Every year as storm season encroaches, the stores experience a mad dash of shoppers trying to stock up on last-minute supplies. And portable generators are always one of the items at the top of their list.
Either that or an earthquake like April’s 5.2 magnitude event strikes, leaving those unprepared without power for days or more.
Whatever the case, you don’t want to wait until an emergency upon you to start preparing for one. This includes not only getting ahold of a generator but learning to use it safely.
A generator is a big purchase, but an essential part of any good disaster preparedness plan. Familiarizing yourself with a few basic tenets of their maintenance and use can help you to make the right choice.
Here are some basics to keep in mind.
You don’t want to be in the thick of an emergency, only to find that the generator you’ve got isn’t powerful enough.
We measure generators not in physical size, but in their output in watts. To figure out what size generator you need, you first need to take an inventory of all the electrical loads you would want to run simultaneously.
Freezers, refrigerators, and necessary medical equipment are some of the basics. Air conditioning is a tempting item to add to the list, especially in the hot summer months. Bear in mind, however, that on average, your AC unit accounts for about 12% of your home’s total power usage. That’s not to say that you can’t do it, but it will take extra juice.
Once you’ve calculated to total wattage you would need, you can start shopping around at retailers like Able Sales to see what kind of unit you need.
Even though most people are aware that carbon monoxide is deadly, too many think that just running a generator in a garage or ventilated room is a sufficient precaution.
Only use your generator outside, and a minimum of 20 feet away from your home, doors, and windows. Since carbon monoxide is both odorless and colorless, you should also invest in a battery powered CO detectors as an additional precaution.
Backfeeding is the act of making an extension cord with prongs at both ends. You would then use this jury-rigged cord to plug in the generator on one end and an outlet in the house on the other.
This is a bad idea for a whole bunch of reasons, but the main one is that most people who do this often forget to switch their main breaker. This sends power out onto the grid, which can be extremely hazardous to utility workers try to conduct repairs.
On the topic of cords, never use a damaged or ill-sized cord.
Simple electric tape is insufficient to repair a damaged cord with that much power going through it. Undersized cords, especially those intended for indoor use, are equally hazardous.
Generators heat up with use, and even a small spill while trying to refuel a hot generator can cause a fire. They cool down quickly enough when not in use, so it’s worth it to just wait until it goes cold.
For the same reason, you should never store fuel near a generator. Store it safely in a shed or a garage.
Depending on your circumstances, getting caught without power can turn an already difficult situation into an impossible one. But it would be even worse to add the risk of electrocution or fire.
Prepare yourself by knowing how to use your portable generator safely, and you’ll stand all the better a chance of riding out an emergency.
To make sure that you don’t find yourself caught by surprise, keep up with the latest from K5.