The main function of a diesel generator is to convert mechanical energy created by the diesel combustion engine into electrical energy, which may be used in any number of situations, depending on the size of the generator. Generators may be used for anything from powering a mobile home or RV to maintaining a source of backup energy for an entire community, should the original source of power be rendered ineffective. They work on two main principles, though they have quite a few integral parts that are influential to the efficiency and amount of output. These parts are what allow diesel generators to be used in so many different ways, either portably or as stationary units.
The Diesel Engine
A diesel engine works on the same principle as a regular gas-fueled combustion engine, complete with all of the same parts with the exception of the spark plugs. Diesel fuel requires a more intense heat in order to combust, which is usually accomplished through the use of what are known as "glow plugs." Rather than create a spark to ignite the gas inside the cylinder, the plug used simply heats to start the initial combustion. Once the initial combustion takes place, the glow plug is no longer needed because the diesel fuel is ignited through mixture with air and compression. The diesel combustion engine produces the necessary power to create energy through the process of combusting the diesel fuel, which in turn transfers the power it creates to the next element in the process of generating energy.
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The alternator is the second phase of the process of turning combustion into useable energy, and its sole function is to translate the power generated by the combustion engine into electrical energy through the process of power generation. As the pistons in the engine turn, they spin a shaft which runs directly into the center of the alternator. The end of this shaft has a coil of wire attached to it which is charged through the spinning, and as it spins, it is opposed in charge by magnets that surround it, creating electrons which are then transferred through the internal wiring to the outlets or power grid to which the unit is connected.
The last integral principle of a diesel generator depends directly on the unit and its intended use. When this is determined, the user knows which power outlets must be located on the generator itself, whether they be ordinary 3-prong 110-volt outlets, or whether the generator is hot wired directly to a breaker or fuse box in order to act as backup power should the main source fail.