How to Safely Use a Generator
Remember to carefully follow the owner’s manual for instructions specific to your generator.
You never know when a weather emergency will happen and cause you to lose power. Whether it be from ice, tornadoes, or hurricanes, you could potentially find yourself without power for days. When severe weather hits, a generator is very beneficial to have handy. When using gas-powered generators, here are a few things to keep in mind:
- Generators are only used when needed, so they are likely stored for months (or even years) without being touched. They should be properly maintained throughout the year to make sure they will work when they’re needed the most. Run it every couple of months up to operating temperature & with something plugged in to place a load on the electrical generator. This will exercise both main components of the unit while lubricating all parts and burning off any moisture or buildup from sitting. Do not keep gas in the tank. After a few months, gasoline becomes sticky and gummy. The degraded fuel will clog the carburetor and keep the generator from running.
- Do not use the generator indoors, in garages or other partially enclosed areas, or near the doors or windows of a home. When running, gasoline-powered generators release carbon monoxide through the exhaust. Carbon monoxide, which is an odorless, colorless gas, can quickly build up in enclosed and partially enclosed spaces leading to illness and death.
- Do not overload the generator to ensrure it protects appliances like power electronics, refrigerators and deep freezers. Select a generator with enough current and power ratings for the items you want to run during a power outage. Extension Information Sheet 1921, “Selecting Small Portable Electric Generators,” has more information about this. If you want to power computers, televisions or other electronics, be sure to use a surge protector.
As always, remember to carefully follow the owner’s manual for instructions specific to your generator. If you’re considering purchasing a portable generator for the first time, ask yourself these questions before buying:
- Is the generator large enough for your needs?
- Is the fuel type acceptable?
- Is the voltage correct for the equipment you want to power?
- Is the noise level acceptable?
- Can the generator be used safely at the location?
- Does the generator meet legal requirements where it will be used?
- Is the generator light enough to be easily moved around as needed?
Extension Information Sheet 1921, “Selecting Small Portable Electric Generators,” is a great resource for making sure you purchase the correct generator for your needs. Publication 2972, “Disaster Relief – Emergency Standby Electric Generators,” offers more advice and tips on ways to use larger generators when needed that can power central heating and cooling units, lights, and home appliances. Disaster preparedness is something many people don’t think about until after it’s too late. Consider creating a disaster go box for your family, and even create one for your pets, too! For more information about disaster preparedness, visit the Mississippi Emergency Management Agency
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