The Dos and Don’ts of Generator Ownership
By Victoria Figueiredo
As is the case after most major storms, the cleaning up process also includes a preparation process as people realize how unprepared they really are. Personally, we’re okay with that! Learning from your mistakes is wise at the very least. The number one thing most people learn when they’re sitting smack-dab in the middle of a hurricane? Generators are a pretty good idea. An even better idea is learning how to care for and use your generator so you keep everyone safe while you keep them entertained via powered-by-backup devices. Luckily for you, we put together a handy little dos and don’ts guide for this very occasion:
- Never EVER run a generator inside your house or garage!!
As a matter of fact, you shouldn’t even run your generator by an open window or anything that pumps air into your house. Forget the obvious fire hazard this presents — a large majority of generators give off carbon dioxide, a clear and odorless gas that also happens to be super deadly. Children and pets experience an especially high risk of dying due to carbon dioxide inhalation since their bodies process the gas more quickly than adult bodies.
- Ground your generator properly
Generators should be grounded outside to their own ground rod and bare copper wire. If you’re already springing for a brand new generator, just do yourself and everyone around you a favor and spend the ~$45 in materials that may potentially save a life. While you’re grounding your new friend, also make sure that it’s properly strapped down so it doesn’t go flying away when you need it most!
- Read the instructions!
This is not Ikea furniture. You can’t toss the instructions aside and wing it, trust us. Lots of generators require that you change the oil or take some other maintenance steps before or during their initial start-up. If you don’t go through these steps or just don’t make yourself aware of them, you’re risking damage to the generator at worst and a voided warranty at best.
- Sorry, but do the math
Generators come with instruction books that will give a table showing the approximate wattages of common household appliances. Simple addition will keep you from overloading your generator; without it, risk tripping breakers and probable damage to your home.
- Be wise and DO NOT take shortcuts
Do not tie your generator into your electrical panel with a dryer breaker and cord. The absolute bare minimum you should do is used a dedicated breaker and a lock-out device for the main breaker. Ideally, you should use a transfer-switch to connect your generator to house loads. Transfer-switches are way safer and show what power is being generated and used. If you don’t use either option listed here, you could literally kill a lineman, damage your generator or home, or start a fire. Needless to say, just do what you know you should do. If a shortcut to save a few bucks could keep someone else from going home to their family, don’t take the shortcut.
All this aside, if you’re uncomfortable or not very confident in your generator installation skills, just call your local electrician. If you’re super lucky, Lucky Devil Electric will take care of it for you!