Courtesy of Generator Source
Generators are useful appliances that supply electrical power during a power outage and prevent the discontinuity of daily activities or disruption of business operations. Generators are available in different electrical and physical configurations for use in different applications. In the following sections, we will look at how a generator function, the main components of a generator, and how a generator operates as a secondary source of electrical power in residential and industrial applications.
How does a generator work?
An electric generator is a device that converts mechanical energy obtained from an external source into electrical energy as the output.
It is important to understand that a generator does not actually ‘create’ electrical energy. Instead, it uses the mechanical energy supplied to it to force the movement of electric charges present in the
wire of its windings through an external electric circuit. This flow of electric charges constitutes the output electric current supplied by the generator. This mechanism can be understood by considering the generator to be analogous to a water pump, which causes the flow of water but does not actually ‘create’ the water flowing through it.
The modern-day generator works on the principle of electromagnetic induction discovered by Michael Faraday in 1831-32. Faraday discovered that the above flow of electric charges could be induced by moving an electrical conductor, such as a wire that contains electric charges, in a magnetic field. This movement creates a voltage difference between the two ends of the wire or electrical conductor, which in turn causes the electric charges to flow, thus generating electric current.
Main components of a generator
The main components of an electric generator can be broadly classified as follows:
A description of the main components of a generator is given below.
The engine is the source of the input mechanical energy to the generator. The size of the engine is directly proportional to the maximum power output the generator can supply. There are several factors that you need to keep in mind while assessing the engine of your generator. The manufacturer of the engine should be consulted to obtain full engine operation specifications and maintenance schedules.
(a) Type of Fuel Used – Generator engines operate on a variety of fuels such as diesel, gasoline,
propane (in liquefied or gaseous form), or natural gas. Smaller engines usually operate on gasoline
while larger engines run on diesel, liquid propane, propane gas, or natural gas. Certain engines can
also operate on a dual feed of both diesel and gas in a bi-fuel operation mode.
(b) Overhead Valve (OHV) Engines versus non-OHV Engines – OHV engines differ from other engines in that the intake and exhaust valves of the engine are located in the head of the engine’s cylinder as opposed to being mounted on the engine block. OHV engines have several advantages over other engines such as:
However, OHV-engines are also more expensive than other engines.
(c) Cast Iron Sleeve (CIS) in Engine Cylinder – The CIS is a lining in the cylinder of the engine. It
reduces wear and tear and ensures durability of the engine. Most OHV-engines are equipped with
CIS but it is essential to check for this feature in the engine of a generator. The CIS is not an
expensive feature but it plays an important role in engine durability especially if you need to use
your generator often or for long durations.
The alternator, also known as the ‘genhead’, is the part of the generator that produces the electrical output from the mechanical input supplied by the engine. It contains an assembly of stationary and moving parts encased in a housing. The components work together to cause relative movement between the magnetic and electric fields, which in turn generates electricity.
(a) Stator – This is the stationary component. It contains a set of electrical conductors wound in coils over an iron core.
(b) Rotor / Armature – This is the moving component that produces a rotating magnetic field in any one of the following three ways:
(i) By induction – These are known as brushless alternators and are usually used in large generators.
(ii) By permanent magnets – This is common in small alternator units.
(iii) By using an exciter – An exciter is a small source of direct current (DC) that energizes the rotor
through an assembly of conducting slip rings and brushes.
The rotor generates a moving magnetic field around the stator, which induces a voltage difference between the windings of the stator. This produces the alternating current (AC) output of the generator.
The following are the factors that you need to keep in mind while assessing the alternator of a generator:
(a) Metal versus Plastic Housing – An all-metal design ensures durability of the alternator. Plastic
housings get deformed with time and cause the moving parts of the alternator to be exposed. This
increases wear and tear and more importantly, is hazardous to the user.
(b) Ball Bearings versus Needle Bearings – Ball bearings are preferred and last longer.
(c) Brushless Design – An alternator that does not use brushes requires less maintenance and also
produces cleaner power.
Fuel Tank System
The fuel tank usually has sufficient capacity to keep the generator operational for 6 to 8 hours on an average. In the case of small generator units, the fuel tank is a part of the generator’s skid base or is mounted on top of the generator frame. For commercial applications, it may be necessary to erect and install an external fuel tank. All such installations are subject to the approval of the City Planning Division. Click the following link for further details regarding fuel tanks for generators.
Common features of the fuel system include the following:
(a) Pipe connection from fuel tank to engine – The supply line directs fuel from the tank to the engine and the return line directs fuel from the engine to the tank.
(b) Ventilation pipe for fuel tank – The fuel tank has a ventilation pipe to prevent the build-up of pressure or vacuum during refilling and drainage of the tank. When you refill the fuel tank, ensure metal-to-metal contact between the filler nozzle and the fuel tank to avoid sparks.
(c) Overflow connection from fuel tank to the drain pipe – This is required so that any overflow during refilling of the tank does not cause spillage of the liquid on the generator set.
(d) Fuel pump – This transfers fuel from the main storage tank to the day tank. The fuel pump is typically electrically operated.
(e) Fuel Water Separator / Fuel Filter – This separates water and foreign matter from the liquid fuel to protect other components of the generator from corrosion and contamination.
(f) Fuel Injector – This atomizes the liquid fuel and sprays the required amount of fuel into the combustion chamber of the engine.
As the name implies, this component regulates the output voltage of the generator. The mechanism is described below against each component that plays a part in the cyclical process of voltage regulation.
(1) Voltage Regulator: Conversion of AC Voltage to DC Current – The voltage regulator takes up a small portion of the generator’s output of AC voltage and converts it into DC current. The voltage regulator then feeds this DC current to a set of secondary windings in the stator, known as exciter windings.
(2) Exciter Windings: Conversion of DC Current to AC Current – The exciter windings now function similar to the primary stator windings and generate a small AC current. The exciter windings are connected to units known as rotating rectifiers.
(3) Rotating Rectifiers: Conversion of AC Current to DC Current – These rectify the AC current generated by the exciter windings and convert it to DC current. This DC current is fed to the rotor/armature to create an electromagnetic field in addition to the rotating magnetic field of the rotor/armature.
(4) Rotor / Armature: Conversion of DC Current to AC Voltage – The rotor/armature now induces a larger AC voltage across the windings of the stator, which the generator now produces as a larger output AC voltage.
This cycle continues till the generator begins to produce output voltage equivalent to its full operating capacity. As the output of the generator increases, the voltage regulator produces less DC current. Once the generator reaches full operating capacity, the voltage regulator attains a state of equilibrium and produces just enough DC current to maintain the generator’s output at full operating level.
When you add a load to a generator, its output voltage dips a little. This prompts the voltage regulator into action and the above cycle begins. The cycle continues till the generator output ramps up to its original full operating capacity.
(a) Cooling System
Continuous usage of the generator causes its various components to get heated up. It is essential to have a cooling and ventilation system to withdraw heat produced in the process.
Raw/fresh water is sometimes used as a coolant for generators, but these are mostly limited to specific situations like small generators in city applications or very large units over 2250 kW and above. Hydrogen is sometimes used as a coolant for the stator windings of large generator units since it is more efficient at absorbing heat than other coolants. Hydrogen removes heat from the generator and transfers it through a heat exchanger into a secondary cooling circuit that contains de-mineralized water as a coolant. This is why very large generators and small power plants often have large cooling towers next to them. For all other common applications, both residential and industrial, a standard radiator and fan is mounted on the generator and works as the primary cooling system.
It is essential to check the coolant levels of the generator on a daily basis. The cooling system and raw water pump should be flushed after every 600 hours and the heat exchanger should be cleaned after every 2,400 hours of generator operation. The generator should be placed in an open and ventilated area that has adequate supply of fresh air. The National Electric Code (NEC) mandates that a minimum space of 3 feet should be allowed on all sides of the generator to ensure free flow of cooling air.
(b) Exhaust System
Exhaust fumes emitted by a generator are just like exhaust from any other diesel or gasoline engine and contain highly toxic chemicals that need to be properly managed. Hence, it is essential to install an adequate exhaust system to dispose of the exhaust gases. This point can not be emphasized enough as carbon monoxide poisoning remains one of the most common causes for death in post hurricane-affected areas because people tend to not even think about it until it’s too late.
Exhaust pipes are usually made of cast iron, wrought iron, or steel. These need to be freestanding and should not be supported by the engine of the generator. Exhaust pipes are usually attached to the engine using flexible connectors to minimize vibrations and prevent damage to the generator’s exhaust system. The exhaust pipe terminates outdoors and leads away from doors, windows and other openings to the house or building. You must ensure that the exhaust system of your generator is not connected to that of any other equipment. You should also consult the local city ordinances to determine whether your generator operation will need to obtain approval from the local authorities to ensure you are conforming to local laws a protect against fines and other penalties.
Since the generator comprises moving parts in its engine, it requires lubrication to ensure durability and smooth operations for a long period of time. The generator’s engine is lubricated by oil stored in a pump. You should check the level of lubricating oil every 8 hours of generator operation. You should also check for any leakages of lubricant and change the lubricating oil every 500 hours of generator operation.
The start function of a generator is battery-operated. The battery charger keeps the generator battery charged by supplying it with a precise ‘float’ voltage. If the float voltage is very low, the battery will remain undercharged. If the float voltage is very high, it will shorten the life of the battery. Battery chargers are usually made of stainless steel to prevent corrosion. They are also fully automatic and do not require any adjustments to be made or any settings to be changed. The DC output voltage of the battery charger is set at 2.33 volts per cell, which is the precise float voltage for lead-acid batteries. The battery charger has an isolated DC voltage output that does interfere with the normal functioning of the generator.
This is the user interface of the generator and contains provisions for electrical outlets and controls. The following article provides further details regarding the generator control panel. Different manufacturers have varied features to offer in the control panels of their units. Some of these are mentioned below.
(a) Electric start and shut-down – Auto start control panels automatically start your generator during a power outage, monitor the generator while in operation, and automatically shut down the unit when no longer required.
(b) Engine gauges – Different gauges indicate important parameters such as oil pressure, temperature of coolant, battery voltage, engine rotation speed, and duration of operation. Constant measurement and monitoring of these parameters enables built-in shut down of the generator when any of these cross their respective threshold levels.
(c) Generator gauges – The control panel also has meters for the measurement of output current and voltage, and operating frequency.
(d) Other controls – Phase selector switch, frequency switch, and engine control switch (manual mode, auto mode) among others.
All generators, portable or stationary, have customized housings that provide a structural base support. The frame also allows for the generated to be earthed for safety.
(Courtesy of cover wallet 2021-08-21)
Light fixtures today can be controlled by smartphones, heating and cooling systems and can be set to adjust automatically depending on the weather, motion-activated security cameras, and internet controlled doors. These are just some of the most common smart home automation systems that are gaining popularity right now due to their luxurious appeal and ease of use.
In recent years, smart home technology has also been implemented into pipes and plumbing fixtures, promising to save your consumers money and help avoid water-damage related disasters, one of the leading causes of home insurance claims. All these new trends provide benefits for your consumers who can lower risk and costs, and it provides opportunities for your plumbing business as the demand for high-tech plumbing upgrades increases.
A very interesting concept that was recently unveiled to the public, Brain Pipes runs via a demand-controlled water system. The main water supply line is closed by default and only opens upon a valid water request. Each water device has its own detection sensor that communicates with the main brain of the system to directly supply water.
Aside from its high tech water delivery, what’s great about Brain Pipes is its ability to detect leaks and malfunctions, alerting the consumer when there is a problem within the conduits. Equipped with a mobile app, Brain Pipes allows customization of water usage and sends monthly reports so users can monitor their water consumption. The whole system can be installed in existing plumbing locations, as well as in new projects, with calibrations carried out by certified technicians.
Delta Leak Detection
It’s said that prevention is better than cure, and knowing this Delta Leak Detection has developed a system that can detect water leaks at various levels. Using sensors and software, this new plumbing technology enables users to detect water leaks in a fast and simple manner.
The beauty of Delta Leak Detection lies in its ease of use since, unlike commercial water systems, it doesn’t require hardware hubs for sensors but rather uses the home’s Wi-Fi to operate. The Delta Leak Detection is specifically designed for home and small business use and works with major water sources such as washing machines, sinks, water heaters, toilets, and many more. With a lifespan of two years, it is powered by three AAA batteries, and mobile app monitoring is available for both iOS and Android users.
Dubbed as the smartest sprinkler ever, ETwater isn’t a company offering water services but rather is a cloud-based irrigation system that automatically controls outdoor watering depending on several factors. Every day, gallons of water are wasted outdoors rather than indoors, and this is where ETwater comes to the rescue.
Depending on the weather forecast, type of plants, microclimate, soil condition, and other environmental data, it offers a reliable irrigation system where water is conserved instead of wasted. Designed for commercial and high-end home use, the device adapts to changes in the environment and smartly measures the water needs of your landscape in a high tech manner and delivers based on this. Through its patented technology, ETwater offers immense water savings for the betterment of nature and the community.
Recycling The idea of Greywater Recycling isn’t the newest plumbing trend, but it reinvents the standard concept of water recycling. Greywater refers to the used water from your washing machine, bathroom sink, tub, shower, and kitchen that has been gently used but isn’t too dirty or contaminated.
It might contain cleaning agents, dirt or food particles that, while not safe for consumption by humans, aren’t harmful to plants. The concept of Greywater Recycling is that instead of letting used water flow down the drain and back to natural resources such as lakes and rivers, why not use it again for other purposes like watering outdoors. It features a filtration process that removes minor contaminants so users can recycle the cleaned water for whatever purpose it might serve instead of polluting the environment.
The last but not least new plumbing technology that will surely benefit the smart home and business owners is the smart appliance. Most machines nowadays are built using the latest technology, so it’s no surprise that there are fantastic devices that allow users to save and conserve water.
New appliances are commonly equipped with computer chips with automatic sensing abilities while others can be controlled directly through smartphones. For example, there is a kitchen faucet that automatically shuts off the water supply after a few seconds of use to avoid continuous running of water. Smart toilets are also getting popular right now due their ability to sense how much water is needed for flushing.
Then there are water heaters equipped with smart thermostats that automatically adjust the water temperature so you’ll have the perfect mix of hot and cold upon opening.
Courtesy of Crown Publications, 28 July 2021
“Turn off the lights!” How many times were you told that when growing up? Even as adults, some bad habits are hard to break.
Today, many lighting engineers are focused on LED lighting control in smart buildings. With the advent of LED-based solid-state lighting (SSL) and its ability to be interconnected into electronic systems, we no longer need to be reminded to turn off the lights when we leave the room.
Artificial intelligence (AI) is impacting almost every field and application space in our society. This includes the areas and rooms in which we live and work. Smart cities, where intelligent sensing and processing networks, and AI and machine learning (ML), are endeavouring to transform our surroundings by thinking entirely for themselves.
In its Annual Energy Outlook 2021, the US Energy Information Administration (EIA) estimates that US residential and commercial sectors combined to use about 219 billion kilowatt-hours (kWh) of electricity for lighting in 2020. This was about 8% of total electricity consumption by both of these sectors and about 6% of total US electricity consumption. It adds up to a lot of electricity. Just consider what it might mean if we really could more effectively turn out the lights.
The arrival of AI promises the commissioning of building lighting control and automation to save money. It will also reduce energy consumption and waste, and improve service quality and customer satisfaction. AI will act as an unseen intelligence that stands in for us, going around and physically turning off the lights. AI will engage its decision-making capabilities to help provision future smart buildings. Let’s examine how AI and LEDs together will enable the next generation of advancement in lighting control.
Smart lighting control
Smart lighting control systems comprise LED lighting systems that have communication and controls integrated into them. This integration permits greater automation and flexibility. Not limited by fixed-wired connections, wireless communication aids in covering vast distances. Control flexibility increases because the overall lighting response can get tuned at three critical levels:
AI learns faster than you and I
I attended school for many years to learn all sorts of things. Some things, such as various historical facts, I nailed down quickly. In contrast, other things, such as quantum physics and handling Laplace transforms as easily as basic mathematics, took me many years to achieve some form of mastery (slowly, over time, much of that has started to erode).
AI is a significant technology disruptor. One of the characteristics that AI brings to smart lighting is learning. AI is a faster learner than you and I. AI allows smart lighting systems to improve their performance in a manner analogous to feedback in an electronic circuit. This learning and refinement function is called machine learning.
ML requires the successful handling of large amounts of data by computers. As this vast assemblage of data is analysed, the computer is allowed to make decisions. These decisions are called inferences, which are conclusions reached based on evidence and logical reasoning. This type of processing is well-suited to a computer. AI is like a version of the fictional private detective Sherlock Holmes on computational deductive steroids.
The computer system learns by one of three methods:
Supervised learning works by providing and comparing the desired best correct answer response (output). Unsupervised learning is supervised learning’s complement. In contrast to supervised learning, it does not contain any information regarding the desired, best correct answer response (output). Reinforcement learning provides appropriate positive or negative feedback based on the best correct response (output). Because computers have high data processing capabilities, they can make dramatic jumps in their reinforcement learning performance rather quickly. This comparison of quickness is relative to humans, who do so without the aid of computers.
Here, there, everywhere
A plethora of industries are now incorporating AI. Banking, retail, automotive, and medical are all sectors that have taken a significant leap in employing AI. Although AI will be pervasive, it will likely be adopted across various sectors at different paces. Over time, knowledge and lessons learned in these fields will flow over into the industrial and lighting control application space.
The breadth and scope of the industrial control sector, including smart LED lighting, is enormous. Organizations with particular and specific knowledge of their smart lighting control and automation parameters will adapt faster than those who have farmed this duty to outside firms.
AI and ML implementation are easier for organisations that have initial conceptions of how they should address learning algorithms to tackle the specifics of their organizational challenges and goals. Understanding the existing system’s limitations and interrelations will provide specific areas for focusing and applying AI in building lighting control and automation solutions. AI can be tailored to address application-specific areas that the organisation desires to control and automate. It is a tool that has many uses. Like a handyperson with a well-equipped tool belt, it has at its disposal a wide variety of contexts and applications.
Because of the diverse activities within the industrial space, standard higher-level functions will yield the primary market entry points with the greatest level of return on investment. Areas where human safety, overall security concerns, and risks represent large financial exposures will likely be the first industrial areas employing large amounts of AI. Also, industrial AI applications such as smart LED lighting, where relatively similar high-level systems can be quickly adapted and modified, represent areas for adoption. Organizations should be looking at and strategizing how AI offers the possibility of increasing efficiency and efficacy.
Reducing human intervention
AI enables systems and devices to operate while requiring little or no direct human supervision or control. Successful building automation leads naturally to better building LED lighting control that can save money by reducing energy consumption and waste. All this provides an improved level of service quality and customer satisfaction.
A fine example of AI in an office setting would be building LED lighting control and automation changes that respond to the sun’s location changes throughout the day. This adjustment is made through proper synchronization with the measured amount of illumination being received from the sun and then adjusting for various locational and output illumination requirements needed by multiple consumers.
AI will enable the commissioning of building lighting control and automation. That’s not to mention how AI will help society move in a positive direction to save money, reduce energy consumption and waste, improve service quality, and increase customer satisfaction because of further advancements in lighting control. Now, if kids would only listen to their parents and remember to turn off the lights when they leave an empty room.
Written by our experts at KOST.
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