Portable Generators - What to Know

Portable generators are extremely handy devices since they provide electrical power in remote areas and during power outages. Portable generators are electrical devices that convert mechanical energy into electrical energy. While most portable generators are gas generators, there are some larger diesel generators, natural gas generators, and propane generators on the market.

How to Choose a Portable Generator

Choosing a portable generator depends on your particular electrical needs. That said, it might be a wise decision to spend more money and buy an electric generator with a longer running time and more voltage capacity. You should keep in mind though that a portable generator cannot offer the same amount of power that you may be accustomed to in your home. A portable generator can operate vital items such as appliances and lights for a few hours at a time.

Most homeowners would probably be interested in a 4000-6000 Watt portable generator. In general, these types of electric generators weigh about 100-300 pounds and have 3-4 feet dimensions. These portable generators hold about 6-8 gallons of gas and provide approximately 10-14 hours of runtime.

Safety Concerns

Carbon Monoxide Dangers

While portable generators are helpful devices, these power generators should only be used according to the manufacturer’s instructions. Portable generators do create a great deal of carbon monoxide as an exhaust. Thus, portable generators should only be used outdoors – away from windows, doors, and any vent openings. Battery operated carbon monoxide alarms should be installed in your home as a precaution.

Gasoline Storage and Use

All gasoline and other fuels should be stored in a shed or other building – and not in your home or garage. These fuels should also be properly labeled and be located away from any type of fuel burning appliance. You also should never add fuel to a gas generator when it is running. In fact, you should wait for the gas generator to cool down – at least ten minutes - before you add any additional fuel.

Electrical Concerns

A portable generator should never be plugged into a wall outlet. This situation results in electricity entering a home’s wiring system and into the local utility’s electrical system – which can in turn cause injury to any utility crews who may be working on that particular line. This practice can also damage your portable generator. Instead, you should plug appliances directly into the portable generator or utilize a heavy-duty outdoor electrical cord to connect the appliances to the generator.

You should ensure that the electrical cord has all three prongs - and that the cord is in good working order. In some cases, you will have to make use of a transfer switch, which allows the transfer of the power load to the portable generator from the household energy source – only licensed electricians should install this switch.

Also, gas generators should not be overloaded with electrical equipment – nor should gas generators run at full capacity for thirty minutes or more.

Protection From Elements

Portable generators should be protected from the elements that include rain, sleet, and snow. However, portable generators should never be enclosed – thus, a canopy-like cover is the best way to go in less than ideal conditions. Along similar lines, you should never touch power generators with wet hands.

Mechanical Upkeep

With regard to upkeep, the filters, oil, and spark plugs should be changed on the gas generators on a regular basis – according to the manufacturer’s directions.

All in all, although certain safety precautions must be adhered to when using portable generators, these pieces of equipment are extremely useful.

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