How Do Portable Generators Work?

  • By: Umer.A
  • Date: October 10, 2021
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How Do Portable Generators Work
Generators have proven to be the best source of backup for electricity outages. They use gasoline as a source of chemical energy. And through the process of combustion and mechanical energy, it converts into electricity.

Portable generators are common in households. They are smaller in size, and you can store them in your garage for a longer period too.

Blackouts or power outages have always been unexpected. However, you can prepare for them by finding an alternative backup source of electricity, such as a portable generator. This is necessary because most blackouts either occur in extreme winter or summer.

Working of Portable Generator:

A portable generator works like an electrical power plant that supplies electricity to cities. Unlike the power plant, the generator supplies electrical energy to your home, worksite, or campsite. It is a miniature model of the powerplants.

Like a power plant, a generator converts chemical energy into fuel such as gasoline, diesel, etc., into mechanical energy. This mechanical energy turns into electrical energy.

Every generator has five primary components that generate electricity. The first part is the starter. It is powered by a DC battery or a pull cord.

To ensure a steady supply of fuel in the portable generators. You can store enough fuel in a tank that the generator can run for up to 8 hours.

The fuel goes from the tank to the internal combustion engine. This is where the conversion begins. In this chamber, a spark is created. With this, the chemical energy in the fuel converts into mechanical energy.

The mechanical energy starts moving pistons and other components in the internal chamber. This, in turn, transfers this energy to the alternator. In an alternator, a rotating component creates a magnetic field around a coil to generate electricity. This coil then generates electricity inside the generator.

Now, electricity is supplied to the final component of the portable generator, the outlet. The outlet has several configurations. They can vary from model to model. They can either have one or more outlets, depending on the generator’s type and price.

Types of Portable Generators:

Portable generators have mainly two different types; conventional and inverter.

The Inventor generators are top-notch portable generators. They are lightweight and easy to carry but more complex than a regular generator.

An inverter generator moves the current through more parts than a conventional generator in delivering the final output. An inverter generator produces AC like a conventional generator and then converts it into a DC.

The DC converts back into AC. The final current is much more stable than a conventional generator.

The conventional generator supplies raw electricity. This is of high voltage with spikes. Whereas the inverter generator converts this raw electricity into DC. Then it converts back into AC to produce a sufficient voltage or current.

Now, you might think, “why even consider the conventional generator?”. The answer is the conventional generator produces more power than the inverter generator. They can do this because of their large tanks.

They are comparatively cheaper than inverter generators. But the inverter generators are safer for your electrical appliances. They don’t damage the circuits in your TV, computer, etc., because of the good electricity.

Safety Tips:

Here are some of the safety tips on keeping yourself safe when using a generator.

One ignored risk is carbon monoxide that portable generators produce. It is a tasteless, odorless, and colorless gas but highly dangerous. It can kill a full-grown adult in 5 minutes.

To reduce such risks, newer models of generators come with built-in CO monitors. It shuts off the generator when it reaches dangerous levels in your home.

Still, you should place your generator 20-feet away from your home. Make sure to direct the exhaust away.

You should never connect it directly to the wall. It can cause a backfire, which damages your house wiring. Instead of this, either use a heavy-duty extension cord to use electric appliances. Or connect the generator to a safety switch that can run hard-wired appliances too.

When you start the generator, turn on the appliances and lights one at a time. This way, you’ll avoid overloading your generator.

If you need to refill the portable generator, make sure it’s shut down. And then refill it when it’s cooled down. You should keep your kids and pets away from generators. They are hot enough to burn their skin even when shut down.

Storage and Maintenance:

Buying a portable generator and storing it in the corner of the garage isn’t enough. It is necessary to maintain your generator regularly. Because if a blackout happens, you don’t want to find out your generator has rusted over time. Or that its plugs have died. Maintain your generator in such a manner that it can be used whenever required.

Here are a few tips you can look up:

Motor oil plays a vital role in maintaining your generator. It lubricates the moving parts of a portable generator so they don’t jam up. You should change the motor oil every 100 hours of use or at least every season. Always keep a spare bottle of oil, oil filters for extended periods of outage.

Store your portable generator on an empty tank if it is not in use for more than 25 days. Gum deposits can form at the bottom of the tank.

They can block the chambers of the portable generator and obstruct its performance. Although, you can store the gasoline in a separate container for long periods.

Before storing your generator, make sure to clean its dust thoroughly. After that, you should cover it with a cover. These covers can not only shield your generator from dust but from water and rust too.

If no need arises to use your portable generator for long, still run it for a few minutes every 30 days. This can help lubricate the components by circulating the oil.

Generator storage

How Do You Hook Up A Portable Generator?

There are two ways you can hook it up. Either connect the home appliances to the generator with a cord. Or install a safety switch to connect hard-wired appliances.

What Can You Run on A Portable Generator?

Everything with a plug can run on a generator as long as it can supply enough electricity. You can even run more than one appliance. But the sum of power drawn should be less than the total power.

What Kind of Fuel Can Be Used for Portable Generators?

Portable generators can use different types of fuels. The standard type is the one that uses gasoline. Other than that, for efficiency, experts recommend diesel generators. Consumers are also using propane generators. Nowadays, bi-fuel generators are being manufactured that can run with two types of fuel at a time.

What Kind of Maintenance Does A Generator Require?

Generators require oil to lubricate their components. The oil with its filter should be changed every 100 hours of use. Other than that, its spark plug should be changed after every 200 hours of use.

Can You Fill the Gas Tank of a Running Generator?

You cannot fill the fuel tank when the generator is running. Because if electricity makes contact with gasoline, it can start a fire.


Portable generators provide backup to keep the appliances in your house intact even after a power outage. They use fuel such as gasoline and diesel to generate electricity.

There are mainly two different types of generators available on the market. The convenient generators or the inverter generators. Convenient generators produce raw electricity with spikes, while inverter generators provide refined electricity.

Although they are a good backup source, their parts can end up jamming if not maintained properly. And when you need to use the generator, it might not start. Therefore, you should maintain it and run for a few minutes every 30 days of no use.