Some welding jobs cannot be moved to a shop, especially if the workpieces are outdoors. That’s where portable generators come into play. These generators create a power supply that is capable of powering up welding tools. They come in handy in places where there are no electrical outlets. Think of them as portable welding machines.
How can you weld with a generator? The first step is to purchase a generator that puts out enough amps to run a welder. Then, you can hook up your welder and move it around to where it’s needed. If you don’t want to hook up a separate welder to the generator, you can purchase a welder generator with a built-in welding kit.
Using generators for welding can be tricky sometimes. That’s why it’s important to know how to weld with a generator properly. Here is some information to help you.
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Using A Generator for Welding
The generators use fuel for power instead of the electricity main. They’re considered essential tools for industry and construction. Even farmers use them to build or repair various objects. It operates like a regular generator; all you have to do is fill up the tank and turn it on wherever you need it.
One of the bonuses of having a welder generator is it can be used as a stand-alone generator. That means you can use it for other power tools, or for powering appliances. It can save you space and money in the long run.
Most welder generators can run:
- Plasma cutters
Some welder generators come with a complete welding kit. That way, you don’t have to worry about hooking up a separate welding machine or inverter.
Can You Weld With a 3500 Watt Generator?
Yes, it is possible to weld with a 3500-watt generator. However, it is important to note that not all generators are suitable for welding. Inverter welders are particularly sensitive to the quality of power supply, and dirty power can damage their electronic components.
It is recommended to follow guidelines for generator use with inverter welders and purchase a suitable generator in order to avoid damage in the long term.
If you plan to use a generator for welding, it’s best to invest in a high-quality generator that provides clean and stable power.
Additionally, it is important to protect tattoos from welding light and UV rays by wearing protective clothing and applying sunscreen, as tattoos on the neck area can interfere with respirators and cause safety hazards in welding.
Which Type of Generators Are Used For Welding?
Generators can be used for welding, but not all generators are suitable. Inverter welders are particularly sensitive to power supply quality, so it’s important to follow guidelines for generator use with these types of welders.
In general, a generator that provides clean and stable power is recommended. For 120V and small 240V welders, including inverter, a clean power digital hybrid inverter generator that is EPA certified and CARB compliant is a good choice.
When selecting a generator for welding, it’s important to consider the wattage needed to power the welder. A chart is provided for general guidance, and a basic formula can be used to calculate watts: Watts = Volts x Amps.
It’s also recommended to invest in a high-quality generator that has input voltage protection.
Finally, when welding, it’s important to protect tattoos from welding light and UV rays by wearing protective clothing and applying sunscreen.
Can You Weld With a Power Supply?
Yes, you can weld with a power supply but not all power generators are suitable for welding. To power a small 120V welder or a small 240V welder, you will need a clean and stable power generator.
It is important to consider the wattage needed to power the welder and invest in a high-quality generator with input voltage protection to prevent damage to the welder.
It is recommended to add a 30% safety margin to the total wattage needed for starting devices. Additionally, protecting tattoos from welding light and UV rays is necessary when welding.
You can do this by wearing protective clothing and applying sunscreen.
What to Look For In A Welder Generator
Here are some things to consider when you’re out shopping for a welder generator:
- What fuel does it use?
- Does it come with accessories?
- What is the amperage?
Most of the smaller portable generators have engines that run on gasoline. Gasoline is much cheaper compared to diesel or propane. Diesel generators are mainly used for industrial-grade equipment and larger jobs.
If you’re going to be using a generator often, then diesel may be a better option in the long run since it burns slowly and lasts longer than gasoline and propane. Remember to check and make sure there’s enough ventilation to disperse the emissions.
Some generators come with accessories or a complete welding kit, and some may come as a stand-alone generator. If you’re a beginner and don’t have many welding tools of your own, then the accessories may be helpful.
Keep an eye out for the amperage information. Smaller generators will have lower amps than the industrial (larger) generators. If you’re going to be welding occasionally or on lightweight materials, you won’t need the industrial-grade welder generator.
If you weld for a living or plan on welding often, then the industrial grade would be the ideal choice. It’s capable of running for 6-12 hours (depending on the fuel tank size).
Related reading: How to Start & Grow A Welding Business In 11 Steps
What Size Generator Do I Need?
The size you choose will depend on the job and the location. For instance, Industrial pieces will require a larger generator. Generally, the rule of thumb is you will need a minimum of 30 amps for welding.
|Inverter Welder max. Output
|Suggested “Minimum” Generator Size**
|Suggested “Ideal” Generator Size**
|Up to 160A
If you’re looking for something in between that can do a bit of everything, there are newer types of combo generators that are 3-in-1 or 4-in-1, also known as “workstation generators.” They can be used for multiple purposes:
- Battery Charger
Keep in mind that welding generators are different from standard generators because they are built to work with a constant energy load, and the other is not. They provide a stable sine wave for a consistent and steady welding flow.
For example, if you’re trying to power a transformer-type welder, a standard generator may not supply a steady sine wave or enough amps. In that case, you’ll need a welder generator.
Here is a recommended guide that many welders follow:
- Welder max output 160 amps would need a 7kva generator or greater
- Welder max output 180-200 amps would need 8kva generator or greater
- Welder max output 250 amps would need 13kva generator or greater
If you’re unsure about which size you should get, it’s always good to go with the next level. After all, a bigger size would be better than having a generator, “that’s too small.”
Before you continue reading, here is an article we wrote: If Your Welder Keeps Tripping the Breaker, Read This Guide
Can You Use Inverter Welders with Generators?
Yes! You can use inverter welders with generators because they use smaller transformers and require less power. Lower power consumption means they can be easily plugged almost anywhere, even in your own home.
The main advantage of inverter welders is they are compact and easy to carry around. So, you can carry it along with your generator to the site.
Check to make sure the plug will fit your generator. If you already have an inverter generator and want to make it fit your new generator, you can replace the plug.
Standard portable generators generally produce inconsistent sine wave power, which could cause fluctuations in the weld. On the other hand, welder generators come with high voltage surge protection features to prevent a high voltage spike.
If you have to use a standard generator that is not welder friendly, then it’s recommended to use an inverter welder with built-in voltage protection. The protection will prevent current overload issues. It’ll also lower the risk of damage from the irregular voltage spikes and create better welds.
How to Weld With A Generator
Now that you know about welder generators, it’s time to learn how to use them. Here are the basic steps:
- Check the fuel tank
- Start the generator
- Connect the welding machine to the generator (if there is one)
- Adjust the control settings
- Make sure to turn it off when not in use
Check the Fuel Tank
Some engine-run generators use oil, while others may use different fuels, like propane or diesel. It’s always a good idea to check the tank first to make sure there’s enough fuel. If it’s low, then you’ll have to add more fuel.
Start the Generator
Starting an engine-driven generator can be similar to starting a mower. Most of them come with a pull string to jump-start the motor. Give it a good pull once or twice to turn it on. If your generator has an electric start, you can turn it on with a click of a button.
Connect the Welding Machine
The welding machine or inverter should be able to plug into the outlet that’s on the side of the generator. If you’re unable to plug in your welding machine, consider making adjustments to the welder plug.
You can cut off the plug and wire the cable to a different twist-lock plug that fits the generator. If you need to add a new rubber cable to the plug, 10/3, type SOW, or SJOW works best.
Once the welding machine is connected to the running generator, you’ll be able to start welding. If your welder generator came with a welding kit already attached, then disregard this step and simply move onto the next step.
Adjust the Control Settings
The control settings play an important role. It allows you to manipulate the voltage and amps. The coarse settings are usually associated with the amps. For example, if you need 85 amps for a particular welding job, most manuals will recommend setting the coarse at 100, and fine at 85.
You can adjust the welding arc by changing the fine and coarse range. Not all welders use the same settings, so you can play around with it and figure out what you prefer.
Some welders have globular or spray modes that can be used for thick metal. The globular mode will create large “globs” of melted wire that falls into the melted portions of the other metal pieces. The spray mode concentrates a stream of melted wire material onto the metal surface.
Note: If you plan on using the spray mode change your gun’s nozzle to a different one that is at least 3 inches long.
Turn It Off When Not in Use
You should always turn off equipment when not in use for safety reasons, especially since the fuel emissions can be flammable and combustible. Turning it off will also conserve fuel and power.
Welding is a skill that can be challenging at times. Here are some tips to help you.
- Clean it up
- Mind the speed and angle
- Adjust the arc spacing
- Make adjustments for aluminum
- Preheat before mending high-strength metal
- Store your welder and generator properly
Clean It Up
Metal prepping is essential for a successful weld, cleaning the metal before welding will remove dirt and debris from the surface and in between cracks. If it isn’t cleaned, the impurities may affect the weld if they become embedded.
If you can’t clean the metal, try to go over it with a wire brush to remove dirt. Try and not use the MIG if you’re forced to work on dirty metal. Instead, go with a stick welder and use a 6011 rod with it. (Remember, the stick can be used on rusted metal.)
Mind the Speed and Angle
If you feel some slag, then you should drag the rod/wire when welding. If you use the MIG, then you’ll need to push the wire. When you’re doing welding with wires, the gun should be held at a 10-15 degree angle towards the direction you’re aiming for.
For stick welding, it should be held at a 20-30 degree angle while you’re dragging. If you’re doing a fillet weld, you’ll want to hold the rod/wire at a 45-degree angle between the metal pieces, no matter which welding method you choose.
Adjust Arc Spacing
You can adjust the speed, so the arc stays within range of the melted metal pool (also known as a weld pool). The arc length shouldn’t be larger than the diameter of the electrode core.
Watch for signs that you need to make a speed adjustment. Slow speed will create a wide and shallow bead. It can turn messy with too much metal deposited into the weld. Also, a high travel speed may produce a shallow weld with a highly crowned bead.
Make Adjustments for Aluminum
Eventually, you’ll come across aluminum, which reacts to welding differently than other metals. For that reason, it comes with its own set of rules. The good news is the process is easy to learn.
You’ll need to replace the cable liner with Teflon or nylon. Then, switch over to argon or argon-helium gas and use an aluminum filler wire with 3/16- 1/6 inches diameter. It’ll be easier to feed the thicker wires into the gun cable.
Switch out the contact tip with one that is .0115 inch bigger than the filler wire’s diameter. When you’re ready to go, brush the stainless steel wire brush over the repair site. This will remove the oxidized aluminum on the surface, allowing better penetration.
Related reading: 6 reasons why it is difficult to weld aluminum?
Preheat Before Mending
It’s imperative to preheat before you mend high-strength steel to prevent post-weld cracking. The higher the carbon content is, the more heat it will need. After the preheating is done, you can mend the metal with a small-diameter electrode, like the 7018 stick rod.
Using a low-hydrogen electrode along with a slow travel speed is best when it comes to repairing high-strength steel. This will keep the weld puddle melted at the right consistency long enough for the hydrogen gas bubbles to escape.
Store Your Welder and Generator Properly
It’s important to store your equipment correctly, keeping them safe and dry while not in use will prevent damage and wear from the elements.
If you have to leave your equipment at an outdoor job site, it would be a good idea to cover them up with a tarp or waterproof material.