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Author Topic: Smaller portable generator selection  (Read 4498 times)

Jonathan Johnson

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Smaller portable generator selection
« on: December 20, 2014, 09:11:59 PM »

I'm considering getting a generator mainly for backup power purposes for the family home. There's a possibility of using it for live sound occasionally, but the type of work I do "never" goes over about 2 kW. (I put "never" in quotes, because so far I don't have a rig that can load more than that. But of course, there could be more in the future.)

The main things I'd be using it at home for is powering a 1 HP well pump, running a pellet stove (the primary heat source in my home -- 500 VA), and keeping some heat in the pumphouse (~500VA), and a few lights. So as I figure it, I should be looking somewhere between 4000 and 7000 VA.

I know that I can't go wrong buying a Honda inverter series generator, but when they are several hundred to a couple of thousand dollars more than the competition and I'm not using it to earn my living, I'm finding the competition really attractive.

Can anyone point me to some honest reviews of generators, where the reviewer has actually tried and tested them, rather than ranking them based on the manufacturer's literature? What are your thoughts and experiences with brands of inverter generators besides Honda?
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Ray Aberle

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Re: Smaller portable generator selection
« Reply #1 on: December 21, 2014, 01:17:12 AM »

I'm considering getting a generator mainly for backup power purposes for the family home. There's a possibility of using it for live sound occasionally, but the type of work I do "never" goes over about 2 kW. (I put "never" in quotes, because so far I don't have a rig that can load more than that. But of course, there could be more in the future.)

The main things I'd be using it at home for is powering a 1 HP well pump, running a pellet stove (the primary heat source in my home -- 500 VA), and keeping some heat in the pumphouse (~500VA), and a few lights. So as I figure it, I should be looking somewhere between 4000 and 7000 VA.

I know that I can't go wrong buying a Honda inverter series generator, but when they are several hundred to a couple of thousand dollars more than the competition and I'm not using it to earn my living, I'm finding the competition really attractive.

Can anyone point me to some honest reviews of generators, where the reviewer has actually tried and tested them, rather than ranking them based on the manufacturer's literature? What are your thoughts and experiences with brands of inverter generators besides Honda?

Jonathan,

Come on over and check out the Honda series-- I have:
- 2 EU2000i
- 1 EU3000si
- 1 EM3500
- 1 MQ Power 45kW

My oldest EU2000i is over ten years now and running like a champ. The other EU2000i and the EM3500 belong to my dad, and he's had his for 12-13 years.

If you want to borrow one to check it out, let me know!

-Ray "In Orchards" Aberle
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Frank DeWitt

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Re: Smaller portable generator selection
« Reply #2 on: December 21, 2014, 02:36:52 PM »

If you are willing to remove the portable sound gig from your requirement and look at a generator just for home backup there are a lot of options.  The generators from Kohler and Onan that were built in the 40s through the 60s tended to be big heavy over built units with a lot of copper in them.  I have a couple.  A 1947 Kohler and a 1969 Onan  The Onan is my home backup.  It is 6KW 220 volt 2 cyl electric start 1800 RPM and is a delight.  Well made, starts every time.  BTW 1800 RPM is the key.  The good stuff made to last was 1800.  The contractors generators of that time were 3600 RPM

Here is an example.  http://r.ebay.com/T3E9Qs  I paid $600 for one just like it 10 years ago
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Rob Spence

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Re: Smaller portable generator selection
« Reply #3 on: December 21, 2014, 02:58:19 PM »

You are likely going to need a unit with a 240v output for the well pump. Those tend to start with units of 4kw or more a 9kw multi fuel, a little 2kw and a 20kw standby.

I used the 9kw for the previous 15 years. Sometimes on propane. I originally had a 30a transfer switch to a small panel with the critical circuits (well, refrigerator, freezer, igniter for gas stove, blower for wood stove, water heater and a few lights).

Recently I did a new service and major rewiring. I put in a 100a transfer switch and was able to put lots of loads in the generator panel. That with the 20kw auto start unit gives me great piece of mind.


Sent from my iPad using Tapatalk HD
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Stephen Swaffer

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Re: Smaller portable generator selection
« Reply #4 on: December 21, 2014, 04:04:23 PM »

From personal experience, I would lean towards the upper end of that range because of the well pump-starting that pump might be a challenge for small generators-especially with other loads connected.

I am working on becoming a servicing dealer for Milbank-in the process I have learned their smaller "construction" genny is easily convertable from a floating neutral to bonded and back -might be nice since you will need floating for home backup, bonded elsewhere.  They also make a competitively priced 2 kW inverter.  Might be worth a look.

In my conversations with them having a bonded neutral on an inverter was never considered because of the way they were being used and neutral bonding was rarely asked about.  "The sqeaky wheel gets the grease"-so when you are shopping be asking-if enough people ask it might eventually be addressed-don't wait for others to be the ones asking.
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Frank DeWitt

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Re: Smaller portable generator selection
« Reply #5 on: December 21, 2014, 04:50:20 PM »

I should have added that my 6KW Onan has no trouble with the 220 volt well pump.  I don't know the size of the pump but it is 300 ft down (yes 300 ft)

BTW before I got that generator I used the 1947 Kohler during a ice storm.  I ran the frig and the sump pump.  It was ideal because it starts and stops on demand.
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George Dougherty

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Re: Smaller portable generator selection
« Reply #6 on: December 24, 2014, 12:16:00 AM »

I'm considering getting a generator mainly for backup power purposes for the family home. There's a possibility of using it for live sound occasionally, but the type of work I do "never" goes over about 2 kW. (I put "never" in quotes, because so far I don't have a rig that can load more than that. But of course, there could be more in the future.)

The main things I'd be using it at home for is powering a 1 HP well pump, running a pellet stove (the primary heat source in my home -- 500 VA), and keeping some heat in the pumphouse (~500VA), and a few lights. So as I figure it, I should be looking somewhere between 4000 and 7000 VA.

I know that I can't go wrong buying a Honda inverter series generator, but when they are several hundred to a couple of thousand dollars more than the competition and I'm not using it to earn my living, I'm finding the competition really attractive.

Can anyone point me to some honest reviews of generators, where the reviewer has actually tried and tested them, rather than ranking them based on the manufacturer's literature? What are your thoughts and experiences with brands of inverter generators besides Honda?

If you're using it for sound, the Honda EU are the only small gennies I've seen that I'd consider unless you have 300ft of feed and a brick wall.  I ran a Briggs and Straton 6K out of the back of my box truck once with 150ft of feed and you could still hear it clearly at the stage.  The inverter power for any of the modern sensitive digital electronics is also good to have.  The EU3000 can run a smallish sound system (powered mains, subs, 4-6 powered monitors and backline) with no problems.
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Dennis Wiggins

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Re: Smaller portable generator selection
« Reply #7 on: December 24, 2014, 01:38:50 PM »

I have been running an ETQ 3600 (Menards) as emergency backup for my house for over 3 years.  We lose power frequently. It has an L1420R connector in addition to the usual Edisons. It has handled  everything in my house (multiple refrigerators and freezers, well pump, sump pump, and  lighting) except the air conditioner with no problems.  I connect to my house with 10g SOOW via the L1420R.  It has always started very easily in any weather.

The ETQ 3600 is reasonably quiet for what it is, and I have, on occasion,  run sound (two CS3000s and one IPR3000) from it with no issues.

I use Seafoam (gas treatment) in all gas motors that sit more than run.

-Dennis
« Last Edit: December 24, 2014, 01:50:04 PM by Dennis Wiggins »
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Guy Holt

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Re: Smaller portable generator selection
« Reply #8 on: December 25, 2014, 04:19:36 PM »

If you're using it for sound, the Honda EU are the only small gennies I've seen that I'd consider unless you have 300ft of feed and a brick wall.  I ran a Briggs and Straton 6K out of the back of my box truck once with 150ft of feed and you could still hear it clearly at the stage.  The inverter power for any of the modern sensitive digital electronics is also good to have.  The EU3000 can run a smallish sound system (powered mains, subs, 4-6 powered monitors and backline) with no problems.

Whether you pick up generator noise or not comes down to how you use the generator as much as which generator you use.  It is possible to use the Honda EU6500 portable generator without hearing the noise if you use them with a transformer that will allow you to move the generator off site (like you would a diesel tow plant), compensate for line loss over a long cable run, and provide plug-in pockets conveniently close to the stage.


 A Distro System consisting of a 60A Full Power Transformer/Distro, 2-60A GPC (Bates) Splitters, 2-60A Woodhead Box distributes power from a modified Honda EU6500is. Even though the generator is 200' away to reduce noise, plug-in points remain conveniently close to set.

To record sync sound in motion picture production without picking up any generator noise, we typically use 200' - 300' of heavy duty 250V twist-lock extension cable between the generator and a Transformer/Distro on set. This is usually enough cable to place the generator around the corner of a building, or to run it out of a van or truck - which is usually all the additional blimping you need with the Honda EU generators. The heavy-duty 250V twist-lock cable eliminates multiple long cable runs to the generator and minimizes line-loss; as well as, eliminates the voltage drop you would have using standard electrical cords.


 60A GPC (Bates) Splitters and Woodhead Box.

To assure full line level (120V) on set, use a Transformer/Distro designed to compensate for the slight line loss you will have over an extended cable run. Use one designed to slightly boost the voltage on the load side (secondary) so that if you were to feed the supply side (primary)  of the transformer  240 volts from the generator, 127 volts would come out on the secondary side where you plug in the lights. This slight boost enables you to place the generator further from set where you won't hear it, yet assure that the supply voltage on set does not drop too low. 


 60A Woodhead Box running Power-to-Light PFC 800W ballast (left) and PFC 1200W ballast (right.)

Using the Honda EU6500, or new EU7000, will certainly help. The Honda inverter generators to begin with is much quieter than other generators. Part of what makes them so quiet is their "Eco-Throttle."  The Eco-Throttle's microprocessor automatically adjusts the generator's engine speed to produce only the power needed for the applied load. They can do this because the inverter technology of inverter generators enable them to run at different RPMs and maintain a constant frequency and voltage.


 Two paralleled Honda EU6500s powering a 12k HMI Par.

Where conventional generators like the Honda EX5500 and ES6500 have to run full speed at a constant 3600 RPM to produce stable 60 hertz (cycle) electricity, a Honda EU6500is only needs to run as fast as required to meet the load demand. Since their engines do not have to run at full speed, and given the fact that an inverter generator generates 20% more power per revolution of the engine, makes the Honda EU6500is substantially quieter than conventional generators and it can be modified to generate 7500W.

For more details on the use of transformers with the Honda EU6500is for set power,  and even how to parallel two of them for 100A output, I suggest you read the article I wrote for our company newsletter on the use of portable generators in motion picture production (available at
www.screenlightandgrip.com/html/emailnewsletter_generators.html
. )

Guy Holt, Gaffer,
ScreenLight & Grip
http://www.screenlightandgrip.com
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Re: Smaller portable generator selection
« Reply #8 on: December 25, 2014, 04:19:36 PM »


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