Where were you when the lights went out? Hopefully, you were on your way to get the generator started. For dependable power when utilities fail, a power source for your recreational outing, or portable power at the job site, a generator is the tool you need. For peace of mind and maximum efficiency, make sure you choose the right one.
Choosing a Generator: Which Size Is Right?
Portable generators are available for power outages as well as campsite or jobsite use.
Permanently mounted stand-by generators provide automatic power when the regular power supply is interrupted. Powered by natural gas, they can power selected circuits within a few seconds of a power failure. These are wise investments for areas that may experience frequent power outages.
Depending on their wattage output, generators will run anything from a small lamp to a number of large appliances. To determine the size generator you will need, total the wattage of the maximum number of items you will be running simultaneously. For items with start up ratings higher than their run ratings, use the higher rating to determine your power requirements.
Inductive load appliances and tools such as refrigerators, washers, and power tools require additional wattage for starting the equipment. The initial load only lasts for a few seconds on startup but is very important when calculating your total wattage.
For example: running a 100 watt light bulb, a 200 watt slow cooker, a 1,200 watt refrigerator with a start up wattage of 2,900 watts and a 750 watt TV would require 3,950 watts.
Portable generators come with two kinds of engines
* Side valve (SV) lawn mower type engines are designed for short duty jobs.
* For long term or industrial applications, the overhead valve engine is the longest running engine available.
Generator Safety Tips
* Never exceed the rated capacity of a generator.
* Always start the largest electric appliance first, then plug in other items, one at a time.
* Grounding the generator is recommended to help prevent accidental electrical shock.
* Choose the appropriate extension cord for the tool or appliance. Larger gauge, three-wire/three prong cords should be used when using an appliance or tool at a considerable distance from the generator.
To avoid carbon monoxide (CO) poisoning:
* Never use a generator indoors or in attached garages.
* Only operate the generator outdoors in a well-ventilated, dry area, away from air intakes to the home, and protected from direct exposure to rain and snow, preferably under a canopy, open shed, or carport.
To avoid electrocution:
* Plug individual appliances into the generator using heavy duty, outdoor rated cords with a wire gauge adequate for the appliance load.
* Observe the generator manufacturer’s instructions for safe operation.
* Do not plug the generator into a wall outlet.
* If connecting the generator into the house wiring is necessary, have a qualified electrician hook up the standby electrical system, or have the local utility install a linking device if available. For more on installing such devices, visit the Consumer Product Safety Commission Web site.
Never store gasoline in the home. Gasoline, kerosene and other flammable liquids should be stored outside of living areas in properly labeled, non-glass safety containers. They should also not be stored in a garage if a fuel-burning appliance is in the garage. The vapor from gasoline can travel invisibly along the ground and be ignited by pilot lights or arcs caused by activating electric switches.