Generators – FAQs

1. What are the different types of generators?

Three of the most common types of generators are standby generators, portable generators, and inverter generators. As the name suggests, standby generators are permanently installed in a home on standby in case a power outage wreaks havoc on the neighbourhood. These types of generators automatically turn on through an automatic transfer switch (ATS). Power is then fed to a utility feed running multiple appliances at the same time.

Portable generators, also otherwise known as a “backup generator” is manually powered by the owner in case a power outage strikes. Because this generator is relatively smaller than the aforementioned, it can only power selected appliances depending on the generator’s wattage capacity.

Inverter generators which are also portable are the most recent inventions in backup-power-supply technology. These are designed to be compact and lightweight which are perfect for tailgating or camping. But the most striking difference that sets this type apart is the low-level noise compared to standby and portable generators.

Different kinds of generators also run on different fuel types. The most common are gasoline, diesel fuel, propane gas, and natural gas.

2. How many watts do you need in a generator?

Basically, this depends on the users and the types of appliances they want to continue running in the midst of blackouts. There are three simple steps to calculate the correct generator size for your home or business.

Step 1: Jot down all appliances you want to use in the event of a blackout or brownout.

Step 2: Take note of each appliance’s starting wattage and running wattage. You need not memorize these figures because each appliance will vary depending on the manufacturer. But a fail-safe way is to check the sticker on the appliance itself.

Step 3: Add the total starting and running wattage of the appliances and once you get the figure, add a couple more extra wattage and that size should suffice.

3. How much does it cost for a whole house generator?

Like many other varied products for sale, generator prices also differ depending on the brand, size, fuel type, and additional features. Generally speaking, a small 3,000-watt portable generator, which only powers a few selected appliances at home or while camping, may cost you around $300 to $500. A bigger sized generator for home use which has a 10,000-watt capacity may be available around $1,000 to $1,200. If you purchase a more powerful generator for utmost comfort during power outages, a 20,000-watt model will set you back around $5,000. A rule of thumb: The higher the wattage, the higher the price as well.

4. Is a generator AC or DC?

Basically, a generator uses both AC and DC outputs. AC and DC generators yield current through electromagnetic induction. AC generators use a coil with a fixed current flow and a moving magnet. The magnet’s opposite poles result in current flowing in contrasting directions hence, an alternating current.

DC generators, on the other hand, use a coil which rotates in a rigid field. The coil’s ends are attached to a commutator with two halves of a revolving split ring. What the commutator does is balance the flow that goes to and from the generator hence, a one-direction current.

5. How do I choose a generator?

Determine the maximum power your household appliances need by adding up all the starting and running wattage information found on each appliance’s manual or on a sticker located on the piece of equipment. Purchase a generator which has a higher wattage than the total figure you got from all the appliances in your house. There is an upper hand when you give your generator an allowance from the maximum wattage requirement and that’s when new appliances are added in the long run.

Next is to choose the preferred fuel type. The most common and easily accessible type is gasoline. Unfortunately, this type has a shorter shelf life so you might be required to pump it out of the generator every couple of weeks. It is also highly flammable and isn’t ideal in cold temperatures. Diesel is commonly-used in large generators and when operating heavy loads. Compared to gasoline, it has a longer shelf life and it’s economical. However, it emits more environmentally-destructive fumes.

Lastly, propane is a cleaner and safer option than the other two. In terms of affordability, this type is slightly more expensive than gasoline and diesel.

6. How many kilowatts (kW) do I need to run my house?

Although each and every household appliance has different wattage requirements, here’s to give you an idea of how much kilowatts you need from a generator to power several appliances simultaneously.

5 kW: A basic model of generator that can run a few selected “survival appliances” without the extra frills. Some examples are 3 to 4 lights, fans, sump pump, a refrigerator, and freezer.

6.5 kW: A small-sized generator that can power survival appliances and some added frills. Some examples are four lights, furnace fan, sump pump, refrigerator, and freezer, plus a family room.

8 kW: An intermediate-sized generator which will weather through grid-less days. Some examples are four lights, furnace fan, sump pump, refrigerator and freezer, a family room, and a home office.

10 kW: When talking about emergency backup supply, this size should be a perfect size to weather through blackouts for days plus a little luxury. Some examples are four lights, furnace fan, sump pump, refrigerator and freezer, a family room, a home office, and you still get to use the kitchen appliances.

15 kW: A typical small home’s appliances should be handled by this powerful generator. All the appliances mentioned plus the laundry room will give homeowners the comfort during power outages.

25 kW: An extremely powerful generator which can run a mid-sized home or small business. It can power all the appliances mentioned, the family room, home office, laundry room, and the air conditioner.

30 kW: This generator will make everything seem like there was never a blackout or a brownout in the first place. Enjoy total comfort for hours or days on end.

7. Will a 700-watt generator run a refrigerator?

Every appliance needs a starting wattage for firing up plus a running wattage to continuously run. Say for example a refrigerator has a starting wattage of 2,200 plus a running wattage of 700. You do the math. Obviously, a 700-watt generator isn’t enough to power your home refrigerator. You would need a minimum of a 2,200-watt generator to give life to your refrigerator in times of darkness.

8. What is the difference between a generator and an inverter?

The most striking differences between a generator and an inverter are the size and the sound. A generator is relatively bigger in wattage size meaning it’s noisier when it is working. However, inverters are compact and lightweight with quieter engines and mufflers hence, a quieter sound. Both are also powered differently. A generator is powered by different types of fuel such as diesel, propane, or gasoline. On the contrary, an inverter obtains power from a DC source and invert the DC power to AC power.

9. How long can a Generac generator run continuously?

This depends on what type of Generac generator you use. A natural gas generator will run as long as the appliances want it to run. A propane-powered generator will run until the propane supply is depleted. This also depends on the tank size. To give you a better idea, a generator with a 500-gallon tank will run for a week on average. A Generac portable generator, depending on the model, has a runtime of approximately 10 to 15 hours at a 50 percent load.

10. Does a whole house generator add value to your home?

A whole house generator is an added luxury when you sell your house. Because power outages are ubiquitous everywhere, a generator is a must-have in every household. A standby generator not only adds value to your home but also gives you a great return on investment.

11. What is the basic principle of a generator?

The basic principle of a generator is based on electromagnetic induction. Generators use this induction to convert mechanical energy, from an external source, into electrical energy which in turn, powers all electrical equipment.

12. Can a generator get wet?

A generator has many sensitive components. As with any other electronic gadgets, moisture and water will most likely damage your generator when they penetrate the electronic components, engine, and outlets. The best way to make your generator last for a long time is to always protect it with an enclosure especially in areas with torrential conditions.

If in the event of water penetration or moisture build-up, you might need to do a cleanup or simply call an expert for advice before tinkering with the engine or parts.

13. Can you run a generator in the rain?

There is a reason why manufacturers include a warning advice on their manuals. It is strictly prohibited to run a generator in the rain as it might go into the electronic components or worse create a powerful voltage that might cause electrocution. This, not only harms you but also damages your generator. More often than not, rain and snow are inevitable, especially in some locations. There are two things you can do to circumvent damage; one is to purchase a durable cover or build an enclosure to protect your generator.

14. Can you put gas in a generator while it’s running?

No. Unless you enjoy arson, refueling a generator while it’s running is definitely a no-no. Gasoline spilled on a hot engine will most likely ignite and lead to fires. There have been a couple of generator fire accidents in the past; let’s not add up to that number. It’s also a smart idea to strap on an LED headlight to make sure you’re not filling the tank up to the brim.

15. How long does it take to change the oil in a generator?

Generally, new generators will need their oil-change fix after the first 25 hours of usage. After that, if your generator is working overtime, a full oil change after its 100th-hour usage is essential. There are four simple and easy steps to change the oil in your generator:

Step 1: Make sure the generator is on level ground.

Step 2: Put the oil pan underneath the generator’s oil compartment. Using a ratchet set, remove the drain nut below the oil container.

Step 3: Drain for five minutes until there’s not a drop of oil present from the oil compartment.

Step 4: Remove the engine’s oil cap. Using a funnel, pour the oil slowly but surely into the oil container.

16. What is the best oil for a generator?

Manuals are extremely useful when purchasing a new generator. Make sure you check the generator’s manual for any recommendation about what type of oil to use. Generally speaking, the viscosity, or the thickness of an oil, will depend on the temperature. In areas with surpassingly colder temperatures, an oil with a lower viscosity is required. On the flip side, in areas with immensely hot temperatures, an oil with a higher viscosity is suitable.

If it’s above 32 degrees Fahrenheit, choose the SAE 30. When it’s below 40 degrees Fahrenheit to -10 degrees Fahrenheit, pick the 10W-30. The synthetic 5W-30 is a versatile oil which is suitable for all types of temperatures.

17. Can you clean a foam air filter?

Behind every powerful engine is a fully-functional air filter. Although it is recommended to replace the air filter especially when it’s brittle, cleaning foam filters which are in good condition is also a good idea to prolong your generator’s lifespan. To do this, you can wash the filter with lathered soap and gently dry with a clean cloth.

18. How does a generator work?

Generators are powerful machines that benefit home and business owners in the advent of power outages. These generators don’t actually create electricity but they, instead, change mechanical or chemical energy into electrical energy. Electrons are rammed into an electrical circuit which then powers the generator’s electrical motor. This electrical current travels through copper wires which in turn, powers electrical systems.