A portable generator is the combination of an electrical generator and an engine (prime mover) mounted together to form a single piece of equipment. This combination is also called an engine-generator set or a gen-set. In many contexts, the engine is taken for granted and the combined unit is simply called a generator.
Portable-generators are available in a wide range of power ratings. These include small, hand-portable units that can supply several hundred watts of power, hand-cart mounted units, as pictured below, that can supply several thousand watts and stationary or trailer-mounted units that can supply over a million watts. Regardless of the size, generators may run on gasoline, diesel, natural gas, propane, bio-diesel, water, sewage gas or hydrogen. Most of the smaller units are built to use gasoline (petrol) as a fuel, and the larger ones have various fuel types, including diesel, natural gas, and propane (liquid or gas). Some engines may also operate on diesel and gas simultaneously.
There are only a few portable three-phase generator models available in the US. Most of the portable units available are single-phase generators and most of the three-phase generators manufactured are large industrial type generators. In other countries where three-phase power is more common in households, portable generators are available from a few kW and upwards.
Portable engine-generators may require an external power conditioner to safely operate some types of electronic equipment. Small portable generators may use an inverter. Inverter models can run at slower RPMs to generate the power that is necessary, thus reducing the noise of the engine and making it more fuel-efficient. Inverter generators are best to power sensitive electronic devices such as computers and lights that use a ballast.
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