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Do It Yourself - Outdoor Power Equipment Repair & Maintenance

Using Your Generator During the Storm

During the storm season. Posted in Generators by

Lighting lit up the sky, thunder rolled across the earth and the skies opened up to pouring rain.

Then, your power went off leaving you in the dark. Luckily you have a generator to save you from panicking too much.

By following simple guidelines and procedures you'll have your power back before you even knew it was off.

Is Your Generator Easy to Get to?

Store your generator in a cool, dry area that is easy to get to. Always keep a clear path to your generator to avoid running into objects due to low visibility. An injury is the last thing you want to worry about when the power goes out.

Never run your generator in a closed-in area such as a shed, garage, basement or your house. Generators produce a clear, odorless, tasteless gas called Carbon Monoxide that can be fatal within minutes. For safety measures OSHA recommends a 3-4 foot distance on all sides and above of the generator for ventilation purposes.

Do You Know Your Generator's Wattage Capacity?

Wattage Capacity The generator's wattage capacity is found on the generator or in your owner's manual.

Knowing your generators wattage capacity and the wattage of appliances you want to power can help avoid damaging your generator during use. An appliance has two wattage ratings, a starting wattage and a running wattage, that both have an impact when being plugged into your generator. Using more wattage than your generator can handle will lead to a current over-load and may damage your appliances, extension cords and your generator.

Starting Wattage: The amount of power used to start an appliance. This number is often 2X greater than running wattage.

Running Wattage: The amount of power an appliance uses after the initial start-up.

Running wattages of common appliances:

  • Lamp: 100 watts
  • Refrigerator/Freezer: 600-700 watts
  • Television: 300 watts
  • Desktop Computer: 600-800 watts
  • Laptop Computer: 200-250 watts
  • Hot Water Heater: 4500 watts
  • Sump Pump: 2100 watts at 1/2 horsepower
  • Electric Stove: 2100 watts
  • Microwave: 1000-1500 watts
  • Well Pump: 1000 watts

The numbers listed are running wattage numbers only. Starting Wattages often are 2X greater than the running wattages.

*The wattage numbers listed are a guideline for common appliances. To get the actual wattage numbers refer to your appliance owner's manual, the actual appliance or use an appliance load tester.

30 Day Fuel Supply

Wattage Capacity Make sure you replenish your fuel supply every 30 days.

You've heard it before and you'll hear it again, gasoline should not be stored for more than 30 days.

After 30 days, it runs the risk of becoming stale. If you fill your fuel tank at the beginning of the storm season, make sure to change the fuel every 30 days and add a fuel stabilizer to help battle the effects of ethanol.

How is Your Generator Hooked-Up?

Did you know that hooking up your generator directly to your electrical panel or your home is not only dangerous, it's illegal? The power from your generator can back-feed into the power lines around your house causing injury or death to you, your neighbors or even utility workers. You can avoid back-feeding using two different methods.

Direct Hook-Up

Direct Hook-up Direct hook-up allows you to plug appliances directly into your generator.

Direct Hookup refers to hooking the appliances directly to your generator with a generator cord or extension cord. A proper generator cord and heavy-duty extension cords should be used. Choose an extension cord that can handle the amount of wattage being put out by the appliance you are pairing it with and one that can be used in all-weather conditions.

Transfer Switches

Transfer Switch Use a Transfer Switch to Safely hook your generator to your home.

Using a transfer switch is the only safe and legal way to connect your generator to your home. The transfer switch is installed by a licensed electrician to safely connect the generator to your homes utility power. Don't install a transfer switch yourself! Hire a licensed electrician.

Managing Your Generator's Power

If your appliance load is greater than the wattage your generator can handle, power management is necessary. First, ask yourself which appliances are most important to power and what appliances need to run continuously.

Temporarily disconnecting appliances that don't need to be powered continuously allows you to power other appliances that may be just as important. A transfer switch can also help with power management as you can easily switch different circuits on and off depending on which appliances you need to use. Power management helps you get the most power out of your generator during the storm.

Quick Safety Tips

  • Carbon Monoxide is an odorless, tasteless gas that can be fatal within minutes. Always use your generator in a well-ventilated area outside, away from open windows and doors.
  • Use caution when pouring gasoline into your generator. Turn your generator off and let cool for 15-20 minutes before adding fuel. Pouring gasoline onto a hot generator can cause fire.
  • Back-feeding can cause serious injury or death, use a transfer switch or direct hook-up to keep you, your neighbors and utility workers safe.
  • When using an extension power cord for with your generator, choose one that can handle the amount of wattage being put out by the appliance you are pairing it with. Periodically check the cords temperature during use. If it's warm or hot to the touch, your wattage is too high for the cord to handle. Unplug immediately and choose an extension cord that can handle a higher wattage.

Conclusion

Generators can be a hassle-free, easy and reliable way to get your power back on during an outage. Knowing your wattage capacity, avoiding back-feeding and using power management will help you keep your generator running safely during the storm.