Almost everything in the modern world is dependent on electrical power to some extent. In almost all situations, that is not a problem at all, but sometimes the AC power that would normally be provided by your local power grid stops flowing. Either there is a temporary outage in the current produced by your power grid, or you are in an area where the power grid does not operate in the first place, such as when you are out on a hiking or camping trip. Either way, you need power, and you can’t get it. Some of your appliances might work with a standard battery, but batteries run out.
So even if you are well stocked up on portable equipment that does not require direct AC electrical power, you will only be able to use that for a limited time before the battery you are using runs out of charge. When that happens, you are going to need another source of AC power for your electrical appliances and equipment. That is when a generator comes in handy. After all, you can’t check your email with no power, and you can’t charge even a small battery without power either!
A gasoline-powered generator would provide all the electrical power you might need for charging batteries or powering appliances, but sometimes you don’t have a generator available, and you really need the sort of power that only generators can provide. That is when you might want to know how to build your own generator at home. This is a complex and involved process, and not just something you can make up as you go along. You are going to want to know exactly how to build your own generator, with a simple and easy to follow step by step guide.
Here at Best of Machinery, we have got you covered. We have put together a guide on how to build generators from parts. Below, you will find an easy to follow step by step guide, as well as a list of all the pieces and components that you may need to use in the process of building a generator. You won’t need to search for lists of strange parts and incomprehensible explanations in order to make your own generator at home! No matter what your questions may be, or how little DIY experience you may have, you can simply read on below to find out everything you might want to know about how to build generators.
How can I Generate my own Electricity?
There are a few different ways that you can generate your own electricity. One of the best options is the environmentally friendly classic that is solar panels. This isn’t the cheapest option to get set up in the first place, but solar panels are a great way to generate power for your home without needing to worry about fuel supplies or the environmental impact of generators. Solar panels can be very expensive, though, so if you need to produce a current and can’t afford to get solar panels set up, then you could try to make your own generator from parts.
This requires more effort and has a much greater environmental impact than using solar panels for power generation, but it can be much more affordable in the short term (although solar panels can actually save you more in the long run, once you have used them for a long time! They are a very high one-off cost for setup, though, so not everyone can afford them).
How to Build a Generator
Building your own generator at home using pieces from other tools, such as a motor, is actually a relatively easy task. With a bit of time, patience, and work, you will be back to checking your email without any suffering involved! Let us walk through everything involved in how to make your own generator. We will cover all the pieces you will need, as well as all of the tools used to make a small generator for home use.
Step 1: Find an Engine
The most important part of a generator is the engine. The size of the engine needed for generators varies because the size of generators and the power they need to output also varies. Larger generators for more power will need a larger and more powerful engine, while smaller and more portable generators will want a small engine with limited power output. Today, we are going to assume that you are trying to make a small, compact generator that outputs enough power for most standard home use. For a generator like this, you will want to use an engine around 5 to 10 horsepower, with around 3,600 RPM.
In general, a motor this size will be about the size of a standard lawnmower engine, and you should be able to get hold of one at a regular lawn equipment store, power equipment store, or industrial supplier outlet. Before you purchase an engine for your home generator setup, it might be worth checking to see if you have any old garden equipment that you no longer have a purpose for which you might be able to salvage a motor component from.
Many people have old unused garden machinery gathering dust in a corner somewhere, and repurposing an unused motor is a great way to save a respectable amount of money when you are trying to build your own generator at home!
Step 2: Choose your AC Generator Head
The AC generator head is an important component when making a generator. You might need to search around a bit in order to find one, but if you have got access to a good industrial supply outlet or two, then you should be able to get hold of one. This component will use a magnet inside its body to create an electrical current. The external engine spins the shaft-mounted magnet, and that is used to create the all-important current.
In most cases, you are going to need one with an output level of somewhere between 2,500 and 5000 watts. In general, a generator can produce about 750 watts of current per horsepower of input. Use the manufacturer’s specification to match up an AC generator head to your engine size.
Step 3: Choose a 12 volt DC Alternator
You are going to want a 12 volt DC alternator as one of the main pieces of your generator. This device will create 12 volts of Direct Current when the external engine is used to drive the shaft. Make sure you have chosen an alternator with a built-in voltage regulator! If your alternator does not include a voltage regulator, then you will need to search for another one, as this is a very important feature. In most cases, you would want a standard 500-watt alternator to produce the correct voltage.
You should be able to get hold of a DC alternator with a built-in voltage regulator from any supplier of car and motor parts. The alternator is an important component because it converts the generator’s DC (Direct Current) into AC (Alternating Current), which is the type of current needed by most domestic appliances.
The voltage regulator element keeps the output constant, preventing unexpected dips from stopping all your appliances mid-flow. If you don’t have a regulator, then any fluctuations in the voltage produced by your generator can cause spikes and crashes in the output, which can be very problematic for any devices connected to the other end!
Step 4: Build a Mounting Plate
You are going to need a sturdy mounting plate on which you can set up all of the components of your generator. This can be made from any strong material, as long as it is something that would be able to survive the vibrations and heat produced by the gasoline engine when it is operational. You will have to add the main power components of your generator to this: the engine, the generator head, and the alternator with voltage regulator.
Look at the manufacturer data for every one of these components, including the motor, and find the relevant information on what size of mounting hole you will need and where you may have to position these holes on the mounting plate. Using the manufacturer data as a guide, add these three main components to the mounting plate.
Make sure that they are arranged, so their shafts are parallel, all pointing the same way, and so that the shaft attachment areas for drive pulleys all line-up and face the same way.
Step 5: Set up your Pulleys
An additional pulley is used to drive the pre-installed pulleys of the generator head and the alternator. You will have to mount this onto the engine shaft in order to use it properly. Make sure you find a pulley that is the right size for the generator head and the alternator with voltage regulator to both run at the speed indicated on the manufacturer data list.
In most cases, this will be an engine pulley of between 5 and 10 inches in length. Pulleys are easy to find at most industrial supply stores that sell other engine and motor components, even relatively small stores.
Step 6: Run The Belts to Test Them
Depending on the precise design of your generator and what size of components you are using, you might need two pulleys and belts, one for each of the generator head and the voltage regulator alternator component. Alternatively, you might be able to work with only one pulley and belt system. Slot the belt over the two pulleys and ensure that it is taut.
It might be easier to get everything taut if you slot the mounting holes on the side of the engine in order to adjust things more easily. Using a V belt is generally better than a standard belt, as these usually slip less when used.
Step 7: Set up the Gasoline Tank
Mount your gasoline tank to the mounting plate. Screw it firmly into place, making sure that there are no other components in the way of the screws that you are using. Then, fill up the gasoline tank using an appropriately sized funnel, and connect the fuel feed lines securely to the engine.
Step 8: Run your Generator!
Once you are sure that every component of your generator has been firmly attached to the mounting plate, you should be ready to go. The engine is the most important piece here, as it is the one that would cause the most problems if not attached properly. Using a large screwdriver, ensure that all of your mounting screws are tightly fixed in place and flush with the side of the mounting plate.
Once you are sure that everything is as tightly attached as would be possible with your chosen materials, you are ready to run your generator and start to send power to your appliances!
Can I use an Electric Motor as a Generator?
Almost every type of motor can be used as a generator, but it will require a bit of rewiring before use as a generator. While a gasoline engine is designed to produce power as standard, an electric motor is not, and requires some different wiring if you want to use it as a generator.
Most modern AC induction motors (check the side of your motor to determine what type it is!) would work well as a generator to produce power if you rewire them, and no specialist equipment or skills are needed for this. Let us go through how to use an electric motor as a generator step by step.
Step 1: Inspect your motor for information
Just like a gasoline engine, there should be a nameplate on the side of your motor that will give you the information about its voltage, phase, full load current, and speed. The full load current refers to the maximum amperage of power that it could produce as a generator, while the voltage refers to the rough power voltage produced when you use it as a generator.
If you plan to use it as a generator, you will have to turn it at about 5 to 10 percent above the listed running speed in order to produce electricity.
Step 2: Prepare your wires
Cut four pieces of wire, each one of which should be about 2 feet in length. Strip about half an inch of insulation from each end of each of these wires. Then, insert the end of a wire into the crimp of a spade wire terminal and crimp it firmly into place. Then do this again with a second wire. Push the spade connectors into place on the capacitor terminals.
Step 3: Attach the wires to the terminals
Using a screwdriver, loosen a terminal on each side of the container. Wrap a wire round each of the terminals in a clockwise direction, and tighten up the terminals again. Feed the wires out of the cable hole at the rear of the receptacle wiring box, and mount the receptacle to the box just like you would mount an engine to a generator mounting board.
Then, place a wire end from the capacitor, a wire end from the receptacle, and a motor wire ends together in the same space, and use a wire nut to hold them tightly together. Then, repeat this for all of the other motor, receptacle, and capacitor wires.
Step 4: Getting it Started
You will need a gasoline engine or other such source of power to kick your motor generator into action, to begin with. Attach your engine to your motor-generator and start it up. You will need it to be running at somewhere between 5 and 10 percent above its official rated speed. Leave it running attached to the engine for a few minutes.
Once you have started up your motor using a separate engine, you will need to test the voltage. Set a multimeter to test 250 volts AC, and insert the multimeter probe into the receptacle slots. The multimeter should display somewhere between 110 and 135 volts of power. If that is the number you are getting, then you are ready to go!
With the engine turning the motor, you should now be able to connect the motor-generator up to other electrical appliances such as lights, and send enough power to them to use them safely!
If you are not Getting any Electricity from your Motor-Generator:
Allow your motor-generator to come to a stop before you attempt any troubleshooting, even if there appears to be no current generated. It is important to be careful and safe when dealing with homemade generators! Discharge the capacitor component by touching a screwdriver to a terminal, and then the other, while still maintaining contact with the first terminal.
Then, it is time to disconnect the capacitor wires. Remove the wires and touch each wire to the 12-volt battery terminals of your motor-generator for somewhere between 5 and 10 seconds each. Replace the terminals back onto the capacitor element.
Once you have reattached everything firmly, checking to ensure that nothing is loose, you are ready to start up your motor generator again and see if it works. Start it turning again, and follow the last couple of steps listed above to test for electrical current output. If you are still seeing no current generated, then there must be some other problem with your motor-generator setup.
Potentially, it could have a damaged winding element or a capacitor that is not functioning properly. Unfortunately, you will have to replace each component in sequence in order to find out which of them is not working as required.
As long as you have all of the components required, and you take the time to ensure that you complete every step carefully and thoroughly, building a generator at home is actually not a particularly difficult task. It is a complex and involved project, but all of the elements required can be easily bought from auto supply stores and engineering shops. As long as you have access to the appropriate retailers, it should be possible to build your own generator at home without too much difficulty! It will take a while, but the results should be well worth your time and effort.
Take your time, do your research, and follow our guide above carefully in order to have the smoothest experience of making your own generator possible. As long as you are patient and methodical, you can have a great independent source of power without needing to break the bank! No more worrying about power outages and unstable, unreliable local electrical grids!