Not every storm sends us inland for safety, but even storms we can ride out can knock out power for hours or even days. A backup generator makes it easier to wait on restored power, but can be riskier to use than just plugging your appliances into a wall outlet. It’s important to understand your generator and how to install and safely use it so that it’ll help you weather the storm—and avoid tragedy.
Choose the Right Size Generator
Generators are available in a number of sizes, so you’ll want a capacity that can manage your critical electricity needs without going overboard. One that’s too big is an unnecessary expense (both for the equipment and its fuel), and is just something hefty to lug around.
Before you shop for a generator, inventory the appliances and systems you’ll need to power and the wattage they require (which should be on a label on the device). Also note whether they require 120 volts (like most household devices) or 240 volts (like large appliances). Total watts divided by volts gives you the amps you’ll need in a generator. Get a machine capable of more amps than you need to account for the extra startup energy some appliances require, but this will help you choose a generator that is powerful enough without overspending.
It’s important to think about the obvious devices you’ll want to power (refrigerator, minimal lighting, emergency devices), but depending on the season and weather, you may also need air conditioning or heating. Not all storms come when it’s conveniently “comfortable” outside. Try to power the minimum, but have a generator capable of the worst case scenario (that you can still safely ride out at home).
Read the Operator’s Manual
The generator’s manual not only contains operating instruction but important safety information. Be sure to make use of this resource.
Install the Generator Properly
To power your home’s electricity, only one “service” should be connected at a time. The generator should not be connected concurrently with your municipal service, so if you are unfamiliar with setting this up, hire a qualified electrician. A transfer switch installed by a pro can be costly, but can also be worth the investment if you’ll be swapping between the power company and the generator more than a few times per year. And even if it’s less frequently, the simplicity of the switch may also make it worth the investment.
Properly Ventilate Generator Exhaust
As the generator is fueled by gas, it is critical that it runs only in a properly ventilated area. Just as you wouldn’t run a car in an enclosed garage because of the deadly buildup of carbon monoxide, the same applies to a gas-powered generator. It’s also wise to install a CO detector in your home to monitor carbon monoxide levels when the generator is running.
Shelter Your Generator from the Weather
Generators should be run in open, ventilated areas, but are still electrical appliances that must be sheltered from weather—especially rain and/or flood waters. If it’s not possible to keep the generator away from water, it should not be used.
Store Fuel Safely
Always store excess fuel in proper containers designated for gasoline use, and in locations that will not pose a risk of combustion and fire.
An emergency backup generator can be a huge help in getting through the aftermath of power-interrupting storms. Properly installed and operated, they will certainly contribute to your safety and comfort—and at Arctic Air, as always, “your comfort is our concern!”