Battery Equivalents and Replacements

How to Protect TV When Using a Power Generator?

Using a generator to power a TV (or any sensitive electronic equipment) requires careful consideration. Not only do power generators not have pure sine wave output, but they can also introduce additional power fluctuations or surges, which could potentially damage sensitive electronics.

But, certain steps can be taken to protect the TV and other sensitive electronics from getting damaged.

Published: September 14, 2023.

wen 56235i h300px

Quick Intro To Power Generators

Power generators convert chemical energy from fuel (gasoline, LPG, LNG, diesel) into electric energy, which is then distributed to the external loads.

Since they burn fossil fuels and emit smelly and dangerous fumes containing Carbon Monoxide (CO), power generators must be used outdoors. But, they can operate for a long time on a single full fuel tank and are a common choice for camping, tailgating, RVing, and similar outdoor activities.

Also, they are often used during blackouts and in emergencies of various kinds.

As such, power generators are used to power various loads, TVs, and other sensitive electronics, which raises the question of how to make a generator safe for electronics.

And here is how...

  • Choose the Right Generator: Ensure that your generator can produce a clean power output suitable for electronics. Inverter generators are typically the best choice for sensitive electronics because they produce power that's more stable and free from large fluctuations. For example, if You plan on powering sensitive electronics with your power generator, choose a model with Total Harmonic Distortion (THD) levels below 3%.
  • Check the Wattage: Ensure your generator can handle the combined wattage of your TV and any other devices you might be connecting. Remember, starting wattage can be higher than running wattage for many devices. Obviously, all power generators are strong enough to power modern LED TVs, but note that there is always "one more" device or gadget that should be powered. Hence, when dimensioning your power generator, it is always good to have some extra power, just in case.
  • Use a Surge Protector: Plug your TV into a good quality surge protector before plugging it into the generator. This adds an extra layer of protection against voltage spikes.
  • Ground the Generator: Make sure your generator is properly grounded according to the manufacturer's instructions. This will reduce the risk of electric shock and help stabilize the power output.
  • Regular Maintenance: Ensure your generator is well-maintained. Check the oil, air filter, and fuel regularly. A well-maintained generator is more likely to run efficiently and produce stable power.
  • Use Stable Fuel: Always use fresh and stabilized fuel in your generator. Old or contaminated fuel can cause the generator to run erratically, potentially leading to power fluctuations.
  • Distance and Ventilation: Place the generator outside and away from windows, doors, and vents to prevent carbon monoxide from entering your home. This isn't directly related to protecting your TV, but it's vital for your safety.
  • Avoid Overloading: Don't overload your generator by connecting too many devices at once. This can lead to power fluctuations and potential damage.
  • Use a Line Conditioner: Plug your TV and other sensitive equipment into a line conditioner that will additionally clean the power coming from the power generator. Even better, go for a unit that combines both line conditioner and surge protector in one unit.
  • Consider a UPS (Uninterruptible Power Supply): Plugging your TV and related entertainment electronics into a UPS before connecting to the generator can provide another level of protection. In the event of a sudden shutdown or fluctuation from the generator, the UPS can provide a buffer, allowing you to turn off your TV safely.
  • Monitor Voltage and Frequency: If you're technically inclined, you can use a multimeter or power quality monitor to ensure that the generator is outputting the correct voltage and frequency. Also, some power generators are Bluetooth or WiFi-enabled units that can be monitored using a smartphone App.

Remember, while a generator can be a lifesaver during power outages, it's essential to use it correctly and safely to ensure both your safety and the longevity of your electronics.

tv and creek w600px

What is the Difference Between a Surge Protector, Generator Line Conditioner, and UPS?

All three of these devices – surge protectors, generator line conditioners, and UPS (Uninterruptible Power Supply) systems – play distinct roles in the realm of power protection and management for electronic devices.

Their features and tasks overlap, leading to confusion among the users. And best of all, some units combine two or even all three devices in one single unit.

Surge Protector

  • Primary Function: Protects electronic equipment from transient voltage spikes that can occur from sources like lightning strikes, power outages, or other disturbances in the electrical grid.
  • Working Principle: Uses components (often metal oxide varistors) that divert excess voltage away from devices plugged into them. When voltage exceeds a defined threshold, the surge protector shunts the extra voltage to the ground.
  • Notable Features: Does not provide backup power or consistent power conditioning for prolonged disturbances.
  • Common Use Cases: For safeguarding electronics like TVs, computers, and other devices from potential voltage surges.

Generator Line Conditioner

  • Primary Function: "Conditions" or stabilizes the power output from a generator, ensuring it is consistent and free from significant fluctuations, which can be harmful to sensitive electronics.
  • Working Principle: Employs transformers and other components to stabilize voltage and filter out power noise and harmonics.
  • Notable Features: Optimized for generators, particularly non-inverter types that may produce fluctuating power. Doesn't provide backup power during outages.
  • Common Use Cases: Used when powering sensitive electronics with generators, ensuring that power quality remains within safe limits.

UPS (Uninterruptible Power Supply)

  • Primary Function: Provides backup power to keep devices running for a short period during power outages and also often includes surge protection and power conditioning features.
  • Working Principle: Uses batteries to store power. When a power outage or disturbance is detected, the UPS seamlessly switches to battery power to keep connected devices running.
  • Notable Features: Many modern UPS systems also include built-in surge protection and power conditioning (similar to line conditioners). They vary in size and capacity, from small units for individual computers to large systems for data centers.
  • Common Use Cases: Critical for keeping computers, servers, medical equipment, and other important electronics running during short-term power outages or disturbances.

Note: Power stations/solar generators with pass-through charging features are not necessarily suitable as UPSs due to their too-long switching time. However, some models do have switching time short enough that they can be used even as UPS, and that must be clearly stated by their manufacturer. But, they rarely have other features that dedicated UPS units may have.

In short:

  • Surge Protector: Shields electronics from sudden voltage spikes.
  • Generator Line Conditioner: Ensures smooth and consistent power from a generator.
  • UPS: Offers backup power during outages, often combined with surge protection and power conditioning features.

flat tv w400px

Generally, when one uses an inverter power generator with low THD levels (≤3%), additional protection is usually not required.

But, when a line conditioner with a built-in surge protector is combined with an "ordinary" UPS, or UPS features a built-in line conditioner and surge protector, one may freely use even a non-inverter power generator to power TV and other sensitive electronics.

Note: manufacturers of surge protectors, line conditioners, and UPSs are not "happy" when their devices are combined with other devices for many reasons. Hence, always read the Owner's Guides/Instructions and do as instructed by the manufacturers. Personally, a good UPS with a line conditioner and a surge protector is always underappreciated until something goes wrong - don't wait for that to happen.

Thanks to the advances in electronics, most smaller portable power generators are inverter power generators with low THD levels and can be used to directly power TVs and other sensitive electronics. Again, just in case, adding at least a line conditioner with the built-in surge protector adds an additional layer of protection - better safe than sorry.