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A Guide to Selecting a Generator

Andre Speransky

The inverter generator is a more recent type of portable generator, which converts DC power into AC energy using an electronic circuit. Instead of staying at the same speed no matter how heavy the load is, it adjusts its engine speed according to load size, resulting in a dramatic reduction in fuel consumption and noise levels.

Types of Generators

What are the different types of generator?

Generators can be classified into three types: portable, inverter, and standby.
1. Portable: A portable generator runs on either gasoline or diesel and can provide temporary electric power. It can power tools, lights and electrical appliances such as refrigerator and television. 

2. Inverter: Inverter generators produce AC power with the help of an engine attached to an alternator. As the engine speed adjusts itself according to how much power is needed, this is considered as a more energy-efficient type of generator. 

3. Standby Generator: This type operates through its automatic transfer switch,  that controls the system to provide power to a device when there is a power outage. This machine uses propane or natural gas as a fuel source and are usually found in elevator safety, stand-by lighting, medical, life support, and fire protection equipment.

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What are the benefits of using an inverter generator?

Inverter generators come with several benefits that conventional portable generators would not provide. Below are a few reasons why inverter generators might be a better option for you:

  • Fuel Efficiency: With an inverter generator, the engine runs only at the speed required by the load. By running at a slower speed, it uses less fuel, and thus is more energy-efficient. 
  • Portability: Inverter generators tend to have a smaller fuel tank, have a lighter weight, and come with carrying handles and sometimes wheels as well.  Since they produce enough power and are so fuel-efficient, they do not need a large fuel tank, making them easy to transport.
  • Noise Level: In general, inverter generators are equipped with a noise-reducing design such as an enclosed casing and mufflers. They also run slower and steadier, which produces less noise. They produce a sound below 60 decibels, which is the volume of a normal conversation. This makes them more convenient to use than conventional generators. 
  • Safety: Inverter generators have a steady frequency and low harmonic distortion which allows them to produce clean and steady electricity supply. These type of generators are thus safe to connect to sensitive electronic devices such as mobile phones, medical equipment, and computers. Moreover, they can have certain appliances directly connected, providing convenience during outdoor activities. 
  • Parallel capability: Inverter generators with parallel capability can be connected to another generator of the same model in order to provide two times the power without requiring an extra transfer switch. As inverter generators become more powerful, they become a viable alternative to conventional backup generators.

Important Features

What to look for when buying a generator?

In order to help you choose the best generator, here are some things to consider:

  • Fuel Capacity: Generator run time is affected by fuel tank size and efficiency. Hence, choose a model that is not just fuel efficient, but also one that holds a decent amount of fuel.  
  • Noise level: Check the decibel levels and ensure the generator muffler is of good quality to prevent unnecessary noise coming out from the machine. Consider choosing the inverter type if you want a noise-reducing generator. Despite being more expensive than most other portable generators, inverter generators are nonetheless considered the quietest generators on the market. 
  • Type of Fuel:  Diesel generators are generally more expensive to buy than petrol generators, however, they have a better fuel economy and a longer running time. Petrol generators, on the other hand, are smaller but offer better value for money.
  • Power Output: The power requirements of most appliances are listed on the label, hence it is recommended to know how much power is needed to run the appliances and electronics in your home. 
  • Features: Most of the generators come with features that make them convenient to use such as the following: 
    • Automatic Start - In the event that the power is turned off, the generator automatically starts without the need for you to manually turn it on. 
    • Electric Start - Many portable models feature push-button start for more convenience rather than pull-starting the engine.
    • Automatic CO Shutoff - A CO sensor located inside a generator automatically shuts off the engine if CO level exceeds a certain limit.
    • Low-Oil Shutoff - In order to prevent engine damage, the generator shuts down if oil falls below a minimum level.
    • Alternative Fuel Capacity - Portable generators mostly run on gasoline only, however there are units that are already featured to run on propane tank or natural-gas.

How to take care of your generator?

Follow these maintenance tips to make your generator run at its best:

  • Oil Change: The oil level should be checked each time the generator is used, and oil changes should be performed after the first twenty hours and every six months after that.
  • Air Filter: Check the air filter before using the generator. Clean the filter every 3 months with warm water and mild detergent, and dry it thoroughly before reinstalling it to the unit. 
  • Spark Plugs: Spark plugs should be adjusted after six months of use and replaced once per year to maintain their performance and high levels of efficiency. 
  • Power Up: It is recommended by the manufacturer to run generators every three months for about 30 minutes to charge the battery for the electric starter.
  • Storage: To extend your generator's life, store it in a cool, dry place and empty the fuel tank after each use.  Cleaning your fuel tank helps ensure that you're running clean fuel, as well as protecting your equipment from corrosion.
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