Portability, versatility and lower price make the gasoline driven electric generator a big seller for camping, emergency power for the home, as well as industrial applications. Safety concerns for fuel storage and proper connection dominate this article. Apartment dwellers and campers may look to the super quiet 1000-watt size electric generator to run laptops, charge cell phones, auto batteries, and run a small TV. These are the epitome of emergency use in your “Survival Kit” for communication; weighing almost nothing and can be had with Honda and Yamaha high tech engines. The optimum note is of course the wattage-and with all generators there are two wattage ranges.
There is the SURGE wattage; let’s say a 10,000-watt generator is promoted at that wattage, but that is just the surge capability, the actual RUN wattage is (as an example) perhaps 8000 watts. Once the generator is warmed up, and switched to a load, such as an electric motor, there is a RESISTANCE to overcome until the motor comes up to speed. This may be measured in fractions of a second but if the RESISTANCE pulls the generator down in producing voltage, current rises and the fuse blows. Many of us will recall that when the refrigerator-air-conditioner, or other heavy load in the house current engages, there is a flicker of lighting, or a momentary flicker on the TV. That is the SURGE.
So in buying an electric generator we look at the label and determine the RUN value wattage, and not be mislead by the SURGE wattage, for if you run the electric generator at the surge load for a long time, it will blow the fuses or trip the circuit breaker. A worse case scenario is the motor winding overheats and then the electric generator is damaged.
Many big RV’s have 4000-watt generators installed. Since the RV market is dead at the moment it is a good time to locate some RV’s and dicker for the electric gasoline driven generator. This size electric generator is quite adequate in maintaining electrical needs of a small house, i.e.: charging a refrigeration, running a small TV, shallow well pumps, and providing lighting with some switching back and forth.
A slightly larger generator may be necessary for pumping water from a deep well or spring box, as again, the SURGE must be considered when starting a pump motor. As an example a 1 HP deep well pump motor in a six inch pipe will have to overcome vertical water restrictive pressure in the pipe causing a spike of 25 amperes momentarily, although the RUN amperes may be only 2 amperes. This is why your well pump circuit breaker has such a high ampere rate.
Quite often-electric generators will have a rating on how large a motor it can start. My 9000 watt generator will turn a 3 HP table saw motor but will not turn my 5HP air compressor. This is to be considered for your calculations. Check your shop, well, and air conditioner size and compare. I might add that many generators in the larger capacity are now rated on how big an air conditioner they can start, and run, as measured in tons.
The combination portable electric generators warrant serious consideration on the homestead. These are 10,000-watt AC generators with welding capacity. There is also a 4000 watt generator-welder on the market in the consumer price range available at local Big Box stores, and of course: www.NorthernTool.com.
There is available a 6500 watt DIESEL portable generator that looks inviting but reliable mechanic sources tell me that small diesel motors are difficult to work on.
Since most portable generators are made in Asian factories, the configuration all looks the same, save the paint and labels. Working on this premise and to have just a backup for my well I bought a 13HP, 6500 Watt SURGE from “Big Lots™” in Christiansburg. What is interesting is that this model is sold through Big Lots™ and other discount stores for $600.00 but if you catch the “Blue Light” sales at Big Lots™ you can get it at $300.00-half off sales days. This really makes you hunt the magic day hoping they have some in stock. This is my back-backup electric generator, which for the low cost fit my anxieties for the next blizzard.
Another excellent buy in the same category with electric start and cast iron sleeves is: item# 94191 from the www.HarborFreight.com. If you buy it at the Roanoke store you can purchase insurance too.
First let us consider storage of gasoline. This substance is rated more than 10 times more explosive in force than dynamite. Storage in the house-garage, and such is not wise. The gasoline can is safer if filled to the brim since it emits “VAPORS ” that flow from the can down along the surface, and they looks for sparks, motor brush sparks, cigarettes, matches, and sometimes in the summer heat a loose rag or paper to adhere to, then combust into flame, and BOOM! Gasoline cans are best stored separate, under an open cover for airflow outside of buildings.
If you have a yard, or acreage, you can store gasoline underground-the safest way. You can purchase a small tank made for that purpose, and with much shovel work, or a backhoe put it in the ground. Pack the hole with sand, or pea gravel, keeping the fill and vent pipes up above the ground. Tar the storage container and pipes heavily. Once in the ground it is safe, although you might want to consult your local Fire Marshall (and your Insurance Company) about recommendations and local ordinances first.
I am quite pleased with years of using STABIL™, a Gold Bond™ gasoline stabilizer, in all my gasoline driven engines and fuel storage. It is critical that at the end of the warm season you drain your gasoline tank dry and run the carburetor dry, otherwise gasoline will gum up and you will have difficulty starting said engine when you need to. The use of STABIL™, found in all automotive sales counters, is added to the gasoline first, as the chemical assists in maintaining a clean fuel line. STABIL™ also maintains the fuel through the year and in some cases if you have to leave the fuel in the gas tank, the STABIL™ will ensure better starting. For small engines, even automobiles, I keep a can of “Starting Fluid”, an ether based product, highly flammable, to squirt in the fuel air cleaner passage to boost cold starts.
A minimum 12-gauge electric extension cord is recommended, although I use 10 gauge cords for increased safety and reduced voltage loss. Obviously you are not setting your portable 220 volt AC/120 volt AC electric generator out in the rain and snow-it needs a cover to protect YOU, and the transmission of safe electric power. These machines get very hot, and as we had said earlier you really need separate small rain tight-big side airflow for them. Probably a ready-made structure found at Southern States, and other Farm Stores, is a “Calf House”. This looks like an oversize doghouse and would be a consideration for protection of your electric generators long life.
COPYRIGHT: 2008, Back2theLand, Mark Steel