For conventional generating sets, the most common engine speeds are 3000rpm and 1500rpm. The revolutions per minute are determined by the frequency and the number of pole pairs.
 

n = f*60/p n: engine speed in rpm
f: frequency in Hz
p: number of pole pairs


Attention: in countries where 60Hz is used, we speak of 3600rpm and 1800rpm. (rpm = revolutions per minute)
 
Since the end of last century, a new type of inverter generating sets is available. With these inverter generating sets, the correlation between engine speed and frequency is not relevant anymore. They make use of pulse-width modulation, which makes it possible to adjust the alternating voltage and the frequency.
 
Differences between the engine speeds


A. 1500rpm: these generating sets consume less fuel, are quieter but they are bigger, heavier and more expensive.
Expected lifespan: 15000 hours for high-quality water-cooled generating sets

B. 3000rpm: cheaper and lighter, but consume more fuel and have more revolutions per minute, which causes them to be louder.
Expected lifespan: 2500 hours for high-quality air-cooled 1-cilinder gasoline generating sets.
Expected lifespan: 4000 hours for high-quality air-cooled 2-cilinder gasoline generating sets.
Expected lifespan: 7500 hours for high-quality water-cooled diesel generating sets.

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