There's probably more internet
discussion about cheap
Chinese generators versus Yamaha/Honda than any other generator
topic, and I don't intend to add to it.
But this is my story with the SF 1000 watt Chinese inverter generator
, badged and sold under various brands .
I bought this on Ebay Australia
in 2009 mainly to run a few small tools while restoring my boat. The ad boasted that it was based on Yamaha technology, and indeed looked like it at least.
At 14 kg it's light to heave on and off the boat, and produces 1000 watt peak, 900w rated output.
It was rather louder than I expected, more than the Ebay advert led me to believe. The seller agreed to take it back. But then I changed my mind. At least it produced a pure sinewave and was not as smelly as the exhaust
from the two-stroke 850 watt modified sinewave job it was replacing.
Weeks later, the litany of problems began. Despite plenty of petrol in the 2.7 litre tank, it always cut out at the 1/3 remaining mark. Strange.
The first of dozens of tear-aparts began. Knowing nothing about these machines, I deduced which gadget under its pretty blue plastic side covers was the fuel pump
. Luckily it was the repairable kind with bolts---not a one-piece plastic type.
After opening it up, noticed gobs of resin-like material clogging the various pulse pump ports
. What were they? And why were they there? Poor Chinese quality control, that's what and why. I cleaned out the gunk, and that solved
the problem. Genny would now run happily up to 6 hours on the 2.7 litre tank.
And that is one of its sole redeeming features. Economy.
Sometime later, the bout of happiness ended. It hunted badly and then shut down. After much working in the darkness of my ignorance of inverter-generators, I noticed the stepper motor
which automatically matches engine
speed to load, was bouncing about on its mount atop the carburetor. Quality control again. The factory assembler hadn't tightened its two small securing bolts.
Sometime later, after running pretty well for weeks, I pulled the recoil starter rope
, and it broke. One end disappeared inside the nether regions faster than a startled rabbit down a burrow.
Off came the side two-piece cases. But when I went to remove the three bolts by which the starter housing was attached to the plastic engine shroud
(to assist the fan cooler)...they just turned and turned. The nuts turned with the bolts. And they were inaccessible inside the plastic cover. That cover had to come off, so more dismantling.
I held on to the nuts while unbolting. Then, having freed the recoil starter, I put adhesive
on to the nuts to stop them free-turning in future.
Back to the recoiler. The centre bolt holding the bobbin with spring and rope
would not unscrew, under any amount of force with my Phillips head
screwdriver. So I had to take it to a lawn mower place. They installed a new rope, and away we went again for a few months.
When it started with a few pulls, happiness. Economical, ran the tools to fix the boat, and on the boat it ran the TV, 16 amp battery charger
when the solar panels
couldn't cope with overcast skies, even a 2-bar halogen heater of 800 watts.
But often--and I mean often---you could tug on that starter rope until your arms dropped before it sprang to life.
Finally, on another trip, nothing. No starting. Checked the plug---no spark. A new plug
. No spark.
Sent away to China
for a new coil and spark plug
lead. This fixed the problem, but only for a while.
Because, not long after, again, after hours of arm-wrenching pulls, it gave up again. No spark.
This time, the dismantle involved not just removal
of side covers, but the engine itself, and the inverter
. Draining the oil
out and checking the low-oil shutoff switch. It worked. The spark trigger. Seemed OK. Traced every wire for continuity. OK. Stripped the carburettor, cleaned it thoroughly.
After days of diagnosing I guessed it was the spark control module, so sent away to China
for a new one. The module was probably the guilty party in the first place. The new coil only temporarily appeared to fix the problem while the module's intermittent ill temperament behaved itself.
Sometime later, another thorn in the bed
of roses. The rope snapped again--from all that pulling. I became quite adept at dismantling and assembly. And worked out a neat way of winding the recoil spring inside its holder with ease. While on the subject, the bent inner end of the spring, what latches
onto a stationary post while it recoils...broke. Several times. You can't just take some pliers and bend spring steel
into a hook, because it snaps.
So I heated the spring end red hot over the boat LPG burner, and bent it into a hook. That worked, for a few months, before it would break again. And again. And again. So far, 3 ropes have also broken and been replaced.
Sometime later....the little blue genny started hunting badly. It didn't sound like a fuel
starvation problem. I looked intuitively at the stepper motor
. It was bopping around like a cork in a sea. One of its two little ears through which tiny bolts hold it down, had snapped off. They are so flimsy.
So, I got some tinfoil and fashioned an upside down U-shaped bracket to hold it down. It's still doing its job.
That's about the end of the physical problems. And probably the generator, too. You see, it works, runs well....But after measuring its output with a kill-a-watt type device recently, it read 228V AC. Reasonably good compared to the household supply which read 254 V AC.
More worrying was the cycles though. No reading. Occasionally from 0 hz, 50hz flashed up for under a second, then back to 0. Yet tools run well. Everything I plug into it runs well, except an electric
clock. One minute ticked by in about 3 seconds.
I tried a multimeter, and it's showing something like 150hz. Not good.
This is probably a fault of the inverter. But inverters in all these generators are encased in a hard epoxy
resin-like substance and there is no tinkering possible. I have not been able to source a new one, and for the likes of Hondas, Yamahas, Kipors, they are around the $400 mark. More than the $300 the entire genny cost.
You have probably come across blurbs saying that inverter generators are more economical and quieter than the non-inverter type whose output is dependent on engine speed.
Quieter maybe, more economical maybe too, but not because the inverters idle down when the load is light or none at all.
The fact is, these small inverter generators spin around the 4300 rpm
mark at idle or under light loads, and higher flat out, 5000+ rpm
. Non-inverters producing 50hz spin at 3000 rpm, and if 60 hz, at 3600 rpm.
So now I am afraid to use it in case the cycles blow things up. I've bought a Kipor 2000 watt inverter generator, but have yet to try it out.