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How Does A Generator Create Electricity

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  • 01-12-2021
How Does A Generator Create Electricity

How does a generator create electricity? This article explores how generators work and looks at the main components of a generator. Find out more about the features & benefits of electric generators.

How Do Generators Work?

At some point or another, most homeowners, businesses, or industrial sites have relied on the use of an electrical generator to power their building(s). Whether that's in a power outage, a construction site without electrical wiring completed or facilities that need backup power, generators have been valuable time and time again.

With a wide array of generator options, ranging from portable, handheld devices that campers and hikers can take with them to much larger generators that will continuously power hospitals, offices, and schools.

Although, the question still remains unanswered to many; how do generators work?

Interestingly, generators don't create electricity when in use. The chemical or mechanical energy is instead converted into electrical energy via the power of motion. If you can picture an electrical motor, a generator will typically work in reverse to this. Electrons are forced through an electrical circuit and can then be used to power our homes and appliances.

Surrey-born electromagnetic scientist Michael Faraday introduced and studied a principle called electromagnetic induction. He is attributed as one of the founding fathers of modern-day generators, a his principle discovered that electrical charges are created when a conductor moves through a magnetic field. After a current has been created, it's directed through copper wires and then distributed and can supply to the necessary property. The flow of electricity is moved by a wire and magnet and is similar to a water pipe in its movement and creation of energy. Just as a water pump does not create the water within, it only distributes it, which can be said for a generator. 

How Does A Generator Create Electricity?

What Are The Main Components Of A Generator

However, to successfully achieve a current, there are more elements and components within a generator, all working at one point or another. 

Here are the main components you can expect to find:


This is the source of energy within the generator and can be one of the most varying factors. Depending on what power the generator can exert, the engine size will match. 

Smaller models, perhaps one that is intended to be moved around, will have much smaller engines within and, therefore, a lower power output compared to stationary generators that can power a whole home for hours. In such an example, with a smaller generator, you can expect the fuel type to differ. 

Typically a generator will be powered by diesel, petrol, natural gas, or propane, but some small models can operate on gasoline. Liquefied or gaseous options can be available, depending on preference. 


An alternator within a generator has the important task of converting the mechanical input to the electrical output required. 

Made up of moving and stationary parts, the alternator works by causing movement between the magnetic and electrical fields, causing electricity. 

The stator is the stationary component within the alternator and contains conductors over an iron core. The rotor or armature moves around, which creates the magnetic field. 

What Are The Main Components Of A Generator

Voltage Regulator

With any appliance that deals with electrical output, a voltage regulator is required. Generators are the same, and the voltage regulator within the system is responsible for maintaining and ensuring the output voltage is safe and reliable. 

This is crucial in converting the AC Voltage to DC Current, which must happen before being distributed to the exciter windings within the generator. Passing through rotating rectifiers, which create an electromagnetic field, to the rotor or armature, this cycle continues until an output voltage that matches the operating capacity is met.

Fuel System

Depending on the size of the generator, the fuel tank is capable of suppling power and electricity for up to eight hours, and sometimes upward. If longer periods of energy are needed, an external fuel tank can be installed and attached to the generator. 

Still, household models will need topping up after every use. Any generator must have a sufficient ventilation pipe for the fuel tank; otherwise, pressure can build up. Most fuel systems will also be made up of other components, such as an overflow connection, water separator and fuel filter, each having its own purpose.

Battery Charger

Despite running on petrol or diesel, the generator's battery charger must remain supplied with energy. The battery provides the start function to the generator and relies on a float voltage to keep it alive. 

If this float voltage is too high or too low, the battery can be undercharged or significantly lower its lifespan, and the generator won't start.


Cooling and Exhaust Systems

Of course, as the moving parts in the generator continue to move and be used, elements will heat up. If this is not maintained correctly, then the entire unit can stop working and overheat. 

A good cooling and exhaust system can withdraw heat from the inside of the generator and expel it into the air. Water coolants can sometimes be used, and these aren't uncommon to see in smaller generators. 

Hydrogen will be used in large generator units and can prove incredibly effective at cooling larger generators. On industrial-scale operations, where the generators are much larger and power more extensive properties, you will notice entire cooling towers. These work similarly. 

Lubrication System

Ensuring that all moving parts can move efficiently and not get stuck or slowed is essential, so most generators will have some form of lubrication system. 

This comes in the form of oil stored in a pump, which is another level you will have to regularly check and occasionally top-up. 

Control Panel

Most generators will have a user interface, showing you levels and any warnings. 

This differs from suppliers and manufacturers, but most are similar with provisions for outlets, controls, and customisation monitored from that screen.


Regardless of the type of generator, there will be a structural base support for the generator to be positioned safely and efficiently. 

Features & Benefits of Electric Generators

There are many features and benefits to be gained when using electric generators. There's a reason why commercial and industrial sites alike favour the use of them, and they continue to rise in hiring and buying popularity.

Here are our best examples:


You can hire a generator for almost any purpose and desired power size, meaning that anything from a small one-room property to an entire warehouse or hospital can receive electricity. 

The options are limitless as long as the matching power output is met with the correct sized generator.


An electrical generator can be extremely quiet, and many manufacturers are installing noise-reducing technologies to further this. 

This means you can install a generator in your home and have it at close proximity without concern of greater noise levels. 

Comfort In Emergencies

Home generators are generally installed with the ability to automatically switch on in the event of a power outage, meaning that you won't be fumbling in the dark to find a light switch. 

If a storm has knocked over power lines near your home, you will have peace of mind that your electricity usage is safe and confirmed for the next 6-8 hours. 


Unless you're looking for a large, industrial generator, many models are equipped with wheels, handles or are of an adequate size to move around a property with ease. 

If you're looking for a generator for camping, hiking or the like, then extremely portable and handheld models can be bought, granted at the cost of power timespan. 

Increase Home Value

Installing a home generator has been known to raise kerb appeal and increase overall property value. This is an attractive appliance for potential buyers or tenants, and estate agents can utilise it to best sell your home.


Many generators operate on a petrol, diesel, natural gas or propane basis, meaning that there is an array of resources. Once you've learnt how one generator is powered, you can use most models.


Applications Of Electric Generators

With all of this in mind, let's discuss some further applications of electric generators.

Any area that either faces regular power outages or would significantly be affected in the event of one can benefit from installing an electric generator. This goes for any shops, offices, warehouses, homes, etc., and a generator will act as a secondary power supply, giving the property uninterrupted power for a few hours.

Areas that have no access to electricity, the main line or power grid also rely on electric generators for their primary power source. This is the case for many areas of farmland or mining operations.

Contact Us

If you are looking to stay as prepared as possible when it comes to powering your home, call us today on 01172 541069 for help choosing the right generator for you. 

Now you know how a generator create electricity, get in contact to find the right generator for you.

Alternatively, see our range of generators here;