buy so go for the smallest lightest thing and use it everywhere.
 
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I have a portable Honda generator / 5,000 watts Once a year I drain the tank and put in new gas. Starts on the first pull. Suggestion: 1) Take the time and install a Transfer Switch (as op did)/ now you only deal with (1) extension cord. 2) Once or twice a year, start the engine and run the generator part under a load. Problem I experienced (only once): I plugged in the refrigerator to run for a short time. It would not start - for several days. I began shopping for a new frig. The day before removing from kitchen, it started working. I suspect it was out of cycle (if that makes any sense). That was 10 years ago, frig is still running.
 
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Originally Posted By: larryinnewyork
I have a portable Honda generator / 5,000 watts Once a year I drain the tank and put in new gas. Starts on the first pull. Suggestion: 1) Take the time and install a Transfer Switch (as op did)/ now you only deal with (1) extension cord. 2) Once or twice a year, start the engine and run the generator part under a load. Problem I experienced (only once): I plugged in the refrigerator to run for a short time. It would not start - for several days. I began shopping for a new frig. The day before removing from kitchen, it started working. I suspect it was out of cycle (if that makes any sense). That was 10 years ago, frig is still running.
This my gen. 5KW Powermate with the Subaru engine. I know nothing about dirty or clean power, but I do run my flat screen TV, and computer from it with no problems to date. This pic is from my most recent power test. When in use I just back feed through my welder outlet.
 
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Winco makes excellent generators. I have 2 both LP gas. Have you figured your total load including starting load. Don't depend up on the "peak" to handle the starting load. Build that into the base load calculation. But you can start things with motors one at a time. What is your goal? Hurricane? Winter ice storm? Power grid failure? You need to plan for fuel as part of the generator plan. You can buy gas ahead of time for a hurricane, when its over you use up the leftover in your car. But you cannot plan for a power grid failure. While I think LP gas is the best you need tanks. Rent or buy. Natural gas sounds great until there is a fire or something and they cut off the natural gas. In Katrina there was a huge place with a warehouse full of frozen food/meat and they had natural gas generators. But the gas company shut off the natural gas due to nearby fires and they lost everything
 
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Iowa
IMHO, petrol generators are one of those things that you should spend the most you can afford to get the best. I like inverter gensets because they use far less fuel and and much quieter. If you live in an urban environment, both fuel efficent and quietness is key (especially during emergencies), unless your neighbors are deaf and you got a sub-grade fuel tank below your kids trampoline in the back-yard. Bottom line is you want the thing to start and work well during the times you need it, which is during an emergency. If I was buying a whole house unit, which seems to be your goal, I would buy in this order: 1. Honda Inverter EU7000IS 2. Yamaha equivlant 3. All others...
 
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Originally Posted By: tig1
This my gen. 5KW Powermate with the Subaru engine. I know nothing about dirty or clean power, but I do run my flat screen TV, and computer from it with no problems to date. This pic is from my most recent power test. When in use I just back feed through my welder outlet.
I know you don't want to hear this but do it right, and legally, and get an interlock or transfer switch. One mistake and someone can get killed.
 
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here's my .02 for your solid insider info, going to "go to the bathroom" on the northstar recommendations smile we bought a northstar 8k watt generator from northern tool for work. i think i posted here about it within the last year. has a gcv-whatever honda engine. we unboxed it, started it and it ran for about 5 minutes before we shipped it to another location to be used. when it got there, it never restarted. bad cdi ignition coil. one of the guys managed to buy thru napa a replacement and that was bad out of the box. said f it and bought a troy-built from home depot as a replacement. i got the northstar back and tried to get warranty work on it... there are no northstar dealers and northerntool said any honda small engine dealer will warranty it based on serial number. well that is true, however real world the shop i took it to first said you didn't buy from us so i had to explain everything. they agreed on warranty work but it sat for a month next to string trimmers and lawn mowers in their shop. i took it back before it disappeared or got lost, and rewired the thing with a $10 mail order traditional coil vs the $70 oem replacement. that northstar just got used recently for 2 weeks straight at 8 hrs a day and had no problems. so maybe my ordeal was a fluke, take it for what it's worth regarding northstar/honda quality, point is make sure you have some reliable method of service and obtaining parts because everything breaks. other things i can tell you from first hand knowledge is that northstar along with the home depot troy-built and an old 5kw dayton genhead turned by a tecumseh engine all ran computer equipment and monitors along with refrigerators and water pumps in a trailer. THD is a selling point nothing more, it means nothing when you are running things like refrigerators, well pumps, and lights... only when you want to run high end audio equipment or something like hospital equipment that then requires "clean power". not saying you shouldn't check what equipment you plan to run but nearly everything will run fine as long as voltage and frequency are maintained which really has nothing to do with THD. Most devices labelled for power will say 50-62 hz. on cheap portable generators it is directly related to engine rpm. so like was said having a generator that is easily serviceable and adjustable is a plus. I would take the old tecumseh generator over the northstar and troy-built because i can adjust the governor screw on it while having a multimeter measure AC frequency and adjust engine rpm till i see 60.0 hz. i can't easily do that on the others because they're newer and you have to disassemble half the thing to access that linkage. and that old dayton/tecumseh 5k my sister used for over a week at her house running well pump and oil fired furnace during a snow storm power outage couple years back (don't even ask how it was wired) so you don't need much in terms of generator power rating. your heavy hitters are electric motors starting up like old refrigerators, big well pumps, and igniters on oil fired furnaces. i remember telling them make sure not to run the water and have the heat kick on while well pump was running to be safe, whether that happened i don't know knowing them it probably did. so biggest thing is to a survey and plan on what you want to run, when and how. other thing i can tell you is about inverter boards. had the pleasure of getting around $10k approved to have capacitors replaced in a 80kva UPS. those capacitors and inverter boards have a life span at least when it's in a UPS. so i would read the fine print on warranty for them on generators. MGE tech told me a common failure for them is to blow up, that's in a large ups system. whether that can happen in a 5kw genset i don't know but it's just one more thing to break down and be an expense that you don't need. in your case, i would strongly look at serviceability of a unit as a whole, and for the engine and generator head separately. can the generator be easily separated from the engine? and what fuel best serves you- gas, diesel, natural gas or propane. be aware most gas is 10% ethanol wreaks havoc on anything carburated so you don't want to leave gas in a generator on indefinite standby it most likely won't start when you need it. it may not be relevant if you are considering only portable generators less than 10kw in which case they are all powered by small gas engine.
 
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