A generator comes in handy when the mains supply goes off or when you are off-grid, and you still require power for your appliances and equipment. Proper usage of these machines is essential if you are to make the most of your generator. Failure to do so can prove hazardous to you, those around you, and the machine itself. Here are some tips on how to use a generator safely and ensure long-term use. Before starting, always read the product’s manual carefully. If your power needs are complicated, consider consulting a local licensed electrician.
The Best Location for Your Generator
Where you place your portable generator as you operate it, is just as important as how you use it. The same goes for RV generators when camping in the wild. The best location for your generator should be:
Dry and Away from Rain
Water is one of a generator’s worst enemies. Operating a generator on a wet surface, in the rain, or any other wet conditions puts you at risk of electrocution. Other than ensuring that the surface is dry, you should never touch a generator if your hands are wet. Place the generator in a protected area away from rain or snow. You can also use a generator tent or shield that is specific to your generator model.
Open and Well Ventilated
Carbon monoxide (CO) is one of the products of burning fossil fuels to generate power. Carbon monoxide is very toxic. And if your generator runs on fossil fuels, then you are at risk of carbon monoxide poisoning if you do not channel the exhaust properly. For this reason, generators can only be used outdoors, far from windows, doors, and vents, in an area with plenty of ventilation. Never use a generator indoors, which includes using it in the garage or attic, even with the doors and windows wide open. Allow for at least twenty feet distance and make sure that you do not direct the exhaust to any nearby windows, or your neighbor’s premises or RV.
Steady and Stable Level
Stable to prevent the generator from falling off during operation. A fall may damage the generator and/or the applications it is powering. This also means that it should be placed away from children and pets.
Proper Connection and Wiring
Proper connection and wiring ensure adequate delivery of power from the generator to your home, recreational vehicle, farm, or construction tools. To use a generator safely, you will follow one of these routes:
To use a generator for your home or motor-home, you should make sure that you have a transfer switch installed by the electric panel for an effective changeover. A transfer switch transfers the load from the mains supply to the generator power, and vice versa, as required. It is advisable to have a professional install this device for you if you are not familiar with electrical installations. It should be compliant with the National Electrical Code and any other local electrical regulations.
Without a transfer switch, you may be tempted to plug the generator directly into one of the power points in your home or RV. However, this is very dangerous, and it back feeds power into the power lines. This may electrocute any servicemen who may be performing repairs on the line, cause fire, and damage the generator as well. If power outages are frequent in your area, consider looking for generators that can run on two fuels, such as ones that can run on both propane or gasoline. Also, you can consider looking for dedicated whole-home generators.
If you intend to tap power from your recreational generator to the various devices outdoors, then you have two options. Either plug the devices directly to the generator’s receptacles or use a heavy-duty extension cord built for outdoor use. The rating of the cord should at least be equal to the sum of the output loads.
Also, note that using long extension cords to keep a loud generator at an extended distance can slightly reduce the capacity of the cord. In general, the length of the cord should not exceed 100 feet. Don’t use undersized generator cords. And make sure the wire is free of cuts and is not exposed in any way. Remember to follow the product’s manual for proper grounding instructions if required. Consider a quiet running generator if your generator is too noisy.
Fueling the Generator
Only use the type of fuel that is recommended by the manufacturer. Failure to do so may result in extensive damage to the generator, and you void the warranty for generator damage. Before fueling the generator, make sure that it is turned off, and it has cooled down. Fueling a generator when it is hot may cause a fire as the heated engine parts may ignite the fuel. Carefully fuel your generator and avoid overfilling or spilling flammable fuels.
Powering it Up
First, turn the generator on and allow it to warm up. Then, connect your devices. Only start and stop your generator with no load or connected devices. You should also startup each device one at a time to avoid overloading your generator. As a result, you should prioritize your power needs according to your generator’s power capabilities. Overloading your generator can damage the engine, as well as, your connected devices and electronics. There are many wattage calculators online that can help you figure out which devices you can run simultaneously with your generator.
Storage and Safe Keeping
When you are not using your portable inverter generator, store it in a cool and dry place. It is advisable to drain the fuel before storage, but if that is not the case, then add a fuel stabilizer to prevent gum buildup. Store the fuel outside of living areas in an approved ANSI container. Store them in a safe place and consult with your local fire department on the amount of fuel that you can stock up.
Finally, remember to inspect your generator regularly, monitor maintenance intervals, and schedule oil changes. Have some more questions? Read some of the frequently asked questions about generators. Also, check our list of the topmost useful portable generator accessories.