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Electrical Generators (or generators for short) are machines very much like automobile motors that convert fuel to electricity for homes, boats, larger vehicles, and large stores and large or vital buildings. They are sophisticated, delicate, and frequently loud machines. Modern society depends on them in a variety of ways, and their sustained implementation into a survival colony during a zombie apocalypse (while very difficult) can be one of the greatest and most impactful additions possible.
The most commonly known type of generator is the kind that runs on gasoline or diesel fuel. These are somewhat uncommon in the average neighborhood, but they can be either portable, or a permanent fixture inside (or just on the exterior) of a home or building. All modern hospitals have a sophisticated generator system to protect their sensitive equipment (and patients that depend on life-sustaining machinery) in the event of a sustained blackout. Many larger stores with refrigeration, and wealthy homes can also be likely locations of a generator. Smaller generators can also be found on some boats, RV's, and larger buses. Nuclear power plants also depend on petroleum based generators to contain disposed fuel rods that superheat and ignite a toxic nuclear fire without refrigeration.
Petroleum based generators are not the only kind of generators, however. Generators are often fitted to be fueled by natural gas lines, or propane tanks. However, natural gas relies on a well maintained and regulated system (much like electricity and water), and propane fittings are extremely varied from device to device. As such, only gas and diesel generators provide survivors with a practical level of self sustainable energy.
Operation and MaintenanceEdit
As there are many different kinds of generators, operational guidelines can vary wildly. The engines, and the electrical systems that transform the kinetic energy into electricity, as well as distribute the electricity, are all highly specialized and sophisticated machinery. A manual or spec sheet can be invaluable in getting one up and running. These may be found at generator stores, libraries, and town halls (where they are often required to get the building permit for the generator).
Typically, keeping a generator running for a prolonged period is not advisable. For most generators, running for 100 hours is comparable to putting 5000 miles on a car. Because of this, properly working generators have scheduled maintenance annually at the very least (some have it monthly). During these maintenance calls, highly intricate and specialized parts may need to be replaced. These can be difficult to find in a zombie apocalypse, since one cannot order them from the manufacturer. A more obvious problem would be a steady supply of fuel, which may also be difficult to come by.
In addition to the aforementioned drawbacks of requiring continuous maintenance from an expert, a steady supply of parts and fuel which will be harder and harder to come by, generators are typically very loud, which can attract unwanted attention from both the living and the dead. Generators also create a great deal of heat and exhaust fumes like any engine, so the location can be fairly important. They are also quite heavy and sensitive to the elements unless properly shielded. Also, electrical configuration requires an experienced electrician with knowledge (or documentation) of the particular unit.
All in all, while generators can be useful during the phase of a Zombie pandemic where numbers of people and supplies are running low, and conversely, during the rebuilding of society, most other times one should not depend on generators as part of a long term solution.