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Welcome to our Frequently Asked Questions page! Here, you’ll find answers to common enquiries about generators, pressure washers, garden machinery, and compressors. Whether you’re looking for information on home generators, diesel generators, or petrol generators, we’ve got you covered. We are committed to providing exceptional customer service, so if you can’t find the answer you’re looking for, our knowledgeable support team is here to assist you. Explore our FAQs to make informed decisions about your power equipment needs.

Please check these Frequently Asked Questions below before contacting us via the website.

Generator Basics

What is the difference between kW and kVA? What is the power factor?

A Kilowatt (kW) is a measure of actual power that is produced by a generator. This is the best unit of measurement to match the generator to the required power as most appliances will list their power rating in Watts (W) or Kilowatts (kW).

The kVA (Kilo-Volt-Amperes) of a generator is the apparent (potential) power that the alternator can produce. This is converted through an electrical system into useful output, kW. The kVA is not always useful when sizing a generator to an application as it doesn’t always match what the generator will provide.

The relationship between kW and kVA is the Power Factor. This is a measure of electrical efficiency in a system and is expressed in values between 0 and 1. The closer the power factor is to 1, the more efficient the system is, and a greater amount of kVA is being converted to kW.

The formula for converting kVA to kW is:

Apparent Power (kVA) x Power Factor (pf) = Actual Power (kW)

Singe-phase generators will usually have a Power Factor of 1, which means that 1kVA = 1kW. Three-phase generators can range between 0.8 to 0.9 for their Power Factor, so a 10kVA three-phase generator would only provide 8 – 9kW of actual power.

What is an inverter generator?

1. High-Quality Power for Sensitive Appliances: Unraveling the Inverter Generator

An inverter generator produces high-quality electrical power, ideal for most sensitive appliances. In contrast to conventional generators, which directly produce AC power, inverter generators first produce AC power, then convert it to DC power, and finally, “invert” it back to stable AC power. This process helps maintain a consistent frequency, reducing the chance of power spikes or drops. This process is carried out through the addition of an inverter board, which not only controls the power output, but also the engine speed of the generator.

2. Fuel Efficiency and ECO Mode: How Inverter Generators Optimize Engine Control

The engine control, carried out by the inverter board, links to a small motor that adjusts the throttle to more accurately set the speed of the engine based on the load applied. This makes the inverter generators more fuel efficient than a standard set and can even go to lower speeds with “ECO mode” when less power is needed. The speed control of the engine, coupled with most of the inverter generators being set in a canopy, also makes them a lower noise level option when compared to traditional generators.

3. Portability and Clean Energy: Embracing Inverter Generators for Outdoor Activities

In addition to their high-quality power output and efficiency, inverter generators are also appreciated for their portability. They are usually compact and lightweight, making them ideal for various outdoor activities such as camping and caravanning. Their low noise level and clean energy output also make them suitable for use in residential areas or other noise-sensitive environments. Despite being generally more expensive upfront, their long-term benefits of fuel efficiency and lower maintenance costs often justify the investment.

What's the difference between Continuous Watts and Maximum Watts listed on the generator?

The continuous output, sometimes referred to as rated output, of a generator is the amount of power the unit can produce for a long period of time (i.e., several hours). Even though the generator can run at its continuous wattage, it is recommended to load the generator to an average of 70% for continual operation. This would mean that a generator being run at 100% load for one hour would need to run at 40% for one hour, to balance this load factor to the average figure.

Maximum output, sometimes referred to as peak output, of a generator is the amount of power that it can produce for a limited amount of time (i.e., less than 2-5 minutes). This higher wattage level is designed to accommodate starting surges of power from appliances such as motors, tools etc. and is usually around 10% higher than the continuous output of a generator.

A generator being run at a power above its continuous output but below the maximum output for long periods of time will cause the unit to overload and cut power. If the power demanded goes above the maximum output of a generator, it will cut out immediately using its overload protection devices (circuit breaker).

What is the difference between Three phase and Single-Phase Generators?

Single phase power

Single phase power is generated using a single AC wave and typically has a voltage range of 220 to 250V (or 110 to 120V on a dual voltage generator). Generators designed for single phase power feature sockets with three cables: Live, Neutral, and Earth. These generators are generally small, with a capacity of up to approximately 10kW, although some single-phase generators can reach 40-50kW. They are used primarily for powering small appliances in both residential and commercial settings, or for supplying electricity to small properties.

Three phase power

In contrast, three phase power is generated using three AC waves and typically operates at a voltage range of 380 to 440V. Generators designed for three phase power have sockets with five cables: 3 x Live, Neutral, and Earth. These generators are typically larger, with capacities above 10kW, although some models are available from around 5kW. Three phase generators are mainly used to power larger appliances, especially in commercial settings, or to supply electricity to larger properties, whether residential or commercial. In some cases, even if the appliances inside a building are single phase, a three phase generator may still be necessary for larger structures such as warehouses or factories.
It is important to note that while it is possible to draw single phase power from a three phase generator, doing so would only provide 1/3 of the total power capacity. However, this is not recommended as a long-term solution due to the potential phase imbalance it can cause on the generator.

Single Phase Power:

  1. Produced through a single AC wave
  2. Voltage range of 220-250V (or 110-120V on a dual voltage generator)
  3. Generators have sockets with 3 cables: Live, Neutral, and Earth
  4. Typically small, up to around 10kW (some can go up to 40-50kW)
  5. Used for powering small appliances in domestic and commercial settings, or for small properties

Three Phase Power:

  1. Produced with three AC waves
  2. Voltage range of 380-440V
  3. Generators have sockets with 5 cables: 3 x Live, Neutral, and Earth
  4. Usually larger, above 10kW (some available from around 5kW)
  5. Mainly used for powering larger appliances in commercial settings or larger properties
  6. Three phase generator may be required for larger buildings, even if appliances inside are single phase

What is a portable power station used for?

A portable power station is a device equipped with a rechargeable battery and multiple charging outlets, which typically include 12V ports, USB ports, USB-C ports, and standard household plug sockets. These power stations are designed to provide a convenient and reliable source of electrical power in situations where traditional power sources might be unavailable or inconvenient to use.

They are particularly useful for:

  1. Outdoor Activities: Portable power stations are commonly used during camping trips, hiking, picnics, and other outdoor activities. They allow you to charge devices like phones, laptops, cameras, and portable refrigerators, ensuring that you remain connected and powered up even in remote locations.
  2. Emergency Power: During power outages or emergencies, a portable power station can provide temporary power to essential devices such as medical equipment, communication devices, lights, and fans.
  3. Campervans and Boats: Portable power stations are a great asset for people travelling in campervans, caravans, or boats. They can power appliances like fridges, lights, cooking equipment, and entertainment devices, making life on the road more comfortable.
  4. Construction Sites: Construction workers often use portable power stations to operate tools and equipment at remote job sites where traditional power sources might be inaccessible.
  5. Events: People who attend outdoor gatherings can use portable power stations to run speakers, grills, coolers, and other appliances without relying on vehicle batteries.
  6. Off-Grid Living: In off-grid or remote living situations, portable power stations can supplement solar panels or other alternative energy sources to provide consistent power for daily needs.

Pros of using a portable power station include:

  1. Emission-Free: Portable power stations produce no emissions, allowing them to be used safely indoors without concerns about ventilation.
  2. Quiet Operation: Unlike traditional generators, portable power stations operate silently, making them suitable for environments where noise is a concern.
  3. Low Maintenance: They require minimal maintenance compared to internal combustion engine generators, which need regular oil changes and fuel management.
  4. Portability: As the name suggests, these power stations are designed to be lightweight and easy to move around, ensuring convenience during transportation and setup.
  5. Versatility: With various types of charging ports and outlets, they can power a wide range of devices and appliances, providing flexibility in different situations.

Choosing and Sizing Generators

What size generator will run a house?

Determining the appropriate generator size depends on the specific items you intend to power in your house. If you only need to supply power to essential items, a smaller generator should be enough power compared to trying to provide electricity to the entire property.

There are two approaches to consider. First, you can assess the power requirements of the distribution board in your house, which typically operates at a voltage of 230V and has a capacity of 100 Amps. Covering this power demand would require a generator with a capacity of 23kW (230V x 100A = 23,000W = 23kW), which can supply electricity to the entire house.

Alternatively, if you only wish to power specific essential items such as lights, fridge, freezer, kettle, television, internet, and microwave, we can estimate their power consumption as follows:

Lights: 60W (depending on the type and brand of bulbs)
Fridge: 200W (regular usage) – up to 600W during the cold cycle
Freezer: 80 – 200W (regular usage) – up to 600W during the cold cycle
Kettle: 3000W
Television: 200W (depending on the make and model)
Internet: 60W
Microwave: 1700W

You can also use our Power Calculator to estimate the continuous power rating you require.

Please note that the above power requirements are estimates. And it would be recommended to check your specific appliances for accurate power ratings.
For powering these essential items, based on the above estimates, we recommend a generator with a capacity between 5-7kW. However, it’s important to note that you may need to manage the usage of some high-powered appliances, such as the kettle and microwave. With a 5kW generator, if all the above appliances are run together this would cause it to overload and trip the circuit breaker. This means you could only use the kettle or the microwave to avoid this happening or choose a larger generator so that it can cover the total power being used.

Using and Maintaining Generators

What oil should I use?

The type of oil you should use for your generator largely depends on the make and model of the generator, its fuel type (petrol or diesel), and the environmental conditions under which it operates.

1. Manufacturer’s recommendation: Always check the user manual to know the specific type of oil recommended. They often suggest the most suitable oil for their engines.

2. For petrol generators – SAE 10W-30 4 stroke is a good all-around oil for most conditions, but if you’re operating the generator in a colder environment, you might want to switch to a lower viscosity oil like SAE 5W-30 4 stroke.

3. For diesel generators – SAE 15W-40 is a common oil used. This oil provides excellent protection for your engine and is suitable for most climates.

4. Synthetic vs. Conventional oil: You might also have to choose between conventional and synthetic oil. While synthetic oil can be more expensive, it often provides better protection at higher temperatures and is usually recommended for heavy-duty uses.

Generator Safety and Regulations

I have bought a generator and would like to connect it to my house in case of mains failure. What do I need to do?

When connecting a generator to a house or building for either mains failure or direct supply, there a several key points that need to be observed.

1. Safeguarding Utility Workers: Isolating the Generator from the Mains Supply

It is vital that the generator is completely isolated from the mains supply. This ensures that it does not electrocute a utility worker trying to restore the mains supply. To achieve this, a double-pole, break-before-make, changeover switch must be installed by a qualified electrician. This should be fitted between the electricity meter and the building consumer unit. The switch connects the building to either the mains supply or to a lead which can be plugged into the generator.

2. Adapting the Generator Input: Configuring for RCD Compatibility

Most buildings now have an RCD built into the consumer unit. This is configured to operate from the mains supply with an earthed neutral, and not from a generator with a floating earth. To utilise this protection device, it is necessary to modify the generator input so that it is configured in the same way as the mains supply. This is a simple modification for a qualified electrician, involving adding a link wire from the neutral terminal to the earth terminal.

It is recommended to make this connection in the plug that is to be used to connect to the generator. This ensures that the generator is unmodified when it is disconnected from the house, and therefore remains safe. The plug should be labelled “Do not connect to mains: Neutral-Earth link fitted”. The lead between the generator and the transfer switch is not protected by the RCD, it is therefore recommended to use a steel armoured cable for this connection. A local low-impedance earth spike needs to be installed.

3. The Danger of Back Feeding: Never Plug the Generator into a Wall Socket

NEVER attempt to supply power to a building by connecting the generator to a wall socket, a hazardous practice known as back feeding. This poses an extremely dangerous risk of electrocution to utility workers and neighbors who share the same transformer. Moreover, there is a genuine danger of someone inadvertently disconnecting the live plug, leading to potentially fatal consequences. Additionally, this method bypasses built-in household circuit protection devices, further increasing the risks involved.

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