A generator is a machine that is able to convert one form of energy into another form of energy. Very often they are used for converting mechanical energy into electrical energy. Many home owners find that having a back-up generator is a good precaution in case of a power outage caused by a storm or other kind of disaster. In a time when some people fear that the most likely threat to our nation could be an attack on state or national power grids, gas driven residential generators are especially popular.
As a source of back-up power, it is important that commercial generators are properly maintained and serviced. Like any electrical equipment, generator preventative maintenance includes a careful examination of essential parts and functions. To further understand how electric generators work, it can be important to understand their basic parts.
Basic Parts of a DC Generator
- Magnetic Field. This is a permanent magnet which produces a magnetic field through which the coil rotates. Many of the larger DC generators make use of a field coil instead of a magnet to produce the magnetic field.
- Armature. The armature rotates through the magnetic field, actually cutting the lines of magnetic force. This rotation produces an electrical current within the armature coil.
- Brushes. The brushes are in constant contact with the commutator and are attached to the wires leading from the generator. The brushes remain stationary while the commutator spins. This process transfers current from the commutator.
- Commutator. This part is attached to the coil. In the most simple DC generator, the commutator is a pair of split rings. The commutator transfers the current from the wire coil into the brushes. In DC generators, the commutator keeps the current at the brushes positive.
- Shaft. This final part transfers mechanical energy to the generator and turns the coil through the use of the magnetic field. The shaft can be turned by a turbine operated with water, steam, air, or by various other means.
No matter what kind of generator you have as a back-up power supply, generator preventative maintenance is essential. Without proper maintenance, a generator may not be operational when you need it most. Worse yet, it could be the cause of fire. According to the Electrical Safety Foundation International, home-based electrical systems are the cause of nearly 55,000 fires a year, resulting in more than 500 deaths and 1,400 injuries. In addition, electrical fires cost $1.4 billion a year in damage to property. Rather than risk fire from an improperly functioning generator, make sure you perform generator preventative maintenance. A good way to remember to maintain your generator is to check it every three months when you are doing other routine maintenance like changing your heating and cooling filters.
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