A Beginners Guide to Understanding Generators


Generators have become more popular as the number of power outages continues to rise across the country. Understanding generators can make them far more accessible and less scary to have in your home.

In areas where weather-related outages have always been common and in rural areas across the country, generators have always been popular. Many campers come with generators or are installed, and those who expect to be in a situation where electricity isn’t easy to come by have little other options.

Understanding Generators

You may be considering buying a generator but want to know how they function. How does a generator turn gas into electricity, and what type of generators exist? There are a lot of different types of generators, from diesel generators to silent generators for home use.

Diesel Generators

There are three main types of diesel generators. These types all require maintenance and must be installed correctly to function properly. If installing it to a house’s electric grid, make sure that you hire a licensed electrician to make sure everything functions properly.

1. Inverter

Inverter generators are unique in that they produce AC and DC power. They operate in a way that many people are familiar with because they rely on the use of an alternator to generate power. This is very close to how a vehicle produces electricity to charge the battery and operate the systems inside your car.

Inverter generators are commonly used in cars, campers, and boats. They are lightweight and often smaller than other forms of generators. While these generators are extremely useful for home use, they are often overlooked as most people do not need to change AC to DC.

2. Standby Generator

Standby generators are generators that have a switch that activates them should the power go out. If you have ever watched a drama set in a hospital, you have seen these in action. Once they detect the power is out, they kick on to prevent any sustained disruption to the operation of the electrical system.

Standby generators are constantly monitoring the state of the electrical grid they are connected to. Many models perform weekly self-diagnostics to ensure they are still able to function properly. As a result, these models tend to require considerable installation expertise and be more expensive.

3. Portable Generator

The most common and popular form of generator, the portable generator can be a gas or diesel generator. They provide emergency power and are able to be carried or hauled around. These generators come powerful enough to operate major appliances like freezers and fridges.

A portable generator uses a combustion engine. They come in a variety of shapes and sizes and are usually quite loud. The engine is controlled via a governor to prevent it from going too fast or damaging itself.

Quiet/Silent Generators

The term silent generator refers to generators that produce a small amount of noise, not none at all. These generators often produce as much volume as a quiet conversation. This is accomplished by the use of sound dampening materials and throttle controls.

Home generators that are designed to be quiet will operate within the 50-65 decibel range. You can research quiet models if you are looking for one that can operate your house without being deafening. Generator technology continues to improve, and sound dampening has gotten better in the last decade.

Alternative Fuels

Not all generators are run on gas or diesel, though they are the most popular models. Some generators are operated by wind and solar power, but these have significant limitations on when and how they are effective.

Propane is another popular fuel that is common in rural areas. Propane costs less than gas but is considerably more flammable. For people who are not used to dealing with propane, it can be intimidating to have a large propane tank in or around your home.

The Internal Function of a Generator

Generators work by powering alternators. The alternator then provides an electrical current via the interplay between stationary stators and rotors that are in motion. To learn more about this process, check out this article on how does a generator work.

Regular maintenance and testing of a generator will be important because it is full of moving internal pieces. Follow the manufacturer’s directions on any steps you need to take to ensure your generator is ready when you need it to be. The manual will help you understand generators better.

The Best Type of Generator for You

What type of generator you need will depend upon the size and energy demands of your home. Larger appliances require more energy to stay in operation. Appliances like refrigerators, freezers, and air conditioners can use a lot of energy.

If you intend to use a generator for long term use, make sure it provides enough electricity that your home will function as you desire. You can check a list of common energy usage for regular appliances. This should give you a ballpark number to start with.

The amount of sound that a generator gives off will also be an issue for you. Older generators were so loud that they could be heard by the neighbors. If you use a generator in your camper, be careful that you don’t violate quiet restrictions at the campsite you’re staying in.

The only person that can determine the best type of generator for you will be you. If you speak to a salesperson, make sure to tell them the specific requirements you have for a generator. That will help them find a model that accomplishes your goals within the budget you have.

Generators Are Improving Constantly

With increasing pressure from superstorms and aging infrastructure, the need for a generator has never been higher. Understanding Generators can ensure that you continue to function even when the power is out, and the rest of the people on your block are completely helpless.

Don’t be a victim of power outages from weather and natural disasters. Invest in a generator that can keep your home and family safe and warm during even the harshest weather events.

Before you go, please take a moment to browse our website for other articles that might interest you!

Jeff Campbell

Jeff Campbell is a husband, father, martial artist, budget-master, Disney-addict, musician, and recovering foodie having spent over 2 decades as a leader for Whole Foods Market. Click to learn more about me

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