Portable Generators

How To Use a Generator for Tailgating

While beer has been a constant for our tailgate group from the very beginning, us aging frat boys have refined our game day operation significantly over the years.  What was once a simple setup from the trunk of a car that included only cases of beer, coolers and bags of ice has evolved into a full-scale operation that includes a custom-designed trailer with two large screen TV’s, a satellite hookup, a stereo with a speakers, a sub-woofer and flood lights that allow us to extend post game celebrations into the wee hours.  At the center of this tailgate transformation has been our trusted Honda 3000 generator bought in 2009.  It delivers power to our stereo, TV and lights and has enabled us to take our tailgate to a championship level.  We’ve really been happy with our Honda 3000–it starts easily, runs reliably for 12 hours on a tank of gas, and it can handle a heavy load in all kinds of weather.  You would never know it’s there as it operates quietly behind our trailer.  Once we pack up, we simply wheel our Honda into the trailer and it will be “good to go” for the next home game.

With that background, the answer to the question of how to use a generator for tailgating is pretty straightforward.  Most portable generators are small enough and light enough to be packed into your car or truck.  Once you arrive at your tailgate site, you wheel or carry your generator into position so that it can provide power for a number of devices:  stereo, satellite TV, refrigerator, oven and lights.  There are many different kinds of portable generators to choose from depending on your specific needs.  As you prepare to shop around, it’s a good idea to build a list of devices you will be using so that you can match your voltage requirements with the right generator.

What prompts this article is my group’s search for a new generator that might be more “friendly” to modern day electronic devices such as smart phones, iPads, laptops and the like.  I’ve read that these devices contain sensitive microprocessors that can be damaged with an irregular flow of voltage, which can often occur with traditional portable generators like ours.  A new type of portable generator has come on the scene recently, called an “inverter” generator.  Without getting too technical, an inverter generator delivers a smooth, steady flow of AC power that is “friendly” to microprocessor-based consumer electronics products like smart phones and laptops.  Our tailgate guests always seem to be looking to charge their devices while they party with us, hence the possible upgrade to a new generator.  While our Honda 3000 continues to perform admirably, we thought it might be a good time to take a closer look at replacing it now that inverter generators have arrived on the scene.
What is the Quietest Generator for Tailgating
As you consider a portable generator for your tailgate, both a traditional generator and an inverter generator are likely to work from a pure power generation standpoint.  Both can provide you with the voltage you need.  But if you place a high premium on quiet operation, an inverter generator may be your best option.
Inverter generators tend to operate more quietly than traditional generators due to an engine design that throttles back when the load is lighter (i.e. less noise).  Most inverters are built with special mufflers and sound minimizing technology.  In fact, tests have shown many inverter generators to operate at a decibel level similar to human conversation!  So, if quiet operation is important to you, take a close look at an inverter generator.
There are many surveys available to consumers on the internet, but some specific units that I have seen ranked highly on the quiet scale include:  Honda EU2200i, Champion 3400W and Yamaha EF2000iSv2.  All are inverter units and all generate low levels of noise, as measured in decibels.
What Is The Best Generator For Tailgating?
The best generator for your tailgate will depend on your actual needs.  Key considerations will be power capacity, ease of transport and choosing between a traditional generator and an inverter generator.
With regard to power capacity, a good first step is to determine how much output you need, so take an inventory of items you be powering at your tailgate.  Portable generators that are rated for 2,000-3,000 Watts should fit the needs of most tailgaters.  As a frame of reference, our Honda 3000 (3,000 Watts) has easily handled our two large screen satellite TV’s, stereo and lights.  While we don’t have a refrigerator or oven, we have excess capacity to do so with our 3,000 Watt unit. Remember too that most of the newer inverter generators can be combined to run in parallel, so that two 2,000 Watt generators can provide you with 4,000 Watts of power.  With inverter generators being smaller and lighter, getting to 4,000 Watts this way is much easier than buying a bulky 4,000 Watt unit.
Tailgaters should place a high premium on generators that weigh less and occupy a smaller space, simply because they can be more easily transported to and from your tailgate site. For this reason, the newer inverter generators are of interest to many.  You should not have too much of a problem finding a generator that meets your all-important power requirement that also is user friendly when it comes to ease of handling.
The choice between a traditional generator and an inverter generator really comes down to budget and your need to deliver power to more sensitive microprocessor-based consumer electronics products like smart phones, TV’s, stereos and laptops.  Inverter generators are more expensive but they will not damage your iPhone or iPad.  Inverters are also smaller, lighter, more fuel efficient and less noisy.  As I look at our tailgate group’s decision to possibly replace our older Honda 3000, I am inclined to think that the benefits of an inverter unit outweigh the added cost.
In terms of the best specific generator units for tailgating, there are tons of surveys available on the internet that you will find helpful.  Because of our tailgate group’s good experience with our Honda 3000 (bought in 2009), we will be looking closely at the Honda EU3000i.  It has inverter technology, wheels make it easy to transport (78 lbs.), throws off 3,000 Watts, has a 7.7 hour run time and is quiet (only 57-65 decibels).  Some other brand models that I have noticed are highly rated include: Westinghouse IGen2200, Briggs & Stratton P2200, Champion 75531i and Generac GP2200I.
What Can You Plug Into a Tailgate Generator?
Your tailgate generator can handle a wide variety of appliances, including: stereo, satellite TV, refrigerator, small oven, electric smoker and lights.  Consumer electronics products made with microprocessors such as iPhone, iPads and laptops can also be charged but for safety reasons, these items are best paired with inverter generators, not traditional generators.  Remember too, that you should match the total wattage requirement of your devices with the capacity of your generator as you make your purchase decision.
How To Choose The Size of a Tailgate Generator?
In terms of power generation, most portable generators that produce 2,000 Watts or more should be sufficient to power the average tailgate.  The wattage requirement of the generator you choose should more than comfortably handle the total wattage requirement of the devices you use at your tailgate.  Remember, my tailgate group’s Honda 3000 (bought in 2009) has been great for us, and has powered a large stereo system, a satellite TV modem, two large TV screens and flood lights.  Many of the newer inverter generators can be combined to produce even more power while offering you the ability to easily handle two small, compact pieces of equipment.   Be sure to check a unit’s run time on a full tank, the average portable generator can run in excess of 8 hours on a full (~1 gallon) tank of gas which should be plenty of time for most tailgates.  (We always have a spare gallon of gas on hand, as well as a spare case of Budweiser in case of emergencies).
In terms of size and weight, you will want a generator that easily fits into your vehicle for transport to and from the stadium and one that you can lift without too much effort.  Many generators have wheels, which make them easy to move around.  Some have handles.  And some are just too plain heavy to carry without throwing out your back!  By now, I probably sound like an evangelist for inverter generators but remember that another advantage of inverters is that they are small and lightweight.
How Can You Reduce The Noise?
Noise from a portable generator comes principally from two sources: vibrations in the engine housing and the exhaust system.  There are “do it yourself” solutions that can make a generator operate more quietly, including:  placing the generator on a sound-absorbing pad, adding a silencer or muffler to the exhaust pipe or placing your unit in an enclosure that contains the sound.
The easiest way to reduce noise is to buy a quiet generator!  Many of the newer inverter generators are very quiet, operating at a decibel level equal to human conversation (55-60 decibels).  Inverter engines are designed to throttle back (and operate more quietly) when not at peak load.  In addition, most inverter generators are designed with sound absorbing components and sound minimizing mufflers.  And in addition to purchasing a quiet generator, I have always been of the opinion that a good tailgate has good music, which should more than drown out any noise from your generator!
Why Are Generators Noisy?
Portable generators operate with engines, which can be inherently noisy.  Vibrations in the engine housing and the exhaust system are the two principal sources of noise from generators.  Fortunately, technology has advanced to a point where a well-made portable generator will throw off only 50-60 decibels of noise.  By means of comparison, a quiet office generates 40-50 decibels, a refrigerator generates 50 decibels and a normal conversation generates 55-60 decibels.  The newer “inverter” generators are designed to operate more quietly than traditional generators.  What makes inverters  quieter is the use of sound absorbing materials, special mufflers and the fact that their engines are designed to throttle back and operate more quietly when not at peak load.
Are Generators Safe To Use?
What Is An Inverter Generator?