how to make a generator safe for electronics

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A generator is a fantastic way to maintain an independent power supply when you need it.

But if you want to use your generator to power electronic devices, you run the risk of damaging sensitive equipment like laptops and computers, mobile phones, and DSLR cameras. Here’s everything you need to know to make a generator safe for electronics.

how to clean up generator power for electronics

How To Make A Generator Safe For Electronics

How to Make a Generator Safe for Electronics

Conventional generators are designed to consume fuel and run at 3,600 rpm in order to generate direct AC power of 120 volts and 60Hz. However, like most conventional motors, these generators do not maintain a steady, constant 3600 rpm; there are momentary fluctuations.

These fluctuations are called harmonic distortion, and they create moment-by-moment small power drops and surges. These surges can be extremely harmful to electronic devices.

In contrast, inverter generators have a much more complex mechanism that converts AC to DC power, and then converts it back to AC power for output. This means that inverter generators produce a constant, steady voltage of electricity without harmonic distortion.

Inverter generators produce energy without the surges that can damage electronics. They also have the advantage that they can produce only as much electricity as is demanded at a specific time, making them more efficient.

Generally speaking, inverter generators will not damage electronics, while conventional, non-inverter generators might.

Can You Make a Conventional Generator Safe for Electronics?

Yes, there are a number of devices you can use to protect your electronics from the power ebbs and surges of a conventional generator. Here are the best options.

Use a Surge Protector

Most people should use surge protector strips for all electronics, even when using the main power supply and not a generator.

A surge protector, when used properly, detects excess voltage and redirects it to a grounding wire. This means, of course, that your surge protector needs to be connected to an outlet with a grounding pin to work properly; many people don’t plug in surge protectors correctly, and therefore don’t get the protection they are expecting.

Surge protectors are rated by the amount of joules they can absorb over their lifetimes, and normal daily use slowly reduces their effectiveness. An old surge protector probably offers little to no surge protection at all.

When using a surge protector with a generator, choose a high-quality surge protector (look for one with a guarantee), replace it often, and don’t rely on it as your only means of protecting your devices.

Add a Surge Arrester

surge arrester is a device that protects a whole house from power surges, and can protect from surges from a generator, main power supply, or even nearby lightning strikes.

While surge arresters may not be able to absorb and divert the entire strength of a power surge, particularly in the case of lightning, they are able to divert 85-90% of the surge, and plugged-in surge protectors are able to manage the remainder.

A surge arrester (also called “whole house surge protector”) is installed by a professional electrician at the home’s service panel. It’s a good idea to add separate, smaller surge arresters for phone and/or cable lines, to protect modems, televisions, and other devices connected to those lines.

Use an Uninterruptible Power Supply

An uninterruptible power supply, or UPS, stores electricity and provides a steady flow of energy for a short time after the main power supply fails.

These devices give you time to safely power down or disconnect your electronics to prevent them from being damaged from unstable electrical current, and provide a few minutes of power in which you can start your generator.

UPS devices can be small, used indoors to protect a single computer or device, or large units that protect a whole building at the main power supply. There are many different types of UPS devices, so here are some things to look for.

Look for a UPS With a Generator Mode

These UPS devices are designed to recognize and compensate for the power from a generator.

Choose a Double-Conversion UPS

This type of UPS does what an inverter generator does: It converts AC power into DC and then back to AC, for stable, clean, consistent energy that doesn’t damage devices.

Use a Dedicated UPS for Your Electronics

While you can use a UPS to protect an entire house, it’s best to dedicate a UPS specifically for your sensitive electronics. If necessary, add a second UPS to provide a short period of power to other home electrical equipment.

When the same UPS is used to protect electronics and other appliances (like a refrigerator) that cycle on and off,  it may strain and drain the UPS prematurely. 

Correctly Install a UPS 

Like surge protectors, a UPS system that is not correctly installed and grounded will not protect your electronics, and may give you a false sense of security. If necessary, have your UPS installed by a professional electrician to ensure that it will work when you need it.

charging electronics with generator

portable generator

How to Make a Generator Safe for Electronics

Posted on  by carlThere is no denying that in today’s modern age, technology has a substantial involvement in most daily lives and as a result, steps need to be taken to ensure that your electrical items are safe from damage when used on a generator. This is in part due to the need for convenience but also due to the financial cost of replacing a damaged appliance.

Mobile phones, laptops/PC’s for work (especially with the global rise in remote working), smart technology, and of course, the essential home appliances such as refrigeration and lighting all need a reliable source of power in case of a power outage or for use off the grid.

Therefore, how can you make a generator safe for electronics?

To make a generator safe for electronics you should reduce power surges by using an inverter generator that produces clean energy as a primary step. Even with an inverter generator, you can further improve the safety measures by adding a surge protector and an uninterruptable power supply (UPS) to further prevent damaging power surges.

The key to making a generator safe for electronics is to provide clean, uninterrupted power which is crucial for your more expensive/sensitive electronics like mobile phones and laptops.In this article, we will run you through all the steps needed to make your generator safe for electronics as well as some factors that could potentially damage your more valuable items.

camping using a generator

Most gas powered generators are manufactured to provide a power source to key appliances during power cuts or for off-road and off-grid use.

If however, you don’t understand the specs of a generator, you might not be aware that the electricity running from them is not necessarily the same as when you are connected to the grid (depending on your location of course as power outages or surges can be common in certain areas).

For your generator to safely power most modern technology and appliances, you need the power supply to run clean energy which means you can’t have fluctuations or surges, otherwise known as dirty power.

These power fluctuations are definitely something that could overload and damage microchips or circuit boards for your devices and can be more likely to happen when using a non-inverter generator. 

Use an Inverter Generator

One of the first things you should look to do when making a generator safe for electronics is to use an inverter generator. An inverter generator has a dedicated cylinder separate from the motor which regulates the speed of the electricity supplied to your appliances.

This essentially means that the electricity provided by an inverter generator is constant which is where the term clean electricity comes from.

Most modern appliances and in particular, sensitive electronics that use micro and nanochips or have sensitive circuitry (smart technology) are highly susceptibly to damage if used on dirty power which could cause a spike or surge that overloads this sensitive technology.

Computer Safe Generators

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Therefore, in order to protect against this, an inverter generator will regulate power output and speed in order to prevent power spikes or surges.With this said, however, even an inverter generator cannot fully protect against power surges if you overload the generator with too many appliances or let it run out of fuel.

To further protect your electronics, it’s essential to have some further backup measures in place.

Surge Protector

A surge protector strip is a relatively inexpensive but highly valuable product that can help protect your sensitive products from power surges. A surge protector strip looks similar to a simple 4-way extension pack or cable which allows multiple items to be plugged into a single supply source.

While the two may look similar, a surge strip and power pack are two completely different items in terms of functionality. Most surge strips will have the functionality to connect multiple electronic devices however the key difference is that a surge strip will prevent unexpected fluctuations (surges) in power and help to protect your sensitive electronic devices.SUPERDANNY USB Surge Protector Power Strip…Power Strip, Bototek Surge Protector with 10 AC…Belkin 12-Outlet Pivot-Plug Power Strip Surge…12 outlet surge protector power strip with 8 feet /2.4 meter cord; Space saving combination of rotating outlets (8) and stationary…

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Surge strips are connected to a generator and then you can connect your more sensitive, low output items to this as an added layer of protection against a power surge from the generator.These were first popularized for use with home computers and therefore laptops, PC’s, mobile phones and other sensitive items are best used with a surge protector as a way to increase the safety of the item when used with a generator.

Uninterruptable Power Supply (UPS)

An uninterruptable power supply is another way to regulate the power supply to your electronic devices. A UPS stores up power and will supply a clean supply through a backup battery during power outages or surges.

The UPS adds another layer of protection from unstable power supply however they are a short term solution and do not supply an extended source of power. Certain generators do not support a UPS either so It’s important to check product compatibility when looking to utilize a UPS.

In Summary:

As you can see, keeping your electronics safe when using a generator can actually be something that requires some preventative measures being put in place, especially when using more sensitive electrical items that are common with modern technology.

Conclusion

Using an inverter generator is the easiest way to make generator power safe for electronics. With conventional generators, it’s best to add additional surge protecting devices to give your electronics the clean power they need and protect them from damage.

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