What is a Generator?: The Blueprint for Power
It is safe to assume that nearly everyone in this day and age is familiar with the term “generator” and that most of them have a basic idea of a generator’s function. However, a large majority of people have never actually used a generator or even seen one. If you are a part of this group, you may be wondering, “What precisely does a generator do? And how can a generator be of use to me and my business?” Ask no more. This article will provide answers to those questions and attempt to once and for all demystify the workings of the storied machine, the electric generator.
The simplest explanation of a generator’s function: it provides electrical power. Why is this so valuable? It is valuable because electricity is the lifeblood of contemporary society. Virtually every business and every home–everything we rely on in our daily lives–requires a steady supply of power in order to function. Still, electrical power is a commodity that is often taken for granted. Massive power grids make electricity readily available to every home and business located in civilized areas. However, that primary power supply is vulnerable to failure due to factors such as inclement weather, computer malfunction or human error. Also, some businesses such as mining outfits or new community developments must operate outside the realm of the power grid. Such problems illuminate the primary functional advantage of a generator: a generator independently provides a steady supply of power.
How is a generator able to provide power all on its own? In order to understand the mechanics of the power generator with ease, we need only take a broad look at the properties of energy that govern the world around us. Everything that moves, glows or hums–whether organic or manmade–does so by converting one type of energy into another. The human body converts food and nutrients into physical energy. A radio converts electric currents into sonic energy. Even the vast supply of electricity that is available to the public is generated from other sources; for example, the Hoover Dam converts the gravitational pull of water (hydropower) into electrical power for the entirety of Las Vegas and its surrounding areas. A common generator works under the same principle–it generates electrical energy from mechanical energy.
The manner in which a generator operates is very similar to that of an automobile, and the mechanical components work in much the same fashion. Like your everyday car, a generator uses a heavy-duty, recharging battery to initiate and maintain its basic level of energy. The generator is also equipped with a fuel tank that supplies its engine with the needed resources to produce mechanical power. Many generators even run on the same fuels used in automobiles, although there are more options available. Smaller household varieties often operate on gasoline, but larger industrial generators typically have diesel engines or natural gas engines. Regardless of its fuel type, the engine works in concert with an alternator. This alternator houses electrical conductors which react to the engine’s mechanical energy and convert it into useful electrical power.
A generator’s output of electrical power is measured in kilowatts. This is another term that is familiar but struggles to convey any concrete meaning to most people. So what exactly is a kilowatt? In order to understand clearly, we must simplify the measurement:
Reducing this even further:
Still confused? Unless you are a physicist there is no reason to feel ashamed. In plain terms, an ampere is a measurement of electrical charge and an ohm is a measurement of resistance; a joule is the amount of work it takes for a charge to pass through the particular level of resistance. To conceptualize this measurement of energy, it may be helpful to envision tiny bolts struggling to push through a magnetic field. In a generator, the mechanical energy entering the alternator causes an electromagnetic reaction, resulting in an alternating current (AC) which is released as electricity (this is why the plugs on household electronics are referred to as “AC adaptors”).
As you may have deduced, the more charges (amperes) that are able to pass through the field of resistance (an ohm) per second, the more powerful a generator will be. This is why industrial generators are quite large–they allow for a great number of kilowatts to be generated in order to supply the necessary amount of power to large buildings or heavy machinery. It is imperative that people shopping for a generator, whether it is intended to be a backup or a primary power source, make sure they choose a product large enough to fit their individual energy needs.
Power generators can be an invaluable investment. They ensure that you will have a reliable source of electricity whenever and wherever you need it. Power outages and brownouts inevitably result in substantial losses for business owners and corporations. Such damages can be avoided by securing the private power supply of a generator. Industrial generators are extremely durable and each is almost guaranteed to produce savings that will exceed its purchase price over time.
Hopefully, having read this article, you now have a clear idea of the mechanics and the benefits of a generator. Remember that electricity is perhaps the most important resource in today’s world. Don’t get caught without it.
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