When Does the Generator Kick In, How Long Does it Run?

As intended, generators start running when there is a power outage or when an auxiliary power source is needed. In the case of a power outage, the generator automatically kicks in and starts running in order to meet the electricity demand.
Generators can also be operated manually and started by the user.

How long a generator runs depends on a number of factors:

Fuel Capacity: The holding capacity of the generator fuel tank determines the time a generator can be operated. A larger fuel tank means longer operation time.

Load:  How long a generator runs is also dependent on the power consumption of the connected electrical devices and the maximum load capacity of the generator. A higher level of power consumption will tend to drain the generator faster.

Fuel Type: Generators commonly run on different fuel types such as diesel, petrol, LPG and natural gas. Fuel type and efficiency affect generator operation time.

Maintenance Conditions: A regularly maintained and well-kept generator can operate for longer periods. In contrast, a neglected and malfunctioning generator may cause problems and stop working.

Generally speaking, generators can run for a few hours or continuously for a few days. This period may vary according to generator capacity, fuel type and load size. Generators designed for large plants and emergency environment systems can operate uninterrupted for days and even weeks.

How Does a Generator Start Operating?

Generators commonly start up when there is a power outage or where there is a need for an external power source. There are different ways to start up a generator:

Automatic Start-up System: Many modern generators are equipped with automatic start-up systems. These systems kick in automatically when a power outage is detected or when there are fluctuations in voltage levels.

Manual Start-up: The technician turns a key, presses a button or pull-starts the generator. Manual start-up is generally seen in older or more basic generator models.

Programmable Timers: Some generators can be programmed to run at a certain time and at certain intervals. This is a useful feature for testing the generator regularly and to carry out maintenance.

Remote Control: Other generators can be remotely operated with special controls or automation systems. This allows for the remote control and monitoring of the generator. 

The generator start-up process is generally programmed with the control panel on the device according to the manufacturers instructions. The generator should be programmed to run in a power outage or manually started by the user.

How Long Does it Take for a Generator to Kick In?

Automatic operation or manual operation are the two most common ways to activate a generator.

  • Automatic Start-up: In automatic start-up systems, the generator automatically initiates operation when a power outage is detected or when there is loss of power. The automatic transfer screen (ATS) installed in the system transfers the load between running power sources.

    When grid power is out, the Generator Control Unit detects the outage and engages the generator. The ATS directs the power load to the generator. Startup time can be as short as a few seconds and newer systems have even shorter start-up times with almost uninterrupted power transfer to the generator.

  • Manual Start-up: Some generators can be started manually. This requires the user to start the generator or operate it by hand. Start-up time can vary according to the speed of the operator and the number of steps required to start the generator. Consequently, manual start-up is much slower compared to automatic start-up systems.

Which Type of Generator Runs the Longest?

How long a certain generator runs depends on a range of factors and there is no one “best” model. Certain basic factors determine how long a generator runs:

Fuel Type and Capacity:
Diesel generators generally run for longer periods because they are more fuel-efficient and equipped with larger fuel tanks. They have longer operation periods in comparison with other types of fuel such as petrol, LPG or natural gas.

Generator Size and Capacity:
Bigger generators can usually run for longer periods because they have larger fuel tanks and bigger engines. Large capacity generators can provide power for high-consumption equipment or facilities for longer periods of time.

Quality and Durability:
A high-quality generator made with durable materials can have a longer lifespan and operate for longer periods without any problems. Generators manufactured by trusted brands tend to have a capacity for running longer.

A well-maintained generator can last a long time and run without problems. Regular maintenance keeps generator parts and systems in optimum condition and prevents eventual malfunctions.

Operating Conditions:
The operating conditions of the generator can shorten the operation time. Heat, damp and other environmental factors may adversely affect operation time.

The generators that run for the longest periods are generally big industrial models, as they mostly have larger generation capacities, enlarged fuel tanks and a more robust structure.