Advice regarding purchase of a gasoline generator

Folks, living near the gulf coast, and with all the hurricanes last year, I am contemplating purchasing of a gasoline generator from Harbor freight. It has a continuous rated power of 5.13 KVA, and I am hoping to use it to run a small window unit, a freezer, and two refrigerators should the need arise. Do you think that this unit is adequate? My budget won't allow large diesel unit (which I'd rather purchase), but this gasoline unit has a sound rating of 96 db, which is pretty loud, I think. The price is ~$400.00, and I was wondering if you all might have some advice concerning using a small generator in emergencies. I already know to use it out doors, as carbon monoxide killed several people after Katrina and Rita, who weren't aware of the danger. Any suggestions and advice are welcome, thanks in advance, Richard
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I suppose buying a hunting cabin in South Dakota and spending the hurricane season there is out of the question?
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Harbor Freight? Who makes the gen, who makes the motor, and what rating is it. With Harbor Freight and 400$ it is a cheap unit most likely only going to last 250-350 hrs. A frige needs 3-7x start up load-surge, figured in to your load. So you must measure what your apliances pull, but id say you are optimistic. For sound level it is loud, go to Hondas gen site to see db ratings, you neighbors wont sleep with 96db for 2-500ft. For a 2-3000 hr unit look at Generac- Honda-Yamaha or any commercial grade motor. You get what you pay for in gens and 400 isnt much in quality components . Also expect the 400 unit to swing between 100-135v
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You have to get an ampmeter and measure the starting and run amperage fo the items you want to run. It ought to be adequate, as long as two items don't turn on at the same time, but the only way to know is to measure them.
96db is very very loud, but you have to give them credit for honesty. Most cheap generators are in the 80s, and that is loud enough.
I buy stuff at HF and find it is usually a good value. But I would never consider buying emergency equipment there!
Your generator will use an aweful lot of gas, which could be hard to come by. If it were me, I would get a smaller generator and plan on running the 2 fridges and the freezer on a rotation. That should be enough to get through. I would forget about the window unit (I am guessing A/C?) Just for your reference, my freezer and new fridge take 13a to start. My old fridge took 25a to start. You can see why you have to measure them.
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I told my friend who was going to buy one that it was a waste of money and would never work when needed. He bought it anyway. Of course when the ice storm came it would not start.

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"Of course when the ice storm came it would not start. "
If its stored with no gas in it, float bowl drained, gas supply stored in a metal can with StaBil added, no reason why any ICE shouldn't fire right up.
Crappy gas in the bowl, especially gasohol (more prevalent than most realize), is a big reason stuff doesn't start. With the fuel blends nowadays, anything with fuel in the bowl over 2 weeks is a crapshoot.
Motorcyclists, especially those with kick-start only bikes, are very aware of this. Automobile-only ICE users (especially those with fuel-injection) just don't bump up against this phenomena very often.
Dave
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And what was his reply?
--

Christopher A. Young
You can\'t shout down a troll.
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Couple isolated thoughts:
Generators disappear. Chain it down. Two chains is better. You will need more stored gasoline than what you think. Buy gas cans. What's the watt rating? Sounds like probably 4,000 watts? Probably nto big enough to run all that at the same time. But you can run stuff an hour at a time. Trees and bushes (if any left) help muffle the noise. Change the oil after five hours, and then after twenty five hours. Buy good oil like Castrol. Cheap oil is worse than useless. If the thing won't start, it's OK to spray ether on the air filter. But not OK to spray ether into the spark plug hole. Ether in the spark hole will sieze up the motor and kill the thing. This, I know. If the motor only runs for a second or two, fill the oil to the full line. Be nice to your neighbors, don't run it after dark or early in the AM, if possible.
--

Christopher A. Young
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96 db means that it is unusable.

I had a loud generator like that, it was impossible to be around (or even a little away from it) when it ran. Never again!
Also, do not even hope that you could "put a better muffler on it" and silence it.
It is also unlikely to last long, since cheap generators are not built to last. They are only built to last beyond the warranty period, and are expected not to be actually used (sold to "homeowners" as "backup generators").
You are in a little bit of a bind, since you cannot afford a good generator, but bad generators are not quite a solution either. I am sorry if my message does not come across as a constructive suggestion.
My own answer was to look in the surplus equipment market, I bought an Onan DJE generator and had to restore it a little bit. But at least I have something decent now.
Check out alt.energy.homepower and see what people there have to say.
i
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All else snipped because what I have to say is important and relevent:
Generators are three things. Temporary, essential and obnoxious.
They are all designed to give temporary electrical to the medically challenged, the insecure, and the uninformed. People who buy these are of different ilks. They really NEED to keep something going, like AC for an asthmatic, or they REALLY need to keep their AC running at 54 degrees because they are used to that. The uninformed just get them in case.
Unless you get a serious generator, one that has a diesel motor, and a huge generator, it is an exercise in intellectual masturbation.
Those with rural retreats and remote locations know this. If you are going to run 24/7 you need to get good stuff. Anything but good stuff doesn't last. And it goes out at the worst time.
But, who can afford a diesel engine and a high kw generator? Not everyone.
In comes the uninformed. They buy inferior HF and the ilk generators thinking that the promises on the brochure are true. Ahhhhhhhh, but reality has a way of keeping things straight.
Bottom line, if you need a generator, figure it temporary at best. It is only going to function for a finite amount of time, and you are only going to use it when the other power goes out. Figure they are all obnoxious, even the best make lots of noise and put out a lot of fumes. And figure that you will have to spend some $$$ to get one that will be reliable and last. That excludes HF unless you want a really short lifespan.
Just MHO, YMMV.
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Well steve you need to look at Yamaha and Honda Inverter series, they have gas models as quiet as 56 db, you can have a normal conversation next to them and not hear them at 20ft. As far as durability they are load dependant rpm, meaning at low load they can run 900-1800 rpm, that relates to 10000+ hrs life, I am not guessing on hours, I have read about many people getting more. Sure they cost 3x that of Home Depot type, but they get the job done year after year. Look at motor homes, boats, those are compact long life low watt units for prime power and many are gas. You just have to shop for quality, it does come in small lightweight packages. But not from HF.
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which is exactly the point, they cost more than the POS "emergency preparedness" generators.
i
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Just my 3 cents...
a pure emergency generator for a day or so occasional use is one thing and can best be accomplished by a harbor freight cheapie. dont go big just large enough to run a couple lights, and one major load like fridge at a time. gas will be hard to get and the larger the generator the bigger the gas hog. so a moderate to small generator is best.
for long term large loads a fixed natural gas standyby system is ideal and costs the most. like 10 grand installed but fuel supply isnt such a issue, gas tends to be highly reliable.trying to supply 5 or 10 thousand watts for a week? unless you own a gasoline station it isnt going to happen:( gas stations use electric to pump gas so it might not help.
Now for the vast majority a in between is really whats necessary. moderate loads, quiet, to get by while power is out.
Most of you already have the engine, its in your own car or truck sitting in your driveway!
Its quiet, moveable to get more fuel, and by its usual uses will probably start when needed:) might have 10 or 20 gallons in the tank too!
Add a power inverter that converts 12 volt car power to 120. Get 2 units a small one to run some lights, for while your sleeping, under a 60 bucks for 500 watts, use when car isnt running and then buy a bigger one for heavy loads it may cost 500 bucks but you can use the car to chase fuel. trying to keep 20 or 50 gallons of gasoline around your house isnt a good idea and besides it will go bad just sitting around, even with fuel stabilizer:( In a emergency the last thing you need is a gummed up fuel system from old gasoline!
anyhow I have a couple generators a 2000 watt one its been extremely useful for portable needs
and a 4000 watt one that hasnt been needed yet.:)
but the most used is a inverter for my vehicle! and it cost the least!
For many in a emergency just a couple lights and perhaps a radio or small TV would help so much!
Pep boys sell 1000 watt inverters for $99!
sure its a compromise but so is life! But a inverter helps requires no maintence, no excess stored fuel and will probably work when needed even after being buried in a closet for years!
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Hallerb, the problem with a cheapy are several things , first the motors are lawn mower grade, made to last 250- 350 hrs, sure it will work but after an extended outage it will be junk if it was used extensivly. The other issue is quality of V and Hz. You will on undersized units swing from no load to full load 40v and 5-8Hz, this can not only make motors not start, but can ruin sensitive electronics in furnaces, microwaves, etc. These cheapies are designed for jobsite saws and lights. Even Coleman now after loosing lawsuits state on gen boxes and literature which of their units need 2-400$ seperate Regulators to insure you will not damage your home. Running a car with an inverter has issues, your Rpm needs to be way up and alternators can easily be ruined. A high idle on a non moving car in a hot area can easily lead to other issues. We all are used to clean power of utilities but have little knowledge or apreciation of what it takes to make stabil clean power, or what damage poor power can do to our homes apliances.
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