A generator is a device that converts fuel into electrical power. Generators are sometimes used as an emergency backup during power outages to provide electricity for lights, heating and air conditioning units, refrigerators, televisions, and other appliances.
These days, generators come in many sizes and shapes with different features such as digital displays of wattage output levels. Some people think it’s simple enough to plug the generator into the wall outlet as they would with any other appliance or electronic device.
However, this can be dangerous because most homes don’t have outlets to handle significant loads from a generator.
In this blog post, we’ll show you how to use a generator during a power outage safely.
How to Use a Generator during a Power Outage
STEP 1: Determine the Amount of Power Required by Each Appliance You Wish to Power Up
The first step is to determine how much power your household appliances will require to operate properly.
Calculate the total wattage of all appliances plugged in simultaneously, and choose a generator that has an output wattage level capable of powering all appliances simultaneously.
STEP 2: Decide on Your Available Power Sources
Next, you have to decide which power outlets in your home are suitable for hooking up the generator. Most generators have one or two standard household outlets with a maximum output wattage level of about 1,500 watts.
These are usually the best way to supply electricity when hooking up your generator when you’re not using a transfer switch.
If you have an outdoor outlet, you can use an adapter to plug the generator into it. This will give you more outlets to choose from, but make sure the wattage rating of the adapter is higher than the total wattage of all your appliances.
STEP 3: Hook Up Your Generator
Once you’ve chosen the furniture, appliances, and power outlets you wish to use, it’s time to connect them using a heavy-duty extension cord.
Start by plugging the generator into one of the household outlets on your extension cord, then plug the appliance you want to use into the other end.
STEP 4: Start Up the Generator
Start up your generator and turn on the appliance.
Make sure you don’t overload the generator by plugging in too many appliances into a single outlet at a time, or you run the risk of tripping the circuit breaker.
If this happens, switch off all appliances and wait about 15 minutes before starting it up again.
STEP 5: Switch Off the Generator and Appliances
When the power outage is over, always make sure to unplug the generator from the wall and any appliances you’ve plugged into it.
Tips to Safely Use a Generator After a Power Outage
1. Disconnect Your Usual Source of Power
Turn off the main breaker in your home’s electrical panel and unplug appliances such as water heaters, air conditioners, or refrigerators if you can safely reach them.
Connect your generator to an automatic transfer switch for a safe connection. An automated transfer switch system will provide power to some outlets when your battery backup is disconnected and then will automatically switch over to the generator when your battery backup runs out of power.
2. Plug Appliances Directly Into the Generator
If you are not using an automatic transfer switch, you will need to plug each appliance directly into a generator outlet. Make sure that the wattage on the appliance does not exceed the wattage rating of the generator outlet.
For example, a generator outlet rated for 1,500 watts can safely power a 1,500-watt electric heater or a 900-watt television. Do not plug your refrigerator into the generator without first disconnecting it from your home’s primary electrical system.
Related: How inverter generator works
3. Take Care of Your Fuel
Do not use your generator indoors, even with the windows open. Exhaust fumes contain carbon monoxide, which can be deadly in small concentrations.
Only run generators outside and keep them away from open windows to inhale exhaust fumes.
4. Use a Transfer Switch
When using a generator, always use a transfer switch to prevent back-feeding electricity into the utility grid and creating a dangerous situation for utility workers.
A transfer switch will allow you to connect your generator to some of your home’s circuits while disconnecting the rest of the circuits. This will keep the power on in some parts of your home while the generator is running and prevent utility workers from getting electrocuted if they touch an energized wire.
5. Monitor Your Generator
Be sure to monitor your generator while it is running. Overloading a generator can damage the unit and create a fire hazard. Do not exceed the wattage rating of the generator, or you could damage the unit.
Frequently Asked Questions about Standby Generators
Will WIFI Work in The Generator with a Power Outage?
Some WIFI routers have a battery backup that will allow the router to stay on for a short period during a power outage.
However, most routers will not work if no power comes into the home. Suppose you need internet access during a power outage.
In that case, you can consider using a cellular data hotspot or an uninterruptible power supply (UPS), which will keep your computer running for a brief period if the power goes out.
Do You Have to Turn Off Your Main Breaker When Using a Generator?
Turning off the main breaker in your home’s electrical panel is best before connecting a generator. This will help avoid dangerous situations such as someone turning on an appliance you are currently using, causing the power back-feed into the utility lines.
Is It Safe to Back-feed Your House with a Generator?
It is generally not safe to back-feed your house with a generator.
You will need an automatic transfer switch, which will provide power to some outlets when your battery backup is disconnected, and then automatically switch to the generator when your battery backup runs out of power.
Does the Generator Have to Be Outside?
No, you can place your generator inside as long as it is adequately ventilated and kept safe from carbon monoxide poisoning. For safety reasons, it is best to run your generator outside so that you can monitor it while it’s running.
A generator can be a great source of backup power.
You will have to use an automatic transfer switch to keep the power on when the generator is running and make sure you turn off your main breaker when connecting the generator.
If possible, it is best to run your generator outside so that you can monitor it while it’s running. When using a generator, always follow safety precautions to avoid injuries or fires.
References and Citations:
Washington State Department of Health: Generator Use During a Power Outage https://doh.wa.gov/emergencies/be-prepared-be-safe/severe-weather-and-natural-disasters/power-outages/generator-use-during-power-outage