‘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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Honda Debuts a Light-Duty Generator for Home

Honda EG2800i generator / Credit: Honda Power EquipmentHomeowners shopping for a portable, gas-powered generator don’t necessarily want to power everything in the house, or even most of it. If your essentials top off considerably below 3,000 watts and you’re will to pay more for a solid design and smart features, Honda Power Equipment wants you to consider the Honda EG2800i, one of two new portables the company showed off at GIE+Expo last week.

The EG2800i and its contractor-market sibling, the EB2800i, are both inverter models, which have a number of advantages over the typical generator. Instead of running at a constant speed, inverters have extra smarts to tailor engine speed to the load, what you’re powering. This saves fuel, important if your local gas stations are also out of power or roads are impassable. The improved energy efficiency helps the product last longer.

Inverter generators are also typically the quietest you’ll find—why they’re preferred for camping. (This model is rated for 61-69 dBa at about 23 feet.) And the power they provide is especially clean, meaning that sensitive products such as electronics won’t run hotter when powered by the generator. These benefits, however, come at a cost: Both generators cost roughly $1,150.

Specs of the EG2800i
Honda says the new generators, at 67 pounds, are the lightest open-frame generators in their class, and that relatively light weight matters should you need to transport the machine without help. For connections, you get two protected 20-amp outlets plus one 120-volt, 30-amp twist-plug receptacle for a transfer switch. Most transfer switches allow a single connection to your home, which also lets you power hard-wired appliances, but they’re typically 240-volt. While this shouldn’t rattle any electrician you hire to install a transfer switch, know that you’ll need another generator to power a 240-volt appliance.

Unlike most generators, including some other Honda inverter models, the EG2800i has no publicized surge wattage to account for the extra watts that some items, such as ACs and fridges, need when they first cycle on. So when figuring what you’ll power with this generator, total up appliance wattages by what they would need at most. If you exceed the rated wattage, the automatic-overload feature will shut the machine down.

Honda EG2800i generator console / Credit: Honda Power EquipmentThere are several other features. One is the numbered, step-by-step startup sequence displayed on the console (see right), for starting the Honda GC190 engine. This leads you from turning off the fuel shutoff through setting the choke, turning on the switch, pulling the cord and opening the choke back up. The fuel tank holds 2.1 gallons, enough for about five hours of run time at maximum load.

Besides the fuel shutoff, a helpful feature that protects the engine and fuel lines from gas left for long periods, you get a low-oil indicator light. An output indicator will glow green when your power draw is beneath the maximum the generator can deliver. Otherwise, an overload alarm flashes and the generator shuts down.

Another plus: The Eco Throttle switch, when left on, lets the inverter adjust engine speed as needed in the usual way. But whenever you’re running the generator consistently close to the generator’s maximum output, the EG2800i can work less hard if you turn the Eco Throttle off.

Lastly, you might like to know that both the new generators are made in America. As with Honda’s mowers, engines, snowblowers and certain other products, the company manufactures them in Swepsonville, North Carolina.

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