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Tell me about emergency generators

Yesterday morning somebody had an offer up at the post office: Troy-Built 5500-watt generator, Briggs & Stratton motor, six years old, hardly used, $350.

I’m not buying this generator because it doesn’t have an electronic start. I know from daily experience at the Desert Hermitage that if my life depended on successfully cord-starting a generator, they’d soon find my mouldering bones in the sand, cord still grasped in my skeletal fingers. (I have no problem starting a lawn mower, but that generator we had for a while: &^%$#@!) Fortunately, we mostly had electric starters.

Other than at the Hermitage, where a generator was a life essential and the ones we had were shared, I’ve never put a priority on owning one. It’s an expensive item that I couldn’t justify on my budget or for my needs.

But now I’ve got a freezer full of meat. So talk to me about generators, people.

I want a medium-sized one (3000-5500 watts) primarily for running appliances during short-term outages — keep the freezer frozen and the fridge refrigerated a few hours a day, maybe run a sump pump (though so far my basement is remarkably dry for an area where the water table is about two inches below ground).

But it must have an electric start. Or somebody will have to persuade me that “even a girl” can pull the cord on their favored model.

Problem is, it’s hard to find an affordable (for me) electric-start generator.

Electric Generators Direct has an excellent walk-through-the-process of finding a generator that’s right for your needs. Very helpful site (don’t know about their prices or quality; have never bought from them). But the “walk” to an electric-start generator was a walk into sticker shock — and for the most part into generators heftier than my needs.

Amazon has less expensive electric-start generators, but I’m not seeing solid old brand names connected with those budget prices, of course. This Champion and this Briggs & Stratton seem like very good buys as far as bigger generators go. But they’re definitely overkill for my anticipated needs.

So what do you more experienced people think?


I’m not done with the Preparedness Priorities series yet. Should have an installment later this week on water storage. And am talking with a potential guest blogger about an installment on first aid and medical (that one might take a while to appear). In fact, I’d consider a generator post part of that series, only in this case you guys get to dispense all, not just your usual share, of the wisdom. 🙂


  1. G.W.F.
    G.W.F. October 24, 2012 4:02 am

    I am no expert, but was in the same situation just recently. I needed a generator that was in that 3000-5000 watt range that was “portable”. I had no experience with Champion brand, but based on on-line ratings and everything I read I went with the Champion 3500:
    This is Chinese made, but I was very pleased with the quality of the unit. It comes with everything you need (including the battery for the electric start). It weighs in about 135 lbs. so its is basically the best wattage I could find where I can lift the thing into the back of my truck and actually move it when I need to.

    Personally, I am sold on Champion and plan to get the 9,375 watt model soon that will serve as my home back-up generator. I have read reviews on many sites and it is hard to find anyone saying anything bad about these.

  2. RW
    RW October 24, 2012 4:24 am
  3. G.W.F.
    G.W.F. October 24, 2012 4:27 am

    I hate to circle back to Preparedness Priorities, but I wanted to share a recent generator experience. There were a bunch of major storms hitting the D.C. area back in late June that created major outages.

    It was about 6 weeks later when we had storms hit my area. I had my power knocked out for 8-10 hours. Most of the power in the area was restored fairly quickly. I had not heard from my parents who are 45 minutes away and could not reach them, so I went to check on them. As I had feared, they lost power too, but they live more remote and did not expect the power company to get to them for days. They have a large generator that they got running and kept the freezers, etc powered up. They were without power for 6 days.

    The real surprise to me was my father decided after 2 days without power to run down to the local improvement and pick up another smaller portable generator…they were out. All the stores were out. Apparently shortly after the D.C. outage folks were renting U-Haul trucks driving away from D.C. in all directions buying every generator they could find. I am 500 miles away from D.C. and this is 6 weeks after the storms. If a minor SHTF incident localized to that area can impact the supply in my area, it really shows how bad things could be.

  4. Woody
    Woody October 24, 2012 4:28 am

    This is more of a testimonial than technical advice, but, I have owned a 5000 watt Honda generator for almost 20 years. It has an 11 HP manual start engine that has always started on the first or second pull. I store it with a full tank of stabilized gasoline and exercise it about every 6 months if it hasn’t been used in the meantime. It have never regretted it. Buying a cheap tool is always tempting but usually disappointing in the long run. The electrical part if a genset is as important as the engine and not all are created equal. I wanted a generator that would meet my needs and outlast me. So far it’s doing a great job. The outlast me part remains to be seen but I expect it will. The model I have was designed for construction sites and is LOUD. However, many of Honda’s smaller units are so quiet you can sit next to one and have a normal conversation.

    After I recovered financially from the initial purchase I bought a transfer switch and installed it next to the electric service panel in the house. It makes connecting the generator to the house very convenient and avoids having to use a rat’s nest of extension cords. It also made running the 240 VAC well pump possible without having to temporarily rewire it every time it was used.

    Generators require care and feeding if they are to provide reliable service. Regular oil changes are worth the time and expense, but are often over looked. I’ve known a lot of people who just left theirs in the barn never giving it any thought until they needed it, only to discover that the mice had moved in and rendered it unusable when they needed it badly.

    Also, think about your electrical needs and size the generator accordingly. If you have a well the pump starting current is probably pretty substantial and a small generator may not have the oomph to get it started. Motors take a lot more current to get started than they need to run.

    As with everything else, buy the best you can manage to afford, and then take good care of it.

  5. Claire
    Claire October 24, 2012 4:50 am

    G.W.F. — Thanks for the link to that Champion. I’ve heard good things, also, and the price is right on that model. And guess I shouldn’t be surprised that generators are scarce that long after storms (and that far from the storms), but it’s alarming.

    R.W. — My mind had immediately gone to gasoline generators, but I’ll do more research on propane now. I tend to watch for propane tanks at garage sales, anyhow, since I have a portable heater that can use them. Now … electric start …

    Woody — At this point, a testimonial is as useful as anything (esp. a testimonial that talks about maintenance).

  6. just waiting
    just waiting October 24, 2012 5:44 am

    Claire, look for bottles at your refilling station. People seem to get rid of bottles if they’re dirty or the paint chips, and the store is more than willing to give them away free if I fill them up. Careful about garage sales, you might end up with an old tank without an OPD fitting, refillers can’t fill them by law around here.

    I’ve had my Coleman 5000W manual start gasser for about 15 years, best investment I ever made. It will run fridge, freezer, pond pumps, tv and 1500w of lighting all at once. If I want stove or a/c, I have to shut other things down. It even runs my 240v well pump. I wired the 240 line directly to my breaker panel with gfl breakers so I don’t lose any circuits. Yes, I open the main so I don’t backfeed the line (used to work for the elec co)

    I’m shopping a propane gen right now as well. 1-Propane stores better than gas and 2- it will run on natural gas/methane. I’ve always wanted to make my own electric, so I’ve been studying up on micro biogas systems. Hestia Co. ( has a system to collect methane from compost. If I get that far I’ll let you know how it goes.

  7. -s
    -s October 24, 2012 5:58 am

    I am an expert, meaning that I’ve made most of the simple mistakes. If it helps, I also have a hard time pull-starting a 9 HP generator motor.

    This 6500 W Honda inverter generator will run everything in most homes. Free registration required to see the price, $3700 when I last checked. Free shipping. Honda also offers 1000, 2000, and 3000 W versions.

    Pricey? A bit. But there are several reasons I think these are the best value.

    1) Honda reliability. When you push the start button, it starts. Every time.

    2) Quiet. I’ve had to run my house for 5 days on a generator. That hammering gets OLD. The Honda inverter gens are so quiet, you can stand next to them and hold a normal conversation. They start them in the store as part of the sales pitch. Good for opsec as well.

    3) Fuel efficient. Most generators run at 3600 RPM all the time, in order to make 60 cycle electricity. That means they burn a lot of fuel even when you aren’t using much power.

    Not the Honda inverter series. They slow the engine down to match the power required. They use modern power electronics to make perfect 60 cycle electric power no matter what speed the engine is running. That’s part of the reason they are so quiet, and why they sip fuel.

    Gasoline is VERY precious in a power outage. It doesn’t store very well and is hazardous, so keeping a big stock is not easy. But when the power goes down and stays down, the gas station isn’t working either. You need a thrifty gen.

    4) Multi-fuel options. You can buy a kit that will let you run the gen on LP, propane, or natural gas.

    This Honda 2000 W inverter generator sips just 1/10 gallon per hour of gasoline or LP fuel, $1269 plus shipping for the generator + kit, or $179 for the kit that you install yourself.

    There are more details, like how to safely hook up the generator to your home, but as for the gen itself, go with the Honda inverter models.

    Good luck! This is a major investment, don’t be penny wise and pound foolish, like I was on my first generator.

  8. Jolly
    Jolly October 24, 2012 6:03 am

    I have dealt with a dozen different generators of one sort or another. From a 10k diesel Kohler ( in an RV ), a 5K Subaru-powered one, a 4K Propane, and several gas-powered ones.

    The ONLY one to get, in my opinion, is the Honda EU2000i. It’s portable ( as in it has a carry handle ), quiet, and amazingly efficient. Its motor varies its speed based on load, AND


    You can hook them together, and they automatically sync themselves. 90% of emergencies can easily be handled by a 2K generator – including keeping most freezers going.

    But, put two or three on the same feed, and you have whatever you need.

    These are generators that actually get used outside of emergencies because they’re so small and portable.


  9. Jim Klein
    Jim Klein October 24, 2012 6:12 am

    Even a girl can pull-start a good generator. If you have ignition problems with an electric start, you gotta real problem unless you can fix it right then and there. Me, I always prefer fewer things to potentially go wrong, but then I’d choose roll-up windows in a car.

    Add up your simultaneous wattage and then get a larger generator; you can’t go wrong. Woody was right about the surge rating; that’s VERY important, maybe more important than the running rating. We’ve got a Briggs & Stratton (brand, not just motor) and love it; use it a fair amount too. It’s 5500 but has an 8250 surge rating I think, which is high for that level of generator. Never failed to start super easily except once when I let the spark plug get a bit old. Plus it’s got a removable gas tank which is convenient to fill, is on wheels, has 220, yadda yadda. At the time, I figured B&S wouldn’t brand their own generator unless it was pretty darn good; I still stick with that logic.

    Gas stabilizer is important if it sits long, and you should run it a few times a year anyway. Plus doing that, you’ll know if there are any starting problems.

    Woody’s got it all right IMO, and most Hondas are tons quieter than other brands. Personally I’ve never even heard a loud one. As with many durable goods, you often get what you pay for.

  10. Claire
    Claire October 24, 2012 6:42 am

    These recommendations for Honda’s little inverter-generator are intriguing. Portable is good. Quiet is good. Honda is good. Reliable is essential. Being able to run the computer on “clean” power is good. Being able to buy two over a period of time and sync them together for more power … that would be great. Light weight would be good; I worry about not having a great place to put a big generator and not being able to move it around easily (e.g. up and down stairs to my porch where wheels might not be that much help).

    But I’ve always heard that those small types of inverter-generators are strictly for recreational use — camping, RVs, boating, etc. What am I missing?

    -s, I could buy two cars for $3,700. You’re in a different league than I am, economically. But I know that you are an expert in this subject and not just from having made all the right mistakes. So that both you and jolly mention the same 2000-watt Honda says a lot.

    But could that puppy really run a freezer?

  11. Claire
    Claire October 24, 2012 6:49 am

    “Gas stabilizer is important if it sits long, and you should run it a few times a year anyway. Plus doing that, you’ll know if there are any starting problems.”

    Yes, absolutely to the above. Am currently dealing with a garage-sale lawnmower with gunk in its fuel lines. My first hands-on venture into dealing with that problem. Sure wouldn’t want to deal with it in an emergency.

    As to “even a girl can” pull start a good generator … you know, I’ve always been pretty determined about these things. When something requires strength beyond my abilities, I’ll usually cuss and work at it for a very long time before I call in the (male) cavalry. But my one-and-only experience with a pull-start generator told me I would never be able to start that thing. I can definitely see how an electric starter could cause extra problems. But I can’t see how they’d be worse than not being able to use a pull-cord starter.

    So which generators have known “girl capable” pull starters? Say, for a woman with reasonable, but not unusual, strength?

  12. tim
    tim October 24, 2012 6:49 am

    Whatever you do Claire, make sure to get non-ethanol gas for it (available at marina’s etc.)

    Ethanol gas plays hob with small engines and with something that is not used for long periods, can really do damage, gumming the works.


  13. Claire
    Claire October 24, 2012 7:10 am

    Thanks, Tim. Fortunately, there happens to be a non-ethanol gas station just a couple of miles from here. That’s where I’ll definitely fill up my storage gas and small-equipment gas.

    I still use Sta-Bil when I know gas is going to sit for more than a couple of months, too. This lawn mower I’m trying to fix may be my first experience with gas-gone-bad (or it may just be crud in the fuel lines, unrelated to gas problems; not sure). Interesting learning experience.

  14. Mike
    Mike October 24, 2012 7:27 am

    “So which generators have known “girl capable” pull starters? Say, for a woman with reasonable, but not unusual, strength?”
    Older generators, even smaller ones, are pretty tough to start. The pulling effort is similar to what’s required for a chipper, but there’s no large flywheel to store the energy from a slow pull stroke. Newer, smaller inverter-style generators and any of those Hondas mentioned would work quite nicely. The pull effort is significantly less than an older model, and I’m sure you could find a dealer locally to test the theory out.

    Tim says to avoid ethanol gasoline. He’s right. That’s tough, and you’ll spend more doing it, but the trouble you’ll avoid in the long run will be worth it. It’s ESPECIALLY important to avoid it if you’re burning it in anything that was manufactured more than a few years back, as the ethanol is terrible on the rubber and plastic parts that weren’t designed to handle it.

    Figure out how much gas you want to keep on hand, use an ethanol conditioner in it, and rotate it out either through use in a vehicle or some other gas-powered equipment. I keep about 15-20 gallons of fuel on hand, stabilize it with either Sta-Bil marine or another stabilizer specifically formulated to keep gas with ethanol stabilized, and then burn it in the generator, trimmer, mower, and if necessary, the truck. In Oct ’11 when the northeast got slammed with snow, I was out of power for a week. I only ran the generator (2500W inverter) for 4-5 hours a night, but I I burned 5 gallons TOTAL of gasoline keeping the freezers running and the fish tank filtered and heated.

    One final note is that a lot of small equipment is being built with engines that are designed to meet emissions standards for as little as a couple hundred hours. Efficiency is good during this period, but rapidly decreases afterward. Make sure that AT LEAST all of the main cylinder wear components (pistons, cylinder bore, etc.) are steel. Avoiding cheaper engines like those sold at Harbor Freight or in bargain-brand items (e.g. Husky stuff from Home Depot that doesn’t advertise something specific like a Briggs or a Subaru engine) will avoid most of the materials issues.

  15. slidemansailor
    slidemansailor October 24, 2012 8:03 am

    +1 for the Honda EU series. It is on my short list for several reasons.

    Quiet operation – I live with lots of close neighbors. I cannot afford to prep for all of them. Thus I cannot have them hear my generator running. I will run it in the garage and cleverly vent it to the outside, but the Hondas EUs are the only ones I know of with that potential.

    Clean power at variable rates – the ability to automatically throttle down for lower use and up to meet demand is almost magical. Rarely do you use all of the generator’s potential. The Honda EUs are far and away less likely to damage electrical equipment.

    Many, maybe most small gasoline engines have spray-on chrome liners for pistons and cylinders instead of high grade steel. Talk to a small engine mechanic about the brands you are considering. The majority are not worth repairing! Of course Hondas just keep on ticking (as do A FEW other good (expensive) brands).

    Easy to start for a long, long time. My 25-year-old Honda lawnmower doesn’t like the current formulation of gasoline, but is still ticking mowing my postage stamp lawn a couple of times a week. I could take it in for its first tune-up, but am still able to start it so its priority hasn’t risen to the top yet.

  16. Claire
    Claire October 24, 2012 8:58 am

    Thanks, slideman. That’s helpful.

    So far, as I look into this, the only thing I see that makes these little portables “recreational” rather than “emergency backup” is that they don’t support 240 power. Here, that means clothes dryer and oven — neither of which can I imagine absolutely having to have. And of course, the 2000i won’t run a lot of things at one time, but the two key appliances (fridge and freezer) can be run alternately.

    Electric Generators Direct rules the portables out for household emergency use, but I see Honda lists them for both purposes.

    They’re definitely pricey. But boy … tempting.

  17. Claire
    Claire October 24, 2012 9:07 am

    Mike — Thanks for the good background. I can see this is one more reason to buy a generator that has both a reputation for being durable AND a company that backs it with solid customer service.

  18. Scott
    Scott October 24, 2012 9:15 am

    I have a pull-start 6500 watt generator-even after sitting for 6 months, it starts on the first pull or two(11 H.P. Briggs and Stratton). I store it dry-I put a gallon or two in it every so often, fire it up connected to a load,and give it a romp. It’s not pull-with-your-pinky easy to start, but doesn’t require King Kong to help, either. It’s 120/240, will run 10-12 hours on five gallons of gas.I tested this-running two electric heaters as load (about 3000 watts), it ran just short of 11 hours on a full tank. It’s portable in the sense it can be moved, but it’s heavy to lift..and noisy!
    Honda generators are very quiet-I saw one running at a local festival, and you could easily carry on a conversation with it between you and the other person.
    One thing I’ve considered is converting it to propane-there are kits for this- you don’t have the problem of fuel going stale, and it’s a clean-burning fuel that won’t foul up an engine.
    I have thought of having a couple gas mantle lights installed-you can get these new, they are about as bright as a 100 watt bulb, and provide heat in winter(summer, too..a downside of these things).

  19. Biff
    Biff October 24, 2012 9:23 am

    Have you taken a look at the Yeti model from It’s solar, so you don’t have to worry about fuel (other than sunlight). It’s supposed to be able to run a field hospital.

    I’ve been buying and using their products for the last 6 months or so, and I’m really happy with their tiered solutions. (I do not work for ’em, but just a happy customer.)

  20. Laird
    Laird October 24, 2012 9:27 am

    I’m really enjoying this thread because I’ve also been thinking of getting a backup generator but know next to nothing about them. However, one concern I have with a generator is fuel. Even with 15-20 gallons of gas (or several tanks of propane) on hand, if the SHTF eventually it will run out. What do people think about solar generators? With several panels and batteries you should be able to get comparable wattage, and they seem to be a lot cheaper than a mechanical generator (especially if you build your own). And of course they’re completely silent, not an unimportant consideration in a TEOTWAWKI scenario. Any thoughts?

  21. Jim O.
    Jim O. October 24, 2012 9:34 am

    I have to agree with the others on the Honda Generators, particularly the EU2000i models.

    We run these on our RV (32ft) and it runs everything inside beautifully, except the air conditioner. We’re talking refrigerator, freezer, battery charger, lights, television and DVD player, etc. When we have need for the air conditioner, we hook the second gen in parallel and it cranks out the ac without a hiccup.

    They are super easy to start, easily handled and most of all they are super quiet. These things sip gas sparingly and only run as fast as needed for the required load.

    I tried one on my refrigerator and chest freezer at home and one unit handle both loads very efficiently for almost 15 hours before needing to be refueled. I do admit that the startup on the units did strain the Honda, but it was able to handle it without a problem.

    Expensive, YES! But Claire, if you can somehow lay the money down for one of these units, it is an investment you will never regret. The fuel savings alone will help the unit to pay for itself quickly (if you use it often).

    Service it properly and it will last a lifetime and give you trouble and worry free operation. And btw, my 8 year old niece can easily pull start this unit even on the coldest of days. How’s that for easy?

  22. Claire
    Claire October 24, 2012 10:10 am

    Biff — Thanks. Solar would never work in my location; this is the capital of gloom. But funny, your comment came in just before Laird’s, asking specifically about solar generators (his appeared first because I had to approve yours). So sounds as if you’ve already helped at least one person here.

  23. Claire
    Claire October 24, 2012 10:13 am

    Jim O. — Appreciate the details and the voice of experience.

    The more I hear, the more I really like that parallel idea (not to mention the ability to buy the generators over time as money permits).

    A question on the parallel hookup: I see that Honda makes an EU 2000i that’s specifically designated as a “companion” for such hookups. Is that really necessary, or can you connect two of the regular 2000i’s for the same result?

    ΛΕΟΝΙΔΑΣ October 24, 2012 11:14 am

    We lived off grid for 10 years using mostly solar and hydro for our power needs. We acquired a military surplus 5Kw diesel generator for the overcast times when the psycho neighbor cut the water line. Most commercially sold generators run @ 3600 rpm and will tend to wear out soon if used excessively. The 2 cyl surplus gen was very loud but ran @ 600 rpm and was still running well when we fled Kalifornia.

    We now live in a semi rural area and obtained a 16.5 Kw Perkins diesel genset which runs the entire house including a/c, stove etc @ 1600 rpm. The unit uses just under a quart of fuel/hr under full load. All of our transport as well as a small excavator also use diesel fuel which we clandestinely store in a 600 gal tank. This is probably overkill, but was acquired for pennies on the dollar via Craig’s List and has served us well several times during extended outages.

    Diesel fuel stores better than gasoline and the off road stuff is slightly cheaper than regular gas.

  25. Jim O.
    Jim O. October 24, 2012 11:58 am


    You don’t necessarily need the companion model generator.

    You can link two EU2000i models together with a parallel kit that is available from Honda or any Honda dealer. It’s basically the connector cords plus an electrical box that you can plug your cords into that will take electricity from both generators. Pretty simple.

    This is a great option because you only run one gen when low power is needed and can start the 2nd gen when you need more power than one unit can provide.

    Hope this helps.

  26. John F
    John F October 24, 2012 1:47 pm

    I looked at a lot of different models, and instead of portable went with a buillt in whole house 12Kw Bryant. It is propane powered, and I have a500 Gal propane tank for heating. It was expensive close to 6 grand.
    It is fully automatic, does a 10 minute test run once a week, and fires up on it’s own if the power goes out, it also cuts off the power from the street.
    So if I’m gone and the power goes out, the generator does it’s thing without me.

  27. Karen
    Karen October 24, 2012 1:55 pm

    As an interim measure, while planning what to get, you could consider an inverter that plugs into the car cig lighter. I think they’re around $100 +/- and probably would run a fridge or freezer. There’s already gas in the car to run it a few hours at a time and an idling car isn’t overly noisy. It probably wouldn’t be clean enough power for the computer though.

    Among our 5 generators, we have 2 older pull-start Coleman Powermates. If I need to use one of them, I usually,especially if it’s cold, make one real slow pull just to get it loosened up, then it’ll start like a charm on the first real pull. One had a string that was just too long for me so I tied a loopy knot in it to shorten it about 6″ and I’m good to go. Our Coleman Powermates have been real troopers, but they’re older(7-10 years) and I’ve heard that the new chinese ones are crap.

  28. Claire
    Claire October 24, 2012 2:33 pm

    Karen — Five generators, eh? Yeah, I guess that’s voice of experience. Thanks for the car/inverter tip. Economical though it is, I’d rather not go that way, especially since I have nowhere to park a running vehicle where it wouldn’t tempt the neighbors (guess I could run a power cord out a slightly opened window and lock the car up). Still, in a pinch …

    Jim O. — Thanks for the follow-up on the Honda “twinning.”

    Jim F — Much though I could admire a setup like that, with $6k I could buy four cars. Or more food that I could eat in five years. So not for me, I think.

    It’s very interesting, though, to see the various generator solutions people have come up with.

  29. EN
    EN October 24, 2012 2:35 pm

    My recent experience isn’t all that great but during the 90s I watched all job site B&S being replaced with Hondas for good reason. My wife’s business (care home for the elderly) was required to have a backup Gen and after a lot of conversations with the electrician a large Honda was purchased which ran every household appliance, the well and provided a lot of light. It used about 5 gallons of gas every 24 hours, but life went on like normal during that 24 hours. Usually we would turn the generator off as soon as everyone went to bed, so we could get by with 3gals a day. It was not that loud for such a large Gen. This morning I asked two local contractors what kind of generators they were using and both ran “Honda 2000s” (I assume they’re talking EU2000s). My other choice would be a military diesel as ΛΕΟΝΙΔΑΣ suggested. The problem with most gas generators, other than Honda, is they are lucky to run 30 hours a year. Run them steadily for a week and suddenly you have problems, particularly they lose oil fast. So anything might do the job unless it was required to be the sole provider of power for a month… in which case I’d go Honda or military diesel and never look back.

  30. EN
    EN October 24, 2012 2:44 pm

    BTW, Diesel is the choice of hospitals and they are tested twice a year but very rarely used. The standard is they must be able to run steadily for 30 days. Military generators use the same standard. I’m not sure that any gas generator could stand up to that.

  31. jed
    jed October 24, 2012 4:41 pm

    Just another vote for Honda. I mentioned a day or so ago that the landlord here kept the heat system going during a 3-day outage using a generator. He also ran his own refrigerator, tv and radio, and let me plug in my aquarium. Not sure if he ran his stove. Anyways, you asked about continuous running — this was about 3 days, non-stop. FWIW, landord is a EE, very frugal, and meticulous in his purchases.

    I have a pretty high opinion of Yamaha, in general. I noticed a Honeywell in the ‘…also viewed’ list. Another brand with a good reputation. Hmmm. Thinking of brands with good reps, Kohler comes to mind too.

    I’ve thought about gensets for my ultimate bug-out location. Yeah, I’ll likely never be there, but a diesel would be my choice, and I’d look for one I could run on waste vegetable oil. Propane is attractive too, if you’re already on a propane system and have a big tank. But of course, this isn’t the short-term deal anyways.

  32. The Freeholder
    The Freeholder October 24, 2012 4:53 pm

    Honda EU2000. It will pull all the appliances you want. Easily portable by a single person. Sips gas. Extraordinarily quiet for a generator–you can talk over it in a normal voice. Two can be ganged by the appropriate cable to make a 4000 watt “generator”. It does have a pull start, but if you exercise it monthly and keep stabilized gas in it, you won’t have a problem starting it. Have owned mine for years; it’s handy enough that many times I don’t run extension cords, I take the generator out for it’s exercise instead.

    They are, like most things Honda, spendy.

  33. jackie clay-atkinson
    jackie clay-atkinson October 24, 2012 5:47 pm

    Hey Claire,
    We’ve had generators full time for over 25 years. Honda is the queen of motors, but most do have a pull start. I’m a girl…kind of an old girl, at that, being a grandma several times. But I can always start our generator with one or two pulls that aren’t killers. (Hey, I’ve got a bad back and elbow!) They’re more costly than the cheap Colemans with a Briggs, or (heaven forbid) a Techumseh. BUT they will always start. It would be a good idea if you started it once a week, just to keep things working well. No big deal. Just pull, run it for ten minutes, then shut it off. It will run non-stop without frying, if need-be. Ours is a 4,500 watt gas unit and will run our water well, my propane dryer and wringer washer without a hiccough. It cost a little over $1,000 and has only been serviced once; a tune-up before winter. We’ve had it for four years now and run it a lot for building projects (running power tools). I can’t praise it enough for the money!

    Jackie You Know Who

  34. Claire
    Claire October 24, 2012 5:57 pm

    Jackie You-Know-Who — Hey, I’m honored to have you here! I expect you could start a generator with one finger while putting up preserves with the rest of that hand and gutting an elk with the other.

    Everybody — Okay, Honda it’s going to be. Unless I pick up a real deal on that Yamaha. But looking around, you don’t get “deals” on either of these. Even used, they go for $700 or 800. But with all the features and the reputation for reliability, I’m sold.

    Thank you all. I would never have even looked at one of those inverter-generators or at pricey Hondas without the expertise of the World Famous Living Freedom Commentariat.

    Now just to save up a bit more money than I had budgeted for this purchase ..

  35. MJR
    MJR October 24, 2012 6:21 pm

    Hey Claire,

    Should you want to get a gas generator then later look to convert it to propane you could check out these people. I cannot vouch for them but, like you, I have been looking at options.

  36. Mack T. Nife
    Mack T. Nife October 24, 2012 9:50 pm


    Electric start? Where are you going to plug it in if the power fails?

    Without wall power, you need a battery, and that entails maintenance – check fluid level, keep charged, etc. It will be shot in a few years anyway. I suppose you could use jumper cables from your car, but that assumes that the car is handy.

    Or you could just go buy a can of starting fluid, AKA “Tune-Up in a Can”.

    One spritz of that stuff (hold your breath, unless you want a cheap, dangerous high) under the air cleaner, prime the carburetor, and a single pull later, you are started.

    Using “Real” gas – not ethanol – and Stabil is good practice, as is running it periodically. But I don’t think storing the Generator “dry” (without gas) is a good idea – seals dry out, dust and bugs get inside things, etc. I leave gas in my mower year-round, with no problems.

  37. BusyPoorDad
    BusyPoorDad October 25, 2012 1:42 am

    Here is a “generator” that you can use even if you don’t have strong arms:
    Duracell 813-0807 800 Watt DC to AC Digital Power Inverter

    Hook it up to the battery of your car, turn on car, let car idle. This will run a deep freezer (120v kind) and charge up your iPad/phone. Keep in mind you just have to run the freezer for 30 min or so and it will stay cool for several hours. Your “normal” car will use about 3/10th a gallon every 30 min while idling.

    there are a lot of other good ideas on generators and alternate generators on Steven Harris’ page “”

  38. Karen
    Karen October 25, 2012 5:18 am

    Seems Claire has made her decision, but for anyone else who’s still on the fence, one more quick input.

    “jed Says:
    Another brand with a good reputation. Hmmm. Thinking of brands with good reps, Kohler comes to mind too.”

    We have 2 Kohlers to back up our solar system. One is an old 10kw 1800 rpm propane one with a water cooled Ford motor and I love it to death. Runs great, dependable and easy to work on if needed. We picked it up for about $1000 thru our gen mechanic when a customer was “upgrading”.

    The other is a new(3 yr old) 8.5kw 3600 rpm propane air cooled one with all digital controls and bells and whistles. I hate it. It’s been in the shop 3 times in 3 years for significant repairs, last being a $1000 control board and the current shop visit is for a failed battery charging part($250-500?). Maybe it’s a one off lemon, but it sure has put me off.

    If anyone runs across an old Kohler, by all means snap it up, but don’t waste time and money on a new model.

  39. furrydoc
    furrydoc October 25, 2012 6:31 am

    We have EU2000i and have been very happy with it. I understand the pull chord thing, but these generators are very reliable and easy to start. Even I can do it, and I can’t start our lawn mower. It also gets great fuel economy. We got it during that big storm we had and kept it running for several days, non-stop. We moved it around from the house to the clinic and managed to keep everything cold with no problem. Even found enough time to run entertainment system and watch a movie. The best part is it is easy to pick up and move around. East to stash in car and take along if needed.

  40. EwB
    EwB October 25, 2012 9:19 am

    My dad, who is in his seventies, went through a storm related power outage for over 7 days. He had a cheapish air-cooled generator that kept them going, but nearly killed him when they would cycle it for refueling, it being so hard to restart. He now has a PTO unit that fits on either of his two tractors ( 1949 Ford 8N gas and a 1970s Massey Ferguson 165). That gives him portable power (20KW) and the choice of gas or diesel. Last bad storm, he could pump water at home, then hop on the tractor and help a neighbor do the same. I have a 7.5 KW onan in our RV that I can use to do most anything. It has a aux set of plugs for 240 that I can run to the main house if needed. There is the added benefit that it runs off of the RV main fuel tank of 85 gallons and the whole thing can bug out if we needed to.

    Probably a bit much for what you want, but you should be able to run your freezer on a 2kw unit without any problems.


  41. -s
    -s October 25, 2012 3:01 pm

    A 2000 W inverter generator MIGHT run a freezer. It depends on the freezer. The problem isn’t running the freezer, but starting it. Freezer compressors take a very large surge current while starting. I’d make sure no other loads were running when I tried, so I’d disconnect the fridge when running the freezer, and vice versa.

    I haven’t any experience with the Yamaha inverter gens, or with the two Honda running in parallel. I know that the power electronics can do this, and I trust Honda not to market something that won’t work. I just have no direct experience. If it does work, two x 2000 W machines should start and run most any freezer.

    As for battery maintenance, forget checking fluid levels and all that. Honda uses a gel lead-acid, aka VRLA battery. Sealed, no fluids to check. Get a batteryminder and leave the battery on it all the time; when the power goes out the battery will be there. Change the battery every 10 years even if it is still working. I’ve gotten 10 years out of batteries that stayed tended by batteryminders.

    Even with Stabil, modern fuel won’t keep more than 6 months. Bitter experience speaking. That is the hardest part for me; keeping up with the fuel rotation. It’s no big deal to put it in the car and burn it, but I get crossways looks every time I fill a couple of 6 gallon cans at the local gas stations, and it is a bit of a chore.

    So I’m going to natural gas and/or propane. A bit of work and expense up front, but propane keeps very well.

  42. clark
    clark October 25, 2012 3:51 pm

    Hm, no one mentioned cheap options.

    There’s a good set of instructions on the net about how to connect an automobile muffler to an old noisy generator. I don’t know how close it is to the noise level of a Honda, but I would bet it is Very quiet.
    … You could then afford a bigger generator,… or more alcohol, or…?

    You could also dig a hole under a doghouse and put your generator in there, or so I’ve read. Then the dog might actually guard the generator?

    The Honda’s are nice though,… the Yamaha’s too.
    You could probably pull-start a Honda using only your teeth. I’m not sure about gums only though.

    Get a good long chain and lock.

    I imagine boat gas tanks would be good if you wanted to have a longer run time.

    Paint it ugly? … Ugly things tend to get stolen less frequently?

  43. Dan
    Dan October 27, 2012 11:05 pm

    Claire, I have one of those Yamaha EF2000IS’s and like it very much. Though I’m a dedicated Honda fan I found this for a tremendous deal at a local gun show -half price- and have been very happy with the performance. It runs my refridgerator just fine, which is my main concern, with plenty left over for lights, laptop, etc… It also offers the capability to run in tandem just like the Honda. I find it very useful and portable for running tools as well. Either one would serve you very well.

    I would rather have one of these small, quiet fuel efficient units and manage my power requirements than one of the cheaper, louder more powerful units that suck more fuel and announce their presence for all to hear. For any prepper I see one of these units as darn near essential.

  44. clark
    clark October 29, 2012 6:41 am

    I was looking at propane conversion kits. Surprisingly, not all of them are the same. Some of the options I wonder about:

    Which is better: propane only kit, propane and gasoline combo kit?
    One slips under the generator cover, the other sticks out like a tree branch. Is the latter, easy to break, or get in the way much?

    Why have a 12′ hose vs. 6′?

    Will I need a gas manometer? One Person used it to solve a problem with flow rate, is that rare?

    Is this a necessary item?: A Person online wrote, “a solenoid operated propane valve in-line with my high-pressure regulator, so that it will not deliver propane unless there is a voltage supply”

    Do the regulators last very long or do they go caput on a regular basis one day after the warranty expires?
    Should I buy two of anything, as a spare?

    I don’t want to wind up like this guy:

    …”Consequently, after 20 days now on this Forum I stand by my original subject title and double it:

    US Carburetion Propane Conversion NOT Recommended !!!”

    A word to know, imho, before buying a generator: Triple-Fuel.

  45. Claire
    Claire October 29, 2012 7:59 am

    Dan — How amazing that you were able to get such a deal. Though I realize I haven’t been looking long, from what I’ve seen, deals just don’t happen on those Hondas or Yamahas. Even used on eBay, they go for near-new prices. Yikes!

    BusyPoorDad — I’ve been looking into that Duracell. That might be an affordable short-term alternative IF 800 watts is enough to get through the startups on the freezer and fridge.

  46. Brian
    Brian October 30, 2012 11:00 am

    Back in the days of Sierra Times, they had a columnist who specialized in homebuilt alternative technology. He did an articlte on how to make a small, portable, lawn mower based back up generator. I don’t remember the man’s name, and I have searched in vail for ST archives, but maybe out there somewhere, someone has a copy or a link to this article or the author.

  47. Ragnar
    Ragnar October 30, 2012 2:11 pm

    I’m late to this party as it’s been rather busy around here.
    I’ve sold Honda and Yamaha generators (as well as either sold or tried all the other brands) since 2000. They are both excellent and have a 3 year warranty because we never have to work on them anyway. The EU2000i is still our top seller but the EF2000is Yamaha is equally as good and in the same price range. But if you ever want to double your power and run them in parallel, the Yamaha nets out about $100 cheaper for the package.
    Like most types of tool and equipment, I think any of us with a few miles on us have tried the cheap route to find out the value of the better pricier stuff.
    And yes, the most important thing is clean fuel. Stabilizer generally saves any heartache but I still only trust it up to 6 months at full strength… then I dump the 6 month old stuff in my truck and rotate. The little jets on small engines are much more sensitive than big injectors in an auto.
    And the fuel efficiency of the inverter models does save needing store as much as you won’t use nearly as much as a cheapie… they’re generally at least 3 times more fuel efficient as they only run exactly as fast as need for your load at any given time.

  48. Claire
    Claire October 30, 2012 2:24 pm

    Ragnar — I had forgotten you were an equipment dealer! Thanks for voice of experience.

    Hm. The Yamahas are less expensive in parallel? That’s a good factoid. In the bit of looking I’ve done so far, Yamahas have been slightly more expensive than Hondas (for one). But then, I’m still at the “what I don’t know would fill several books” stage when it comes to portable inverter-generators.

    There are several that sell for hundreds less than the Hondas and Yamahas. I have to keep smacking myself upside the head and reminding myself not to go that way.

  49. Ragnar
    Ragnar October 30, 2012 2:41 pm

    The Honda uses a “Companion” model for the second unit which has the 30 amp plug built in which makes it about $100 higher than the standard model, then you spend $79 on the parallel cable with the 30Amp RV adapter.
    The Yamaha uses 2 standards with a parallel cable which has the standard RV straight prong 30 Amp plug in the middle of the cable. So that’s why it nets out cheaper.
    As a rule, the Yamaha’s were $10 higher our price but they also included the DC charge cable which is a $15 option on the Honda so they net virtually the same.
    Other than the Robin-Subaru (which we tried and had problems with) your other inverter brands as far as I have found are Chinese built. The highest end Chinese brand is Kipor… I was sold a bill of good and took them on in early 2006, we had major problems then no parts to fix them. The newer Chinese built models will have good old U.S. names like Honeywell and Generac… but don’t let that fool you.
    I think the easiest way to tell their quality is by searching or seeing new “refurbished” units. I’m still on the list for a lot of brands that I do not carry and they always have refurbs available. Those are new units that had to be replaced and repaired under warranty real early in their life… there is no such thing as refurb program for Honda or Yamaha which as a dealer, speaks volumes to me.

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