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Last Updated on July 23, 2022 by Manager Access
Portable generators are a great way to provide electricity and power for your job site, campsite or any other place where you need an alternate source of energy.
You may be wondering what kind of accessories are available for your portable generator. How do you know if you need one?
Generator accessories provide a number of benefits that can enhance your generator’s performance, increase its lifespan, and make it easier to use. Of course, the accessories you need for your portable generator will largely depend on your situation.
So first, you have to define your needs. Where will you operate the generator? Will you be moving it around a lot? Will you be maintaining it yourself? Is it too loud?
The noise reduction capabilities of a silencer, for example, allow you to operate the machine without disturbing neighbors while weatherproof covers shield against harsh elements such as rain and snow.
Depending on your needs, some accessories are required to ensure safe operation, such as a transfer switch if you plan to connect your portable generator to your home’s electric panel. Other accessories offer convenience by increasing mobility, such as a wheel kit.
In this article, we’ll go over the most useful accessories you can purchase for your portable generator, how they work, and why you might need them.
The Top 11 Most Useful Portable Generator Accessories
1. Transfer Switch
A transfer switch allows your home to transfer from one electricity source to another. It’s an essential part of standby generators (or whole house generators) but can be a good accessory to have for portable generators.
In the United States, a transfer switch is required for any home or building connected to a generator because it prevents two power sources from simultaneously feeding into its circuit which can be extremely dangerous.
You can choose from two types of transfer switches:
Manual Transfer Switch
With a manual transfer switch, you need to flip a switch in order to transfer the power source from the grid to your portable generator.
Before flipping the switch to move from the main electricity supply to the generator power, always follow all instructions provided by the technician after installing a manual transfer switch. There might be several steps required before and after manually transferring electricity sources.
Automatic Transfer Switch
An automatic transfer switch is an excellent option if you need the electricity to stay on when you’re not home. After installing, it automatically turns on the generator and switches to it during a power outage.
It protects your home from power disruptions, allowing you a constant source of electricity. So when you’re not at home and the power goes out, you can be sure your refrigerator keeps running.
You can save time and energy by pre-installing your electrical appliances with an automatic transfer switch, allowing you to power the essential devices first. When using a smaller generator or trying to conserve electricity for longer periods of time, this is especially useful!
A transfer switch is an important part of a generator if you plan to use it to power your home. It should always be installed by a professional to ensure that everything is connected properly.
An improperly installed transfer switch can cause unintentional back feeding or power surges which may damage your generator or electrical system and cause accidents.
2. Heavy Duty Extension Cords
To prevent carbon monoxide poisoning, generators must be placed at least 15 feet away from any open windows or doorways, so you’re going to need long extension cords to connect properly to your portable generator.
For safety reasons, we recommend using heavy-duty extension cords that can handle extreme weather conditions. You don’t want the connection to fail because of damaged extension cords, which could be dangerous on its own too.
A generator typically has several different outlets, each with a specific amperage. Make sure that the extension cord has two plugs: one for the outlet of your generator and another to connect it to a transfer switch.
When choosing an extension cord for your portable generator, things you need to consider are amperage, length, and thickness. Consult a professional if you’re not sure which extension cord to buy.
3. Weatherproof Cover
A weatherproof cover is a great way to protect your portable generator from the elements of nature!
Even when you’re not using it, a portable generator that remains outside should have a weatherproof cover. This protects the generator from getting wet and also prevents dirt from accumulating on its surface.
Some portable generators can be very large and heavy so it’s usually more convenient to keep them in one spot, protected by a weatherproof cover.
When buying a weatherproof cover, make sure it fits comfortably on your generator and is made of weatherproof materials that can protect against dust, dirt, rust, and pollen to ensure maximum protection.
4. Silencer and Muffler
Most portable generators are loud, especially the more powerful ones. Some models produce less noise than others but it can still be pretty noisy, especially for your neighbors.
If you’re bothered by the noise of your generator, there are ways to make it quieter. You can purchase a muffler or silencer that’s made for generators specifically. Another option is to modify an old car muffler so that it fits on your portable generator instead.
Note: Always hire a professional to modify your car muffler. A generator and a car engine might be similar but they work in different ways. Converting a car muffler to work with a generator involves a lot of technical details to be executed safely and effectively.
In general, there are three types of silencers you can install on your generator: absorptive, reactive, and combination.
- Absorptive silencers are made of sound-absorbing materials, such as fiberglass insulation, which dampens the generator’s exhaust noise as it passes through the insulation. It’s most effective in reducing high-frequency noise.
- Reactive silencers, on the other hand, reduce noise using hardware, by bouncing sound waves between three chambers connected by a tube. It works best with low to mid-frequency noises.
- Combination silencers offer the best of both worlds by adding fiberglass insulation inside the three-chamber design, effectively reducing the noise for all frequencies.
It might be a good idea to invest in one of these options if you plan to use your portable generator in public spaces or if your neighbors live close by. There could also be noise regulations in some areas so be sure to check.
5. Remote Wireless Start
More convenient than a pull or push start, a remote wireless start allows you to turn on your portable generator from afar.
A wireless remote start is most useful for portable generators that run on work sites or by homeowners who want to start up their generator without going outside.
People with disabilities and elderly people can also benefit from having this accessory.
With it, you can turn on your generator from as far as 80 feet away just by pressing a key on a wireless remote! It can also come as a remote connected by a long cable to your generator.
Before buying one though, make sure your portable generator has the specifications required for a remote wireless start. Consult a technician or check with the generator’s manufacturer.
6. Fuel Stabilizer
A fuel stabilizer is a liquid substance added to gasoline or diesel fuels to prevent it from going bad while it sits in your generator tank. It keeps the fuel from reacting with oxygen and forming harmful gum, which can cause corrosion.
To avoid having to drain your generator tank every time you’re not using it, have a fuel stabilizer in hand. Not only will it protect your fuel, but it will also save you from the hassle of draining your tank.
Putting fuel stabilizer in gasoline won’t magically make stale gas fresh again, so be sure to add it to fresh fuel the next time you refuel your generator. Most brands can preserve fuel for up to a year.
To make sure you don’t damage your generator fuel tank when using a stabilizer, always read the manufacturer’s instructions. Keep in mind that there’s no need to use a fuel stabilizer with solar-powered generators or generators connected to natural gas.
7. Automatic Voltage Regulator
Automatic Voltage Regulators (AVRs) are a must-have feature for portable generators to power sensitive electronics and home appliances.
These small electronic devices work to maintain the generator’s voltage at a stable level, which prevents damage from fluctuating output levels of the machine. This accessory comes standard on most diesel generators, but you can purchase them for older machines as well.
AVRs monitor the generator’s power output and automatically maintains electrical output voltage within a manufacturer-set range. Without one, your generator could cause fluctuations in power output, which could damage sensitive appliances and equipment.
8. Battery Charger
The best generator battery chargers allow you to quickly and quietly charge your batteries so that it’s ready for use when the power goes out.
A generator battery charger is inexpensive, but many people skip it because they think their generator will never run out of power. However, you’ll be left with no backup if that happens!
When deciding on a battery charger, you’ll need to consider its output. This factor is determined by the size and capacity of your portable generator. It usually comes down to whether you need a 12V or 24V output.
Battery chargers that produce more volts will naturally be able to charge up your generator faster, but make sure it comes equipped with a way to lower or disable charging once the generator’s battery has reached full charge.
Keeping your battery charger connected during generator start-up can also cause short circuit problems. Consider purchasing one with short circuit protection in case you need to charge your generator while it’s running.
9. Maintenance Kit
Keeping up with the maintenance of a portable generator will ensure that everything is running smoothly. A good maintenance kit is crucial if you want to keep your generator in good condition.
Make sure your maintenance kit has these components:
- Generator oil: for regular oil changes
- Air filters: to replace dirty or clogged up air filters
- Oil filters: to replace oil filters during oil changes
- Spark plugs: to replace old spark plugs
- Funnels: for pouring generator oil
Some maintenance kits may have additional items such as:
- Chamois cloth: to clean surfaces
- Pre-cleaner: to protect surfaces from dust, dirt, and other debris
- Feeler gauge: to check for valve clearance and piston ring gaps
It’s important to check the user manual to know exactly how to maintain your portable generator by yourself. Essential maintenance activities include:
- Changing the oil every 50-60 hours of use
- Changing the oil filters
- Changing the air filters once or twice a year
- Replacing the spark plugs every 100 hours of use
- Checking the battery for damage or corrosion (for an electric start)
- Checking for oil leaks and corrosion
- Cleaning the surfaces to prevent rust
10. Wheel Kit
Even when portable, generators can be heavy. If you’re constantly carrying your generator around, consider purchasing a wheel kit. Installing a wheel kit to your portable generator will make it easier to move around!
A good wheel kit should be able to handle the weight of your portable generator under any weather condition, regardless of the terrain. It should minimize vibration as you move the generator from place to place.
A wheel kit is a great accessory to have if you need to move your generator often. They’re lightweight and easy to install. They usually come with straps and retractable handles that you can store easily after use.
11. Cold Weather Kit
A cold weather kit is crucial when using a portable generator in colder climates. This kit contains items to help protect the machine from external elements like snow and ice, as well as increase its operating efficiency during winter months or extremely low temperatures.
The oil and the battery are the two most important components to safeguard in cold weather. When the battery’s temperature drops too low, the oil might thicken and cause the battery to stop working.
When exposed to shallow temperatures, a battery requires a greater current to start correctly. A cold weather kit includes a battery heater that’s activated when the temperature drops too low.
Cold temperatures can also cause the oil to thicken, slowing it down and making it more difficult to move around the generator. The kit should also include an oil heater designed to keep the oil thin, allowing the generator to work smoothly in low temperatures.
What do I need with my generator?
It depends on where and how you’re going to use your portable generator. A transfer switch is always required if you want to use your portable generator to power your home.
In general, I highly recommend purchasing a long, heavy-duty extension cord so that you can place your unit at a safe distance. Remember: gas-powered generators must be placed outdoors and away from any open windows or entryways to prevent carbon monoxide poisoning.
Automatic voltage regulators (AVRs) can be bought for older generators. They allow the unit to power sensitive electronics, like phones and laptops. New generators should already come with AVRs in most cases.
If you have a heavy generator that you plan to leave in one place, it might make sense to acquire a weatherproof cover to protect it from the elements. And if you plan to use your generator during the cold winter months, consider adding a cold-weather kit as well.
Some accessories will help keep your generator in good condition, such as the battery charger, fuel stabilizer, and maintenance kit. You don’t have to purchase them if you don’t plan to maintain the generator yourself. If so, be sure to ask a technician to inspect and maintain your generator at least once a year.
Other optional accessories are also available for added convenience. These include a wheel kit for increased mobility, a remote wireless start to turn on your generator from afar, and a silencer or muffler to reduce generator noise!
Do I need a special plug for my generator?
Many generators on the market today are equipped with standard three-prong outlets that provide 120/240 volts AC. If that’s all you need, then you probably won’t need to purchase a special plug or adapter.
Portable generators are capable of providing either 12 volts DC, 120 volts AC or 240 volts AC. Some models can provide all three voltages while others only supply the standard voltage of 120 which is more common for household use.
More powerful generators also feature four-prong outlets that can accommodate high-powered equipment. Some folks commonly purchase a heavy-duty cord with a four-prong plug to split the power into multiple three-prong outlets. That could be useful if you need more outlets than your generator has.
If you plan to connect your portable generator to a manual or automatic transfer switch for your home’s breaker panel, you might need a special plug for that too. Be sure to consult a technician before you do. It’s better to hire a professional to set up your transfer switch.
How do I extend my generator exhaust?
You can find generator exhaust extension kits online, but they might not be available for some portable generators. Thankfully, it’s possible to extend your generator exhaust on your own.
To start, simply measure the diameter of your generator exhaust. Add ¼ inch to the measurement so you can slip on the extension. Then, calculate how long you want the exhaust to be extended. How long do you need for the exhaust to reach a more ventilated area?
After you have your measurements, purchase the correct size clamp and flex tubing for your needs. Secure the flex tubing around your exhaust pipe and then tighten it using the clamp. Make sure there are no leaks!
Finally, just route the tubing into a well-ventilated area. When you’re ready to move the portable generator, don’t forget to disassemble the extension to prevent any damage.
Despite the high price tag on some of these accessories, don’t skimp on quality when purchasing one for your portable generator. It’s better to be safe when dealing with a gas-powered engine. A malformed accessory could spell danger.
For delicate installations or accessories, you’re unsure of, it’s better to consult a technician or hire one to install the accessory for you.
All in all, a portable generator is a great investment on its own if you want to be prepared for emergencies. But if you want more safety, increased capabilities, and a better experience with your portable generator, there are many accessories available to make that possible.
Some of these accessories might be required in certain situations and some are just nice to have. Hopefully, this article has helped you decide which ones you need!
Scott Krager purchased generatorgrid.com in the summer of 2020 and quickly began to buy every generator under the sun! He currently has over a dozen generators and the number is growing quickly. He lives in Portland, OR near his family and friends.