This year spring storms have brought an unusual amount of flooding and wind damage to much of the country. The first weeks if summer portend a rough and rocky weather-related summer and fall. With storms comes power outages. Here are some tips to help you get and stay prepared for the inevitable.
Having a generator at the ready is a great place to start. For the purposes of this article we will classify generators into two groups. Portable and stationary.
Portable generators are typically smaller, as the name implies are portable and generally smaller. The benefits to this type of generator are obvious. They are small and can be deployed where needed. They can also be rather inexpensive. The downside is they don’t generate a great deal of power.
Large or stationary backup generators are considerably more expensive and require professional installation. They typically run off Natural Gas or Propane. They can be scaled to power your entire home or just key critical circuits. Additionally, they are on constant standby. The second the power goes out they kick in. Like any machine they require maintenance. If the maintenance isn’t done it won’t start when needed. Downside is the price.
Owning a generator does not mean you’re prepared. Quite the opposite is true. Here is what you need to have or do to be ready:
- GFI or GFCI’s (Ground Fault Circuit Interrupter) attached. I recommend good quality cords with 12/3 wire made to work in extreme temperatures. Length matters to. Have multiple length cords ready and avoid stringing then together or branching off multiple cords from one.
- Fuel, usually gasoline or propane. They can burn in excess of a gallon per hour so you should have the capacity to buy and transport at least ten gallons at a time.
- Always keep several containers of manufacturers recommended oil on hand.
- Ladies and Gentlemen start your engines. An equipment rental manager with over 30 years of experienced once gave me great advice that I will never forget. Start your generator once a month and run it for an hour.
- Keep it fresh and clean. I like to by all my small engine gasoline in the winter to avoid extra additives that can harm a small engine. I also buy 89 octane or higher and always use Stabil to help prevent the gas from going bad. Finally, change the oil once a year or after 48 hours of run time following manufacturers oil specifications.
Large or Stationary Generator:
- If you have power and your neighbors don’t, they will come calling. Hence, you may still need extension cords with GFI or GFCI’s (Ground Fault Circuit Interrupter) attached. I recommend good quality cords with 12/3 wire made to work in extreme temperatures. Length matters here to. Have multiple length cords ready and avoid stringing then together or branching off multiple cords from one.
- Large permanently installed generators need engine oil too. Many modern generators have “Low Oil Shut Off” sensors. Simply stated if the oil gets too low the generator shuts down. Always keep several containers of manufacturers recommended oil on hand.
- Many large generators are programmed to start and run through a test cycle. It’s the owner responsibility to make sure those test cycles are running correctly.
Location, location, location. Generators don’t work when they are under water. Whether installing a permanent or whole house generator or planning to deploy a portable model you must consider worse case scenarios. Depending on where in the country you live you should prepare for power outages caused by floods, fire, tornados or hurricanes to name just a few of the risks.
Nothing beats high ground. Locate your generator on the highest spot you can.
In summary, emergency conditions make it easy to lose sight of safety. Preparation can help you prevent a natural disaster from becoming a life altering (or ending) personal one.
Hope this helps. Good luck.
The Ask the Kitchen Guy Blog by Jeff Kida is the property of DDS Design Services, LLC. All rights are reserved by the owner