How Does a Generator Work?

Generators are such an essential part of our lives. They can save you during a power outage or provide electricity in a situation where electricity would otherwise be impossible to find. 

An electric generator is a device that converts mechanical energy into electrical current through a process called electromagnetic induction, which Michael Faraday discovered. So how exactly does it work?

How is Power Generated?

Faraday discovered that the flow of electric charges could be induced by moving an electrical conductor, such as a coil wire (also known as the armature) that contains electric charges, in a magnetic field. This movement creates a voltage difference between the two ends of the wire or electrical conductor, which causes the electric charges to flow, thus generating electric current.

The exact process changes depending on whether it’s an AC or DC generator. While they both use electromagnetic induction to generate electricity, the process is different. 

AC vs. DC Generators

In an AC generator, the coil through which current flows is fixed, and the magnet usually moves. The south and north poles of the magnet make the current flow in opposite directions, thereby creating an alternating current.

In contrast, the coil in a DC generator is not fixed; instead, it rotates in a fixed field. The coil’s two ends are attached to the commutator (physical connection to the armature), which balances the charges to and from the generator, resulting in a current that does not alter direction.

An AC generator is used to power smaller electrical items, whereas a DC generator is used to power larger electric motors.

The energy sources can be mechanical energy provided by engines operating on fuels such as diesel, petrol, natural gas, etc., or via renewable energy sources such as wind turbines, water turbines, and solar-powered turbines.

What is Generator Wattage, and How Many Watts Do I Need?

The amount of power that a generator can produce is rated in watts. It’s the amount of electricity you need to start and keep the device running. Generators range from 800 watts to over 500,000 watts, and there are different types of generators for every need.

Here are some steps to determine the watts you will need, helping you decide which generator will be best for your needs.

  • Determine the total amounts of the wattage of all the devices that you need to run.

Make a list of all devices that will need to use the electricity.

  1. Keep in mind the starting watts. The amount of power you need to start a device is usually three times the amount you need to keep it running. These surge watts can throw off your calculations if you don’t account for them.
  2. Determine the running watts needed after the initial startup. Check the product’s owner’s manual to determine how much wattage the device needs to run. Multiply the running wattage of the device by three( starting wattage). Add the running wattage to the starting wattage for the total wattage the device needs to operate.

Which Generator Is The Best Fit?

As generators can be costly and range drastically in wattage, you will want to consider some questions to be sure which will be best for your needs:

  • Will it be used as a backup for a few office or home appliances or perhaps to keep you powered during a camping trip? Then maybe an AC generator will be best. 
  • Will it be used to power more heavy-duty appliances where electricity is otherwise impossible to find? Then a DC generator may be best for you. 

Remember, it’s better to have more than enough wattage than too little. Hopefully, you are now ready to determine which generator will best fit your needs, and you can consult the experts at Midwest Generator Solutions to make your selection.


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