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How do you clean up generator power?

Discussion in 'Tech Talk' started by Kadetklapp, Jun 28, 2010.

  1. Kadetklapp

    Kadetklapp Methberry PD

    Jan 2, 2007
    Last week's major storm in my area forced me to run on 1000 watts of generator power for nearly 8 hours. In that time I ran my sump pump, box fan, 15 amp ham radio power supply, ham radio, and radio charger for my police radio.

    The gennie could have run much more, but that was all I needed at the time. I noticed that the power of course is very dirty. The box fan was making a whine noise that it never makes off household power. The power supply and radio charger didn't seem affected. The sump pump worked fine but the day after the storm the float switch (electronic) failed forcing me to get a new one. Not sure if that was due to dirty power or due to the major flooding my sump pit and basement had.

    Anyway, what can be used to "clean up" gennie power? I know true or pure sine invertors are used to convert 12v battery power to "clean" 110v power, but what takes dirty 110v and makes it "clean" 110v? :dunno:
  2. filthy infidel

    filthy infidel 100% Infidel

    Apr 24, 2007
    North Carolina
    I'm looking forward to the responses.

    I have a 'line conditioner' that looks like a big UPS that my entertainment/tv gear plugs into. It is a Tripp-Lite LC-1800 that is supposed to provide clean AC output at 120 volts as long as incoming line voltage is between 80 and 180 volts. We get little brownouts/surges/flickers on occasion and the box makes all kinds of racket, but we have not lost any equipment.

    I bought it specifically for generator use, but as of yet I haven't needed to rely on the genny for very long.

  3. JimmyN


    Sep 29, 2006
    Portable generators produce clean enough power, your utility power voltage will vary as much as 10% from light demand days to days of heavy demand on the grid anyway, so most electrical equipment is designed to deal with a 10% voltage variation since that's not unusual.

    More critical than the voltage is the frequency. Though the power companies voltage may vary some the frequency will always be 60hz, and electrical equipment counts on that being constant. The power company may even lower the line voltage some if demand is reaching their peak generating capacity. That lowers the amount of "pressure" they're trying to maintain on the grid so they can stay on line.

    Your generator has to turn exactly 3600 rpm's to maintain the 60 cycles. Electric motors can tolerate a frequency variation more than electronics can, depending on whether they are using a switching or linear type power supply to provide the low voltage. Motors will just run at a reduced speed, draw a little more current, and produce a little more heat. Your generator may be running a little slow, because of governor problems, carboned up exhaust muffler, etc. Better regulation on a portable unit is more a matter of keeping voltage and frequency from drifting as much when heavy loads are applied or removed.

    You probably don't have a hertz meter, or oscilloscope, that is beyond the normal handyman's toolkit. But you can check voltage to see how it's doing when comparing full load to no load. Since with portable generators voltage and frequency are related, due to engine speed variation. checking voltage at each end of the range also gives a hint as to frequency shift. With no load they will tend to run a little high on both voltage and frequency, but if it has no load it's not a problem. As soon as you add some load it falls into range.

    With no load it should be producing 125 to 135 volts and 61~62 Hz. With no load the generator is easier to turn so it's just a spinning mass. With a 1000 watt load (100%) it should still be producing at least 110 volts at 58 Hz. The more load you put on it the stronger the magnetic fields become and the harder the generator is to turn. Dirty air filter, spark plug(s), or clogged muffler will not allow it to run at full speed when it's fully loaded, so cycles and voltage drop off.

    You can rig up your own load bank using light bulbs. 10-100w lamps would be 1,000 watts. Or two 500 watt halogen lamps, or some other combination. I'd put 1000 watts of load on it and see what the voltage output is. If it can't maintain 110V with a full load it's most likely a lack of engine power.

    Motors average 746 watts per horsepower. So if your sump pump is 1/4 HP that would be about 187 watts, and almost a fifth of your total load. You should hear a change in the generator when the pump starts and stops. I hope your 15 amp power supply is 15 amps at 12V or something, because if it's 15 amps at 120V that's 1800 watts and that's likely your problem.
  4. Kadetklapp

    Kadetklapp Methberry PD

    Jan 2, 2007
    Great info thanks. The power supply is not slowing the generator down at all, and really, I strained to hear (over the howling wind and thunder) to see if when the sump kicked on it was pulling the genset down any. It seemed like sometimes it was and sometimes it wasn't. It certainly didn't kick out at any time. The only thing that concerned me was the whine coming from the box fan and then a day later the sump pump switch failed (a $90 part!).
  5. wrenrj1


    May 22, 2002
    I purchased a Generac 6500KW that's supposed to have "Power line" quality power. I assume that's a step under an inverter generator. I had a generator panel installed in my home to plug the generator in to. I hope it's clean enough to run some basic circuits...
  6. In my old house I had an 8000w Generator and a line conditioner. In the new home we just moved into after 11 months of waiting for it to be built, the new home has a massive Generac QuietSource Series™ 48 kW Standby Power Generator as both my wife and I do not want to go another 7 days without power as we did during Hurricane Issabelle.
  7. Obi Wan

    Obi Wan

    Oct 13, 2007
    'Round the bend...
    Those two things hint to me that you're over-pulling the generator, at least at peak load.

    I've got a 6500 KW Honda generator and it supposedly passes all the 'line conditioning' tests. I've run the whole house on it, with two computers running, and never seen any issues.

    This generator was expensive, but worth it, IMO.