How Do Generators Work for powering a house? (Westinghouse, Generac and more)

Generators are mechanical devices that convert moving energy into AC or DC power. In turn, this helps produce electricity. There are many different types of generators, including inverters and alternators, but they all, more or less, serve the same purpose.

That said, how do generators work? In this quick, detailed guide, we’ll thoroughly explain how a generator operates and how this device can function even when the power goes out.

Popular brands include Westinghouse, Generac and DuroMax.

Let’s get to learning!

How Do Generators Work?

To put it simply, a standard modern generator makes use of the electromagnetic induction principle.

This theory, in layman’s terms, is used to define the close correlation between magnetism and electricity. From its name, electromagnetic induction refers to the act of using magnets to both produce and control an electric flow.

In other words, a generator doesn’t exactly create electricity, as much as it uses magnets to induce electric charges. If you look at the inner design of a generator, you’ll notice that there’s a copper coil tightly wound around a horse-shaped magnet.

This recreation of an electromagnetic field is more commonly referred to as the generator’s armature. Since the copper or conductor coil rapidly moves near the magnetic poles, a steady flow of electrons is released as a result—thus creating electricity.

With that in mind though, often it’s said that generators use mechanical energy to produce electricity. That’s not a wrong definition, either. That’s because the armature is typically connected to a source of mechanical energy, such as a motor.

Such a fast-rotating device will help spin the conductor coil quicker, cutting through the magnetic field that was created between the magnet’s two poles. This, in turn, interferes with the conductor’s electrons and releases an electric current.

We have discussed the differences between a generator and a motor here.

What Is the History behind How Generators Work?

We owe the invention of the electromagnetic induction theory to renowned, British physicist Michael Faraday. Otherwise known as the Patron Saint of Electricity, Faraday was the first to discover that one can create electric charges from a magnetic field.

This historical event took place back in the nineteenth century. Because of his groundbreaking principle, the British chemist was able to invent the first ever generator, namely the dynamo. He was also the one behind the creation of the first electric motor.

In short, Faraday is the starting point in explaining how a generator works. His first generator, which he later named Faraday’s disk, was what introduced the world to the close relationship between magnetism and electricity.

So, as a result, most modern generators nowadays make use of Faraday’s discovery. By following his example, present generators feature a moving magnet inside their copper coils that in turn, helps induce an electric current.

From there, the mechanical device is set to function as we’ve clarified above. Faraday’s disk has since been improved upon as generators now are bigger and stronger. Such machines are able to produce electricity on larger scales. Not only that, but generators can also keep businesses and homes running with power even if there’s an outage.

How Does a Generator Work When the Power Goes Out?

Generators can be found serving many purposes in today’s modern world. Due to their simple design and inexpensiveness, these mechanical devices are a popular choice when it comes to operating most household appliances, for instance.

Those reasons are also why generators are commonly used as backup electrical systems whenever there’s a power outage. Despite the fact that they’re rather loud and may not run as green as similar machines, about 3% of American homes already have standby generators installed.

In less than 30 seconds after your block’s main power source shuts down, a standby generator is expected to immediately fire up its engine. As a result, the engine will begin supplying power to the generator’s alternator.

This alternator’s primary function is to convert mechanical energy into electricity. An alternator makes use of the motive power present in the internal combustion engine to carry out its aim.

After this goal has been reached, the generator will begin to stabilize the speed of its engine and the amount of its electrical output. This will depend on a few factors, including the generator’s model and how much electricity the home or business needs to continue functioning.

Once the main power supply is up and running again, the generator will automatically shut itself down, but not before cooling down first. In the meantime, the transfer switch will disconnect from the generator and reconnect the building to the main power line again.


Can a Generator Run On Kerosene?

Since some generators contain what’s known as a fuel pump, you can supply this engine with multiple types of oil, including kerosene, petroleum, and diesel.

That said, kerosene isn’t as efficient as its counterparts, mainly because it contains fewer oils and in turn, will wear out the engine.

How Long Will a Generator Run For?

A generator runs effectively when it’s connected to the right power source. The model and manufacturing of the generator will also play a role in how long the device can operate.

As a general rule of thumb though, generators can function for about 3,000 hours. Although, it’s recommended that generators don’t continuously stay on for more than 500 hours.

How Much Do Generators Cost to Run?

How much a generator will cost you to run will depend on a few factors. For starters, the size of the device, and consequently, the amount of fuel it requires to operate as well as the kind of fuel.

To demonstrate with an example, a standard 5-kilowatt generator needs about 18 gallons of gasoline to run. If the average price of one gallon stands at two dollars, then your generator will cost you around 52 dollars a day.

We have discussed some of the devices that you can run on a generator here.

Some people start to use home batteries instead of generators as they are becoming cheaper to install.

In Summary

How do generators work? In short, generators have armatures that follow Faraday’s electromagnetic principle to create mechanical energy that the device then converts into an electrical flow.

As such, generators are used in multiple appliances most of which can be found around your household. They’re energy efficient and can serve their purpose without using electricity. That’s why generators are used to operate homes and businesses even when there’s no power around.