Top positive review
Review and operational tips from an owner
Reviewed in the United States on August 24, 2017
This is one of the better generators that I've owned, and I can recommend it for a number of different situations. This review also contains a few operational items that you should be aware of, a number of important tips, and some useful accessories you may want to consider.
Initially, I was confused about what made this unit a "hybrid". Basically, they took a small and quiet inverter generator and mounted it in the open frame that is used in regular generators. The result is an inverter generator which looks like a normal generator, and sounds a little bit quieter than a normal generator, but has more features than you'd normally get for the money that you're spending.
Where this unit shines is in its clean output that is ideal for running sophisticated electronic devices. I have a full sine-wave UPS which is very sensitive to line conditions and will drop out to battery mode at the tiniest variances. On a regular generator, the UPS would constantly be going in-and-out and draining the battery empty. When connected to the Champion 100302, it stays in line mode and maintains a full charge. This generator also has no problem running high-end PCs with a sensitive switching power supply, or a home entertainment center.
The manufacturer rates the generator as being able to run for 17 hours on a full tank (2.9 gallons) at 25% load. I haven't had a chance to test this out, but this was an important consideration for me. When the power goes out, I want to have a generator that will run the entire night without refueling. So as long as the load it kept low, this generator has the endurance.
Those are my own three main selling points for this generator. A good bang for the buck, a clean output that is able to run sensitive electronic devices, and an ability to run for the entire night without having to add more gasoline. There are more features which may interest you as well, so keep reading.
It can also handle a large load like a 14,500 BTU air conditioner. If you are running a heavy intermittent load, you may not want to run the generator in eco-mode. Each time the compressor kicks on, the engine strains under the initial load, and if you have a wheel kit attached, the generator does a small dance along the ground. Eco-mode really only provides a benefit when your load is light. When you have a heavy load, the eco setting does not seem to make any difference.
If you're shopping among the quietest inverter generators, this probably isn't the model for you. The Champion 100302 is not a "whisper" generator. Actually, it isn't as expensive as other inverter generators precisely because they didn't include the extra sound dampening components found in those really quiet models. Without the extra dampening, it still manages to be just a bit quieter than regular generators (even more so under low load when the eco-mode is enabled and lets the engine run at low RPMs).
The three year manufacturer warranty? Fantastic. I wondered about how the in-warranty repair would work, and they seem to contract with well-known small engine repair shops throughout the US. My local repair center is exactly the one that I've trusted in the past for small engine repairs. I compounded the manufacturer's three year warranty that with a four year *extended protection plan* for Lawn & Garden equipment from SquareTrade (available on Amazon, product ID B00YBCL8TU). The SquareTrade warranty is supposed to begin after the manufacturer's warranty ends, however, it took some work to get them to fully honor it, because by default, they expect it to be used with purchases that come with a one-year warranty. That's the potential for seven years of warranty coverage for your generator.
Be aware that with this or any other generator, you need to keep up with your maintenance. For the first five hours of break-in, the load should be kept light and varying. After that, change the oil that came with the generator, and you're good for another 100 hours. When you put the generator away between uses, you need to follow the storage guidelines in the manual, which includes adding a fuel stabilizer, and shutting off the fuel valve to let it run empty. Like any small engine (and especially if you use ethanol gas), if you neglect to do your required maintenance, it is going to gum up, and in a few years you're not going to have a working generator. Don't be that guy.
Oil changes are a bit unusual. It comes with a funnel and your initial bottle of 10W-30 oil. The oil fill cap is plastic, which isn't my first choice, but at least the threads on the engine won't get mangled if the cap is screwed in wrong. The oil capacity of the engine is about 600ml. When filled to the proper level, you'll see oil on the first 1-2 threads of the fill hole in the engine. If you use the dipstick to measure the oil, they instruct you NOT to screw the dipstick into the engine. There is already a small amount of oil in the engine, so you might start out giving it 400ml of oil and fill it up in small increments from there. If you're careful to observe these quirks, adding oil is simple enough. Draining the engine is as easy as removing a drain plug with a 12mm socket and wrench (not included).
The manual says that the engine is designed for a minimum octane rating of 85 and an ethanol content of less than 10% by volume. The problem is that not all fuel stabilizers work well with ethanol. If you have a choice, your best bet may be to fill it up with a station that has pure gasoline, but in a pinch, use what you can get. Between uses, you'll want to use a fuel stabilizer (which the manufacturer says to put into the tank at 2-3 times the manufacturer recommended amount) and run through the system. For long-term storage, they also recommend pulling the drain bolt on the carburetor to drain out any remaining fuel. Good advice, all around. [If you need help locating the carburetor drain bolt, one of the pictures included in this review identifies which bolt to pull with a 10mm socket.]
I purchased the optional wheel kit from Champion (part number 40065). The instructions could have been better. Be aware that, when attaching the new legs at the bottom, you'll need to remove one of the existing leg pads in order to have an opening for one of the bolts. The instructions won't tell you that. The instructions for attaching the handle also weren't entirely clear. You may have to refer to a picture of the kit already mounted on a generator in order to figure it out. The two mounting bolts will be parallel to the fuel tank, in the open space between the fuel tank and the frame that you're attaching to. To their benefit, they did include a toll free number for assistance in mounting the kit.
I have some questions and concerns about the automotive style battery charger cable that was included. The open voltage on the battery clamps is 19vdc in eco-mode and 25vdc in regular mode. When connected to a fully charged car battery, the battery's voltage went from 12.9vdc to 15.5vdc in a minute's time. I didn't leave it connected any longer because I was concerned that it could damage the battery. Despite the manual calling them "automotive style battery charger cables", I cannot recommend connecting the generator to automotive or marine batteries unless you wire them through a suitable charge controller.
The package includes a dual-port (1A, 2.1A) USB adapter. It also plugs into what they're calling the "12V DC Automotive Receptacle". It seems like a standard USB adapter that you'd find for the cigarette lighter of any vehicle. The manual warns users not to use a device while it is plugged into the USB port. This isn't for electrical reasons, mind you, they just don't want you hanging around and breathing the generator's exhaust.
If you're going to be connecting to an RV or a transfer switch, you should be aware that the special power receptacle on the generator is a TT-30R (30 amp). Champion has a kit (model 100319) for combining the capacity of two of their inverter generators together into a single feed. I haven't tried it out. But it does offer an L5-30R plug (30 amp) and a 14-50R plug (50 amp), both at 120VAC.
What if you're not planning to hook your generator up to an RV or to use a transfer switch? Can you just run extension cords off of those two standard 120 volt sockets on the right hand side of the control panel? Yes. But you should know that those two sockets can only deliver up to 2400 watts of power. This generator can steadily produce 3500 watts! If you want to be able to tap into that additional power, you're going to have to use that round 30 amp connector that is just to the left of the standard wall sockets. You don't have anything that plugs into that kind of socket? That's fine, I don't either. Towards the bottom of this review, you'll find a recommendation for a $25 adapter on Amazon that will convert it into three more standard 120 volt extension cord sockets. If you're not using your generator for an RV or a transfer switch, that simple adapter will allow you to access the full wattage that your generator is rated for.
Overall, I really like this generator. It has a few small quirks, but it really does a good job of filling its niche, which is a 3500 watt generator that can cleanly power sensitive electronic devices while still offering a good bang-for-the-buck value. All that, and a three year warranty.
When purchasing a generator, there are a few accessories that you might want to consider. I have no connection with these items other than having used them myself:
* Champion's own cover for the generator. When the generator is not in use, you'll want to keep it clean and protected. Actually, this one is a great value, and I suspect that people with other brand generators are buying this one, too. It is available at Amazon for about $15: search for B005Z186AK or "champion generator cover"
* An hour meter for the engine. records the number of hours the engine has been running. This is really useful for knowing which maintenance activities should to be performed and when. I selected this one at Amazon for about $8: search for B01LXRVC1I or "hour meter"
* Champion's own wheel kit for the generator. If you're going to lug the generator around, you might benefit from wheels and a handle. I purchased it at Amazon for about $35: search for B001QVQKJ2 or "champion 40065"
* Replacement engine oil. Just about any generator will need the oil replaced after the first five hours of use. Can I be honest? You might be better off buying your oil locally. You only need about 600ml, so a 1 quart bottle is more than enough. They recommend 10W-30 for a temperature range of 0F to 120F (-18C to 49C). If you go with Full Synthetic, you can use 5W-30 and the operating temperature range goes down to -20F (-29C).
* Fuel stabilizer. You should consider this a mandatory purchase if you want to keep the engine running for years, but it is only part of your maintenance duties. I use STA-BIL, which is available on Amazon for about $8.50: search for B00125ZMD2 or "sta bil 22208". This is also available locally.
* 3 prong power adapter. If you're running cords to your generator when the power goes out, you may want to take advantage of the TT-30R connector. This is what allows you to access the full 3500 watts of continuous power (or to plug more than two extension cords into your generator). This rugged adapter gives you three more wall socket outlets (NEMA 5-20R) for only $25. Search Amazon for B01JI0BR04 or "Voltec 04-00215". If you only need one more 15 amp plug, instead consider the "Camco 55233" here on Amazon for about $7.
* Grounding rod and minimum 12 AWG copper wire between it and the generator. I already had an existing grounding rod and wire, so I'm not able to recommend a specific one that I've tried. Search Amazon for "ground rod" and "copper wire ground". Make sure the AWG or gauge is 12 or less (lower numbers are thicker, which is what you want, but 10 is probably just fine). You don't need a lot, just enough to go between the generator and the rod you've driven into the ground. The hardest part will be driving the grounding rod into the soil. If you slowly soak the area with a garden hose, it'll make it easier.
* Kill A Watt electricity usage monitor. If you're going to be plugging items into your generator, it is a good idea to know how much power each item draws. If you don't already have one, I can easily recommend a Kill A Watt P4400. You plug the Kill A Watt into the wall, and you plug your device into the Kill A Watt. It tells you how many watts of power it consumes (at this very moment, or averaged over time) for about $19: search Amazon for B00009MDBU or "kill a watt P4400"
* Extension cords. I'm not going to recommend any specific cords, but I'd like to offer you some advice. If you're running a heavy load like a window A/C, be sure to purchase an extension cord with thick wiring, and make sure that the cord isn't any longer than it needs to be. The longer the extension cord, the less power it can carry. The smaller the wires, the less load it is capable of handling. Choose the right cords for your needs.
This review has included a lot of specific information that you may not have considered, but don't let that deter you. No matter which generator you choose, you're going to have some operational responsibilities and choices to make, but it really isn't that difficult. The Champion 100302 hybrid inverter generator is designed to offer a number of popular features at a great price. If it meets your needs, it should be among your top choices. I hope that this information helps you in your purchasing decision.