Generator Parallel Kit: Its Uses, Pros, and Cons

Whether you are using a generator as a backup system within your home, or you need to provide power for an RV or camping setup, generator setups can be your greatest ally. Parallel kits are a way to boost your power and even improve the safety of your setup. For a lot of users, it makes far more sense than just acquiring a bigger generator.

A generator parallel kit lets you embrace the power of multiple generators. Read on to discover why this is so useful. You will be surprised at how easy it is to use one of these kits to create a safe and high-powered portable setup.

What is “Paralleling” a Generator?

To put it in really simple terms, paralleling a generator is connecting multiple models together to boost the power. A simple piece of equipment called a parallel kit can link two generators to embrace the power of both. If two generators create 2100 Watts individually, paralleling them together means that you can use 4200 Watts on the same circuit.

This is a very common practice. Often, all you need is a parallel kit and two compatible generators. You can link these together quickly and enjoy the numerous benefits of a parallel setup. More on this later. Many of the biggest brands assume that people want the capacity to expand their setup, meaning they use more than one generator together. Two is not always the limit, and you can join more generators if you need to.

Why Do People Parallel Generators?

At first glance, it can be hard to understand exactly what the benefits of this can be. The example of 2 x 2100 Watt generators generates the same overall amount of power. Initially, it can be hard to see why people would do this. There are actually many reasons and scenarios where a parallel kit comes in very handy:

  • Backup power

    • Running a parallel kit is a bit like running two motors on a vehicle instead of one. If one drops, the vehicle doesn’t completely lose power. For generators, a parallel setup means that even if one generator gets damaged or stops working, the other will continue to carry a lot of the load.
    • Coping with spikes in demand

      • Most of the day, you may only be drawing a small amount of the power needed. This means one generator would do the job with no trouble. If you then add the load of an additional appliance, one generator may not be enough. It may even stop working or get damaged due to the added strain. Having a second generator running in parallel gives you the capacity to cope with these spikes.
      • Flexible use

        • You will be able to judge that some trips only require one generator. Power needs vary based on what appliances you need. A camping trip without an RV might only need one generator for essentials like cooking. If you have an RV and need to power the air conditioner, you can add the extra power of a second, paralleled generator. 
        • Instead of replacing a generator with one that has more power, you can add an additional model that is capable of being parallel. This means you don’t have to change your whole setup to get a higher level of power.

      Who Can Use Parallel Generators?

      When you first hear about paralleling generators and terms like “parallel kit” it can sound a little intimidating. Many people assume they need an electrician, or that they have to be experienced. This isn’t true. A hobbyist camper will find they have all the knowledge they need to put two generators in parallel.

      As long as you take safety precautions and only use equipment that is compatible, there is very little chance you will experience any issues. Manufacturers often make their own parallel kits and connectors. They will come with instructions for you to follow. Even a basic knowledge of using generators is enough.

      Uses of a Parallel Kit: Examples of When to Parallel

      Common scenarios for the use of a parallel kit include:

      • You’re camping with someone else who has the same generator model. If you both go camping and connect your kits it gives you more of a backup. If one of you starts to draw more power, the other generator can help out, and vice versa.
      • You’ve got a sturdy and reliable generator but you need more power. Adding a second generator is better than replacing the whole setup.
      • You’re going on a trip and you think you will need more power than normal. Campers often use generators. If you’ve taken an appliance you think is going to use a lot of power, paralleling with a second generator is a solution. 
      • Your business is expanding. Say you’ve got a food truck and you run a generator all the time, but you’re adding a second grill. A parallel kit can be a way to expand. You may be able to eventually run more than two generators in a parallel setup. Flexibility for future expansion is another bonus.

      Can a Parallel Kit Save You Money (and Save on Fuel)?

      A parallel kit balances the load among the generators and circuits. This means that there are less drastic spikes in demand. Generators operating above 75% of their load use less fuel. Paralleling lets you spread and keep the power use more balanced and steady. This means that you may use less fuel.

      In some instances, you can also choose to just use one of the two generators. You might not need the power of both. This means you can use less fuel. This is good for your wallet, but it is also better for the environment.

      Pros of Parallel Kits

      There is a lot to like about using generators in parallel. For most, the pros outweigh any cons:

      • Reliability

          •  Running compatible inverter generators is more reliable. The inverter models are more reliable in general compared to the older models. On top of that, combining two generators means that your generator system can cope if there is a surge in power demand. A spike caused by something like an air conditioner kicking in won’t make your whole system drop.
      • Ease of use

          • Parallel kits are simple to use. You don’t need to be put off by the fact that you aren’t tech-savvy. If you don’t know much about electronics you can still set them up.
      • A backup system

          • One of the best reasons to get a parallel kit is for the duality of the system. If one parallel kit stops working, the next can take over some of the load. If you have some essential equipment in your RV, or you are relying on a generator to jump-start your vehicle, you will still have one working generator. The chances of both breaking on one trip are very slim.
      • Low-cost

          • A bigger generator costs more to run. It also costs more to fix if it goes wrong, and takes more gasoline and oil. Running smaller generators is a way to keep your costs down and only use what you need.
      • Sharing the load

        • Inverter generators that are paralleled share the load. In layman’s terms, this means sharing the work between them. It makes it less likely that they will overheat or break. 

      Cons of Parallel Kits

      There are some downsides to parallel kits. These are considerations that you might want to think about before buying this sort of setup:

      • Cost

          • It might cost more for you to get the initial setup. Instead of buying one, more powerful generator, you are getting two generators and a generator parallel kit to link them.
      • Risks if you are using the wrong models

          • You need to give it some thought so that your system works safely and reliably. Use the wrong equipment and you could break something or create a fire hazard by mistake.
      • Size

        • This isn’t always a problem, but in some scenarios, two generators and a parallel kit can take up a lot of space. A more powerful generator running solo might be a smaller option.

      What is a Parallel Capable Generator?

      A parallel capable generator is one that is made specifically to be combined with other, compatible generators. It is possible, but not essential, to run these in parallel. 

      Parallel capable generators often have additional features that can make them more appealing. For example, if the manufacturer knows that people are likely to run them together, the generators may be stackable. They automatically share the load between them to take some of the strain off.

      If you are looking to find a generator that is capable of being set up in a parallel kit, you should find a kit and work backward. A lot of brands will list the exact models that are compatible. 

      Choosing Your Generator Setup to Run in Parallel

      If you don’t already have a generator and you choose to get a parallel setup, it is best to get a kit within the same brand, and ideally the same model. For example, the Firman brand has many parallel capable generators. If you use two, along with a parallel kit, you can ensure reliable functionality.

      Some people opt for a “Frankenstein” setup. This means combining generators that weren’t really made with this use in mind. To parallel different sizes and generator brands, you need to make sure they have an equal voltage and share the same frequency. It is also far easier to run inverter generators in parallel. 

      Because of the extra considerations, you will probably decide to stay within the same brand. For example, two Champion generators with a Champion parallel kit.

      As well as matching up the power, you will need to consider the following factors before paralleling generators:

      • Alternators. The alternators should be at the same frequency. If not, you risk damaging your generator setup and any electronics connected to it.
      • Interface compatible. They should be able to “communicate” via an interface, meaning they are parallel capable.
      • Load sharing. If the output and frequency match up then the load sharing is equal and automatic. If not, additional equipment may be needed to monitor this.

      Can I Run Non-Inverter Generators in Parallel?

      Technically, it is possible to run non-inverter generators in parallel, but not recommended. You need far more equipment. On the other hand, inverter generators are made to be paralleled. The vast majority of parallel kits only work with inverter models.

      If you want to run non-inverter generators, you need to sync the phase of the engines. You often don’t get the optimum output.

      If you are confident in your knowledge of generators and use all of the correct equipment, you can run them in parallel. In general, it really isn’t a good idea. You’re introducing a level of risk by doing so.

      Features of a Good Parallel Kit

      How do you choose a suitable parallel kit? What are some of the key considerations? You might have different priorities to some other users, but generally, some of the following features will be a huge plus point:

      • Multiple receptacles for different AC level cables and appliances.
      • Twist lock connections or other secure connections to allow for a secure connection.
      • LEDs or lit sections to allow you to see, even at night or in a dark room.
      • Cord storage solutions.
      • A small design that allows you to easily take your kit with you.
      • A warranty to protect your purchase.

      Conclusion

      Using a generator parallel kit makes a lot of sense for safety, efficiency, and expanding the capabilities of your portable setup. RV users, campers, or those who need a backup for their home power can easily set them up in parallel. A Firman kit even allows you to mix and match the models of the generator you are linking.

      Inverter setups give you peace of mind, and linking them together means even more reliability. Grabbing a parallel kit for your next trip can ensure the lights stay on and you always have power when you need it.