How to Buy a Power Generator – Petrol or Diesel Engines

No Comments » August 10th, 2014 posted by // Categories: Energy Development Project

How to Buy a Power Generator – Petrol or Diesel Engines

Are you planning to buy electric power generators? Are you wondering which brand of generator to buy? Do you want to know what factors to consider when buying portable electric power generators for your home or small business? If your answer to any of the above questions is yes, then welcome, you are at the right site. Focus will be on portable power generators used in homes and small businesses.
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An Electric Power Generator

Electric power generators supply standby power during a power failure. The first step in buying a generator is to understand the characteristics of power generators. These characteristics are often called the generator rating. Knowing the important ratings of generators and how they affect their performance makes you a more informed buyer.

Generator Ratings

The following are some of the important rating/characteristics of the best portable generator:

  • Output Voltage: This is the value of voltage supplied by the generator set. This should be between 210v to up to 250 volts for generators in Nigeria, in some countries it will be 110V or 120V
  • Rated Power: this is the load that a generator can carry under normal operations. Note that generators are designed for standby supply and not for continuous usage at this power rating. This rating is in KVA or VA or W. KVA simply means 1000 VA. Hence, a 2.2 KVA generator is the same as 2200 VA while a 950 VA is the same as 0.95 KVA. Buy power generators with rated power above your need, so that you don’t exceed rated power
  • Maximum Power: This is the maximum load or power the generator can carry over a very short period (less than 30 minutes). This power must not be exceeded under any circumstances. Note that although generators can carry load up to maximum power, we recommend you operate generators within rated power. Some dealers quote maximum power as rated power just to give you the impression you are buying a larger generator. Always ask to see rated power and maximum power on the generators panel
  • Rated Output frequency: this tells you the frequency of your generators output voltage. In Nigeria, it must be 50Hz, in some countries it is 60Hz. When buying generators ensure rated frequency is similar to public power supply.
  • Fuel type: Diesel or Petrol
  • Recommended Engine Oil
  • Presence or absence of an Automatic Voltage regulator (AVR), most generators come with AVR, except for the very small ones

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Other characteristics of generators include:

  • Dimension: consider the available space for operating and storing the generator
  • Starting method (excitation method): key (kick starter), recoil starter (rope & grip), or both. Key starter is easier to use, but will cost more. We will recommend key start generators if your budget allows
  • Portability Kit: Wheels and rollers, and handles. This makes moving your generators easier. Although they will cost more, we recommend generators with wheels or rollers, and handles
  • Brands: TigerElemaxSumec FirmanHonda, Tec, Hyundai, & so on

With a good knowledge of characteristic/ratings and features of generators, you are now in a good position to make a more informed choice.

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Step 1: Identify anticipated generator load

The first thing to consider is total and average load (power consumption) to be supplied by the generator. Your total load is the sum of power consumption of all electrical loads in your house or installation while your average load is a more realistic estimate of your power supply requirement.

A simple way of calculating your average load is as follows:

Determine the period of day you intend using power generators. Also, determine the period of day that you use the most load. This is usually at night for most people with TV, lights, computers and refrigerators all on at the same time.

List all appliances that are usually on during your peak consumption period with their power ratings in bracket.

An example for a two bedroom flat that with a night peak consumption period may look as follows. Get the rating of your own gadgets from the manual or panel:

  • TV (100w)
  • DVD player (20w)
  • Refrigerator (200w)
  • One 36 watts energy efficient lamp (36w)
  • Two 20 watts energy efficient lamps (40w)
  • Two electric fans (160w)
  • Personal computer with peripherals (550w)
  • Contingency (100w)
  • This gives a total of 1206w

Note that the power rating of a device may vary. Therefore, the ratings shown here are non-standard. Ratings of appliances are normally written on the back panel or/and in the user manual. Consult them for power rating that applies to your gadgets. If you need an online source to get engine parts, check the yanmar 3 cylinder diesel engine parts catalogue.

Now that you know your anticipated load, you now have enough information to determine what the generator rating should be. Generators will last longer if they are not operated at full load continuously for a long time. In fact, electric power generators are better when operated most of the time at lower its rated power, say half of rated power. This is termed de-rating. Once you have determined your total power requirement you then de-rate the generator rating by multiplying the total power by two, assuming you want to operate generators at half load. For the example shown above the rating of the de-rated generator will be 2,412w. This means that a 2.5 KVA generator will comfortably handle the loading condition shown above. Note that the generator rated power (not maximum power) should be greater than 2,412w.

This may look stupid but if you put your mind on your goal which is to buy a generator that will last, and keeping in mind that you are working only with an estimated power consumption you might begin to see reason. De-rating power generators will increase its useful life and save you from frequent maintenance costs. De-rating electric power generators also means that you can add more load to the generator for short periods, for example you may want to iron your clothe. De-rating also accounts for higher starting power required by gadgets like refrigerators and freezers. Freezers and refrigerators usually require up to three times rated power to start.

Estimating ratings of generators to be so close to your loading requirement may lead to over loading when starting your gadgets, as some gadgets will require more than their rated power to start. If the additional starting load causes loading to exceed the generators maximum loading, it could cause damage to the generator.

Since this calculation was done with rated power and not starting power, then you must ensure you turn off all gadgets before starting the generator. After you turn on the generator, then turn on every gadget one after another. Do not turn on generators with everything on as the starting power required may be higher than the generator can support. This can lead to serious generators damage or frequent generators breakdowns.

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Another way

You must not know your anticipated load before buying a generator. Some times, you may decide to buy generators you can afford and then turn on only appliances that can be powered by it during power failure.

This is okay as long as you will be disciplined enough to recognize when your generator is overloaded and shut down some appliances as soon as you notice change of engine sound as a result of overload.

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Step2: What Voltage & frequency rating

It is now time to determine other ratings of generators. You must ensure that generators are of the right voltage and frequency rating. In Nigeria the voltage supply is about 220V, 50Hz. Power generators of lower rating will not be able to supply the necessary voltage to carry your gadgets. A higher rating can cause problems for your gadgets. In general the voltage and frequency rating of power generators sets must be compatible with that of the electric company and your gadgets.

Step 3: What fuel

You should know the type of fuel required by the generator. Ensure that you can readily source the fuel within your environment. Most generators sets use either gasoline or diesel. However, most generators used in the home require unleaded gasoline (petrol). Some are more flexible offering you an option of using gasoline blended with either of ethanol, methanol or methyl tertiary butyl ether (MBTE) up to a certain percentage volume. These fuels when mixed with gasoline reduce your fuel cost and Carbon dioxide emission. However these fuels are not currently available in Nigeria in sufficient quantity, so most Nigerians will have to be using only gasoline for a while.

Most high power generators use diesel or gas.

Step 4: What Recommended engine oil

You should also know the type of engine oil and how to apply it to your generators. The Tiger 650VA and 950VA generators require that you mix petrol and engine oil in the ratio of 50:1. However, most generators of 1KVA and above will have a separate oil tank. Hence, for such a generator you mustn’t mix gasoline with engine oil. In general generators with two stroke engines require mixture of fuel and engine oil, while four stroke engine generators have separate crankcase for engine oil. Follow instructions on manual.

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Step 5: is output voltage regulated?

You must now decide whether you require power generators with an in-built Automatic Voltage regulator (AVR) or not. Power generators with AVR will supply a stable voltage with no flicker. This feature is recommended, although it is no longer an option these days as most generators now come with AVR. The smaller generators like Tiger 650VA and 950VA generators offer no automatic voltage regulation. If you plan on buying these generators, you may also consider buying AVR for your gadgets. You can also manually control the voltage output.

Step 5: Generator Brands

The brand of generators does not really matter. The most important thing is to ensure that the generators meet your requirement. However, some good brands of low power generators in Nigeria include Sumec Firman, Elemax, Honda, Tec, Hyundai and Tiger. For high and medium applications Cummins and Perkins engine generators hold sway.

Step 6: How much will it cost?

Now that you know what you want it is now time to find out how much it will cost you. You have to do a market survey to check what your dream generator will cost you. Visit retail stores or ask friends who have recently bought generators to find out the price of your dream generator. If after the survey you find out that you cannot afford your dream generator set do not settle for less. Save or borrow to complete the cost. Most Nigerian bank offer credit purchase for power generators you can also take that option. A 2.5 KVA generator will cost between N35,000 to up to N90,000 depending on brand and features.

If you must compromise you must know what features to sacrifice. Do not compromise with the power rating of your dream generator. If you must buy generators with lower power rating make sure that you will be disciplined enough in order not to over load it. Note that over load is the most popular cause of break down in power generators, prevent it and you will visit the mechanic only occasionally. You can readily compromise with the brand of generators.

Prices of Generators Get an idea of price.

Step 7: Buy your dream generator

With a good knowledge of your dream generator under your belt it is now time for the simplest part in buying generators sets which is well, buying a generator set. Buy your dream generator from an accredited dealer and do not forget to collect your procurement receipt. In addition, do not forget to collect a written warranty on the generator, push for nothing less than 6 months. Most accredited generators dealers will give up to a year warranty.

Before signing your procurement receipts or generators warranty agreement, you must ensure that the name on the receipt is the same as the name of the dealer you are buying from. Do not buy from a dealer that does not have branded receipts. Ensure that all the details of the product are written on the receipt (Brand, model number, and serial number). Open up the carton to see the product inside. Also, ensure that generators accessories like manual and spare spark plug(s), spark plug wrench and so on are also included.

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In Conclusion

Well, the process of buying generators may seem too cumbersome but if you follow it diligently you will surely buy a product that will stand the test of time. Make sure you do not compromise with the process, if you feel you cannot do it your self find people to help you accomplish any of the tasks that is challenging to you.

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