Portable generators are not only used during power outages, but also in rural locations that are not served by the electrical power grid, and at urban sites where connections to the grid are simply not available. When used by fire departments and emergency rescue personnel, portable generators can mean the difference between life and death.
Portable Generators: Cautionary Advice
Portable generators are powered by gasoline or other hydrocarbon fuels. As such, certain precautions should be observed when using them. Chief among these is the prevention of carbon monoxide (CO) build-up. This odorless gas is a product of internal combustion engines and is poisonous to humans and animals. Under no circumstances should a portable generator be operated in an area without sufficient ventilation.
It's a good idea to have a battery-operated CO detector installed in the home when operating a portable generator. There are other dangers associated with the use of a portable generator such as fire and electrocution. It's an unfortunate fact that each year, people are killed in accidents related to the use of a portable generator.
Selecting a Portable Generator
There are a range of available sizes and power ratings for portable generators. If possible, estimate the total wattage of the lighting, appliances and equipment that the generator is expected to power, then purchase a generator with a power rating higher than that. If more power ends up being drawn than the generator is able to supply, both the generator and the equipment risk being damaged.
Using a Portable Generator
When using a generator to power household appliances, plug them directly into the generator. A mistake people sometimes make during power outages is to attempt to power the wiring of their homes by plugging their generator into a wall outlet. This is known as backfeeding and can result in the re-energizing of downed power lines as well as endangering lives of repairmen miles away. Also, when the power company re-establishes electrical power, the surge can easily damage the generator or even start a fire.
If you intend to use a portable generator in emergency situations, a licensed electrician can install a Power Transfer Switch that will confine the power produced by your generator to your home.
In an emergency situation, you'll be patting yourself on the back for purchasing a portable generator. You'll also find that they come in handy for recreational use as well. Whether you're camping in a wilderness area or lighting up a beach volleyball game, a portable generator can give you the power to make it happen.