Portable Power Generators: Care, Use and Feeding for Emergencies


As we approach the annual storm season here in the United States, the specter of losing electrical utility service due to extreme weather conditions becomes all too real. In an emergency, portable electric generators offer lifesaving benefits when power outages affect your home or business. They can safely power important electrical equipment such as refrigerators, and lighting, and also heating and cooling equipment. There are also dedicated standby power generators that are quite a bit more expensive, but provide automatic operations with greater power capability. While typical portable power generators use some type of fossil fuel, solar power generators are quite viable and becoming more popular. We have had really good success working with solar powered generators manufactured by Sunrnr of Virginia, who can be reached at 540-271-3403.

However, portable generator use can also be very hazardous when done improperly. If your home or business emergency plan includes using an emergency power generator, it’s essential that you take precautions for your safety and the safety of utility workers trying to restore power. The most effective way to avoid portable generator mishaps is to make sure you fully understand how to properly operate the equipment, which also includes using common sense (saying this forces one to contemplate “if common sense were common, everyone would have some).

Safe Portable Generator Use

  1. Select a portable generator that will provide electrical power for the most critical appliances you’ll need during an emergency. These may include, buy are certainly not limited to: lights, furnace, power tools, portable heater, well water pump, fans, air conditioner, refrigerator/freezer, security system, television, computer, radio, etc.
  2. Select a type of fuel for the generator (e.g. diesel, natural gas (NG), liquid propane (LP), or gasoline) that is readily available, and can be safely stored in the quantity needed. Rural residents may find diesel easy to come by; suburban residents may have ready availability of liquid propane from gas grills; whereas urbanites may find gasoline and natural gas plentiful. Remember, the rules of supply and demand are particularly brutal during an emergency.
  3. Know how to use your generator before you have to use it under emergency conditions. Always read and follow the generator manufacturer’s operating instructions before running the generator. Maintain your generator according to the manufacturer’s maintenance schedule for peak performance and safety.
  4. Engines emit carbon monoxide which is a potentially lethal gas. Never use a generator inside your home, garage, crawl space, or other enclosed living or work area. Fatal fumes can build up, that neither a fan nor open doors and windows can provide enough fresh air to clear.
  5. Only use generators outdoors, away from open windows, vents, or doors. When operating keep the portable generator away from combustible materials, fuel and liquids.
  6. All fuels (diesel, propane, natural gas and gasoline) and their vapors are extremely flammable and explosive. Allow the generator engine to cool at least 2 minutes before refueling and always use fresh fuel. If you do not plan to use the generator in 30 days and you are using gasoline, don’t forget to stabilize the gas with fuel stabilizer.
  7. Only store fuels in safe, approved containers in secure locations away from living areas.
  8. Use a battery-powered carbon monoxide detector in the area where the generator will be operating.
  9. When using electrical extension cords, be sure they are heavy duty (e.g. 10/3ga or larger wire), properly grounded, and are rated for the application. Thicker copper wire conducts electricity more efficiently. Coiled cords plugged into electricity can get extremely hot.  Always uncoil cords and lay them in flat, open locations. Duct tape can be used to secure cords and position them so as not to be a trip hazard.
  10. Never plug the generator directly into your electrical circuit outlets. If you are connecting a generator into your home electrical system, have a qualified electrician install a Power Transfer Switch.
  11. Generators produce powerful electrical voltage.  Never operate generators under wet conditions and take all necessary precautions to prevent electrical shock. Take precautions to protect the generator from exposure to rain and snow.
  12. Do not store or stage emergency power generators and fuel where they can become flooded and rendered inoperable. A flood damaged generator, portable or stand-by, is worthless during a disaster!
  13. Don’t forget to secure your power generator and fuel from theft!



1 Scott French { 04.12.11 at 12:18 pm }

ICE PACK has another great preparedness presentation!
The need for just a small amount of power is seen daily around the world and here, to enable the self sustainable direction. Whether fossil fuel or alternative energy, every responsible home owner needs a plan to cope with the very real possilbity of losing electrical power to crucial appliances. Thank you Ice-Pack for another informative idea that supports and enables self sustainability.

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