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Author Topic: Portable generators are these OK what do I look for ?  (Read 23600 times)
KB2HUK
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« on: December 29, 2013, 04:26:07 PM »

Hi gang!  in my area there are a couple of generators on sale both are in the 6.5 or 7 KW size one is made by Ipower sold by DX engineering  The other is sold by Harbour Freight tools and is named Predator and also is similar size and cost One of the things is they look almost the same , same Chinese company ?   My question is are these two suitable for running ham radio equipment on Field day or emergency and can I run my computer off of it ?  What am I looking for in a generator I think it is one that does not generate noise along with power ?  is this right ?  will either of these work ?  These both run 6 to just over 700 bucks.  thanks for your help John kb2huk
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W8JX
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« Reply #1 on: December 29, 2013, 06:46:45 PM »

I have a 6+ year old Chinese 3k unit and it is RFI quiet. I would suggest a smaller unit fr feild day as a 7k unit can use a lot of fuel. I used my 3k one year to power rig and a SB200 and lights and it did so without problem. Used less than 4 gallons in 15 hours. 
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KB8VUL
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« Reply #2 on: December 29, 2013, 07:38:29 PM »

Not sure how portable a 7K generator is but the 3K ones are fairly small and portable.
I suppose if you are looking to drag a 7K unit, get a small trailer and go for it, then you can also throw a small lockable box on it for your cords and gas cans.

Another thought I haven't seen here before is to either run an inverter off a battery bank and then charge it with a smallish generator.  A clean 35 AMP battery charger and 4 75 AH batteries will run a good inverter without issue.
As long as you don't exceed the charger output level constantly then it should be a workable solution.

By that I mean if you are running SSB with an amp your current draw with vary with your RF output. 
It's gonna peak over the 35 AMP but not be there constantly as a draw.

If you are trying to run that same power level on FM or SSTV then it might not work so well as the batteries will never get a chance to charge.
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W8JX
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« Reply #3 on: December 30, 2013, 05:47:44 AM »

Another thought I haven't seen here before is to either run an inverter off a battery bank and then charge it with a smallish generator.  A clean 35 AMP battery charger and 4 75 AH batteries will run a good inverter without issue.

Not the best portable solution. Easier to lug just a generator and fuel than heavy batteries, charger and a generator for it.
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ALCO141
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« Reply #4 on: December 30, 2013, 09:01:59 AM »

seems like there are 2 ways to go, a standard generator that will meet your needs, or a small generator and some deep cycle batteries , using the small generator to charge one battery while you use the other.

the large generator solution pros would be you could run your house during a power outage, it would power all your field day needs.

cons are heavy will need two people to move and uses a lot of fuel, noisy. power purity may be  a problem depending on the unit you buy, less expensive units may be less reliable or have poor sine wave generation.

pros of the small generator /battery bank are uses much less fuel, my small 800 watt harbor freight generator will use a gallon of fuel in 5 hours of continuous running longer depending on the load,light weight- each component is manageable by  by one person. you can charge batteries at home so you have power immediately available without starting the generator, quiet when generator is not running.  no worries about power purity as the batteries will be doing the work, battery charging is not sensitive to power purity.

cons are small unit that will not run much on its own, 2 cycle so you need to mix oil and gas

so you need to decide what you which way you want to go.
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HURRICAINE
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« Reply #5 on: December 30, 2013, 10:41:21 AM »

The units offered by Harbor Freight are disposable units.

When they wear out or break, you throw them away.

A ham friend of mine had one and he paid $50 just to have someone look at it, after he tore it apart, because he had a overhead valve problem.

Even the generator head was no good due to the fact that you couldn't couple it to another motor except the motor the generator came with.

You are better off buying one good Honda generator, since Honda is not going to go out of business anytime soon and they stand behind their warranty.
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W8JX
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« Reply #6 on: December 30, 2013, 11:11:32 AM »

The units offered by Harbor Freight are disposable units.

When they wear out or break, you throw them away.

Abuse anything they wear out. Would you rather replace a 200 unit that died from lack of oil or a 1000 dollar one?

A ham friend of mine had one and he paid $50 just to have someone look at it, after he tore it apart, because he had a overhead valve problem.

I would venture to say the 95+% of mechanical failure with generators are from not changing oil, using wrong oil or running it low on oil. If you cannot check this you deserve problems. Oil is critical in a air cooled motor not only for lube but cooling too.

Even the generator head was no good due to the fact that you couldn't couple it to another motor except the motor the generator came with.

Do you know how silly this sounds? While certain brand engines have there own bolt patterns, the are the same among the brand. Just like you cannot easily bolt a ford engine in a chevy the same with engine brands. This is not a big problem. 

You are better off buying one good Honda generator, since Honda is not going to go out of business anytime soon and they stand behind their warranty.

Many imports today use Honda clones and parts interchange. As far as reliability, my 6+ year old 3k  200 dollar "Chonda" is doing fine and always starts first pull. I could buy a half dozen more and still be money ahead of a single like over price Honda.
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K5PHW
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« Reply #7 on: January 01, 2014, 12:29:09 PM »

1. Things wear out without abusing them.
2. Don't run it out of oil.
3. Most problems are due to stale fuel.
4. Really?
5. Honda and "clone" parts are not the same.

Please continue your tirade.
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HURRICAINE
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« Reply #8 on: January 02, 2014, 07:09:21 AM »

Thanks K5PHW,

The point is that I take meticulous care of my equipment and I expect it to last many years.  I expect it to be 100% reliable and I will only buy a piece of equipment that has a warranty and easily obtainable replacement parts.
Once a Chinese piece of equipment is 5 years old, they may or may not still be in business and the local small engine shop will not have replacement parts readily available.  However, if it is a Honda, Briggs and Stratton, Kohler etc, I will still be able to get replacement parts.

Some Generac parts are obtainable, however, most of them has a proprietary part number and unless you are in the business, you might have a hard time finding replacement parts when the Gen Head breaks or wears out.

Good generators has bearings that you can lubricate and replace.
Cheap generators has a powder metal bushing that wears out and then the armature droops and takes out the stator .

Anyone that has worked on cheap generators will tell you this.

Good generators like a Onan - even if the engine blows up, you can make a coupler and hook it up to anything, even the PTO on a tractor and it will still produce power.
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K5PHW
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« Reply #9 on: January 02, 2014, 09:50:27 AM »

 I agree. I have been in the OPE service industry for over thirty years.
There is a lot of marginal information around. A lot of it is opinion and not factual.
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W8JX
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« Reply #10 on: January 03, 2014, 11:23:51 AM »

You know some of the comments on Chinese quality might have been true 6 to 10 years ago but today China is striving to be a techno giant and improve image. Just because the quality of old technology tubes they make is lacking at times, be glad they make them. My 6+ year old Chonda runs great and is good on fuel too. I have by accident severely over loaded my 3k a few time and bogged it down and caused it to move across ground from overload torque and it still keeps ticking. Also, why do I need a $2000+ generator because I am sure to get parts when I could throw away my $200 Chonda if it blew up and buy another one and have a new unit rather than a 6+ year old one that has been repaired and long out of warranty.   
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K5PHW
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« Reply #11 on: January 03, 2014, 12:56:13 PM »

 I suppose you also drive a Yugo.  Roll Eyes
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W8JX
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« Reply #12 on: January 03, 2014, 02:56:19 PM »

I suppose you also drive a Yugo.  Roll Eyes

Why is it that if you want to save money its bad? Main reason Chinese stuff is cheap is because their labor and raw materials costs are low. Chine plans to put a man on moon before end of decade and they will likely do it and while we did it 40 years ago, it would take us 20 years to get there now.
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KB1QBZ
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« Reply #13 on: January 05, 2014, 07:46:57 PM »

I have had the ETQ TG32P12 (4000 watts peak, 3200 watts continuous) since 2010.  It's been used for real four times now - ranging from 1 day to 3-1/2 days.  It's been reliable and everything I power with it has been happy with the current it's providing (including my radio).

I run it at less than 1/2 its rated continuous power.  When running it for real, I generally run it for 2-3 hours on and then 3-4 hours off.  For example, run the furnace for an hour, run the refrigerator for an hour, run the coffee maker or microwave for a bit, run the furnace for another 1/2 hour or so, then off until the house cools down to the point that we the furnace again.  I have a 75 AH battery to run my rig and laptop, and smaller rechargeable batteries powering LED lights for when the generator is off.  I recharge the batteries when the generator is on and the regular lights don't take much power when the generator is on.

When things are normal, I run it monthly (about an hour each run) under load (usually my washing machine).  I try to use up a full tank of gas over a 6 month period, and I also put Stabilator in the gas.  I clean the spark plug once a year and have a spare spark plug on hand.  I also change the oil every 25 hours of operation or every 6 months (whichever comes first), and clean the air filter every couple of months.

Because it doesn't have a primer, it always takes a minute or so of pulling before it starts.  It was a bit balky about starting until I found out about dielectric gel - which you put under the cap of the spark plug connector to prevent any moisture while still allowing current through.  Alternatively, if you just clean the cap and top of the spark plug with a rough cloth before trying to start, it'll remove the moisture and enable it to start up.

It's reasonably frugal on gas - much better than many/most models in the same range.  By managing my demand, I'm able to stay with a low power generator that doesn't need much gas.  For example, I used only about 5 gals over that 3-1/2 day period.  Based on my experiences, two other people have the same generator and they are happy with it.  I don't think I'm going to have to buy a new one next year (a total of five years ownership), but at it's price having to buy a new one every five years is not a terrible thing.

It's useful to look at the reviews on Amazon and other sites.  Yes, there are a lot of fluff positive reviews, but look for the reviews by people who are unhappy with the product and see if there is a pattern - for example, if there is a pattern of people complaining about the engine shaft breaking (which I saw with one vendor's product).
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KB8VUL
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« Reply #14 on: January 10, 2014, 09:46:40 AM »


Even the generator head was no good due to the fact that you couldn't couple it to another motor except the motor the generator came with.


There is a bit of truth to this but factually untrue.
Generator motors have a tapered output shaft to mate to the tapered hole in the generator armature.
You can hang a generator head on a different engine, if the engine is for a generator and has the correct shaft taper.

No you can't simply take to motor off your tiller or lawnmower and bolt a generator head to it.

If you had access and ability to operate a metal lathe, you could take a standard shaft motor and cut the taper into the shaft.  Mind you it would require removing the crankshaft from the engine. 
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