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CA357 08-29-2010 05:38 PM

Need Generator Help
I know nothing about generators. I do know that they are a good idea and would like to pick up a small one for emergency purposes while we live here in the city.

Harbor Freight has a Chicago Electric generator on sale for $89.99 this weekend. The ad only states that it is 800 rated watts/900 max watts. I have absolutely no idea what that means.

Would it do in a pinch to run the refrigerator and maybe a couple of appliances? Would it run the fridge and say, the computer and some lights or the microwave.

I'd appreciate it if someone more knowledgeable could help me out with some wisdom. It would strictly be for short term use, a short term power outage, not a full time power supply for a SHTF scenario.


Dillinger 08-29-2010 05:52 PM

CA357 - Adding a generator is a great idea, but getting one that is too small is going to just frustrate you.

Here is a link that has some good info: Miller - How Much Power Do You Need?

Generators at Lowe's - What size generator do I need?

The problem with any piece of equipment that has a motor is going from dead stop, to running. This is called Locked Rotor Current. Depending on the type of manufacture, the country of origin, and the size of motor/compressor, it can be several times the running current.

What this means to you, is that while a unit might need 500 watts to run effectively, it might take 1500-2500 watts to start the unit up and getting it going. If your generator can't handle that "in rush current" it can cause the generator to be unable to provide the power to start the unit and can damage the generator in the process.

With portable generators, the more you load them, the faster the motor has to run to provide the source power, so the faster it will go through fuel.

The generator you describe would probably be best used to power a standard power strip with a few small home electronics, but I wouldn't try to add something like a deep freezer because of the demand it would place on the unit to start it up and the draw it would need to keep that compressor running.


CA357 08-29-2010 06:17 PM

Okay JD, thanks. I won't waste my money on this one.

Dillinger 08-29-2010 06:25 PM

It's probably not going to do what you want to do CA. It would be good for probably a campsite type of application where you needed to charge a couple of cell phone batteries, provide some light and perhaps a small dorm style fridge.

For a home unit, you really need to think of something like a minimum of 5,000-6,000 watts with an overload of 7,000 or 8,000 to run small circuits of your house and include your fridge/freezer combination.

Another thing to keep in mind that when you do purchase a unit like this, you have to buy heavy gauge extension cords to soft wire to your panel in the event of need. Your standard weed-whacker 100ft extension cord that is made of 16-18 gauge wire is going to meltdown trying to pull 6 or 7 thousand watts through it for hours on end. :eek:

CA357 08-29-2010 06:33 PM

Thanks JD. It just might be a good unit for camping. I'll have to think about that.

danf_fl 08-29-2010 06:44 PM

Here in Hurricane Area, I have a 5000w generator. It handles 1 freezer, 2 refrigerators, some lights, coffee maker, and when the neighbor tapped their freezer and refrigerator on, there was no problem.
5 gallons gas lasts for 8 hours.
There is also an oil level sensor that will kill the generator if oil gets too low. Always check oil level before starting. If too low, the sucker will not start. (been there, done it).

Dillinger 08-29-2010 06:50 PM

Here's another thread with some pictures of the set up here at my place CA.

CA357 08-29-2010 06:54 PM

Thanks JD. The cheapie from Harbor Freight would be good to take camping if I decide to go that route. As far as the house generator, I'll keep an eye on Home Depot for a closeout or a good sale. But right now, the budget precludes any major purchases.

canebrake 08-29-2010 07:02 PM


Originally Posted by CA357 (Post 340701)
Harbor Freight has a Chicago Electric generator on sale for $89.99 this weekend. The ad only states that it is 800 rated watts/900 max watts. I have absolutely no idea what that means. Thanks.

Don, just to give you an idea about watt usage, your average hair blow-dryer, similar to mine:

takes 1,500 to 2,000 watts to get you quaffed.

Me thinks this Harbor Freight generator would be as useful as teats on a boar hog.

It would run your alarm clock, if it has a battery back-up.


CA357 08-29-2010 07:55 PM

Yeah, I'm not gonna buy it. But I know a little bit more about it now.

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