Uncle Bobs Tips

How to Pick the Wrong Generator

How to Pick the Wrong Generator

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Imagine being able to create a constant supply of electricity whenever you need it. Many homeowners are investing in small output generators for recreational and other uses, and are increasingly adapting them for use as backup power sources as well.

Here are some mistakes you don't want to make when selecting and using your generator: (When the power goes out, don't be left in the dark!)

Mistake #1 - Buy the lowest quality generator

Generators are at work providing power around the world - from equatorial jungles to research-posts north of the Arctic Circle. Used to perform a wide variety of tasks, models range from portable generators suitable for camping and caravanning, to petrol-driven site generators and heavy-duty diesel driven generators.

To provide the reassurance of a power plant at your fingertips, you want only the best. For over thirty years, Honda engineers have been at work developing a wide array of generators to provide power for any situation. The latest models are smaller, lighter and quieter, and many Honda generators produce voltage which is smoother and more consistent than commercially available power sources. Honda generators provide a high quality power source that is reliable and convenient. Therefore, choose the best: Choose a Honda.

Mistake #2 - Operate your generator in an enclosed area

As power demand continues to outpace available power resources worldwide, blackouts and rolling brownouts are common. Many are turning to portable generators to provide temporary power in their homes. Here are some safety considerations you should follow when powering your home appliances:

Never operate an internal combustion engine inside your home, basement, garage or any other enclosed area. Since combustion engines create carbon monoxide that can be lethal, good ventilation is critical. Generators need a minimum of 3 to 4 feet of spacing on all sides (including the top). Generators also need an unlimited supply of fresh air for proper cooling during operation. Therefore, place your generator outdoors, away from doors and windows (as open doors or windows will allow dangerous exhaust fumes to enter the building).

Further, keep your generator dry and always operate it on a level surface. Never add fuel to your generator when it is running and always store additional fuel in approved Gasoline containers.

Mistake #3 - Plug your portable generator directly into the wall outlet

It is very important that you NEVER feed power from your portable generator into a wall outlet. This is called "back feeding" and can cause a very dangerous situation as power back feeds into the Power Company lines and can cause severe injury or death to linemen working on the lines. In addition, when the Power Company restores power it can feed directly into your generator, causing severe damage to your portable generator. Finally, improper connection of your generator could void your homeowner's insurance in case of accident or injury.

A manual "transfer switch" is the key to safe operation of your portable generator for standby power. By installing a transfer switch at your breaker box and connecting a portable generator to the transfer switch, you can run selected circuits for appliances such as a television, computer, printer, lighting circuit, refrigerator, furnace, or well-pump during a power outage, depending on the capacity of your generator. Since many portable generators cannot handle all of these loads at the same time, the transfer switch allows you to manually transfer each load separately whenever you need them.

Reminder: If the power is out for several hours, don't forget to power your fridge and freezer to ensure that no food gets spoiled.

Mistake #4 - Don't do your research: Buy any generator for any appliance

When buying a generator, you need to consider how you plan to use it. Generators are used to perform a wide variety of tasks, thus there are many models to choose from to suit these needs. For example, generators of varying amounts of power are needed for: camping/recreation/boating, home appliances, construction.

For recommendations on the best model to suit your needs, contact a Honda Generator dealer.

Mistake #5 - Ignore power requirements

The amount of power that a generator can produce is rated in watts. "How much power do you need?" is the first question you need to determine in order to select the right generator and transfer switch. For example, a 3000 watt generator can provide adequate power for appliances such as microwave ovens, toaster ovens, lights, refrigerators, freezers, and TVs (as long as they are operated intermittently). On the other hand, if you want to power deep well pump with up to 1 HP motor, a 5000 watt generator will be required to provide the starting capacity for the pump. Larger wattage units can also be used for simultaneous operation of multiple smaller appliances.

Thus, to determine which generator to select, first determine which appliances need to be powered simultaneously and what the starting requirement of each appliance is.

Mistake #6 - Run your generator at its maximum power output

This is the fastest way to wear out your generator! In fact, the "rule" in the world of generators is: Generators should never be operated at their maximum power output for more than 30 minutes.

Generators produce AC voltage, which is very similar to the voltage available in your home. While the electric utility company produces sufficient power for all your electric-powered devices, a portable generator is limited in power output directly relational to the engine horsepower. Hence, in generator jargon, "Rated Power" is the operative word, and refers to the power that a generator can produce for long periods of time, which is a more reliable measure of generator power. Typically the RATED power is 90% of the MAXIMUM power.

For example, a 2500 watt generator can handle a load of no more than 2500 watts of power MAXIMUM. This means that at maximum power, this generator could light-up 25 100-watt light bulbs at the same time. However, the RATED wattage of this generator would be 2300 watts and it should only be used to power 23 - 100 watt light bulbs.

The light bulb example is called a RESISTIVE type load and its power requirements are pretty straightforward. Resistive loads are typically appliances that do not have electric motors. Other types of resistive loads include toasters, convection ovens, hot plates, curling irons, coffee makers, stereos and TV's.

On the other hand, a REACTIVE load contains an electric motor, i.e. power tools, furnaces and refrigerators (that have internal fans requiring extra wattage/power to start the fan). An appliance or tool with a reactive load may require up to three times as much power (wattage) to START as it does to keep it running.

Mathematically, the equations look as follows:
RESISTIVE LOADS = 1 x Power
REACTIVE LOADS = 3 x Power

To determine the proper generator for reactive type loads, you must consider three modes of operation:

STARTING - The starting power of an electric motor can be up to three times the running amount!

RUNNING - The power required to run the electric motor once it has been started.

LOADED - When the electric motor begins to work (i.e. saw begins cutting, drill begins drilling), its power requirement will increase. This does not apply to most household appliances.

Mistake #7 - Don't manage your power usage

To maximize the efficiency of your generator, "Power Management" is the name of the game! Once you master the art of "Power Management", you will discover that a small portable generator can power several appliances safely. To enhance your know-how, Honda will even supply you with a Wattage Calculator to assist you!

Mistake #8 - Drag your portable generator wherever you go

To extend the life of your generator, make the trip a smooth ride! While portable by definition, many Honda models include wheel kits for easy transport of the generator from place to place.

Mistake #9 Give your generator long vacations

Generators should be run at least once a month. This accomplishes several things: It lubricates the engine by circulating oil, runs fresh gas through the carburetor, and it works to recharge the battery. All of these things help to insure that the generator will start when you really need it in an emergency.

Mistake #10 - Use the cheapest gas to run your engine Honda engines are designed to run on unleaded fuel. Use unleaded gas with a pump octane rating of 86 or higher. This will reduce deposit build-up on valves, spark arrestor, muffler and spark plugs. You should never use stale or contaminated gasoline or an oil/gas mixture, and you should avoid getting dirt or water in the fuel tank.

Mistake #11 - Filler' up! Gasoline is extremely flammable and is explosive under certain conditions. Therefore, do NOT overfill, and be sure to wipe up any spilled fuel before starting the generator. Remember to refuel in a well-ventilated area with the engine OFF.

Mistake #12 - Store your generator "wherever" and "however" Before storing, make sure the fuel valve is turned OFF. If left on, gasoline may get into the engine crankcase and dilute the engine oil, thus reducing the lubrication properties of the oil and causing severe engine damage.

Store in a safe place. For example, don't store the generator below the deck of a boat because gasoline fumes can collect and ignite.

Finally, if you are going to store your generator for more then 2 months, follow these instructions: Drain the fuel from the carburetor float bowl and drain the fuel from the sediment cup. Then add the correct proportion of fuel conditioner to the tank to top it off.

Follow these tips and you are sure to choose the right generator for the job!

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