Sometimes, there will be projects which require arc welding far from a power source. Naturally, that’s an obstacle that needs to be overcome in order to successfully complete the project- and standard equipment just isn’t going to cut it. Luckily, there’s a solution at hand- engine-driven welders. These powerful pieces of equipment are portable and versatile, meaning they can be put to use in many different situations. In this article, we will discuss the advantages and disadvantages of these welder generators, as well as factors to look out for when choosing a model.
Advantages of Engine-Driven Welders
One of the biggest advantages of engine-driven welders is that they are extremely powerful tools, and can therefore be put to some serious use. They don’t come small- engine-driven welders range from around 200 amps to up to 800 amps, meaning they are suitable for any size of job. Ideally, you should opt for the most powerful generator you can afford. Since it’s likely that you will be using it in an area with no access to electricity, a larger generator will mean you can use more tools at once, helping you complete your project more efficiently.
As well as being powerful, engine-driven welders are also remarkably durable. Since they are designed to be transported from job to job, often in harsh conditions, these welders are built to be as rugged as possible. Ideally, your chosen welder will be strong enough to withstand the often hazardous environments of pipeline welding, while also being small enough to be easily transported by workers. Whether it’s being taken down a bumpy road in the back of a truck, or exposed to adverse weather conditions, an effective engine-driven welder will put up with pretty much anything thrown at it.
What has really helped engine-driven welder generators take off, though, is the fact that they make for an extremely versatile solution to a huge range of different requirements. Instead of needing access to multiple welding machines if, for instance, you wanted to cut with plasma as well as weld with MIG and stick, an engine-driven welder generator can do it all. While this feature doesn’t extend to all welders, it generally comes as standard with mid-range and above models. What’s more, while these machines are rather hefty, most tube frame generators are light enough to pick up and transport about. Even the heavier enclosed generators can usually be fitted with a wheel kit, so you shouldn’t have too much trouble moving it around to where you need it.
Finally, since engine-driven welder generators are designed to be used in places which don’t have ready access to an electrical supply, it should come as no surprise to learn that they have enough power to not only run the welder itself, but also a range of additional equipment that you might need, from power tools to lights and more. A decent-sized welder generator should be able to generate at least 11,000 watts, which will be plenty enough for your needs. If there’s a total power outage, then you could even use it to power emergency equipment, making it an extremely useful piece of machinery to have around, wherever you might be working.
Unfortunately, while engine-driven welder generators are certainly a useful tool to have access to, they do come with their own set of disadvantages which you’ll need to take into consideration. Firstly, the price- as serious pieces of hardware, they don’t come cheap. Even the lower-end models will set you back at least $1500, whereas mid-range versions come between $3-5000. If you’re intent on purchasing the best engine-driven welder that money can buy, then you’re looking at a bill of around $10,000. That being said, they make up for this price with the fact that they typically provide all the equipment you need to carry out a whole welding operation single-handedly.
The other main disadvantage of engine-driven welders is the fact that they are extremely heavy. While they are strictly speaking portable, they nonetheless weigh anywhere between 300lbs and 2000lbs. This means that you will likely need to use carts or wheel kits in order to comfortably transport them around your work site, and you will also need to take the weight into consideration when transporting the welder to the site in the first place. You may even need a crane or forklift, so be sure to plan accordingly. You will also need to ensure that your workers have adequate hearing protection, since a powerful generator like this is extremely loud when it is switched on.
As mentioned above, engine-driven welders don’t come cheap. As a major investment, you’ll want to be sure that you are making the right choice, and selecting a welder which is not only high-quality, but also suited to your requirements. Before you buy, make sure you’ve taken all the following factors into consideration:
Ideally, you’ll want your engine-driven welder generator to be fully equipped for a wide range of different tasks. Since you will likely be using the welder in a remote location, it’s convenient for the one piece of equipment to provide all manner of different welding options, such as MIG, TIG, flux core, stick, gouging, and plasma cutting. While many engine-driven welders do offer this “all in one” setup, not all of them do, so make sure you check the specifications carefully before you buy. The more versatile the welder, the more expensive it will be, but it’s certainly useful to have so many options at your fingertips. On the other hand, if you know that you will only require your welder for stick welding, then it makes sense to choose a cheaper single-process welder which will cover your needs adequately.
After functionality, the main factor which distinguishes engine-driven welders is their power type- i.e. AC or DC. AC rigs are generally cheaper overall, and since there’s no need to convert the current, they are also usually more lightweight and portable. These machines are more than reliable enough for basic field and equipment work, and AC is also the ideal output for a range of other tools like drills and grinders.
On the other hand, DC generators require additional parts to convert AC into DC. Not only does this make them more expensive, but it also means they are somewhat less portable, and more difficult to transport around. There’s a payoff to this, though- DC generators are much versatile, allowing you the additional options of MIG, TIG, flux core, plasma cutting, and more. Since versatility is one of the main advantages of engine driven welders, it’s therefore a smart choice to select DC power if possible. What’s more, DC also lets you power pretty much anything, from power tools to lights, opening up even more options to you. Finally, DC also delivers a smooth, steady arc delivery on a wide range of different materials, giving you a superior weld, too.
The engine is very much the star of the show here, since it’s the component which allows the welder to run separately from a power supply. Welder engines come in three main categories, depending on their fuel type: gas, diesel, and propane. Each has its own advantages and disadvantages, so you’ll want to choose your welder generator accordingly. Most welders are gas-powered, which is great since the fuel for them is readily available and relatively inexpensive. On the other hand, much like a truck, diesel engines pack a more powerful punch, and can provide you with power for longer. They work better in rough conditions such as extremely low temperatures, but this comes at an increased cost. Finally, while propane doesn’t provide quite as much energy as gas or diesel, it’s a much cleaner burn, so it’s a good choice for work sites where ventilation is limited, to keep your workers healthy.
As well as the type of engine, you’ll also want to look at the tank size. This is important because it affects the run time of your generator. Naturally, a larger tank will run for longer since it contains more fuel. However, this is relative to the type of fuel that you’re using- for instance, an 8 gallon tank of diesel will last longer than a 10 gallon tank of gasoline. Tank sizes range from 6 gallons to anything up to 25 gallons, so choose your tank size based on how long you’ll be away from a fuel source- that way, you won’t have to down tools to refuel at frequent intervals.
Next, it’s time to think about what sort of generator will be best suited to your needs- enclosed, or tube frame. Tube frame generators are typically smaller, which means that they are therefore more portable (although this comes at the cost of some power output). On the other hand, while enclosed generators are indeed heavy and bulky, this can be an advantage in that they are more durable. Since it’s impossible for things to fall into the machinery and damage the engine, an enclosed generator is therefore going to last much longer than a tube frame. In addition, they are more secure during transit, and since the machinery is enclosed inside a casing, they run quieter, too. If you need a welder generator that’s easily portable, then you should opt for a tube frame. If you want a more durable machine, though, then enclosed is the way to go.
As we mentioned earlier, engine-driven welders tend to be rather loud while they are running. However, this is something that manufacturers are keen to address, and as such, you’ll find many newer models of welder come with features like improved airflow, which aim to cut down on those noise levels. If you are planning on using your welder in a residential area, then this will be a welcome feature, since it allows you to extend your working hours without annoying your neighbors.
Ease of Use
While the more advanced engine-driven welder generators out there offer a whole host of features, this inevitably means that they are covered in controls and output meters which can be extremely confusing to most people- especially when you’re trying to read those controls from a distance, or operate them with gloves on. Luckily, though, most generators aren’t too complicated to use, and can easily be adjusted even while you work. Just be sure to familiarize yourself with how the control panel works beforehand, and you shouldn’t have much trouble during the job.
Since engine-driven welder generators are designed for use in areas without an easily accessibly electricity supply, they are built with portability in mind. Unfortunately, “portability” in this case is relative- while you can transport your generator to your work site fairly easily, getting it around manually is a whole other matter. In general, tube frame generators are easier to move about, since they are lighter and often come with well-placed handles. Nonetheless, a lot of enclosed welders come with the option of attaching a wheel kit to the casing- something you’ll probably want to do before you take the generator out on a job, and discover how heavy it is the hard way!