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How safe are modern non-inverter generators for electronics and motors?

How safe are modern non-inverter generators for electronics and motors?

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  #1  
Old 08-26-20, 10:07 AM
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How safe are modern non-inverter generators for electronics and motors?

With respect to modern generators with a voltage regulator, if you tune throttle to output 60Hz AC, is this pretty safe for electronics and motors?

Seems far more people use non-inverter generators than inverters for backup house power. So I'm guessing these gensets aren't killing off computers and appliances with regularity. Is it more of an issue of shortening the life of electronics, motors and appliances, or are modern non-inverters pretty safe?
 

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08-26-20, 10:16 AM
Pilot Dane
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It all has to do with the quality of generator you pick and how you use it. Some generators are truly pretty crappy while others are quite good. If operated properly within it's capacity a quality generator can be used to power almost anything. But, a poorer quality generator pushed to it's limit may produce more power that is off spec.
 
  #2  
Old 08-26-20, 10:16 AM
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It all has to do with the quality of generator you pick and how you use it. Some generators are truly pretty crappy while others are quite good. If operated properly within it's capacity a quality generator can be used to power almost anything. But, a poorer quality generator pushed to it's limit may produce more power that is off spec.
 
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  #3  
Old 08-26-20, 10:37 AM
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It also depends a lot on the devices that are connected.
Older electronics used linear power supplies (a transformer, rectifier and some capacitors). Put in 120v get out 12v. But if you put in 130v, you get 13v out. Get a little surge or sag, and it directly affects what's connected.
All computers and more and more electronics are using switching power supplies these days, which allow input voltages of 100-260v or so, and frequencies of 50-60Hz (and probably more in reality). So they are a lot more tolerant of surges and sags within reason.

On the flip side, certain electronics which are produced to be cheap (LED lights for example) are more likely to have a bare-bones power supply and could be more susceptible to power anomalies. If they can save $0.03 on a smaller capacitor, you know a lot of companies will do it.

Also remember the power company doesn't provide well-regulated power either. Most power companies shoot for +/- 5% voltage (114-126v), but have operating boundaries around -13% to +6% (104-127v). That's a pretty wide range for "typical operations". (ANSI C84.1)
 
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Old 08-28-20, 09:02 AM
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All computers and more and more electronics are using switching power supplies these days, which allow input voltages of 100-260v or so, and frequencies of 50-60Hz (and probably more in reality). So they are a lot more tolerant of surges and sags within reason.
Since generator load changes as you use and stop using loads while powering the house, is it better to err just below 60Hz than just above 60Hz when tuning the throttle?
 
  #5  
Old 08-28-20, 10:04 AM
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With no load I set a generator to run a bit fast, maybe 62hz. For a generator around 5'000 watts I'll connect a 1'500 watt space heater set on high to create a bit of load and tune for 60hz. I've also done similar when setting by voltage. I go a bit high with no load and with a moderate load for it to be spot on.
 
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  #6  
Old 08-28-20, 10:35 AM
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Most devices with switching power supplies will run just fine without any issue. Switch power supplies work by converting AC to DC, then switching it at very high frequency producing square waves (PWM) to get it down to desired voltage and converts back to DC.
Basically it doesn't care for changes in AC frequency and a small fluctuation in voltages.

If you have something running off of a standard transformer, then it may affect output voltages.

Unless you AC motor that requires precise speed control, motors will work just fine as well. Generator output may affect motor speeds, but for power tools or fan that speed change doesn't really make any difference.

You may experience flickering of lights on cheaply made LED lights as their brightness is affected by fluctuation of the voltage. This is especially true for LED lights that doesn't use LED driver (AC current is directly fed through LEDs connected in series.)

Inverter generators are needed for quiet operation and audio equipment.
 
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  #7  
Old 08-28-20, 11:59 AM
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Thanks guys, you have assuaged my worries about running equipment on a non-inverter generator.

On a related note, is there an easy way to monitor AC Hz either at the interlock breaker, or at an outlet on a circuit that will be powered when house is on generator power? I can tune throttle and Hz under moderate load as @Pilot Dane suggested, but it would be nice to monitor that Hz doesn't wander too far from 60 Hz as loads are added and removed.

Even better would be a monitoring device that connects to home network and can be monitored via mobile app or web browser. But that may be asking for too much at a low price point.
 
  #8  
Old 08-28-20, 12:32 PM
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The sky is the limit as far as monitoring and how much you want to invest. I use a hand held multi meter since it's the sort of thing once it's set I've never had to touch it again. There are devices like Kill A Watt that will display voltage or frequency and you just plug it into an outlet. There are also voltage and frequency gauges you could hard wire to your generator or house's electrical. Most of these are for industrial purposes and would need an enclosure and some wiring work.
 
  #9  
Old 08-28-20, 08:25 PM
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The opening question “How safe are .... for modern electronics....”

Modern high tech semiconductor based items are susceptible to transients and are best protected by installing one of these in electric panel:

https://www.supplyhouse.com/Square-D...120-240V-36-kA

Regardless off transient source ….utility, generator or inverter, it will clamp down, limit transients on the panel bus.

Most use same technology, so quality is little issue. There are many models with crazy pricing.

The words surge and transient are often confused and miss-used, The link incorrectly calls it Surge Protector when it is actually a transient protector.

Surge Is voltage swings from say 100 to 150 volts that show up as lighting variations and electric motor speed changes.

Transients are brief, unnoticeable spikes of 1,000 volts or more
 

Last edited by doughess; 08-28-20 at 09:02 PM.
  #10  
Old 12-13-20, 07:42 PM
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I have a 4500w non inverter generator. It will not charge my backup batteries for my computer and TV. The computer and TV will run off of the generator however. So I get 30min off of the backups then have to switch to generator produced power which they run fine off of till the power comes back on. Regards, Tom
 
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  #11  
Old 12-13-20, 08:58 PM
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Welding forum sites talk about generators and how they may affect inverter-based welders, which rely on electronics. Those sites say to look for a generator with less than 5% Total Harmonic Distortion, THD, a measure of how much the wave form varies from a pure sine wave. Apparently that variation can damage electronics. I was looking at a generator for sale at the warehouse club and called to find out the THD metric. I eventually got hold of an engineer that told me the machine's THD is 26%! So that machine came off the consideration list.
 
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  #12  
Old 12-14-20, 07:33 AM
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The words surge and transient are often confused and miss-used, The link incorrectly calls it Surge Protector when it is actually a transient protector.

Surge Is voltage swings from say 100 to 150 volts that show up as lighting variations and electric motor speed changes.
Electrical surge is defined by a document called EN61000-4-5, and also by a IEEE standard C37.90.1. Both call for a 1.2us pulse rise time and 50 us duration to simulate lightning induced "surges". These are very short duration events, with peak voltages of 1, 2, or even 4kV, depending on location. There is also a telecom surge waveform that much longer duration, 700 us.
Either waveform presents fairly high energy levels with enough duration to destroy power supply items.

My current job includes electronic design to protect substation installed control systems. Surge is one of the hardest to protect against.
 
  #13  
Old 12-14-20, 10:39 AM
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Hey CycleZen, good to know about THD, my genset came from Costco so I imagine it has plenty. Regards, Tom
 
 

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