A portable generator has multiple functions, from charging devices and running appliances during a power outage to providing extra fuel as and when required. These are extra efficient during parties, festivals, camping trips and other similar events. And if you live in an area with frequent power outages, storms and bad weather, then these are a must have equipment.
It might be a valuable purchase and considered a necessary tool, but you need to make sure you’re aware about all the necessary information. Because when used correctly, it can be used as a power source but if not used properly, it can become dangerous as well.
Though these portable generators are probably one of the worthiest investments, you should know some of these facts before buying one for yourself.
Power Output Calculation
This is one of the most misleading pieces of information that you think you know. But you actually don’t. Most of the standard generators produce up to 2000 to 5000 watts of power output. These are not even close enough to power your whole house. And if you’re buying the generator for outdoor trips, make sure to read this guide on electric power sources for camping.
If you just want a generator for keeping your freezer running during power outages, then this might be enough. But not for the entire house’s power consumption. Typically, an average home convenience receptacle provides 1800 watts of continuous power output. This is similar to power used by most powered appliances like a blow dryer or a circular saw. Now that’s about constant wattage or the power required to keep any machine running.
Besides this, there’s also surge power or something called the “startup wattage”. Surge power is the power required to start a power appliance or the power required by a machine to get started. This is typically two to three times higher than the power required for constantly running any device.
Usually, a generator draws that extra power from the reserve power, but it can’t handle the load for a long time without breaking the current circuit. So, while buying a generator it’s essential to know both the continuous power output or the constant wattage, and the start-up wattage or surge power.
Most generators’ engines constantly run at the same frequency of about 60 hertz to maintain the power balance. And a small engine has its limits, it uses all the available power for it to keep working. This further hampers the voltage and frequency regulation while the engine operates at full load.
Small and inexpensive generators also lack other features like proper oil capacity, have short maintenance levels and poor speed control. On the other hand, more efficient and technologically advanced portable inverter generators save extra fuel by adjusting the engine speed to meet the necessary requirements of power output.
Running Time & Fuel Requirement
Many people would think that a fuel tank’s capacity determines how often your generator needs refueling. But it’s not entirely true. Generally, manufactures only list run time at 50% load, so you’d think that it’ll require double the fuel for full load. But that’s not how it works. Any generator requires almost four times the fuel when it’s running at full load.
Additionally, the size of a generator also determines the fuel used. Bigger generators require more fuel just to keep itself running. And if you have a higher load, or your generator is powering multiple devices, it’ll need more fuel.
Ensure to look for a run time specific to your needs. And while you’re at it, also keep in mind that a generator needs at least 15 minutes to cool off before you can refuel it. So keep your generator completely fueled and buy the one with excellent run time if you don’t want to stop that music midway at your house party. And in cases of emergency, or while camping out, you wouldn’t want to lose out on the power capacity.
Nobody can take guarantee of any electronic device at this point of time, but a short warranty period speaks volume about the manufacturer’s trust in their own machine. And if you’re buying the generator for shorter use, or for just your trips, you might not get the chance to use the warranty period at all.
Every good and efficient generator would come with a backup from their manufacture. Typically, one year warranty is a good starting point but some brands extend this period for as much as three years.
These might be obvious to state, but you’re advised to follow every possible safety precaution while operating any electric device. And a generator is no different. If you’re planning to buy a new portable generator or have already bought one, it’s necessary to read all instructions carefully.
You should be aware of all its “grounding’ rules and how you should operate it. Be careful to not exceed the total load limit stated by your manufacturer.
Other than that, make sure you keep the generator in a properly ventilated space, because generators emit carbon monoxide which can result in serious injuries and even death if inhaled for a long period of time. If you’re using the portable generator for camping out, make sure you carry proper extension cords, so you can place the generator away from your camp. A 30 feet distance is a good start, but don’t put your generator in an enclosed space like your tent, house or apartment.
Having a portable generator is truly a bliss when you’re facing power outages or dealing with bad weather. But it’s equally important to properly take precautions while using a machine like that. Though you might think that it’s an expensive investment, you’ll be surprised to know how affordable some of the portable generators actually are. So go and get one suitable for your requirements, after all you wouldn’t want Michael Faraday’s little experiment to go to waste.
Res Marty is an accomplished camper, an ex airline attendant and a fun-loving person. He loves to share his acquired knowledge with the world to help anyone in need. He’s an expert advisor for camping and hiking sprees.