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Learn more about generators, and why I bought this one
Jun 15, 2000
a Very Helpful Review
by the Epinions community
Pros:Great power, nice 'extras'
Cons:Hard cold starting
Maxa™ 5000 ER Plus
Recommend this product?
My Coleman Maxa 5000 ER Plus has been a handy luxury so far. But it's really there for an emergency. I've used it several times for jobs across the yard where my extension cord couldn't reach. It performed flawlessly (and with little effort) running a circular saw, and small air compressor simultaneously.
Instead of explaining why you should get a generator, I'd like to educate someone who may be wondering IF they should purchase a generator, and if so HOW BIG. (I'll also tell you about the Coleman Maxa 5,000 along the way.)
If all you were planning to do was run power tools on a job site, or watch television during a power outage, you could get away with a 1,500 Watt generator. You could even keep your freezer cold. But you would get pinched if you needed heat, or hot water, or Air Conditioning. Household appliances that heat or cool generally take the most electricity.
Here's why I opted for the 5000 Watt Coleman. I wanted to be able to run my entire house, if necessary, in the case of a power outage, ice storm (like Canada had in recent years), or Y2K. Here's my situation in order of priority: I live in the country and have a well. The water pump needs 3,000 Watts just to get started, and then keeps running by using 1,000W. Next, my Heater fan (forced air) needs 2,100W to start up, and 700W to keep running. (These two power requirements are called: 1. SURGE Watts, which is the power needed to start up an electric motor, and 2. Average RATED Watts, which is what an appliance needs to maintain its working force. A common rule is that a motor needs three times it's normal power just to start up. Another way to calculate Watts is by Ohm's law (amps x volts = watts)) Add the Hot Water tank at 4,500, and now I've got to start unplugging things so that I don't overload the generator. Keeping your freezer running (1,000 W, and 500 W, Surge and Avg respectively) and the Refridge (2,000 and 500) can save hundreds of dollars in lost food during an extended power outage. With some simple math, you can see that even a 4,500 Watt Generator would be at it's limit with just the hot water tank. For me, 5,000 Watts was a bare minimum. And even so, I would need to be conscious of what needed to be turned on, and what should be left unplugged until absolutely necessary.
(Check out Coleman's power rating webpage for other power listings at: http://www.colemanpowermate.com/programs/genselect.asp)
What other features are there to look at in a generator?
1. Longevity. Gas engines are not made to last forever. Although your lawn mower may be lasting you for years, generators take an interesting beating - they may sit idle for a year or years, then be called on to church virtually non-stop for hours at a time. (who mows longer than an hour with a push mower, or longer than two or three on a riding mower without a break?). Small, single piston engines relay on air cooling to keep from getting fried. Many generator companies limit the size of the gas tank for that very reason - you get 4 to 5 hours of running, then have to (they recommend) that you stop the engine and give it a break each time you fill with gas. "Extended Run" generators like this Maxa 5,000 ER are designed to run for longer segments without damage to the engine. My engine is a 10 h.p. Tecumseh. Honda Engines are much better, of course, but you will pay twice as much. If you plan to use it weekly, you should consider a Honda Generator.
2. Voltage. While Wattage is the PUSH behind the electricity, Voltage is dependent on the appliance. If you plan to run a Hot water tank, a Well pump, an electric drier, and some Air conditioners, you will need a generator that can supply 220 volts. Common household current is 110Volts, of course. To do this, many generators supply one 220 Volt outlet, and one (or two) 110 Volt outlet. This way you can run either type of appliance. This is how the Maxa 5,000 is supplied.
3. Circuit breakers. The amount of watts that can be pulled through a particular receptacle is limited by the circuit breaker that accompanies it. Example: If your 5,000-watt generator has a 240-volt twistlock receptacle with a 25-amp circuit breaker, it should be capable of pulling 6,000 watts, (240 volts x 25 amps = 6,000 watts). If it has a 120-volt duplex receptacle with a 20-amp circuit breaker, it will only be capable of pulling 2,400 watts.
4. Low Oil Shutoff. Many generators are equipped with low-oil shutdown. Low-oil shutdown prevents engine damage due to low oil levels. In the event the oil level goes below the sensor position, the engine will automatically shut off. The key is to keep your oil level high at all times. Keeping your generator on a level surface is also very important when using generators with this feature.
5. Convenience features. Things like electric start, panel-mounted plug-ins, other fuel options (called dual-fuel, some generators can run on gasoline, propane, and natural gas with small adjustments to the engine.) These features will depend upon your application. A friend of mine spent a bit extra and purchased a Honda generator that could run on Natural Gas because he has a gas well on his property (free). It was an obvious choice for him as a backup source for his house.
What are some other considerations when buying/owning a generator?
1. Generators (with internal combustion engines) produce deadly carbon monoxide gas. You should never run a generator inside your home or in any enclosed are including your garage. Rerouting a muffler to an outside wall can be a fire risk, and can damage the engine.
2. Electrocution is a concern when running any electrical item. You should ground your generator (a National Electric Code requirement) to an appropriate earth ground to help prevent electric shock. There is usually a ground terminal bolted to the frame of the generator for this purpose.
3. To protect your sensitive solid-state appliances, such as a computer, stereo, or television, you should use an in-line power conditioner. This will help even out surges and lapses in the electrical current as the engine adjusts for changes in load.
4. Never plug in your generator into an electrical outlet without consulting a knowledgeable electrician. Although there is a safe way to do this, you can cause severe damage to your house, but more seriously, you can injure an electrical technician who may be working on power lines somewhere in your neighborhood.
5. Always use caution when filling a generator with gas. Don't do it while the engine is running. A spark could ignite the gasoline vapors and cause serious injury and damage.
6. Do not attempt to modify your generator's muffler to make it quieter. Much of the noise comes from inside the engine, and you risk damaging your engine by overheating it if you misuse the muffler. If noise is an issue, get a generator with an Overhead Valve (OHV) engine. They are inherently quieter. Or consider a generator approved for an RV. Many parks have regulations for noise, and there are generators made to comply with these regulations.
7. Don't store gasoline in your generator for longer than 30 days. Gasoline is not designed to be stored long, and begins to get 'stale', leaving deposits in your engine, and causing the engine to not run as efficiently. You can add gas treatment to help it store longer, or you can drain the gas and run the engine until it quits to clean gas out of the carburetor.
Although much of this Epinion has been geared toward generators in general, I do recommend the Coleman Maxa 5000 ER Plus. It has worked very well when I needed it. It has some extra features that are nice such as Low-Oil shutoff, an easy access panel for receptacles, both 220 and 110 volt receptacles, and large capacity gas tank. I didn't like the difficulty I had in starting it this winter, however, but that is an issue with gas (pull start) engines in general. Consider the Maxa 5,000 as a quality, low cost option for full-house emergency use and occasional home or camp use.
Specifications for the Coleman Maxa 5,000 ER Plus
Model Number: PM0525302.03
*10-HP Tecumseh® engine
*5,000 rated and 6,250 surge watts
*Control panel with one 120-volt duplex and one 240-volt duplex
*Extra-large 5-gal fuel tank for up to 5 hours run time at 50% load
*Dimensions: 24.5" x 20" x 24.75"
*Weight: 147 lb.
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