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6 Tips to Make Your Generator Power Safe for the Electronics

Generators are usually handy equipment at home, on a campsite, in an RV, or at a job site. They offer the much-need power during an emergency and off-grid. However, the power produced by these units isn’t safe for electronics unless you’re using a model generating a clean sine wave power. So, how do you make generators safe for electronics?

You can start by investing in an inverter generator if you don’t have one. If you already have a conventional generator, install a surge protector or a surge arrestor. You can also use an Uninterrupted Power Supply (USP) unit, Automatic Voltage Regulator, or a Power Line Conditioner. All these will ensure your electronics receive clean, stable power.

And that’s how you can make your generator safe for electronics. The best part is, all these options are proven, and they work. They tend to make sure your electronics receive stabilized power supply every time you hook them to the generator. Continue reading to understand more about these options.

Best Practices to Make Your Generator Safe for Electronics

Generators give their owners peace of mind by providing reliable power anytime, especially during emergencies and off-grid activities.

However, using a generator comes with risks; generator surging and voltage fluctuations make the generator power unsafe for electronics because of their fragile motherboards.

But, since generators offer reliable backup or off-grid power, most generator owners overlook the risk and avoid connecting their electronics entirely. That’s why most of them keep scrapping the web for answers on how to make a generator safe for electronics.

Luckily, I have found proven ways to ensure your electronics receive clean and safe power from your generator.

1. Use an Inverter Generator

Generators come in two types; a conventional generator and an inverter generator. Conventional generators are the culprits of electronic damages because they are more susceptible to voltage surges and fluctuations. These units deliver unfiltered power that can fry up the electronics’ motherboard.

Unlike a conventional generator, an inverter generator features a system that ensures it produces clean and stable power output safe for use with electronics.

They convert the alternating current produced first to direct current before converting it back to alternating current. The process eliminates all the surging and fluctuations to achieve clean, stable power safe for running electronics.

So if you’ve not already bought your generator or plan to buy one, consider acquiring an inverter generator rather than a conventional generator. That will give you some peace of mind every you connect your electronics to the generator power.

Also, make sure you pick the right size generator since overloading an inverter generator can override the safe level and cause another problem of damaging the electronics, other appliances, and the generator.

If you already have a conventional generator or your budget doesn’t allow you to buy an inverter generator, continue reading to know how to make a regular generator safer for the electronics.

2. Use a Surge Protector

A surge protector is an inexpensive and easy way of combating power surges, where you use a surge protector device also known as SPD.

A surge protector comes in handy as it conducts excessive voltage to the grounding wire, allowing it to be discharged to the earth, the enormous charge reservoir.

Surge protectors require proper installation and must be connected to the grounding wire. Even though they are excellent at protecting electronics from unstable power output, they’re affected by the following factors.

a) Short lifetime

Surge protectors don’t last that long. Their design allows them to absorb a certain amount of energy measured in joules. When they take in too much, their protection decreases or is lost entirely.

Some models have a mechanism of notifying you when the protection is low or lost. But some won’t; instead, they continue operating, and you’ll be notified when the damage has already happened.

That’s why you must replace the surge protectors frequently, especially when they experience a severe power surge such as a short circuit.

b) Sudden Failure

Even though using a surge protector is a proven method of making a generator safe for electronics, it can fail at any time. That’s why it’s always best to add another protective layer to make sure your electronics are entirely safe.

3. Use a Surge Arrester

Another way you can protect your electronic devices from generator power is by using a surge arrestor. The arresters are ideal for whole-house protection and can protect all your electronics at once. It’s also beneficial at protecting against power surges from the mains power supply.

A surge arrestor absorbs up to 90% of the surge in the circuit. Even though it doesn’t absorb all of the extra voltage, it’s enough to prevent any damages to your electronic devices. You could increase the protection by using the arrestors with surge protectors to absorb the remaining surge to cover the remaining 10%.

The device is available in multiple types, and it can also be installed in numerous places. However, the decision on which to buy or where to install is best left to professionals. So, it’d be best to hire an electrician if you don’t have the required skills.

But since surge arrestors offer next-level protection against voltage spikes, their powerfulness comes at a cost. You will have to spend a considerable investment to install a surge protector, something to keep in mind if you consider going down this road. But it’s worth it, especially when running a whole-house generator.

4. Use an Uninterruptible Power Supply (UPS)

You can also invest in an interrupted power supply unit that functions similar to a battery. It comes with a power storage technology that stores electricity and releases it as steady power.

A UPS is highly reliable during power outages as it allows the appliances and electronics to stay on before the backup power kicks in. It also supplies enough power to buy you some time to disconnect the connected devices or save your files if you’re using a desktop computer.

USPs come in various UPS topologies, which determine the levels of power protection each model offers. Typically, you’ll come across the following UPS topologies:

a) Standby UPS

Standby UPS is the most basic UPS topology designed to resort to battery backup power when there’re power problems such as a voltage surge or blackout.

If the utility power surge or drops below the safe voltages, the standby UPS will switch to DC battery power and convert it to AC power before feeding it to the connected electronics.

It’s mainly used with consumer electronics such as POS systems, entry-level computers, security systems, and electronic equipment.

b) Line-Interactive UPS

A line-interactive UPS features a technology to correct minor power fluctuations without switching to the battery backup. It comes with an autotransformer regulating voltage drops and overvoltages independently.

The line-interactive UPSs are mainly used with consumer electronics such as entry/mid-range serves, network equipment, PCs, gaming systems, home theater electronics, and more. It’s an excellent device to make generator power safe for your electronics.

c) Double-Conversion UPS

A double-conversion UPS works more like an inverter generator. It provides consistent, clean power. It receives the AC power from the generator, converts it to DC before converting it to AC, the same idea employed in inverter generators.

The device works on isolated DC power and enjoys zero transfer time as it doesn’t need to switch to battery power. It’s mainly used to protect critical electronics such as mission-critical IT equipment, high-end servers, storage applications, data center equipment, and the likes.

5. Use an Automatic Voltage Regulator (AVR)

You also have the option of using an automatic voltage regulator (AVR), a device designed to detect voltage from the generator outlets. It takes the voltage output, compares it to a stable reference, and smoothens the shifting waves. When you add the device to your generator, you will be making your generator power safer and reliable for use with electronics.

If automatic voltage regulators fail, they usually cause loss of excitation, which causes the generator to shut down because there’s no voltage. However, if your generator doesn’t have the functionality to shut down on an under-voltage fault, it will keep running, and severe damage can occur.

Some generators come with an AVR. When it fails, the generator experiences loss of excitation, forcing the generator to shut down or produce zero voltage. However, it’s not that reliable. It’d be best to add another layer of protection, such as a surge protector strip or a power line conditioner.

6. Use a Power Line Conditioner

A power line conditioner, also known as a power conditioner or a line conditioner, is another device you can use to make your conventional generator output safe for your electronics.

Line conditioner provides complete and reliable protection compared to a surge protector, justifying why it’s an expensive alternative. It features a design that filters voltage fluctuations to safely achieve the sine wave power required for running electronics.

Using it with your generator will eliminate power surges, electromagnetic interferences, and voltage fluctuations. You can use it independently; it doesn’t require backup protection.

Can A Generator Damage Electronics?

Unless you’re using an inverter generator or a power station, which has a technology to rectify unstable voltage output, a generator is capable of damaging your electronics. How?

A conventional generator burns fuel to run an engine with a piston rotating at 3600 rpm to produce AC power at 120 volts and 60 Hertz. However, the motor speed changes cannot remain steady; it fluctuates momentarily.

That causes fluctuations in voltage output, called Harmonic Distortion, and creates occasional power drops and surges that electronics’ power systems cannot handle. The sudden voltage drops or surges cause damages to electronics electrical systems.

But if you were to employ the above tips of making a generator safe for electronics, you can avoid the damages.

An inverter generator costs as much as double the price of a conventional generator of its size, begging the question – is an inverter generator worth it?

Absolutely! An inverter generator construction allows it to provide a highly reliable power safe for all appliances and electronics. Some units even come with USB ports that you can use to charge your phone during an outage.

What’s more, it electronically throttles its engine speed to meet the power draw at hand instead of running at a fixed speed all the time. That improves fuel efficiency, reduces emissions, and cut-down operation noise.

Related Questions

Can you plug electronics into a generator?

Yes, you can plug your electronics into a generator, but it has to be an inverter generator. It’s the only generator that produces clean and stable sine wave power with low total harmonic distortion. It does this by converting the AC power from the alternator to DC before converting it to AC, eliminating all the fluctuations that cause damage to electronics.

Can I charge my UPS with a generator?

Yes. You can charge your UPS with a generator so long as they are compatible. The generator must provide standard voltage output unless you’re using a line-interactive UPS or a double-conversion UPS.

What is the difference between UPS and generators?

The first and clear difference is that the generator provides backup power during an outage while a UPS stores energy and uses it to buy you some time to shut down critical electronics properly. You can also use it to make a generator safe for electronics by rectifying minor voltage surges and drops.

About the author

Sharif Gen

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