My Baby Honda Emergency Generator
Several years ago I bought a baby Honda generator. It is called a “Honda eu1000i,” and it looked like a collapsed red plastic gas can. From the numbers on the side, I expected the “1,000” to mean 1,000 watts, but the paperwork said it produces only 900 watts. The “i” meant that it had an inverter, to produce 110-volt AC power, instead of just 12-volt DC.
The baby Honda generator cost me $587 back then, and even today you can get one for under $800. Eight hundred dollars is a high price, when you can get generators for under $300 today, that can do pretty much the same as the Honda, but I had reasons to buy the Honda instead.
The baby Honda has a 4-cycle engine, which means you do not need to mix oil with its gasoline. You’d have to do that with a 2-cycle engine in most cases. I can get a generator with a 2-cycle engine for under $300. Is it a bargain? Yes, until you need parts. I don’t know where I would get parts to fix it. So if it broke, I’d probably have to throw out the cheap generator and buy another one. Do that a couple of times, and you could have bought the much-more-reliable Honda generator.
If you start the baby Honda generator once a month, let it warm up, then connect a load, it will run well for years. For a load, I use two 400-watt lights. After the engine has warmed, I plug in two extension cords, each with a light. Turn on the first light, and the engine speed increases. Turn on the second light, and the engine revs up still more. After a few minutes I turn off the lights and the engine until the next month.
Incidentally, my petite wife can start the baby Honda. She turns the rotary switch to “on,” advances the choke, and pulls on the starter pull handle. In one or two pulls, it starts. After half a minute it stutters, and she moves the choke lever toward “off.” When it stutters again, the choke goes off, and the baby Honda generator is ready to power up to 900 watts.
We want the exhaust from the baby Honda generator to go outdoors. We position the baby Honda by the back door of the garage, exhaust pipe pointed outward. To get the power inside the house, we use extension cords.
The baby Honda generator produces electrical power with an internal generator. The power is 12 volts DC, and the internal “inverter” changes it into 110-volt AC. This means that you can plug anything into the Honda generator that you’d normally plug into an electrical outlet in your home. With a 3-way connector on the end of the extension cord, we have three electrical plug-ins.
Up to 900 watts are available. You can use that to power some lights, some fans, a radio or TV, and a refrigerator. Changing from 60-watt incandescent bulbs to compact fluorescent lighting dropped the wattage requirement to 18 watts. Five CFL bulbs would use 90 watts. Box fans need 90 to 200 watts. A clock radio uses 7 watts. A TV needs 150 to 200 watts. Refrigerators may need 400 watts, but they are on only part of the time. Your desktop computer may use 200 watts, with 100 watts for the LCD display, 100 watts for the printer, 7 watts for the router, and 25 watts for the satellite dish.
You may have noticed that if all these were in use at the same time, you’d need more than 900 watts. The trick is to stay under 900 watts by deciding what you turn on at the same time. For example, you could turn your computer off if you needed to have the refrigerator on. You could use the 850-watt toaster, 800-watt furnace fan blower, 800-watt washing machine, or 750-watt well pump if enough other devices were turned off.
What you can’t use includes the 4,500-watt water heater, the 4,500-watt electric stove, the 3,800-watt air conditioner, the 3,000-watt electric clothes dryer, the 1,200-watt microwave, or 1,200-watt clothes iron.
The baby Honda generator burns six quarts of gasoline in 10 hours, or five gallons of gasoline in 33 hours. Another way to look at this is that a five-gallon can of gasoline will power your baby Honda generator for 33 hours.
My friends say it’s better to buy a bigger generator. An 11,700 watt generator has an 8-gallon gas tank that can run it for 6.5 hours at 50 percent power, generating 5,850 watts. It burns about five quarts per hour. It could run four hours on five gallons of gasoline. This generator comes on automatically in a power outage, powers everything except the air conditioner/central heat, and almost powers an entire house.
I guess a person has to choose between powering almost a whole house for four hours, or selected electrical appliances for 33 hours, on five gallons of gasoline. My choice is to power less, so I need to store less gasoline.
I have used a Honda generator as an example because I own one. I think Briggs & Stratton, DeWalt, Generac, John Deere, Kawasaki, Stanley, and Yamaha also make good generators with four-cycle engines. Personally, I would not buy any generator made in China, nor any two-cycle generator that requires mixing oil into the gasoline.
Several friends, who have 10,000-watt generators to power their whole house, asked me why I wanted a “toy” generator. I’m satisfied if I can turn on a few lights, run a fan or two, and maybe turn on a radio or TV – and all of that can be in the living room.
The Disaster Guy will periodically write detailed articles on emergency preparedness topics like this one. For more preparedness info, go to www.DisasterGuy.comand download the free Tips. You may contact the Disaster Guy by email.