So you are a proud owner of a new portable generator? Your next question is, how do I install it to make my life easy? Most generator manufacturers claim their portable generators are plug and play. They can be, but it is relatively rare.
To correctly and install a portable generator, either for home, business, or recreational use, you will definitely need some accessories.
When you purchase a portable generator, safety and ease of use are the top two considerations. Among the myriad of accessories, some are required for safe and sound operation, while others simply make life easier – for startup and maintenance purposes.
In this article, we have put together a list of the best accessories. Some of them are a must-have, while it would be an extra benefit if you also have the others.
Continue to enjoy reading this article to learn more about which accessories you definitely want to get to install your portable generator itself, or as a backup electrical powerhouse.
If you are still in the market for a portable generator, I suggest you go ahead and check our list of top picks first and come back to this informative article to supplement your investment.
Essential Portable Generator Accessories
For the sake of convenience, we are calling the following items accessories. Technically, they are absolutely necessary and vital for the safe running and full use of your portable electric generator.
Yes, some of these items will have a price tag, but for safety reasons, don’t cut down on these costs by getting alternative and questionable quality accessories. It is a question of your and your family’s safety.
Keep in mind, when dealing with electric power, such as portable generators, it is never a good idea to choose a low-budget option over a trustworthy option.
When budgeting for a portable generator, it is important to budget the costs for safety, parts, and installation.
Please go ahead and refer to the article on portable generator costs to assist you in putting a budget together.
First and foremost, here are the portable generator absolutely required parts and accessories.
1. Transfer Switch
We cannot stress the importance of having a transfer switch enough! You must have one always installed for your home backup power generator and your RV generators.
What does a transfer switch do? It changes the electric load from one source to another. In the case of portable generators, it switches the source from the grid to the portable generator and vice-versa.
The main function of the transfer switch is to prevent two sources of power supplying the same circuit. This kind of occurrence would not only be hazardous but could be deadly.
In the USA, a transfer switch is a legal requirement for portable generators connected to a home or any other building type.
Essentially, there are two types of transfer switches; 1. Automatic Transfer Switch, and, 2. Manual Transfer Switch. Both advantages and disadvantages. You can choose whatever you prefer.
Automatic Transfer Switch
As the name suggests, the automatic transfer switch will be self-activated and switch the electric supply from the grid to the portable generator when there is an electric failure. It will also automatically switch back to the mains supply when power in the grid is restored.
The automatic transfer switch will make transferring the power source a hands-off experience. This is a great option when you need constant power in your home, even when you are not present.
Another significant advantage of the automatic transfer switch is that you can pre-program it to run appliances of your choice which are connected to the portable generator. It comes in handy especially when your portable generator cannot produce enough power to run the entire house. Also, by limiting the number of appliances, you can run the generator for a longer time.
A disadvantage is that the automatic transfer switch comes with a higher price tag. Installing it is also more difficult and expensive.
An automatic transfer switch must be professionally installed. Keep in mind that the installation will take much longer than installing a manual transfer switch.
- Can handle 2 sources of 30 amps at one time
- Made for use with inverter, shore power or generators
- Delay switch for use with generators
- Comes with knockouts for easy and professional installation
- Single relay
Manual Transfer Switch
When using a manual transfer switch you will have to manually change your electric supply source. Unlike an automatic transfer switch, you will physically have to flip the switch and perform all the necessary steps before and after the need to transfer the electric source.
A note of caution is that switching the electric supply from the main grid to a portable power generator is a meticulous process. Always, always, remember to follow each and every step provided by the authorized technician once the manual transfer switch is installed.
While using a manual transfer switch, you can choose the devices over several circuits. The advantage is that it will let you manually adjust the devices you want to connect to the portable generator and leave out the appliances you don’t want to use.
- FOR PORTABLE GENERATOR: This transfer kit is designed for use with emergency generators that have up to a 30 amp output, Nema L1430. With easy-to-follow instructions, this unit is incredibly easy to install and is a cheaper alternative to running your portable generator without it.
- VOLTAGE: This transfer switch kit is designed with the capability of 2 pole circuits and allows 240-volt circuits, making it perfect for well or water sump pump applications. If one of the installed 2-pole circuits are not needed, the tie bar can be removed to allow for 2 single pole circuits.
- INDOOR OR OUTDOOR: The designed enclosures of the power inlet and transfer switches to be used either indoors or outdoors and have a NEMA 3R rainproof rating allowing the kit to be installed wherever is convenient for you and you home.
- COMPATIBLE WITH ALL LOAD CENTERS: This backup generator inverter is compatible with all residential load centers including: Challenger, Cutler Hammer, GE, Home line, Siemens, Square D, and Westinghouse load centers.
- POWER SURGE PROTECTION: The double throw rocker switches absolutely eliminate the possibility of power back feeding to the utility line or to your generator when power is restored. All Connecticut Electric products are ETL listed, ensuring its compliance to UL Standard.
2. Heavy Duty Extension Cords
As a safety issue, all fuel-powered generators must be located at least 15 feet from any building site. You also must make sure that the dangerous exhaust fumes are far away from all windows, doors, and enclosed spaces. Now, the main electric panel is generally attached to the building, therefore extension cords will be needed to make the connection.
Again for the sake of safety, we always recommend using only heavy-duty extension cords. These cords should be capable of handling extreme weather conditions. You don’t want the connection from the portable generator to your home to fail in inclement weather when it is most needed.
Make sure that the heavy-duty cord you select has the same amperage as the portable generator. The amperage can be easily determined by looking at the outlet of the generator.
Keep in mind that most portable generators may have several outlets with varying powers. The extension cord you get will also have two different plugs; one that goes into the portable generator outlet, and, the other that will fit into the transfer switch outlet.
The length of the extension cord needs to be determined with accuracy. Make sure to measure the distance between the placement of the portable generator and house mains. Remember that the length of the cord will also affect its resistance.
Several calculations are involved in getting the correct extension cord for your portable generator. They are best left to the specialized technician who will install the transfer switch attached to the cord. He would know which one is the most suitable and safest.
- All purpose extension cord for indoor and outdoor use. Great for landscaping, gardening, and powering appliances
- Highly visible Yellow jacket provides extra safety and will not mark floors or walls
- Water resistant: flexible vinyl jacket provides protection of the cord against moisture, abrasion, and sunlight
- Reinforced blades add durability that protects prongs from bending and/or breaking;Total_power outlets :1
- Lighted end indicates power is on.125 Volts
3. Maintenance Kit
A great advantage of the right portable generator is that it will usually require minimal maintenance. However, some regular servicing will be required for it to give optimal service for years to come.
The store you buy your portable generator will also sell the maintenance kit. Make sure that you invest in one.
REGULAR MAINTENANCE YOU WILL LIKELY PERFORM
- A new set of spark-plugs after every 100 hours of use.
- Regular oil change every 50-60 hours of use.
- Always replace the oil filter with each oil change.
- Air filters can be replaced once or twice a year depending upon the portable generator’s usage.
Your Maintenance Kit Will Contain the Following Items to Perform the Above Tasks
- Spark Plugs
- Oil Filters
- Air Filter
- Funnel (for pouring oil into the engine)
Along with the listed steps, the whole portable generator must be thoroughly cleaned. Make sure no dirt or soil is stuck on the machine. Also, make sure to prevent any rusting.
While you are in the process of cleaning the machine, always remember to check for oil leaks and other damage.
If you are using a portable generator with a push or electrical start, make sure to check the battery also. It should not be leaking, damaged, or corroded.
- Scheduled maintenance kit is for standby home generators
- Kit for 12-18-Kilowatt 760cc - 990cc Engines
- Maintenance is recommended every 200-hours or 2-years
- Includes a pre-cleaner, air filter, oil filter, oil funnel, (2) spark plugs, chamois, instruction manual and preventative maintenance reminder sticker
- Oil must be purchased separately
4. Fuel Stabilizer
Another essential accessory to use for portable generators is – fuel stabilizer. The fuel stabilizer is an absolute requirement for generators running either on gasoline or diesel.
The fuel stabilizer keeps the fuel inside the gas tank clean and good condition, thus preventing any damage caused by fuel turning into the gum or causing engine corrosion.
If you don’t use a fuel stabilizer, then the gas tank of the portable generator must be drained empty when not in use. To avoid this hassle, it is best to get a fuel stabilizer.
Remember to add the fuel stabilizer when you refuel the portable generator. Once the fuel has become stale, the fuel stabilizer will not be able to make it fresh again.
By adding the fuel stabilizer along with gas or diesel, it will keep you worry-free about storing the fuel inside the generator tank even if your generator is not used for a long while.
If you have a solar-powered generator or a natural gas generator, you will not have the need for a fuel stabilizer.
- Prevent sludge and sediment formation
- Clean & lubricate entire fuel system
- Protect against corrosion
- Reduces oxidation of diesel fuel caused by thermal breakdown
- Helps remove water that bacteria, fungus and algae require to grow
5. Cold Weather Kit
If you live in a part of the world where the weather gets really cold, it is advisable to have a cold-weather kit. This kit contains all the items you will need to make sure that the portable generator will run without any issues and is not damaged by low temperatures.
The oil and battery are the two main components to look out for in cold weather. The oil can become thick and the battery can stop working.
When the weather is cold, the battery will need extra power to start properly. The cold weather kit will contain a battery heater that is activated when the temperature becomes low.
Oil thickens with cold weather. This prevents it from moving smoothly in the engine. It can severely damage the portable generator. To keep the oil running smooth and the correct consistency, the cold weather kit also has an oil heater.
- Maintains optimum battery temperature
- Maintains crankcase oil temperature for easy starting
- Automatically starts when temperature falls below acceptable levels
- Recommended in regions where temperature falls below 32 degrees
- Designed to work effectively
- Package length :10.0"
- Package width :6.0"
- Package height :3.0"
- Compatible with Briggs & Stratton 16kw-20kw Standby Generator Systems
- Ensures smooth starting and reliable operation in the winter months
- Includes battery and oil warmers, thermostatically-controlled to activate as temperature drops
- Tested to start at 25-degrees Fahrenheit
- Briggs & Stratton has provided reliable engine power for over 100 years - Trust the power experts at Briggs & Stratton for complete peace of mind
We will now move the discussion to accessories that are not absolutely essential. But having these will not only make your life easier and provide protection for you and your investment.
These accessories will make starting the generator easier, will provide extra protection, and make it easier for you to move the portable generator.
The noise made by fuel-powered generators is loud. The more power it generates the louder the sound it makes. All the manufacturers are aware of this fact. There is a lot of debate and thought put into reducing the noise. With all the research, the noise level can be much more than is desirable.
When you feel that the portable generator is making more noise than you can tolerate, the dilemma can be solved by using a muffler or silencer. You can get generator-specific mufflers and silencers in the market. If you want, you can also have a car muffler modified to fit your portable generator.
If you are taking the route of modifying a car muffler to fit your generator, it is better to leave the modification to a professional. Car engines don’t run the same way as portable generators. There are several technical details to consider for the sake of safety.
If you are planning on using your portable generator in public places, like a camping site, be sure to check with the authorities regarding any regulations on noise. These regulations are an indication of the necessity of having a muffler or a silencer fitted on your portable generator.
- Aluminized steel construction for corrosion resistance and durability
- Tube-and-partition style interior design
- Spot welded bushings provide stability and system support
- Provides installers and DIY customers with economical performance and acoustics
- Universal mufflers may require modifications to complete installation
7. Push Start
You will still find some models of portable generators that don’t come with a push-start or what is also called an electric start button. In several cases, it is possible to install one on your generator.
You will find a pull start on generators that have a low power output. Putting the pull start cuts the cost down, along with the weight and size of the portable generator.
Push-start generators require a battery. The battery increases the size and weight of the portable generator. That is why you will find one only on heavy-duty generators.
If you wish you can install a push-start button on your portable generator. Once again, it is a good idea to have a specialized technician to make the change.
8. Remote Wireless Start
Another more advanced starter for your portable generator is a remote wireless starter. A portable generator fitted with one can be started by the press of a button on a remote key.
People who have to put their portable generators far away from their homes will require a remote wireless start switch. Likewise, for the elderly who may not be as mobile, this remote switch can come in handy in times of a power outage. They can run the portable generator from their homes without stepping out into any inclement weather.
A remote wireless start key is also handy to use on portable generators placed on work sites.
Installing a remote wireless start key depends on certain specifications of the portable generator. A specialized technician can give the right opinion and install it for you if you want, and it is possible for the generator to have a remote start.
- Low cost controller designed to start/stop a generator manually and remotely
- Suitable for 1-3 phase gasoline and diesel gensets
- Designed for front panel mounting
- Survives cranking dropouts
- Generator protection, built-in alarms and warnings
9. Weather-Proof Cover
A portable generator is an investment. Just like you would protect any investment of yours, a weather-proof cover on the generator will keep it safe and cleaner. It prevents any dirt buildup and keeps the generator dry.
Keep in mind that the cover is to be used only when the generator is not in use. Before starting it, make sure that you have taken off the weather-proof cover!
Like many machines, portable generators are not weatherproof. They are susceptible to getting damaged by the weather. Having a good quality cover will ensure a protective layer on the generator.
The best way to store an idle portable generator is indoors. But it is not possible for everyone to do this. Heavy and larger generators cannot be moved easily. Using a weather-proof cover to protect the machine is the next best thing.
When professionally installed, portable generators will give you many years of service. Add a few accessories and it will increase the life, efficiency, and ease of use of your portable generator.
- Fits up to 30.25inchesL 22inchesW 19.25inchesH
- Four-year limited warranty
- Durable waterproof fabric backed with protective water resistant PVC provides protection against rain, snow, sun and dirt and won’t crack in cold weather
- Critically taped seams help keep rain out and your equipment protected
- Adjustable tension panels with click-close straps provide a quick and customizable fit with exceptional security in windy conditions