Will a Portable Generator Damage Electronics?

Generators consume fuel and operate at 3,600 RPM to generate direct AC power of 60 Hz and 120V. However, like many motors, the generators don’t maintain a steady and constant 3,600 rpm, meaning momentary fluctuations, making generator owners worry about how that would affect their electronics at home.

Generally, inverter-based generators don’t damage electronics, while non-inverter generators might damage electronics. Fluctuations referred to as harmonic distortion create moment-by-moment small power surges and drops that can be harmful to electronic devices if you don’t have a surge protector.

Here, we consider some of the safest generators for your electronics and how you can make an unsafe generator safe. 

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Potecting Your Electronics When Running a Generator

As we have seen above, non-inverter-type generators produce fluctuating power that can damage your electronics. Inverters are reputable for producing a steady, constant voltage that doesn’t have any harmonic distortion. The energy doesn’t have the surge that could potentially damage electronic devices. 

Inverters only produce the required power at a time, thus being efficient. Apart from inverters, there are still other devices that you can employ to protect your electronic devices from power ebbs and surges. Below are the best options for you. 

Employ a Surge Protector

A surge protector is helpful when using a generator and the main power supply. It functions by detecting excess voltage and redirecting it to a ground wire. 

It, therefore, means that you need to connect your surge protector to an outlet having a grounding pin for it to work effectively. Many people forget to plug in a surge protector effectively and fail to get the protection they require.

A surge protector is rated by the number of joules it can absorb throughout its lifetime. It means that normal daily application reduces its effectiveness. An old protector offers little to no surge protection. 

Using a surge protector with your generator would help select a high-quality surge protector that guarantees performance. Replace the surge protector often, and don’t rely on it as your only option of protecting your electronic devices. 

Install a Surge Arrester

A surge arrester is reputable for protecting the whole house from any power surges. You can use it to protect your devices against power surges from the main power supply, nearby lightning strikes, and generators. 

Even though surge arresters cannot absorb and divert all the strength of a power surge, especially in the case of lightning, they can divert 85-90% of the surge; Plugged-in surge protectors manage the remainder of the surge.

A surge arrester, also called a whole house surge protector, is usually installed by qualified electricians at your home’s service panel. You should add separate and smaller surge arresters for cable lines and phones to protect televisions, modems, and other devices connected to your line. 

Use a UPS (Uninterruptible Power Supply)

A UPS or uninterruptible power supply stores power and provides a steady, constant voltage flow for a short period after the main power supply fails. The device, therefore, gives a chance to safely power or disconnect electronic devices to avoid damage due to unstable electrical current. 

If you have connected the UPS to the mains power, it’ll offer a few minutes of power before you start your generator. UPS devices can be large devices that protect your whole building at the mains supply or small devices used indoors to protect a single device or computer. 

Since there are many types of UPS devices, below are some things to consider: 

Look For a UPS Having a Generator Mode

A UPS with a generator mode is designed and developed to recognize and compensate for the power fluctuations experienced when your generator is running. Here, you need to consider a VFI UPS system or a double-conversion UPS system. 

Select a Double Conversion UPS

A double-conversion UPS works just the same way as an inverter. It first converts AC power to DC power and then back to AC power for a clean, stable, and consistent energy that won’t damage your electronic devices. A VFI or double-conversion system offers uninterrupted and clean power without fluctuations. 

The conversion from AC to DC and then back to AC enables an instantaneous bridge for your generator. Even though a VFI or double-conversion system isn’t critical when selecting a generator, it’s something worth considering depending on your budget. 

Employ a Dedicated UPS for Your Electronic Devices

Even though you can employ a UPS to protect the whole house, it’s more effective to dedicate a UPS specifically for every sensitive electronic device. Even though this might be expensive, it’s worth it in the long run. 

When you employ the same UPS to protect your electronics and other appliances such as a refrigerator that usually cycle on and off, you might experience premature straining and draining of your UPS. 

Install Your UPS Correctly

If you don’t install and ground your UPS system correctly, it won’t offer your electronic devices the security it deserves. It’ll provide a false sense of security. 

There is, therefore, the need to have a professional electrician install your UPS to ensure that it offers effective performance when you need it. 

If a professional and qualified electrician installs a UPS for you, you’re likely to get an electrical certificate of compliance. It’s sometimes a requirement for insurance purposes. It also gives peace of mind that your property is safe. 

The Best Generators for Electronics

There are several portable inverter generators that you can buy and use in your home. However, not all of them are ideal and safe for use with electronic devices. Below are the top generators that we recommend for use in your home to run electronic devices. 

GeneratorProsCons
Wen 56200i 2000-WattGood fuel efficiency, safe, CARB compliment, and good customer serviceFilling the engine oil is not easy
Champion 3800-Watt Dual FuelPropane/gas-fueled, CARB compliment, reliable, powerful, and good technical supportSomewhat noisy
Champion 3100-WattVery powerful, efficient, good runtime, reasonable noisy, and CARB compliantVery heavy and can get noisy when operating under a big load

1. Wen 56200i 2000-Watt Portable Generator

The Wen 56200i brand reproduces a pure sine wave and restricts the harmonic distortion to below 0.3% when there is no load. The harmonic distortion is limited to 1.2% when it’s running at full capacity. 

If you’re seeking an ideal portable generator for powering very sensitive electronic devices, this is the perfect option for you. The generator is also super quiet, thus perfect to take for your camping trips. 

The product weighs about 48 lbs and has dimensions of 18″ x 11″ x 18″. It has a low noise level of 53 dB during operation, and the generator is also CARB and EPA III compliant. 

You can use this generator for tailgates, construction sites, campgrounds, and power outages. The generator is inverter enabled, thus producing clean power to operate devices safely and prevent damage to any electronic component, including tablets, computers, phones, and tablets. 

2. Champion 3800-Watt Dual Fuel Portable Generator

The Champion 3800-watt generator is a versatile and powerful portable unit that provides 3,800 running watts and 4,750 watts at starting. You can fuel the generator using either propane or gas. It can operate for up to 9 hours at 50% load. 

All the generator outlets are secured using a Volt guard, which protects the electronics and appliances from spikes in voltage and power surges. 

As we have mentioned above, the generator operates on dual fuel using either propane or gasoline. It also holds 0.6-quarts of oil and is designed with a low oil shut-off sensor. 

It is designed with an electric start. You need to power up your 224cc Champion engine using a handy toggle switch with a battery included. 

An intelligence feature enables the generator to keep track of hertz, runtime hours, and voltage to easily monitor the track maintenance and power output. The generators dimensions are 26.3″ x 24.8″ x 22.9″. 

The generator has several outlets, including two 5-20 R (120 V 30 A household outlets), one L5-30R (120V 30A locking outlet), and one TT-30R (120V 30A outlet). There is a trust Volt Guard surge protector to restrict overloads. 

If you buy this generator, you should expect to get a 3-year limited warranty. You’ll also get free lifetime technical support from a team of professional electricians.

3. Champion 3100-Watt RV Ready Inverter Generator

If you’re after a portable generator that provides clean energy for your sensitive electronic devices, the Champion 3100 inverter generator is the best option for you. The generator is reputable for producing only clean power that is less than 3% THD. 

The Champion generator produces 2800 watts in running power and 3100 starting watts. The power is sufficient to operate a variety of large appliances in your home or business. 

The generator is designed with a quick touch panel that enables you to access all controls in a single spot. The product’s safe design involves a low oil shut-off sensor holding 0.6-quarts of oil. 

It also has an ultra-quiet operation feature rated at 58 dBA. The rating is perfect for tailgating, RVs, and home power backup. 

The generator also offers up to 8 hours of run time. It has several power outlets, including a 12 DC power outlet, two 20A 120V household outlets with clean power, and an RV-ready outlet with 120V 30A. 

You’ll also like the generator’s smart economy mode, which provides a quiet operation, reduces the electrical load, enables fuel economy, and extends the engine life. There is a professional support system that includes a 3-year limited warranty. Once you buy the generator, you’ll be entitled to free lifetime technical support from professional technicians.

Considerations When Choosing an Inverter Generator

There are factors to consider while selecting a portable inverter generator for powering your electronic devices. Let’s go through them below:

Weight

Weight is critical while selecting a portable generator because you’ll be moving it from place to place. You need to select a portable generator that you can easily lift and move without straining. 

Wattage

The needs of every person are different. If you require a lot of power to operate several electronic devices, you should go for a generator that offers a higher voltage. A smaller wattage generator is just perfect if you want a unit that powers fewer devices. 

Add the power of the electronic appliances that you want to power to determine the wattage you require. You can usually find the wattage values printed on the appliances, device, or user manual.

Run Time

Charging your phone for a few hours demands a longer run time than operating a food truck for longer hours. The run time also determines how regularly you need to refill your generator’s tank

If you expect to operate your portable generator for several days because of a major power outage, you need a generator with a large tank and long run time. A large tank minimizes the number of refills you make in a day. 

Fuel

As we have mentioned above, generators operate on either diesel, gas, or propane. You need to buy a generator depending on the availability of the fuel in your locality. For instance, you can’t invest in a natural gas generator if you don’t have a natural gas supply within your area. 

Even though propane is better for the environment, it happens to be less efficient. Gas is easier to install and more efficient than propane. 

Starting Method

Remember that you can start your generator in two ways. There is a recoil option that involves pulling manually to start the generator. There is no batter in this case. 

There is also an electric starting option which involves starting your generator with a battery. You need to charge the battery regularly. Select the generator that has a convenient starting option for you. 

Price

You should also consider the price of your generator while buying it. Generators usually cost between $400 to $3,000. Larger units can even cost more. 

If you need to install the generator in your home, you often must spend extra on installation costs. However, portable generators don’t come with installation costs. However, you can’t run away from maintenance costs. 

Conclusion

A generator won’t damage your electronics if you buy an inverter generator. Inverter generators are reputable for producing reliable and clean energy. 

It’s also critical that you take enough time to select a generator that is ideal for you. Since the needs of everyone are different, considering the factors we have recommended above will enable you to go for an effective and reliable portable model. 

You should use an Uninterruptible Power Supply or a surge protector with your generator to guarantee safety. Follow this guide strictly to protect your device from getting damaged by fluctuating generator power.

Sources

Hubert Miles

I've been conducting home inspections since 2002. I'm a licensed Home Inspector, Certified Master Inspector (CMI), and an FHA 203k Consultant. I started PickGenerators.com to help people better understand whole-house and portable generators.

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