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Generator for Outdoor Show


Hello everyone,

A friend and I have been discussing doing the Big Sur Jade Festival
in October, and in that respect I would like to throw myself upon
the Orchideans’ collective technical wisdom.

The festival is outdoors. No electricity. Yet people love to see
stuff being made - so I would dearly like to be able to do facet
cutting on the spot. This in turn means getting-borrowing-renting a

But how big a one?

The faceting machine runs on a 1/4 horsepower motor. 1 HP = 746
watts, so a quarter horse should draw 180 watts give or take. Two
lightbulbs worth in effect. Yet that just does not seem plausible
to me. Surely the motor must draw more than that?

Ideal would be a generator that could run a standard 1/4 HP washing
machine motor plus about 10 100-watt lightbulbs.

Does anyone know enough about electrics to advise what rating of
generator we should look for to do that? We’ve looked on a rental
website and found a 5,000 watt generator that is reasonably
affordable. Yet my primitive calculations above suggest that 5,000
watts would be way too much??

Any words of wisdom would be greatly appreciated…

Hans Durstling
Moncton, Canada


Hans, I’m no electrical expert, but we have been living off-grid for
23+ years. That means no commercial electricity, everything generated
on-site by solar, wind or generator. Believe me, we’ve done it all,
including converting 110 v. equipment to run on straight 12 v.

First, realize that a generator has the initial cost, which is
up-front for the generator. What will be of concern to you, besides
the noise and the smell, will be the maintenance and repairs. Just
how handy are you? Do you have any kind of mechanical background?
Will you know how to adjust a carburetor? Clean and gap a plug?
Change the oil, clean the air and fuel filters? Did I mention
generators are loud? Will this drive customers off?

A 5KW generator is way overkill for a 1/4 hp motor. You have to
realize that a 5KW generator is going to produce 5KW of power, and
will use the same amount of fuel whether it’s utilizing all 5KW or
only 1/4 hp. A 3KW generator sucks up about a gallon of gas per hour,
if it’s running efficiently. How much gas did you want to haul?

A washing machine is a whole different game, because it requires a
surge capacity. It’s a different type of machine. Your facetor is a
fairly simple machine with a direct drive. Unless you’re planning on
running a washing machine at your venues, don’t buy a generator for
running a washer. It’s not necessary.

You mentioned running 10 100 watt light bulbs. Instead of using
inefficient incandescent light bulbs, consider switching to low
wattage higher efficiency halogen or fluorescents to get the same or
better quality light, with lower power requirements. Yes, you will
have to go to specialized suppliers to get the quality you want, and
they will be about 2-3 times as much in cost as what you get from
Home Depot, but they will last 10 times longer.

Now, to get you around to where you want to go, consider getting
some flexible solar panels and an inverter, with a couple of deep
cycle batteries for a backup. It’ll still weigh less and be no more
cumbersome than hauling around a generator and gas. Cost outlay will
be less in initial start up, way less in maintenance costs, and very
little maintenance chores. No noise, no fumes, and the tree huggers
will love you for being green friendly. If 10 light bulbs and the
facetor is what your power requirements are, a 400 w invertor will do
the trick, and in a pinch, can be run off your car battery and
alternator. Remember, the voice of experience speaking here. Been
there. Done that. Still doing it.

If you need more info on where to get started, contact me off-list
and I’ll get you in touch with people and places that sell the
equipment you need. Usual disclaimer.

Katherine Palochak
P.S. You can also use the equipment in your own home as a backup during the
infamous California rolling blackouts.


Hans, If you run a generator during a show your neighbors will
probably hate you. Just something to consider.