Everything You Need To Remember Before Getting Generator Accessories
If you start to use a generator without giving a second thought to accessories, you’re not getting the most out of it. The best way to operate is with a set of quality generator accessories. Whether you’re looking to get better use out of it, ensure it lasts longer, or protect it from the elements, there are many added gadgets to make your job easier.
Many people even decide which generator to buy based on the accessories that are available. Read on to explore a plethora of added extras, and to explore all the things that you should consider before taking the plunge and making a purchase.
Protecting Your Generator From The Elements
One of the simplest but most important accessories to buy is a cover. This is to protect your generator from all weather conditions and even dust. A generator cover can’t be used while power is being produced. Instead, it gives you an option for long-term storage.
For campers and outdoor users, there’s a chance you will have to take your generator out of the trunk of a car and transport it to where it is going to be used. Rain or snow can increase the chances of an electric shock, or cause damage to the circuits. It’s important to use a strong, vinyl cover that protects your whole generator.
Heat can be just as hazardous. Generators produce heat anyway. If yours then absorbs extra heat from the sun, it could be a fire risk. Dust and even pests such as mice can risk the integrity of your generator. A cover means that the components aren’t easy to access.
Using Your Generator, Even in Inclement Weather
If you want to use your generator when the weather is bad, one of the most important accessories is a shelter. Many people confuse these with covers, but the two do different jobs:
- Covers go over the whole product and prevent any rain, dust, or harmful critters from getting into the mechanism.
- A shelter is a product that sits over the generator, giving a roof, and usually deflecting rain away. It doesn’t tightly cover the generator as this would be a risk with the hazardous gases that a generator automatically produces.
If you want to use your generator, even when the weather is bad, a shelter could be a solution. Shelters don’t make your generator invincible. Rain may still splash in from the sides, for example. You need to be very cautious when using it, but this sort of product does add another layer of protection.
If you are using a generator at home, the generator shelter can even double up as storage. You may get a product with a lock that lets you secure it away when not in use. It’s still a good idea to move the generator inside for long-term storage.
Coping With Generator Noise
One of the most popular gasoline generator accessories helps with noise levels. A muffler or silencer is an ideal product for those who are worried about the volume of their generator.
The product sits on the exhaust pipe of a gasoline generator. It suppresses the chugging noise. If you are using it in an area where you’d rather it be quiet, or you need to run equipment like cameras or microphones, you will want to avoid the generator noise as much as possible. If you have a particularly noisy generator it might interrupt your relaxing while on a camping trip.
It’s fair to say that this isn’t an essential accessory for most. Generators have become quieter over the years so you don’t have to use mufflers or silencers. In fact, inverter generators are impressively quiet compared to historic models. There is still some level of noise, and a muffler can tackle this.
Making Sure You Have Cords for Outdoor Use
Choosing the right cords is an essential part of buying and using a generator. Cords are accessories everyone should think carefully about. The following considerations are necessary before you match up your generator with a cord.
- The generator needs to be placed a distance from the structures where it is going to be used. You should do this to ensure that the gases can properly vent and not pose any risk. This also means you need to get cords that have a decent length.
- The further power has to travel, the thicker the cord should be to avoid voltage drop. Power cords and extension cords are measured in a “gauge”. The lower, the better. Something like a 10 or 12 gauge model is ideal for most campers and outdoor users.
- You can’t just pick any extension cord from a hardware store. You need a durable model that is made for extreme weather. Many top extension cords have a weather-resistant coating, so they can cope with rain, snow, hail, and other adverse conditions. Even the sun can pose a problem. Exposure to a lot of sunlight can make a fire more likely.
- As well as getting the right amp rating and matching up your appliances, make sure you have a strong cord that is long and thick enough and works outdoors even if the weather is bad.
Getting the correct cord is not something to take any chances with. A cord with a thin gauge can cause a fire or electrocution risk. Using an indoor-rated cord is definitely not an option, as it will be far more likely to overheat or even electrocute. You want to be able to use your generator with peace of mind, knowing that the cord can handle the power.
Don’t Forget the Maintenance
Generators are machines, and they all need to be maintained. Just like your car, once in a while, they need a bit of upkeep to ensure they’re operating properly. If you have a solar generator your maintenance will be a bit less. For gasoline models, using a maintenance accessory kit can make life easier.
You can sometimes buy maintenance kits directly from the manufacturer of your generator. This is the safest way to do it, as you ensure you are getting compatible products. These accessories are often all of the replaceable parts that need to be changed once in a while.
A kit may include:
- Oil and air filters
- A funnel
- Spark plugs
Along with the oil itself, this will equip you for the maintenance that needs to be performed. Keep in mind that if you aren’t confident with doing this yourself, you can get your generator professionally serviced. Some hardware stores offer this service.
The sort of maintenance that most generators require includes:
- New spark plugs. The frequency of replacing spark plugs varies based on the model. You will often get about 100-150 hours of use before you need to replace it. It’s a good idea to keep spares on you.
- Oil change. Like changing the oil in your car, you should change the oil in your gas generator. Once every 50 hours of the running time is safest.
- Changing the oil filters. When you change the oil itself, replacing the filters is a good idea.
- Air filters should be replaced annually, or more if your generator sees a lot of action!
You can buy all of the components to carry out this maintenance separately, but a kit makes a lot more sense.
When you perform your regular maintenance, you should check for leaks and visible damage, and give your generator a deep clean.
Some Users Will Need a Transfer Switch
If you only use your generator when you are out and about, or in its own, unique circuit, you don’t need to worry about this. If your generator acts as backup power for your home or RV, this is not just important, it is essential.
A transfer switch switches the source of electricity. It’s simple enough, electronically speaking. When your power goes down in the house, you can use a transfer switch to tell your generator power to take over. The same switch also turns the mains power back on when your generator has done its job.
This is not like the rest of the accessories. If you’re using a generator in a building, it is legally required in the US (and many other countries). Why? Well, having two different sources of electricity both trying to compete for the same circuit space is hazardous and can lead to fires and electrocution. The transfer switch is a safety precaution as much as anything else, preventing the two sources from both feedings into the same power circuit.
The transfer switch has three main roles besides choosing the source of power:
- It only powers the circuit you want to, meaning that the generator doesn’t get overloaded.
- It separates the power sources, from the generator and from the grid. This means that if power gets generated, it doesn’t feedback onto the electrical grid. This can cause a fire or electrocute anyone working on the grid.
- It stops power from the grid powering the house along with the generator, once the utility power returns. If this happens, fire is extremely likely.
You can either use a manual or automatic version of a transfer switch. Manual means that you physically switch the source when you need to. Automatic models can kick in when your power dies in the home, and force the generator to start to create the power you need. If you regularly experience power cuts and need the generator to come on when you’re not home, automatic is the way to go. Otherwise, your fridge and freezer might lose power and your food could all spoil.
You May Need a Ground Rod
Ground rods or “grounding” rods let you discharge electrical voltage to the earth. You might have heard this term in the context of other electrical items. Grounding is a common safety precaution.
If you are using your generator at home, a ground rod is an essential accessory. Fortunately, if it is running on its own circuit to run an appliance it isn’t essential.
Most generators have something called a “lug” for grounding. You can use the copper wire that is equal to the gauge of the thickest wire in the circuit. You might need something like a 6-gauge grounding wire to be safe.
Many people who install a generator as backup power for a building get it professionally installed. If you aren’t confident with carrying out safety precautions like grounding yourself, always consult the professionals. Without grounding, it can be a safety risk.
Think About Fuel Safety and “Stabilizing”
Leaving fuel sitting dormant in your generator is a bad idea. Over time, when it is not being used, fuel can turn into a gummy substance or corrode the internal parts of a gas generator. However, thanks to science, we can stabilize the fuel.
If you don’t have stable fuel, it will inevitably degrade. This means that if you finish using your generator for the day, you have to drain the fuel out after use. It’s not suitable to be used again.
A stabilizer means that you can keep your fuel fresh for weeks or even longer. It is an affordable bottled liquid substance that you add at the same time as your fuel, and it prevents the fuel from degrading anywhere near as quickly.
Remember that this is not magic. It can’t make stale fuel fresh again. You can use a stabilizer when you add fuel to the generator, but not after it has already been stored to bring it back to life.
Accessories to “Parallel” Generators
You can run a lot of models together in “parallel”. This means that you embrace the power of two or sometimes more generators.
In order to parallel generators, they need to be compatible. Sometimes you can run two from different brands together, but this isn’t reliable, and it means you may need to alter the frequency of one generator. This can be a difficult task.
It’s much easier to buy a kit from the same manufacturer. For instance, you can buy a Firman generator kit and two compatible Firman generators. When you want to use them together, simply connect the two using the parallel kit. This is a way to double the power available.
There are different designs available. Some parallel kits are even stackable so you can put one on top of the other to save space.
Why would you choose to parallel generators? There are multiple benefits:
- To double the power of an existing generator. If you don’t want to replace it with a more powerful model, you can parallel another.
- Backup power. Parallel kits mean that when one generator drops out, there is still another to step up and do the job. It’s very unlikely both will break on the same trip.
- To share the power load and reduce the strain on each generator. This can ensure lower fuel use and even increase efficiency.
- Flexibility. If you are just going on a simple camping trip, you can just take one of your generators, if you are running the RV, take both.
Paralleling is so much easier if you think about the accessories first. You will need a parallel kit and compatible generators. It costs more to get this setup, but the extra capacity and safety that it provides are worth it.
Remember Not to Overload the Generator
Accessories like extension cords may give you the capacity to add more appliances and devices to your generator.
It’s easy to keep adding more appliances and assume that your generator can handle it. Don’t be tempted. Safe use is essential, and this means not overloading your generator. Stick to the capacity that your model has and look out for any signs that it is struggling to keep up.
If your generator gets overloaded, it could cause:
A fire hazard
- Overloading means overheating. This can lead to the generator catching fire, as well as anything it is connected to. This is a hazard in itself, but when you consider the fact that on camping trips, there might be gas tanks around, it is even more dangerous.
Damage to equipment
- Batteries being charged by an overloaded generator can break. The unsteady power supply can cause lasting damage.
Damage to the generator
- If you manage to avoid a fire or other hazards, you might still face damage. If a generator runs hot or has to run more than it is designed to, you might get a broken alternator or other parts. It can lead to having to replace your generator more quickly.
The lesson to be learned here is to use accessories to your advantage. Don’t keep adding extension leads if you are at any risk of overloading the generator. On top of this, make sure you have considered the benefits of parallel setups, which can handle more appliances, with less strain.
How do you spot if your generators are getting overloaded? There are a few simple tips:
Reduction in power
- This happens when the generator can’t keep up with the needs. It starts to perform badly. You will notice that devices aren’t getting properly powered or charged. The overload can even cause power spikes. These can break your devices, too.
- This is never a good sign. If you notice that your generator is chucking off more heat than normal, you should check whether you are overloading it or not.
- If the fan is increasing to try and keep up, for instance. A little noise is normal but if you notice that it has become louder or different to the normal operational sound then this is cause for concern.
Visible soot from the exhaust
- A bit of a dark exhaust outlet is normal, but soot is not desirable. If you notice that soot is getting left on the ground, you might want to check the generator for breakages, and immediately reduce the power load.
Should You Think About Accessories When Buying a Generator?
When you research most products, you don’t think about accessories until you’ve actually made the purchase. You probably get your phone case after the phone, or a new set of car mats once you own the car. When it comes to generators, you should think differently.
Compatibility can be a big issue. Consider the following to ensure you get compatible products:
- If you want to parallel your generators then you need to make sure that they work with each other, and won’t cause any hazards.
- If your generator is going to be a backup power system in your home, you need to think about the safety functions, like getting a grounding rod.
- Branded covers will usually fit the compatible models. Think about whether it was tailor made for your generator.
Thinking about all of this before you take the plunge and make a purchase makes life much easier. For example, if you are buying a Champion generator, you might also want to get Champion generator accessories at the same time. A specific cover will fit better, a parallel kit will be compatible with Champion models, and branded accessories will work reliably.
The accessories available might even dictate which generator you buy. If you know for certain you want to parallel two generators, you will want to buy a model that is capable. It helps to know what is available before you take the plunge, or to buy as a full set.
When you’ve decided you need a generator, you should always consider the accessories first. This is not like buying a decent phone case for your phone. A cover or parallel kit can be a big part of the operation and generation of power. You will also need different generator accessories depending on whether you are using yours as a backup home system or you need it for camping trips or your RV.
From covers to parallel kits, make sure you choose the right accessories to get more out of your generator, stay safe, and ensure that it is maintained and ready to last years or even decades of use.