Border Fort Manual: Gasoline Powered Generators

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May 10, 2017. Before we move to Montana (soon!), the gasoline powered generators here at the Border Fort deserve a few words. The day before we leave, all of the units except for one will be secured in a steel storage shed under lock and key. That means a new owner might have a moment or two of confusion, a bit of uncertainty about which generator is best for which purpose.

And who needs that?

When Pam and I first settled on this property in April of 2009, we brought with us one little Yamaha 1,000 watt generator. That died on us rather quickly, simply because I didn’t know enough to rip the spark arrestor out of the thing and pitch it into the trash. Those spark arrestors are designed for safety, obviously meant to prevent wildfires, but come on. They carbon up something fierce, choke the dickens out of the generator’s engine, and are way more trouble than they’re worth. So fair warning: Most (not quite all) of the generators on the property as of this writing have had their spark arrestors removed, so don’t aim the hot exhaust pipe at dry grass, okay? This is not rocket science.

Yes, I believe the vast majority of so called safety requirements mandated by the federal government are designed by well meaning people for those without any common sense whatsoever. But if you-the-new-owner want spark arrestors where they’re currently missing, hey, they don’t cost much and any dealership can order one for you.

That rant aside, the five generators currently on the property are:

1. Briggs and Stratton, 5,000 watt, located near the well and secured with heavy chain and padlock to a steel rod driven deeply into the earth. This is a dedicated machine used only to power the well pump when filling the 2,825 gallon Bushman storage tank. This is a pull start machine.

5,000 watt Briggs & Stratton pull-start generator dedicated to pumping water.

2. Honda 3,000 watt inverter generator, provides totally clean electric power suitable for delicate electronics. This unit is the “main house” power source backing up the solar generator, most suitable because it can (a) handle either the microwave oven or the air conditioning unit [though preferably not at the same time] and (b) remains a thrifty fuel-sipping little marvel, running for hours on a single gallon of gas. This machine has electric start. Goes in the little three sided shed in front of the house.

Much beloved and deeply appreciated, the 3,000 watt Honda inverter generator handles most of the home’s needs when there’s not enough sun for the solar generator or the necessary power draw is too much for the solar.

3. Honda 7,000 watt inverter generator. We had to buy this big gennie when I installed a whirlpool walk-in bathtub for Pam. The tub has a lot of whistles and bells…and draws a whopping 2,750 watts of juice when all options are up and running, requiring a 30 amp circuit and a generator with plenty of pop. Fortunately, this Honda is surprisingly gas-thrifty for its size and it now powers the laundry washer and dryer in addition to the walk-in tub. (Those laundry appliances suck a fair bit of juice, too.) This generator is electric start. Extremely quiet. Goes in the little three sided shed on the other side of the semi trailer.

Big–and I do mean big–7,000 watt Honda inverter generator, currently used to power (a) the walk-in bathtub and (b) the laundry washer & dryer.

4. Subaru 6,500 watt generator, used for a couple of years to run the laundry machines. It’s retired now, but perfectly capable and can be used as a backup generator at any time. Note: Probably not the best idea to use it for the main house power if you don’t have to, as it is not an inverter unit; the electricity is a little “rougher” and possibly not the best for delicate electronics. That said, it never did hurt the washer or dryer, and they’re pretty computerized.

If it ever needs to be used, the battery might be dead from sitting idle for “however long,” but the pull start works just fine. I’ve started it both ways. However, the generator is flat-out noisy; you won’t want to run it for any longer than absolutely necessary.

Backup generators: 6,500 watt Subaru with electric start (yellow, discussed above) and 5,000 Homelite pull start (red and black, discussed below).

5. 5,000 watt Homelite generator with Subaru engine, the oldest generator on the place, pull start, totally retired these days but still there for backup if needed.

A Bit of History

There were no electric start generators on the premises until August of 2013. It was then that I realized my wife could no longer start any of our generators by pulling the starter rope, due to her progressing disabilities. The first electric start unit was the yellow Subaru, purchased that month. The 3,000 watt Honda came later, and the big 7,000 watt Honda didn’t arrive until it was needed for the walk-in bathtub in July of 2016.

During our eight years here, prior to the generators shown on this page, we went through:

1. One 1,000 watt Yamaha (the one where I failed to remove the spark arrestor).

2. One 5,000 watt TroyBilt with Briggs & Stratton engine. That one worked great for the first couple of years but eventually developed a water-in-fuel problem we couldn’t solve–and by “we” I mean me, my stepson, and small engine techs from three different shops.

3. One 5,000 watt Generac that had nothing but problems and no help from the manufacturer.

4. Two 2,000 watt Yamaha inverter units that never did quite quit on us, though they were running mighty rough after we’d hammered 18,000 or more hours on each of them. (This was before we got the solar generator in 2012 and the gas powered gennies had to run un to 20 or more hours per day.)

Unfortunately, Yamaha started making a lot of their machines in China, the brand went downhill noticeably, and we quit buying them.

5. One 10,000 watt Steele generator which had plenty of power but developed electrical problems early, by which time we’d figured out Steele was a “totally Chinese” brand (which they hid as best they could by not mentioning that anywhere on the box).

In the end, we wouldn’t change the two Hondas for anything, and the Briggs & Stratton used to pump water starts on the first pull nearly every time.