Living off grid, we take generators seriously. Doing a product review for our new Steele 10000 watt “whole house” gennie made sense…but some of the details were irritating.
First off, this is a big horse, 220 pounds plus packaging, and the packaging was deceptive. After building a ramp to get it down out of the back of our pickup truck single handed, I discovered a few nose-tweaking tidbits, as follows:
1. You’d think a name like “Steele” would indicate an American company, or at least a British one, but such is not the case. They hid the information as deeply as possible, available only on the EPA clearance certificate, but the company behind the phony baloney name is actually Jiangsu Jiangdon Group Co. Ltd.
In other words, this is not even an American designed machine built in China. It’s a Chinese designed machine built in China.
They don’t want you knowing that up front, though, or you might might not buy the product at all. I know I would not have done so.
2. The manual, though written in relatively fluent English, has a number of those not-quite-native-speaker variations in grammar that (a) hint at the product’s origin and (b) leave you scratching your head here and there as you’re putting the blasted thing together.
Not that there’s a lot of assembly to do. Just the “foot” stand and travel handles at one end, plus the axle and wheels at the other. It’s pretty much like assembling the wheel kit for any other brand of portable generator.
3. Weirdly enough, there were parts left over. Eight bolts, eight locknuts, and six rubber shock absorber thingies. The rubber pieces appear to be spare (i.e. replacement) items for whenever the foot rubbers wear out, which is nice–though we’ve never yet had to replace any of those on any generator that I can recall.
About the extra bolts and locknuts…no clue.
4. The box advertised the generator as being a “10000 watt generator”…but when it comes to that, buyer beware. The Asian brands list the surge capacity, not the running watts. This Steele (aka Jiangsu Jiangdong) is an 8000 watt unit with 10000 watt surge capacity. An American brand gennie advertising itself at 10000 watts would have 12,5000 watts of surge power (or some such).
5. The box also boasted Electric Start. It did not mention one little detail: Battery not included.
That’s the list of irritants. However, since we have the beast here, the real question is how it will perform. We bought it from Sutherland’s; did they sting us, or is this an okay machine?
Off grid enquiring minds need to know.
On the other hand, the Steele machine came with a pair of really nice, burly wheels unlike any others we’d seen to date. They had such heft to them that I got out the bathroom scale and weighed them–nine and a half pounds apiece.
One thing I can’t stand is the plethora of advertising and/or warning decals you get plastered all over any machine you buy these days. The Steele 10000 watt unit was no exception to that rule. In fact, it looked like they might have been trying to set a record.
Fortunately, most of them peeled off with surprising ease. Those that seemed possibly useful or even just kind of cool were saved and slapped up on the utility room wall near our appointment calendar.
Why would I be such a renegade as to remove all those wonderful federally required notices?
Well, for one thing, a lot of those stickers are designed for idiots. Anybody who needs to be told not to grab hold of a hot exhaust pipe probably doesn’t know how to read, anyway.
For another thing, I just purely hate those stickers. To me, a machine should look like a machine.
However, there’s a third reason: In this Arizona sun, where our generators (except for one of them) sit 24/7, 365, decals and glue do not last very long. In fact, they eventually end up looking like those in the following photo of our two year old 5500 watt Generac (which is sitting in the weeds because of a fuel supply problem).
Curious about those decals, are you?
All right, then. Here are a few to view.
Thankfully, the bit of assembly did finally get completed. None of our engines go by manufacturer’s recommendations on oil; every engine on the property gets treated to a bit of Slick 50 oil additive, then topped off with Pennzoil 10W-40 motor oil. With that all in place and five gallons of gas in the tank, it was time to give the new girl a whirl.
The results of that first test are recorded in a video–just click on the LINK if you’d like to see it–but I’ve not yet figured out how to add videos to my WordPress pages.
Besides, you can’t hear my narration on the video once the Steele 10000 fires up, so here’s how it went:
1. The generator fired up on the first pull of the starter rope. That’s always a good sign.
2. It was surprisingly quiet. Being the largest generator we have by far, one would expect it to be noisier. It’s not. In fact, any one of our 5000 watt or 5500 watt units produces more noise than this one does.
3. We got this big beast (420 cc) to power our laundry shed. Surprisingly, our propane dryer still pulls a lot of electrical juice. Running that and the washer at the same time on a 5000 watt or 5500 watt gennie is enough to make the generator beg for mercy. But when both washer and dryer were turned on, the Steele didn’t even breathe hard.
At this point, despite the deceptive packaging by the Chinese manufacturer, we decided we were glad we’d purchased the Jiangsu Jiangdong product. Yes, the company no doubt stole a lot of great engineering ideas from American designs, but they didn’t stop there. The Steele’s carburetor, for instance, comes equipped with a carburetor sediment bulb and drain plug.
I haven’t seen one of those since my early days, growing up on the ranch in Montana, draining the bulbs on the Allis Chalmers tractors when they needed it.
We probably should give you a closer look at the instrument and outlet panel. There is no gas gauge, but those usually become sunbaked and worthless pretty quickly, anyway. There is a low oil sensor, so the generator will shut down safely if you forget to check the oil someday. Beyond that, there’s a variety of 120 volt outlets plus a 240 volt circuit. The two square gauges monitor amperage draw and available voltage for the 240 volt circuit. Circuit breakers abound.
All in all, not bad.
This being a product review, it needs a rating, right?
From what we’ve seen of the unit’s setup, build, and performance right out of the box, it would be nice to give the Steele a full Five Stars…but there’s that deceptive packaging, clearly attempting to avoid mentioning that this is an all-Chinese product. I don’t like that, not even one little bit.
On the other hand, the bulk of the rating has to go to the machine itself, so the sneaky packaging knocks just one star off the total.
Net Product Rating for the Steele 10000: FOUR STARS out of five.
Update, ten minutes later: Whoa! I think I figured out how to add videos. Let’s see if this works….
UPDATE: June 15, 2014. The Steele cut out electrically last week, powered down FAST in the middle of a job. Haven’t diagnosed it yet. 189 hours on the meter. NOT low oil. Don’t know yet whether it now deserves a downgrade rating to POS…or if it’s something simple, like a loose wire. Took to a shop that misdiagnosed everything and didn’t even look at the electrical system. Will probably dig into it myself someday…but don’t know yet when I’ll find the time.
UPDATE: December 7, 2014. I’ve officially designated this unit as a worthless piece of junk. NO STARS. I could possibly attempt to obtain parts and fix it on my own but have no motivation, no local shop works on these, and by the time I gave up on the machine, we’d owned it a bit too long for the warranty to apply. Plus, even if I did diagnose and repair the thing, there’d be every likelihood it would crash again before too long.
We replaced it with a more expensive but much more reliable Subaru industrial model in 6500 watt size. The Subaru handles more load than the Steele ever did…and does it with ease.