Cart-mounted engine-generator being used at a construction site

An engine-generator or portable generator is the combination of an electrical generator and an engine (prime mover) mounted together to form a single piece of equipment. This combination is also called an engine-generator set or a gen-set. In many contexts, the engine is taken for granted and the combined unit is simply called a generator.


In addition to the engine and generator, engine-generators generally include a fuel supply, a constant engine speed regulator (governor) and a generator voltage regulator, cooling and exhaust systems, and lubrication system. Units larger than about 1 kW rating often have a battery and electric starter motor; very large units may start with compressed air either to an air driven starter motor or introduced directly to the engine cylinders to initiate engine rotation. Standby power generating units often include an automatic starting system and a transfer switch to disconnect the load from the utility power source when there is a power failure and connect it to the generator.

A Cummins Onan transfer switch