Posts Tagged ‘generator’

New Harbor Freight 4000 Watt Predator Generator

January 4th, 2014 6 comments
This entry is part 9 of 9 in the series Generator
HFT 4KW Generator

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A couple of years ago I bought a cheap 800 watt HFT generator. The whole $79 generator experiment didn’t work out so well. After the first one seized right out of the box and the second one died and wouldn’t start after only a few months I was ready to give up. Unfortunately, I had promised to have my generator available for some volunteer work the morning after the POS died, so I really didn’t have much time to think things through if I wanted to meet my commitment. Like a sucker, ran right back to my local Harbor Freight store and talked myself into a 4 kW peak / 3.2 kW running generator. I’ve had it for a year now and I have to say I’m impressed. This line of Predator generators might just be a winner for Harbor Freight.

First Impressions

I brought the generator home, opened the box, poured in some gas, and then something happened that I never expected. The thing started on the first pull. Seriously. One pull. My wife said the look of shock on my face was priceless. The Predator generators, and indeed all the engines Harbor Freight sells, are widely described in Internet forums as copies of Honda designs. If they are, they did a good job copying them, because first-pull starting has always been a Honda hallmark.

Once the generator was running everything else worked fine. It was reasonably quiet and seemed to handle the limited loads I gave it on its first run with no problem. I let it run for about thirty minutes and shut it down. The next day I took it to work and it started and ran fine while powering electric sanders, saws, and other tools.

Ongoing Performance

Over the last year I’ve used this generator for a variety of projects, from powering a vacuum in the driveway while cleaning cars to running an electric shredder for leaves and small branches. The shredder pushed the generator towards its limit, but the unit handled the sudden load without trouble. Although I didn’t break out an oscilloscope to look at the power, the basic measurements with my multimeter showed that the generator was holding voltage and frequency even as the load varied. Can’t really ask for more than that.

Other Notes

This generator, like most, provides a variety of outlets, including 4 110 V sockets. But it’s important to understand that these outlets are actually each providing one half of the generator’s center-tapped 220V output. So each 110V outlet bank can actually support only ½ of the total wattage of the generator. Thus one can only power 1600 watts per 110 V outlet, not the full 3200 watt rating.

Otherwise, this generator has continued to provide reliable service, easily handling the odd jobs and loads that I’ve thrown at it. It still starts on the first pull every time, even after sitting for a month or more between uses. I did buy the optional wheel and handle kit and find them pretty valuable, though the handle could be longer – I’m 5′ 10″ tall and when I drag the generator behind me I am often bumping the back of my feet into it. But they are sturdy and useful for moving the generator around.

Final Words

I am not using this generator to power a house or to run appliances during a power failure – I have a 12 kW Kohler for that – so I haven’t tested the total runtime of this unit. But for the odd jobs I need, it works great. Interestingly, Consumer Reports rated generators recently and the Predator line did pretty well in their tests. You need to be a member to see the review, but the overall ratings of the Predator model they tested were near the top of the rankings even if the price was well below the competition. I was impressed. Notably, the generator got high marks for power quality.

So after a year I am much more impressed with this little unit than I was with the 800 watt generator. I recommend you check it out if you’re looking for portable power.

Categories: Technology, Tools Tags: ,

The End of my 800W HFT Generator …

April 22nd, 2013 No comments
This entry is part 8 of 9 in the series Generator

I officially take back all the good things I said about the 800W Harbor Freight generator.

It worked well enough while it worked, but as you might expect from HFT, it just didn’t last very long. Nine months after first putting it into service, it came out of my garage two days ago and simply wouldn’t start. The engine gave all the symptoms of an ignition problem, including a weak spark, but no matter what I tried, the little POS just wouldn’t run. And of course I discovered this in the evening, the day before I actually needed the generator for some work.

Many will say that the problems I had might have been prevented. I’m not 100% certain the ignition was the problem, but I didn’t have a lot of time for troubleshooting either. And I freely admit that I didn’t follow the recommended procedure of emptying the gas tank after every use, so this could very well have been a fuel issue in addition to or instead of an ignition problem. But seriously, how valuable is a generator that needs to be completely emptied of fuel after every use? Who the hell has the time and patience to get all smelly from gas while pumping/dumping the tank after every use, no matter how short? Not me – that’s for sure.

In the end, I guess I really can’t complain too loudly. Bought on sale for $79, this ultimately ended up being a disposable tool (this was the blue version, the new red version has had a price increase). It gave me some good BBQ at a racetrack when I wouldn’t have been able to make it, and it made a couple of other projects easier. But in the end, the old adage came true: “You get what you pay for, and usually less.”

So, goodbye HFT 800W generator. You were useful for six whole months.

So what did I end up using for my work? Well, I’m such a sucker, I rushed out to my local Haror Freight store and brought home a new 4000 watt generator! That’s right – I went back to HFT. Only this time, I got the extended service plan. And after the first 3 or 4 hours, the new generator seems to work just fine. We’ll see if it lasts.

A match made in heaven

September 16th, 2012 No comments


So today I had a quick project where I needed to secure a couple of things to the side of my foundation using some Tapcon screws. I would have had to run an extension cord about 150 feet from one side of my house to the other. Instead I just grabbed my little 800 W generator, checked to make sure my drill wouldn’t overpower it, and plugged it in. The specifications plate on the drill says it draws about 800 W peak – just at the top range of the generator. Sure enough, I plugged it in and it all works fine. I drilled 4 holes without having to unroll and wind back up 150 feet of extension cord. And the generator still runs fine. I’m still glad I bought it, and this is exactly the kind of use I had in mind for it.

Categories: Tools Tags: , ,

Giving the Harbor Freight 800 W Generator a Workout

August 12th, 2012 No comments
This entry is part 7 of 9 in the series Generator

In my original post about this little generator, I mentioned that I was going to hook it up to my Bradley Smoker and see if the pair worked well together. I’ll cut to the chase: they do.

Two friends and I headed to the Mid Ohio Sports Car Course in Lexington, OH for the Honda Indy 200 over the weekend of August 4th and 5th. It was a fantastic weekend of racing. But I figured that slow-smoked ribs would be the perfect meal, since I could just set up my smoker near our RV and leave it for 5 hours. The plan worked perfectly.

The generator runs the smoker perfectly.

The Harbor Freight 800 W Generator Powering a Bradley Smoker

Right around noon on Saturday I set up the smoker for ribs (12 hickory bisquettes – 4 hours of smoke – followed by my 3 aluminum spacer pucks, oven at 230° F, timer set for 5 hours. I filled the little generator with gas, as much as I could fit into it, and fired it up. At this point it was running the original Bonon spark plug that it came with (#F5TC) because I only had the generator for a couple of days prior to the trip and didn’t have time to replace it. (As a side note – if you Google “Bonon spark plug” you get pretty much nothing except hits about this generator and how people replace this plug with something decent, so who the hell knows how good a Bonon spark plug is.) With the original plug, the generator idled pretty rough but started and ran decently. (I have since replaced it with an Autolite #64 plug from my local Auto Zone store. Others have reported good luck with an NGK #BP5ES plug.) I let it run for about 5 minutes, then switched on the 500 Watt draw of the main Bradley heater. The generator adjusted to the load quickly. At this point I grabbed my Fluke DVM amd took a voltage reading: 110.5 V AC. Great. The frequency was holding steady at 60.2 Hz also. Perfect. I gave the generator a minute or two to get used to the new load and then switched on the additional 150 Watt load of the smoker. Again it took a second to adjust but stabilized again at 110.5 V and 60.2 Hz.

Then I walked away. With my fingers crossed that I wouldn’t come back to two racks of raw ribs because the second generator had seized up like my first one did. My friends and I took off to walk the paddock at the race for the next four-plus hours. The manual claimed that the generator would run for approximately 5 hours on a full tank at 50% (400 W) load. Since I was running at 75% load when the heaters were both on (and only ~17% when the main heater cycled off) I knew it would be less than that. But not sure how much less.

When we came back to the RV 5 hours later I was proven correct – the generator was off and the tank was dry. But the smoker was still holding 210° F, which means that it probably hadn’t been off for long. Maybe 30 minutes was my guess. So I  unplugged everything, refueled, and it started back up on the second pull. I restarted the smoker and let it get the final 45 minutes if smoking in. I noticed no ill effects from letting the generator stop under load.

The ribs were fantastic. And so was this little generator. After my initial failure, this one has probably 12 to 15 hours on it now and it seems to be doing fine. I just fired it up today after replacing the spark plug and it even seems to idle more smoothly now.

So, my initial impressions are still favorable. This little generator seems to be an awesome little tool and has been surprisingly reliable. Hopefully I’ll have more favorable updates in the coming months

Categories: Tools Tags: ,

What Can You Do With 800 Watts?

August 1st, 2012 No comments

If you’re wondering what someone could possibly run with only 800 Watts from my new little Harbor Freight generator, let me just point out the following little facts.

On a Bradley Digital Smoker, the main heating element is 500 Watts. The smoker element is 150 Watts. Hmmmm. Since 650 W < 800 W, well, I’ll let you figure it out. While I’m eating slow smoked spareribs while camping at the Mid Ohio Sports Course this weekend.

Categories: Tools Tags: , , , ,