Generators Have Evolved – From Luxury Items to Must-Haves
There was a time when many people felt that a generator was a luxury. After all, they’re not cheap.
You probably remember those days. Emergencies were rare. A full-blown crisis was even rarer. And disasters? Well, they happened in other countries, but not here. But as we’ve seen in recent years – especially in 2020 – that’s no longer the case.
Not with increasingly frequent and powerful hurricanes ripping homes apart and flooding cities. Not with tornadoes destroying property and toppling power lines. Not with wildfires chasing people from their homes.
The common denominator is blackouts. And the more severe a disaster is, the longer the power stays off. All of which means generators have shifted from luxury items to must-have items.
So many generators, so little time
Once someone decides it’s time to invest in a generator, what should they do? There are many different types from which to choose.
How do you know which one will provide exactly what you need without costing an arm and a leg? How can you tell which ones are safe?
It’s important to do your research. One of the things you will find out quickly is that generators running on gas have some serious issues. In addition to being loud and smelly, they can be difficult to start in the cold. They can also be very dangerous.
At least eight of the deaths resulting from Category 4 Hurricane Laura last month were the result of breathing carbon dioxide from gas-powered generators. That’s according to the Louisiana Department of Health.
What is a generator?
We’ll take a look at some options in a moment. First, let’s briefly review what a generator is and what it does.
A generator is a machine that produces electrical energy in the form of voltage and current. Generators for home use produce AC (alternating current) power. Generators for cars produce DC (direct current) power.
This backup power source converts a fuel source or a solar source into electrical energy. It can power electrical appliances that ordinarily would be dead during a blackout.
In some cases, generators can be lifesavers. They can provide heat when it’s cold and air conditioning when it’s hot. They can also deliver light when it’s dark and power crucial medical equipment.
There are three main types of generators: standby, inverter and portable. Standby generators operate with an automatic transfer switch. They start powering devices within seconds after an outage occurs.
They use an internal combustion engine. And usually operate on liquid propane or natural gas.Standby generators are normally associated with hospitals and banks. Plus government buildings, shopping malls and other businesses. They’re part of a safety system for medical equipment. As well as elevators, lighting and fire protection.
These generators execute automatic self-tests periodically. To ensure that they will properly react to a power loss.
An inverter generator uses an engine connected to an alternator to produce AC power. It can also connect AC power to DC power.
Relying on high-tech magnets, these generators use advanced electronic circuitry. They output AC current, convert it to DC current and invert it to AC current.
The engine of an inverter generator adjusts itself depending on how much power is needed. Which makes it more energy efficient.
These weigh between 50 and 250 pounds. They maintain a constant flow of current to an appliance. The smaller ones can power car batteries and laptops. And supply power for RVs, boats and camper vehicles.
Portable generators can be powered by gas, diesel fuel or solar energy. They generally provide enough electricity to power some lights, a freezer and refrigerator. Plus a television, tools and other items.
You can use their sockets to plug in electrical appliances. Portable solar-powered generators do not require any kind of fuel or electrical power. They power with the free energy from the sun through solar panels.
Many people prefer them to other generators because they are lightweight. And can be taken just about anywhere. Including campsites and other remote areas.
They are virtually soundless. And they are perfectly safe to use within your home. In fact, you can even have one running in your bedroom and still sleep soundly.
Carbon monoxide threat
In addition to being much more affordable, portable generators offer plenty of conveniences. That’s why they are used so often for residential purposes during power outages.
If portable is your choice, you need to decide between a gas-powered generator and one powered by solar energy.
Gas-powered generators should only be used outdoors. And even then they should be kept away from windows, doors and vents.
Carbon monoxide is odorless and difficult to detect. It can seep inside from an outdoor gas-powered generator. That’s why it’s called the silent killer.
Be prepared with the best
Hundreds of thousands of homes and places of work lost power due to Category 4 Hurricane Laura. Some still don’t have power.
But we all know it doesn’t take a hurricane to cause a blackout. Any kind of extreme weather event can do it. Including wind storms.
Not to mention automobile accidents and equipment failures. And even small animals getting into power stations.
In other words, it could happen anytime and anywhere. The key is to be prepared with a solar-powered portable generator.