Gasoline powered generators can bring some of the power back to your home or business if it is knocked out by a hurricane. The temporary power can enable you to continue to occupy your home or operate your business. In short, it is invaluable. It can also kill you and your family if used improperly. Generators emit carbon monoxide. The colorless, odorless gas can be lethal. People have also been seriously injured or even have lost their lives due to the fires ignited by generators.
Selecting a Generator
- Generators can run anything from a small lamp to a number of large appliances, depending on the wattage.
- County and state emergency management personnel say the generator size you need to buy should be determined by the wattage of the items that you need to run. In other words, what appliances, fans, lights, televisions are essential for you.
- Appliances with motors, such as refrigerators, washers, and power tools, require additional wattage to start up the equipment. The initial load only lasts for a few seconds on startup, but this still must be considered when calculating your total wattage. For example, a 1,200 -watt refrigerator could require a startup wattage of 2,900 waits and a 750 watt TV could require 3,950 watts. However, if you don’t start the motors of the various appliances simultaneously, you could get by with a less powerful generator. In any case, you don’t want to overload your generator. If that happens it could overheat or burn out. Another possibility, the circuit breaker on the generator could be tripped.
Other Considerations When Buying a Generator
Generators can be relatively quiet at around 50 decibels or very noisy in excess of 100 decibels, an acoustic level that could cause hearing loss. Generator noise is primarily comprised of two noise sources: engine noise and exhaust noise. While generators are placed outside, the noise can easily penetrate walls.
Generators can be difficult to move around. Even small portable generators can weigh 50 pounds. Some generators have wheels which can make it easier to move around; others have handles and require lifting.
Just like your vehicle, generators use up gas. The generator model you buy will depend on how far a tank of gas will go. Generally speaking, the more powerful the generator is the worse the gas mileage. Runtime on generators can last between two and ten hours. Gas tank size can also affect the runtime. But a bigger gas tank means the generator will be heavier.
Generator Safety Tips
- The rated capacity of a generator should never be exceeded.
- Always start the largest electric appliance first. Then, one at a time, begin to plug in other items.
- Grounding the generator is recommended to help prevent accidental electrical shock.
- Only operate the generator outdoors in a well-ventilated, dry area, away from air intakes to the home, and protected from direct exposure to rain and snow. A preferable place would be under a canopy, open shed, or carport.
- Extension cords are the most common method for connecting appliances in your house to the generator. Simply plug the extension cord into your generator and run through an open door or window to the item you wish to power. Careful not to overload the extension cord. Always use at least 10–12 gauge cord and try to limit the length to under 100 feet.
- Purchase a carbon monoxide detector and install it in your home.
- Never operate a generator on the balcony of a multi-unit building such as an apartment or condominium.
- Never refuel a generator while it’s running or still hot.
- Never overload the generator.
- Carefully inspect a generator after long storage periods for broken or missing parts. Wipe off all dust.
- Store the generator in a dry, ventilated area with its fuel tank empty.
- Before storing, clean the generator by removing all oil and dirt.
- Don’t store the generator near fuel supplies.
- Read the owners manual to make sure you are properly maintaining your generator.
- Read generator safety tips.
- Determine what appliances you will be able to run with the wattage guide.
- Perform a dry run of your generator to make sure you are familiar of how you will operate it during a power outage.
- Keep a flashlight handy to find your way to your generator.
- Keep your generator conveniently located.
- The battery on generators equipped with an electrical start must be kept charged.
- Your generator should be run occasionally to keep it well-lubricated.
- Keep an adequate supply of fresh gasoline and extension cords. (Use a fuel stabilizer, like Sta-bil, in your fuel if you plan on storing it for extended periods of time.)
- Remember, never store gasoline inside your home. Gasoline, kerosene and other flammable liquids should be stored in properly labeled, non-glass safety containers. They should also not be stored in a garage if a fuel-burning appliance is in the garage. The vapor from gasoline can travel invisibly along the ground and be ignited by pilot lights or arcs caused by activating electric switches.
- It is important to use the right extension cord between the generator and the appliances and supplies you are powering. Three wire/three prong large-gauge cords should be used when the generator is a considerable distance from the appliances or items being plugged in.
Using The Generator When The Power Is Out
Follow all safety precautions.
- Be sure that children are not in the area while setting up or operating a generator for use.
- Keep water and rain away from the generator.
- Check oil and gas. Store generator fluid, oil and gas appropriately after using.
- Always shut down the generator when refueling.
- Always follow proper maintenance intervals.
Connecting your Generator
Hard Wired Appliances
- Items that are hard-wired to your homes may require special connections. Examples would be a water pump, furnace fan or lighting.
- Power Transfer Systems: Emergency management officials recommend this system if you plan to use your portable generator to operate appliances hard-wired to your home’s electrical- system. It is considered a safe, faster and more convenient way to power up to 10 household circuits for up to 7200 watts of power. The transfer system comes with a power cord and inlet box that mounts outside your home, eliminating all open doors and windows.
Another Method For Plugging In Hard-Wired Appliances
Extenda-Panel Extension Cords: This cord combines 4 heavy duty extension cords, eliminating the tangle of multiple extension cords. This cord plugs into your 30 amp, 240v receptacle on your generator and delivers up to 7200 watts through 4 different receptacles.
Preparing For Shutdown
- Allow it to adequately cool-down before storing.
- Perform any required maintenance.
- Add fuel stabilizer to any remaining gas.
- Plug in battery trickle charger (if equipped).
- Use a storage cover to keep the generator free of dirt and debris.