Do you have to shell out serious cash to get a good enclosed inverter generator? WEN’s 56200i inverter generator is affordable, while promising portability and performance on par with the class-leading models. How does it stack up in real world use? Is it a true competitor, or did they have to cut too many corners to keep this portable generator’s price low?
Outlets and Output
The 5-20R duplex outlet has two household three prong sockets. While this standard supports up to 20 amps, the generator can only provide 13.3 amps of power. Since these outlets share their wiring, you can draw maximum power from one outlet, letting you use a single extension cord to power your appliances.
DC power is only available via a two prong crow’s foot outlet. This type of socket is mostly used for battery charging. Unless you can find a cigarette lighter adapter that works with this plug, it can’t be used for powering most common 12 volt DC devices, like car accessories and LED camp lights.
The USB outlet is limited to one amp at 5 volts. This is enough power to support standard USB devices, but it can’t fast charge your phone or drone battery.
Maximum output for this portable generator is 1,600 watts of sustained power, and 2,000 watts peak power. WEN recommends keeping power at or below 90% output, 1,440 watts, to extend the engine life. If you want more power, you can link two of these generators together using the WEN 56421 parallel kit. This kit has built-in TT-30 and L5-30 outlets, letting you use the full power of both generators for RV shore power.
What Can I Power with the WEN 56200?
Electrical interference and fluctuations in engine speed creates “dirty” power, which can burn out sensitive electrical components. Standard generators send electricity directly to the outlets, making them unsuitable for electronics. The 56200 passes electricity through an inverter that has a maximum 1.2% harmonic distortion under load. This filters out fluctuations, creating power that is nearly identical to what you’ll get from a household outlet. As a result, this portable generator can safely power electronics, including TVs and computers.
Most manufacturers rate the loudness of their generators as measured from 10 feet away. However, WEN conducted their tests from 22 feet away, making this portable generator look better on paper than it is in real world use. At this distance, it’s officially rated at 50 dB at idle, 52 dB at ½ load and 55 dB at ¾ load. Using the standard 10 foot measurement, you can expect those numbers to be closer to 57, 59 and 62 dB, respectively. It’s not as quiet as top-of-the-line enclosed generators, but the 56200 makes far less noise than a cheaper open frame generator.
How does this translate into real world use? Low noise and inverter power make this portable generator a great choice for powering TVs and radios at your next tailgate. It will also power a slow cooker, a small coffee maker and other low power electric appliances.
One generator can keep a few small appliances running in your RV, but it’s too small for an air conditioner. A pair of connected generators can keep the air conditioner and appliances running in a small RV or travel trailer. The engine in this generator is EPA III and CARB compliant, and it’s fitted with a USDA-approved spark arrester. That means you can use it in any campground or park that allows generators.
This portable generator has enough power to handle most hand tools, but it will struggle with compressors and large power tools. Low weight and noise make this a good choice for work power if you prioritize portability.
The WEN 56200 is far too small for home backup, but it can be used in a pinch to recharge your smartphone and keep a few appliances running, including a small window air conditioner.
Using the 56200
The oil level should be checked before use. The dipstick/filler cap is behind a small door that can be accessed by turning the attached screw with a coin. A sight window on top of the generator lets you see the fuel level at a glance, so you know if you need to add more gas before startup.
A single knob controls the ignition and choke. Turn it all the way clockwise, and it’s ready to start. Under most circumstances, the engine should fire up after one or two pulls. After letting the engine warm up, turn the knob to the “on” position, and it’s ready to power your appliances. Low oil and low fuel sensors will automatically shut down the engine to prevent it from being damaged. The front panel has warning lights for low oil and overload.
The Eco-mode switch adjusts the throttle automatically to match the load, reducing fuel consumption. WEN recommends switching this feature off when drawing over 1,000 watts from this generator. The WEN 56200 has a 1.19 gallon fuel tank that can keep the engine running for up to 9.4 hours at 25% load, or 6 hours at 50% load.
This portable generator measures 18 x 11 x 18 inches. That’s about two inches taller than most generators in this class. It weighs 48 lbs. out of the box, and about 9-10 lbs. heavier with oil and a full fuel tank. You won’t want to take this generator with you on a hike, but its large integrated handle makes it relatively easy to lift and carry.
What Do I Need to Use The WEN 56200?
A spark plug wrench and an oil fill funnel is included with the generator. You will need a coin to open the oil fill access hatch, a Phillips head screwdriver to remove the side panel, and a flat head screwdriver to open the drain on the carburetor bowl.
If you plan on using your generator at high altitudes, you’ll need to re-jet the carburetor. This brings the fuel/air mixture in line with the available air. WEN offers two high altitude kits: the 56200i-HA36 kit has jets for using the engine at 3,000 to 6,000 feet above sea level, while the 56200i-HA68 kit has jets sized for use at 6,000 to 8,000 feet. WEN says this portable generator can be used above 8,000 feet with the HA68 jet kit, but performance will take a hit.
As with any generator, the unit needs to be far away from buildings to prevent carbon monoxide build-up. WEN includes a chart in the owner’s manual to help you calculate the right wire gauge for your extension cord based on power demand and length. Expect to buy a cord with wire that is at least 14 gauge. GFCI protection is recommended to prevent shorts.
In some workplace and camping situations, you may need an external ground to prevent shorts. This generator has a ground connection designed for No. 12 AWG wire. You can use this connection to attach a grounding rod.
Open the oil access door, and you’ll find the filler neck is isolated from the rest of the generator. If you spill some oil, it’s easy to clean up. There’s no drain plug on the engine. To empty the crankcase, you need to tilt the entire generator over a drain pan. If you want added protection, WEN makes a magnetic dipstick/plug, the 55201, that picks up metal shavings before they can circulate in the engine. The 79.7cc engine has a 11.8 fl. oz. oil capacity. 5W-30 synthetic recommended for all temperatures, but conventional 30W or 10W-30 can be used, depending on outdoor temperatures. The oil needs to be changed after every 25 hours of operation.
The side panel is held in with four Phillips head screws. Removing the panel provides full access to the engine. There’s also a port in top of case to access spark plug. The air filter needs to be cleaned after three months or 50 hours of operation. Every 100 hours or 6 months, the spark arrester needs to be cleaned, and the spark plug replaced. The owner’s manual includes exploded diagrams of all parts, making it easy to order replacements.
The fuel cap has a vent can be closed to prevent gas from splashing out while moving the generator. The manufacturer recommends draining the tank before transport or storing.
WEN recommends using fuel that is less than 30 days old. Fuel should be drained if it’s over two months old, even if it was treated with a stabilizer. Ethanol-free fuel recommended, but 10% ethanol blends can be used with a fuel stabilizer. The carburetor should be drained before long term storage. The bowl on the base of the carburetor has a built-in drain tube, making it easy to empty it into a fuel container. The carburetor drain can also be used to empty the entire fuel tank. WEN recommends running the for 20-30 minutes once per month to burn off old fuel in the carburetor and circulate oil through the engine.
Warranty and Support
The WEN 56200 is covered by a two year, 500 hour warranty
While WEN isn’t a household name, the WEN 56200 holds its own against generators from higher profile manufacturers. It isn’t quite at the level of top end offerings, but the differences are so small that it’s easy to overlook them when you can pick up one of these units for a fraction of the price. If you are looking for more portable power options, we have reviewed some of the best portable generators on the market here.