Use Your Phone to Monitor this Briggs & Stratton Generator

Briggs & Stratton 8,000-Watt Elite Series Portable Generator / Credit: Briggs & StrattonA generator, unlike most outdoor power equipment, does its thing away from the operator—and often runs out of your range of vision. That can make it a challenge to ensure there’s enough fuel and oil to keep it going, and your home powered, as long as you need it. What if you could check on your generator from your La-Z-Boy and go out to it only when you have to? That’s the latest in home-generator monitoring, and you’ll find it in the Briggs & Stratton 8,000-Watt Elite Series Portable Generator with StatStation Wireless, which hit Amazon and Home Depot this week.

The industry has been headed toward remote monitoring for some time. Standby generators, which install permanently outdoors and power on automatically, have had extra-cost options through which, say, a Briggs & Stratton, Generac or Kohler unit can email or text you (or a servicing dealer) when it needs attention. But for portable generators, the best available option was a control-panel extension module such as the one included with the $900 Troy-Bilt XP 030477. The extension connects to that generator via a 25-foot cable and lets you plug in devices, check usage and even start or stop the engine. The drawback is that you need to run the cable out a slightly open window, making placement of the generator at least 20 feet from the house even more critical.

The new Bluetooth-enabled Briggs & Stratton is rated for 8,000 watts plus 2,000 more for surges, powered by a built-in alternator. Its Briggs-branded 420cc overhead-valve engine has electric as well as recoil start. The gas tank holds 7.5 gallons, enough to run the generator at half-load for nine hours, according to the manufacturer. Other helpful features include a fuel gauge, low-oil shutoff, hour meter and plenty of covered outlets: four ground-fault circuit interrupter (GFCI), 120V household outlets plus one 120/240V, 30A locking outlet for connecting to a transfer switch.

Remote generator monitoring
The generator’s claim to fame, however, requires the StatStation app, which runs on a minimum iPhone 6 running iOS 9 or a Samsung Galaxy S6 running Android 6.0.1. With that app on your phone, you can check fuel levels (and Briggs & Stratton StatStation app / Credit: Briggs & Strattonavailable runtime given the load), see how much of the available power the generator is supplying and also check when to replace your spark plug, oil and air filter. It won’t tell you that your oil is running low—the low-oil shutoff will protect the generator from that—but you should check that once before starting the machine anyway.

As with apps we’ve seen for lawn equipment, the StatStation app also gives you ready access to the owner’s manual, the Quick Start-Up/Shutdown Guide, FAQs and how-to videos. If those aren’t enough, the same app will connect you to nearby servicing dealers. The 36-month residential warranty should feel as protective as the generator.

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Latest EFI Engines Add to List of Benefits

Kohler Command Pro EFI ECH440LECarbon-monoxide (CO) injuries and deaths occur every year despite ample labels on portable generators, and in manuals, that warn against running a generator in spaces with little ventilation. Even running a generator outdoors but near a home’s window or door could expose family members to this invisible and odorless yet deadly gas, and one symptom of overexposure is drowsiness—which is no warning since countless people experience it every day anyway. But what if the generator itself could help save lives?

That’s what Kohler Engines wants to do. Its Kohler Command Pro EFI ECH440LE (photo above), a four-stroke, 14-hp engine with electronic fuel injection (EFI), emits significantly less CO and other pollutants than other engines without reducing performance.

The company is quick to warn that such an engine still emits some CO, so a generator using this engine still cannot be safely run in basements, attached garages and other insufficiently ventilated spaces under any circumstances. But if someone is running the machine there anyway, lower CO emissions could potentially give the operator and family members more time to recognize what’s happening and get out. The odds of survival rise when a home is equipped with CO detectors mounted strategically indoors.

Part of Kohler’s recent announcement relates to a proposed rule by the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) to limit portable generators’ CO emissions. While you won’t yet see the engine in any generator now available, Kohler says that one generator maker has already signed on to use the engine in a 7.5-kilowatt generator, expected to ship this April. Whatever portable generator you might have, run it well away from any openings to the house. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends you position the generator 20 feet away from the home.

EFI advances toward residential gear
An added benefit to the Kohler Command Pro EFI ECH440LE is its EFI, which delivers fuel savings, better durability and easier starting. But Kohler’s array of available EFI engines, including one the company announced for riding mowers this past summer, is only some of what you’ll see in outdoor gear this spring. Here are other fuel-injection engines we’ve heard about:

Yamaha V-twins. Gravely, a division of Ariens, is the first beneficiary of three vertical V-twin engines Yamaha has announced for 2017 lawn machines. As their names denote, the MX-V EFI engines exclusively use EFI rather than carburation. Gravely makes only commercial-grade equipment, but it’s only a matter of time before EFI-class engines cross into the residential lines that Ariens sells.

Gravely Pro-Turn 200 and 400 lines with Yamaha EFIThe MX775V-EFI, MX800V-EFI and MX825V-EFI engines range from 29 to 33 gross horsepower. Three-valve hemispherical heads, closed-loop EFI (which uses an oxygen sensor for greater fuel savings) with variable ignition timing, and low-friction design are standard. Other features include easily accessible hatches for easy maintenance, a rotating grass screen for protection against clogging from debris and a specially designed stainless-steel muffler claimed to fit a variety of ZTR mower frames.

Kawasaki bolsters EFI line. Also for the commercial market, Kawasaki recently announced its 29-horsepower FX850V-EFI, built for lawn riders, which adds new functionality to the engine maker’s overall EFI capability. The new engine joins two other EFI engines in the company’s existing line: the FX730V-EFI and FS730V-EFI. All three are part of the FX and FS Series.

Among features of the enhanced system are an integrated electronic governor and an engine control unit (ECU), which together keep drive wheels and cutting blades working at peak speeds even on challenging terrain such as hillsides. Besides EFI-specific benefits, such as dependable starts in any type of weather, you can plug in a PC or tablet to diagnose problems and schedule the precise service needed.

Tillotson’s residential walk-mower engines. One of the oldest carburetor manufacturers, Tillotson recently launched a line of residential-lawnmower engines backed by the new TillotsonTCT carburetor. While not technically EFI, it achieves similar results, as this video suggests:

The company claims that the three Diamond Standard Vertical engines—140, 173 and 196cc—will deliver more power and torque, along with greater stability and lower emissions, than the typical walk-mower engine. It achieves this through the TillotsonTCT carburetor, which combines a form of mechanical fuel injection with enhanced atomization and accelerated fuel flow. It maps carburetor performance to the engine, increasing and decreasing the fuel/air mixture, to allow optimum engine performance with the lowest possible emissions. We’ll let you know once we hear which mowers this spring will use one of Tillotson’s new engines.

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