CAMPING - POWER & LIGHTING
Our mates at iMotorhome.com.au have just done a test on the P3000 portable generator from Briggs & Stratton. Because it’s a larger one than the other brands we’ve covered in our Portable Generators story we’ve given it a slot of its own.
A few years ago the most common portable camping generator was in the 1000-Watt to 2000-Watt range, where Honda and Yamaha are the principal players. However, the move to more luxurious camping, with air conditioners and microwaves becoming more common on off-road motorhomes and cross-over vans, has created a need for more backup power.
Backup power is what you need when the sun won’t shine on your solar panels and the house batteries are running low.
This new generator from Briggs & Stratton is a nominal 3kVA unit, with a rated continuous output of 2600W. It has a sister unit, rated at 2kVA, the P2000.
Importantly, the P3000 is said to produce pure sine wave electricity that’s recommended for use with sensitive electronic appliances.
Briggs & Stratton is a famous American brand that’s best known for its small petrol-fuelled engine range that powers everything from mowers and pumps to…generators. However, this generator isn’t produced in America, but in China, to Briggs & Stratton specifications.
In output terms the P300 comes up ssquarely against Honda’s $3199 EU30ia Handy and Yamaha’s $3500 EF3000iSE generators, but at a RRP of only $1799.
The Honda is nine kilograms lighter and a claimed one decibel quieter than the B&S P3000 – 57db(A) vs 58db(A) at seven metres distance – than the P3000 and the Yamaha is 13kg heavier but a questionable six decibels quieter. The japanese noise levels are measured at only one-quarter load.
The Yamaha also has electric start instead of recoil; hence the additional weight of an on-board starting battery.
The B&S P3000 and Honda units come with two wheels each and pull-out ‘drag’ handles – like airline luggage – while the heavier Yamaha has four wheels and fixed handles at both ends.
Our test P3000 arrived factory-fresh in its box and required setting up. At 44kg it was too heavy to lift out and the instructions said to cut the box corners top to bottom to remove it, which we did.
It also came with everything needed to get it going, except petrol. The kit consisted of a 600ml bottle of engine oil and the funnel to add it, plus a small tool kit with the screwdriver required to remove the side service panel to reach the oil filler.
Note to Briggs & Stratton: Nowhere on your set-up instructions does it say the supplied 600 ml bottle of oil is the exact amount for the engine. It would speed up the setup process considerably if you stated that rather than having people add a bit, put in the dip stick, add a bit, put in the dip stick, add….
Once oiled-up and with some fuel in the 5.7-litre tank (claimed good for five hours’ operation at half load) all that was required to get the P3000 going was full choke and one pull of the recoil starter cord. The choke lever, rotary on/off switch and recoil handle are located on the generator’s side and the fuel gauge is on the top, beside the fuel filler neck.
The front panel has a pair of conventional 230V 15-amp outlets, a 12V socket and 5V USB charging outlet. There’s also a port to allow two generators to be run in parallel.
The ‘StatStation’ is a centrally-located LCD screen that displays a variety of information: a load monitor function displays the output wattage of all outlets and the percentage of generator load; an hour meter records total engine hours run and a maintenance reminder tells you when it’s time to change the air filter, engine oil and spark plug. There is also a light for normal operation and warning lights for overload and low oil level.
The P3000 operates with ‘PowerSmart Mode’ on or off. When turned on via a rocker switch, PowerSmart determines engine speed to suit the electrical load, so as you switch appliances on or off the engine speed rises or falls correspondingly. When PowerSmart is off the P3000 runs constantly at governed speed and is most commonly used in conjunction with the supplied 12V cables, to charge a flat vehicle or house battery.
On a day when the mercury was hovering around 30ºC we set up the P3000 beside a motorhome and connected it via a 10-metre 15-amp lead and turned on
the motorhome’s house-battery mains charger and dilaled its 2.2kW split-system air conditioner to maximum cooling.
At this typical load the SmartStation’s load monitor readout indicated around 25 percent generator load.
The next load item was an upright Isotherm 80-litre fridge, also dialled up for maximum cooling. The load monitor readout moved to around 39 percent, at which point the generator noise level was nothing more than a subdued hum from just a few metres away.
This static test suggests there’s a lot to like about Briggs & Stratton’s new P3000 PowerSmart sine wave generator – especially given its attractive price. It appears to be well designed and put together, while operationally it’s quick to set up and simple and quiet to operate.
The principal downside is the P3000’s relative bulk and weight in comparison with a 2kVA unit, but there’s always the smaller P2000 model.