How Can You Weld With A Generator?


How-Can-You-Weld-with-A-Generator

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.

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:

  • MIG
  • TIG
  • Flux-cored
  • Stick
  • 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.

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.

welding-generator

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. OutputSuggested “Minimum” Generator Size**Suggested “Ideal” Generator Size**
Up to 160A7kva8+kva
180-200A8kva10+kva
250A 13kva15+kva
**Note that if it is intended that the generator will be used to run additional equipment at the same time as the welder, the size of the generator should be increased accordingly.

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:

  • Generator
  • Welder
  • Compressor
  • 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.

Voltage Protection

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:

  1. Check the fuel tank
  2. Start the generator
  3. Connect the welding machine to the generator (if there is one)
  4. Adjust the control settings
  5. 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.

Troubleshooting

Most issues can be resolved by making control setting adjustments. If that doesn’t work, you can try the following:

  • Check the connection between the welding machine and the generator
  • Check the fuses (F1 & F2) and replace it if it is open (remember to make sure everything is turned off when replacing a part)
  • If there is a low or high weld output, then check the engine speed
  • If the weld output is not consistent, make sure the connections are clean and tightened
  • Check the slip rings and brushes

If you continue to have issues with your welding machine or welder generator, you may need to have it inspected by a service agent or someone experienced with repairing welders.

Keep in mind that most portable generators are engine-driven, you’ll need to check the engine oil and change the oil filter every 200 hours. While you’re changing the oil filter, check the other parts. Routine maintenance will prolong engine life.

Welding off of Generator Power with an Inverter TIG Welder >> Check out the video below

Welding Basics

The welding process usually depends on the type and thickness of the metal. There are four types of welding:

  • MIG
  • TIG
  • Flux-cored
  • Stick

Metal Inert Gas (MIG)

New welders should start with MIG and work their way up. The MIG is also known as gas metal arc welding. It’s a type of arc welding that creates an electrical circuit that merges the two metal pieces.

You’ll have to use a welding wire with the MIG. The wire acts as an electrode and reacts with the arc, which activates the welding process. The heat from the arc will melt the wire, and it will merge with the other two metal pieces.

Tungsten Inert Gas (TIG)

TIG requires more skill and experience. It’s a slower process than the MIG, but the results are precise. And the gas acts like a shield that protects the new weld.

For the electrode, a tungsten metal rod is used within the welding gun. The rod is fed through an opening in the gun while the welder holds it in place. The heat of the arc will melt the rod, and it will create a puddle between the two workpieces. The melted metal puddle will mix and create a strong bond as it cools.

Some TIG welding machines come with a foot pedal to control the arc current. The pedal can be used to increase or decrease the heat, which can help welders avoid thermal shock and metal brittleness.

Flux-cored

The flux-cored method is ideal for out-of-position welding, especially if it’s vertical or overhead because the slag freezes quickly. It also offers high deposition rates. If you’re doing an overhead weld, you could use an E71T-8 wire.

If you are welding galvanized or coated metal, then you should go with the E71T wire. The materials within the wire will cause small explosions in the arc, creating powerful heat that can break through the coating.

Stick

Stick welding is a two-handed method that uses a metal filler rod (stick)that has been coated with flux. When the flux material melts during welding, it produces gas and slag that shields the weld.

The shield from the stick method creates better weld protection than the shield gas in MIG welding. If it’s windy outside where you’re working, using the stick will produce a better weld.

One thing that’s nice about this method is it doesn’t require shielding gas, and you can weld on rusty metals.

Related reading: 9 Different Types of Welding Processes & Their Advantages

Welding Tips

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.

David Harper

David is the Co-Founder and Senior Editor at weldingtroop.com. David's an experienced fitter and tuner/welder who's passionate about helping others develop in life through new skills and opportunities.

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