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Electrical generators are standalone machines that provide electricity when power from the local grid is unavailable. Industrial generators are often used to supply backup power to facilities, businesses, or homes during power outages but they can also be used as a primary power source in areas where a local electrical grid is unavailable or difficult to access such as mining and farming operations or even new developments and construction.
How Does A Generator Create Electricity?
Generators don’t actually create electricity. Instead, they convert mechanical or chemical energy into electrical energy. They do this by capturing the power of motion and turning it into electrical energy by forcing electrons from the external source through an electrical circuit. A generator is essentially an electrical motor working in reverse.
What Are The Parts Of An Electrical Generator?
There are nine parts to a generator and they all play a role in getting power to where it is needed most. The parts of a generator are:
- Engine. The engine supplies energy to the generator. The power of the engine determines how much electricity a generator can provide.
- Alternator. This is where the conversion from mechanical energy to electrical energy occurs. Also called a “genhead”, the alternator contains both moving and stationary parts that work together to create the electromagnetic field and movement of electrons that generates electricity.
- Fuel System. The fuel system makes it possible for the generator to produce the energy needed. The system includes a fuel tank, a fuel pump, a pipe connecting the tank to the engine, and a return pipe. A fuel filter removes debris before it gets to the engine and an injector forces the fuel into the combustion chamber.
- Voltage Regulator. This component helps control the voltage of the electricity that is produced. It also helps convert the electricity from AC to DC, if needed.
- Cooling and Exhaust Systems. Generators create a lot of heat. The cooling system ensures the machine doesn’t overheat. The exhaust system direct and remove the fumes the form during operation.
- Lubrication System. There are many small, moving parts inside a generator. It is essential to lubricate them adequately with engine oil to ensure smooth operation and protect them from excess wear. Lubricant levels should be checked regularly, as often as every 8 hours of operation.
- Battery Charger. Batteries are used to start up the generator. The battery charger is a fully automatic component that ensures the battery is ready to go when needed by supplying it with a constant low-level of voltage.
- Control Panel. The control panel controls every aspect of generator operation from start up and running speed to outputs. Modern units are even capable of sensing when power dips or goes out and can start or shut off the generator automatically.
- Main Assembly / Frame. This is the body of the generator. It is the part that we see; the structure that holds it all in place.
How Do I Size A Generator?
The single most important part of installing a backup generator or a prime generator is getting the size right. Undersized generators won’t be able to provide you with all the power you need and you’ll be forced to pick and choose which electrical components will receive power from the generator and which ones won’t. Even worse, running an undersized machine can strain the unit, causing the generator to cut out mid-operation, may lead to premature generator failure, and can possibly damaging the devices connected to it.
Some think that it’s acceptable to install a smaller than needed standby generator since it won’t be running all the time, but this is faulty logic because when a standby generator is needed it must power the entire facility. In other words, you still require the generator to provide a certain amount of power whether the generator is run continuously or only on an emergency basis.
It’s generally better to buy a bigger generator than a smaller one, but oversized generators have their drawbacks as well. Installing a generator that provides much more power than you need is a waste of resources. You’ll overspend on the genset itself, spend more on fuel and other consumables than you need, and also run the risk of damaging the devices connected to the generator.
Generators range in power capacity from 5 kW to 50 kW in the residential market and from 50 kW to over 3 Megawatts in the commercial and industrial markets, giving buyers plenty of choices, but also raising plenty of questions as to which generator is right for them. Correctly sizing a generator involves several factors and considerations. The best way to ensure you have sized the generator correctly is to consult a certified electrician. An electrician can determine your exact power needs, your electrical system capacity and any necessary upgrades, and how to best install a generator.