To power most of your home during an outage, a generator of at least 5,000 watts can support a 220-volt connection to a transfer switch, the safest link to your home circuits. For other reasons, though, you might prefer a lesser-wattage generator to run just a few things at home, power plug-in tools too far for extension cords or supply juice for camping or tailgate parties. The Briggs & Stratton P3000 PowerSmart Series Inverter Generator, Model 030545-00, doesn’t supply a lot of wattage for its $1,300 price. But this mini-portable nevertheless has enough going for it to suggest it’s a bargain.
The P3000 is rated for 3,000 watts, which is how much it can deliver in a pinch. The upper 400 of that rated wattage is meant for surges, the extra power that fridges, air conditioners, pumps and some other items need when they cycle on. The generator isn’t meant to continuously provide that much; its actual running wattage is 2,600. But unlike with the typical generator, you won’t be covering your ears while near it. As you’re running the unit, the engine speed varies according to what you’re powering. This is from the P3000’s inverter technology, which makes the generator quiet enough to stand beside with no need for hearing protection. An exhaust muffler chips in, too.
On the console are as many connection options as you might need from a small unit. In addition to four 120V, 20-amp receptacles with circuit breakers, you get a 12-volt DC receptacle (for charging auto batteries), a 30A locking receptacle (for RV connections), a USB port (1A, 5V) and another port for connecting a second generator to run in parallel. Among included accessories are a battery-charge cable and an adapter for the RV receptacle that accepts a TT-30P, three-prong plug.
Another attraction on the console is an LCD that lets you view total hours run, a maintenance reminder (based on hours) and wattage load. Nearby lights indicate normal operation, overload and low oil.
Small and enclosed, the P3000 has two rear wheels, a handle on top (for lifting the unit) and a retractable handle like those used on luggage—but sturdier. The generator weighs 84 pounds and is better lifted with help.
Setting up the generator
Fueling up the P3000 is easy, given the large fuel cap and the gauge beside it. Adding or checking oil, however, takes longer since enclosed generators generally add steps to maintenance. To get at the oil fill, you have two screws to remove for the side cover. The air filter is behind the same cover, and the spark plug is beneath another cover on top. Better news is that even if you haven’t noticed the oil level has run low, the low-oil indicator and subsequent automatic shutdown would save the engine.
Starting the machine involves only switching it on, setting the choke and pulling the cord. (There’s no electric start.) We needed only one or two pulls every time, and it would stay that way if you use fuel stabilizer and start the generator about once a month, whether you need to or not. Another feature you won’t find is fuel shutoff, which protects the engine while it’s off by blocking fuel from the carburetor and fuel lines prior to your switching off the generator.
Testing the P3000
We ran several items off the P3000, including corded power tools and indoor items such as hair dryers, to measure both run time and power quality—how consistently the generator’s voltage matched typical utility power. The only runtime specification Briggs & Stratton claims is “up to 10 hours” at a quarter load, which would be about 650 W, or 750 W of surge power. At about half load, the P3000 drained at a rate of about eight hours of run time. And at about 98% load, the P3000 would deliver power for about four hours.
Inverter generators are known for the cleanness of the power they supply, which helps computers and other sensitive products from running warmer than usual, potentially diminishing product life. The P3000 didn’t disappoint us. Variations of less than 5% is the utility standard for clean power. At three levels—idle with no load, half load and just short of full load—this generator’s voltage consistently remained within a 3% range.
What you’re powering with the P3000 might require hearing protection. But you won’t need it for the generator itself, which even near maximum load never reached levels at which hearing could suffer.
Whether you need a low-wattage generator for home or away, the Briggs & Stratton P3000 PowerSmart Series Inverter Generator reliably does what it claims. It won’t power hard-wired appliances, but the P3000 can be just the ticket for quiet, clean operation on a limited scale.