8 Different Types of Generators for Your Off-the-Grid Cabin

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We all understand the pleasures of a weekend getaway to a small hut or cabin in the middle of the wilderness, away from the busy bustle of urban life.

These off-the-grid locations provide one with a sense of peace and solace that can help you relax and rejuvenate, however, detaching yourself from urban life doesn’t necessarily mean sacrificing some of the modern-day comforts like electronic appliances and entertainment devices. 

Soul searching in the cabin can indeed get boring from time to time, and for all your devices to work you will need electricity, which ‘off-the-grid’ locations don’t come with.

This is precisely where the power generators come in and generators come in a lot of different types yet not all of them can be suitable for a cabin.

So, to help you out today, we have listed some out, which are bound to come in handy the next time you play a wilderness retreat. 

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The Generator | A Basic History 

Before we get into the different types of generators that we find today for off-the-grid cabins let’s learn more about generators overall, let us first take a look at their history and how the modern generator came to be.

The first known generator can be traced all the way back to 1831 to the British innovator Michael Faraday. 

He used a very simple design to make the device, where he employed the use of a bar magnet, a coiled wire and a tube made of neutral materials to make it. 

He then connected the equipment that he built to a galvanometer, which is primarily used to detect electrical currents. 

So, after he made the attachments, Faraday noticed that whenever he is moving the magnet through the coiled wire, the readings inside the galvanometer kept changing. 

The needle kept moving even when the magnet was left stationary, and Faraday concluded that there are electrical currents constantly flowing through the coil. This, in turn, led him to create the Faraday disc, which today is known as the world’s first electromagnetic generator. 

And over the years, that technology was slowly developed by scientists and engineers, and that is was lea to the production of such amazing, off-grid generators. 

So what are some of the best kind of generators for your off-grid cabin?

Types of Generators

  1. Gasoline Generator

What do we like about them?

Commonly called the gas generator, the gasoline-based models are by far the most popular generator type even to this day. 

These generators are incredibly easy to use and are powered by fuel resources which are readily available. Apart from the fuel usage and ease of operation, another essential aspect that goes behind their popularity is the affordable price-tag. 

The gasoline generators are quite pocket-friendly and generally come designed in manageable sizes to be as portable as possible. This is what makes them perfect for those long hiking trips as their compactness makes them easier to carry around.

However, the generator size will depend on the power outage that you’re looking for as well. But in general for smaller cabins and tents during a weekend in the woods, or when out camping, the suitable models are generally light, compact and manageable. 

Hence, gasoline generators are perfect if you’re not looking for a lot of power. Their affordability also makes them particularly popular in all forms of constructions jobs. They are hassle-free and much easier to set up than most other types of off-grid generators out there. 

What do we not like about them?

Now that we have discussed the advantages of these type of generators, let us take a look at some of the cons, and why they might not be perfect for every buyer.

First of all, gasoline generators produce relatively higher emissions than other generator types. 

Secondly, they create a lot of noise during operation, so if you or the neighborhood you live in is quite noise-sensitive, then gas generators might not be the way to go. 

Moreover, getting gas generators started during the colder months, maybe an incredibly difficult ordeal, and yanking on the chain repeatedly is sure to exhaust you.

Pros
  • A much cheaper generator options
  • Incredibly portable, making it perfect for long hiking trips 
  • A very popular generator type can fit into a variety of construction jobs 
  • Very easy to set up and manage 
Cons
  • Has a much higher emission rate 
  • Produces a lot of noise when active 
  • The starter tends to jam during the colder months 
  1. Standby Generators

What do we like about them?

Standby or back-up generators can very easily be defined as an electrical powering system which works automatically without having to start them manually.

They are mainly used as emergency power units and in terms of the mechanism are almost the same as that of gasoline generators and run on diesel. But they have a much larger external tank than that of the gasoline models, helping them to provide power for at least 48 hours, depending on the usage. 

The larger tank makes them bulkier as well and much less portable than gasoline generators. Their engine is commercial grade and made to be quite robust and is attached to a skid. The skid, in turn, houses the radiator along with the large alternator and an onboard fuel tank.

This helps the standby generator models to support an automatic transfer switch, and power a device instantaneously whenever the electricity goes out. They are absolutely amazing at providing a constant flow of power. 

Standby generators are ideal as safety systems when used in particular devices like elevators, fire protection, and detection systems, standby lightings as well as life support devices like ventilators, ICUs/CCUs, etc.

What do we not like about them?

One aspect of the standby generators which many do not like is the higher price range. 

Standby generators, especially the higher-end ones which provide greater power are very expensive and out of reach for most average buyers. And that’s one of the reasons why they settle for the more basic gasoline models. 

Standby generators require a lot of maintenance as well. A regular upkeep is key for having them function at their very best, without which they are bound to malfunction. They are also very heavy, and not as portable as some might like them to be.   

Pros
  • Provides a continuous flow of power as it seamlessly switches between systems 
  • Durable, commercial-grade engine will last you for years 
  • Larger fuel tank for more fuel efficiency and power backup 
  • Ideal for use in all types of off-grid cabins and emergency systems 
Cons
  • They are very expensive 
  • Needs frequent upkeep for it to not malfunction 
  • Not very portable 
  1. Diesel Generators

What do we like about it?

The diesel generator, typically known as the diesel genset, which as the name would suggest, runs on one of the least flammable fuel resources. 

The diesel generators run on a combination of a diesel engine and an electric generator and are designed in a way that they work the best on diesel fuel alone. Some of the models may go a step further and run on other types of natural gas and liquid fuels, but diesel has proven to be much more efficient in its power output when it comes to such generators. 

If you’re looking for an incredibly durable generator for your off-grid cabins, then diesel models are by far the most durable options out there today. Apart from having a sturdy engine design and exterior, they have very low maintenance requirements as well.

They will last you a lifetime, as diesel fuel burns much cooler in comparison to other natural sources like gasoline. The reduced heat significantly lessens the burden on the engine and makes it much more efficient with higher energy density and power production.

Diesel engines are almost as affordable as gasoline ones and are a great alternative indeed.

What did we not like about them?

When it comes to some of the disadvantages to diesel-based generators, there are primarily two that come to mind. 

The first of which being; just like the gasoline models, they too emit a lot of harmful emissions which cause air pollution and can be rather poisonous if inhaled in large amounts. 

And finally, diesel generators don’t work as well as it should under wet environments. 

Sure! It operates amazingly well under extremely cold temperatures unlike the gasoline models, but if it gets wet, the moisture in the fuel main will ruin the engine.

Pros
  • Diesel generators are very durable and last for years
  • Has a very efficient power output with a higher energy density
  • Is very cheap and easy to operate
  • Works under the coldest of weather conditions  
Cons
  • Can malfunction if wet
  • Emits harmful emissions which can be poisonous when inhaled 
  1. Natural Gas Generators

What do we like about them?

The best thing about natural gas generators without a doubt is their fuel efficiency. They too are a lot similar in build and design to that of gasoline and diesel generators, but they use either propane or liquefied petroleum gas as their energy source. 

Natural gas generators are quite hardy in build and design as well, and can very easily be stored below and above ground, depending on your home’s structure and use. 

CNGs are one of the cleanest fossil fuels (when burnt) out there. They have a much lower emission rate than that of gasoline and diesel and is significantly cheaper as well. 

Natural gas generators, in general, have the ability to reduce the overall operation cost of an off-grid cabin by a very long margin. The cheaper fuel, cheaper maintenance costs, and cheaper overall machine purchase makes these generators an amazing value for money purchase by a lot of the average customers.

You can keep your cabin up and running for days at a minimal cost, and because of the durable and low maintenance design, you will not have to worry much about these generators once you have got them hooked and ready for use. 

What do we not like about them?

Though natural gas generators may not have some big flaws like some of the other generator types, there are essentially two, which we think we should mention.

Natural gas generators though sturdy and durable, are not as durable as the diesel models and can malfunction under extremely cold weather conditions as well.

The installation cost is much higher as well, as you will have to make a lot of connections to make the gas lines work. However, the generator, as well as the fuel itself, is very cheap.

Pros
  • Natural gas has a much lower emission rate than diesel and gasoline
  • A much cheaper fuel source with lower operation cost
  • The fuel is readily available and can be stored easily
  • The generator is quite sturdy and can withstand years of use 
Cons
  • The cost of installation is relatively higher
  • Can malfunction under extremely cold climate 
  1. Portable generator

What do we like about them?

Portable generators are known for their combustion engine, which is specifically designed for producing and conducting temporary electrical power. 

They’re either powered by gas and sometimes even diesel, and is going to be our generator of choice if you have a rather small off-grid cabin with hardly many electrical appliances to speak of.

They may not be able to produce power for many hours straight, but for the bare necessities like lighting, small freezers, and even the television, these generators are just perfect. 

The engines of the portable generators work by turning a small turbine, which in turn creates a limited amount of electrical energy.

One amazing thing about portable generators is the uniqueness of their installation. They can be installed in two ways: one, by professionally wiring them into the sub-panel of a home, and secondly by plugging all the tools directly into the generator’s power socket. 

Apart from being an amazing electrical source for smaller cabins, portable generators come rather handy when it comes to providing a lighting solution for construction workers on remote sites. They are also great for emergency lighting at homes when the electricity is out. 

What do we not like about them?

As the portable generators run on either diesel or gas, they have a rather high emission rate than the other types which can be poisonous when inhaled. Try not to use these generators inside enclosed spaces. 

Sure! Their portable nature might make you want to use one indoors, but just make sure that you pop a window open before activating it.

Moreover, due to their small and compact size, they are not made to be as durable as some of the other generator types on our list today.

Pros
  • Portable generators are the cheapest option on our list
  • Their compact nature allows them to be carried around on trips
  • Perfect for small scale lighting projects
  • Can be installed in multiple ways 
Cons
  • Though portable, their construction is not as durable
  • Has a high emission rate, due to the nature of fuel use 
  1. Solar Generators

What do we like about them?

If you’re planning to go completely green when it comes to getting a reliable source of power for your off-grid cabin, then the solar generators are exactly what you’re looking for. 

These generators use the radiation of the sun to capture and store the energy and then use it in the form of electrical power. These generators, generally work with the help of solar panels, which is used to capture the solar energy and then store it in the batteries.

As most of the appliances today use alternating current, the inverters that are present in the solar generator changes the stored power into this type before it’s transferred throughout the house.

Solar generators specifically have three major parts that they work with; they are the batteries, the inverter, and the charge controller. 

These three components work in unison to transform the solar energy into electrical and have a rather high power output. 

When you switch on the solar generator, it immediately starts by gaining and storing electrical energy through the panels. There are no fuel costs when it comes to such generators as you’re using a renewable resource, and there are no harmful emissions to worry about as well. 

What do we not like about them?

Solar-powered generator models are some of the most expensive out there today. The batteries, charge controllers, and even the panels will cost you a fortune, but they will help you save up significantly on fuel in the long run. 

They have a higher maintenance requirement as well, as the generators are not as durable and tend to get damaged even with a bit of rough use. 

Charging the batteries completely can take a long time as well. And the power storing capabilities are affected by cloudy skies as well.

Pros
  • Uses renewable energy; hence, there is no fuel cost
  • A green power generator alternative which produces no harmful emissions
  • Has a rather high power output potential
  • Is one of the best choices for off-grid cabins 
Cons
  • Incredibly expensive, and will cost you a fortune to set up
  • Power storing is affected by weather conditions
  • macOS driver issues reported
  • pen could have been better
  1. Inverter generators

What do we like about them?

Inverter generators are some of the most portable and noiseless generator models out there today. 

These generators come with an engine that is equipped with an alternator, which produces AC power. The alternating current is then converted to DC with the help of the rectifier which is installed in the engine itself. 

This mechanism is what helps keep the generator quiet even when it’s working overtime to provide a higher power output. 

Hence, if you have a rather noise-sensitive neighborhood, or like to have some peace and quiet around your off-grid cabin, then these generators might just be the way to go. 

They are 20 percent more fuel-efficient than the standard gasoline and diesel models as well and helps to provide the specific kind of electrical energy which is safe for use for sensitive electronic devices like tablets, smartphones, etc.  

Inverter generators use magnets to first output the AC, which is immediately converted to the DC, and then it’s converted back to AC again. 

One amazing thing about inverter generators which we love is that the engine speed is adjusted automatically based on the amount of power that needs to be used.

What do we not like about them?

Compared to the portable and gas models, the inverter generators are much pricier and has a relatively high installation cost. 

Secondly, their power output is not as high as some might like it to be. They might be perfect for smaller homes and cabins but for larger industrial places like factories and as well for heavy-duty machinery and tools; they are not suitable at all. 

Periodic maintenance is required as well, through the maintenance cost is not all that high.

Pros
  • Provides power for electricity sensitive devices
  • Has a very high fuel efficiency, helping you save up in the long run
  • The engine speed adjusts itself automatically when the desired output is changed  
Cons
  • Is much more expensive than most other portable gas models
  • The power output is not all that high 
  1. Hydrogen Generators

What do we like about them?

Hydrogen generators are relatively new to the field, and much like the solar models are a very green way of generating power for your off-grid cabin.

Ever since the 1800s, many of the power companies have been in the pursuit of developing generators that can run on hydrogen. Hydrogen can be found in abundance all around, especially in sources like water. They are a non-toxic fuel source, and leaves no emissions behind, and produces more energy than other fuel sources per pound as well. 

Hydrogen generators are designed to be rather portable as well. Their higher power output makes them perfect for a variety of uses like powering a laboratory, larger homes, and power-intensive devices like air conditioners and refrigerators. 

Operating and maintaining hydrogen generators is rather easy when compared to the solar ones. They are sturdier in design as well and can handle a bit of rough use rather well. 

And unlike the solar models, their power output capacity is not dependant on the prevailing weather conditions. Just fuel up the machine any time you want, and it will be good to go. 

 What do we not like about them?

Hydrogen generators are not as readily available as some of the other generator types out there today. Not a lot of companies make them, and the ones that do make them very expensive and sometimes much more than the solar ones, and out of reach for a lot of average customers.  

They will also malfunction when used in extremely cold climates. As the water used to fuel it might just freeze inside the machinery and harm the generator.

Pros
  • Works on hydrogen which can be found in abundance
  • Has a much higher power output than most other generator types out there
  • Is designed to be sturdy and resist rough use
  • Hydrogen generators are easier to maintain and fuel 
Cons
  • These generators are not as readily available
  • Malfunctions under extremely cold temperatures 

How to properly maintain and care for your off-grid generator?

When it comes to any engine based device like either a lawnmower, a car, etc., generators too require a decent amount of maintenance. 

We all want to get our money’s worth with these appliances, and a proper and regular maintenance is going to keep them going as good as new for a very long time. 

However, each generator type will have its own specific maintenance requirements and schedules. 

But in general, a typical generator maintenance will involve a general inspection, which will deal with checking the machine for any types of leaks. The battery should be checked as well, along with the cables and terminals and the amount of coolant and oil that are present. 

So here are some of the key factors that go behind a standard generator maintenance:

  1. A thorough checking of the cooling system 

This will involve keeping a keen eye out for the coolant levels at various intervals if you tend to use your generator a lot. 

  1. Cleaning the filters annually 

This is a no brainer really. If your generator is used every day, it’s bound to have a lot of particles clogging up the fuel filter and fuel lines, and will be in need of a frequent cleanup.

  1. Battery capacity 

Batteries are the first to lose their performance capabilities out of all the generator parts. So, try and check their power every now and then, as a malfunctioning battery will wear out a generator extremely fast.

  1. Customary testing of the generator 

Give the generator a thorough test run every now and then so see if the electrolyte levels of the batteries are balanced. 

Final Thoughts

Modern-day generators are just amazing when it comes to planning a comfortable retreat into off-the-grid locations. And we hope that the types we have listed today were able to help you learn more about generators and allow you to pick the one that suits your needs and cabins the best. 

Till next time!

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