On this site, we put a lot of effort into making sure you can find a generator that fits your specific needs. However, no generator can ever have every possible feature. Once an owner has had a generator for some time, it is common to want to modify or accessorize so that it functions even better. Sometimes getting the most out of your generator is a simple matter of adding a longer cord or changing the oil. Yet, there are also more sophisticated power generator accessories available that can breathe new life into any model.
Some of these suggestions and portable generator accessories will work for any model, but some must be purchased for a specific application. Always make sure to check whether a certain kit will fit your specific unit. With that said, here are some of the best portable generator accessories.
What You Will Learn
This may seem like an obvious accessory, but it is surprising how overlooked sourcing the proper extension cord can be. Although you can plug any device directly into a generator, there are numerous advantages to using an extension cord. First, it allows greater flexibility in where you have electricity. Yet, the bigger advantage is in the ability to have the generator farther away. Even the quietest generators will still produce some level of noise, fumes, and heat. Because of this, it is often preferable to situate your generator away from where you are working or relaxing.
It is important to choose the right extension cord. Although the light-duty extension cord you use to plug in your lamps and Christmas lights at home will technically work, that style of an extension cord is often dangerously under-rated for the task of transferring the power in a generator. If you are looking for a simple 120V cord for a standard style outlet, make sure to buy one that is rated for 20-amps. This will ensure that the cord is properly rated for transmitting higher amounts of current, and will prevent the chance that the cord will overheat or become damaged. If you need a 30-amp RV cord, be aware that there are various styles. Typically, an RV application will use a 3-prong “L5-30P” style connector, but your unit may vary.
A transfer switch is a fantastic tool to increase the flexibility and usefulness of your generator. A transfer switch is a device that connects to the main electrical input of your home and allows you to power your home from a generator instead of the electrical grid. During a power outage, a transfer switch allows you to maintain power in your home using a generator instead of waiting in the dark. There are a few methods of using a generator to power your home. Some homeowners opt for a permanent solution using a dedicated home power generator such as a Generac. However, you can also use a portable generator running through a switch to achieve the same result.
There are two key considerations. First, installing a transfer switch requires dealing with high-voltage power. This can be extremely dangerous if you lack the necessary skills. Thus, installation and wiring should always be left to a professional. Second, you must consider the size of your generator. Any “suitcase” generator will struggle to power even the basics of a home. Thus, if you intend to use a generator as a backup power source through a transfer switch, consider having a generator of at least 5,000-watts.
It is impossible to overstate how important it is to properly maintain your generator. Just like your car, your generator is powered by a gasoline (or diesel) engine. Therefore, it needs maintenance just the same. The main sources of maintenance for a generator are changing the oil, the oil filter, the air filter, and the spark plug. While you can purchase all of these items separately, many companies offer one-stop maintenance kits that greatly increase the convenience of doing periodic maintenance.
Unless you use your generator an exceptional amount, then doing once-yearly maintenance at the beginning of the season is typically sufficient. By purchasing a maintenance kit, you can be sure that all of the components are correct for your model. Many kits even pre-measure the oil for you!
Modern generators are typically extremely reliable devices that may go for years before presenting any issues. However, without question, the most common source of issues is stale or bad fuel. Generators often sit for months at a time without being used. During this time, the fuel in the tank and the carburetor slowly loses octane and becomes less combustible. Adding to this problem is the presence of ethanol in modern fuels. Ethanol is hygroscopic, meaning it attracts moisture. Ethanol-containing fuels have a much shorter shelf life than fuels of yesteryear, and modern fuel can perish after only a few months. Once the fuel has gone bad, a generator may refuse to run even if fresh fuel is added because the old fuel will gum up the delicate components of the carburetor.
The best solution to this issue is using fuel stabilizers. Fuel stabilizers use a variety of chemicals and detergents to make fuel degrade less rapidly. Before storing a generator for any extended length of time, always add a stabilizer to the fuel. Further, make sure to run the generator for some time after you’ve added the stabilizer to make sure that the fuel left in the carburetor is also protected.
Cold Weather Kits
If you use your generator in extreme climates, a cold-weather kit can do a lot to protect the health of your investment. Different manufacturers have various methods of making their models more suitable for cold climates. Typically, a cold-weather kit will involve a heating element for the battery of the generator. Further, larger liquid-cooled generators are often equipped with block heaters to allow easier starting and protect against a cracked engine block.
A cold-weather kit is especially important if you use your generator for home backup power, as winter can be a dangerous time to lose power.
Silencers and Mufflers
Modern generators are often significantly quieter than their ancestors. However, even a quiet generator can still be made more silent. There is a large variety of silencers and mufflers available to make the noise of a generator more bearable. These kits can take a few shapes. Making the exhaust quieter is the most common method. A muffler kit can be either generic or tailored for a specific model. In either case, it will be an attachment that goes over the end of the existing exhaust system and uses chambers and diffusers to quiet the noise from the engine. The best kit for you depends on your demands and the specific generator you have. If portability is not a large concern, a larger muffler will do a more effective job of quieting your engine. However, smaller mufflers can also be quite effective if you need to maintain compactness.
Another option is to purchase a “running cover.” A running cover is a heavy blanket, almost akin to a tarp. These covers are designed to absorb the sound of the running generator and muffle the overall output. Further, they have the added benefit of protecting the generator from the elements. If you opt for a running cover, make sure to not cover up any air intakes or exhausts on your specific generator.
Remote Wireless Start
Ultimately, owning a generator is about convenience. Thus, any accessory that increases the convenience of your generator is a great choice. An increasingly popular option is a remote wireless start kit. Again, these are available as either purpose-built or generic kits, but the function is the same in either case. With a wireless start kit, you will be able to start your generator from hundreds of feet away simply by pressing a small key fob. There are a few instances where this is a great idea. If you use your generator for camping, being able to start your generator without leaving the RV in the rain or cold is a huge advantage. The same applies to generators used for home backup power.
Typically, a remote wireless start kit will be fairly easy to install. However, if you would rather not do the work yourself, any small engine mechanic should be able to install the kit quickly and easily. Please note, however, that these kits are only usable on generators with electric start. If your generator is pull-start only, you will have to find another means.
Perhaps the most popular accessory for a generator is a wheel kit. Even the most compact generators will still weigh at least 40 lbs. This is a lot of weight to carry any significant distance. As generators increase in capacity, they also increase in weight. It is not uncommon for a 5,000-watt model to weight over 150 lbs. Thus, transporting these larger models can become a challenge. Having a wheel kit makes a generator significantly easier to roll around a campsite, or in and out of your garage. As with other accessories, wheel kits can take a few forms. Many manufacturers produce wheel kits designed especially for their models. Although these purpose-built kits may cost slightly more than the generic counterparts, I strongly recommend choosing them if possible. A kit designed to fit a specific model will be stronger, easier to install, and function more reliably.
That is not to say that there is anything wrong with a generic kit. For many models, no specific kit is available, and a generic kit is the only option. Generic wheel kits come in two main types: “clamp” and “tray.” If your generator is an open-frame design (i.e. has an exposed frame made of tubing), then the clamp style kits are the way to go. The kits allow the wheels to clamp onto the frame itself for a compact and easy to install solution. However, if your generator is a more enclosed design, you may need to opt for a “tray” kit. These are more akin to a wagon, and simply allow you a wheeled platform to place your generator upon. In either case, you will be thankful to never have to lift your generator again.
Automatic Voltage Regulators (AVRs)
Smaller generators often struggle to maintain a consistent voltage for varying load demands. Ultimately, the voltage produced by a generator will be directly proportional to the RPM of the engine. Although simple devices like power tools or lights will not be affected by slightly varying voltage, more sensitive devices like electronics or air conditioners can function improperly or even be damaged by these periods of high and low voltage.
To combat this, many users employ a device known as an automatic voltage regulator or AVR. An AVR takes the power output of your generator and “smooths” the voltage to output a consistent 120 volts, thereby protecting equipment. Although this is typically a more significant problem in older generators, certain new models can benefit from an AVR as well. Note, however, that an inverter generator regulates the output voltage automatically. Thus, if you have one of the many popular inverter generators, you will not need an AVR.
People who use generators often have other toys and equipment that needs to be run as well. Whether you are dealing with race cars, dirt bikes, or even construction gear, you will almost certainly run into the issue of a dead battery eventually. The vast majority of generators feature a 12-volt DC output, but many manufacturers opt to not include an attachment for this port. This feature is perhaps the single most overlooked portable generator accessory.
Battery charging attachments allow you to connect a set of leads to this 12V output and use your generator to charge batteries in all of your equipment. This is just one more way that having a properly equipped generator can save the day.
Weatherproof Generator Cover
Many owners lack the space to store their generators indoors when not in use. This is not typically a problem, as generators are generally relatively weatherproof. That said, exposure to sun, rain, and wind can still take a damaging toll on your generator over time.
Given the expense of a generator, it simply makes sense to protect it. Using a weatherproof generator cover is an excellent way to keep your generator clean and protected.
Beyond the incredible variety of features available in a modern generator, the number of generator accessories available is perhaps even more impressive. Generator accessories are an excellent way to derive even more functionality or convenience from your investment.
Whether you are interested in a portable generator accessory focused on increasing comfort or protecting your generator’s health, we hope we have given you some great ideas about power generator accessories and how to make your generator work its best.