Friday, January 23, 2015

My generator


I do have solar panels, but it's winter here for much of the year. And I live pretty far north. This means there are very few hours of direct sun, even if it's not snowing or cloudy that day. So for me, having a generator to recharge my batteries and back up my solar panels is essential. It usually ends up running somewhere between 4 and 10 hours a day depending on how cold it is and how much power I have used for other activities. 

 Above you can see my generator. At the bottom of the post is a link to the one I have. It is not a Honda and while those are generally agreed to be the best, the Champion's are a  fraction of the cost and still had very good reviews. That is why I chose this model, and I am very happy with it. It does run a little louder than a Honda, but I don't object to that if I can save $600+. And I happen to live a long way from anyone else so I only have to worry about bothering my neighborhood of squirrels, moose, elk, etc.

It is just barely large enough for my needs, but that also means it is extremely fuel efficient. I can usually run it for 7 to 10 hours on one tank of gas. If you read other's reviews of this model, you will see a lot of discrepancy in run times. I am guessing that is because you can fill it and empty it well above and below the marks on the gauge. So if you only fill and empty the tank by the markings, you will get a very different amount of running hours than if you go from truly empty to truly full. I haven't measured it myself, but the tank is supposed to be 0.7 gallons and this seems pretty close. Getting up to ten hours of run time from that amount of gas is a pretty good deal for me. And it is able to run my charger which dumps up to 25 amps into my battery bank as well as a handful of other things in the house at the same time. If the charger is not using power, it is more than capable of running the whole house directly.

It's been very reliable other than the issues described below which have little to do with the generator it's self. The one thing that seems to be made poorly is the pull cord. Mine snapped after about a month of use and has been replaced. Something inside seems to be catching and chewing up the cord, but I don't know what. If they would have used a more sturdy pull cord, I would have not a single complaint about this generator. 



Below you can see it sitting inside it's own tiny house. That came about after learning that covering it with a tarp didn't work real well. It could not be covered while it was running, so if it was snowing while it ran, that would melt and the water would run down into little crannies. I didn't become aware of the problems that would cause until the temps dropped into the -20 F range. Then what happened was some of that earlier snow melt iced up in the oil chamber, causing it to pressurize, then blow all the oil out, and then shut off, thanks to the low oil safety switch. It did not seem to damage the generator, but you don't want that happening.



So now it has a tiny house of it's own. If it is super cold, the generator runs just fine with the lid shut because there is plenty of ventilation out the open end. And this seems to have totally solved any problems with things icing up. If it's a bit warmer out, it seems best to prop the lid up so it does not overheat. That flap keeps snow from being able to drift inside even when the lid is propped up. 



The other thing I have learned is that when it is well below zero, it is hard to start a generator. The solution for that seems to be sitting it in my house for a little to thaw it out, and then putting it back outside and starting it up.

It also seems a good idea to have a backup for something mechanical that I depend on this much. I am blessed to have access to this little Honda as well for the days were we've been figuring out the issues described above with my Champion. Little Red is a very nice piece of equipment as well and if you have the cash, I'd recommend getting one like that. But overall, I think my Champion has be a fantastic deal.




In case you are interested in a similar set up for your tiny house or RV, following are links to some of the items I use and describe in this post. If you buy them through my link, you will be helping me pay the bills here in my tiny house!


26 comments:

  1. Hello,
    I just posted a comment but am not sure if it went through. I own a Tumbleweed Tiny Home as well (The ELM) and will be taking it on the road soon. Please excuse my ignorance about generators. Does the champion run everything in the house? Does the champion hook right up to the generator using the electrical plug tumbleweed supplied? I noticed that the generator was located a little ways away from the home...is that because they pose some danger being close to the house. Do I have to have solar panels or can I just use the electrical plug straight to the generator? How many solar panels do you have for your tiny home? And finally would you kindly supply a link to the Honda generator? Thanks so much in advance for your patience.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Yes the Champion can run everything in my house. I don't have many things that use a lot of power. The fan on the heater, my fridge, water pump, lights (LED), laptop, and router are really the only things that use power. No microwaves, hair driers, or anything else that takes a lot of power.

      The cord they supply has the wrong kind of plug end for most generators so you just need to get a little adapter (or small extension cord with the adapter) that turns the plug end coming from the house into one that looks like a standard three prong plug.

      The distance for me is mostly just the most convenient spot. Also it keeps the noise a little further away. And you don't want to run a generator inside a house, the fumes could kill you, so the distance keeps the exhaust a little further away too. But as long as the exhaust is able to vent freely aways from the generator, there should be no reason it couldn't sit right beside your house. Just not in it.

      You do not need solar at all. My system just has two power sources, the generator and the sun. You could just have one or the other, but I don't get enough hours of sun here in the winter to be able to only use that. As long as you have gas, you'll be totally fine with just a generator. However if you do not have batteries, you will only have power when the generator is actually running. If you have some batteries, you can charge them with the generator (you will also have to buy a charger) and then still have power while the generator is off.

      I have four 100 watt panels. This should cover pretty much all my power needs in the summer. But is not nearly enough in the winter since I use more power then and there are so few hours of direct sun because I am so far north, even on a clear day. And a lot of days are snowy.

      Here's a link - http://www.northerntool.com/shop/tools/product_200585434_200585434?cm_mmc=Google-pla-_-Generators-_-Inverter%20Generators-_-16673&ci_src=17588969&ci_sku=16673&ci_src=17588969&ci_sku=16673&gclid=Cj0KEQiA6JemBRC5tYLRwYGcwosBEiQANA3IBwp8S_iLjhCE-RJExGK7qCoZJrytKB5ZsbX_vTE0-d8aAsuZ8P8HAQ

      Delete
  2. Thanks for sharing. I know this takes a lot of time, but you've pointed out some things that I would not have thought of, so know that others are benefiting from your experience.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. It does take a lot of time, so thank you for letting me know that!

      Delete
  3. Very nice post on generators!! Well guys I want your opinions on Honda generator eu3000is. Actually I searched on internet and really liked all its features. Still I am looking for more detailed information from all of you friends!!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I've never used the eu3000. I have used the eu2000 though and like it a lot. It is a simple to use and efficient model. It seems to have an issue with the oil safety switch when the temps drop below freezing and shuts it's self off because it thinks the oil is low. Bringing it in the house and warming it up a little solves this problem but it is inconvenient if you live in a cold climate. Honda is working on this issue. Everything else about the generator is great though more expensive than the Champion that I have which does not seem to have to oil switch issue.

      Delete
  4. I saw on Amazon that there is an EXTENDED RUN FUEL GAS CAP FITS HONDA Eu2000i GENERATOR" for about $33. It says you can connect to an external fuel tank for extended run times.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hmm. That's interesting. I wonder if there is one that fits my Champion?

      Delete
    2. I imagine you could use an external tank used for an outboard boat engine. Those are usually 5-6 gallons. You could probably go near a week with that! You could just disconnect the built in tank (after it's empty), remove any fitting on the new external tank that connects to the outboard motor, and plug the rubber hose from the external tank to the fuel valve on the generator. You may have to mount the new tank above the generator as it might have to be gravity assisted. But maybe not if you use the bulb primer on the external tank line to start the fuel flow.

      Delete
  5. I think your generator is 4 cycle, try using synthetic oil, will be much easier to start and last much longer. Nice house!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Also, if you're only using it in very cold temps below zero, use 0w30. For milder winters between 0-30+ degrees, use 5w30. Just make sure it's synthetic oil if you're going to lower weights. This will definitely make it easier to start. A good 5w30 synthetic should also have no problem in the summer at regular oil change intervals.

      Delete
  6. Hi Ariel,
    Awesome tiny house- I love it and how you explained everything- especially on how to run it. I'm wondering how do you or do you store extra gasoline as back up? And how much gasoline does the generator(s) use in different seasons? Thanks Diana

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thank you. I just have two 5 gallon military style cans, and one plastic 2 gallon jug. This lasts me a few weeks to a few months depending on the season. The genny uses just under a gallon to run for ten hours. In the coldest and darkest days of winter, I can run it for almost that in one day. In the middle of summer, I can go for two months without turning it on at all. Hope that helps!

      Delete
  7. As you have built a 'house' for your genny, why couldn't you install a light bulb in it, and keep it burning during your below freezing temps to keep the genny warm so you wouldn't have to bring it indoors to warm it up? Where I used to live, we had ice storms instead of snow. We had problems with our water well pump and it freezing up. So we installed a light bulb in the well house, problem solved. Don't know if it'll work for you, but it's a thought.

    ReplyDelete
  8. You talk about bringing the generators in the house to warm up. How heavy are they? Do you have a photo with something near them for scale?
    I am really enjoying your posts and hope you are weathering this winter well.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. They are about 60-70 lbs. I have only brought one inside on the very coldest nights. Like when it's 60 degrees below freezing. And I am enjoying my winter. Thank you!

      Delete
  9. The pull cord breaking seems to be a common problem. The same thing happened to our Predator Generator similar to this one [http://www.harborfreight.com/8750-peak7000-running-watts-13-hp-420cc-generator-epa-iii-68530.html]. Other than that issue, it has been a dream. Fortunately, it also has an electric start so when we need to start it, hubby hauls a battery, hooks it up and cranks the generator. =]

    Just wanted to share that we have noticed when we use pure gasoline (no ethanol) it runs about three hours longer.

    Great post! Keep up the good work. =]

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I don't know exactly how your generator is set up, but with mine, you can take apart the casing that holds the pull cord and thread a new one through it.

      Good point. I have always bought ethanol free gas for my generator and would recommend never putting ethanol in anything small especially. It's terrible for the life of any engine.

      Delete
  10. the fuel tank is 1.45 gallons

    ReplyDelete
  11. Can you please tell me how this thing is still running as of today? any problems? did it fry your battery bank for your solar system? etc? the inverter should be modified sine wave which is bad for batteries, the Wynns on youtube said their laptop battery and charger were destroyed after a year using modified sine inverter

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. It's great. I'll buy another one exactly the same when I wear this one out. It, along with the charge controller I have do an excellent job of maintaining my batteries. So far, they are still operating like new.

      My inverter is a pure sine wave and I have had no problems with it.

      Delete
  12. I have about a half dozen of those generators.I wait until they are on sale a Canadian tire for 199.00 Canucastanian dollars. I once put nearly 3000 hours on one, and intentionally tried to abuse it...here is a tip for cold weather starting (I am up by Edmonton -40 sometimes)Remove the stupid pull cord assy from the rear of that unit, throw it over your shoulder and forget about it, instead get a 16 mm deep socket (it might be 17mm I suffer from oldtimers, and am to lazy to go look), and the adapter for the socket put these pieces in your cordless drill, set the drill to high speed and place the socket on the nut in the center of the flywheel....pull the trigger..... you will spin that genie right up even at -30. This is a life changing tip....it lowers the amount of swearing I do trying to start the things when cold.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Nice idea! I don't have to start mine very often when it's cold and it usually starts pretty easily. We we get in the -30's it does take a few more pulls. But I'll keep that plan in mind if I end up needing to start it more in colder temps. Thank you!

      Delete
  13. I should learn to say everything at once...forgot a few things, with that model you can let it run out of fuel with a load on and not worry about anything. That unit has a embedded neo magnet on the rotor so its altenator is guaranteed to start up every time.
    The circuit breaker is only a code requirement for selling, and at 10amps a pain in the xxx. I suggest you undo the four screws holding the front plate on so that you can get to the back of the circuit breaker, then put both wires on the same screw, that will effectively jump out the breaker. Trust me.... this allows the unit to run devices needing heavy start up current, or I should say heavier start up current. with that done you will have a generator that can really box outside its weight class so to speak. This unit has no regulator, and that's a good thing as you can hack it for other purposes, for example I dial the rpms way up running the unit at maybe 140-150 vac, and then I can run a 1800 watt chop saw cutting steel pipe, or then I can run my 1750 watt Makita chop saw and cut 2x6s all day. I also can turn the rpms way down so the voltage is roughly 80 volts AC This lets my battery charger run for roughly 12 hrs on a tank full of gas hammering out 24 amps dc into my batts..what I am saying is for the price, and quality of construction these are great units. I have found 50 hrs to be the right oil change interval though some people I know do 100 hr oil changes and seem to have no problems...each to there own. The low oil shut down circuit is a bad design IMO, It depends on the continuity of the wiring to function. You can see how this isn't wise yourself, the shutdown wire is the black wire to the left of the yellow oil fill plug, in the picture at the top of your page you can just see part of it. For fun with the unit running grab this wire and give it a tug, it should come apart just above, but behind the control panel and guess what? the unit will keep running...like I said bad design IMO. You can just plug that wire back in to where it pulled out from (just butt connectors). The good news is even if these wires come apart and the unit runs out of oil and seizes up....no worries, just let it cool down, fill with oil, and your good to go again. Ok that's all I know now..done

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks for all the info! You've certainly got a lot more experience getting into the guts that I do. I've been doing 100 hour oil changes and it seems to be working well.

      Delete