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Generators Overview

A generator is a machine that converts one form of energy into another. It will convert chemical or mechanical energy into electrical energy. Generators will often use pistons, motors, engines, turbines, cranks, pistons, and other sources of mechanistic energy. Furthermore, generators often use chemicals or other materials that produce electricity when ignited or mixed.

I should point out that generators do not produce electricity itself. They simply produce a flow of electricity by driving electrons from an outside source to flow through an electrical circuit.

A portable generator or engine-generator is the combination of an engine and an electrical generator. When these two pieces of equipment are mounted together, they form a single unit. Although the common term for this unit is ‘Generator’, it is sometimes referred to as an engine generator.


The components of a generator

Generally, a generator will include an:

  • Engine regulator which governs the regular speed of the generator
  • A cooling system to regulate the running temperature
  • Voltage regulator or voltage governor
  • Fuel supply system


You will find some of the larger units (1 KW and more) equipped with a battery operated electric starter motor.  Whereas to start the very large generator units, compressed air may be used.


Different Types of generators:

Standby Generators; these are emergency stationary generators designed to kick in and run all or most of your business and home appliances or electrical systems when there is a power outage. They often have an automated starting system which trips on when there is a power cut. A transfer switch will disconnect the power load from the mains in the case of a power failure and then connect it to the generator unit.

PTO Generators; these generators work off a tractor and are handy units for around the farm or yard. They are available in three phase or single phase and produce up to 155 kW of power. 

Two Bearing Generators; are often seen on service trucks. They use a pulley system in a variety of power sources.

Industrial and Portable Construction Generators; widely used on various job sites and industrial situations. They are usually very portable and easy to move around construction sites. These generators come in three phase or single phase and are powered by diesel or gasoline. 180 Hz of power is available for the high-cycle vibrators and 60 Hz of power for your standard electric tools.

Vehicle-Mounted Generators; they stand mounted on vehicles for many purposes including emergencies, and for the application in mining, spray foam, construction, etc.  

Portable RV/Recreational Generators; these generators are super quiet with their inverter technology, making them ideal for recreational use and areas where it is desirable to reduce noise. Powered by petrol, they are also ideal for computers with their sensitive electronics. 

Welder Generators: these units run on either diesel or petrol and are a combination of a generator with welding capabilities available within the unit.  

Portable Residential Generators; probably the best backup model for a power outage when it occurs in the home. These units are a good standby for running essential appliances and electrical items in and around the home such as fridge/freezers, lights, pumps, and electrical tools, etc.  These generators usually run on petrol, but some of the models run on natural gas, LPG, or a combination of all three.  

Mobile Towable Generators; as the name suggests, these generators provide power that is portable for construction and industrial applications. They run on diesel and come in switchable voltage models, making them ideal for many voltage applications.


Options when buying a portable generator


Things to consider when buying a generator:

Use: what will be its use? (see above descriptions).

Cost; You will find generator costs listed by wattage, and the general rule of thumb is…the higher the wattage, the higher the cost. Also, the higher the wattage, the less noise and the smoother the power. The cost will also be determined by whether it has an electric start or inverter technology.


The following are a few examples of what you can expect to pay for various new generators:


Large- 550 KVA 415V Cummins Powered Diesel Generator. This generator is a water-cooled model and is Australian compliant. – Approx. $ 90,000

*Also, a remote start system is available.


Backup or prime power 240V water cooled Diesel Generator. –Approx. $5,500

*A remote start system is available.


The ideal model for camping- 3.5kw- 8 KVA Gentrax (very quiet) Petrol Inverter. At 28 Kgs, this is a very portable generator. –Approx. $700

*Also, one of the lightest generators.


Small- 4,200W GenPower Single Phase Petrol Driven Generator, weighing in at just 45 Kgs.

Air-cooled, 4-stroke single cylinder engine. – priced at just $400

Buying Used Generators

Buying a good used generator may be an option. There are hundreds of cheap generators to be had in Australia. You can purchase these at bargain prices through the internet, garage sales, or businesses dealing in portable generators. Make sure they have a guarantee, or when buying privately, be sure to try out the generator before paying for it. Businesses going into liquidation or people moving to another area or country are often willing to part with their machinery for well below replacement cost.


The following are a few examples of what you can expect to pay for various used generators:


Large- Second hand 330 KVA Cummins Diesel Generator 2016 model, can be purchased for about $40,000.


-Second hand Himoinsa 14 KVA Single Phase Diesel Generator 2016 model. Only done about 600 hours priced at $9,500.


-Second hand in good condition. 850 watts GMC -welder generator, going for just $120.


In conclusion, it would be fair to say there is a massive choice of generators to be had; new and second hand.  Before purchasing a generator, you need to carefully think out where your generator will be used most and what is it you require of it. This will probably determine how much you will invest in your new generator and the price you will pay for the best return on investment.



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