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Author Topic: Why are Honda generators so expensive?  (Read 75325 times)
N1AUP
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« on: October 30, 2011, 03:52:46 PM »

Having just suffered through another power outage (which in my case means no water, lights, heat, hot water, fridge, freezer, toilet, or lights), I'm vowing to get a generator to run the house.

I'm of the belief that you're better to buy heavy duty / commercial equipment than to buy consumer grade stuff from the big box store.

Looking through the Northern Tool catalog, I see they're selling a Northstar 6000 watt (8000 peak) gasoline unit for $1900.  The equivalent Honda is running $2900. 

Why is the Honda $1000 more?  I don't mind paying for quality, but I don't want to spend money for a name.

Second, wouldn't it be better to buy a generator that is pull start rather than electric?  I can see hauling the genset out in an emergency, and finding the battery dead.

Lastly, I know Northern Tool sells at retail, and their stuff is expensive.  Is there another heavy duty generator company that I should look at?



Thanks
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AA4PB
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« Reply #1 on: October 30, 2011, 04:27:47 PM »

I guess you pay for quality. I'm a little cautions of "off brand" generators.

Most electric start generators also have a pull start in case the battery fails. Actually if you only pull out the genset in the event of an emergency you are quite likely to find more wrong than a dead battery. You need to start and run it for a few minutes every month if expect it to work when you need it. Long term gas storage is also an issue. They do make whole house generators that start and run automatically on a scheduled basis.

How are you planning to connect it to the house? You need a transfer switch or panel in order to legally connect it to your home's circuit breaker panel. Otherwise you have to use temporary extension cord connections.

Also, you may need more power than you are anticipating to handle starting loads. Things with motors like well pumps, fridge, freezer, AC, ect. have a pretty high startup surge and you have to account for that in the generator. Also consider the probability of more than one thing starting at the same time.

If you really want to put your whole house on generator backup you might consider one of those installed by the local power company (at least our power company offers one). These test-start once a week and start automatically if the power goes out. The cost is around $6000 but you can make payments on your power bill.
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W6RMK
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« Reply #2 on: October 30, 2011, 05:15:14 PM »

The Hondas are wonderful pieces of machinery, that's why.  They run quietly, they have low oil autostop, they start easily, etc. They run forever.   Did I say they run quietly?  Until you've lived for 24 hours next to a cheap clattery undermuffled generator, you don't know how nice it is to have a quiet generator.  (Actually, today, I'd go for the Honda inverter generators, because they slow down under no/light load and are basically silent, but even the fixed speed older ones are wonderful)


If you're going to run it 10 hours a year, and don't care about noise, then get something cheap: you'll suffer through, and it will be ok.  If you're going to use it every day or every week on a job site, then the extra bucks for the Honda is worth it.

It's kind of like buying a Tektronix oscilloscope or HP/Agilent signal generator.  Sure, any other scope does the same stuff, but if you have to use it every day, there's just something about it...
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W0GXA
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« Reply #3 on: October 30, 2011, 07:08:07 PM »

Quality.  I suffered thru a 3 day outage in '07 and swore I'd never do it again.  I've used the generator many times since then.  It always starts, runs quietly and most importantly the power is pretty clean.  I've had friends lose computers using a cheap $900 generator.  Go with the quality...the last time you want to be messing with a cheap generator is on a dark cold night.

73, Bob  W0GXA
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K9KJM
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« Reply #4 on: October 30, 2011, 10:53:53 PM »

Yep, Sometimes the "You get what you pay for" statement is true.  The Honda's ARE better quality units.

But do you really need a better quality unit?  Only you can decide that.   As mentioned, If you only use it 10 hours per year, You could save that money and put up with the cheapo unit that makes more noise........

First thing is to calculate just how large a unit you really need.  For a typical home out in the country, The main thing is to get one that will run your deep water well pump. That is usually a 240 volt pump, And a generator of about 5KW will handle it and your lightning circuits, Furnace, etc and most other things very well.

If you shop around you can find 5KW generators brand new in the 500 dollar range at the discount homeowner stores.  The Coleman "Powermate" comes to mind.  A cheapo unit to be sure, BUT it does do the job.

The electric start feature IS nice to have.   Sure, If you neglected the generator and let it's battery go dead by not having a battery maintainer on it, You can STILL jump start it with your car!   All you need is a set of jumper cables you should have anyhow!    Trying to start those 10 or so HP motors in cold weather with a rope starter will convince you to get the electric starter if possible!
If you get a gas powered generator, Also get some PRI-G to add to the gas to keep it good.  This stuff WORKS!  Unlike Stabil and some others.........

http://www.batterystuff.com/fuel-treatments/PRIG32oz.html

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W8JX
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« Reply #5 on: October 31, 2011, 03:59:31 AM »

There is no need to pay 3k for a 6kw generator. There is a lot of good ones to be had for even 1000. Several years ago I "lived" off a 200 dollar 3kw Chinese generator for 5 days. Never missed a beat and always starts easy and well packaged too. Pretty good on fuel too. My son claims than the engine is a Honda clone made in China. When you look at generators, two things to consider, type of alternator (brush-less is best) and engine. Better units will have better alternator and a good engine like a Subaru or Yamaha Commercial one or a Briggs and Stratton Vangard. The Vangard is not to be confused with cheaper Briggs motors. It made in Japan by a division of Toyota and has a sterling reputation as good as Honda motors.
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N2EY
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« Reply #6 on: October 31, 2011, 04:29:56 AM »

You pay for quality.

You pay for advanced technology.

You pay for customer support.

You pay more because all those things cost money.

The EU1000i MSRP is $950, the EU2000i is $1150. That tells me a lot of the cost is in the construction and engineering, rather than in the raw materials.


About 20 years ago, I bought a Coleman 2 kW generator. It was a B&S motor spinning a simple wound-rotor generator. Worked well, loud and heavy. $350 IIRC. Frequency and voltage varied under load, but not too badly.

The engine was the conventional B&S cast-iron flathead magneto-ignition type, 5 hp I think. Governor was a simple mechanical system. No low-oil shutdown, no pollution control, engine spun at 3600 rpm all the time.

Now look at a modern Honda. OHV engine, light weight but more durable, all sorts of protections against failure.

It all depends on what you want and need.

73 de Jim, N2EY

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AC2Q
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« Reply #7 on: October 31, 2011, 10:05:33 AM »

Boils down to 2 things IMHO, Quality and QUIET.
One of our group brings his 1kw Honda to Field Day. 2 people can stand with it between them and carry on a normal
conversation without difficulty.

I have a 1.5kw Briggs powered Genny, that is every bit as dependable, but with the noise level of a lawn mower +/-.
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W8JX
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« Reply #8 on: October 31, 2011, 10:22:36 AM »

You pay for quality.

You pay for advanced technology.

You pay for customer support.

You pay more because all those things cost money.

The EU1000i MSRP is $950, the EU2000i is $1150. That tells me a lot of the cost is in the construction and engineering, rather than in the raw materials.

Make no mistake you are paying for name too. Also he is looking for a 6k generator not a 1000 watt portable one. There are a lot of fine units out there that cost a LOT less. Recently I was at a store having a clearance one generators and closing out some brands and when I asked store manager why he said discontinued models were either troublesome or expensive and they sold too few of to continue carrying. What did kinda surprise me is that they were focusing on Generac Brand unit. He told me they sold a lot and they rarely came back. Generac offers a wide range of units too. For the price of a Honda you could buy a VERY serious commercial grade twin cylinder generator of 10kw+ capacity with money left over. Also you could buy a stand alone automatic outdoor 7K generator powered by propane or natural gas and automatic power switching too for less than 3K too.   


About 20 years ago, I bought a Coleman 2 kW generator. It was a B&S motor spinning a simple wound-rotor generator. Worked well, loud and heavy. $350 IIRC. Frequency and voltage varied under load, but not too badly.

The engine was the conventional B&S cast-iron flathead magneto-ignition type, 5 hp I think. Governor was a simple mechanical system. No low-oil shutdown, no pollution control, engine spun at 3600 rpm all the time.

Now look at a modern Honda. OHV engine, light weight but more durable, all sorts of protections against failure.

This is 2011 and technology for everyone has improved. (just like cars have)  All use modern efficient overhead valve engines of varying brands and designs. They also even have low oil shut down as well. I have not seen a new flat head powered generator for many many years and even some of those had low oil shut down too. Honda motors while still very good, are not the gold standard here anymore. Briggs and Stratton Vangard engine are adding auto fuel shut off when you shut down engine on some models (first in class) Also when you look at engine reviews for commercial power equipment from mowers and such, Honda is not at top of that list. The Vangard trumps even Kawasaki here. Subaru (owned by Fuji in Japan and maker of construction equipment and a BIG company) makes a fine commercial motor that even has a overhead cam too. Point is you do not need to spend 3k or buy Honda to get a good generator but Honda and its stock holders would love you to feel that way. Also make note that some air cooled motors are not rated to run on SYN oil which is good for extended run time in a long outage. (I would do no more than 50 hours on conventional oil and up to 100 on SYN if you want max engine life) I have a 32 hp Vangard motor on a big zero turn mower I mow 8 acres with regularly and it is smooth as silk, decent on fuel and has no measurable oil consumption on Mobile One oil after 40 hrs. BTW, the owners manual recommends synthetic oil in the Vangard engine on my newest generator.


It is funny too how poster is looking for a serious 6k+ generator and people keep talking about "toy"1k ones.
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N1AUP
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« Reply #9 on: October 31, 2011, 05:09:45 PM »

I actually own a Honda 2000 watt portable.  Need something bigger.

Found this article.  Makes sense, but who has $7k for something that will not be used daily?

http://www.backwoodshome.com/articles/thomsen28.html

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N5VTU
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« Reply #10 on: October 31, 2011, 06:31:21 PM »

If you want to run the whole house, I don't believe any of the portable units, Honda or otherwise will be up to the task.  I installed a Generac 17kW unit earlier this year that will run all appliances in my home, including the A/C, which is a big deal down here in Texas.  You can buy the Generac units at Lowes, Home Depot, and Northern Tool with a 200A whole house transfer switch included, which makes wiring a snap.  Be prepared to pay $5k and up just for the generator (installation is extra or DIY). 

Also, check the latest edition of NEC (2011) before buying anything.  NEC has been revised when it comes to permanently installed standby generators.  As of 2008, code now requires that a permanently installed standby generator must be capable of powering the entire connected load or must have automatic load shedding capabilities.  Basically, if you connect it in a "whole house" fashion, as opposed to selected circuits, it must be able to run the whole house or automatically disconnect itself from circuits causing an overload condition.

Good luck with your project
Stephen
N5VTU
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W8JX
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« Reply #11 on: October 31, 2011, 07:29:34 PM »

I do not expect to fully power house on a generator as it can get expensive and not just unit but fuel too. So I get the vitals. I have a 200 amp main panel and a 50 amp sub panel. I will power sub panel with a automatic switch that senses generator power and disconnects from main panel. Sub panel powers pump, furnace,  ham shack and few receptacles in kitchen, some garage power and outdoor lighting and out building. I plan to add a double 120 volt circuit for a set of 4 receptacles in central part of house to have aux power available from sub panel. (they will be hot on house power too)  I have no illusions about trying to power range, dryer and so on.
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KC2MMI
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« Reply #12 on: November 02, 2011, 01:31:07 PM »

With generators you usually get what you paid for. A cheap one usually has a smaller fuel tank (and you can't refuel while it is hot, that's a good way to start a fire) and lower load ratings and will be built from pot metal. If you just want to buy it and put it away for "maybe" a disposable generator may be all you need.

The better ones really are built better, think Fiat, Lada or Yugo versus Volvo or Honda.

Catch-22, you can't rely on any generator firing up unless it is tested. The whole-house jobs that self-test every month are not gasoline generators though. They are always gas, natural gas, lp gas, propane gas, real gas. They can fire up and shut down eveyr month because gas burns clean, and gasoline doesn't. If you buy a gasoline generator and use it just once, you have to shut it down, run the carb clean and empty, make sure there's no fuel residue to clog it or it will do what every lawnmower does over the winter: Gum up and die. For the exact same reason.

So worrying about the starting battery is the least part of the picture. Buy an AGM battery, put it on an inexpensive charge maintainer, and the odds are it will work, just take a look at it once every couple of months. Or buy one of those "jump boxes" for your car, that's enough to start even a 10-15hp diesel engine.


The other way to look at it, is that $5000 for a generator will buy you five $1000 stays at a hotel out of town. If your power is a regular problem...the genset pays. If you're looking at once-per-five-year storms, maybe it doesn't.
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N2EY
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« Reply #13 on: November 02, 2011, 03:15:26 PM »

If you buy a gasoline generator and use it just once, you have to shut it down, run the carb clean and empty, make sure there's no fuel residue to clog it or it will do what every lawnmower does over the winter: Gum up and die. For the exact same reason.

I must be lucky - I've never had the "bad gas" problem in lawn mowers. And we have a pretty long winter here. OTOH it's not a big deal if the mower doesn't start.....but mine always does!

Which brings up another issue: fuel, and how much you need to store on the premises. (You have to assume that during at least some outages it will not be possible to buy fuel). Half a gallon per hour doesn't sound like much but that's 12 gallons a day if you run it 24/7

The other way to look at it, is that $5000 for a generator will buy you five $1000 stays at a hotel out of town. If your power is a regular problem...the genset pays. If you're looking at once-per-five-year storms, maybe it doesn't.

Excellent point. But there's more:

- How much you stand to lose if the power is off for extended periods.

- When the power failures happen, and how long they last. Several outages a year that last a few hours at most is a very different thing from an outage every few years that lasts days - or weeks.

- Whether going to the hotel is practical during an outage. (If you have kids and pets, it gets complicated and expensive really quick).

-----

When I lived in the house on RadioTelegraph Hill, I had a portable generator. In my 20 years there, the power was off maybe a dozen hours total - and never once when I had the generator. I got it for Field Day and used it for Field Day.

Then I moved, and gave it to a relative who had a lot more outages.

In the "new" place (been here since '99), we get outages every few months. But they don't last. Worst was a hurricane a few years back; 2-1/2 days.

I'm thinking of getting a generator, but space is tight. Maybe go in with a neighbor.

73 de Jim, N2EY
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W8JX
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« Reply #14 on: November 02, 2011, 05:37:45 PM »

With generators you usually get what you paid for. A cheap one usually has a smaller fuel tank (and you can't refuel while it is hot, that's a good way to start a fire) and lower load ratings and will be built from pot metal. If you just want to buy it and put it away for "maybe" a disposable generator may be all you need.

Simply not true. My 200 buck Chinese 3K started on first pull when new and has never failed when called to duty. (it is nearly 5 yrs old now too) Last month I put 16hrs non stop on it one day. It also has a 4 gallon tank that will take it past 12 hrs between fills (got over 14 once and it was still running). Never seen one built from potmetal

The better ones really are built better, think Fiat, Lada or Yugo versus Volvo or Honda.

Just not true, lot of "chevies" that may lack whistles and bells but run for ever. Also I would NOT put a Honda at top of car quality either.

Catch-22, you can't rely on any generator firing up unless it is tested. The whole-house jobs that self-test every month are not gasoline generators though. They are always gas, natural gas, lp gas, propane gas, real gas. They can fire up and shut down eveyr month because gas burns clean, and gasoline doesn't. If you buy a gasoline generator and use it just once, you have to shut it down, run the carb clean and empty, make sure there's no fuel residue to clog it or it will do what every lawnmower does over the winter: Gum up and die. For the exact same reason.

Again not true. My Chinese unit had not run for nearly two years and still had some old gas in tank and fired up first pull. All I did was turn off fuel and run carb dry and drain oil and put it up. I put fresh oil in it and started right up. I have a lot of odd power equipment in barn (mowers, tiller, lawn tractor, farm tractor) that are all gas powered and I do nothing to them. I have had no gumming problem with them. I have a 57 year old JD tractor that I never run dry and it can sit for months at times and it always starts.

So worrying about the starting battery is the least part of the picture. Buy an AGM battery, put it on an inexpensive charge maintainer, and the odds are it will work, just take a look at it once every couple of months. Or buy one of those "jump boxes" for your car, that's enough to start even a 10-15hp diesel engine.

Electric start is nice but a portable backup generator needs to be able to pull start too when battery fails. There is really not reason to run one often to make sure it runs because if carb is run dry and it is stored in a dry place and covered it should pull start and run when needed.


One more thing  when you want a serious generator, pay attention to surge capacity and not brand name. Better ones will have 25 to 40% surge capacity reserve. They will also have brushless alternators. And do change oil often because the brand name ones will die just as easy of cheaper ones if you do not change oil in them often in heavy usage.
« Last Edit: November 02, 2011, 06:12:29 PM by W8JX » Logged

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