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Powering Up: Understanding Generator Fundamentals

Generac Generator uses mechanical energy to create electrical power based on the principle of electromagnetic induction discovered by Michael Faraday. They consist of stationary and moving parts encased in a housing.


Generators are used to provide backup electricity for homes or businesses that rely on power. They can be powered by gasoline, diesel, or propane. Choosing the right generator size, fuel type, and transfer switch is essential for your home.

A generator converts mechanical energy into electrical power. This electricity is then delivered over power lines to homes, businesses, and other facilities. It is most often used as backup power, but it can also be the primary source of electrical energy. Electric generators housed in power plants provide nearly all of the power for today’s electrical grids. Smaller generators are usually gas-powered and use the principles of electromagnetic induction to produce electricity.

The generator is powered by a gasoline, propane, or diesel engine that spins a crankshaft connected to a system of coils and magnets. This rotation creates a magnetic flux that induces an electric current in the other end of the coils or magnets, which is called the armature. The generator then produces an AC voltage that is fed through a unit known as a voltage regulator to convert it into DC current. The voltage regulator then feeds the DC current to another set of windings, called exciter windings. The exciter windings function similarly to the primary stator windings, generating an AC voltage that is fed into the external electric circuit of the generator.

When determining the size of generator you need for your home, consider that the wattage requirements of your appliances will change as they are started and turned off, so it is important to choose an appropriate sized generator to meet your energy needs. The best way to do this is to use our interactive tool and select the types of appliances you want to power. The tool will calculate the wattage needed to run each appliance and then show you generator sizes that will accommodate those appliances. It is also a good idea to leave yourself some room for growth and purchase a larger generator, as it will be cheaper than buying a smaller one that you will need to replace in the future.

The more kilowatts of electricity a generator can generate in a given time, the greater its power. This power is measured in kilovolt-amperes (kVA). The higher the kVA, the more powerful the generator.


The fuel system is what makes it possible for a generator to produce the energy that it needs. This includes the fuel tank, the fuel pump, and a pipe that connects the fuel tank to the engine. A fuel filter removes debris from the fuel before it reaches the engine and an injector forces the fuel into the combustion chamber to initiate the internal combustion process.

The resulting mechanical energy is converted into electrical energy by the alternator, which also converts AC to DC as needed. An electrical current regulator controls the amount of electricity that is produced and a voltage regulator adjusts the generator’s output to match the needs of the facility or equipment being powered by it.

Many different types of fuel are used for generators to generate electricity including petroleum diesel, gasoline, propane gas, and natural gas. Smaller internal-combustion engines fueled by either of these are commonly used as portable power sources by tradespeople and construction crews. Larger generators that are part of a cogenerator or combined-heat-and-power plant (CHP) use coal, oil, natural gas, or biomass as their primary fuel source.

Since a generator produces a lot of heat, it needs a cooling system to prevent overheating and an exhaust system to direct fumes away from the equipment and into the atmosphere. A standard radiator and fan is usually enough for smaller generators while larger ones require a more sophisticated cooling system that is typically comprised of a heat exchanger with de-mineralized water that absorbs the heat generated by the internal combustion process.

Most modern gensets are designed to meet emission control standards set by federal and state environmental agencies. These standards include reducing the levels of Nitrogen Oxide (NOx), Carbon Monoxide (CO), and Particulate Matter that are discharged into the air by the combustion process. These requirements are more stringent than those for automobiles and other internal-combustion engines because the NOx and CO emitted by generators are more toxic to people and other animals. In addition, most newer generators are bi-fuel capable meaning they can be operated on either gas or diesel fuel.


Ventilation refers to the process of replacing indoor air with fresh outdoor air in confined spaces. Specifically, it’s used in generator installations to ensure proper air circulation and dissipate heat. Without adequate ventilation, excess heat can build up in the installation space and cause equipment damage or fire hazards.

Proper ventilation also helps to extend the life of a generator by reducing the amount of wear and tear it experiences during operation. It allows the generator to operate at a lower capacity, which means that it uses less fuel during an outage and will be able to run for longer periods of time.

The ventilation system that you choose will depend on the size of your generator and the space in which it is located. A basic ventilation system can be as simple as a single fan that blows air out of the generator room. For larger sites, multiple fans may be used to provide sufficient ventilation.

In general, ventilation systems should be designed to prevent the temperature of flue exhaust and radiator (engine-driven and remote) discharge air from exceeding ambient temperatures. For this reason, it is best to avoid recirculation of these high-temperature airstreams in the facility.

Ventilation systems should be properly sized for the installation. The fan should be positioned to draw in cool air from the lowest possible point and direct it over the engine, alternator and radiator (for remote-mounted units). The airflow direction should be downward, as opposed to vertical, to reduce noise and dust in the engine room.

It’s also important to consider the needs of other driven equipment that may be located in the generator installation. The temperatures allowed by these drives will vary depending on the manufacturer. If the generator-room temperature exceeds the maximum allowable temperature, de-rating will be required and an additional cooling system will need to be installed to address this issue.

In addition to mechanical ventilation, natural ventilation methods can be used to supplement the system and help with airflow. These methods can include utilizing windows and other openings to direct cool air into the space. They can also be used in conjunction with ventilation ducts to decrease the strain on the system and allow for more effective heating and cooling of the installation space.


A generator can save a home from a power outage, but it also requires regular maintenance to ensure optimal performance. Many maintenance tasks should be performed each time the generator is used, while other maintenance procedures can be scheduled for weekly or monthly updates. Annual maintenance tests and procedures are also required to help extend the life of the generator.

While many homeowners may be able to perform some of these simple maintenance tasks, it is best to leave more involved inspections and tests to certified technician. This helps avoid costly repairs down the road and keeps a homeowner from overlooking potential problems.

Oil Changes

The generator engine requires a lot of oil to operate, so it is important to change the oil regularly. This will help to keep the generator running smoothly and prevent sludge buildup. The lubrication system should also be inspected for any signs of excessive wear or damage.

Cooling and Ventilation

A generator produces a lot of heat during operation, so it is important to have a cooling system that can remove that excess heat and prevent overheating. It is also important to have a ventilation system that will direct and remove any fumes produced during operation.


A good quality battery is a critical component of a generator, so it should be regularly tested for its ability to hold a charge and remain fully charged. It is also recommended that batteries be replaced twice a year.

Transfer Switch

A transfer switch is used to connect a home’s electrical systems with the generator, so it is important that this piece of equipment is in good working condition. It is best to have a licensed electrician inspect the transfer switch on an annual basis.

Homeowners should also conduct a general inspection of the generator on an annual basis looking for any dirty, broken, or misaligned parts. The fuel strainer should be cleaned and refilled, and the air filter should be replaced if it is damaged or clogged. The fuel hose should also be inspected for cracks and leaks. If any of these are detected, they should be repaired or replaced as soon as possible.