Here we are right in the middle of hurricane season and we’ve certainly seen, between Tropical Storm Isiais and Hurricane Laura, that the season is going to be a challenging one. Among the most used items in any recovery and mitigation effort is a generator. While generators vary in size and electric production capacity, the safety protocols almost always remain the same. Let’s review them quickly but pay attention to them for the whole season.
Tip #1: Read the manual
“A generator is a generator is a generator,” right? Not necessarily. Generators from varying manufacturers can have different start up procedures and different requirements. The easiest and most challenge-preventing step you can take is to take your time to read the manual. Don’t just rush through it or give it a glance. Read it and understand it completely.
Tip #2: Never run it inside
Every generator gives off exhaust and most of them are loud beyond adequate description. Make sure to only run your generator outside and with the exhaust aimed away from any openings or intakes for your home. The fumes are both stinky and potentially poisonous for you to breath. Additionally, the exhaust can be very hot; sufficiently hot to ignite some flammable materials, so be sure to keep your generator well away from your house or such materials. The standard rule of safe distance is twenty feet.
Tip #3: If you’re not sure, don’t hook it up yourself
It might seem easy or simple, but if you connect your generator to your house incorrectly and don’t know how to manage your main circuit panel, it’s easy to overload breakers or create a feedback loop that can be quite dangerous. If you’re not sure what you’re doing – and we mean 100% sure – consult with a professional. A knowledgeable electrician can wire in a generator connection and show you, with clear direction, how to connect and manage the generator service.
Tip #4: Keep it sheltered
Water and electricity don’t mix. Keep your generator sheltered to prevent two things. First, you don’t want it getting rained on. It may not hurt the generator to get a little wet, but it should never be sitting in standing water or getting saturated. Second, storms often include blowing debris that can be large and heavy enough to cause damage, fuel leaks, disconnection and more. Keep the generator dry and protected (as much as possible) from blowing debris.
Tip #5: Don’t overuse it
Generators don’t have a cooling system and there is such a thing as overuse. Give your generator a regular break from running. One consultant suggested a one to two hour break every eight hours. Another consultant suggested a 10% break with the general rule of never running your generator for more than 12 hours at a time. Doing some simple math means giving the generator a 75 minute break after a 12 hour shift.
These tips might seem simple or “common sense,” but they are quite often overlooked, disregarded, or completely ignored. Many a generator enclosure is built right up against the wall of the home without regard to the materials, exhaust, heat build-up, etc. In an effort to keep the generator dry and protected, some people run them in their basements – never thinking about the exhaust, noise, etc. Read and heed these tips for the continued safe use of your generator. You’ll find most of them in the User Manual for your generator and since making sure you read the manual in its entirety is Tip # 1, you should have already known the other five!