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A power generator is a great way to have an independent power source when you need it.
However, if you want to use a generator to power electronic devices, you can damage sensitive devices such as computers and laptops, DSLR cameras, and cell phones.
Here’s everything you need to make your generator safe for electronics.
Can generators damage electronics?
Standard generators are made to use fuel and run at 3,600 rpm. to produce 120 volts and 60 hertz of direct alternating current. However, unlike most conventional motors, these generators cannot maintain a steady, constant 3600 rpm. There are momentary fluctuations.
These fluctuations, also known as harmonic distortion, cause brief power dips and surges per moment. These surges are extremely harmful to electronic equipment.
In contrast, inverter generators have a more complex mechanism that converts alternating current to direct current and then converts it back to alternating current for output. The inverter generator can produce a constant, stable voltage without harmonic distortion.
In general, Electronics won’t be harmed by inverter generators, but they might be by regular, non-inverter generators.
How to make conventional generators safe for electronics
You can use many devices to protect your electronics from traditional generators’ power fluctuations and surges. Below you’ll find a list of these devices.
Use a surge protector
Most people should use surge protection strips for all electronic equipment, even when using main power rather than a generator.
When used properly, a surge protector detects overvoltage and redirects it to the ground. Of course, this means that your surge protector should be connected to an outlet with a ground pin to function properly; many people don’t plug their surge protectors properly and thus don’t get the protection they expect.
Surge protectors are rated for the number of joules they can absorb over their lifetime, and normal day-to-day use will slowly reduce their effectiveness. Older surge protectors may not provide surge protection at all.
Select a high-quality surge protector when utilising one with a generator(look for a warranted one), replace it frequently, and don’t rely on it as the only means of protecting your equipment.
A surge arrester is a tool that guards against electrical surges throughout the entire house that can come from generators, main power, or even nearby lightning strikes.
While arresters may not be able to absorb and divert the full strength of a surge, especially in the case of lightning, they can divert 85-90% of the surge, and plug-in surge protectors are able to manage more than that.
Professional electricians install surge arresters (also known as “whole house surge protectors”) on home service panels.
It’s advisable to add separate, smaller surge arresters to phones and/or cable lines to protect TVs, modems, and other devices connected to those lines.
Use an uninterruptible power supply
An uninterruptible power supply (UPS) stores power and, for a little period following the main power outage, offers a continuous supply of electricity.
These devices give you time to safely shut down or disconnect electronics to prevent them from being damaged by erratic currents and provide a few minutes of power to start a generator.
Small UPS devices can be used inside to safeguard a single computer or gadget, or they can be large units that protect an entire building. Here are some things to check for since there are many types of UPS devices available.
Looking for a UPS with generator mode
When the generator is functioning, these UPS devices are built to detect and correct for power fluctuations.
Ideally, you’ll want to consider an online UPS double-conversion UPS system or what’s technically known as a VFI UPS system.
With this kind of UPS, you’ll have secure, uninterrupted power for running home generators or even more critical equipment.
Choosing a double conversion UPS
This type of UPS functions as an inverter generator: it converts AC to DC and then back to AC for clean, stable, consistent energy that won’t damage equipment.
Double conversion systems will provide clean and uninterrupted power without any fluctuations. In order to create an instantaneous bridge to the generator, it converts DC to AC and then to DC.
A double conversion or VFI system is obviously not necessary when thinking about a generator, but depending on your budget, it can be worthwhile to investigate.
Use a dedicated UPS for your electronics
A UPS can cover your entire home, but it’s ideal to have one specifically for your delicate equipment.
If needed, add a second UPS to provide short-term power to other households’ electrical equipment that may be deemed essential.
When one UPS is used to protect cycle-switched electronics and other appliances, such as refrigerators, it can strain and drain the UPS prematurely.
Install the UPS correctly
Similar to surge protectors, an improperly grounded and mounted UPS system won’t safeguard your equipment and may even give you a false sense of security.
To ensure that your UPS will function when you need it, have a licenced electrician install it if necessary.
Receiving an electrical certificate to guarantee compliance is another advantage of having a licenced electrician install a UPS for your house.
This is sometimes a requirement for insurance purposes, and it gives you peace of mind if you’re valuing a high-end property.
Use a power line conditioner
A power line conditioner is a device that eliminates electrical noise so that it remains stable during power outages and power from open circuit generators. Power line conditioners eliminate many types of noise from the input power supply, including electromagnetic interference (EMI), radio frequency interference (RFI), surges, overvoltage, and more.
Therefore, a power line conditioner has many benefits and may be the only piece of equipment you need to make a safe generator for electronics in your home and workplace.
Use an automatic voltage regulator (AVR)
An automatic voltage regulator is a device added to a generator to smooth out load and RPM fluctuations, resulting in more stable power than a standard generator alternator. They do this without converting the power to DC. Some generators come with these devices, allowing them to produce clean energy without necessarily being an inverter generators.
Keep it always dry
Needless to say, water can cause short circuits. Therefore, it is important to keep the generator dry to prevent it from happening. Make sure the generator surface is dry. Please do not touch it with wet hands. If you have a portable generator, move it to another location, especially during the rainy season.
Also, you should not install a portable generator as an indoor unit. Wherever you decide to place it, the area must be clean and free of dust. Humidity or moisture can interfere with its proper functioning.
Also, make sure that beverages or oil don’t get inside the generator’s components. Avoid gatherings near generators. Severe power surges can occur if beverages enter generator components.
Properly manage electronic equipment
In addition to using these various devices listed above to protect your device from sudden electricity surges, you must also properly manage your power system to ensure its optimal performance. Some tips that you must keep in mind when working with electronics are as follows:
Before starting the generator, disconnect it from the main power
Many people overlook this step, but it is crucial to ensure the longevity of sensitive equipment. Sometimes when there is a power outage, and you haven’t disconnected the main power to the generator, it happens that the power from the generator returns to the utility line, which is detrimental.
Use a heavy-duty extension cord
You must use a heavy-duty extension cord to ensure the power is supplied and managed intelligently. These types of premium power cords come with special fuses designed to handle power surges. Remember to check your generator’s power rating when installing these heavy-duty wires.
Follow a two-tier approach
You can use this method if you plan to connect too many devices to the generator. This method becomes more effective if you have a surge protection strip. The strip lets the user connect multiple devices so they can be charged when needed.
Keep the fuel level stable
The next important thing to keep in mind when using a generator to power appliances is to maintain a steady flow of fuel. Sufficient fuel ensures no sudden power outages. Also, inspect various parts of the generator and clean them from time to time.
Make sure the generator is properly grounded. This will help prevent electric shock.
Use an extension cord of the appropriate size and type. The power cord should be able to handle the power output of the generator. Using the wrong cable can cause a fire.
Make sure the generator is in a well-ventilated area. This will help prevent carbon monoxide poisoning. If it’s a room, it’s better to have a CO sensor.
Start and operate the generator according to the manufacturer’s instructions. This will help you not lose your warranty, extend the life of your generator and keep all power appliances safe.
The three-position switch has no thermal or magnetic isolation switches. For this reason, each inlet must be protected by a circuit breaker that trips when the allowable load is exceeded;
On a reasonable budget, the simplest approach to make generator electricity for electronics safe is to use an inverter generator.
With traditional generators, adding additional surge protection is a good idea to give your electronics the clean power they need and protect them from damage.
While pricier home backup generators already come equipped with such a feature, your average portable inverter generator may not and will require some minor upgrades to be fully electronic-friendly.
Generators Safe For Electronics FAQ
Generators with inverters and automatic voltage regulators are the safest for electronics.
Not always. Inverter generators and generators with automatic voltage regulators will not harm your electronic equipment. Those without equipment won’t damage your electronics either, but the risk is higher.
6% THD is considered the upper limit for “clean” electricity. Power above 6% THD is not suitable to use for sensitive devices. All BISON generators have less than 6% total harmonic distortion.
Yes, you can plug your phone into the generator. If you’ve done everything right and your generator is grounded and stable, your phone and other electronics are not at risk.
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