Briggs & Stratton P3000 Inverter Generator Makes Its Mark

Briggs & Stratton P3000 inverter generator / Credit: Briggs & StrattonTo 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.

Briggs & Stratton P3000 inverter generator console / Credit: AmazonAnother 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.

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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.

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‘Pink Out’ Ethanol Charity a Mixed Brew

gas cap with warningNext Monday marks the end of Breast Cancer Awareness Month (BCAM), during which many companies have pledged to donate a portion of profits for breast-cancer research. Among these organizations is Growth Energy, the advocacy group behind the Environmental Protection Agency’s 2011 decision to allow more ethanol into fuel sold at pumps across America. Growth Energy has partnered with Sheetz, Minnoco, Protec and Murphy USA for its annual Pink Out campaign, which covers nozzles for E15, gasoline with 15% ethanol, in pink to indicate they would donate 2 cents for every gallon sold.

The BCAM campaign generates billions overall for this vital cause. And if you’re fueling up a car of the year 2001 or later, Growth Energy’s program sounds reasonable. You might already be fueling up with E15 now and then, and you probably won’t notice the slight reduction in mileage from using a higher percentage of biofuel. But in its pitch for the Pink Out program, Growth Energy isn’t giving you the whole story. The organization claims that burning gasoline harms the environment and releases harmful gases, though the main selling point for ethanol, reduced carbon-dioxide emissions, has not stood up to scrutiny.

Outdoor gear at risk
Gassing up your vehicle is one thing; the latest fuel systems should be able to handle it. For anyone filling up a gas can for use in outdoor power equipment, however, it’s another matter. Gasoline in general can cause engine trouble if left sitting for long periods. Yet the ethanol mixed in makes engines run hotter, stiffens rubber and plastic parts, and attracts water, which at the very least hinders starting.

Manufacturers accept that their customers will use gas with 10% ethanol, E10, which is found across the country. If you use E15 in outdoor power equipment and hit trouble, though, any repairs won’t be covered by your products’ warranties—which is why you’ll see plentiful warnings to use gasoline with no more than 10% ethanol. (You’ll need them; the EPA’s pump label is not prominent.) Turning a gas nozzle pink doesn’t make it a win-win on your end, but you won’t hear that from Growth Energy or other groups running similar campaigns.

Purchases that truly help cancer research are unassailable. But if you’re going to fuel up outdoor gear, your boat or anything else with an engine smaller than an car’s, steer clear of E15 fuel. Use a list like this one from the Breast Cancer Research Foundation to “shop pink” every October. Or donate year-round, no strings attached.

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