“Every day and night we had the Power of Blue, and that’s all we had.” – Mike Huot, owner, Huot Welding Service, on his Miller Bobcat™ welding generator during Ice Storm ’98
Average people don’t worry about welding generators on a daily basis. They don’t imagine living without electricity and all the necessities it provides, not to mention creature comforts like hot coffee and hair dryers. But, with the first anniversary of “Ice Storm ’98” here, many New England, New York and Quebec residents remember what they endured. Five days of freezing rain, sleet and high winds, followed by a sixth day of heavy snow, caused hundreds of thousands (if not millions) of trees to crack under the strain and fall – onto power lines and transformers – cutting off electricity or phone service for two to four weeks.
For school children, the January storm became a second Christmas break. But for dairy farmers like Tom and Donna Ellis, the storm was no holiday. Unsuccessfully, Tom searched for an emergency generator. When the milk-hauling truck arrived, the Ellises were helpless. With no electricity to pump the milk into the truck, the milk had to be dumped.
While the hurricanes striking the U.S. Gulf Coast this year didn’t match Camille’s legendary destruction, September’s Hurricane Georges left many parts of Alabama, Mississippi and Louisiana without electricity for two days and submerged under six feet of water.
Many hardware stores quickly ran out of generators. Luckily people like Denny Waite knew of another source for generators besides implement dealers and hardware stores: his local welding supply distributor, Gulf Coast Air Gas in Moss Point, Mississippi. That’s because one of the top-selling products a welding supply distributor stocks is a gas or diesel engine-driven welding generator.
Like a “regular” generator, a welding generator provides 120 VAC and 220 VAC auxiliary power. Typical output capabilities of these products also match; a welding generator suitable for home use produces 3,500 to 8,000 watts. The comparison stops there, though, as a welding generator lets the owner weld mild and stainless steel (and sometimes aluminum) in sections up to 1/2 in. thick or more. Surprisingly, both products cost about the same.
“People don’t realize the value of a welding generator. We sold Bobcats for $2,780, which is about what you’d pay for a Honda generator,” says Don Booker, service manager for Welding Engineering Supply Co. “Yet, the Bobcat has 8,000 watts of auxiliary power, multiprocess welding capabilities and a seriously good Onan or Kohler industrial engine. I take the time to explain to a customer that it’s worth more to have a welding generator. I joke and tell people even the Pope has a Bobcat.”
Welding generators can power a wide variety of equipment, including: sump pumps, milkers, high-pressure washers, electrical chain saws, flood lights, refrigerators or freezers, wet/dry vacs, televisions, radios, VCRs and microwaves. During the hurricane, Waite who owns a Bobcat, ran lights for half the house, refrigerator, his freezer and his neighbor’s freezer.
When buying a welding generator, you should confirm that the model you want has sufficient wattage (Fig. 1 lists the watts required to start and run some common equipment). To help put these figures in perspective, consider that a toaster draws about 1,000 watts, as does an average furnace. However, unlike small household appliances, a pump motor draws about four times the normal power when first turned on; this is known as the starting wattage. Make sure you check not only the running wattage (examine the motor’s nameplate), but also the starting wattage.
While you might not need a welder or generator for daily use, investing in a machine that performs both duties makes economic sense. A welding generator costs no more than a regular generator, lets you save time and money making your own welding repairs, and its emergency power generation capabilities just might save your livelihood if “Ice Storm ’99” or another Hurricane Georges hits.
|Home Equipment||Rating||Starting Watts||Running Watts|
|Sump Pump||1/3 HP
|Electric Chain Saw||1-1/2 HP, 12 in.||1100||1100|
|Flood Lights||Metal Halide
|Air Compressor||1-1/2 HP||8200||2200|
|High Pressure Washer||1 HP||6100||1600|
|Wet & Dry Vac||2-1/2 HP||1300||1300|
Information courtesy of Miller Electric