cheap generators and power surges

Submitted: Tuesday, Mar 28, 2006 at 21:16
ThreadID: 32278 Views:3149 Replies:12 FollowUps:6
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Hi all,

thinking of getting one of the cheap generators we all see in the catalogues these days, not for camping but to have on stand-by for those times times when the power is cut. Mostly thinking about the fridge/freezer (not sure what wattage we are talking about ......perhaps someone can give a guide?)

I have been told that the cheapies are prone to "spikes" etc and can fry your equipment.

Can anyone give advice in this regard? I note you can get "surge protection" power boards etc. Does something like that cover the risk to equipment of using a cheap generator?

Any advice on other downsides would be appreciated. I know you get what you pay for and these things seem pretty cheap so I can't help being suspicious????

Thanks in advance
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Reply By: Derek from Affordable Batteries & Radiators - Tuesday, Mar 28, 2006 at 21:33

Tuesday, Mar 28, 2006 at 21:33
Not a good Idea !

I have seen them blow up chargers and voltage varies between 200 Volts and 260 volts.

Stay clear of the 2 stroke ones.

I prefer Honda or Engel units

Regards Derek.
AnswerID: 163538

Follow Up By: Member - Jeff M (WA) - Wednesday, Mar 29, 2006 at 10:48

Wednesday, Mar 29, 2006 at 10:48
Mate try living in Perth, our voltage vaires that much out of the friggin socket on a regular basis!
FollowupID: 418328

Follow Up By: Mike Harding - Wednesday, Mar 29, 2006 at 11:17

Wednesday, Mar 29, 2006 at 11:17
With 240V domestic mains the usual specification is that suppliers will maintain voltage to +/- 10% of nominal so the socket in your house may well be producing anything from 216V to 264V at any given time. In country areas or for short periods these figures may worsen. All of us who design electrical and electronic equipment are (or should be) aware of this and design accordingly. I would be seeking a warranty replacement for anything, specified for 240V use, which blew up with a supply of 260V.

Mike Harding
FollowupID: 418334

Reply By: Roughneck - Tuesday, Mar 28, 2006 at 21:51

Tuesday, Mar 28, 2006 at 21:51
Hi Trevor I have one of those two stroke ones and when I first started useing it I was getting a lot of surging from the engine I was running a couple of lights a telly and video so to stop it I plugged my chess cold into to it and that made it work from then on I thought it was a good out-fit we had constant power you could tell from the light globes and never had any troubles at all they may only be 750 watts but does a good job and it was only a hundred dollars Cheers Roughneck
AnswerID: 163545

Reply By: RosscoH - Tuesday, Mar 28, 2006 at 21:53

Tuesday, Mar 28, 2006 at 21:53
Hi Trevor, I'am with Derek, forget the cheap 2 stroke units, I have a 2kva Kipor, they are the same technology as the Honda and Engel but a lot more affordable, we run a computer and house fridges off it in blackouts. I have used it on a 2400watt cut off wheel no problems.
Cheers RosscoH
AnswerID: 163549

Reply By: greybeard - Wednesday, Mar 29, 2006 at 01:17

Wednesday, Mar 29, 2006 at 01:17
i've got a $98 special
my experience with my generator in my application is limited to having used it a few times to run several computers/servers for 3 or 4 hours till the mains came back. The computers were fed power via a small UPS though.
Also used it to run various power tools.
had no problems at all.
bottom line, stick some real test equipment onto the generator output, document the results. anything else is pot luck, hear say or someone's experience in their application.
my 0.02c worth ;)
AnswerID: 163562

Follow Up By: Member - Jeff M (WA) - Wednesday, Mar 29, 2006 at 10:52

Wednesday, Mar 29, 2006 at 10:52
G'day greaybeard, were the UPS just the cheapy type ones from a computer shop? If so they probally aren't doing much filtering while they are being fed by 240v so the computer were probally running fine of the little genny. Personally, I can't see a problem with them, our most things will run down to about 200v without a prob anyway. I used to import computer goods in a previous life and the UPS's were really were crap hey! ;-) Just a battery backup more than anything.
FollowupID: 418329

Follow Up By: BenSpoon - Wednesday, Mar 29, 2006 at 12:43

Wednesday, Mar 29, 2006 at 12:43
I found I couldnt run true online UPS's from a small (5kVA) genset.
When the UPS battery goes to charge the genset voltage sags with the load then spikes as the revs go up which switches it to battery power. When it tries to draw from mains power again it sags and spikes again and just stays on batteries but they hardly charge.
A cheapie would be more suited, or else crank the mains sensitivity on the UPS right down. I had it set to mains between 220V-268V and it still wasnt happy.... maybe a dodgy gen set though as it was a hire unit from CAT rentals.
FollowupID: 418349

Follow Up By: Member - Jeff M (WA) - Wednesday, Mar 29, 2006 at 12:55

Wednesday, Mar 29, 2006 at 12:55
Yeah BenSpoon, I once had the same problem trying to run a file server off a coats higher genny. The thing was a peice of crap. The APC online couldn't handle the genny input and kept reverting back to battery, then back to mains and so on. I swapped it for a 700VA Leibert Line Interactive of an unimportant server and all was sweet, mind you it took a while for it to recognize the crappy output from the genny before it switched over to mains. :-P

But yeah, all good fun.
FollowupID: 418357

Reply By: Sparkiepete - Wednesday, Mar 29, 2006 at 06:53

Wednesday, Mar 29, 2006 at 06:53
I own one of those "cheap generators" and I used it two days ago for work. I had to cut out some bricks to fit in a new meter box and it ran my 800w Dewalt grinder beautifully. I must admit it stalled a little easier than normal but it cut solid bricks which were 30 years old like nothing.
It also run my Cassels 750W jackhammer as well. I plugged the tools straight into the gennie which helps. Another guy was using a 600W Makita roofin screw gun but it didn't give him enough power to remove roofing screws on a 30 meter lead.

My "cheap generator" is a Scorpion generation 2 from Repco. 650W usable 800W max. I think I just got lucky and this gennie works well. I cannot use it to charge batteries as the chargers(Dewalt battery drill) use too little power to cut in the gennie. So far I haven't tried running fridges or anything else on it as there has been no need to but I would if I had to.

Now the funny thing was where I was doing the meter box a builder was starting extensions. Now the owner had a 1.5KVA Scorpion Inverter gennie and when the builder was using it it would shut down into an error while using a 600W makita roofing screw gun on a thirty meter lead. Go figure. I would guess his is a dodgy unit.

I use mine regularly on these types of jobs and it is great as it weighs bugger all and fits easily in the back of the van amongst all my other stuff.

I would have liked the next size up but I only had the ready cash for this one and I am happy with it.

AnswerID: 163568

Reply By: traveller2 - Wednesday, Mar 29, 2006 at 07:17

Wednesday, Mar 29, 2006 at 07:17
My $98 GMC has quite happily run the frig, freezer and few lights during blackouts for up to 14 hours at a time. Runs power tools when I'm too lazy to get out the long lead too.
It will run about 6 hours on full tank, voltage seems to be well regulated although did use the PC through a UPS.
AnswerID: 163573

Reply By: Member - ROTORD - Wednesday, Mar 29, 2006 at 07:53

Wednesday, Mar 29, 2006 at 07:53
Hello All

The 4 stroke Honda is better , but at $900 dollars and up , I can't see it as nine times better . One way of protecting the computer using a cheap two stroke would be to turn off the fridge/freezer while using the computer.

I use an 850 watt GMC two stroke and I would rate it as about 90% as good as a Honda .

Cyclone Glenda looks like drifting past Port Hedland so the GMC will stay in the cupboard , but the GMC's further south may get some use .
AnswerID: 163580

Reply By: Footloose - Wednesday, Mar 29, 2006 at 08:07

Wednesday, Mar 29, 2006 at 08:07
I also own a cheapie $99 unit. It is value for money, but I wouldn't run anything electronic off it without some form of regulator/spike protection.
I only bought it to run a freezer and some lights when power was down, and it worked well. The freezer is still alive a year down the track.
Yes the good brands do a much better job, but for $99 I rekkon it was a bargain.
AnswerID: 163584

Reply By: DaveNQ1 - Wednesday, Mar 29, 2006 at 08:57

Wednesday, Mar 29, 2006 at 08:57
I live in Cairns and because of recent events i have just looked into all this. I purchased a Yamaha 950w 2 stroke and it was not big enough to run my fridge/freezer in my house. It ran it at times, but in the process it would heat my fridge compressor/motor up to the point it would cut out on thermal overload. My next door neighbour has a refridgeration business in Cairns and repairs the engels, waecos,explorers and a few other brands. He put me on the right track and told me what was going on with the gennie and why it would not run the fridge. He also told me he gets a lot of portable fridges for repair in after camping trips when used with cheap gennies. He says they can not handle the peaks and troughs of the power output. If you use any of these cheap generators always use surge protection devices and do not let the gennie run out of fuel because this is when they let out the feircest power peak. i took my gennie back to the seller and they refunded the money no questions asked. i will now be saving for a bit longer and buying an inverter type. I know it is a lot more money but i will be able to use it for home as well as camping, hopefully have it for a long time and i know it won't blow anything up. Just remember the electronics equipment in our whitegoods is only getting more sensitive and therefore easier to wreck.
A mate of mine has the GMC 850 ( i think it is 850) and it runs his fridge fine but will not run his freezer. Check out what you want it to run and weigh up the pros and cons.


AnswerID: 163588

Reply By: Flash - Wednesday, Mar 29, 2006 at 10:36

Wednesday, Mar 29, 2006 at 10:36
I highly recommend the Kipor inverter gennys.
$699 for 1Kva, $899 for 2Kva, $1299 for 3Kva on ebay. Very nearly as good as Honda for less than half the price.
I have bought 2 X 2Kva's from NovaSmic on e-bay and they are outstanding to deal with.
The output is very stable and perfect sinewave (Have checked on my oscilloscope) and is therfore very safe for sensitive electronics.
I've heard too many sad stories, many first hand, about damage done by cheapies to everything from fridges to chargers and computers etc.- not worth the risk IMHO.
AnswerID: 163596

Reply By: Member - Jeff M (WA) - Wednesday, Mar 29, 2006 at 10:58

Wednesday, Mar 29, 2006 at 10:58
I have a 450w/1200w peak pure sinewave inverter hooked up permantantly in the surf. That will give you very good sine wave clean regulated power. A little more than a cheap genny, but if you are worried about clean power it's an interesting option. My 450w runs the entire lounge room, wide screen telly, surround sound, pedastal fan, lamp and of course the massage chair! All at standard idle off the surf. Being diesel, it uses absolutally bugger all fuel at idle and I have used it numerous times in power failures for hours at a time. I just run an extension cord to the garage, crank her up and you can barley even hear it. Just another option anyway, the Kipor's a a good unit, you can get the 1KVA's pretty cheap now too, my step father has a 2KVA and it's neat, but a little big for camping etc. They are not as quiet as they are made out to be under load either. Still not bad though.
AnswerID: 163603

Reply By: TerraFirma - Wednesday, Mar 29, 2006 at 12:05

Wednesday, Mar 29, 2006 at 12:05
You don't have to buy a Honda 4 stroke to get someting quiet and reliable. I bought and use 2 different Kipor Generators, they are fantastic, very reliable, very quiet (Let me tell you the quiet factor is great). They start at around $500 and go up, depending on what model. They are sinewave generators off course which means clean electricity and spike free.
AnswerID: 163621

Follow Up By: snailbait (Blue mntns) - Wednesday, Mar 29, 2006 at 17:09

Wednesday, Mar 29, 2006 at 17:09
hi guys
I have the cheap gennies and in the instruction it states that the gennie is not to be run on sensative equipments ie computers so what i do is only use the gen on charging the 12 volt batterie so i use the pure sine wave inverter to run the computer its still cheaper than the hondas or other big name gen at $1200.00
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