How long does it take for the generator to kick in after the main power supply shuts off?
Can "start" be used here instead of "kick in"? I mean maybe it won't sounds as natural, but is it likely to be used?
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Yes, "start" can be used and it makes sense in generic, every-day speech. However, from a technical point of view, that information is not very well defined.
It is one things that the motor starts rotating for any reason (t1), and it is another thing that the generator actually starts providing the nominal power characteristics (voltage, current, power, torque) on a constant, reliable basis (t2).
Always, (t2) > (t1), and the difference can be quite big.
While (t1) can be just a few seconds, some (industrial) setups might have (t2) longer than a minute.
"Starts" sounds more professional, "kick in" sounds more colloquial.
"Kick in" suggests something that was ALREADY RUNNING that abruptly TOOK EFFECT.
To "engage", to "come online", to "cycle on", to "activate"/"become active" to "run up" to "kick on" may be more analogous to the premise of the example provided.
I think the discrepancy really comes from the use of "in" instead of "on".