There is no question that electricity plays a huge part in our daily lives. Most of our days are spent constantly interacting with electronic devices, gadgets, appliances and other kinds of electronic devices. When power outages occur, the most common solution the use of generators.
You probably know what a generator is. But in this post, we will answer a commonly asked question: Can a Generator Get Wet? Hint: The answer is NO! We will get deeper into the reasons why.
We will also dig deeper as to how a generator actually works, the components that hold it together, and the different types of fuel for it to function.
How Does a Generator Actually Work?
Contrary to popular beliefs, generators do not actually produce electricity. They convert mechanical or chemical energy obtained from an external source into electrical energy as the output. This electrical energy can then go directly to our homes, buildings, or be stored in batteries. This flow of electrical charges is similar to the mechanism of how water pumps operate to initiate the flowing of water.
The engine uses its external fuel source to create mechanical energy. Then, the voltage regulator works with the alternator to make use of the mechanical energy to push the electrical charge inside the generator through an electric circuit which creates magnetic and electric fields. Through a process, DC and AC power are generated from the fuel.
As the power increases, the voltage regulator will regulate the DC current—an adequate amount of DC current works to keep it running at optimum output. But when it decreases, the voltage regulator will once again create the cycle to maintain the power level.
Can Generators Get Wet?
No! Generators are not waterproof! Getting a generator wet can cause a short circuit, or even electrocution, since the purpose of the generator is to generate electricity. You may come across some brands that advertise that their generator is safe to use in all weather conditions, but that does not naturally include lots of water exposure. Not only will it put you at high risk of injury or death, but it can also damage the generator itself.
Do not place a generator near a pond, pool, other body of water, sprinkler system or exposed to rain and snowfall. You should always keep your generator high and dry and read the instruction manual first to obtain best knowledge about using it. Remember proper maintenance for continuous usage in the long run.
Main Components of a Generator
Engine is the main source which supplies mechanical energy to the generator. The power of the engine immensely determines the maximum power output the generator can supply. Simply put, the more powerful the engine is, the more power the generator can supply.
It is also known as ‘genhead’ and is where the conversion from mechanical to electrical energy takes place. It contains moving and stationary components such as the stator and rotor. These are working together in order to create a rotating magnetic field for the production of electricity.
This system consists of a fuel tank, fuel pump and pipes. This is where the fuel is stored which is compulsory in order to make mechanical energy happen. The tank typically has enough capacity to keep the generator up and running for at least 6 to 8 hours.
As the name implies, voltage regulator helps to regulate voltage the generator creates in which it undergoes a 4-cycle process of voltage regulation.
- Voltage Regulator: Conversion of AC Voltage to DC Current
- Exciter Windings: Conversion of DC Current to AC Current
- Rotating Rectifiers: Conversion of AC Current to DC Current
- Rotor / Armature: Conversion of DC Current to AC Voltage
Cooling and Exhaust Systems
Continuous usage of generators can cause various components to heat up. The cooling system is an essential component as it ensures that the generator does not overheat.
Exhaust system, on the other hand, is also an essential component and is formed into pipes which are usually made of cast iron, wrought iron or steel. It manages and disposes the toxic chemicals released by the generator. Be careful around the exhaust! Exhaust gas can put a person who happens to inhale it to some serious health risks and worse, it can lead to death.
Since the generator consists of many moving parts inside, it is necessary to take good care of them by lubrication of engine oil to ensure continuous smooth operation and for longer lasting usage. As a rule of thumb, lubricant should be checked every 8 hours of operation.
By the name itself, the battery charger automatically sustains the generator battery charged by supplying it with a consistent low float of voltage. Otherwise, high amounts of voltage will cut the life of the battery short. Moreover, they usually do not require any adjustments or configurations.
The control panel is generally in control of every aspect of the generator operation, from startup to shut down, output level, and other controls (such as phase selector, frequency and engine control switches).
On the whole, all components must be placed inside a structural housing which also provides a base support for all of the components. Ideally, no manufacturer creates a generator with components out in the open.
Different Types of Fuel
There are factors to consider when choosing a fuel for your generator. It also makes it one of the crucial decisions you have to make—taking in the factors of cost and availability.
Here are the widely known used fuels for a generator:
It is the most cost effective and preferred fuel for most consumers and commonly available everywhere, except some rural areas. Natural gas is the most popular fuel among generators for homes, schools and commercial buildings.
It is one of the popular fuels due its wide availability and relatively low cost. Unfortunately, it has a shorter shelf life compared to other fuels—it can last about a year or sometimes less. Most people stock up as long as supplies are available. But due to its chemical volatility, companies generally limit generator fuel tanks to 25 gallons or less. On the scale of chemical energy, gasoline carries more energy than propane and natural gas but less than diesel.
Despite having less energy than gasoline, some good things about propane are that it can be stored for long periods of time and is considered to be safer than gasoline in general. Propane burns cleanly and more quickly than other fuels, depending on the set wattage of the unit. Moreover, it carries more energy than natural gas but less than diesel.
Diesel may not be a commonly used fuel yet it is far less volatile. It carries more energy making it more reliable and efficient fuel as an energy source among others. It is easier to maintain and can also last long periods of time as long as it is handled with proper care and good maintenance.
Some Final Thoughts
You don’t really need to know everything about generators to buy and use one. Understanding the basics is incredibly important, though. Just as long as you know the basics of how to manage your generator, you will be just fine.