Rule Number One: Be ready now.
Get your generator now. Don’t wait until winter comes to buy a generator And for heaven’s sake, don’t wait until a killer storm is predicted. If you wait until outages are imminent, you will be forced to buy whatever is left in the store and it may not be the size or model that you need. Every year, when faced with imminent blizzards or hurricanes,
people make a mad dash to buy a generator. If you are one of those mad dashers, you may find that your choices are limited.
Rule Number Two: Do a dress rehearsal.
Don’t wait until the middle of a blizzard to figure out where you’re going to set it up and plug it in. Set up your generator now and do a trial run with it. Put a few appliances on it and see how well it powers up under a load. Decide which key appliances you are going to use and how you will connect them to the generator.
The first time we needed a generator was after a major ice storm in 1997. A good man from church lent us one of his industrial generators that he used in his construction business. We soon had it set it up in the middle of a huge icy storm. However, once we got it all set up, we discovered that we couldn’t run our furnace. While the furnace required 110v, the fan to disperse the hot air throughout the house used 220v. We had to figure out which outlets to use and which extension cords should go to which appliances. All this while battling the elements. This was a
major reason we decided to wire our house and run the generator through a double-throw switch at the junction box.
So decide now how and where you’re going to use your generator. Find a level spot, an out of the way corner of your detached garage or a safe place on the back patio. Assemble any extension cords that you will need. Make sure they are heavy gauge cords that can take the voltage that you will be using. Make sure that everything is ready to go when the power goes off.
Rule Number Three: Don’t fry your equipment.
When there’s a power outage, unplug everything. You don’t want huge surges going to your appliances as the generator is warming up and you don’t want a big draw on the generator before it’s warmed up.
So first unplug everything, then go out and start up the generator. Wait! If you have wired the generator to run through the junction box, first go throw the switch to disconnect from the power lines. Then start the generator. When the power does come back on, you don’t want your generator power surging back through the lines. This could damage the power company’s equipment and seriously injure
the repairmen working on the downed lines. After the generator has warmed up for a bit, go ahead and plug it into the junction box or plug in the extension cords that will go into your house.
Do not power electronics with a generator. The irregular power surges will damage electronic circuitry. Instead, use a solar-powered battery charger.
Rule Number Four: Get ready for next time.
Once the power is back and everything is up and running, it’s time to get ready for the next power outage. Change the oil, refill the tank, put some gas stabilizer in the tank and put it away. At least once a year you should take the generator out and run it. You want to check that there are no cracked or damaged hoses and that it will still run as needed. My brother-in-law who lives in Florida was so busy preparing for Hurricane Katrina that he didn’t
have time to do a trial run with the generator. Sure enough, when the power went out and he needed the generator, it wouldn’t run. After years of disuse, the engine had frozen.
So check the generator regularly to make sure it is running as expected. Also, check and/or replace the gas. This is especially important if your gasoline contains ethanol, as ethanol will condense, creating water in the lines. A better option is to store your generator with ethanol-free gasoline.
Speaking of gasoline: You’ll want to have plenty on hand if you are going to run your generator for long periods of time. Store the maximum amount of gasoline you can. Some insurance policies and city ordinances limit the amount of gasoline you can store. Remember, that if you run out of stored gasoline, there is always the gasoline in your car’s tank. That’s a good reason to keep your car’s gasoline topped up.
Gasoline generators emit toxic carbon monoxide fumes. Do not run the generator indoors or in an attached garage. Ever. Do not operate it near an open window as fumes may enter the house.
Hopefully, you will never need a generator. But if the chances are good that you will need one, you will rest easier knowing that you are prepared for a major power outage.