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How to Prevent Emergency Generators from Becoming a Danger

Having a reliable backup generator can be invaluable during a power outage. From powering a refrigerator, the lights, or heating or cooling during an emergency power outage, an emergency generator can be a real asset and provide many of the essentials that your family would otherwise be without during an outage. That said, generators shouldn’t be used haphazardly. If safety regulations aren’t followed, a generator can become more of a danger than an asset.

Determine what size generator you’ll need. The size of a generator will be based on the items you’d like to power during a power outage. For example, those in colder climates will want to power the furnace to keep the home warm and help prevent pipes from freezing and breaking. A well pump, refrigerator, freezer, and electrical in-home medical equipment should also be considerations. Keep in mind that the generator’s size and cost will increase with the more you need the generator to support.

Once you’ve figured out what size generator you need, you will have two main types of generators to choose from – portable or permanent standby. Understanding the workings and what’s required for each can help you determine which type best suits your need.

Depending on the specific size, a portable generator will allow you to have television, radio, lights, furnace, water well, and refrigerator and freezer powered. Generators can range from 1000-watt to 10,000 watt, with the average home needing at least a 5,000-watt generator. You may switch out the appliances, such as by momentarily disconnecting the refrigerator to operate the microwave, but make sure not to overload the equipment. You’ll plug your desired appliances directly into the portable generator using several heavy-duty grounded extension cords. This type of generator doesn’t need to be installed professionally, but it’s of vital importance that users follow strict safety practices. Never operate the generator inside the home, garage, or otherwise confined space; it must be used in a thoroughly ventilated area. Make sure to keep gas-powered portable generators away from open flames.

On the other hand, a licensed professional electrician should be used to install a permanent standby generator since it’s connected to the home’s wiring system, the installation should meet local building codes, and must be installed with several key safety features. Special equipment must be installed to prevent the generator from backfeeding into the electrical system within the home. Backfeed can result in a fire or equipment damage. It must have a transfer switch installed so that power crews won’t be in danger from live electrical currents if they need to make repairs to lines. You’ll also need to notify the power company when you install a permanent standby generator.

A generator will only be an asset to help you safely and comfortably make it through a crisis when it’s used appropriately. Otherwise, it can create more problems than it solves.