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Ultimate Guide to Generator Selection

Guide to Generator Selection
Ultimate Guide to Generator Selection 2

Introduction: Guide to Generator Selection

In this comprehensive guide to generator selection, we’ll dive into the world of generators, exploring various sizes, types, and their diverse applications. From portable petrol generators perfect for camping and caravans to mid-range diesel generators ideal for construction sites, this article is your roadmap to understanding and choosing the right generator for your needs. Generators are the unsung heroes of modern life, silently providing the power we need to keep our homes, businesses, and adventures running smoothly.

Section 1: Portable Petrol Generators (1-3kVA)

1.1 Purpose and Application

Portable petrol generators, ranging from 1 to 3 kilovolt-amperes (kVA), are the Swiss Army knives of power generation. Their compact size and ease of use make them incredibly versatile, and they find their place in various settings:


Picture a quiet evening by the campfire, your silent portable generator humming in the background, powering your camping essentials, from LED lanterns to your trusty coffee maker. These generators provide the creature comforts that turn camping into glamping.


On the open road with your caravan, a portable petrol generator ensures you have the comforts of home, running appliances, charging devices, and keeping you self-sufficient during your adventures. A caravan generator can keep you cool in summer and warm in winter running your caravan reverse cycle air conditioner.


Out on the water, a reliable generator can power navigation systems, lights, and even appliances for an enjoyable voyage.

Best of all you can rely on your generator for peace of mind knowing your batteries can be charged quickly if need be.

Around the Home:

Back at home, these generators offer standby power during power outages and blackouts, keeping your essentials running, from refrigerators to life critical medical devices.

1.2 Notable Brands

When it comes to portable petrol generators, several brands have established themselves as trusted names in the industry:


Honda generators are renowned for their reliability and performance. They start reliably every time and deliver clean, stable power.


Yamaha’s generators are prized for their quiet operation and durability. They are designed with user-friendliness in mind.

Briggs & Stratton:

Briggs & Stratton generators offer a range of options, catering to various power needs. They are known for their innovation and quality.

1.3 Output and Table

To choose the right portable petrol generator in the 1-3kVA range, consider factors like generator price, reliability, and output. Let’s break down some popular options in a handy table:

ModelPrice (Approx.)Output (kVA/Watts)Reliability Rating (1-5)
Honda EU1000i$14001kVA / 900W4.8
Yamaha EF2000iS$1,6002kVA / 1600W4.6
Briggs & Stratton P2200i$13002.2kVA / 1700W4.5
Honda EU22i$24002.2kVA / 2000W4.9

Remember, this is just a guide to generator selection, the right choice depends on your specific needs. If you prioritize quietness, the Yamaha EF2000iS might be your go-to option, while the Honda EU1000i offers a balance of power and reliability. Briggs & Stratton’s P2200 provides an affordable yet dependable choice.

1.4 Understanding Generator Terms

Before we move on, let’s clarify some terms you’ll encounter when choosing a generator:

kVA (Kilovolt-Amperes):

kVA is a unit of apparent power and represents the total power a generator can provide. It accounts for both real power (kW) and reactive power (kVAR). When selecting a generator, consider both the kVA and power factor to ensure it can handle your load.

Single-Phase vs. Three-Phase:

Generators can be single-phase or three-phase. Single-phase generators are suitable for most residential and small commercial applications. Three-phase generators are essential for powering heavy machinery and large commercial operations.

Power Outlets:

Generators come with various types of power outlets, including standard household plugs (240V), RV outlets (12V/240V), and industrial plugs (240V) and most modern generators now have USB charging ports. Ensure the generator you choose has the right outlets for your application.

Balancing Phases:

In three-phase generators, it’s crucial to balance the load across phases to prevent overloading and ensure efficient power distribution. This is particularly important in industrial and commercial settings. If the load is not balanced the generator will shut down and may be damaged. Speak to your electrician before purchasing a three-phase generator.

Operating A Generator Safely:

Please read your user manual thoroughly and do not operate a generator where carbon monoxide gas can build up. Carbon monoxide can be extremely dangerous.

All generators require electrical load at all times. Running a generator without at least 25% load (nothing plugged in and switched on) for extended periods will damage the generator and void your warranty. For example running a fridge without anything else will damage your generator when the fridge reaches temperature and the compressor turns off.

Do not use damaged appliances or electrical leads, and keep all electrical leads away from water and heat.

Section 3: Mid-Range Generators (5-10kVA)

3.1 Purpose and Function

As we move up the power scale, mid-range generators in the 5-10 kilovolt-amperes (kVA) range become workhorses for various applications. These generators find their place in scenarios that demand more substantial and reliable power sources.

Construction Sites:

Construction sites often require a continuous and robust power supply to run heavy machinery, tools, and equipment. Mid-range generators are the backbone of these operations, ensuring that work sites stay operational.

Small Businesses:
Small businesses, such as retail stores, restaurants, and offices, rely on generators in this range to keep their operations running during power outages. These generators help protect perishable goods, maintain lighting, and keep essential equipment operational.

Events and Festivals:

Outdoor events, festivals, and gatherings depend on mid-range generators to provide power for stages, lighting, sound systems, and food stalls. These generators offer the reliability required for extended periods of operation.

3.2 High Power Output

What sets mid-range generators apart is their ability to deliver higher power outputs compared to portable petrol generators. Diesel generators are the preferred choice in this segment for several reasons:

Fuel Efficiency:

Diesel generators are known for their fuel efficiency, making them cost-effective in the long run. They can operate for extended periods on a single tank of fuel, making them suitable for continuous use.


Mid-range generators often need to withstand challenging environments. Diesel generators are renowned for their durability and can handle rugged conditions and heavy loads.


Reliability is paramount in applications where power interruptions can lead to significant disruptions. Diesel generators are robust and can provide consistent power output.

3.3 Three-Phase Power

In many applications within this power range, three-phase power becomes essential. Unlike single-phase power, which consists of a single sinusoidal alternating current, three-phase power uses three separate sinusoidal alternating currents that are 120 degrees out of phase with each other.

Industrial Machinery:

Industrial machinery, including manufacturing equipment and large motors, often require three-phase power for optimal performance.

Commercial Buildings:

Commercial buildings with elevators, HVAC systems, and large-scale lighting rely on three-phase power for efficiency and reliability.

Balanced Load:

Balancing the load across the phases is crucial to prevent voltage imbalances and ensure that all equipment operates optimally. Monitoring and managing this balance is essential. We always recommend consulting an electrical engineer before purchasing and installing a three-phase generator.

3.4 Brands and Reliability

When it comes to mid-range generators, reliability is paramount. Several manufacturers have earned a reputation for producing dependable generators in the 5-10kVA range:


Kubota generators are known for their robustness and reliability. They offer a wide range of options suitable for various applications.


Yanmar generators are trusted worldwide for their durability and performance, making them a top choice for construction and industrial use.


Kohler generators combine reliability with advanced technology. They offer options tailored to businesses and commercial settings.

As you explore generators in the mid-range, consider factors like maintenance, service support, and fuel efficiency. These factors can significantly impact the long-term operation of your generator.

Section 4: Commercial Generators (50-1000kVA)

4.1 Catering to Large Operations

In the realm of generators, commercial generators in the 50-100 kilovolt-amperes (kVA) range reign supreme. These heavy-duty powerhouses are designed to meet the high demands of large operations across various industries.

Data Centers:

Data centers are the backbone of the digital world, and any power interruption can result in significant downtime and data loss. Commercial generators are critical for seamless operations.


Hospitals rely on generators to maintain critical services during power outages. Life-saving equipment, surgical rooms, and patient care depend on continuous power.

Manufacturing Plants:

Manufacturing facilities require consistent power for machines, assembly lines, and quality control. Any disruption can lead to production losses.

4.2 Advanced Features

Commercial generators come equipped with advanced features that ensure uninterrupted power delivery in critical situations:

Remote Monitoring:

Many commercial generators can be remotely monitored and controlled, allowing for immediate response to any issues or changes in power demand.

Load Management:

Advanced load management systems distribute power intelligently, ensuring that critical systems receive power first during peak demand.

Fuel Efficiency:

Despite their size, commercial generators often prioritize fuel efficiency to reduce operating costs.

4.3 KVA Rating

Understanding the significance of kilovolt-amperes (kVA) rating becomes crucial in this range. The kVA rating represents the total apparent power output of the generator. It encompasses both active power (kilowatts or kW) and reactive power (kVAR). The kVA rating ensures that the generator can handle the complex loads associated with large-scale operations.

Power Factor:

The power factor, represented as a ratio between active power (kW) and apparent power (kVA), indicates how efficiently the generator converts kVA into useful, active power (kW). A higher power factor indicates better efficiency.

4.4 Notable Manufacturers

The stakes are high in the commercial generator arena, and manufacturers with a proven track record take the lead:


Cummins is a well-known name in the commercial generator industry, offering a range of solutions for various applications.


Perkins generators are synonymous with reliability and performance, making them a top choice for critical operations.


Caterpillar generators are respected for their efficiency and robustness, providing consistent power in challenging conditions.

As you research generators in the 50-100kVA range, remember that the choice you make directly impacts the continuity of critical operations. It’s essential to prioritize reliability, fuel efficiency, and service support to ensure uninterrupted power when it matters most.

In the next section, we’ll delve into the world of even larger generators, and provide a guide to generator selection ranging from 100kVA to 500kVA, and discover their unique applications and considerations.

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