A genset, also known as a generator set, is a portable power supply source that consists of an engine and a generator. Gensets offer a convenient and efficient means of providing electricity without requiring access to the power grid, and you can choose to use a diesel generator or gas generator.
Gensets also serve as backup power sources anywhere from worksites to homes to businesses and schools, generating electricity to provide power to run equipment such as household appliances and construction equipment or to keep critical systems in operation in case of power outages.
A genset differs from a generator, although the terms generator, genset, and electric generator are often used interchangeably. A generator is actually a component of a genset—more specifically, a generator is the mechanism that converts energy into electrical power, while a genset is the engine that drives the generator to power the equipment.
In this guide, we explain how gensets work, where they are commonly used, the types of generators out there, and the pros and cons of having a generator.
Table of Contents
- What are the Components of a Genset?
- How Do Generators Work?
- Where Gensets Are Used
- Types of Generators
- Benefits of Generators
- Looking to Rent a Generator?
What are the Components of a Genset?
To operate correctly, a genset has a set of components, each with a crucial function. Here’s a breakdown of the essential components of a genset, and what role they play in delivering electrical power to your site:
- Frame: The frame—or base frame—supports the generator and holds the components together.
- Fuel system: The fuel system consists of fuel tanks and hoses that send fuel to the engine. You can use diesel fuel or gas depending on whether you’re using a diesel genset or one that runs on gas.
- Engine/motor: Running on fuel, the combustion engine or motor is the primary component of a genset.
- Exhaust system: The exhaust system collects gases from engine cylinders and releases them as quickly and silently as possible.
- Voltage regulator: A voltage regulator is used to ensure a generator’s voltage levels remain constant, rather than fluctuate.
- Alternator: Another key component—without it, you have no power generation—the alternator converts mechanical energy into electricity.
- Battery charger: Perhaps self-explanatory, the battery charger “trickle charges” your generator’s battery to ensure it is always full.
- Control panel: Consider the control panel the brains of the operation because it controls and regulates all the other components.
How Do Generators Work?
Although fairly simple to maintain and even repair, generator maintenance is required—much in the same way you perform routine maintenance of other power equipment such as a lawnmower.
To ensure your genset runs at peak performance—or to know when it is time to replace it—a foundational understanding of how the internal mechanisms of a genset operate is helpful.
Here are the basic steps of how a genset works:
- Step 1: The engine converts the energy from fuel to mechanical energy.
- Step 2: The alternator uses that mechanical energy to spin, thus converting mechanical energy to electrical energy.
- Step 3: The spinning action creates a voltage in the magnetic field between the two parts of the alternator, the rotor and the stator. This is called electromagnetic induction.
- Step 4: Power is produced when the stator is connected to a load, which causes the flow of electricity.
Generators can be run through several different fuel systems such as diesel, natural gas, or solar.
You may recall from science class that power output is measured in kVa (Kilo-Volt-Ampere) and kW (kilowatts). The former refers to apparent power—the total amount of power in use—and the latter to actual power—the amount that is actually converted to output that is used. In the United States, power output is most commonly measured in kW.
Science lesson aside, how can you determine what size generator you require for your particular job? The first factor is how much wattage you require. For comparison, medium generators can power between 3,000 and 5,000 watts, large generators can power about 6,000 to 9,000 watts, and extra-large generators can power 10,000 watts and higher.
Where Gensets Are Used
Because gensets are convenient, portable, fuel-efficient, and reliable sources of electrical power, they can be found in a variety of locations and sites where power is required. Here are just a few examples of where gensets can be used.
Hospitals and Medical Centers
Standby generators are used for backup in case the power goes out. Hospitals must provide power to a number of vital machinery to care for patients, from life support equipment to medications that may need to be stored in refrigerators in the case of an emergency.
Portable generators can be used to power certain appliances or electronics during home emergencies. For example, if your electricity went out and you need to power your essentials such as your lights, microwave, or refrigerator. You can use generators to power it up for you.
Construction sites may take place in remote areas where the grid supply is unable to power the machines continuously. Portable generators allow workers to supply electricity to their machines at different locations around the construction site.
Generators can be used to provide power for events or to provide some light during the night time. They are an excellent power option for use at music festivals, sporting events, concerts, weddings, and similar events.
Even while camping and enjoying the great outdoors, having a portable generator can help power the appliances in your RV or to light up your campsite. They provide enough power to help you enjoy nature while still indulging in some creature comforts.
Types of Generators
There are different types of generators, each with its own functionality and use. The type of generator that will suit your power-source needs depends on several factors, such as the required wattage of the appliances you wish to power and the type of fuel that will power your generator.
Here are the three main types of generators:
- Standby generators: Standby generators are backup electrical power sources that start up within seconds of a utility outage and best serve as backup power for homes and large buildings like hospitals and data centers.
- Portable generators: Portable generators are a source of electrical power that work great for camping or power tools. You can also perform generator paralleling to fully power your campsite by running portable generators in parallel according to the process specified in your owner’s manual. However, portable generators aren’t suitable for the types of machinery on a robust construction site even when run in parallel.
- Inverter generators: Inverter generators invert electricity in order to provide cleaner, safer power for your sensitive electronics.
Most generators provide AC (alternating current), which is perfect for powering equipment on construction sites, power for buildings and homes, and more while DC (direct current) provides electrical current in just one direction best suited for large-scale operations like subway systems.
Benefits of Generators
There are several benefits to using generators as your power source—be it your main source or as a backup generator. As well as being reliable and fuel efficient and producing low emissions, generators are:
- Portable: Portability is a major benefit of genset making them convenient to transport and to any worksite.
- Backup power sources: Gensets are useful backup power sources in the case of outages or other emergencies.
- Easy to maintain: Other than regular upkeep and maintenance, a genset can be easily kept in top-performance condition.
Looking to Rent a Generator?
If you have an upcoming event or project that needs a portable, efficient, and easy-to-handle machine to light up your site, we have a variety of towable generators available for rent. Contact us to learn about our rental offers or to discuss your specific genset needs.