A portable generator sits at the center of a prepper’s survival kit. When there is a major natural attack on the power grid, having a working portable generator greatly increases your chances of survival until help arrives.
However, there is one occurrence that would cripple the human race existence regardless of the level of prepping – an Electromagnetic Pulse. In a rare case of an EMP, the entire power grid would go down in a flash.
The impact of an EMP attack would also cause severe damage to all human-made electronics from the sophisticated government-owned tools to the simplest electronic devices in an average home. The electronic details on portable generators would not be left either, and this could lead to total darkness… forever. But is it possible to protect your generator from EMP?
In this article, we’re going to answer several questions that portable generator owners ask when an EMP is mentioned:
What is an EMP?
An Electromagnetic Pulse is a sudden burst of electromagnetic energy into the atmosphere that leads to a devastating power surge. An EMP can be human-made, for instance, by detonating a nuclear bomb in the atmosphere. It can also be as a result of natural phenomena, including solar storms, such as the Carrington Event of 1859.
If you are wondering “Can an EMP kill you?”, the answer is No. EMP is not directly harmful to human beings. However, its impact on electronics, the power grid, and generators could have devastating and long-lasting effects. According to experts, this lack of power could wipe out close to 90% of America’s population. This effect would be as a result of our heavy dependence on electronics.
How an EMP Affects a Portable Generator
An electromagnetic pulse will affect the generator’s electronic part. But will your generator work after an EMP? Well… it depends.
Natural EMPs caused by coronal mass ejection due to solar flares mainly affect the grid (transformers and power substations). Most devices with average electrical protection will survive such an attack, including a generator.
On the other hand, human-made electromagnetic attacks, especially from nuclear detonations, have a much more powerful effect that is likely to destroy pretty much all electronics. Therefore, knowing how to protect a portable generator from EMP might be a lifesaver.
How to Protect Your Generator From an EMP
The internet has different suggestions on methods that you can use to protect your generator from EMP. Here is what we find most viable:
Buy Mission Darkness Revelation EMP Shield
The surefire way of protecting your portable generator from EMP is by putting it in a Faraday cage. This is basically a cage or bag engineered to block electromagnetic fields.
If you have the budget, buying a Faraday bag like Mission Darkness Revelation EMP Shield is probably the best idea. This is a military-grade bag that is specifically engineered and tested for electromagnetic pulse (EMP) and coronal mass ejection (CME). It has internal measurements of 30 “L x 24 “W x 4 “H and can be used for compact portable generators, electric medical devices, radios, and smart home appliances.
The EDEC Duffel bag is another relatively affordable alternative to the Mission Darkness. However, we would only recommend this for smaller generators due to its size.
Don’t worry if you can’t get a Faraday cage or bag that accommodates your portable generator. As you’ll find out in the sections below, you can build a protective cage using readily available materials at home.
Build a DIY Faraday cage
For another build-up than the one shown in the video, check the instructions below:
What you’ll need:
- 0.5″ plywood (size will depend on the size of your generator)
- Aluminum foil
- Corrugated cardboard filler insert sheets
- Measuring tape
- Duct tape
- Sealant caulk
- 8 L-brackets
- 2 hinges
- 1-inch deck screws
How to build it:
1. Make a design
Draw a sketch of how your faraday cage will look like to make constructing easy. Generally, you want a 4-sided box that can accommodate your portable generator. The cage should be slightly more spacious as you don’t want the generator to touch the sides. Since this is not a box that you intend to run your generator in, you won’t need to include features such as vents or exhaust.
Measure the side of your generator and determine the size of the plywood panels, including an additional 2 inches on all sides.
2. Attach the panels
Begin by fastening the side panels on the bottom panel using 1-inch deck screws. Use the L-brackets to ensure that the edges are at right angles. Attach the top panel using the hinges in a way that allows easy opening and closing. After you’re done connecting the panels, use the sealant caulk to seal all the edges.
3. Lay the EMP protective layer
The next step involves laying several layers of aluminum foil all around the interior of the box. Usually, the more layers there are, the better the protection, but we suggest putting 3-5 layers on each panel. Be sure to take good care of the hinges, as these could easily be an entry point for the EMP.
4. Lay the cardboard filler insert sheets
The essence of this layer is to ensure that your generator is not in direct contact with the aluminum foil layer. Otherwise, this layer would be like an antenna for the EMPs. Cut and attach the cardboard sheets on top of the aluminum foil using the duct tape.
At this point, your Faraday cage should be ready for your generator.
Convert a trash can into a faraday cage
Converting trash cans into a Faraday cage has also proven to be a reliable method when executed correctly. This is much easier than constructing a Faraday cage from scratch. Perhaps the only issue that you might face is portability.
What you’ll need:
- An aluminum or plastic trash can
- Aluminum foil (if using plastic trash can)
- Corrugated cardboard sheets
- Duct tape
- Lay at least 3 layers of aluminum foil on the interior of the trash can as well as on the inside part of the lid using duct tape for a secure attachment. Skip this step if you are using aluminum trash can.
- Next, lay a layer of corrugated cardboard sheets on top of the aluminum foil layers to act as an insulator. Ensure that the lid has enough of the protective layers and that it closes firmly too.
If there is still room into the trash can after placing the generator, you can use that space to store and protect other prepping devices, such as emergency radios and solar panels.
Final Words on How to Protect your Portable Generator from an EMP
A compact portable generator may not be powerful enough to power your entire household at the moment. However, it may be your only saving grace when an EMP brings the entire grid down. Although EMPs are rare, they can occur, and the results can be devastating. That being said, learning how to protect your generator from an EMP is just as important as owning one.