In an uncertain world, we face many threats to the electric grid that could affect our way of life. The most commonly mentioned threats to the electric grid are cyberterrorism and Electromagnetic Pulse (EMP). Of these threats, the one that I am frequently asked about is how an EMP could affect the operation of a home generator system. There are two EMP events most commonly mentioned that can impact the Earth:
- EMP from geomagnetic storms originating from the sun (solar flares)
- High altitude EMP, the result of a high-attitude nuclear blast
How an EMP will affect the electric grid and your home generator is a function of many factors outside of your control. A thorough discussion of EMPs and their potential impact is beyond the scope of this writing. Our purpose here is to help you understand the potential risk so you can make an informed decision about what is best for your individual circumstances and then take appropriate steps to protect your generator system and its electronic components.
The major components of your home generator include the engine, rotor/stator, and electronics that control starting, voltage regulation, etc. Of all these components, the electronics are the most at risk from an EMP. Depending on the type of EMP event and its magnitude, electronic components could fail, rendering your generator inoperable.
Generally, there are two approaches to providing protection from an EMP event. One approach is to “shield” or “harden”, providing overall protection for your generator system. The other is to identify those components at risk and protect those critical components that could fail from an EMP event. Shielding or hardening requires covering and sealing with a fine metal screen mesh or solid metal enclosure to prevent the EMP-generated radiation from entering the equipment being protected. Successfully shielding or hardening the typical home generator system while maintaining its functionality is not practical for most homeowners. However, identifying and acquiring those critical electronic components and protecting them in a Faraday Cage is both accepted science and practical to accomplish. Depending on the age and brand of your generator system, you either have multiple electronic components or a single control board. To identify those critical electronic components, contact your home generator dealer or manufacturer to determine cost and availability.
In researching material for this blog, we referenced many sources including EMP Protecting Housing & Solar by Don White. For more information regarding Don’s research and EMP protection strategies, visit his website www.empprotection.org.
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