A 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 available 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.