Guide to Power Generators

Powered items need, well, power to get them running and help you in whatever tasks you’re doing, whether you’re building a piece of furniture, mixing a cake batter, or using your laptop for your project. Not to mention keeping refrigerators and freezers running, etc.  But what if you experience a power outage and happen to be in the middle of your activity? Frustrating, right?

Anyone who has experienced a power shortage at a most inconvenient time would undoubtedly appreciate the value of having a portable generator. From homes to workspaces to campsites, the constant flow of electricity is needed to ensure efficiency and productivity. A power generator can come in handy to provide extra electricity in an emergency or, in the case of portable generators, provide a power source during recreational activities like camping and hiking.

Speaking of portable generators, they have become popular among consumers because of their ease of use and portability. A portable generator can power up your appliance and charge your devices everywhere.

Are you buying a new generator? Are you looking for some advice on how to maintain your generator? This article will get you covered. 

Things to look for in a power generator

When choosing a power generator, work out how much power you need. This is a crucial first step in buying a generator. Find out the amount of power required to run your power tools and appliances.

List the essential appliances such as lights, refrigerators, television, Wi-Fi router, desktop computer, microwave, television, radio, etc. Calculate how much electricity they need by looking at their faceplate or user’s manual. Next, determine the total wattage of each appliance you can’t live without. The generator you are going to purchase must be able to produce at least that total wattage you’ve just estimated (and preferably a little more wattage). To start them, appliances with motors (such as refrigerators and furnaces) may require additional wattage.

As for generators for smaller power tools (such as jigsaws and circular saws), smaller portable generators will be a better bet. Portable generators are also ideal for outdoor equipment such as chainsaws, lawnmowers, and hedge trimmers; these tools usually need less than 3000 watts.

In contrast, inverter generators (another kind) boast parallel capacity, which enables users to pair them with units of similar nature to increase their power output. For example, two inverter generators can be paired up to deliver the same wattage and amperage as a larger generator without the quietness, efficiency and portability of both units. On the other hand, traditional generators can’t be paired with similar units.

What about the noise? A lot of generators can cause sounds that can upset your neighbors and ruin everyone else’s day. 

If you’ve encountered a generator before, most of the time you remember about it was its noise. If noise is of particular concern, take note of the generator’s decibels as the basis of its noise level. A generator with 50 to 60 decibels is considered the least noisy, but if it roars at 80 decibels, you will need to raise your voice to be heard. Fortunately, more recent generators have encased motors and anti-vibration features, but they carry a hefty price tag.

Luckily, generator manufacturers have improved their products to create quieter generators, especially the portable types. You can better experience quietness from a generator that is portable, partly because they are small and don’t carry lots of working parts inside.

Working with power tools and other related appliances would cause you to move a lot. So, if your concern is mobility, you should get a generator that comes with wheels and handles so that you can carry it around easily. It’s also important to check the weight of the model to make sure that lugging it around won’t feel cumbersome and awkward.

The gas tank should also be a significant factor. Generally, the more powerful the generator is, the more fuel it consumes. Several models last from two to 10 hours. You should also consider the tank capacity and the size guide – usually, the bigger the capacity, the less frequently you have to refill the tank. However, the bigger the tank capacity, the bigger and heavier generator as well, and it can be challenging to move and transport it from one place to another.

Consider including convenience and ease of use as additional factors in buying a generator. Many inexpensive generators feature the good ol’ recoil method, which requires a couple of pulls to start, just like starting a lawn mower. But there are newer generators with an electronic starter which requires only a switch, although they are a lot pricier.

Another thing to consider is the number of outlets a power generator has. Three or more outlets mean you can easily spread the load and make the best use of the generator’s power, though it’s recommended that you use them in extreme pinches like when you’re away for camping or when there’s a big power outage at home.

Power generators for home appliances – choosing the right size

One day, you will need generators to run your home appliances and devices, especially the larger and more essential ones like refrigerators to chill and preserve your food, microwave to reheat your leftovers, or vacuum to clean your room.

If you’re wondering how big a generator you should need, it means you really want to know how much power or total wattage you require when choosing a generator. To help you determine the best generator for home use, it’s best to consult your appliance and systems manuals.

Keep in mind that if an appliance has a motor, calculate the total wattage using the formula:

Running wattage (R) + starting wattage (R x 3) = total wattage required.

With this formula, you will be able to figure out the approximate total wattage requirements with a motor. Once you have figured them out, check out the list of the approximate running wattage of different household appliances and devices:

  • Coffeemaker – 400 to 800
  • Electric oven – 5000 
  • Electric range (one element) – 2500
  • Hair dryer – 1200 to 1500
  • Hot plate – 1250
  • Microwave – 1200
  • Personal computer – 500 to 2000
  • Space heater – 1250
  • Table lamp – 150
  • Television – 100 to 350
  • Toaster – 1110 to 1700
  • Vacuum – 700 to 1400 

Note: The power requirements serve only as general examples and should not be used to calculate specific requirements. It’s best to refer to the user manuals that come with your appliances and devices for power requirements provided by the manufacturer.

Maintaining your power generator – looking for the right generator oil

Like many things, power generators need proper maintenance, too. Keeping them clean and well-maintained ensures their top performance. Whether it is for home or commercial use, you will have to change the generator’s oil. You should maintain a healthy level of oil to get the best out of your generator. However, not all generator oil is good for your machine, so it’s best to seek the advice of professionals who will recommend the right oil for your generator.

Before buying generator oil for your home or commercial use, check if the oil comes with SAE 30. The SAE or Society of Automotive Engineers is a standard development organization for the engineering industry. It rates the oil in terms of viscosity. The oil’s viscosity tells how much it can flow through the components of the generator engine. SAE 30 ratings mean the time taken by the oil to reach one end to the other end of the tube. It means that SAE 30-rated oils travel from one place to another in 30 seconds. 

Other options are also considered, such as single-grade or multi-grade ratings. SAE 30 is an example of a single-grade rating, indicating the weight of oil in warm temperatures. Multi-grading, for example, 10W-30 oil means the same as SAE 30, but the “10” here denotes the viscosity of oil in winter.  

Above all this, change your generator’s oil timely to maintain the performance and health of the generator engine. Keep the unit and air filter clean, along with the engine oil. Most generators need the oil changed in 25 hours because of continuous use. The oil needs to be changed after 50-60 hours of the first change.

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