I can say from experience that using a portable generator is not a difficult task. In fact, the manufacturers have done their best to ensure that the operation and maintenance are as simple as they can get. I use portable generators for my small restaurants in the Caribbean and I can say that I have never had any major issues with them and I am not a tech geek and neither are my employees. All you need to do is to follow some basic ground rules and you will enjoy safe and reliable operation irrespective of how long the power outage lasts for.
You have to ensure that your portable power generator is in perfect running condition. Perform all cleaning and maintenance as required. Take your generator for inspection or for fixing by a professional if necessary.
Position your portable power generator outdoors where it is supposed to run. You should not use the generator indoors or inside a garage where the exhaust fumes and the considerable amount of heat produced can cause accidents. You can readily use an appropriate shelter for the generator when it is running outdoors to protect it from moisture, rain and snow. Consult the user’s manual or contact the manufacturer directly for advice on using an appropriate shelter.
Connect your portable generator to a grounding rod. This will work to prevent accidental electrocution. You can also use an appropriate metal chain to lock the device and protect it from thieves.
Stock enough fuel and oil in your home. You will see that in case of a power outage that lasts for a few days, you will consume fairly large amounts of these substances. You would not want to drive around town to get more fuel or oil in the middle of a rain storm or blizzard.
Fuel the portable generator when it is turned off and preferably when there are no appliances connected to it. You must not refuel the generator when it is hot. When the gas starts running low, you must turn the generator off and wait for the motor and all other parts to cool off. This normally takes no more than 15 minutes. Then refuel the device only after confirming that it is cool.
Use a gas can with a long spout and preferably with a fill port and trigger valve for safe and accurate fueling. Never fill the tank completely.
Connect all appliances to the generator safely considering their voltage and the instructions provided by the manufacturer. You can either plug an appliance directly into an outlet or use a heavy-duty extension cord which is weatherproof to get the power delivered to the appliances. I personally recommend the latter option. I would also advise you to get a longer extension cord so that you can keep the generator further away from your home and reduce the noise level inside to the very minimum. Just remember that it should not be longer than 100 feet for safety purposes.
Never connect your portable generator to the building’s wiring system. The so called back feeding is potentially dangerous and can result in appliance damage, bodily injury and even death.
Ensure that all connected appliances are turned off before you start the generator. Use the manufacturer’s instructions for starting it. If you use an electric start, check to confirm that the battery is fully charged. With a recoil start, you simply need to pull the recoil. Do it several times if necessary.
Check the wattage of the portable power generator and of all appliances that you want to power with it. Do the necessary calculations to make sure that you will not overload the system. My advice is to use appliances as needed and to avoid running too many together at the same time. For instance, you can power the fridge all the time and use the toaster and the coffee maker one after the other. This will not only help you save some fuel, but also prevent overloads effectively.
Check the voltmeter from time to time to confirm that the generator is operating effectively and safely. You should check the fuel gauge every couple of hours so that you can add fuel whenever it is necessary. It is important not to leave the device running without fuel.
You should not leave the portable power generator unattended. I recommend that you turn it off when you go to sleep unless you need to run an appliance for heating or cooling your house.
It is fine to leave fuel in the tank and keep adding fresh fuel during the time of the year when outages are common such as the hurricane season in the Caribbean. However, after this period is over, you need to drain all the fuel from the tank and from the carburetor to protect the latter from damage.
The oil of a portable generator needs to be changed after every 50 to 60 hours of use. Do this by following the manufacturer’s instructions.
A Final Word
Make the most out of your portable generator.