BY JEFF GRIFFIN
YOU CAN TAKE IT WITH YOU
Whether new construction
or repair and maintenance work, integrated systems contractors sometimes require temporary,
portable power sources. Today’s portable generators are more compact, more powerful, quieter
and easier to use than ever before. When portable
power needs to do more than run tools and operate temporary lighting, some models can safely
supply computers and other sensitive equipment.
“There has been a significant amount of in-
“Power on both sides of the generator spec-
novation in portable generators in recent years,”
said Jake Thomas, director of product manage-
ment, Generac Power Systems. “From increases
in kilowatt [k W] output to improved customer
interaction, multiple manufacturers have been
working hard to bring additional value to the
portable generator category.”
Thomas said some noticeable improvements
include making units easier or more intuitive
trum also have been stretched lately,” he said.
Generac offers compact models for light
commercial and residential use, ranging from
2 to 150 k W. On the high end, models are rated
from 800 to 17,500 k W, more than three times
higher than the previous industry norm.
“Additional advances bring more options
than gasoline as a sole fuel source for compact
models, and there are a number of aftermar-ket kits available to convert gasoline units to
[liquefied petroleum], which can void the manufacturers EPA certification for the unit.
“Generators that are going to run computers,
flat-screen monitors and TVs, and other sensitive
electronics require a model that has very clean
power. The typical measure of clean power is
called total harmonic distortion [THD]. The IEEE
[utility standard] is less than 5 percent for generators with the cleanest power, so users should
verify the model meets that standard,” he said.
Contractors should keep many factors in
mind when shopping for generators.
“In selecting a compact generator, users
should be sure the unit has enough power for
the job,” Thomas said. “Not just the overall kilo-
watt output but also the unit’s surge capability,
which is the generator’s ability to provide a
higher-than-rated output for a few seconds to
accommodate electric motor starting loads like
a circular saw. Other things to consider are por-
tability and outlet configuration.”
Tom Pernice, senior marketing strategist for
Honda Power Equipment, stressed the impor-
tance of finding the right match.
“It is important to match power needs with
high-quality generator output that can protect
sensitive equipment, offer portability, durabil-
ity and reliability to provide the most value to
the owner,” he said. “Generators are becoming
smaller, lighter, more fuel efficient and quieter;
many also are being designed to fit smaller, tight-
er spaces. Understanding overall power needs
and what equipment is to be powered are im-
portant factors in choosing the right generator.
“Generators with inverter technology process
raw power produced by the generator and pass
it through a special microprocessor to produce
the most stable power. This means sensitive
equipment can operate from a remote location
with a reduced possibility of interrupted ser-
vice or damage to the equipment—particularly
important on job sites where more and more
contractors rely on sophisticated equipment that
must be charged and recharged.
“Changing regulations as dictated by the
[National Electrical Code (NEC)] and the Occupa-
tional and Safety Health Administration [OSHA]
with regard to generators on job sites also are
important for consideration, such as ground-
fault circuit interrupter [GFCI] receptacles.
“The noise level of any generator is a major
factor in determining the right model. Most gen-
erators are labeled with a decibel [dB] rating. For
every increase in 10 dB, the noise level is 10 times
more powerful. A generator that runs at 70 dB is
10 times as loud as a generator that runs at 60 dB.
Superior technology and quality construction and
materials help to keep noise levels low,” he said.
Spending a little extra money may be worth
it, Pernice said.
Honda 4,000W EB4000 portable
generator with commercial IGX engine