Backup Generator 101: Safe Set Up, How to & Troubleshooting

Power blackouts especially during winter can be devastating. Not only do you have to contend with damaged frozen and refrigerated food. You may also have no source of heat if your heating is electric powered.

And while you may still be able to get through the blackout using other power sources, such as battery-powered flashlights and a wooden stove, nothing beats having a generator as a backup source of power. This is because it can do everything you would have done with electricity.

Keep reading to learn how to pick the best generator for your needs, how to use it, and how to troubleshoot it when it malfunctions.

What size of a backup generator should I get?

The best way to determine which size generator you need is to add up the wattages of everything you want to power during an outage. It is important to note that some appliances such as air conditioners, refrigerators, and sump pumps, draw a lot more wattage when they’re turning on or power cycling. These surges can throw off your calculations if you don’t account for them.

How to Size A Generator

  • Step 1: Form a list of all items that will be powered.
  • Step 2: Determine the starting wattage (energy needed to turn it on) and running wattage (energy needed to operate it) for each piece of equipment.
  • Step 3: Calculate your total power requirement by adding up these kW or KVA figures.

Note: The wattage is typically inscribed somewhere on the equipment itself, as well as recorded in the owner’s manual.

For equipment rated in amperes, you can convert amps to watts with the following formula:

  • For resistive loads (most common type): Wattage = amperes x volts
  • For reactive loads: Wattage = amperes x volts x load factor

The load factor is the ratio of your electric energy use in kilowatt-hours to your peak demand in kilowatts. You can calculate it by consulting your utility bill for data and using it in the following formula:

Total kWh for the previous month / (your peak demand for the period x 30 days x 24 hours)

Below is a list of starting and running wattage figures for some common tools and electronics:

ApplianceStarting Load (W)    Running Load (W)
Air compressor40002000
Printer500500
Air conditioner22001500
Dishwasher14501400
LCD TV230230
Router1500600
Laptop250250
Water heater45004500

Once you determine the estimated wattage needed, the generator size is easier to choose. Choose a generator with a capacity that’s 10-20% larger than your requirement. This will give you leeway should you need to power more appliances.

The extra power also helps to manage “de-rating,” or under performance of the generator compared to its manufacturer-claimed abilities due to adverse operating conditions, such as extreme temperatures or high altitudes.

How to Choose a Generator Without the Math

You can also choose the right size generator for your home by considering how often you’re likely to need it. You can base this off of power-outage scenarios. You can use the scenarios below to guestimate your generator needs.

Frequent Power Outages

These type of outage tends to be prolonged especially if you live in an area prone to severe weather events, such as blizzards, ice storms, and hurricanes.

Generator Types to Consider

  • Home standby
  • Large inverter
  • Portable

These generator types have enough juice to power your entire household. They can connect also directly to your home’s circuit breaker panel, allowing you to control and run appliances that are hardwired. This include; central heat and air conditioning, well pumps, sump pumps, electric ranges, and water heaters.

Occasional Outages

These outages are short-lived but they can be outlasted with a little help.

Generator Types to Consider

  • Large inverter
  • Portable

Rare Power Outage

Your only need in this instance is if you want a generator for some peace of mind.

Generator Types to Consider

  • Midsized inverter
  • Recreational inverter

Midsized inverter generators have ample power to run a fridge and a window AC or space heater, as you can see in our interactive tool. Recreational inverters are compact enough to toss into the back of a pickup to power a TV and cooktop at a tailgate.

Why It’s Crucial to Choose the Right Generator Size

It may be tempting to skimp on the size of your generator, but it is a recipe for disaster.

Not only can you damage the appliances and devices pulling power from the generator, you can harm the generator itself. Here are some more benefits of erring on the side of a generator that’s too powerful, as opposed to one that is too weak:

  • Increased usable life of the generator
  • Consistent production performance
  • Limited incidence of capacity overloads
  • Limited incidence of unexpected system failures
  • Reduced likelihood of asset damage
  • Increased personnel safety
  • Decreased risk of overheating and electrical fires
  • Reduction in frequency and cost of maintenance
  • Increased ease and speed of maintenance

How to hook up a generator to a house

It is not advisable to use an extension cord to plug your generator straight into the main socket panel. The power created by a generator is too high and it can cause a high risk of damage and overload to your circuit and the local electrical grid.

Additionally, if you do this without disconnecting your main breaker from the circuit, it could electrocute anyone working on power lines nearby, risking their lives. It is also ar fire hazard, an electrical code violation, and illegal action in most states.

Follow the steps below to connect the generator to your house;

Determine Generator Plug Type and Amperage

The first major task when you are hooking up a generator to your breaker box panel is to work out what you are dealing with and what you will want to use to get things set up. You are going to need to know the amperage and the plug type of your generator power system.

If you have got a generator with a big round power plug, that provides 220V of power and will power both sides of your breaker box. The most common types are the 20 amp Nema L 14 20, the 30 amp Nema L 14 30, and the 50 amp Nema CS6365.

Buy The Necessary Tools and Parts

To safely attach your generator to your home breaker, you will need to have the right selection of tools to use for this. The first and most important element is a transfer switch, or a breaker interlock kit.

You’ll also need a 2 pole double breaker with the same amperage as your generator. Ensure you get one that fits your specific breaker box, and is UL rated for safety and reliability. Additionally, a power inlet box that matches the amperage of the rest of your gear is also important. Ensure that the circuit uses the same level of amperage and power.

Lastly, you will need are at least 10 feet of 10-gauge electrical wire, a sturdy conduit body, waterproof conduit glue, and an extension cord (or extension cords) that corresponds to the main amperage of the rest of your circuit.

Drill Access Holes

You need to drill an access hole on your exterior wall for this sort of project. Use a powerful drill such as a hammer drill to do the job. Try to get the conduit access hole as close to the main panel as you can. This will make the hook up process easier.

Mount your Power Inlet Box to the Wall

Start by taking the front cover off your power inlet box. Remove one of the knock out points and attach the PVC fitting. If there are any gaps, use waterproof glue to seal everything up close. Then, once you have done that, you can mount the whole box to the wall using standard tapcon connectors.

Set up the Conduit

Use a hacksaw to cut your conduit to the right length. It will need to stretch from the inlet box to the access hole without any gaps. Take your time here, and make sure you get your measurements right.

Don’t use any glue on it until you are certain that it will fit. Once you cut the conduit tube to the right length, you can use glue to attach it properly to your main wall.

Wire up the Generator Inlet Plug

  • After the glue has dried completely, you can start to work on the wiring to transmit power.
  • Remove the cover from the main body of the conduit.
  • Then pull the wires through the conduit one at a time, attaching each one to the plug as you go rather than letting them all get tangled up at the end.
  • Remove a little less than an inch of insulation from the end of each wire in order to fasten them properly.
  • Attach them then use a larger flat screwdriver to tighten up all the terminals.
  • Push the wires out the other end through the conduit and into the house, one at a time.
  • Replace the cover on the conduit body, making sure that the gasket fits the panel properly.
  • Use silicone or expanding foam to fill any gaps between the conduit and the wall.

Note: The wires attach as follows:

  • The green wire is the ground wire and attaches to the main power inlet box.
  • The white wire is the common wire and attaches to the W terminal.
  • The black and red wires are load wires and attach to the X and Y terminals.

Prepare the Circuit Breaker Box for Power Wires

Start by turning off all of the branch circuit breakers as well as the main power breaker. Then, take out the four screws holding the front panel onto the breaker box. Remove one of the knockout panel parts and screw in a conduit adapter, making sure it fits tightly. Then, simply pull the wires through the conduit and into the breaker box itself. If you are using an interlock, then you will need some space in the upper right corner of the breaker panel.

You will probably need to move one or two breakers down the main panel a bit – hopefully you will have enough loose wire for this, but if you don’t, then you can use a short piece of insulated wire as a sort of small extension cord.

Ensure you don’t attach copper and aluminum wires to one another, as they can corrode over time. You will need a wire splice to do this safely!

Install the Wires and the Generator Power Breaker

Install your new circuit breaker or transfer switch in the top right corner. Attach the red wire to one terminal on the breaker or transfer switch and the black wire to the other terminal.

The white wire attaches to the common bond rail in the circuit breaker box, and the green wire attaches to the matching ground rail. Use a retaining bracket to make sure the breaker can’t come loose. There should be a visible retaining bolt somewhere in the box that you can use to attach the retaining bracket.

Once you have closed everything up and checked that your generator is properly connected, you will be ready to power everything up and get moving again!

How To Hook Up A Portable Generator To A House

Portable generators are actually quite easy to wire up to your house. If you are planning to use a portable generator to power a house, then you will need to make sure you have got a transfer switch and a gen cord available.  A gen cord is essentially a special extension cord designed to be used for a generator. Don’t try to use a standard extension cord for a portable generator transfer switch installation!  All you need to do is to plug one end of your gen cord into the portable generator itself, and the other one into the transfer switch.

Then, start the portable generator. Once you have got the generator running, turn your attention to the transfer switch. You will need to flip every main breaker in the switch from the setting marked “line” to the option marked “generator.” Then, activate each circuit you want to power up, and you will be ready to get your appliances up and running.

How to Turn On a Standby Generator Automatically After a Blackout

In order to do this, you will need to use a transfer switch when connecting the generator to your house. As the name suggests, the switch signals the generator to start producing power when power goes out.

How Does a Generator Transfer Switch Work?

A transfer switch is a permanent switch that connects to your power box that changes the power load between two sources. For permanent sources of backup power, this happens automatically when the first source of power becomes unavailable.

The transfer switch helps to seamlessly keeps the energy flowing with minimal delay. When utility power is interrupted, the automatic transfer switch immediately senses the problem and signals the generator to start.

Once the generator is running at proper speed, the automatic transfer switch safely shuts off the utility line and simultaneously opens the generator power line from the generator.

When the automatic transfer switch senses the utility line voltage has returned at a steady state, it re-transfers the electrical load back to the utility line and resumes monitoring for subsequent utility loss. The generator will continue to run for an engine cool-down period of several minutes while the entire system stands ready for the next power outage.

Is A Transfer Switch Mandatory?

If your generator is above 5,000 watts, you will always need a transfer switch for safety reasons and ease of use. This is important to remember, as the level of power being produced requires the use of a regulator to help keep surges and backfeeding the grid from happening.

Standby generators for homes and businesses almost always need one. Since they are always waiting for when the power goes down, it is important to have this extra piece of equipment to keep the power flowing without downtime. However, portable generators don’t strictly need a transfer switch.

Types of Transfer Switches

There are two different types of transfer switches, automatic and manual.

  1. An automatic transfer switch seamlessly routes power from the main source to the backup source when needed. It’s always there, ready to switch the power over to the generator when it needs to.
  2. Manual switches require a human to flip a small lever and turn them on, hence the name. Portable generators typically need a manual switch, as they aren’t plugged in at all times. Permanently installed standby generators can vary between needing a manual or automatic, but the automatic is usually the most convenient option.

How Much Does A Transfer Switch Cost?

The price for a transfer switch varies depending on the type of switch and the size of the generator. Most manual switches are less expensive than the automatic ones, for obvious reasons.

A manual transfer switch will cost somewhere in the region of $300-$500. While an automatic transfer switch costs between $400-$800 range.

Can I Connect a Generator to the House Without a Transfer Switch?

Yes. the main purpose of the transfer switch is convenience of switching from grid power to generator power. However, going without a transfer switch can jeopardize the safety of your family or even workers employed by the electric company.

The main risk is backfeeding the grid. When using your generator without a transfer switch and the main power source comes on, there are then two currents feeding your home. This surge can cause problems in the line, which may put utility workers at risk. It can also cause fires in your home or business.

How to Connect a Generator to The House Without a Transfer Switch

Follow the steps below to connect the generator to the house without using a transfer switch.

Tools Needed

  • Double outlet receptacle kit for a clean electrical connection
  • Three prong round plug and wire for connecting the power inlet box to portable generator
  • Power consumption watt tester for reading the wattage produced by your portable generator
  • Extension cord for connecting the power inlet inside to the generator
  • Hand drill for making a hole in the wall
  • Oscillating tools to cut out drywall
  • Philip screw for fixing the receptacle
  • Safety gear for additional safety since you are working with power tools
  • Metal waterproof box for keeping line safe from any possible damage
  • Sealant for making a solid waterproof installation
  • Generator set for backup electricity

How to Connect a Generator Without Needing Any Transfer Switch

Create a Place for the Outlet Utility Box

Create a place for the generator outlet in your preferred location. To do this, create a rectangular hole that fits your outlet on the wall using your oscillating tool for wood and drywall. If you have a concrete cement wall, you can also use your drill.

Drill a Hole for Running Your Generator Cables to the Outlet

Using your drill, make a hole to run your wires from the outside of your house. Ensure that it is bigger than the expected diameter of your wires. This way, you can prevent damaging the electrical wires when installing them inside your outlet kit.

Install the Waterproof Box Outside Your Wall

On the outside wall, install your waterproof box. This box is to protect your end plug from any possible damage. You can use any safety box like this Sigma Electric Box for covering the end plug. However, you may need to find a larger safety box that will fit your wires.

Connect the Wire to the Outlet

To connect the wires to your outlet kit, insert the other end of the wires with a plug outside your house. After inserting the line, you can now assemble the outlet kit inside.

When you assemble the outlet and the wire, you can seal the exterior and interior hole with a sealant. You need this for waterproofing your installation.

Connect Generator to Outlet and Test it

To test this plug type connection, turn on your generator power, hook the inlet plug, and connect the extension into the generator inlet plug. Connect your power consumption tester and attach some appliances with a power rating that’s compatible with your generator to read how many watts your generator produces.

How to Ground a Portable Generator

Portable generators give you the freedom of electricity on the go. That means you can take the comforts of home with you camping, electrify outdoor events, power tools at a remote worksite, and more.

While portable generators are relatively safe compared to other motor-driven tools, there are still some important safety considerations to keep in mind if you want to ground a generator.

Tools and Equipment Needed To Ground Your Generator

You’ll need to have the following equipment on hand to ground your generator:

  • Copper Grounding Rod – A copper grounding rod is designed to be driven into the ground, where any electrical current can be safely dissipated. For most portable generators, you’ll need a copper rod that is at least four feet in length, although a longer rod can make driving it deeper into the ground easier.
  • Copper Grounding Wire – Copper grounding wire will be used to connect the grounding bolt on your generator to the grounding rod. The amount of wire that you need will depend on the distance between your generator and your buried rod. Be sure to give yourself some extra wire since this can make driving the rod into the ground easier.
  • Wire Strippers, Pliers, and Wrench – These tools will be used to strip the copper grounding wire and to connect it to the grounding rod and your generator’s grounding bolt.
  • Hammer or Mallet – You’ll need a heavy, blunt object to drive the copper grounding wire into the ground. Depending on the terrain, a shovel or spike may also come in handy.

Grounding Steps

Step 1: Hammer the Copper Grounding Rod into the Ground

The copper rod should be hammered into the ground or buried at least 8 feet deep. This depth ensures that any electrical discharge from the grounding rod won’t electrocute people standing on the surface. If you are in rocky or difficult terrain, the rod can be hammered in at an angle of up to 45 degrees.

Step 2: Connect Copper Wire to Grounding Rod

Use your wire strippers to strip out about six to 12 inches of insulation off one end of the copper wire. Then wrap this around the top of the grounding rod, using your pliers to make sure it is wound tightly around the rod.

Step 3: Connect the Generator to the Grounding Rod

You can connect your generator to the grounding rod using the other end of your copper wire. The generator should be turned off when you do this.

Locate the grounding bolt on your generator and loosen the nut slightly. Strip the end of the copper wire one to two inches and then wrap it around the grounding bolt with your pliers. When done, tighten the nut to ensure the wire remains firmly in place.

Do You Need to Ground Your Portable Generator?

Yes. All portable generators need to be grounded in order to be safe. But, whether you need to do anything special to ground your generator depends on how it was designed.

Most modern portable generators are designed such that the metal frame around the generator acts as the path of least electrical resistance. In this case, the engine, fuel tank, and generator housing are all bonded to the frame, so that any electricity flowing through the generator outside of the wiring is grounded by the frame.

The easiest way to tell if your generator needs to be grounded is to check your owner’s manual. The manufacturer should provide extremely clear instructions on whether or not your generator needs to be grounded.

Grounding your portable generator can be fast and simple once you have the right tools on hand. Once it’s grounded, you can operate your generator without worrying about potential electrocution in the event of an electrical failure.

How Long Should My Generator Grounding Rod Be?

The grounding rod should be at least 8-feet long. You can also use a 4-foot rod when camping, but 8 feet is standard for home installations.

Do I Need to Ground My Generator When Camping?

It depends on the types of generator. Most modern generators do not require grounding. However, some older generators may still need to be grounded before use. The simplest way to find out if your generator needs to be grounded or not is to consult the generator’s manual provided by the manufacturer.

It is not always necessary to ground your generator. Most manufacturers bond the components to the generator’s frame which acts as a ground wire for you. You will need to ground the generator if you are plugging it into a wired circuit system or if you want to plug electrical appliances directly into the generator.

How Long Can You Run a Generator Continuously?

On average, you can expect a gasoline-powered portable generator to run about 7.5 to 12 hours continuously. A propane-powered portable generator to run for up to 8 days if continually refueled. And a standby natural gas generator to run continuously for up to 3 weeks.

If managed well, a propane generator can run continuously between 150 and 200 hours. The exact period varies on generator use and size. Additionally, external factors could change how long it is safe for you to run your portable generator.

Check this too: What Size Generator Do I Need for My RV?

Types of Generators and their pros and cons

There are three main categories of generators: portable, inverter and standby. Despite their differences, all these generators should undergo similar generator maintenance to ensure long-term usability, and similar safety precautions should be taken to reduce the hazards posed by their operation.

Portable Generator

A portable generator is powered by gas or diesel fuel and can provide temporary electrical power. These are mainly powered by gas or diesel and are an excellent option for producing temporary electrical power.

Some of their key characteristics include the use of a combustion engine that helps produce and conduct electricity. They can also be used in remote sites and have enough power to run televisions, freezers, and refrigerators.

The engine in portable generators turns a small turbine, which then creates a certain amount of usable electricity. There are two ways to use a portable generator.

  • Firstly, it can be professionally wired into the sub-panel of a home.
  • Secondly, you can plug all your tools or any electrical appliances directly the power sockets of the generator.

Portable Power Supply generators have a great many uses, and they are mainly used by construction teams on remote sites in order to give power to the tools and lights.

Many businesses and house residents also use portable generators when they are left without power for a short amount of time. They majorly use these generators to keep the vital appliances powered and running, for instance, refrigerators, phones, lights, etc.

Pros

  • They are the cheapest option available and are easy on the pocket.
  • They work really well when there is a lack of access to other power sources.

Cons

  • They require a considerable amount of protection from the weather and its changes.
  • They cannot be operated inside a home or a garage.

Inverter Generator

An inverter generator uses an engine connected to an alternator to produce AC power. It also uses a rectifier unlike other generators to convert the AC power into DC power. These generators use an engine that is connected to an alternator, as a result of which, it produces AC (alternating current) power. This AC power is then converted into DC (direct current) power by these generators with the help of a rectifier.

As compared to the conventional generators, inverter generators offer many advantages to its users. They are exceptionally quiet and hardly produce any noise during operation.

Inverters are 20 percent more fuel efficient, and they produce the kind of electricity that is safe to use for sensitive electronic gadgets and equipment like smartphones and laptops.

Some key characteristics of inverter generators include the use of high tech magnets and advanced electronic circuitry. These generators go through three key phases in order to produce electricity. Firstly, they output the AC after which they convert it to DC, and lastly, they invert it back to AC.

A great feature of inverter generators is that the speed of their engine adjusts itself according to the amount of power that needs to be used. This makes it extremely energy efficient – even more than the other types of generators.

Pros

  • They run longer, quieter, and display maximum performance.
  • They produce low emissions and don’t need to be refilled as often.

Cons

  • They carry a heavy price tag as compared to a portable generator.
  • They are not powerful enough to power heavy-duty machinery, tools, or even big homes.

Standby Generator

A standby generator is an electrical system that operates with an automatic transfer switch that commands it to power a device up during power loss. Also known as “backup generators” or “emergency power systems,” standby generators are an electrical system that operates automatically.

These generators may run on diesel or gas, and they have a large external tank that lasts them for at least 48 hours before the need arises to refuel them. Standby generators have a robust commercial engine that is attached on a skid.

The skid has a radiator, a large alternator, and an onboard fuel tank. A standby generator has an automatic transfer switch that allows it to power a device when there is a loss of power or when the electricity goes out.

Some key characteristics of standby generators include; automatic operation, delivery of permanent power protection, and the use of an internal combustion engine. They have two key components, which are a standby generator and an automatic transfer switch.

These generators have the ability to sense or detect power loss within a matter of only a few seconds, and they respond almost immediately so that the whole duration of power loss is actually very brief.

Standby generators are used for safety systems in elevators, fire protection systems, standby lighting, and life and medical support equipment.

Pros

  • They ensure seamless switching between systems, which means that you don’t have anything to worry about when the power goes out.
  • They guarantee a continuous flow of power, which is very useful when you need a permanent fix for power shortage.

Cons

  • They can be really costly, especially when you need one to run your entire
  • They need thorough and regular maintenance- without which, the engine can malfunction.

Types of Generators Based On Fuel Source

These are the main types of generators. Each of them has their own unique and specific features, qualities, uses, advantage, and disadvantages.

Diesel Generators

Diesel generators run using diesel fuel which is one of the least flammable of all the fuel sources. This generator uses a combination of a diesel engine with an electric generator in order to produce electrical energy.

Although most diesel-compression ignition engines are primarily designed in a way that they best run on diesel fuel, there are some types that work really well with natural gas or other liquid fuels.

Diesel generators are best known for their increased durability, lower maintenance levels, and incredibly long life. Since diesel fuel burns much cooler as compared to gasoline, it greatly reduces the heat and the excessive burden on the engine.

These generators are also super-efficient and have a higher energy density in terms of producing power that is lower in cost. One of the best things about diesel generators is that they are highly affordable to operate. As long as they are well-kept and properly maintained, they are likely to last for a long time even under rigorous and heavy use.

Pros

  • They are highly durable and have a long life.
  • They are really easy to start, even in cold environments.

Cons

  • They release emissions which are a threat to the environment.
  • They are not well suited to wet environments because of moisture in the fuel main ruins the engine.

Natural Gas Generators

This is one of the most efficient and widely used means of generating power and electricity. Natural gas generators work in a very similar fashion to other types of generators. They use either liquefied petroleum gas or propane to produce energy. The best thing about natural gas is that it can be stored very easily in above or below ground tanks, which makes these generators highly durable.

Natural gas is one resource that is readily available which, in other words, suggests a virtually endless supply. These generators hardly ever run out of fuel primarily because natural gas lines are basically run to the site of the operation.

Some of the major reasons contributing to the popularity of natural gas generators include how inexpensive the gas is as compared to other non-renewable fuels, how clean it is – it is easily one of the cleanest fossil fuels when burnt. Apart from being cheap and clean, natural gas generators significantly reduce costs when they are used as power sources in households. The main reason behind this is that when you use electricity from the main utility source, it doesn’t leave you with a hole in your pocket

Pros

  • They run very quietly and cause very little disturbance.
  • They burn cleanly without producing a lot of waste.

Cons

  • They are not as long lasting as diesel generators.
  • They have high installation costs due to their connection to running gas lines.

Gasoline Generators

Also called ‘gas generators,’ these are probably the most common among all types of generators. The main reason behind their commonness and popularity is that they are powered with the help of gas, and gasoline is always readily available. These generators are also towards the more reasonable end of the price spectrum, which places them at the low-end of the cost scale. There is a downside to it, though, which is that gasoline may not be available during electricity and power shortages because it’s acquired with the help of electricity.

These generators are usually available in small sizes, which make them highly portable. Portability is, after all, their distinct advantage over other types of generators. Their small size also makes them really compact. Depending on their power output, you can easily move gasoline generators around according to your needs and requirements.

Some key uses of gas generators include for home use, campsite, on job and work sites and various other purposes. Their cheap price tags also make them the common and most preferred type of generator in different construction jobs. On the downside, gas generators tend to be really loud, and they produce a very disturbing kind of noise. Also, if you use their portability feature too much, they will require high and almost regular maintenance if they are to last long and show increased durability.

Gasoline generators are the best choice if you don’t require a lot of power. If, however, you need to install one in your home, it is best to go for a standby gasoline generator. They have the potential to provide a high output, and they also produce really less noise and gas pollution.

Pros

  • They are very easy on the pocket.
  • They are extremely portable, which means you can easily move them around as per your needs.

Cons

  • They produce relatively high emissions.
  • They create a lot of unwanted noise and annoying sounds.
  • They don’t start well and effectively in colder temperatures.

Dual Fuel Generators

These types of generators have a lot to offer as backup generators or as a power source for camping, caravans, and RVs. Dual fuel generators can accept two kinds of power – such as LPG and diesel. These generators are convenient since you can use them with whatever fuel is on hand, however, the power output will usually vary depending on the fuel used. For example, LPG has a lower starting power and overall wattage than natural gas.

Solar Generators

These generators are extremely interesting, considering how they use the radiating energy of the sun for power. Solar power is undeniably one of the simplest forms of energy that can be found around us. Solar generators primarily work by using solar panels to help capture the energy from the sun. This energy is then used to charge a battery in the generator. The charge stored in this battery is then used to produce electricity.

Since most appliances in today’s time use alternating current, the inverter in the solar generator first changes the power into this type of current before its full extraction.

Check this too: Can a Solar Generator Power a House?

Solar generators have three key parts; the batteries, the inverter, and the charge controller. All these components together work towards transforming solar energy into electrical energy.

Once the solar generator is fully activated, it gains energy from solar panels that, in turn, derive energy from the sun. After that, you can use that energy to power anything you want.

The one important thing to know about solar generators is the amount of time they require to fully charge. A full recharge for these generators is almost eight hours of direct sunlight.

Pros

  • They are quiet and don’t produce any disturbing noise.
  • They are excellent for minimal electrical requirements.

Cons

  • They are very slow in terms of charging their batteries to their full capacity.
  • They are really expensive when compared to fuel powered generators.

How much propane does a generator use?

On average, generators use between two and three pounds of propane per hour. Depending on the kilowatt use, a 100-pound tank fueling a 3-kW generator can run an average of 96 hours, a 7-kW generator can run an average of 66 hours, or a 12-kW generator for 36 hours.

What is a Tri Fuel Conversion kit?

The Tri Fuel Conversion is High Pressure Propane, Low Pressure Propane, Natural Gas and the gasoline carburetor which will not be modified, no drilling of the carburetor is required.

The Tri-Kit includes a fitting to fit a 20 lb cylinder, the high pressure regulator, 6′ supply line, Generic Version Garretson KN Fuel Controller, the hoses and fittings to go from the KN to the adapter, longer studs or stud extenders, and the load block for adjusting the air fuel mixture.

The Tri-fuel kit allows you to run on natural gas or propane from a portable propane tank. The Tri-Fuel Regulator Kit allows your generator to run on gasoline, propane or natural gas.

How to Charge a Battery With a Generator

  1. Check the fluid levels in the generator and replenish if low.
  2. Connect the red positive wire from the battery charger to the positive terminal of the battery.
  3. Connect the black negative wire from the battery charger to the negative terminal of the battery.
  4. Verify that the battery charger is turned off.
  5. Start the generator by pulling the start cord or using the starter switch.
  6. Once the generator starts wait a minute or two for the engine speed and voltage to stabilize.
  7. Wait for the speed and voltage to stabilize as it prevents voltage spikes from damaging equipment connected to the generator.
  8. Plug the battery charger into the 110-120 volt AC outlet on the generator.
  9. Turn the battery charger to the “on” position.
  10. The battery charger and generator should be charging the battery.

What kind of oil does a generator use?

The most common oil used with 4-stroke engines found in generators, lawnmowers, and other related equipment is SAE 30. You can also use synthetic variations such as SAE 5W-30 and SAE 10W-30.

How to extend your generator exhaust

A generator exhaust extension bolts to your generator’s exhaust and allows your exhaust fumes to be routed outside of your working area.

1. Find the Diameter of Your Generator’s Exhaust

To ensure that you are going to have a secure connection from your exhaust extension to your exhaust, you will need to measure the diameter of the portable generator’s exhaust.

You can use a ruler or tape measure to measure across the exhaust tip and add about ¼” to ensure a slip fit from your extension to fit over. You will secure it with a clamp later.

2. Determine the Length of Extension You Will Need

Measure the amount of extension needed in order to properly extend your exhaust to a more ventilated area. Figure out the longest length you could need and buy accordingly.

3. Find Exhaust Flex Tubing to Fit Your Dimensions

For your portable generator’s exhaust, you will want “flex tube.” This is better as it is made to be flexible for easy routing.

You will need to find a flex tube that fits your needs for fitting over the exhaust pipe and reaching to a vented area.

4. Get the Correct Size Clamp to Secure the Flex Pipe

To properly secure the flex pipe to the exhaust, you are going to need a pipe clamp that is made to fit your diameter of piping. Pipe clamps can be found in all diameters to suit your application.

Most pipe clamps require a simple socket to tighten, so be sure to have one on hand. Hose clamps can be used if your pipe allows it, but a pipe clamp will be your best bet with flex tubing.

5. Secure the Flex Pipe to the Exhaust Pipe

Now that you have your flex pipe and clamp, you can place the clamp onto the flex pipe and the flex pipe over the exhaust pipe. Tighten the clamp down firmly to make a leak-free connection, but be sure not to damage the exhaust pipe.

You should be able to move the pipe around easily without the clamp moving. If it becomes loose, reposition and tighten it again.

6. Route the Flex Pipe to a Well-Ventilated Area

Now that your portable generator’s exhaust extension is installed, you can route the extension to a well-vented area. This can be outside of a window, under a garage, or any other area that allows you to position your extension to properly vent your exhaust.

You will want to avoid letting your pipe make its way back into your area, so securing it will also help make sure it stays in place and exhaust fumes are not entering your workspace.

7. Disassemble Your Exhaust Extension

When you are finished using your generator, disassemble your exhaust extension for proper storage to prevent damage. Leaving your extension on your generator will not only make storage difficult, but it will also increase the chances of damaging your newly built extension.

Unbolt the exhaust extension at the generator exhaust pipe and properly store your extension with your generator or generator accessories.

How to Secure Your Generator from Theft

The key to proper theft protection is using a variety of methods that work to reduce the risks to your location and the generator itself. The following steps can help you get started;

Generator Placement

Don’t store your new generator in a trailer or outdoors when it first arrives at your location. It’s important for it to arrive and to be put in place, with security measures ready, immediately. Many times, a generator left in a trailer just makes it easier for thieves to steal it.

Add Lighting Throughout the Space

Thieves have no interest in targeting areas that put them at risk. Lights can be an easy deterrent then. Place ample lighting (fixed lighting) around the generator. Some of today’s modern security cameras have built-in spotlight cameras. These can work very well to minimize some of the threat just by using the lights alone.

Fence It In

Fencing in your outdoor generator is always advisable both for liability reasons and to minimize theft. While a basic fencing system is a good start, the more valuable and essential your generator is, the more important it is for you to choose more advanced options.

Use A Storage Box

A storage box works well to provide ample protection. A variety of companies offer these specially designed boxes to help protect the generator from common risks including theft. Storage boxes can protect against threats such as vandalism, damage, and theft. Many times, these well-designed boxes can also work to lower your insurance premiums.

Use Alarm Systems

Installing an alarm system of any type can be an important investment. A variety of options exist from a CCTV system to a full-scale alarm system with remote monitoring. It can be an expensive option from a standalone perspective, but if you already have a security system in place, consider tying in your generator area to it.

Block Access to the Generator

Make it hard for people to gain access to the generator. Large generators can only be stolen from a site with a vehicle. You can block it in using other pieces of heavy machinery. Remember to follow all requirements from your manufacturer for proper airflow, this allows you to control more of the access.

Remove The Wheels

Yet another seemingly simple solution is very effective. Lots of work sites use trailer-mounted generators, especially rental generators, when the equipment is required for a brief time. Yet trailers make removing the equipment a far easier exercise.

By getting rid of the wheels on your generator, and putting the unit on wooden blocks instead, you make it far harder for the thief to move the device, creating ample security.

How to Make Your Generator Quieter

Generators are powered by an automotive engine made of a thick and heavy material. Coupled with a pressurized high volume oil system, generators tend to produce a lot of noise when in use.

Here are some tips and tricks to help you make your generator quieter;

Build a Generator Quiet Enclosure

Building a quiet generator box is one of the best ways to help make your generator quieter.

Buy a Soundproof Enclosures

A soundproof enclosure such as the Zombie Box Generator Enclosure will make your generator much quieter when using your generator while on a camping trip. The box is collapsible for easy storage.

Set the Generator Away from Your Home

We all know that the farther you are from the source of noise the less you will hear it; So use the same common sense approach with a noisy generator. Distancing yourself from the generator is easier if you live in a rural area. The homes are not as close to one another as they are in an urban subdivision.

Use a Sound Absorbing Mat

Place the generator on top of a thick piece of sound absorbing mat so the vibrations can be absorbed and hopefully bring the noise level down a couple of notches.

A sound absorbing mat is what I used to make my pool pump run much quieter compared to when it was sitting on top of a cement block. You can find all the information as to what I did to reduce pool pump noise by clicking the link.

Replace the Generators Muffler

If you’re stuck with an older generator that sounds a lot louder than it used to then you might have a faulty muffler. Bring your generator to a small engine mechanic to see if you need to change the muffler.

Install a Generator Silencer

There are different types of generator silencers you can use to make a generator quieter. Ensure you purchase one designed to work with your generator.

Place The Generator On a Soft Surface

Place the generator on a surface that will dampen the noise instead of amplifying it. It’s best that you avoid all hard surfaces.  So don’t place the generator on concrete, wood, or asphalt as these surfaces will only increase the noise.

If you don’t have softer ground to place your generator on, use anti-vibration mats. They are made of rubber and help to soften the vibration and noise that comes from household appliances.

Use Sound Deflectors to Quiet Your Generator

You can use 4 sheets of plywood and a sheet of non-flammable material to deflect sound.  Drywall is also a good material for this as it is relatively fire-resistant. 

Use rubber feet

Putting rubber feet on your generator will stop it vibrating as much, which will have an impact on overall noise. Similarly, putting your generator on a soundproof mat will help with this problem too.

Angle the exhaust away

As we’ve established, a large amount of noise pollution comes from the generator’s exhaust. Turning it away from your house (or campsite) might seem obvious, but it does help.

How to Turn On a Gasoline or Propane Generator

  • Turn the circuit breaker to the ‘off’ position. This is located next to your outlets, and is marked.
  • Turn the fuel tap downwards, this means the fuel supply is ‘on’. The fuel tap is marked.
  • Turn the choke to the ‘left’ position. Your engine on the generator will warm up OK.
  • Switch the engine switch to the ‘on’ position. This allows your generator to come to life.
  • Grab the pull start toggle in your hand, and pull.
  • Once your generator engine starts, move choke lever to half choke, then to the middle position.
  • If you have an electric start generator, repeat previous steps and turn key to ‘start’
  • Once your generator engine starts, move choke lever to half choke, then to the middle position.

Note: Always switch on tools/appliances first that you think will draw the biggest load first. And ensure the correct voltage is selected on the voltage selector.

How to Turn On a Diesel Generator On Warm Days

  • Check whether the water tank is full of water.
  • Check the oil level, fuel level, and radiator water level. If the level is lower than the specified value, it should be added to the normal position.
  • Check whether all the switch position is correct to meet the start requirements.
  • Check whether the diesel generator “Emergency Stop” button on the dashboard is correct.
  • Check whether the outlet switch of the unit is off-position.
  • Check whether the generator preheating is normal. When the indoor temperature is lower than 20 degrees Celsius, the electric heater should be opened to preheat the diesel generator set.
  • Make sure there is no oil leakage or water leakage phenomenon. No debris in the generator and exhaust port.
  • Check whether the battery and voltage is normal.
  • Check whether alternator and diesel engine circuit is normal and firm.
  • Check whether the generator controller indicator light is normal.

How to Turn On a Diesel Generator On Cold Days

Turning on your diesel generator during winter can be challenging. Here are some tips to help simplify the process;

Warm up the generator

Giving your cold diesel engine time to warm up is essential. Let it warm up for at least five minutes to allow the hydraulic oil to warm. Failing to do so can make the engine work harder than necessary.

Heat the generator

Use a heater to warm up the generator. You can use one of the options below;

  • An Electric Block Heater: This can heat up the coolant in-stream, which in turn can warm the engine blog and oil in the crankcase. This facilitates the turnover of the engine.
  • A Diesel-Fired Coolant Heater: This heater can allow you to heat up your engine in an area where electricity may not be readily available.
  • Glow Plugs: These can help you ignite cold fuel, and ether can heat the fuel-air mixture inside of a large-sized engine.
  • A Battery Tender: The cranking amperage of machinery batteries tend to diminish under colder temperatures. A battery tender will remain effective so long as it is at full charge.

Thaw the Diesel Exhaust Fluid

Add DEF to your generator and ensure it is kept at a temperature above 12 degrees Fahrenheit to prevent it from freezing.

Winterize the Fuel

Crystalized fuel will clog fuel filters and the engine will not run. To prevent crystal formation, use winter-blended diesel fuel, which reduces the temperature at which these crystal form.

Insulate Your Generator

Store your diesel engine in a warm area where it will not be exposed to elements, such as sleet and snow. Keeping the engine in a warm area will make it quicker to warm up.

Ensure Your Fuel Tank is Full

Condensation in a fuel tank can eventually freeze and cause just as many problems as gelled fuel. Try to keep your fuel tank full to eliminate any space for condensation to build up in the cold weather. Winter diesel fuel additive will also reduce the risk of your fuel freezing up as well.

Change the Fuel Filter

If you suspect your diesel fuel has gelled up, wait for the temperature to rise or use a block heater to warm up the engine before attempting to start. Change the fuel filter immediately as gel in the fuel filter can block the flow of fuel from the tank to the injector pump on older vehicles. Common rail injectors are less prone to gelling because they are governed by the ECM.

Turn Off All Non-Essential Accessories

Limit the use of headlights, radios, iPods, phone chargers, heaters and air conditioners while starting the engine. These devices pull much needed amps away from the glow plugs.

Change the Oil Regularly

An engine is roughly 2-3 times harder to start at 0 degrees F due to thicker oil lubricating the hard internal parts of the engine. The thicker the oil the more resistance on the bearings and moving parts.

Additionally, having enough oil that is fresh and of a high chemical grade will help keep the internal diesel engine parts lubricated properly and in alignment.

How Often Should I Service My Generator?

A generator should be serviced by a professional at least once a year. As a general rule of thumb service your generator every 6-months or after every 400 hours of use. this will reduce chances of it breaking down.

How to Service a Generator

Generators require a fair share of maintenance in order to extend their lifespan. Every type of generator comes with a specific maintenance schedule that you must follow accordingly.

Typical generator maintenance practice involves the need for general inspection, which includes checking the machine for any possible leaks, checking the battery, cables, and terminals, and also assessing the coolant and oil levels.

Standard generator maintenance includes the following key factors:

  • A thorough inspection of the cooling system, which basically involves keeping an eye on the coolant levels at varying intervals.
  • Annual cleaning and filtering. This is done because a generator is probably used every other day, so you need to clean any clogged fuel filters and fuel lines.
  • Checking the battery power every now and then since, in the majority of malfunction cases, battery failure is what wears out the generator.
  • Regular testing of the battery’s current status. Testing involves checking the electrolyte levels and specific gravity of the batteries. The batteries themselves also must be clean.
  • Customary testing of the generator to get the know-how of the battery status, the gravity of the batteries as well as their electrolyte levels.
  • Annual fuel cleaning and filtering, as diesel fuel degrades quickly. Fuel cleaning involves using biocides annually in all generators except for the standby generators as this will attract moisture.

Further Care and Maintenance of Generators

Make a habit of running the generator on a weekly basis for 30 minutes under load. This will charge the battery, remove excess wetness, lubricate the engine and filter the fuel and foil.

Additionally, try to replace any loose pieces found anywhere on the generator immediately. Lastly, keep records of inspections and tests for future inspections and scrutiny.

Buying A Single Generator Vs. Paralleling

If your power needs are large enough, you may wonder whether it’s better to go with a single, huge diesel generator, or split the burden between two or more smaller generators.

For instance, instead of a 1200kW generator, you could install three 400kW generators. This is called paralleling. When two or more generators with same frequency, voltage and phase difference are connected to the bus-bar; it increases their overall capacity, ease of maintenance, and active load management.

This essentially helps multiple small generators to do the job without spending a ton of money on high capacity generators. Other benefits of running generator in parallel include;

Greater flexibility.

It’s very likely the reason you’re buying a generator at all is the additional reliability, a hedge against an interrupted power supply causing a slowdown or halt to your business’s operations.

With multiple generators, you don’t have to worry if one has to be shut down for maintenance. You simply shift the burden to the others and keep right on working. With just one generator, if it has to stop, so do you.

Cost-effective

Obviously the economics will vary widely depending on brands, new vs. used generators, prices in your geographic location, etc. But all things being equal, once you breach a certain generator size, it becomes more economical to parallel than use a single unit.

Specifically, once you go over the sizes of gas or diesel engines mass-produced for use in cars, as well, those engines are harder to come by and are thus more expensive. And the engine comprises more than half the cost of a generator. The threshold for diesel engines is 600kW and for gas engines it’s 150kW.

More practical

Depending on your physical space, it may be easier to fit two or three parallel generators into a room than one oversized unit. Among large commercial generators, smaller capacities can mean the difference in 25 or more square feet per unit.

Less strain on the generators.

Load sharing among two or more generators can extend the life of each generator and avoid the risk of overburdening a single unit. For continuous usage, loads up to 80% generator capacity are ideal.

How to Run Multiple Generators in Parallel

For two generators to be synchronized; the waveform of their output must match with one another. This can be achieved by using a synchro scope or dark and bright lamp methods.

To ensure further safety; it is required to keep the incoming generator at slightly higher frequency. A generator already connected to the bus bar is called running generator; while the one which need to be synchronized to connect is called incoming generator.

How to Connect Three Phase Generators In Parallel

Heavy industries and ship with high power demand are installed with two or more three phase generators; to effectively share the load and provide increased output when needed.

For two generators to be synchronized they must have equal number of phase; same phase angle, same voltage, frequency and identical voltage sine curve (waveform). This means the RYB connection point of bus bar; should be connected to RYB terminals of incoming generator and not RBY.

Any three phase incoming generator can be synchronized to the one connected to the bus bar; using bright lamp, dark lamp or synchroscope method. For generators to be properly synchronized they must be locked finally to the system frequency; irrespective of their initial speed or frequencies.

Once synchronized they must share the total load according to their individual capacity and not equally. For generators to share equal loads they must be identical in most aspects.

How to Synchronize 3 Phase Generators Using a Synchroscope

A synchroscope is a device used to measure the degree of synchronization; so that we can close the breaker at the right time. It represents the relative speed of the incoming machinery with the help of a pointer. If it moves anti clock wise then the speed of incoming generator is less; while is more if it moves clockwise.

  • Start the incoming generator and warm it up while increasing its speed to the meet the required operational frequency.
  • Monitor in the control panel whether the incoming generator have the same voltage and frequency that of the bus-bar.
  • Make sure both of your generators have the same phase sequence.
  • Make necessary adjustments if required to meet identical voltage, frequency and phase sequence.
  • Now switch on the synchroscope and monitor the movement of pointer.
  • If the pointer moving anticlockwise increase the speed; if it moves fast along clockwise direction reduce the alternator speed.
  • Keep the speed of incoming generator slightly more than that on load; such that the pointer moves very slowly clockwise.
  • Engage the breaker just before the pointer reach midnight ( 12’O Clock ); it is the moment when the incoming generator is in phase with the bus bar.
  • Once done decide whether you need both generators on load or need to shut down the running generator.
  • This can be achieved by lowering the governor switch of running generator while increasing for incoming generator.
  • Switch off the synchroscope.
  • Switch off or trip the breaker for the running generator; now the generator is on standby.

How to Connect 3 Phase Generators Using the Lamp Method

Proper synchronization for an alternator can be achieved by using either; dark lamp or one dark two bright lamp method. It is an cheap alternative for the expensive synchroscope for the job.

In dark lamp method, all the three bulb is connected across the same phase; i.e RR’, YY’, BB’ with a voltmeter connected across two phase of the bus bar and terminals of incoming generator.

On other hand, one dark and two bright lamp method have; one lamp connected in phase while others out of phase to the bus-bar i.e RB’, YY’, BR’. The basic idea behind working of dark lamp method is that; when the two generators are in synchronicity their net resultant frequency will be zero.

You can consider it by this; if bus-bar frequency is 60 Hz and that of incoming generator is 50 Hz then resultant frequency is 10 Hz. At this point in time all the three lamps will remain dark. Initially when there is a difference between these frequencies the resultant frequency will cause the lamp to flicker (On and OFF) concurrently.

Just in case if these bulbs don’t flicker concurrently it’s a clear cut indication of incorrect phase sequence; stop the incoming generator and replace the terminal positions. In the process the breaker is closed when during the dark phase of the light when the net frequency is almost 1. Similarly, we can use two bright and one dark method to do it more efficiently.

How to Connect Generators Using the Two Bright One Dark Lamp Method

  • Start the Prime mover of the alternator and bring it to its rated speed.
  • Connect the three lamps and a voltmeter to its terminal following two bright and one dark lamp method.
  • Check whether the incoming generator have the same voltage as of the bus-bar.
  • If not; increases the voltage by changing field current in the alternator till it matches up with that of the bus bar.
  • Watch for the bulb flicker and decide whether it follows an anticlockwise or clockwise pattern.
  • An anticlockwise movement indicates slow speed while a clockwise movement indicate; fast speed of the incoming generator in respect to the bus bar or running generator.
  • Change the speed of the alternator accordingly to reduce the flicking of the bulb to nearly zero or as low as possible.
  • Now close the breaker at moment when the bulb connected in phase is dark while the others two are equally bright.
  • Once done decide whether you need both generators on load or need to shut down the running generator.
  • This can be achieved by lowering the governor switch of running generator while increasing for incoming generator.
  • Now disconnect the supply to the lamps and turn off the step down transformer connected if any.
  • It is a general practice for high voltage generators to connect these lamps via an step down transformer.
  • Switch off or trip the breaker for the running generator; now the generator is on standby.

How to Connect Single Phase Generators in Parallel

A single phase generator can be synchronized and then connected in parallel by using dark lamp or bright lam method of synchronization. Other than the dark lamp and one dark two bright lamp method in three phase generator; here we only use two lamps for the whole process.

For dark lamp method; the lamps are connected in phase to the terminal and the bus bar as shown in the diagram. While for bright lamp method they are connected out of phase to each other.

The light bulb will flicker with alternate dark and bright phase based on the net resultant frequency of generators. Now when the frequency and voltage of the running generator; is matched with that of the incoming generator the bulb will not glow. It is so because the root mean square value; of their voltage for the waveform is in equal but opposite magnitude.

Similar to that in three phase alternators close the breaker in the middle of the dark phase or period. The two output are in exact phase opposition at that point of time. If not done properly the generator might not synchronize; which lead to reverse power trip or simply called blackout.

Pay special attention during the process as in single phase generators; even if the magnitude of output voltage of each generator be same the net resultant voltage may be different.

How to Connect Portable Generators in Parallel

No one ever wants to get into complexity of manually synchronizing generators; specially when it comes to portable generators at home or camp. It’s not just require attention and experience but could also damage the generator if things goes wrong.

You just have to plug it in the outputs and then start together to enjoy increased / combined output. For most portable generators they have dedicated socket for connecting paralleling cables termed as “Parallel output” or just “Parallel”.

Connect the both ends of cable on both of the generator and the internal generator control with inbuilt program for parallel operation will take care of it.

Note: A generator is not connected to the bus bar under stationary condition as; it will cause high induced emf in stator winding causing it to short circuit. A generators frequency reduces slightly once it is applied to active load; and thus an increased frequency help it avoid running as a synchronous motor.

What Size Generator Do I Need to Survive a Hurricane?

This depends on your power needs. below is a table depicting the best generators for different power needs;

Generator TypeBest Use
Portable GeneratorRefrigerators, spray gun systems, nail guns
Inverter GeneratorCar batteries, laptops
Standby GeneratorEmergency settings, hospital machinery

What Can You Run on a 7500 watts’ Generator?

A 7500-watt generator can power up most household appliances including a refrigerator, hot water heater, well pump, freezer, light, and oven, depending on the units you have.

Why is My Generator Not Producing Power?

The most common cause of portable generators failing to produce electricity is the loss of residual magnetism. Generators work by moving electrical conductors through a magnetic field, which is created by taking some of the generator output voltage and converting it to DC and feeding it to a coil to make an electromagnet. 

Leftover magnetism from the last time the generator was running is called residual magnetism. The residual magnetism is enough to produce a small amount of electricity which creates a stronger electromagnet. As the engine turns, this magnet produces even more power. 

When the residual magnetism is lost, the generator will produce no power at the start-up.  The leading causes of magnetism loss include;

  • Prolonged disuse of generator.
  • Connecting the load to the generator when it is not running.
  • Running the generator with no load for too long. 

How to resolve the magnetism issue

These are two main methods for restoring a generator’s residual magnetism;

12 Volt Generator Battery Method

  • Locate the voltage regulator for your generator.
  • Unplug the two wires that connect to the generator brushes. Usually, one is red, and the other is black or white.
  • Connect the black or white to the generator ground battery terminal.
  • Plug in a light, turn on the generator breaker or switch and start the motor.
  • Connect the battery +12 volts red cable to the red wire on the terminals you removed for three seconds.
  • Remove your wires and replace the plug. The generator should now be producing power again.
  • Make sure you unplug the brush wires from the automatic voltage regulator, or you will damage the regulator.
  • Do not contact the voltage regulator or other wires as dangerous voltages may be present that can cause electric shock.

Electric Drill Method

  • Plug in an electric drill into the generator receptacle.
  • If the drill is reversible, move the direction switch to the forward position.
  • Start the generator while depressing the trigger on the drill.
  • Spin the drill chuck in the reverse direction. This will excite the field, and the generator will now produce electricity.
  • If turning the chuck in one direction does not work, try spinning the chuck in the other direction as you may have the reverse switch positioned backwards.
  • Use caution not to get your hand or other materials caught in the chuck. As soon as the field is exited, the generator will produce power, and the drill will turn on.

Note: If these methods do not help you restore generator output power, replace the Automatic Voltage Regulator as it may be damaged.

Why is the electric start on my generator not working?

Electrical Problem

Many times, problems with the generator’s circuits or wiring can cause the generator not to start up. Look for loose wiring and tighten and fixit or hire a professional to check it out.

Spark Plugs

A spark plug is a critical part of your generator and plays an important role in starting your generator. If the spark plug is faulty, your generator will make a cracking sound when you start it and automatically shut down within a few seconds.

To remedy the issue, take out the spark plug and check its condition. If it’s just dirty, clean it and insert it again. If it does not feel right, purchase new spark plugs for your generator.

Sensor Failure

Modern generators come with several different generators in them. If even one of them fails, it will cause the generator to shut down. Inspect the notification for the different sensors’ control panels and ensure that all the sensors are working properly.

After replacing the sensors, reprogram your generator to get the new sensor to work properly.

Why won’t my generator start?

Below are the main reasons your generator is not starting;

1. The generator is low on fuel

It may seem obvious, but it’s worth checking whether your generator has gasoline in the fuel tank. If not, that’s a clear reason why your engine would fail to turn over. If you’re using propane to fuel your generator, make sure that the tank has enough gas and that all of the valves on the tank and tubing are opened.

Keep in mind that using stale gasoline – typically any gasoline that’s older than two months – can be very damaging to your generator’s engine. If you have stale gasoline in the tank, you’ll need to empty out the fuel tank and the carburetor, then refill with fresh gas. Be sure to use a kit to safely remove all of the bad fuel.

2. Your engine is low on oil

Oil is just as important as having fuel for running your generator. Most modern generators are equipped with a sensor that will automatically shut down your generator when oil levels are low to protect the engine.

If you haven’t changed the oil in more than 50 hours of use (or more than 20 hours if it’s a new generator) or suspect you may have a leak, low oil could very well be the cause of your generator’s starting problems.

You can check the oil level using the dipstick on your generator, which may be located inside the crankcase. If the oil is low, check your manufacturer’s guidelines on what type of engine oil is suitable for your generator.

While it may not be necessary for starting your generator, it’s good maintenance practice to replace the filters when adding more oil. We’ve written a helpful guide if you’d like to bypass the low oil sensor on your generator.

3. The battery is dead

If your generator has an electric starter in the form of either a push-button or a remote, the first thing you need to check is whether the battery for the starter is the problem. Just like in a car, if your generator’s battery has run out the electric starter can’t work.

The easiest way to troubleshoot this is to try starting with the auxiliary recoil starter if your generator has one. If that works, you can simply charge up the electric starter battery via the 12-volt DC outlet on your generator once it’s running.

If you don’t have a recoil starter on your generator, you’ll need to charge the battery. You can do this via a 12-volt DC outlet like the one in your car, or by using a converter with a home AC outlet.

Alternatively, you can use jumper cables to jump-start your generator battery using your car battery. The procedure is the same as for jump-starting another car’s battery: Attach the cables to your car and generator using the metal frame of your generator as the fourth connection point, turn on your car, and then try starting the generator.

If these methods still don’t work, the reason your generator won’t start probably isn’t because of a dead battery.

4. There are cables plugged into the generator

Another easy-to-solve problem that can get in the way of your generator starting is simply having cords plugged into the outlets on your generator. Whenever starting the generator, you shouldn’t have anything plugged in – even extension cords that don’t have any appliances attached at the other end.

5. The choke is too open or too closed

The choke controls the amount of air that’s flowing into the carburetor during startup. If your generator is trying to startup but the engine can’t seem to turn over, the problem may be too much or too little air mixing with your fuel during combustion.

When starting a generator cold – that is, it hasn’t been running for at least the past few hours – the choke should be set all the way closed. The closed position is often labeled as the “start” position on generator chokes for this reason. Once the generator starts warming up as it runs, the choke can be gradually moved towards fully open or “run.”

On the other hand, if you had been running your generator recently and just turned it off briefly, the engine will still be warm. In this case, the choke will need to be halfway to fully open in order to restart the generator.

6. Your air filter needs to be replaced

If adjusting the choke seemed to help, but didn’t solve the problem, your air filter may be to blame. If the air filter is clogged with dust and debris, your carburetor won’t receive enough air for combustion.

The air filter is generally easy to access and inspect visually. If it looks dirty or clogged, try replacing it and moving the choke back to the proper starting position. Cleaning your generator can help solve your problem.

7. The spark plug is having problems

If the engine won’t even attempt to turn over during startup, the problem may lie with your spark plug. In order to check your spark plug, start by removing it from the engine with a spark plug socket.

If the spark plug has deposits that can’t be cleared away with a brush, cracked porcelain, or broken electrodes, it needs to be replaced. Clean any debris off the spark plug and adjust the electrode gap according to the specifications in your owner’s manual. You can double-check that the spark plug is working by holding it against the engine’s crankcase while pulling the recoil starter if your generator has one – a working spark plug will produce blue sparks. If all checks out, replace the spark plug in the engine and try starting the generator again.

8. The carburetor is clogged

If you didn’t drain the carburetor before putting your generator away for a month or more of storage, this is likely the culprit for why you’re having starting issues now. Old gasoline will form clogs in the carburetor, making it impossible for new fuel to get through.

To clean out the carburetor, close the fuel valve and then remove the bowl at the bottom of the carburetor. Use a brush and towels to clean out any fuel debris and use a sewing needle or safety pin to clean out the brass jet nozzle. Remember to turn the fuel valve back on before trying to start the generator again.

9. The fuel valve or line is clogged

If you left fuel in your carburetor or gas tank before storage, the fuel valve could be clogged in addition to the carburetor. First, make sure that the fuel valve is open and that if your generator has a vacuum relief valve above the gas tank, that gets opened too.

If that still doesn’t work, you can unplug the hose from the inlet side of the fuel valve to check whether gasoline is able to flow freely through your fuel line. Ensure you have a bucket handy to collect any flowing fuel when you do this. If your generator has an in-line filter between the fuel valve and the carburetor, it’s a good idea to pull that out and visually check it for clogs as well.

10. The low oil sensor is malfunctioning

The low oil sensor is designed to keep your generator from starting when the oil is low – but if it malfunctions, it can keep your generator from starting no matter how much oil you have.

Bear in mind that running your generator on an uneven surface can cause the low oil sensor to misread oil levels, so simply leveling the generator could fix this problem. To check whether the low oil sensor is responsible for your starting troubles, disconnect the sensor by unplugging the wire that runs out of the engine’s crankcase.

If the generator starts after disconnecting this, the low oil sensor was very likely the culprit. Usually, the sensor will work if it is plugged in again after running the generator for a few minutes, although if this fails the sensor will need to be replaced.

Never remove the low oil sensor to mask a problem with low oil. Running your generator at low oil levels can severely damage the engine and pose a significant hazard. Before disconnecting the low oil sensor, ensure that your oil is topped off and your oil filters are not clogged.

Why does my generator keep powering off?

If your generator keeps shutting off, there may be an overload issue. You should also check for low fuel levels. Natural obstructions bend, or any other damage to the fuel pipe could be preventing fuel from reaching the engine.

Here are some reasons why your generator is powering off;

Not enough fuel

Do you have enough fuel and is it fresh? Obviously, your generator will not function if it is not supplied with fuel. Check your fuel level if your generator only runs for a brief amount of time and then won’t start again.

Some generators have a fuel gauge that can help you keep track of the fuel level. It’s a good idea to always make sure the fuel tank is full before starting your generator to avoid running out of gasoline.

Additionally, the fuel has to be replaced as stale fuel may affect the operation of the generator.  Drain the tank and carburetor of any old fuel and replace it with a fresh supply every two months.

If you need a consistent fuels supply, you can install a generator that runs on natural gas to power it directly from the utility (disregarding extreme circumstances where the utility may fail). This is usually the best solution for full house backup.

The fuel shutoff valve is turned Off

When operating a portable generator, a fuel shutdown valve allows you to regulate the flow of fuel to your generator’s engine. It is also very useful when the generator is being stored for an extended length of time to avoid stale fuel from circulating unnecessarily.

Check to see if this valve is still closed, preventing gasoline from reaching your engine. If the shutdown valve is closed, all you have to do is open it before starting your generator again.

The fuel tank and/or pipes are filthy.

Your gasoline tank may get clogged with pressure, dust or debris may cause obstructions, or your pipes may become damaged and leak. This makes it difficult to circulate the correct amount of gasoline.

To fix a fuel system problem, start by inspecting the fuel cap vent for blockages. Check the gasoline tank for silt, poor fuel, and other issues if everything seems good with the fuel cap.

Cleaning the fuel tank and conditioning the fuel is a good option if the fuel tank appears to be unclean. Before each usage, it’s also a good idea to relieve pressure in the gasoline tank and examine all of the pipes.

The carburetor is filthy

Bad (old, stale) fuel can cause the volatile components in the gasoline to evaporate from the collected gas in the carburetor, resulting in a viscous mixture that clings in the carburetor and disrupts the fuel delivery.

The simplest solution is to maintain your carburetor clean. If a carburetor is kept unclean for an extended period of time, it may need to be replaced.

Low oil level.

Your generator may shut down if the oil level is too low. Generators will still start with low oil, but newer versions will automatically disable the engine if oil levels are too low, preventing the generator from functioning without oil.

Running your engine with low or no oil might result in severe wear and damage to critical components. Check the oil level using the dipstick to fix a low oil level.

Then, if the oil appears to be clean but the level is low, add more oil. An oil change is required if the oil is dirty and at a low level. When the oil pressure in your generator is fine, it may still display a low oil pressure alarm. This might suggest a malfunctioning oil pressure sensor that needs to be replaced.

Low water level.

Most generators can’t withstand the increase in temperature without adequate water levels in the radiator. For the most sensitive elements of the engine, control panel, and voltage meter, running at a high temperature for any length of time is difficult.

The generator is “over choking”

The choke must be in the FULL choke (ON/CLOSED/START) position to start the generator. Change it to half after a few minutes, then to RUN (OPEN/OFF) after a few more minutes.

If the choke is kept in the maximum choke position for too long, generators can shut down after a few minutes of operation. Here is the possible location of a choke (usually above air filter):

Closeup (it is just a metal handle, although in some models it’s made into a button):

Defective spark plugs

You may hear crackling noise and watch your generator shut down after only a few seconds if you have a problem with unclean or defective spark plugs. The most effective approach in solving a spark plug problem is to replace them with fresh new ones.

However, certain spark plugs can become filthy but can be reasonably easily cleaned. Here is one way to clean spark plugs:

Clogged air filter

An air filter ensures that the engine receives clean air. If it’s clogged, it will not allow the proper amount of air to pass through to the engine. This is a simple repair. To improve air circulation, clean or change your air filter. Here is an example of how to do it:

You are over working the generator

It is important to make sure that you’re not using more power than your generator can produce! If you run too much equipment on a tiny generator, the generator may shut down to avoid overworking itself.

Most generators are programmed to shut down when the system is overloaded. If the generator is overloaded, the “overload” button will light up. You may also need to push the “overload reset” button to get it going again (and flip your breaker back):

Damaged cables and fuel hose

Generators provide a comfortable environment for little critters. When they are hungry and not much food nearby, they’ll gnaw on any exposed cables or hoses, which can lead to electrical problems or fluid leakage.

Get rid of the mice and repair any chewed-through cables or pipes. It’s also a good idea to set up rodent traps to catch “unwanted guests” before they build a home in your pricey generator.

Here are other complicated problems that require professional assistance

Battery problems

battery problems start with your charger. It’s possible that your charger is defective. Ensure that the battery charging supply is in good working order. It may be necessary to replace it.

If the charger isn’t broken, look for an overload in the circuitry. If the circuits are not overloaded and the charger is functioning properly, then, the battery should be replaced.

Heater problems

Block heaters regulate the temperature of the liquid in your engine between 100 and 120 degrees Fahrenheit. This enables fast starting and lubrication of crucial components.

Your generator may try to start, then shut down owing to a lack of fluid circulation, especially in lower temperatures, if your block heater is malfunctioning. The only method to solve this issue is to replace the block heater.

Faulty engine

When you are not an expert mechanic, diagnosing an engine issue might be difficult. If you’ve tried all of the above and your generator still won’t operate for long periods of time, it’s possible that an engine issue is to blame.

If you suspect an engine problem, the best course of action is to have an expert mechanic inspect your generator.

Faulty exhaust system

Due to a buildup of exhaust creating a failure in the noxious emission sensors, a defect in the exhaust system might cause a generator to fail within a few minutes.

Electrical issues

Electrical issues might occur in any section of your generator’s circuit or wiring. Electrical concerns should not be handled by inexperienced persons. To solve this problem, you’ll need a skilled technician or electrician.

Sensor error

There are many sensors in newer generator types. When one sensor fails, it might trigger a chain reaction of problems with other sensors. Sensors are usually the costliest component of a generator to fix or replace. A malfunctioning sensor can only be fixed by replacing it.

Before the control panel will resume operating properly after replacing the sensor, it may need to be reprogrammed to recognize any modifications made. Any sensor replacements or reprogramming may be handled by an expert generator technician.

Signs You Need to Clean Your Carburetor

The carburetor is where the gasoline and the air to be burned a cross, and because most engines are not always in use, it is also where the fuel starts to detach and obstruct the pipes.

Ethanol-based fuels are primarily to blame because ethanol evaporates and absorbs moisture inside the channels that allow the carburetor to choke.

Such clogs may trigger a range of problems, from sputtering and backfiring to not making the generator run. The main reason to clean a carburetor is that today’s ethanol fuels attract moisture. This can lead to corrosion inside the fuel tank and inside the carburetor.

If ethanol fuels are left in the engine too long, they evaporate and leave behind a sticky residue that clogs the carburetor and causes it to work poorly.

Here are some of the signs that your generator carburetor needs cleaning:

  • The Generator Won’t Start

If the engine cranks or turns over, but won’t catch and start, it is probably a clogged or dirty carburetor.

  • The Generator Runs Roughly

If the engine pops or chugs, or produces black smoke, it’s a sign that the fuel is too rich or too lean, both of which are caused by a dirty carburetor.

  • The Generator is Flooded

A clogged carburetor can cause fuel to overflow out of the carburetor bowl vents, wetting the spark plugs.

To determine if a clogged carburetor is the reason why your generator won’t start, spray some starter fluid directly into the carburetor. If it starts but won’t run, your carburetor needs cleaning.

How to clean a generator carburetor without removing it

Items needed:

  • Flathead Screwdriver
  • Smaller Flathead Screwdriver
  • A collection of pliers
  • 8mm Socket and Ratchet
  • 2 Fuel Line Clamps
  • Carburetor Cleaner
  • Drain Pan
  • Rag
  • Safety Goggles

Pre-Cleaning steps

Before you start cleaning, make sure that the fuel valve is off to prevent leakage and that the unit is off. Then you will need to take apart the generator’s side panel to get to the carburetor.

How to Get to the Carburetor

On most generators, you’ll note a side panel with a lock on it. Clear the side panel to show the internal components and locate the carburetor.

  • First, disconnect the air filter, and cut the thin, black hose that attaches the air cleaner to the crankcase.
  • Use the screwdriver to detach the screw at the front of the pipe, and then the plug and the ratchet to extract the 8 mm screws that retain the filter frame.
  • With the air filter off, you now have access to the carburetor of the engine.
  • Use your pliers to cut the fuel line from the fuel pump to the carburetor.
  • Repair the fuel line.
  • Upon cutting the little clamps and replacing the carburetor, you’re more likely to notice the leaked fuel that you should wipe away with the rag right away.
  • Then empty the fuel bowl of the carburetor by placing it over the drain pan and using a small flat-head screwdriver.
  • There should be a tiny flathead screw at the base of the carburetor, which you can remove to complete the drainage.
  • you can see a hose that removes the fuel bowl from the bottom of the whole unit on some versions,
  • Upon loosening the screw and extracting the fuel bowl as much as possible, you can find a white cover on the top that governs the eco-control.
  • Remove the cover and the wires to completely remove the generator from the carburetor.

Cleaning the Carburetor

  • With the carburetor separated from its fuel lines, cut the gasket and check it for defects, or tears of any kind. If it is broken, consider replacing it.
  • Now detach the 10 mm bolt from the bottom of the float tank when placing the carburetor over the drain pipe.
  • Inspect the now-removed bowl for any clogging or dirt that may be at the bottom of the bowl and make sure it is well washed and polished as appropriate.
  • Returning to the carburetor, taking out the float and the float screw. The float controls the flow of fuel into the system and either makes more or stops fuel from moving into the carburetor. Inspect for any losses.
  • You will encounter another gasket that ties the float bowl to your carburetor; extract this gasket and fix it as it will stretch any time you remove the float bowl.
  • When removed, check the main jet and clean it thoroughly, as this is where the key clogging can occur. Make sure you also get the small holes on the bottom.
  • Add the straw to the carburetor cleaner and put your safety glasses on your nose, spray both ends of the main jet and then again with compressed air.
  • Do this in the float tank, too, and with the carburetor, move the straw to the spot where the inlet needle goes and the fuel drops in to flush out the pump.
  • Spray through the entire system, where the primary jet was replaced and the air orifices in the front and back of the carburetor were eliminated.
  • Ensure to follow up with compressed air after each spray of the carburetor cleaner to avoid any residue and leftover clogs.
  • Then reassemble the Carburetor
  • After cleaning the carburetor, you can start by reversing the disassembly process.
  • Reinstall the jet tube to slide the main jet back in.
  • Insert the small flathead screw you used to release the jet and tighten it again, but not tight enough to over-torque the carburetor and destroy it.
  • Connect the new float bowl to the gasket and put the float back on the carburetor, mount the float plate.
  • Reinstall the float tank, make sure you have a drain valve facing the front of the carburetor.
  • Place the float bowl where it was initially, secure it with a 10 mm wrench, be cautious not to over-tighten it, not to ruin the carburetor.
  • Replace the gasket between the end of the valve and the carburetor.
  • Next attach the eco-control cables.
  • Replace the first gaskets that you extracted from between the air filter and the carburetor.
  • Reconnect the fuel lines with the clamps, detach the hose and put it in, then reinstall the air filter and the fuel lines.
  • Switch on the fuel valve to test for possible leakage and remove the side panel until pleased.

How to Prevent Carburetor Problems

To prevent carburetor problems and reduce the frequency of cleaning, here are some things you can do:

Use a Fuel Stabilizer

Fuel stabilizers help to reduce carburetor problems associated with ethanol fuel, and can also help to clean carbon deposits and improve fuel economy.

Do Not Store the Generator With Fuel in It

During the off-season, wait for the generator to cool down and then empty the fuel tank and the carburetor. If your carburetor does not have a drain, empty the fuel tank and then run the generator until it’s empty.

Don’t Use Old Fuel

In the best-case scenario, with great gas cans and cool temperatures, fuel will last for up to 12 months. Hot temperatures decrease the life span of your fuel, while stabilizers increase it. Don’t use old fuel in your generator.

How to Hide Your Backup Generator

To keep your generator from view you can use one of the three options below;

Flower beds and rock gardens

Flower beds and rock gardens can act as an extension to your current landscaping and are easy to create. Make your generator a part of your garden by installing it inside a flower bed or rock garden to add a nice aesthetic, providing a clean, manicured appearance.

Shrubbery

Shrubs can hide your generator while still providing access for maintenance on the condition that they are properly maintained. Choose from shrubs that complement your existing landscape. A few recommended shrubs include:

  • Evergreens
  • Azaleas – Phoenicia and Imperial Queen
  • Camellia
  • Alba Plena
  • Glen 40
  • Nuccio’s Bella Rossa
  • Standby generator with bushes

Fencing

There are a variety of fencing options to hide your generator. You can choose from a standard privacy fence, a green fence made of climbing plants, or a DIY art piece such as up-cycled shutters.

Fences are a great option for hiding generators and utilities in general. Choose a fence color that matches the color scheme of your house will make it look like an addition to the existing structure.

Oscar

In his spare time, Oscar loves tinkering with electronics. Solar panels, wiring, old TVs and sometimes DIY powerwalls. When he is not busy trying not to electrocute himself, you can find him in the garden tending to his vegetables and chickens.

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