Which Portable Generator??

jtcm05November 3, 2011

Living in CT has been quite difficult the past couple of months with the power failures. I am going on my 5th day now without power. I have now learned the hard way that I need a generator going forward. I will be in the market for a minimum 6000-7000 watt portable generator. Unfortunately Honda seems to be out of the question at $4K for a 6500 watt unit. I'm hoping to be able to get a decent one for no more than $1200-1500. Can anyone recommend or post what they believe to be the top 3 or 5 brands of portable generators? Thanks very much.

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(3)All the rest

    Bookmark   November 3, 2011 at 1:00PM
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Honda/Yamaha = totally out of the question.

    Bookmark   November 3, 2011 at 1:37PM
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IF (Honda or Yamaha = totally out of the question), then (durability + reliability = low) and (frustration level = high).

Given that your budget is $1500, you cannot afford what I would call a "decent" 6-7Kw generator. You might as well buy two $750 Generacs or whatever brand of over-rated, cheaply made set your local big box store carries. Then one of the pair might actually be operational when you need it.

    Bookmark   November 3, 2011 at 3:24PM
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I should have expected the resident narcissists to chime in first with less than helpful answers. Every forum here and at GW has them. Anyone else with less-than-pompous suggestions please? Let me make myself a little more clear. I do not want a 'top of the line' portable generator. I'm looking for one in the 6-7000 watt range for the 'rest of us'. The people without the six figure incomes.

    Bookmark   November 3, 2011 at 5:24PM
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I was completely serious, my experience has been that until you get up to Honda, Yamaha and maybe Multiquip portable sets are just about the same. If are going to buy a (presumably new) 6 to 7Kw set, and have a $1200-1500 dollar budget, you may as well look at the Generac #5940 or similar for about $750. You can just about afford two, and they combined will offer a greater chance of success than one set which costs more, looks a little prettier but will not be any more durable.

At $12-1500 about all you get for your money over a $750 set is a larger fuel tank, electric start and some fancy decals and a few more outlets. It is still a lawnmower engine with a very optimistically rated generator attached. If you call my attitude pompous, so be it, but keep in mind that few things are as irritating as sitting in the dark beside a failed generator.

    Bookmark   November 3, 2011 at 6:38PM
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Wayne has a valid point, and I don't think he's out of line. Maybe it shouldn't be that way, but in general, you get what you pay for. Perhaps Wayne's standards are too high, but I agree that there's nothing more frustrating than having a generator that fails every time the power goes out. If you want the least expensive product available, I'd recommend a google search rather than asking people with experience.

    Bookmark   November 3, 2011 at 8:57PM
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I'm not connected to these guys. But at least they give class recommendations.

Here is a link that might be useful: generators

    Bookmark   November 4, 2011 at 5:03PM
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I apologize for my remarks. I get that you get what you pay for. I also get that I do not have the money to afford a honda or a yamaha. Same reason I drive a dodge truck and not a Toyota. I do ALL of my own mechanical repairs on all of my cars/equipment/toys etc. If money was no object, the Honda would be my first choice. And I don't want "the least expensive product available". I never said that. I'm guessing that most of the reason these less expensive models fail when needed has MORE to do with the owners not keeping up on routine maintenance and less to do with build quality. Nothing mechanical....nothing....can be left sitting in a shed for years without getting some routine "exercise".Great link weedmeister. Very helpful, thanks. The Powermate with the Honda engine looks very promising. Can anyone comment on that one?

    Bookmark   November 5, 2011 at 6:57AM
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Is 7KW the absolute bare minimum you can survive on, or can you live with less power? A smaller unit of better quality that you can rely upon 100% might be worth the pain of cutting right down on the load.

    Bookmark   November 6, 2011 at 6:27PM
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Thanks, Wayne440, for the info on Generacs

I too survived the storm in CT, and am shopping for a generator. I see a LOT of negative feedbacks on Generacs (including Centurion) . Seems oil leaks and missing parts
are a common complaint. Looks like a low power, better quality generator for me.

    Bookmark   November 7, 2011 at 10:01AM
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I live in Minnesota, and we had 5 days without power, back around 1998.

My opinion is it's not worth the money to buy a generator, unless you use it frequently. Additionally, any item that's idle for a long period of time, may develop problems that prevent it from performing.

What you are buying is reliability.

    Bookmark   November 7, 2011 at 1:30PM
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What about some of the Costco offerings? There are the built-ins and there are the portables, my neighbour just bought a Champion 7k for around a thousand or so if I remember correctly. Noisy but effective. You can mothball it easily enough with gas stabiliser.

Now the link below if for a Canadian product in a Canadian store but it's an idea/starting point if you wanted to go built-in, it runs on propane OR natural gas. If the NG supply remains reliable then you wouldn't have to worry about aging fuel or delivery, and it includes its own transfer switch.

I keep seeing them in the store and thinking they'd be cool, but our power here is very reliable, and I have a gas fireplace that doesn't need power so I'm fairly well covered. I would get more out of my money buying a hot tub, but still...

Here is a link that might be useful: Part house stationary unit

    Bookmark   November 7, 2011 at 2:14PM
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tom418- I found out why many Generacs leak oil during an ice storm a few years ago. To check the oil on those sets the dipstick should be screwed in, not just dipped in to the bottom of the threads like many other engines. If they are over filled the crankshaft seal and or governor shaft seal fails and leaks oil faster than you can put it in.

I saw generators of all kinds during our month long ordeal. The ones that failed were largely Generacs (see above), Chinese junk (thrown connecting rods), and those of any brand that were run far too long without checking/adding coolant and checking/adding/changing changing oil. Also saw many failed units due to overloading- the sticker on a new "5000 watt" generator is the only thing that will last more than a few days if you actually draw 5000 watts for hours at a time.

The setups that worked? Tractor driven PTO generators. Water cooled diesels like Cummins, Kubota, Isuzu. Air cooled Yanmar diesels. 20 year old Onan and Kohler sets. Homelites with "cast iron" Briggs engines. Motorhome generators. Water cooled propane sets with Ford, GM, Chrysler industrial engines. Honda and Yamaha portables.

Any generator is fine for a one hour outage. Just about any one will also do for a one day outage. Few are OK for a one week outage. Even fewer will still be running after 3 weeks.

    Bookmark   November 7, 2011 at 9:25PM
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Well, I just got some serious use of my Honeywell HW7500E generator (7,500 running Watts / 9,375 Starting Watts) I bought in 2009 for $999 including shipping.

I used it for 8 days straight that we were without power here in Suffield CT. I shut it down during the day for a few hours since it was nice weather (after the snow...), but otherwise I ran my house for 8 days with this for at least 19 hours per day. My largest loads were my well pump (340 ft deep with a 1C HP pump) and my boiler (hot water & baseboard heating). But, I also ran a full size freezer, full size fridge, 1800W microwave, two garage door openers, 65 inch plasma TV , virtually all the lights in the house (not that we turned them all on at once), washing machine, and even my son's Wii! Basically, the only things I didn't run was our dryer or oven.

This was my 4th use of the genny since I bought it, which previously, I used it twice for about 8-12 hours and once for 30 hours.

I bought mine at electricgeneratorsdirect.com, although I see this model is now discontinued.

I should add for the most part the running load in my house was under 1000 watts. When the well pump and boil turn on, they draw a surge, but once started, the running load was quite low. Running the microwave to cook dinner was the largest load on it. When the nuke turned on with the freezer, fridge, heat and well pump running, the load was about 2200 Watts on that one leg.

So, I don't know... I am certainly not complaining. Some neighbors genny's failed during this extended stretch... mine didn't. Ran like a champ and still does. Do I think the power quality is perfect - doubtful, but it sure beats no power! Mine does not leak oil or stall. My only gripe is it's difficult to pour oil from the quart into the filler, but I just stuck a tube onto the end of a funnel. I did change the oil twice in these 8 days as I have read these things are tough on oil. Manual states to change only every 100 hours, but...

Your mileage may vary ;)

Good luck!

    Bookmark   November 8, 2011 at 12:19AM
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Thanks Chip. So is engine failure the largest reason for portable emergency generator failure? It sure sounds like maintenance problems are the main culprit to the engine failures.

    Bookmark   November 8, 2011 at 6:28AM
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I am biased in that do like the Honda generators. They are very nice and will get the job done. Having said that there are other generators out there that are cheaper and will work. I would avoid stuff at Home Depot and Lowes, and try and look around for a "professional" generator. Ask around any builder friend you may have and ask them what they use.
Look for one with a 240V, two phase, output which you can hook up to a transfer switch for your house.

One of the key needs of any generator is maintenance. They need to be maintained like a car almost. So depending on where you are, it is useful to have a good dealer close by for parts and advice.

Generators are also heavy, so look for one with wheels if you are in the 6KW - 7KW range. In general heavy is good, more copper, more chunky engine etc.

Remember to allow room in your budget for some wiring work. Transfer switch, NEMA plug. And also think where you are going to put this generator. It will be noisy, and can kill you if you get Carbon Monoxide poisioning. You want the place to be able to vent exhaust, but also be dry and away from the weather. That place should also have somewhere where you can chain the generator in case someone tries to steal it.

You will also need some petrol cans. Maybe four 5 gallon plastic ones. Home Depot ones are fine. I think in most town rules, you cannot store more than 20 gallons due to fire risk. When you buy the petrol do not forget to put in the fuel stabilizer, e.g. Stabil (Home Depot). Try and store the petrol away from your house for safety.

Being without power is a royal pain, and I think for about $US 3,000 you can get a usuable set up. Maybe $US 1,500 for the gen set and another $US 1,500 for the wiring.

All the best Mike.

    Bookmark   November 8, 2011 at 10:07AM
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Mike made some great points. My transfer switch (GenTran 3028) was about $300, but that included the breakers. Also had to by a power inlet box and the cord and two L14 plugs.

These generators don't put out 2 phases - it's a split-phase 240VAC - i.e. single phase. Same as your house wiring. My generator has a floating neutral so I didn't need the additional kit to switch the neutral.

In this recent outage, I also did go out and bought two new CO /explosive gas detectors which set me back another $120.

I also have an 10x10' "EZ-UP" pop-up tent that I use for protection, but in the heavy snow that occurred I had to go out every 30 minutes and dump the snow off the collapsing top!

Good point about gas cans too. I only had 1 5 gallon can, and after 2 day being without power I tried to buy a 2nd... guess what... none to be found. There was no gas to be found for a while either...

    Bookmark   November 8, 2011 at 12:40PM
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I guess this forum on generators is pretty dead right now. Well we are only a month or two from hurricane season so my guess is that will change.
I have learned that most of these gens (at least in Florida) are so poorly maintained that it is no wonder that they fail. I am an electrical engineer and have picked up a RobinSubaru 3800 watt gen and a Porter Cable 5500 watt gen both not producing power. Engines are fine but I plan to change the oil out anyway since there is no telling how long it has been in there.
Both are brushless alternators and I checked to see if they lost their excitation and no success. Next I pulled the covers off and disconnected the capacitor and measured the windings voltage AC. Both acceptable around 5VAC for the Porter Cable and over 7 VAC (little high) for the RobinSubaru. New capacitors installed and I expect them to operate well now. I see these sitting in sand operating which is death to the windings sucking that sand in.
My point is that putting these in snow or water or not protecting them is a sure way for them to fail. After all this is a generator producing a lot of AC power and getting it wet is a good way to blow the capacitor or burn up the windings.
The engines I think suffer from poor maintenance as well, infrequent oil changes, 4 seasons outside all harsh on these engines.
Will post results of the repairs I made and see if that was the only issue with the gens.

    Bookmark   April 23, 2012 at 11:32PM
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Opinions on generators will vary widely. I too live in the NE and went through 2 power outages in 2011. Alot of my neighbors including myself used portable generators for up to 5 days. Some were from HD and Lowes and worked real well. A few had problems and either destroyed them or they didn't produce power, but the motor ran. None of them had transfer panels, but survived with lots of cords. I have a 12 year old 6500watt Honda. I bought it during Hurricane Floyd and have used it when needed. I am also in construction so it gets used for jobs sometimes. I may use it for 1-2 weeks or maybe just a couple of hours when the job power is not available. For me it was a business expense, but I probably still would have done it anyway. After 12 years I had it serviced after the late snow storm outage. Honda service dealers were easy to find. They tuned it up and checked voltage and all is fine. One neighbor bought a Briggs and the motor ran but no power. He found many service areas for the motor, but it took him months to find a service center for the generator. He cannot transport in his car so has to have a friend take it in his truck. It is April and still not finished. He spent $600 before the storm and never got power from his purchase. I would buy from a power equipment dealer or lawn supply and have them start it up and prove it works before buying. Make sure they service what they sell no matter the price. You will pay more, but it is worth it. As far as Honda goes they are in the top of generators. One thing is that mine is 6500 or 5500 continuous watts, but has a 13hp motor. You pay a lot, but you get what you pay for. It is hard to check hp but you can find it if you search. Any generator that works is wonderful when you need it. Yes you do need lots of 5 gallon gas cans. I think I have 5 plus a couple of 2 1/2 gallon cans. Also gas stabalizer and good oil. Transfer switches are great to have, but if not a lot of good heavy extension cords.

    Bookmark   April 25, 2012 at 11:55AM
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Looking to pick up a portable generator in an emergency situation, and looking at the honda em6500s, but very worried about the noise. On their decibel chart, it compares this generator to a Jet plane 50 feet away! thats insanely loud. i live in a suburb with 7500-10000 sq ft lots. Anyone have an experience with a 73dba generator?

    Bookmark   October 17, 2012 at 7:11PM
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I just picked up an old 4400 watt Homelite for 75.00 that needed new fuel and a new spark plug because it still had the original and with old fuel ran like garbage. It runs like a top now and evidently hasn't seen much use since the spark plug was still painted homelite red. It is on the small side of what I was looking for but with the cast iron sleeved briggs engine. If I decide to get something bigger and newer this one will sell for 300+ all day long here.

It might be worthwhile to look for a 'nicer' model that someone else has been storing in their garage and is tired of looking at. If you keep your eyes open deals pop up. There are also apps that will notify you anytime a certain ad shows up so you can jump at the deal before many people see it.

    Bookmark   October 17, 2012 at 9:56PM
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You might to read that information again...

A jet airliner at 50 feet away would exceed 140 dBA and, without ear protection, will typically cause permanent loss of hearing - an average lawn mower is around 75-80 dBA.

dB is a logarithmic scale - you may want to google "dBA noise levels" for comparisons of various sources and an explanation of dB and A-weighted dB scales.

    Bookmark   October 17, 2012 at 11:13PM
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You're right, the computer i opened this image on did not show the blue


    Bookmark   October 18, 2012 at 9:53PM
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That is a weird figure. Honda is making their generators look bad with it.

    Bookmark   October 19, 2012 at 12:05PM
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Hi, i bought this generator less than a year ago. I serviced it once but did not change the air filter as it looked relatively clean. I used this generator mostly for house appliances during power outage. Now when i wanted to use it for a bigger project it gives me problems. Connecting a grinder, it picks up speed slowly before it pull full speed. I then connected a welding machine (invertor), it does weld but seriously very weak, the moment you start welding u hear the generator reducing speed (sign that its pulling excessively heavy). I am not that familiar handling the machine settings, anyone who can help me what am i doing wrong or what settings do i need to do in order to have maximum output from this generator? Maybe the choke? According to the specs it is capable to do welding with, etc. Please help me???

    Bookmark   August 12, 2014 at 2:07PM
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Last year I purchased a 7500W Smarter Tools generator from Costco at about $800. I converted it to run on propane supplied by 20# propane cylinders like you have for your barbeque grill. (Conversion cost about $225)

Some advantages of propane include: fuel does not deteriorate with age; safer to store than gasoline; about the same cost as gasoline, however during an area power outage it is much easier IN MY CASE to get more propane; maintenance issues with engine have been zilch as carburetor jets don't get clogged, no varnish forms, etc, etc.

Champion enjoys a great reputation for customer service and parts availability, and is also reasonably priced.

If I were to do it again, I'd look at this unit from Smarter Tools, but not available from Costco.

Here is a link that might be useful: Dual Fuel Generator

This post was edited by saltidawg on Tue, Aug 12, 14 at 19:41

    Bookmark   August 12, 2014 at 4:35PM
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