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How Do I Know if My Generator is Overloaded?

It’s common knowledge what a generator is and what it does, at least on a surface level. When the power goes out, it’s time to fire up the generator to maintain your family’s comfort and ability to continue with daily tasks. A generator can keep your family cool and comfortable, or safe and warm, no matter what time of year the power goes out. 

Understanding exactly what makes generators work, and how they run, requires a little bit more knowledge than the average person probably has on the subject.

The short answer to the question of whether you can use an electric motor to run a generator is no. But in order to properly answer the question, you’ll need to have a working knowledge of some basic terms.

Are an engine and a motor the same thing?

The terms “engine” and “motor” are often used interchangeably, but they actually don’t mean the same thing. They are both devices that turn one type of energy into another, but not in the same way. 

A motor is used to turn electrical energy into mechanical energy. There are plenty of examples of this type of motor all over your home. You simply plug your blender, hairdryer, electric toothbrush, etc. into a wall outlet. It then uses the electrical energy from that outlet to power a motor with mechanical energy – making the blender blades spin, or making the hairdryer push out heated air. 

A generator is a good example of an engine. Engines are devices that turn mechanical energy into electrical energy. They’re typically powered by combustion, especially generators, but they can also be powered by water, wind, nuclear energy, and more.

In simplified terms, when a generator is running, it’s burning fuel that’s used to push an electrical conductor through a magnetic field. That mechanical energy– the electrical conductor being pushed through the magnetic field– produces an electrical current. 

The electrical current that is created by the generator can then be used to power electric motors and devices. When a generator is running, you can plug devices like air conditioners, hair dryers and more into it, allowing them to operate normally even if you don’t currently have access to the same electrical power as usual.

What’s the difference between an electric motor and a generator?

To further simplify the point, we’ll use the example of a box fan. The fan contains a motor that makes the blades spin, allowing the user to enjoy a refreshing breeze. These blades cannot spin on their own– they require electrical current to do so. This current can be obtained by plugging the fan into a wall outlet. 

A generator is specifically designed to work during a lack of electric power. It can be compared to a car’s engine because it starts with the help of a battery. However, the actual function of the generator’s engine uses fuel combustion to create an electrical current. 

So can you run a generator using an electric motor?

Not really. The generator doesn’t need an electric current to run, since its job is to create an electric current. It operates using fuel combustion. Additionally, it wouldn’t really make much sense to try and run a generator with an electric engine. Typically, you’re using your generator when access to regular electrical power is unavailable, so it would be a lot harder to power that electric engine, and not very efficient, either.

If you still have questions or need clarification on the operation of your generator, or even finding a more efficient way to power your home in the event of a power outage, please feel free to give us a call or reach out on the web. We’ve been in business since 1978, and we’d be happy to use our collective knowledge to answer any questions you might have!