Choosing a Generator

Posted: July 1, 2022 at 7:00 am

red portable generatorIf you have thought about purchasing a generator as a backup source of power during outages purchasing one requires some careful consideration. Safe Electricity urges safety and power knowledge when adding a generator to your home. A major question is do you need enough wattage to power your entire home, or just parts of it?

Identify your necessary electrical needs in the event of a power outage and calculate the number of watts needed. Generator specialists advise a generator that produces more power than all of the equipment combined plus the initial surge when it is turned on. If you draw more power than the generator is designed to produce, you may blow a fuse on the generator or even damage your connected equipment when it is turned on. You may want to seek assistance from an electrician to determine your needed power usage.

A portable generator can provide power to a heavy duty extension cord that can service several small appliances and lights. To ensure safety, the load rating of the cord must be more than the sum of the power consumed by the appliances. Ensure the cord has a grounding prong and there is no damage to the coating and insulation of the wiring.

Do not plug the generator into a wall outlet, because that creates “back feed” – feeding electricity back through your system and meter into the power lines, which jeopardizes the safety of linemen attempting to restore power – as well as anyone who may be near a downed or sagging line. When the electricity produced by your generator reaches the transformer outside your home, the voltage will be increased from 120 volts to thousands of volts as it travels down the overhead power lines.

Generators that are permanently wired into a home should be installed by a qualified electrician who will also install a transfer switch to prevent back feed. That device will automatically separate your home system from the utility system. Please notify Elmhurst before directly wiring a generator into your home’s electrical circuit.

Portable generators can be handy when used properly, but can be deadly as well, particularly from carbon monoxide fumes emitted by the gasoline engine on the generator. After Hurricane Katrina knocked out power to a wide area of the Gulf Coast, there were 51 cases of carbon monoxide poisoning, including 5 deaths, all of which could have been prevented. Always operate your portable generator outdoors to keep exhaust fumes out of the home.

Manufacturers recommend that you operate your generator once a month for at least 10 minutes to ensure that it is running properly. Keep the generator where it will be easily accessible and weatherproof. It’s advisable to have enough fuel for at least 24 hours. Learn what you need to know for the safe operation of your generator. For more safety information, visit Energy Education Council’s website.