Powerhouse: Inverter board bites the dust - Fiberglass RV


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Old 06-23-2013, 09:29 AM   #1
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Powerhouse: Inverter board bites the dust

I have a 3000 watt Powerhouse generator. These generators have been promoted in the RV world as good for "camping." They have enough zip to run an AC and some small stuff comfortably. My Powerhouse stopped producing electricity so I took it in for service. They gave me a rude shock. The inverter board is dead. Cost of a new inverter board: $800. Cost to replace the generator: $1300. The generator clock shows the generator has only been used for about 800 hours.

Questions:

1. At this number of hours, it seems to me that Powerhouse is at least partially responsible. Has anyone had any experience with this company? How would you convince them that they sold a dud and are at least partially responsible for making it right?


2. Is there anyone out there that fixes inverter boards. In theory, someone who knows electronics should be able to replace the individual component(s) on the circuit board for a fraction of the cost of a complete board. Is there anyone out there that does this? Who?
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Old 06-23-2013, 09:45 AM   #2
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800 hours is a lot of use from a portable generator, IMHO. I have seen motor homes for sale with a lot less # of hours. Could be just worn out.
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Old 06-23-2013, 09:50 AM   #3
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I doubt that you will get any help from the manufacturer. You might get lucky and find a part on eBay (or similar) from an inverter generator with a bad engine.

Is this the generator?

http://www.ebay.com/itm/PowerHouse-2...98433a&vxp=mtr
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Old 06-23-2013, 10:13 AM   #4
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Do generators have a warranty based on hours of use or a calendar year? 800 hours = 33.33 days without shutdown.
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Old 06-23-2013, 10:47 AM   #5
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or 2 hours a day over 400 camping days, the math is simple, the fix is more complicated. Normally if there is an hour meter the warranty may specify time used, otherwise like everything else, time in possession.
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Old 06-23-2013, 03:01 PM   #6
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Quote:
Originally Posted by cpaharley2008 View Post
800 hours is a lot of use from a portable generator, IMHO. I have seen motor homes for sale with a lot less # of hours. Could be just worn out.
I have a 4000 watt Subaru generator that has 4000 hours on it and its still running strong. The Yamaha I recently replaced did not have an hour meter, but it ran a lot more than 4000 hours. The yamaha had one major repair, completed under warranty.

Perhaps I deserve a beat down for comparing some of the Japanese products with this chinese equivalent. The build quality is different, but dead at 800 hours? Gak!



Derek

PS. The standard warranty at the time I purchased this generator - honored by Honda, Yamaha, Subaru, and Powerhouse was 2 years home use and 1 year commercial use.
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Old 06-23-2013, 03:11 PM   #7
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Thomas G. View Post
I doubt that you will get any help from the manufacturer. You might get lucky and find a part on eBay (or similar) from an inverter generator with a bad engine.

Is this the generator?

Powerhouse 2700 Watt Inverter Emergency Hurricane Camping Generator PH2700PRI | eBay
Mine is the next size bigger.

Taking two burned out ones and building a good one is possible, with lots of luck.

Derek
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Old 06-23-2013, 05:04 PM   #8
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Quote:
Originally Posted by glamourpets View Post
The generator clock shows the generator has only been used for about 800 hours.

Questions:

1. At this number of hours, it seems to me that Powerhouse is at least partially responsible. Has anyone had any experience with this company? How would you convince them that they sold a dud and are at least partially responsible for making it right?
Some people can sell anything to anyone. For the rest of us, I don't think there's any way to convince a company that it is "responsible" for failing to meet a level of performance that it did not promise.

Quote:
Originally Posted by glamourpets View Post
Perhaps I deserve a beat down for comparing some of the Japanese products with this chinese equivalent. The build quality is different, but dead at 800 hours? Gak!
...
PS. The standard warranty at the time I purchased this generator - honored by Honda, Yamaha, Subaru, and Powerhouse was 2 years home use and 1 year commercial use.
Derek, I think you understand the situation, even if you won't admit it. If you want to run a generator two hours a day for two weeks a year, an 800-hour unit will last over two decades and is a good choice. If you want to use it a lot, expect to pay more. If you want it to reliably go on for a long time, not just barely out of the warranty period, expect to pay a lot more.

The difference between home and commercial use illustrates this situation very clearly. If you use it more per year, you're going to get fewer years of service.

By the way, I don't think this is really related to the country of origin; that's just a side effect of costs - if quality must be higher but the price can be higher as well, more expensive labour can be tolerated... currently, Japan if more expensive than China, which is more expensive than some other Asian countries.
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Old 06-24-2013, 07:31 AM   #9
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Brian,

What you are trying to suggest is that 800 hours is a perfectly reasonable lifespan. Its totally acceptable that a economy brand generator will only last about 20% as long as a more expensive model. If it lasted 50%, that would be reasonable. These gererators are promoted as adequate to operate an RV air conditioner. If you are in a warmer climate and you use your AC a lot, you could easily use up your 800 hours in one camping season.

When I originally posted my starting message on this thread, I was hopeful that somebody out there knew of somebody that could repair inverter boards. Your standard small engine mechanic is going to pull a dead component and replace it. Repairing an inverter board would be more like repairing a stereo system. It should be possible. Does anybody know anyone who does such a thing? Several years ago I spent about $200 to replace two amplifier chips on a TV. The chips themselves were about $9 each. If the same could be done here, the generator may be worth saving.
Thoughts?

Derek
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Old 06-24-2013, 09:07 AM   #10
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RE: Repairing Inverter Boards

Good Luck on that one. From my own personal experience doing electronics work, mfgs. don't want their boards repaired and will go out of their way to make it difficult for these and other reasons:

1. There is more money in selling you a new board and/or a new product.

2. MTBW (Mean time between failure) is just that. If it's 10,000 hours for a component, some will fail at 500 hours, some never. Sooo they try to set the warranty period to cover about 2-3 times MTBF for the weakest component and are usually safe. In portable generators they also bet it won't get that much use in the 24 month warranty period and are usually right.

3. Board level schematics are almost never available. Sometimes the mfg doesn't even have board level schematics. They buy the boards as a sub part from an outside vendor who designs and builds to a specification.

4. Board level components are often non-standard or not marked as to value.

5. If there is a warranty issue, they just replace the board, it's to expensive to have a technician to troubleshoot board level problems and they just send it back to the supplier for a replacement. In real $$$, that $800 board may cost less than $25 to replace, so it's a lot cheaper to just replace it than repair it.

6. 2nd tier vendors usually have little, if any, technical support. The tech support person is often the warehouse person as well.....

7. Second tier suppliers don't really care about reputation. They can be here today, gone tomorrow and back in three days with the same product with a different name on the case. When it has a known name, such as Honda or Yamaha, the supplier has more to loose, especially dealers who don't want to sell products with problems.

Best bet... try to find a used board out of one with a smoked engine.

BTW: Did you put on all those hours, how long did it take?

Final Point: My 2003 GMC Sonoma has gone 162,000+ miles with a total of $30 in engine repairs (a throttle position sensor) others should expect somewhat different results (I did, what a bummer).
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Old 06-24-2013, 08:35 PM   #11
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Warranty versus lifespan

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Originally Posted by glamourpets View Post
Brian,

What you are trying to suggest is that 800 hours is a perfectly reasonable lifespan. Its totally acceptable that a economy brand generator will only last about 20% as long as a more expensive model.
Sorry if I wasn't clear, but that was not my suggestion at all.

A warranty period is not an expected lifespan; it is just the term for which the manufacturer promises that if the product fails due to a defect, they will pay to fix or replace it. If every significant part of a car needed replacement right after the warranty expired, but still years before the car is expected to typically start failing, the buyer would be disappointed... but the manufacturer would not be expected to pay to fix it.

The maker of this generator didn't say it would last for any particular number of hours - they only promised to fix faults which appeared in the first two years. Even if a fault is clearly due to poor design or construction, if it happens after two years they didn't say they would fix that, and I would not expect to convince them otherwise.

Perhaps these units last just as long as a Honda on average, and this one only made it 800 hours. If so, then maybe what the buyer gets for the higher price of a premium brand is predictability, rather than longer life. High predictability takes good quality assurance and control, and that costs money.
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Old 06-24-2013, 08:40 PM   #12
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Fixing an electronic board

Quote:
Originally Posted by glamourpets View Post
Your standard small engine mechanic is going to pull a dead component and replace it.
I agree. The typical auto mechanic only swaps components, too... including components which can be readily rebuilt, but especially ones which would never be quite like new if repaired, and ones that would take skill to fix.

Quote:
Originally Posted by glamourpets View Post
Repairing an inverter board would be more like repairing a stereo system. It should be possible.
It might indeed be possible to repair the inverter board, and I think that's a great idea if it can be done properly. The reality of current life is that this is not done for most consumer products because it isn't economically viable, and people want new stuff anyway. In this case a new one wouldn't be any different (unlike, for instance, replacing a three-year-old computer with a more advanced one instead of fixing the old one) so it is a good candidate to consider for repair.

Derek, I'm impressed that you found someone to repair a stereo. The last time I had that done was in the 1980's.
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Old 08-10-2013, 07:39 PM   #13
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Here is some good news and followup to the Powerhouse story.

After some negotiation, Powerhouse has agreed to replace the generator with an identical refurbished one. We have the new one in hand. The hour counter shows 35 hours on it. Thumbs up to Powerhouse for making things right.

There was some discussion on repairing the inverter board. In this case the board is completely sealed and you can't get to the individual components. The part itself is not fixable. Even if you had circuit diagrams and know how, you are beat before you start. Apparently they fill the inverter box with an epoxy-like product. Its not a naked circuit board.

Question: Powerhouse (the distributor) instructed our service guy to put a hole in the engine block and destroy the generator. He was instructed to email Powerhouse a photo of the destroyed engine. Why would they do this? The motor ran like silk. Why not take two bad generators to make a new one?
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Old 08-10-2013, 08:17 PM   #14
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Quote:
Originally Posted by glamourpets View Post
Question: Powerhouse (the distributor) instructed our service guy to put a hole in the engine block and destroy the generator. He was instructed to email Powerhouse a photo of the destroyed engine. Why would they do this? The motor ran like silk. Why not take two bad generators to make a new one?
My guess? none of this "refurbishing" is done on this continent. It isn't worth it to them to ship the old one across an ocean, and they don't want false warranty claims being used as a way to create a stream of products for illegitimate sale.
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