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What are some basic things or advice you can tell me about buying a portable generator?

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Question by wayne A: What are some basic things or advice you can tell me about buying a portable generator?
I am buying a portable generator in order to power up to six, 500 watt halogen work lights to light up my horse arena at night. what are some things I should consider in terms of features that are needed in this application. Also, I don’t want alot of bells and whistles, I need to keep as low cost as possible but still safe and quiet.

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Answer by kelly d
Living on the coast and surviving hurricane Ike I did learn a thing or two about generators. The cheap ones are just that. Cheap. If you want one that will last a while go with a name you recognize like Coleman or Honda. (both great, but Honda is the king) And only buy one with just the power that you need. For some reason, a big generator- say 6000 watts will go through twice as much gas as two 3000 watt generators! No idea why. Look it up if ya want. Totally true. So you are talking about 3000 watts that you need. If all you are using is lights you wont need to worry about start-up surge. You know how they say it’s a 3000 watt gen with like 3250 peak? That is because if you are running a motor like a fridge or air conditioner they will need extra oomph to get the ball rolling. Those appliances will “surge” higher than the amount of watts they need just to run, then they come back down. Lights don’t so much do this.
I know, it’s confusing. Just get a good 3000 watter or just a little more in case they exaggerate a bit about the output. It happens. But probably not with a good one.

P.S. I have studied long and hard to find the best way to reduce the noise. If the volume is a concern, the most effective and cheapest thing you can do is to just dig a hole 2ft deep and put the generator in it. Or in your case you could put hay bales around it, or both.

OH! And you can get one that requires a gas /oil mix which is a pain in the butt, but they don’t require adding oil. If you go with a gas one you must watch your oil level or risk burning up the engine. I went with gas/oil mix because if I’m using a generator I am in a crisis and might forget to check the oil.

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Posted October 22nd, 2012 in Low Cost 500 Watt. Tagged: , , , , , , , , .

One comment:

  1. Warren914:

    You will need a minimum 3000 watt generator, but to prevent running it at 100% load go for something slightly larger, likely 4000 watts. Most generators in this size will supply 120V/240V instead of a single 120V output. The lights will have to be broken into two separate chains to feed from separate 120V outputs from the generator. Alternately look for something that will supply the full power at 120V, but your wiring and connectors must be sized appropriately.

    Check the engine type.
    Side valve engines are less expensive, but consume more fuel, make more noise, and often do not last as long as overhead valve engines. Ensure the cylinder uses a cast iron sleeve for added life. Some engines use a pressurized lubrication system with an oil filter. These engines will usually last considerably longer than those that use only splash type lubrication.

    The alternator side has three types.
    Brushless are usually the least expensive and require less maintenance but often use lower quality bushings that will wear out more quickly. There is less output voltage regulation so as the load varies the output voltage will vary slightly.
    Brush type alternators are more expensive. Brushes will require replacement as they wear out. Relatively simple work. Output voltage is regulated via a control circuit board.
    Inverter type will create the AC output electronically. The engine speed will sometimes vary according to load in order to reduce fuel consumption. These are the most expensive and available only up to about 3kW output power.

    Fuel type is another important issue. Common fuels are diesel, gasoline, propane, and natural gas. Each has its advantages. Diesel engines usually cost considerably more, but the fuel is usually less expensive and stores much longer. Gasoline engines are less expensive and fuel is readily available, but it doesn’t store as well. Natural gas and propane are often more expensive.

    Routine maintenance is essential to maximize the life of the engine. Change the oil and filter after the first 8 hours and every 50 hours operating time afterwards, or at least once per year. Check the oil level prior to starting the engine daily. Spark plug and air filter will need occasional replacement.

    Consider the country of origin of the system and where you will get parts or repair work in the future. Honda generators are renowned for reliability and quiet operation. Briggs & Stratton has a very good network of dealers and parts are readily available. The same can not be said for other offshore built systems.

    Read through my generator pages for more information.

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