What COVID-19 has taught us about long-term care
Building an equal future for women in Atlantic Canada
SaltWire Selects: Stories you don't want to miss
SPECIAL REPORT: Facets of family violence
Have you tried the SaltWire News app?
UPDATED: COVID-19 news and numbers
Continuing coverage: Mass shooting in Nova Scotia
What's working for businesses in 2021?
This summer will probably involve more outdoor time than usual for many of us, and this has a lot of folks looking to buy a generator for the first time. Camping, off-grid cottage living, RV trips, tailgate grilling, family gatherings involving video and sound systems beyond reach of the grid — these activities are all made better with portable electric power. Generators for outdoor living can be used to provide backup power for your home, but the best models also have features that make them especially useful outdoors
Outdoor Living Feature 1: Quiet operation
The quietest fuel-powered generators have a sound output between 53 to 55 decibels (dBA) and this is as quiet as generators get, even for camping and RV parks. Models putting out 56 to 60 dBA are louder than the quietest models, but they’re still quiet enough for most outdoor living situations. Anything louder is not the kind of thing you want anywhere near a campfire. In addition to quiet operation, you also need to look at the quality of electricity each model puts out. This is why you need to understand power purity when shopping for an outdoor living generator.
Outdoor Living Feature 2: Pure power
Can all generators power sensitive electronics without trouble? Not always, according to my testing and research. The two images of my oscilloscope tell the story.
The nice, smooth sine wave pattern of grid electricity is what they call “pure sine wave” power, with no jagged wave shapes. This is what alternating current (commonly known as AC power) is all about. But take a look at my oscilloscope showing the wave form from a non-inverter generator. The jagged shape is what can and does cause trouble and humming sounds with sensitive electronics, especially equipment involving audio. Now, look at the wave form created by an inverter generator. It’s just as pure as grid power, and even better and smoother in some cases depending on your electrical utility. For many applications, an ordinary, non-inverter generator works fine, but I have yet to see any non-inverter model that can properly power sensitive electronics involving sound systems.
Outdoor Living Feature 3: Portability
Generators for outdoor living are destined to be moved around more than generators intended for household power backup only, so light weight is a virtue. This is why accurately sizing a generator for your outdoor living is important. You don’t want to lug anymore weight around than needed. All else being equal, the smaller the wattage output, the lighter the generator. In addition to this, some generators are specially designed to be lighter than average for their power output, so pay attention to weight figures and compare different models. So, how many watts do you need? Begin by using an online calculator to determine the size of generator needed to meet your requirements. Google “generator selector” for options to determine the size of generator for your needs.
Outdoor Living Generator 4: Power variety
If you’re using a generator only for household power backup during blackouts, all you need is 120 volts AC and possibly 240 volts AC, too. But the ideal outdoor living generator will also give you other types of power. Want to charge your phone? Generators best suited for outdoor living include an adaptor to plug in USB charging cables. Twelve volts is also available for direct battery charging and DC appliances.
Do your homework, consider noise, power purity, weight, power variety and reliability records and you’ll end up with a great generator that’ll improve all your outdoor living activities, plus give you basic backup power at home when you need it. Visit baileylineroad.com/generators-outdoor-living/ for a detailed video lesson on choosing a generator for outdoor living and to enter a contest for a chance to win your own outdoor living generator.
Steve Maxwell always feels better when a big storm’s coming if he’s got a generator and a can of gasoline ready. Visit him online at BaileyLineRoad.com for articles and videos that help you grow your hands-on capabilities.