Power Generators and Why Do You Need One

Power generators help you when the grid is down. Let’s take a look at what a power generator does.

To answer this question, I will first provide a definition of power generator:

Power Generators generac 22kW

A machine that converts mechanical energy to electrical energy for use in different electrical appliances.

All the power we get in our homes from the grid has at some point been converted in a generator.

Types of Power Generators

There are different types of generators available on the market, some of which are discussed below:

Conventional and Inverter Generators

Before the advent of the inverter generator, conventional generators had been available on the market for quite some time.  The basic concept is that they run on some sort of fossil fuel energy source such as diesel, gasoline, or propane which is attached to the alternator which produces electricity.

However, inverter generators are a more recent discovery. They are made possible by complex electric circuitry and high tech magnets. These are normally three-phase generators that output AC current like most conventional generators. However, there is a major difference between the two types: an inverter generator’s output is converted to DC and then ‘inverted’ back to clean AC that maintains a single phase pure sine wave at the required voltage and frequency.

So let’s take a quick look at which one is better; conventional or inverter generators. This comparison depends on many factors.

Specification of the inverter generator:

Lightweight, portable, quiet, and clean power for recreational use

  • Primary Use:Recreational
  • Fuel Type: Gasoline
  • Surge Watts:500 – 6,000
  • Rated Watts:500 – 6,000

Size, Weight, and Portability

Inverter generators commonly available on the market are generally very small in size. They are usually just couple of cubic feet and weigh no more than 30 to 50 pounds. If you are planning a trip far from the city, an inverter generator is more suitable as it can easily fit in a car. On the other hand, conventional generators are heavier and bulkier. They are virtually immobile; moving them from place to place would require substantial metal framework and a very big set of wheels.

Power Generators Generac 6719 IX Series 2000 Portable Inverter Generator

Power Generators Maximum Output

Inverter generators are more focused on quiet operation and low noise levels so their power output is fairly limited. Conventional generators have a wide ranging capacity from 500 watts to 50 kilowatts.

Fuel Capacity

The difference in fuel capacity between the two types of generators is substantial. Conventional generators are used to produce significantly higher power outputs. As a result, these generators also have a much higher fuel capacity. Most conventional generators are able to accommodate different sized fuel tanks depending on the amount of power output they are intended to be used for. Inverter generators are designed for their portability; to be light and compact. As a consequence, they cannot accommodate large fuel capacities.

Generator Price

For home and personal use, perhaps the only disadvantage of an inverter generator is that they are a bit more expensive than a conventional generator. If money isn’t an issue then an inverter generator is a more suitable choice. The prices for power generators range from few hundred dollars to tens of thousands of dollars. You can check the current generator prices on Amazon.

Portable or Recreational Generators

This type of technology is mainly used to provide power for sensitive electronics such as computers. Gasoline is used in this type of generator.

Portable Residential Generators

This is the best option when your power goes out for whatever reason. Most residential portable generators run on L.P, but some models run on gasoline, natural gas, or all three. Some of the specifications are listed below:

Versatile power for the home, job sites, outdoor projects or emergency backups.

  • Primary Use:Emergency, Job Site
  • Fuel Type: Gasoline, Propane
  • Surge Watts:1,000 – 30,000
  • Rated Watts:1,000 – 20,000

Standby Generator and Backup Generator

Home Power Generators generacA standby generator is a fixed type generator that is permanently attached or installed to an apparatus. It is similar to an air compressor cooling machine and uses propane or natural gas. A backup generator is smaller in size and the gas driven generator and wheels are attached to it so you can place it outside your house. Afterwards, it should be plugged it into the transfer switch or directly connected to the electrical load via an extension.

Home generators

Some generators have built-in automation so it doesn’t matter whether you are at home or not as it will kick in by itself whenever there is a power failure. It runs on natural gas or liquid propane and sits outside your home just like air conditioning systems.
Some specifications are listed below:

  • Reliable, worry-free operation, control kick-in within seconds of losing power.
  • Primary Use:Whole House Backup
  • Fuel Type:Diesel, Propane, Natural Gas
  • Rated Watts:6,000 – 500,000

Why is home power backup needed?

This is a frequently asked question. Backup power becomes highly beneficial when a technical complication or a storm causes your power to break down. It also comes in handy if you are hiking or if you aim to spend some time in a rural area where conventional electricity is not available. Home generators can be a blessing in these situations.

There are different questions that come to mind and I would like to discuss a few of them here.

How big a generator should I get?

This is a very common question for those looking to purchase a generator. We are talking about the electric capacity of the generator so it depends on your electrical load. To find out your electric load, add up the entire load you want to run. Then, to be on the safe side, figure out which electrical item requires the most power to start its motor and add it to your total. The reason for this is because some of the larger items tend to use more power over the course of two or three runs.

Generally, a generator has two wattage ratings; Running wattage and Surge wattage. Surge wattage gets its name from excess capacity, in case the load you need is temporarily larger than what you have calculated.

What loads should I consider powering with the generator?

If you are on a tight budget, you should only consider essential living devices for when power outages occur. I deem the following things important but everyone has different priorities so you should consider this a guide.

  • Light bulbs
  • Fans
  • Refrigerator
  • Garage door opener
  • Well Pump
  • Furnace

To calculate loads, manufacturers and retailers post the sizing or helpful wattage calculators on their websites.

Generator Safety Hazards

There are a few safety hazards to keep in mind generators:

  • It is best that you install your transfer switch through an experienced, licensed electrician (the piece of electrical equipment in which the generator is plugged in is known as transfer switch).
  • You cannot just plug your generator into your wall outlet as this will have catastrophic effects.
  • You should have CO and smoke detectors in your home while using your generator.
  • You should keep your generator around 10 feet from your house to reduce the risks from CO poisoning.
  • Never fuel your generator when it is hot.

Generator Noise Issues

Unfortunately, generators are quite loud which cannot be helped. More mechanically advanced generators do much better than older models as their RPM can be adjusted. As a result, their speed can be controlled and they can ultimately conserve fuel. Some people experiment by using motorbike and ATVS mufflers on their generators. Another simple thing you can do is reduce the electric load on your generator.

Power Outage

A power outage is defined as the failure of electric power from the grid for a short or long term. It is also known as a power failure, power blackout, or a blackout. There are many different causes of power failure. A catastrophic storm, technical faults at power stations due to damage to electric transmission lines, or the overloading of electrical mains can result in a power failure. In these situations, standby power generators will take over and ensure continuous power supply to your home.

power generators electricity blackout

A power outage is categorized into three main types.

  • Permanent fault
  • Brownout
  • Blackout

Permanent fault: It is a massive loss of power due to a fault on a power line. Power will be restored when the fault is corrected.

Brownout:  Is a drop in voltage in electric power supply. Brownouts can cause bad performance or faulty operation of equipment.

Blackout: Is total loss in electric power and is the most severe type of power loss that can occur. It may happen due to the tripping of power station and can be particularly difficult to recover quickly.

Other Types of Power Generators

Mobile Towable Power Generators

Diesel is used in this type of power generators. They provide a lot of transportable power for industry and commercial applications. Usually they are to noisi for residential usage.

Vehicle Mounted Generator

These types of power generators are mostly mounted on vehicles for emergency, construction, and mining applications.

PTO Generator

These types of generators are often used in farms. You can attach or pair these generators with your tractor for portable power.

Image credit VisualHunt.com

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