Generator Engines: Naturally Aspirated vs Turbocharged

Generac Protector SeriesAs fuel efficiency and air quality standards take center stage in nearly every engine design, manufacturers look to increase efficiency and reduce emissions.

Since it’s development, internal combustion engine designers have looked for ways to improve performance and boost power. Early designs in the 1800s were based on inventions dating to the third and fifth centuries when the Roman empire used a crank and connecting rod mechanism to drive their sawmills. These same principles were used in the steam engine and later in the internal combustion engine.

The turbocharger, with its roots in a late 19th century invention, is a good way to improve efficiency and power in generators.

Essential Engine Principles

Most generator engines operate in a cycle that takes four piston strokes—two up and two down.

During the Intake stroke, the piston moves down the cylinder and creates a partial vacuum. The intake valve opens and the vacuum draws in a mixture of vaporized fuel and air. Near the bottom the intake stroke, the valve closes.

The Compression stroke occurs as the piston moves up the cylinder and compresses the fuel-air mixture at the top of the cylinder.

The Power stroke begins just as the piston nears the the top of the cylinder. The fuel and air are highly compressed at this point. The fuel is ignited and the contained explosion is timed to reach maximum force as the piston begins it’s final, downward stroke. The explosive force of the expanding gases drives the piston down.

With their energy spent, the burnt gases are pushed out of the cylinder through the exhaust valve as the piston returns to the top of the cylinder in the Exhaust stroke.

As the piston reaches the top of the cylinder, the exhaust valve closes and the piston begins the next cycle of four strokes.

The piston is attached to a crankshaft that converts the up and down motion of the piston into rotational motion. This motion is useful for turning machinery such as portable and standby generators or moving your car down the road.

Natural Aspiration

During the intake stroke, the vacuum created by the withdrawing piston draws air into the cylinder. Engines with a carburetor atomize fuel and add it to the air that is drawn into the intake manifold, which delivers it to the cylinders. Fuel injected engines vaporize the fuel and inject into the manifold. Direct injection takes it one step further and injects the fuel directly into the cylinder.

Regardless of how the fuel is mixed with the air, the cylinder still relies on atmospheric pressure to push air into the cylinder. Changes in altitude, and therefore air pressure, can greatly affect how much air the engine has to operate.

This is why as altitude increases, the power produced by an engine decreases. Most generator manufacturers specify power trade offs at higher altitudes.

The fuel-air mixture is a careful balance. Add too much fuel (too rich) and it won’t all burn because it doesn’t have enough oxygen for every molecule of fuel. The result is the exhaust of fuel that hasn’t burned. Add too little fuel (too lean) and the engine uses more of its stored energy to complete the four strokes.

Turbocharging

Cutaway view of a turbocharger showing the turbine in the exhaust stream.

A cutaway view shows the exhaust driven turbine. Note the teardrop-shaped nozzles that direct the stream of hot exhaust to spin the turbine. Click for larger image. (photo by Dmitry Ko)

One way to increase power during the power stroke is to burn more fuel. Simply adding fuel isn’t enough because the amount of air must increase also, which is limited by the atmospheric pressure. Increasing the air pressure forces more into the cylinder which allows an increase in the fuel added to the mixture.

A turbocharger operates on the high-pressure exhaust exiting the engine. The exhaust is still expanding and has considerable energy in the form of heat and velocity. The turbocharger uses that energy—which is otherwise wasted—thereby increasing the efficiency of the engine and increasing power at the same time.

It works like this. As exhaust exits the cylinders into the exhaust manifold, the stream of hot exhaust spins a turbine. The turbine connects to a second turbine that spins in the air intake and compresses the air before it enters the cylinders. The turbocharger harvest energy that would otherwise be wasted.

After Coolers are an essential consideration for engines fitted with turbo chargers. The process of compressing the air heats it, making it less dense and reducing the efficiency of the turbocharged engine. An after cooler removes the heat and makes the air more dense, improving efficiency.

Turbocharged engines are ideal for use in generators because they are efficient and borrow very little energy from the turning engine, unlike a supercharger. Generator engines turn at a fixed speed which means there is no power lag as the turbocharger spins up.

 

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On The Job Power: Portable Generators for Commercial Use

Portable generators bring electrical power anywhere it is needed. From job sites to emergencies to outdoor events, these work horses put in long hours and provide economical, reliable power for everything from tools to refrigerators and public address systems.

Men using power tools on a construction siteAll of the units in this lineup have 20-amp 120-volt duplex receptacles and at least one 120/240 volt receptacle at 30 amps. Some feature outlets for charging batteries, 120-volt 30-amp receptacles or 50-amp, 120/240-240 volt receptacles.

Generac Portable GP Series

The Electric Start GP Portable Series from Generac

GP Series by Generac – High Capacity Portable

At the top end of the power curve are two electric-start portables from Generac Power Systems. The Generac Portable or GP Series with the GP175000E and the GP15000E can supply power for a construction crew or temporary electrical wiring.

Both units have 50-amp, 120/250-volt and 30-amp, 120/250-volt receptacles for connection to a manual transfer switch or separate power box. An included battery clip cable plugs into the 12-volt charging outlet.

Other features include an hour meter with maintenance indicator, individual circuit breakers for each receptacle, low-oil shutdown, and cast iron cylinders for durability. The automatic idle control saves fuel and reduces noise.

Westinghouse

The Pro Series Portable Generators by Westinghouse

The Pro Series by Westinghouse is OSHA and CARB compliant.

Westinghouse offers three contractor series portable generators are fully CARB compliant and loaded with features. All three models feature an OSHA-compliant GFCI protected panel. The VFT data center supplies information on volts and frequency, and hours of use for on-time maintenance. Smart idling saves fuel, cuts emissions and increases run time. The 8KPRO and 10KPROII include remote start and feature less then 5% total harmonic distortion.

Duplex 20-amp outlets, 120-volt, 30-amp outlet, locking 120/240-volt 30-amp outlet, and a battery charging outlet. The 10KPro and 10KPROII include a 50-amp, 120/240-volt locking outlet.

Generac XG Series

Generac XG Series featuring plenty of power for events or emergency power

Generac Portable XG Series – Reliable Electric Start

The durable and reliable XG Series of Generators rely on Generac’s own OHVI engine, designed specifically by Generac for the demands placed on it by a portable generator.

120-volt outlets include four 20-amp GFCI outlets and one 30-amp outlet in addition to the 30-amp 120/240 volt.

The XG10000E includes an additional 50-amp, 120/240V receptacle.

Also see the electric start XG8000E and XG6500 recoil start.

Ideal for job sites, emergency power, outdoor events, and DIY projects. These XG Series generators feature never-flat wheels, heavy-duty tubular frames, large capacity fuel tanks, low oil shut down, and conveniently placed engine controls with easy starting.

Kubota Lowboy II

Kubota's Lowboy diesel generator

Kubota Lowboy II Diesel Powered and Liquid Cooled

The Lowboy II manufactured by Kubota is designed to have the lowest possible height in a diesel-powered, liquid-cooled generator. The 11 kilowatt GL11000 and 7 kilowatt GL7000 operate at 3600 RPM and a quiet 66dB.

Single phase power is supplied through direct wiring of a transfer switch or service panel. Receptacles provide plug-in support for power boxes and extension cords. The GL11000 also includes a 120/240-volt 50-amp receptacle.

High capacity fuel tanks for extended run times, low noise levels, outstanding portability, and ease of operation make the Lowboy generators ideal for on-the-job power needs.

Generac XP

Portable XP Professional Generator by Generac

Generac Portable XP Series – OSHA Compliant Panel

The Generac Professional Grade XP Series Generators have features that make them ideal for job sites and anywhere that long, reliable operation is required. XP generators feature TruePower technology provides clean power for sensitive electronics, tools, and appliances.

XP8000E and XP6500E

All the units feature Generac OHVI engines with full pressure lubrication and spin-on oil filters with low pressure shutdown. The panel is GFCI protected to meet OSHA requirements.

Outlets include two 20-amp duplex, single 120-volt, 30-amp twist-lock, a 120/240-volt 30-amp twist-lock outlet, and a 12-volt 10-amp battery charger. The XP10000E adds an additional 50-amp, 120/240-volt outlet with

The XP4000 is a manual start, the other three models are electric start.

Briggs & Stratton

Briggs and Stratton ES Pro Serices portable Generator

Briggs & Stratton ES PRO Series OSHA Compliant

Pro Series generators from Briggs & Stratton range from 5000 and to 10,000 watts with features to make on the job power easier than ever.

Electric start models include the 10,000 Watt ES Pro , the 7500 Watt Pro, and the 5000 Watt Pro powered by Briggs & Stratton engines. The 6500 Watt VOX is a recoil start with a Honda engine and features electronic ignition for easy starting.

The 7500 and 10,000 watt models have the Briggs & Stratton Power Surge alternators to allow multiple tools or appliances to start simultaneously. The 10,000 watt unit has a fully pressurized lubrication system with low-oil shutdown. The other models feature low-oil alerts.

The all-steel fuel tanks are sized to provide long run times and keep a job site operating all day without refueling. The OSHA compliant panels are GFCI protected.

120-volt 20-amp duplex outlets, 120-volt 30-amp, 120/240-volt 30 amp and 12-volt charger on all four models. The ES PRO 10,000 includes a 50-amp, 120/240 volt outlet.

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Generac Expands Product Portfolio to Include Water Pumps

New easy-to-use water pumps create a reliable solution for consumers’ emergency and maintenance needs

Generac recently introduced a new product line, featuring clean water and semi-trash pumps.

The pumps are designed, engineered, and manufactured to offer the most reliable water removal solution for homeowners, farmers, construction crews, and more. They can resolve various water transfer needs for  homeowners, such as draining water from swimming pools and ponds or removing water from basements. Contractors and other professionals will find the pumps useful for removing water from farm fields or alternative job sites as well.

Homeowners and professionals will be impressed with the water pumps’ easy-to-use, all-inclusive design and packaging, which includes Easy Prime™, an innovative funnel and tethered priming cap design, for quick and easy priming. It also includes graphic onboard instructions, color-coded discharge, and suction ports with matching hoses; a complete accessory kit is also included.

Clean Water Pump
Generac’s CW15K Clean Water Pump delivers the high-flow capacity users require to take

All Inclusive Kit Includes 10 foot suction hose, 25 foot discharge hose, strainer and connectors.

Generac CW15K 1 1/2 Inch Clean Water Pump Kit | 6821 All Inclusive Kit Includes 10 foot suction hose, 25 foot discharge hose, strainer and connectors.

on most pumping jobs, for just $299. The pump can be used to remove standing water from basement floors, drain swimming pools, empty window wells, and more.

The CW15K features a powerful Generac 79cc OHV engine and a pump that can eject up to 80 gallons of water per minute. In addition, it has an all-inclusive kit, which features a 10-foot suction hose, 25-foot discharge hose, and a strainer (a $75 value).
Customers will welcome the intuitive and easy-to-use design features, which include:

  • Easy Prime™, an innovative funnel and tethered priming cap design for quick and easy priming
  • An ergonomic, soft-grip handle for easy transportation
  • Onboard instructions with icons of key touch points for easy setup
  • Color-coded suction and discharge points to ensure proper hose connections

Semi-Trash Pump
The ST20K is Generac’s semi-trash water pump and is built for tough water removal applications. It’s engineered to remove muddy and sandy water, and is available at just $399.

Generac ST20K 2 Inch Semi Trash Water Pump Kit | 6822  Kit includes 12 foot suction hose, 25 foot discharge hose, strainers and connectors

Generac ST20K 2 Inch Semi Trash Water Pump Kit | 6822
Kit includes 12 foot suction hose, 25 foot discharge hose, strainers and connectors

The semi-trash pump is mounted in a durable, 1-inch frame and features a 208cc OHV engine with low oil shutdown.  A large, 3-gallon steel fuel tank is also included with an incorporated gauge, which provides up to five hours of runtime. The powerful pump can easily remove up to 158 gallons of water per minute, and a durable silicon carbide mechanical seal provides protection from abrasive materials. Generac also provides an all-inclusive kit, which contains a 12-foot suction hose, 25-foot discharge hose, and strainer (a $99 value).

Customers will find the ST20K pump intuitive and easy-to-use with characteristics such as:

  • Easy Prime™, an innovative funnel and tethered priming cap design for quick and easy priming
  • Large, 8-inch wheels with folding handle for easy transportation
  • Onboard instructions with key touch point icons for easy setup
  • Color-coded suction and discharge points to ensure proper hose connections
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Load Management for Standby Generators

Guardian standby generator installed near a deck

Generac Guardian Standby Generator

Standby generators provide electrical power during an outage. When the automatic, permanently installed system detects an outage, the generator engine starts and the transfer switch moves all or part of the home’s electrical system onto generator power. At the same time, it isolates the house from the electric utility lines. This protects utility workers from electrocution and also protects the generator from overloads.

You could purchase a generator that would supply the same amount of power as the electric utility. If your home has 200-amp electrical service, a 48-kilowatt generator would provide the same amount of power. Home’s rarely use the full amount of power they have available to them however, and other options are available.

An automatic transfer switch with Load Management allows a much smaller generator to keep all or most of your electrical loads operational.

Power Requirements

If you’ve ever taken a close look at the inside your main service panel, you may have noticed that amperage ratings on the branch circuits add up to a much higher number than the main circuit breaker rating. Homes have many branch circuits and the circuit breaker on each protects the wires in that circuit from overloads.

A typical home with 200-amp service has a mix of 15-amp and 20-amp breakers, with higher rated 240-Volt circuits. Twenty 15-amp, ten 20-amp, plus a 50-amp range circuit and two 30-amp A/C circuits is not uncommon. The total is more than 600 amperes.

The 200-amp main circuit breaker would trip at just one-third the total.

Most circuits don’t operate at their full load and main panels rarely operate at close to the maximum current of the main breaker. However, the utility is capable of easily supplying that current, and it is there if we need it.

The Need for Power Management

Consider a system that includes one 16-kilowatt standby generator. A 3-ton A/C unit requires about 3500 running watts. Two of them running together will total 7000 watts. Add in both furnace blowers and the total is closer to 8000 watts, just for cooling the house.

Other appliances use up the available power quickly.

  • Water heater — 4500 watts
  • Well pump — 1000 watts
  • Sump pump — 900 watts
  • Refrigerator — 800 watts
  • Freezer — 700 watts

The total, which includes the two A/C units, is close to 16 kilowatts. Appliances vary however and some may use more or less. Our 16kW standby unit has little or no power left for lights, charging a cell phone or laptop, or turning on the television to get a weather report.

Power management will allow you to use the appliances, but in a way that controls how the power is used. Perhaps only one air conditioner is allowed to start and run at the same time, and the well pump only runs if the air conditioner isn’t running.

Power Management

Load Management prevents too many high-current loads from operating at the same time. Most focus on 240-volt appliances because they usually draw the most current. Load management is usually implemented through the use of a smart controller integrated with the automatic transfer switch and external relay modules.

A relay allows an electronic controller to turn a load on or off by acting as a switch. A signal sent to relay allows the switch to open or close, which turns the load on or off. By monitoring the power from the generator, the controller can decide if a large appliance such as an air conditioner, electric dryer, or electric water heater should run or not.

Priority loading is a common way of implementing this strategy. If power is available, the highest priority load operates. Other loads with lower priorities are added only if the power is available or the highest priority loads are not required. For example, operating the central air conditioner on priority one may prevent an electric clothes dryer set to priority two from operating. If the A/C is not required, the dryer will start if there is enough power available.

Start delays prevent all the high wattage loads from starting at the same time.

Power management allows small, efficient generators to supply a home’s essential circuits with power while allowing less essential loads to operate only as available power allows.

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Free Mobile Link on Select Generac Standby Generators

Mobile Link with Generac Guardian Standby Generator

Generac Guardian with Mobile Link – Access your Generator Controller from anywhere

Norwall Power Systems is adding a Free Mobile Link Remote Monitor from Generac to select models. Mobile Link uses cellular technology to keep you informed via the web about the state and operation of your Generac standby generator.

The sale started on Feb. 25th and goes thru March 10th.

Mobile Link

Mobile Link installed on a Generac Guardian Standby Generator

Mobile Link Keeps You Updated with Status Alerts

The Mobile Link service communicates with a web server via the cellular text messaging system which has proven more reliable than the land-line telephone network. Standby generator owners receive timely status alerts whenever the generator status changes. The web server sends out status alerts to:

  • Cellular phones as text messages
  • Email accounts
  • Free Mobile App
  • Web-based dashboard for access via laptop, desktop, tablet, or smart phone.
The Mobile Link IOS screen showing status lights and current mode with options.

Mobile Link on IOS

The web-based dashboard and the free mobile app allow homeowners to set the types of status alerts they wish to receive; view history, maintenance logs and local weather updates; remotely set exercise times; or provide notifications to their local service dealer.

The mobile app is available for ios and Android and downloaded from iTunes, App Store Google Play, or Amazon Appstore.

With Mobile Link, you’re never out of touch whether you’re at home, at work, or on vacation. The unit attaches to the side of the generator cabinet and connects to the controller. Liquid-cooled models will require an additional cable for connection. Mobile Link replaces remote wireless monitors and requires access to the cellular phone system text messaging service and an annual cellular contract.

Standby Generators

What if a storm knocked out power to your house while you were on vacation. The food in your freezer and refrigerator might spoil, the basement could flood because the sump pump didn’t work, and if it was winter, the pipes might freeze.

With a Generac Standby Generator from Norwall Power Systems, you’ll never have to worry about that again.

If the power goes out, the standby generator turns on automatically and begins to supply your home with electrical power—automatically. And if you’re away from home, Mobile Link lets you know the power went out and the generator turned on, keeping your home and any family members living there safe and comfortable.

Get the peace of mind a standby generator from Generac offers and never worry about power outages again.

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Earn $100 When You Refer a Friend

Earn $100 When You Refer a Friend

You know how important your KOHLER® generator is to your home or small business. Suggest one to a friend, and earn a $100 rebate when he or she purchases a KOHLER generator between March 1 and December 31, 2015.

Earn $100 When You Refer a Friend

Earn $100 When You Refer a Friend

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Installation of Two Automatic Transfer Switches for a Standby Generator

Generac Protector shown supplying a home, barn, and outbuildings.

Standby Generator Systems for Large Homes or Properties May Require Two or More Automatic Transfer Switches

Large homes with electrical systems that compliment their size may have special requirements for the installation of a standby generator that extend beyond the unit’s power rating.

Service panels, even those that accommodate the higher current ratings, only have room for a certain number of circuit breakers. A large home with many circuits and many permanently-wired appliances may require two (or more) main service panels, each with a set of circuit breakers to distribute power throughout the house.

National Electric Code (NEC) requires that service entrance equipment must be rated to supply all the devices it serves. The Automatic Transfer Switch (ATS) that is a part of every standby generator installation becomes part of the service equipment if it is installed between the meter and the main service panel.

Modern Electrical Requirements

Kohler Standby Unit installed on a rock pad

Kohler Standby Generator For Emergency Backup Power

Modern homes have electrical requirements that far exceed what the average home required just twenty or thirty years ago. The minimum service for a new, single-family home is a 100-amp service. Some localities require 125 amps or 150 amps as the minimum.

It is not unusual for a large home to have a hot tub, a pair of furnaces with five-ton air conditioning units, a swimming pool with heaters and pumps, and double ovens with a range top, plus warming drawers. The loads quickly add up to a 300 or 400-amp service entrance requirement.

A service panel rated at 200 amperes has room for 40 single-pole circuit breakers. When more circuits are needed, additional service panels are required. When a service greater than 200 amperes is required, it is common to split the installation equally between two panels. A 300-amp service will have two 150-amp panels, and a 400-amp service will have a pair of 200-amp panels.

Larger installations may have additional main panels and sub panels.

Transfer Switch Installation

NFPA Logo - red flames surrounded by a square black outline wiht NFPA underneath.

The National Electrical Code is Published by the National Fire Prevention Association

The National Electric Code allows for different transfer switch installations when a home has more than one service panel.

  1. A single ATS that meets the combined rating of the main circuit breakers installed in the service panels. For example: Two main panels, each with a 200-amp main breaker, are supplied by a 400-amp ATS.
  2. One ATS for each main panel, with each ATS meeting the rating of the main circuit breaker in the main panel it supplies. For example: Two main panels, each with a 200-amp main breaker, are supplied by a pair of 200-amp automatic transfer switches.

Additionally,

  1. The transfer switches must carry a Service Entrance (SE) rating
  2. or a Service Entrance Disconnect that meets or exceeds the total of the all the main breakers is installed between the ATS units and the electric utility meter. Eg: two, 200-amp panels require a 400-amp main service disconnect.

Dual ATS Advantages

Two KohlerTransfer Switches Installed on One Generator

Two Kohler Automatic Transfer Switches Installed to Supply Power for Two Service Panels From One Generator

As the current rating of an ATS increases, so does the cost. Manufacturers offer standby generators bundled with an ATS at a lower cost than purchasing them separately. Adding a second ATS of the same size for the regular price represents a considerable cost saving over the separate costs of a generator and higher-rated ATS.

 

 

To illustrate, Norwall’s regular price* for a Generac 6551 is $4599 and includes the RTSY200A3 SE-Rated ATS. Add a second RTSY200A3 for $685 and the total purchase is $5284.

The 22kW generator without ATS (model 6552) costs $4099 and the 400-amp RTSY400A3 is $2645 for a total purchase of $6744. The cost difference is $1460, a substantial savings.

A dual automatic transfer switch installation does require more space, but the cost advantages outweigh this small disadvantage.

Always check the manufacturer’s recommendation for the most compatible transfer switches.

*Prices as of February 2015. All prices are subject to change.

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Transfer Switch Importance in Standby and Portable Generator Systems

Gen-Tran Power Inlet Box

A Portable Generator Connected to an Inlet Box Which Connects to the Transfer Switch

An important component of any generator system for backup power to a building that relies on an electric utility for its main source of power is the transfer switch.

Transfer switches fall into two main classifications: Automatic Transfer Switches and Manual Transfer Switches.

The transfer switch provides a number of functions that make it a necessary part of any emergency backup power system.

Portable generators use a Manual Transfer Switch (MTS). Standby generators use an Automatic Transfer Switch (ATS).

Transfer Switches

Steps a Generator and Transfer Switch Go Through to Restore Power.

An Automatic Transfer Switch can Provide Power from the Standby Generator During an Outage

Whether manual or automatic, transfer switches connect and disconnect utility and generator lines in a “Break—Make” operation. They “break” the current connection before they “make” the new connection.

Normal Operation: The transfer switch isolates the generator from the utility distribution grid. The generator is disconnected from the building’s electrical system and all power is supplied by the utility.

Outage Operation: As the transfer switch moves from utility (Line) to generator (Gen) mode, the utility connection is broken, then the generator connection is made. When Normal Operation is resumed, the generator connection is first broken, then the utility connection is made again.

An automatic transfer switch performs these operations without human intervention. Manual transfer switches require someone to select the switch position.

Utility Worker Protection

Drawing of a utility worker on on utility pole.

Lines Energized by a Generator can Injure Unsuspecting Line Workers

Transfer switches protect utility workers against electrocution by preventing unexpected current at high voltage on the local utility lines.

The electric utility distributes power in neighborhoods and to businesses at a high voltage. Common neighborhood voltage levels may be 4,000 volts, 13,000 volts, or as high as 33,000 volts. Before it is supplied to the building, the utility steps down the voltage with a transformer to 240 volts for most homes and small businesses. Some commercial buildings require higher voltages.

The transformer can work in either direction. It can step 13,000 volts down to 240 volts, or it can work in reverse and step 240 volts up to 13,000 volts.

A line energized by a generator that wasn’t properly connected will carry the higher voltage stepped up by the transformer. A utility worker that suddenly encounters 13,000 volts on a line they thought was safe could be injured, badly burned, or even killed.

Transfer switches prevent this from happening.

Generator and Building Protection

Generac standby connected to automatic transfer swtich

Standby Generator Connected to a Service Entrance Rated Transfer Switch

Although the generator and the electric utility both produce AC power, it is very unlikely that the frequency cycles are matched. The combination of electricity from both the utility and from generator at the same time will cause the equivalent of an unprotected short circuit.

In a best-case scenario, the generator’s main breaker will trip and take the unit off line. In the world of electricity however, the time it takes for a main breaker to trip is a lifetime. Main breakers are designed to allow a certain level of overload current for a very short period of time in order to allow motors and similar equipment to start.

During this short period, the generator could be damaged beyond repair.

Any condition that could damage the generator could also damage the home’s electrical system or the appliances connected to it. Motors can burn out and electronics can overheat.

Transfer switches eliminate the need for multiple extension cords (a possible safety hazard) and allow hard-wired appliances to operate on generator power.

Auxiliary Functions

Generac Power Management Module PMM and Starter Kit 6199

Generac Power Management Module PMM and Starter Kit 6199

Some automatic transfer switches also provide functionality beyond making and breaking utility and generator connections. The controllers in some standby generators monitor the utility supply lines, while some manufacturers leave that function up the transfer switch.

Load management is also a function usually delegated to the transfer switch. Loads with high current draw such as central air conditioners, electric ranges, water heaters, and well pumps may overload a generator when demand is high.

For example, if there is enough generator power for the first high-current load to run, but not the second, a transfer switch that employs load management allows the first load to operate while the second load waits. After the first load stops, the second is allowed to run.

An automatic transfer switch that manages power may allow a generator to serve an entire home, even if it can’t run all the high-current loads at the same time.

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Five Small Portable Generators for Power to Take Anywhere You Go

Picnic table with food, condiments, and accoutrements.

Small Portable Generators go Anywhere for Recreation

Too often, the portable generator is envisioned as a large, heavy power tool that isn’t very portable unless you’re only moving it from the garage to the driveway. Most people don’t think of it as something you can pick up and put in the family car.

Many ask, do I really need to drag all that weight around to run some lights or charge my battery drill? The answer is probably not.

There are a number of small portable generators that can fill your needs on camping trips, picnics, tailgate parties, or even in the back yard corner where that 100-foot extension cord won’t reach. These units are light weight, but provide enough power to handle the jobs asked of them.

Generac iX800

Generac iX800 portable inverter generator.

Generac’s iX800 weighs just 29 pounds.

If size and weight are limiting factors, it is hard to beat the Generac iX800 for portability. Weighing in at just 29 pounds, this inverter generator packs 800 watts of power in a small package that is just 18 inches long, 10 inches wide and 15 inches high. The half gallon fuel tank provides three and a half hours of run time at half load.

This easy to lug portable is well suited for jobs where there are not too many appliances to operate. It has enough power to start and run a small refrigerator, an electric drill, crock pot, or a string of low-wattage holiday lights.

Features low oil shutdown, two 120-volt receptacles with internal breakers, LED status lights, and a 2-year consumer warranty. Inverter technology provides clean power and keeps engine speed and noise to a minimum.

Westinghouse WH1000i

The Westinghouse 1000i Inverter Genertor

Westinghouse 1000i – quiet combined with easy portability

Just 30 pounds and just 53 – 59dB of noise make this power plant a great choice for packing up and getting away without disturbing the peace and quiet. The fuel tank holds slightly more than three quarts (0.8 gallons) and will keep the generator running for eight hours with a load of 500 watts.

Rated at 1000 watts of continuous power, this portable will easily run several small appliances, lights, and small tools. Super clean AC power from the inverter has less than 3 percent harmonic distortion—suitable for use with sensitive electronics like laptops or desktop computers.

Ergonomically designed for easy handling, the Westinghouse WH1000i includes two 120-volt receptacles, external push-button circuit breaker, high efficiency mode, and low oil shutdown. Two-year limited consumer warranty.

Briggs & Stratton PowerSmart 1600

Briggs & Stratton 1600 watt PowerSmart Inverter Generator

Briggs & Stratton 1600 Watt PowerSmart

This inverter generator features 1600 watts of continuous power—just short of the standard capability of most household lighting and convenience circuits. With a 2000-watt surge capacity, it will start and run most refrigerators and freezers or supply a number of smaller appliances.

The one gallon fuel tank offers up to six and half hours of run time at one-quarter load. Weighing in at just fifty pounds, the dual handles make transporting this unit easy for two people. The PowerSmart 1600’s inverter supplies clean, AC power with less than three percent total harmonic distortion to supply computers, game consoles, and other electronics.

Features two, 120-volt outlets, one 12-volt outlet for charging batteries, PowerSmart switch for additional economy, low-oil and overload alert, and quiet operation. Includes a two-year consumer warranty.

Westinghouse WH2000i

Westinghouse wh2000i inverter generator with parallel capability.

Westinghouse 2000 Watt. Super quiet, lightweight power.

Barely larger in size than its 1000 watt sibling, the WH2000i weighs in at just 43 pounds and provides the same continuous power as your average household circuit, all while producing less noise than comparable portables. If 1800 watts of continuous power isn’t enough, just add another unit with the parallel cord and double your available power to 3600 watts.

Get up to 17 hours of run time from the 1.3 gallon fuel tank at 25 percent load, or 13 hours at half load. Noise levels range from 52dB to 59dB—quiet enough to have a normal conversation while standing next to the generator. Operate a refrigerator, freezer, or even a window air conditioner.

The design includes two 120-volt receptacles, a 12 volt receptacle, high efficiency mode, low oil shutdown, and 2200 surge watts. Two-year consumer warranty.

Briggs & Stratton PowerSmart 3000

The Briggs & Stratton 3000 watt PowerSmart Inverter Generator

Briggs & Stratton PowerSmart 3000. Clean efficient power and portability.

When you need plenty of power in a small package, the PowerSmart 3000 is ready to go. The heaviest of this featured lineup, it weighs in at 90 pounds, but is still small enough for easy transport. The 1.5 gallon fuel tank offers up to nine hours of run time at one-quarter load.

The PowerSmart 3000 supplies 2600 watts continuous, 3000 watts surge. Need more power? This unit is parallel capable for a total of 5200 watts of continuous power or 6000 watts of surge power. A single unit can start and run a 15,000 BTU rooftop RV air conditioner.

Feature-rich design includes LCD display for power use and hours, USB charging port, four 120-volt receptacles, twelve volt receptacle, and 30-amp, 120-volt locking receptacle. Low oil and overload indicators. Two-year limited warranty.

Image: Picnic by Kenn W. Kiser

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Preparing Meals During an Extended Power Outage

An electric range will all stove-top burners and oven elements turned on.

Electric Stoves and Other Appliances Don’t Work During a Power Outage

We live with electricity every day and don’t think about it very much. At one time it seemed almost miraculous. Now, most of us take it for granted.

Then the power goes out and suddenly lights don’t go on at the flip of a switch and neither do a lot of other things. Without a source of backup power, accomplishing some things becomes more difficult.

Preparing food is one of those necessary chores that becomes a bit more difficult without power, or when you don’t have enough power.

Gas Ranges

A burner on a gas stove top.

Gas Stove Tops Work During and Outage if you Light Them With a Match or Lighter.

Most modern gas stoves and cook tops will still work during a power outage. Turn a burner on and if it doesn’t light, turn it off and wait for minute. Then turn the gas back on to Medium High and light it with a BBQ lighter or stick match.

Avoid very large, thick pieces of meat or large poultry. Break these items down into smaller pieces for cooking on the stove, or perhaps cook them outdoors on the grill.

Stove Top Chuck Roast: Season the roast with salt and pepper. Brown in a large pan with onion and garlic. Deglaze the pan with a cup of water or red wine. Bring to a simmer and cover tightly for one hour. Add cut up carrots and potatoes and simmer another 45 minutes.

BBQ Grills

Two charcoal kettle grills.

Grilling Outdoors is Another way to Cook Without Power

If the power is out and your standby generator can’t supply your electric range, just move the cooking outdoors. A gas grill works much like an oven or a stove top, and many people use it for both. Cook large pieces of meat until not quite done and move them over low heat or no heat to rest and come up to temperature. While you’re waiting, finish the meal by grilling your vegetables.

Quick Grilled Potatoes: Slice potatoes lengthwise into 1/2-inch-thick planks. Season and grill a few minutes on each side until done. Sprinkle with grated cheese and a dollop of sour cream. They look awesome and taste even better.

Charcoal grills add their own flavor to outdoor cooking and many people use them for the taste and the fun. They become multipurpose tools in a power outage. Like the gas grill, cook the big things first. Add a few coals if you need to punch up the heat, then cook your vegetables.

If you have a large, cast-iron fry pan or griddle, you can even make pancakes for breakfast.

Slow Cookers / Crock Pots

A modern crock pot and it's parts.

Crock Pots Don’t Use Much Power—Very Useful When Your Emergency Generator is Running

An emergency supply of electrical power will power a slow cooker or crock pot and won’t add much to the overall electrical load. It is amazing how efficient these little devices are and you can prepare an entire meal in one, which makes clean up a breeze.

Crock Pot Stew: Cut meats and vegetables into similar sized pieces. Turn the cooker on high and let it get hot. Spread the meat out and brown it. Add your vegetables, liquid, and herbs and spices. Food cooks fairly quickly on high. You can stretch it out all day by cooking on low.

Power Outage Food Safety

A Kohler Standby Generator and Automatic Transfder Switch

A Standby Generator can keep your food safe by keeping the power on to refrigerators and freezers.

A standby generator system can keep your refrigerator and freezer powered up and running as if the power were still on. A portable generator with a manual transfer switch that operates some essential circuits is another possibility for emergency power, but it won’t operate on its own.

Keeping food cold or frozen is absolutely necessary to food safety. If refrigerator temperatures rise above 40 degrees, bacteria begins to multiply at a fast rate and food that was safe and delicious begins turning into poison.

If you have no power at all during an outage that extends into days, you’re probably going to throw some food away. There are some things you can do to minimize your loss. Keep a thermometer in both your fridge and your freezer and in a place where it only takes a glance to see it.

Keep the doors on your refrigerator and freezer closed unless absolutely necessary.

When the refrigerator temperature begins to rise, stock up on ice in tubs and coolers and pack as much as possible beneath the ice.

Is your freezer full? A full freezer is the most efficient and stays frozen longer. Fill empty space with gallon water bottles filled two-thirds full. If you need room, take one out. Put them back when you have space. They will help keep food frozen much longer during an outage.

If you consider the amount of money invested in food that is kept in your refrigerator and in your freezer, isn’t a source of emergency power worth the investment? When you add in the safety of your family, doesn’t that make it necessary?

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