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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.

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: ,

Harbor Freight 800 Watt Generator

July 21st, 2012 No comments
This entry is part 6 of 9 in the series Generator

Harbor Freight 800 Watt Generator

I needed a small generator for an upcoming camping trip. And my every other day Harbor Freight sales e-mail arrived in my inbox. So I took the plunge on this popular little generator. The first one didn’t work out so well (ahhh, Harbor Freight, you never fail to fail). But the second one seems to be working. Read all about it – I gave the generator its own review page here.

I Hate Your Lawn

May 8th, 2011 3 comments

Or … Killing Weeds Organically With the Harbor Freight #91033 Flamethrower Propane Torch

I hate your lawn. I hate my lawn too, but I probably hate your lawn more. I hate lawns because of all the absolutely wasted resources expended on the quest for the American lawn. From tons of fertilizers and pesticides to billions of gallons of water that we can ill afford to be splashing around, more energy, time, and resource is expended on lawns than any other crop in the United States. And none of it makes any sense.

And if you think I made up that bit about lawns being a larger crop than any other in the US, you’re wrong. A NASA scientist named Cristina Milesi calculates this sort of thing using satellite data and concludes that turf grass in the United States occupies more than three times the area of the next largest crop, corn.

And if you’re like most people who get suckered in my the Scotts commercials, nearly everything you’re doing to your lawn is probably bad for the planet. Most people grow grass species that aren’t native or even well adapted for their climate, then dump too much water on them and add too much fertilizer in a quest to keep them alive in places they weren’t supposed to grow in the first place. Most of the fertilizer is synthetically derived, using tons of fossil fuels to produce, and then it depletes the organic matter in your soil anyway. And as if that weren’t bad enough, many people still bag their grass clippings (when they cut the grass too short) and send them to a landfill, which forces them to have to add even more fertilizer to keep the lawn alive.

Nope … I hate it. Honestly, if a referendum came up in my town banning all watering of lawns and all pesticide/herbicide and inorganic fertilizer use, I’d vote for it in a heartbeat.

And I do put my money where my mouth is. One of my favorite Internet posts of all time is Paul Wheaton’s post “Organic Lawn Care for the Cheap and Lazy.” My lawn care regimen is this:

I started with whatever was growing when I moved in, crabgrass and weeds included. And I didn’t tear anything up or start over. What grows grows, what doesn’t doesn’t. During a recent dry summer I had the only green in the neighborhood because crabgrass doesn’t die back in a drought, even though I NEVER water established grass (I will keep seed moist until it germinates).

  • Spring: apply a 100% organic fertilizer and pre-emergent weed control (WOW Supreme from Garden’s Alive) . It mixes Corn Gluten Meal for weed control with an organic fertilizer (good information HERE from Iowa State University about Corn Gluten Meal). If there is patching to be done I use a turf grass mix adapted to northern climates (Northern Turf from Garden’s Alive). It’s specially formulated to be drought resistant, slow growing, and require minimal fertilizer.
  • Summer: Do basically nothing. I don’t water. I cut it tall (3 inches minimum) and leave the clippings from my mulching mower. If it dies it dies, but it never does. Turf adapted to northern climates goes dormant in the summer and if it’s dry it just turns yellow. But it comes back with the Fall rains. Seriously, I don’t water. Not because I’m cheap (I have a well so no monthly water bill) but because I am morally opposed to watering lawns.
  • Fall: One last application of organic fertilizer and weed control.

Over the last three years I have battled through the worst of the weeds, either digging them up by hand or spot treating with an iron based weed killer. Some dandelions survive, as does a ton of clover, chickweed, and sorrel. But this year I’ve added a new tool to my organic arsenal. The Harbor Freight Propane Torch #91033.

See this video for some insight:

What they don’t tell you in that video is just how much of a beast this thing is. I did a quick 1-minute video myself:

Public domain image from http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Sherman_railroad_destroy_noborder_crop.jpg

Look! Georgia's Weed Free!

So what does this have to do with lawns? Well, burning weeds is a great and organic way to get rid of them. I don’t mean scorched earth get rid of them like Sherman marching across the South, but rather using the heat from the torch to bust up the cell structure of weeds so they die on their own without too much damage to the surrounding lawn.

Obviously this has to be done carefully or else you’re going to set your neighborhood on fire. Which, if it burns up your chemically grown lawn is fine with me. But once in a while I wonder how on Earth they can sell something like this to the general public when they have to put warnings on soda machines to keep people from pulling them over and crushing themselves. But then I read about 7 things that seem even way more dangerous than this which are legal and I move on.

So, how do you use a torch like this to kill weeds? Once again, Captain Youtube ot the rescue. Watch this video from my favorite seed company, Johnny’s selected seeds. Notice he isn’t setting anything on fire!

So this is my new fun. Going around the yard and burning dandelions and other weeds that sneak through the pre-emergent weed killer I put down. No chemicals, no spraying, and a lot of fun.

The Harbor Freight version I bought costs only $19.99 on sale, an honestly, what could go wrong with a $20 piece of Chinese engineering hooked up to a 20 lb. propane bomb? If it makes you feel any better, the gas hose with mine came with “Made in Italy” stamped all over it so maybe it won’t leak and incinerate me.

Good luck, and remember, stop wasting water on your stupid lawn.

Updated Harbor Freight Tools Page

August 29th, 2010 1 comment

HF Blaster Gun

It was time for a big tent sale at Harbor Freight tools and I made a trip today. Picked up a few things, including a really good (and cheap) sand blasting gun. I used it to prep the surface of my New Braunfels smoker for painting. I liked it enough to give it its own page.

Give my Harbor Freight page, and especially the review table, a good read if you’re interested in tools.

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Big Update to my Harbor Freight Tools Page

April 8th, 2010 1 comment

I finally finished cataloging and writing mini reviews of all my Harbor Freight tools on my updated Harbor Freight page. If you buy from them it’s worth a read. Also check out the new data table using the WP-Table Reloaded plugin.

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