Power of Preparedness
Back up electric generators can be a valuable part of your emergency preparedness plan whenever a power outage occurs. Power outages are common during disasters and are happening more frequently now due to Public Safety Power Shutoffs (PSPS). Power outages can last hours or several days. Having a portable backup generator can help turn the lights back on, keep appliances running, and power essential equipment and electronic devices.
Portable generators do not require permits unless you plan on wiring them directly into your electrical panel. This should only be done by a professional electrician.
Using Your Generator Safely
Be sure to use your generator correctly.
- DO NOT plug the generator into a wall outlet. NEVER try to power your house/business by plugging the generator into a wall outlet or the main electrical panel. This can be extremely dangerous for you, your neighbors and utility workers who may be working on power lines. Only a licensed electrician should connect a generator to a main electrical panel by installing the proper equipment according to local electrical codes.
- Position generators outdoors and well away from any structure. Running a generator inside any enclosed or partially enclosed structure can lead to dangerous and often fatal levels of carbon monoxide. Keep generators positioned outside and at least 15 feet away from open windows so exhaust does not enter your home/business or a neighboring home/business.
- Read all manufacturer instructions. Follow instructions to ensure your generator is grounded correctly. Be sure it is installed in an area that is not at risk of flooding.
- Keep the generator dry. Operate your generator on a dry surface under an open, canopy-like structure and make sure your hands are dry before touching the generator. Do not use the generator in rainy or wet conditions.
- Store fuel safely in a proper container. Store away from the reach of children or heat sources. Make sure you maintain an adequate supply.
- Plug equipment directly into the generator. Use heavy-duty, outdoor-rated extension cords that are in good working condition and have a wire gauge that can handle the electric load of any connected appliances.
- Test your generator Running your generator periodically and treating the fuel with an approved fuel stabilizer will ensure the fuel doesn’t degrade while stored and the generator will run properly when you need it the most.
- Turn off the generator for at least five minutes before fueling to avoid fires. Gasoline and its vapors can catch fire if they come in contact with an electric spark.
Selecting the Right Generator
Energy Needs – Calculate the “running wattage” needed to power the appliances you wish to operate. If you plan to run large appliances with motors, you’ll need a generator with a surge rating that meets or exceeds the higher “start-up wattage.”
Choose a generator rated for more power than you may need. Some appliances, particularly ones with motors (e.g. refrigerators), may use more power when they first start up. This is referred to as “start-up wattage.” Be aware of these energy loads, their startup or ‘in-rush’ power requirement, and the generator’s ability to meet these demands. This is best determined by an electrician.
NOTE: Always choose a generator that is "over sized" for your needs by 10-20% to ensure it is sized sufficiently enough. This helps compensate for "startup watts", which are double the "running watts". For critical medical devices, consult the manufacturer or medical equipment provider for generator recommendations.
** Hi wattage appliances can be used in rotation but not simultaneously. E.i. Unplug your refrigerator to use your microwave. When you are done, unplug the microwave and re-plug the refrigerator.