Using a portable generator is sometimes a necessity. Regardless of whether you use it to keep your electronic devices charged on a camping trip, as an emergency tool during a power outage, or in any other situation, chances are that you will have to run a generator at least once in your life (if you haven’t done it already).
Running a generator is relatively easy, but it’s also not the most straightforward thing in the world, especially if it’s your first time operating one. There are a lot of switches and cables involved, and if you can’t use it properly, there is a significant chance it might end up not working as intended. Worse yet, you may be putting yourself and your family at serious risk.
Hundreds of people in the United States die from generator-related CO poisoning every year. According to the experts from A1garage.com, a garage door service, people don’t realize the risks associated with running a generator inside, and the space that gets used for that purpose the most is, in fact, the garage. It isn’t the worst possible place to keep portable generators in, provided that you keep the right safety measures in place.
If you find yourself struggling to figure out how to use a generator and where to place it, this article will help you solve your problems and safely utilize this emergency power source.
How to Run a Generator
The first step of properly running a portable generator is determining the amount of power you’re going to need. In other words, you need to “size” the generator to figure out which one you should buy. For example, there is no reason to get a huge machine capable of sustaining a whole house for hours on end if you only want to use it to charge your electronic devices when camping out in the wilderness. If you need to use it to power your house because you live in an area where blackouts occur frequently, you may want to contact an electrician who will assess your household’s energy needs and recommend the right generator. If you decide to wing it and just go for a device that you think will do just fine, you’re running the risk of damaging the electronic appliances in your house.
Once you make the informed decision and buy a generator that is compatible with your house, you should hook it up, preferably using a transfer switch. It makes for one of the safest ways of using portable generators for backup power — it’s a tool that lets you manually control the flow of electricity to your house. To put it simply, a transfer switch is an intermediary between your house and the generator, allowing for isolating the device and your entire home from the grid. It prevents situations where the utility-supplied power is back on and fuels the house at the same time as the generator, which can lead to a fire.
Finally, you should always use heavy-duty extension cords with your portable generator, to avoid running the risk of melting cables if you’re using a high-wattage device.
Where to Put a Generator
When it comes to emergency electricity supply safety, the generator placement is nearly as important as knowing how to run it. If you put it at the wrong spot, you’re risking the breakdown of your device as well as damaging your house’s electrical setup at best, and your very own life at worst.
Before getting to where you should keep it, you need to know where you absolutely shouldn’t. One of the most prominent causes of death by carbon monoxide poisoning stems from using a generator indoors. Do not keep generators running in enclosed spaces. It will fill the room with carbon monoxide in a matter of minutes, and it might be too late to do anything at the moment you realize something is wrong. The risk is even higher if you have children — it takes around 30 minutes for an adult to succumb to carbon monoxide, and that’s in a large space. Children would not last nearly as long.
Some people put generators in their garages, and while it is not the ideal choice by any means, it can be safe, if done properly. First off, a garage does not count as “outdoor”, if its door is shut. The deadly carbon monoxide will still get into your living space, even if it takes a little while longer to do so. Run the generator in the garage as a last resort method only, with the door wide open and the exhaust facing the outside.
Pop-up sheds or canopy-like tents specifically designed to keep a generator dry at all times are by far the better option. They’re not too expensive, and some stores might offer you one at a discounted price with the purchase of your power-generating device. You can place it virtually anywhere outside of your house, in the back or front yard.
The Bottom Line
Generator safety is no joke. It can significantly reduce the number of people who unnecessarily lose their lives every year due to the lack of basic knowledge about carbon monoxide and wrong pieces of advice found on the internet. Don’t trust blog posts that advise you to put generators in dog sheds or wooden boxes — that’s a serious fire hazard.
Aside from knowing where to locate it, you should remember not to underestimate the importance of purchasing a portable generator that suits your household’s needs. Breaking your home’s electrical installation is not as bad as dying from CO poisoning, but it will mean having to face a huge repairs bill.