Portable Generator FAQ

General

What is a portable generator?

A portable generator is a gas or propane-powered device that burns fuel in order to provide electrical power. A generator’s engine drives an alternator, which in turn generates wattage. The end can then plug in tools and electrical appliances through the control panel of the unit. Learn more >

What is an inverter generator?

Inverter generators are devices that use advanced electronic technology to produce the cleanest and most stable electrical power output. With a low THD, they usually are the best choice when it comes to powering equipment that contains sensitive electronic components (e.g. microchips). They can adjust their engine speed according to the power demand and produce their power through a computer-controlled process. Thanks to their embedded technology, inverter generators are lighter, quieter and more fuel efficient than traditional, conventional generators. Learn more >

What is the difference between running (rated) watts and starting (surge) watts?

Running watts refer to the amount of power a generator can continuously produce. Starting watts represent the amount of power a generator can briefly produce without triggering its circuit breakers. Starting watts mostly apply to inductive loads (pretty much anything with an electrical motor). Learn more >

What is the life expectancy of a portable generator?

Many factors can have an important impact on the life expectancy of a generator, the biggest ones being proper maintenance and break-in.

What is the difference between portable and standby generators?

One of the biggest differences lies in the number of steps it takes to get power flowing into your house during a power outage. With a portable generator, you’ll have to transport your generator, start it up, and then connect it to your power inlet box. Once done, you must use your transfer switch to swap your house’s power source from the main line to the generator. On the other hand, a standby generator is usually set up to automatically turn itself on and off during power outages. Learn more >

What are the advantages of dual fuel generators?

Dual fuel generators can run on either gasoline or propane (LPG). These units allow you to either choose between running at full power, on gasoline, or on a derated, but more eco-friendly power source, propane. Propane is generally cleaner to run compared to gasoline, since it has a lower carbon content and burns in a cleaner fashion. These generators can be particularly useful when gasoline is not easily accessible or when you need to store fuel for the long term. Unlike gasoline, propane does not degrade over time.

Is electric start required?

Electric start is not required, but offers superior convenience. It eliminates the need of pulling a cord to get your generator’s engine running. With an electric start, the unit may be started up with a key, a switch, or a button, depending on its design. An electric start requires a charged battery.

What is remote start?

Remote start should not be confused with auto start. Remote start only applies to portable generators that already have an electric start. It allows to start a unit by a key fob or a mobile phone app, as long as you are in its range.

What oil should I use?

First, check your owner’s manual to see which oil your unit’s manufacturer recommends. Generally, SAE 10W – 30 is recommended above 32° F. However, keep in mind that prefrerred oil type can vary based on air temperature, engine design, and manufacturer.

What type of fuel should I use?

Refer to your owner’s manual for a list of recommended and compatible fuel types. According to the most cited recommendations, gasoline should be fresh, unleaded, with an octane rating of 87, and no more than 10% ethanol (E10).

What size of generator do I need?

Start by listing all the appliances that you will need to simultaneously power. Once you have this list, write down each of their running and starting watts. The total running watts you’ll need are equal to the sum of all individual running wattages. The total starting watts you’ll need are equal to the total running watts + the highest single starting wattage. Lastly, multiply the running wattage by 1.2 to avoid running your unit at full load. All of this can be done easily with our generator sizing tool.

What is resistive load?

It’s the simplest type of load. Anything related to lighting or heating (kettles, light bulbs, radiant heaters, etc.) usually is a resistive load.

What is GFCI?

Ground Fault Circuit Interrupter (GFCI) is a safey feature, which stops the power flow in protected receptacles if a ground fault is detected to protect you from electric shocks. If the RESET button of a GFCI outlet pops out, it can mean that the equipment plugged into the outlet is faulty.

What do CARB, EPA, and CSA mean?

CARB, EPA, and CSA are acronyms of some certifications and standards that apply to portable generators. They mostly relate to emissions. CARB stands for California Air Resources Board. EPA stands for Environmental Protection Agency. CSA stands for Canadian Standards Association.

How should I transport my generator?

Your portable generator should be transported in its normal operating position. Do not lay it on its side. Before transporting it, close its fuel valve, ensure its bolts are correctly tightened, and disconnect its eventual starter battery. To prevent it from accidentally starting, disconnect the spark plug wire and move it out of contact with the spark plug.

Operation

Can I continuously run my generator?

While it is possible to run a portable generator non-stop, there are two things to keep in mind. Maintenance intervals should be strictly followed and since gasoline is highly flammable, you will have to stop your unit and let it cool down before refueling it.

What happens if I overload my generator?

Over 99% of the portable generators sold in the US feature circuit breakers, which prevent engine damage by overloading. If you overload your unit, the circuit breakers will simply trip and interrupt the power output to protect both your equipment and your unit. Circuit breakers usually cool down in about 10 seconds, after which they can be reset by pressing a button.

Can I start my generator with appliances connected to it?

No. Your generator’s engine needs to rev up before you apply any type of load to it. Starting your unit under load could cause its engine to stall. Think about it in the same way as if you were trying to start a stick shift car with the first gear on. Learn more >

Can I shut down my generator with appliances still on?

While this most likely wouldn’t hurt your generator, you shouldn’t shut your unit down while appliances are still connected to it. If your appliances are still running during shutdown, they could encounter varying voltage and frequency, which may damage them. Learn more >

Can I plug an extension cord in my portable generator?

Appliances can be individually plugged into your generator with an extension cord, as long as you ensure that the cord is heavy-duty, outdoor-rated, and its wire gauge is adequate for the load applied and for the length of the cord. Overloading your extension cord could lead to fires or irreversible damage of your equipment. Never use damaged extension cords.

What can I do to make my generator quieter?

We do not recommend any unauthorized modifications to your unit. To reduce your portable generator’s noise emissions, consider using an enclosure. However, keep in mind that portable generators are air cooled and thus must be run with enough airflow to keep them cool, otherwise damage could occur due to overheating. Moreover, exhaust gases must be allowes to efficiently disperse to prevent exposure to carbon monoxide and poor running conditions.

How much space does a portable generator need?

As a rule of thumb, you should allow at least five feet of clearance on all sides of the unit.

Where should I operate my portable generator?

Only operate your portable generator outside, away from doors and windows, on level surfaces, and where it will not be exposed to rain, snow, water, moisture, dirt, or dust.

What accessories are available for my generator?

A good array of generator accessories exists. Parallel kits allow most inverter generators to run in parallel. Wheel kits let you transport open frame units more easily. Storage covers protect your generator when idle. Storm covers shield your unit from the elements. You may also find lifting hooks, optional remote starts, and all sorts of adapters.

Maintenance

How often should I inspect my portable generator?

Inspect your generator before each use. All portable generators require routine maintenance, such as filter and oil changes. Refer to your owner’s manual for maintenance procedures and schedules.

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