Two Types of Power

Varying shades of gray exist between alternating current and direct current.

| January/February 2009

Choosing the Right Generator  

Not all generator power is the same, and this is especially important if you plan to run electronics, entertainment equipment, battery chargers or computer hardware. Many generators aren’t made to power items like these at all. Use the wrong generator and it will create “dirty” power that could fry your electronics.

Electrical power is available two ways. Alternating current (AC) is what comes out of wall sockets in your home, and direct current (DC) comes primarily from batteries, but varying shades of gray exist between ideal AC and DC power. Until recently, most so-called AC generators weren’t producing anything like true AC at all. Instead of the smoothly flowing waves of rising and falling voltage required by sensitive items such as battery chargers, fax machines and computers, typical generators produce an erratic and jagged rendition of AC. And while this “dirty” AC power is OK for robust items such as fridges, hot plates and water pumps, it can destroy the sensitive electronics that most of us have come to rely on. You simply can’t plug everything into an average generator and expect it to survive. At the moment we have no standard rating for the “cleanliness” of generator power. Just look for models that are specifically designed to run sensitive electronics and you’ll be fine.

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