Lidl has Parkside inverter generator on offer next Thursday 31st May 2018

The XYL returned from a quick shopping foray this afternoon with the latest magazine showing next week's offers which included a "Golden Oldie" first seen two years back. Said Golden Oldie (the PGI 1200 A1), presumably being priced for nostalgic reasons, is on 'offer' at the original 129 quid price (their version of "Rollback Pricing" I'm guessing).
Although remarkably cheap for an inverter genset even at the 30 quid higher asking price than the later PGI 1200 B2 "Suitcase" generators they were selling in the 2nd week of April this year, it has even more going against it than the 99 quid B2 model which I'd assumed to be its replacement and thus rendering the A1 model totally obsolete.
After checking out this video review on youtube:
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https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oclB_Uj7KX8

and taken another look at this one on the B2 model:
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https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JTTGvjbY8_s

which is worth checking out simply for the extremely informative comments made by dean handley from ten months ago which would have saved me so many return trips to finally track down a working PGI 1200 B2 some seven weeks back, I have come to the conclusion that unless you want to strip out the guts of the A1 and transplant them into a properly designed enclosure of your own (whether portable "suitcase" or just a small brick outhouse), or you simply want to use it for spares[1], I wouldn't bother unless you're really desperate to get hold of a 1KVA pure sine wave inverter generator having just missed out on April's bargain of the decade in cheap inverter genset technology.
Having said that, it's still superior to a cheap open frame genset. Yes, it may be almost as noisy but at least its 1KW of pure sine wave power can be safely used with electronic kit and even old fashioned sine wave UPSes, unlike normal generators using 'sophisticated' AVR control which will grossly over-volt at the drop of a hat (leading current loads from a few microfarad's worth of capacitance generally being all that's needed ime to send a 2.8KVA 230vac generator going north of the 270vac mark!).
If you're looking for a cheap alternative to buying a few hundred quid's worth of SLAs to boost the autonomy of a 1.5KVA or higher rated UPS by a couple of hours, this could prove a more cost effective alternative, especially as you can get a good 3 to 5 hours worth out of each gallon of unleaded petroleum/gasoline you care to pour into its tank (5 to 7 hours in the case of the PGI 1200 B2).
The only downside, of course, being the noise pollution if you don't already have a suitable brick outhouse to minimise this and both secure and run it safe from the CO poisoning and fire hazard risks presented by such generators. In this regard, it's very little different to the 99 quid PGI 1200 B2 Lidl were selling just a mere 7 weeks ago. For static use, the only downside is that extra 30 quid hit on your bank balance.
Even so, it's a remarkably cheap way to buy into a 1KW standby source of pure sine wave 50Hz 230vac power. Now that I've replaced all the GLS lamps (bar the set of four 35W 12v halogen downlighters in the shower room) with LED lamps, I can keep all the lights on along with the fridge, the freezer, the 4K smart TV, my IT kit and the CH with a mere 1KW of standby power. Admittedly, only at a pinch and by careful power management but if ever the need for sustained emergency power ever arises, this is just exactly what anyone running off emergency power would be having to do anyway.
I'd have preferred a 2KW inverter genset but not only are the cheapest alternatives some four or five times as pricey, they'll burn through emergency fuel reserves faster as well even when only providing the same amount of power as the smaller genset. Limited emergency power is better than no emergency power at all and even if I do push the boat out on a quieter 2KVA inverter genset at a later date, at just 99 quid, I can afford hang onto the Lidl genset as an emergency backup to the 2KVA emergency backup genset. You can never have too many emergency gensets when the price is *so* right. :-)
TBH, I'm quite amazed at the cheek of Lidl in trying to sell an inferior version of the PGI 1200 B2 less than two months later and at an extra 30 quid to boot! Perhaps they're thinking that its "Retro Chic" cheap two stroke portable genset looks are deserving of the extra 50 or 40 quid over a more appropriate (IMHO) 80 or 90 quid price point. :-)
Major points of difference between the A1 and the B2 models are:
The A1 uses a top mounted 4.2l pressed steel gravity feed tank prone to leaking fuel during transportation. Fuel consumption rating at 2/3 power output is 0.88l/hour from its 2.85hp 53.5cc engine (4.77 hours run time on a tank of fuel). Considering the use of a gravity feed fuel system, there's a surprising absence of a carburettor float bowl priming plunger to assist cold starting.
The B2 uses a plastic (presumably shatter-proof) 4.5l side tank (which reduces sloshing of its contents) feeding an engine vacuum powered fuel lift pump[2]. Fuel consumption rating at 2/3 power output is 0.68l/hour from its 2.04hp 53.5cc engine (6 1/2 hours run time on a tank of fuel).
The A1 is 200g lighter than the B2 (13Kg). Both produce the same total sound power of 95dBW but the B2 claims to be 1.3dB quieter at the 1 metre SPL test distance (80.2dBA).
Now that I have an actual class 2 SPL meter to test with, I'll be able to confirm just how optimistic a claim this is for myself (give or take 1.5dB of metering error along with other environmental factors that make such tests so less than 'scientific'). At least I'll be able to get base line figures by which to gauge any attempts to quieten it.
[1] Afaict from pictures - unlike the potted inverter module in the B2, two cermet trimmers do actually poke up out of the hard and shiny black potting compound in the one used by the A1 making it amenable to adjusting for manufacturer's calibration errors[3], assuming they haven't switched over to using the same inverter part used by the B2 (probably not since the A1 shown still only uses two LEDs to show status using blink codes for normal/slight overload/full overload condition and "Goodnight Vienna" whilst the B2 uses three LEDs).
[2] The only downside of using a fuel lift pump, aside from the extra complexity over that of a simple gravity feed setup, is the need to spin the engine over several times on the starter cord just to prime the fuel line and the carburettor float bowl when starting from "Dry" (initial commissioning run or else after a long lay up after letting the carb run dry to minimise the risk of fuel gumming up the carburettor's jets during periods of protracted storage).
In this case, it's best to crank the engine over leisurely 4 or 5 times after turning the fuel feed on with the ignition still off and closing the choke for the penultimate pull before turning the ignition on for a full on pull of the cord to actually fire it up without needlessly wasting energy on premature attempts to fire it up before there's even any fuel in the carburettor float chamber.
Where more regular use (say every weekend) precludes any need to run the carb float bowl dry, this won't be an issue. A single priming yank before turning the ignition on and setting the choke should get it running on the next pull of the starter cord.
[3] I discovered when testing with a 900W toaster and a bunch of 150W incandescent lamps and a few other ses lamps of various wattages that the inverter signals overloading at the 980W mark according to my digital watt meter. I was a little disappointed at discovering this, especially in view of the fact that it would cheerfully run a 1200W test load not for the mere 5 seconds claimed but a full half minute every time before shutting the inverter down.
I realise it's just possible that it's been calibrated to detect overload at exactly 1001 watts and my watt meter is merely under reading by 2% of the +/-3% allowance of its rated measurement tolerance. Still, I'd have hoped they would have erred a little more on the positive side of the tolerance range with their overload setting point, say 1050W before sensing an overloaded state.
This is how I came to discover the complete absence of any means to adjust the output voltage setting or the current overload point to correct such a parsimonious setting. I guess I'll have to do some cross checking with my other "Kill-A-Watt" meter and the analogue watt meter before deciding whether to buy another PGI 1200 B2 the next time they're on offer from Lidl to do a "Pick 'n' Mix" swap out to get the inverter genset I so richly deserve.
--
Johnny B Good

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On Sat, 26 May 2018 02:34:31 GMT, Johnny B Good wrote:

After Mr Plowmans post on laser levels and this one I'm glad that there isn't a Lidl where I normally go... Aldi is OK but doesn't have the range of wallet threatening "big boys toys" that Lidl does. B-)

Hum those figures don't add up 95 dBW (aka 95 Lwa) is 87 dBA @ 1m or 70 dBA @ 7 m (7 m being the "industry standard distance" for gensets). I think that's the same as the mower.
I have an open frame 2.2 kVA, non-invertor, diesel set, now that is fing noisey, difficult to hold a conversation next to it noisey! However it is electric start(*) and uses about a litre an hour. But at about 60p/l less than petrol as it can use red diesel.
I've used a couple of Honda EU20is, linked, and they where really quiet, audible but not overly so as reflected by the quoted 52dBA @ 7m (89 Lwa).
(*) In theory so that SWMBO'd should be able to start it. Probably never happen as it's also rather heavy even though it's mounted on a 4 wheel flatbed trolly. She'd never manage to pull start it far to complicated a process. Release the compression, spin it up on the cord, drop in the compression and hope it fires... I think your suposed to be able to set the engine and compression release so that one pull does the complete cycle and off it goes but if you get it wrong and pull into compression it don't half jar your arm. B-)
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Dave.
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On Mon, 28 May 2018 22:07:10 +0100, Dave Liquorice wrote:

I see references to the 7m SPL dBA figure in generator youtube vids (or as the Yanks call it "the 23 foot SPL reference distance"). I did query those figures in my mind but since a class 2 SPL meter is only able to be calibrated to within +/- 1.5dB accuracy anyway, it didn't seem to be a significant enough discrepancy to get all hot and bothered about.

That's not only a useful saving, it's also less of a long term safe fuel storage problem. The penalty for going for the affordable open frame option being the horrendous noise pollution if you can't run it in its own little brick outhouse to keep the noise level in check.

If I've done my quick 'n' dirty calculations correctly, I reckon that would equate to a 1 metre SPL of 66dBA. A significant reduction on the 80.2dBA quoted for the PGI 1200 B2 (which will be the no load eco throttle idling condition - idling with eco-throttle disabled raises the level another 10dB or so and loading it up with a 980W load will raise that by yet another 6dB or so).
Those Honda suitcase inverter gensets are remarkably quiet but I can't justify shelling out an extra 800 quid plus for one. Since it's not so much for day trips out into the wilds and more a solution for a minimum level of emergency home power come the next winter (or the ones after that), I feel a more optimal solution is to build a little brick outhouse behind the garage in which to both secure and operate it without creating a noise nuisance for both myself and my immediate neighbours.
At least this way, if I do opt for a "cheap" 2 or 3 KVA inverter genset at a later date, I can forego the quietness of a genuine Honda inverter genset by making sure there's ample space for an even larger open frame genset inside. Whatever the upgrade, one thing's for certain, it won't be a conventional genset destined to go the way of the Dodo - only an inverter type will do the job.

Tell me about! It's bad enough pull starting a diddy 53.5cc single cylinder four stroke when I'm as unfit as I am. :-( It's the reason for my describing in detail my "Dry starting" routine.
Wishing this inverter genset had electric start got me to wondering about add-on electric starter upgrade kits to replace the recoil starter cord. I know some of the larger open frame generators can be upgraded to electric start (retaining the pull starter cord) but they either need a starter ring gear fitting or else they already had a starter ring to begin with but were simply not fitted with the starter motor, solenoid and battery to provide a cheaper option to their customer base.
Then it hit me! Inverter gensets already have the core part of a permanent magnet brushless DC motor disguised as a multi-pole three phase PM alternator. :-)
All it would need is a starter battery and a DC brushless motor controller module add-on to neatly upgrade an inverter genset to electric start. Better still, the electronics could all be integrated into the micro-processor controlled inverter module itself, only requiring the installation of a small starter battery (say a 7A SLA or its smaller lightweight Li-ion equivalent).
TBH, this is such a "No Brainer" idea, I'm surprised none of the quality names in suitcase inverter generator manufacturing aren't already using this technique in their latest "Must Have" product lines to 'freshen up' market demand. Perhaps they have and I just haven't noticed.
Anyhow, this got me to ruminating on the possibilities such a revamping of the old "Dynastart"(tm) could provide. For starting purposes, you wouldn't need to use the full 400 volt (200v for a 120v generator), probably just a quarter of output voltage would suffice. However, using a DC-DC converter to generate the full voltage from a 12 or 10.8 volt starter battery would allow an even more frugal eco-throttle setting to be used without fear of stalling the engine on pick up of a sudden increase in load.
Then I thought, "Why stop there? Why not combine the function of an inverter genset with that of a line interactive UPS?". It's quite thought but with a lightweight Li-ion battery pack it need only be a few pounds heavier than a pull start inverter genset since the battery would only need to provide a few minutes of autonomy for the UPS function and from a battery that demonstrates only a fraction of the Peukert effect that's routinely relied upon to protect UPS SLAs from excessive DoD.
It's surprising what you can come up with when you let your mind wander where it will. :-)
--
Johnny B Good

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Would make it more expensive for the vast majority of customers for whom these small generators are just for emergency or possibly camping. Add to weight as well and if someone isn’t healthy enough to pull start a small generator they may not wish to carry something heavier. Human nature being what it is a lot of people would forget about running the generator for years and come the first emergency find the battery flat. Thinking outside the box many who are technical or savvy enough to own a generator will already have a battery and motor in the form of a cordless drill, now if you had an accessible bolt head connected to the end of the crankshaft that could take a socket or hex drive you could use one a starter motor though the need to be a bit deft when it fires may be an obstacle .
GH
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On Tue, 29 May 2018 07:53:50 +0000, Marland wrote:

You forget that the 'Early Adopters' will always pay for the development costs which in this case won't be particularly high - it's mostly a little bit of extra 'silicon' in an existing inverter/controller module.
The manufacturers always 'Make Hay Whilst The Sun Shines' when offering such enhancements to an existing product line. Eventually, after 'The Tooling Costs' have been well and truly amortised and 'They're all doing it', competition will force the pricing to a more reasonable mark up. In some cases, the savings made in upgrading the manufacturing to serve an expanding mass market will allow them to increase their profit margins whilst still offering cheaper prices.
As for the weight increase, this will pretty well be down to that of a 7AH SLA at most. If the longer lived lighter and more compact Li-ion equivalent is employed, it's likely to be just half a Kg on a 13 to 18Kg genset.

Yep! I've seen plenty of such youtube vids demonstrating the technique. :-)
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On Tue, 29 May 2018 12:02:46 +0000, Johnny B Good wrote:

====snip===
And, I meant to take the opportunity to also mention the many youtube vids of alternators being converted to motors and motors into alternators by the simple expedient of hooking up the appropriate DC Brushless electronics package to the former and the appropriate rectifier/regulator electronics package to the latter.
Whirly magnetic bits and copper wound ironmongery at the heart of both machines are quite interchangeable in function with the appropriate add- on electronics package. It's such a no-brainer option, I'm amazed the starter function at least isn't already built into the inverter module to make provision for an optional extra electric starter feature, merely requiring the addition of a small starter battery to fulfil the "Value Add" of the more expensively specified model variant.
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On Tue, 29 May 2018 07:53:50 +0000, Marland wrote:

====snip===
Unfortunately, with the parkside PGI 1200 B2 inverter genset, the inverter module blocks such access to that end of the engine shaft and there's no easy way to get around it short of transplanting the guts into another larger carapace that would allow me to alter the layout to suit.
The only possibility for adding an electric start feature would be something like a Radio Controlled dc brushless motor electronic speed controller (ESC) module rated for 42 or 48 volts operation[1].
Although this is only an eighth of the normal alternator output voltage at the circa 4000rpm eco-throttle idling speed of the engine, it may still prove sufficient for starting since it represents an equivalent cranking speed of 500rpm (assuming no I squared R losses), say 350 to 400rpm in practice which may be just sufficient to fire it up. IIRC, yanking the starter cord vigorously sounded to me like 5 pulses per second's worth of engine cycles, equating to a cranking speed of 10 revs per second or circa 600rpm - probably 350rpm for two or three seconds could stand in for the half second's worth of starter cord effort.
The only extra complication in this case, compared to the more usual car alternator to BLDC motor conversion exercise, being the need to rapidly isolate the ESC module before the alternator voltage output exceeds the maximum breakdown voltage of its motor drive transistors as the engine runs up to speed.
Judging from the ESC modules used by the RC hobbyist fraternity, there should be ample space to fit the necessary electronics required to run the PM alternator as a starter motor. The question is, Can I cobble up my own version of an already proven technological solution at an economical price?
There's absolutely no question that it *can* be done but at what cost? Even if I can get hold of a cheap 72 or 84 volt programmable ESC module, I'd still have to solve the problem of providing battery power to generate the required 72 to 84 volt rail and incorporate a suitable charging module to replenish my chosen battery option.
Stringing twenty 18650 cells in series doesn't seem a sensible option to create a 75v battery so that leaves me with the choice of either a 12v SLA or a three cell 11.25v Li-ion battery pack and a simple DC-DC converter to multiply the battery voltage by a fixed step up ratio (a basic, no frills square wave driven high frequency step up transformer converter offers the most efficient option, circa 98% conversion efficiency).
It would be nice if it could all be done with just a 12v supply to the alternator come starter windings but modifying the alternator stator with additional low voltage delta connected windings is out of the question and, even if incorporated by design, would compromise its performance as a generator to a greater or lesser degree anyway.
Quite frankly, the only sane way to provide an electric starter feature to any inverter genset is to incorporate the necessary BLDC motor ESC, HV converter and battery charge management modules into the existing inverter module where the starter battery can also be utilised to improve the eco-throttle performance, making the eco-throttle switch redundant, the elimination of which might well pay for the additional 'silicon' used in the inverter module (if not the HF ferrite step up transformer used by the HV converter module).
[1] Having googled for the cheapest source of ESC modules (RC units), the highest voltage ratings are limited to 6 Li-ion cell's worth, 22.5v (probably a maximum of 24v in reality) so a cost effective electric start modification via the RC Hobbyist supplies market doesn't look quite as promising as I'd hoped (cranking speed limited to little more than 200rpm according to my calculation - in the 115v 60Hz inverter case, 400rpm which might just suffice in that case).
The next option is with disability scooter BLDC ESC modules (they can go right up to 72v (84v max) but the 48v modules are more common and more expensive than a cheap 'n' cheerful 6S RC BLDC ESC module). It looks like I'd have to custom design and build my own ESC module if I want to upgrade to electric start.
Unless I can track down a still active news group that relates to such electronic projects, it doesn't look very doable. Trying to track down web fora that go beyond the business of describing car alternator to BLDC go-kart motor conversion project youtube vids looks rather a hopeless task. :-(
--
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On 29 May 2018 07:53:50 GMT, Marland wrote:

Better to fit a spiral drive as used on starting handles.
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Dave.
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