Winter storms have already begun to bury parts of the Northeast. This week alone, Buffalo, New York had already received about five and half feet of snow, with another two to three feet expected today.
Heavy snow, ice, and wind can wreak havoc on the power grid and leave homeowners without power for days. In Buffalo and surrounding areas, storm related outages have been affecting customers all week and at this writing, more than 1000 are without power.
Backup power for many homes is a portable generator purchased for other purposes: on the job, camping, tailgating, or outdoor events. Portables might be a viable alternative to standby units, but they need a little more TLC to keep them ready and running during an extended outage.
Get a Transfer Switch
A manual transfer switch is by far the best way to use a portable for emergency use. It allows the generator to connect directly to the home’s electrical system to power furnaces, refrigerators, pumps, and much more.
When engaged, the manual transfer switch isolates the generator power from the incoming utility lines. Important since you don’t want to endanger utility line workers or overload the generator. A dedicated cable connects the generator the transfer switch through an inlet box. This method protects the integrity of your home’s electrical wiring, safeguards the generator, and eliminates running multiple extension cords from the generator into the house.
Don’t wait until it is zero degrees and a power outage hits. Do your maintenance ahead of time. Your owner’s manual has the maintenance intervals. Count on changing the oil, air and oil filters, and the spark plug. Keep enough supplies on hand to keep your generator running through long outages.
Add fuel stabilizer to the fuel tank and run the generator for a few minutes to replace the fuel in the system with stabilized fuel.
This is a good time to rotate your fuel supply. Pour the gas from your stored fuel into the car and then fill up the gas cans with fresh fuel. Be sure to add fuel stabilizer according to the directions on the bottle.
Start your generator about once a month and let it run until it is warm. It’s not necessary to connect a load. Just start, let it run about five minutes until warm, and shut it down.
Electric start portable generator batteries often go long periods without use. It’s a good idea to hook up the battery charger once a month to top off the charge. Use the ‘trickle’ setting. A charger with an automatic shutoff is a good investment as it won’t overcharge the battery.
Check the battery date. Is it near time for replacement? Even if you haven’t used the generator much, batteries do age. The last thing you need is a battery that fails in the middle of a storm when you’re snowed in and need power now.
Clean terminals and make sure all connections are tight.
Know where you will place your generator ahead of time and keep that area clear of snow. Also shovel a path from the generator location to the inlet box. Connecting the generator will be so much easier if you plan for it in advance.
Place generators at least ten feet away from the house and never near an open window, vent, door, or other opening. Differences in air temperature can pull exhaust fumes through a small opening—such as that created by an extension cord through a window—and cause sickness or even death.
Never run a generator or any internal combustion engine within an enclosed space such as a garage or shed, or inside your home. Exhaust fumes contain carbon monoxide and can accumulate to deadly levels in just minutes. Always run generators out of doors.
Portables can be a lifesaver in a pinch, but they have their downsides. They need a constant supply of fresh fuel. In general they are loud and noisy. If you’re not home to start and connect it, they won’t run. Depending on the unit, the power quality may not be suitable for electronics.
Consider a permanently installed standby generator system. They run automatically, whether you are home or not. The natural gas or propane fuel supply can keep them running for days without refueling. They offer peace of mind whether you’re on vacation, at the store, or at home. You’ll never worry about the pipes freezing, the basement flooding, or the food spoiling in the refrigerator ever again. With utility-quality power, they can supply even the most sensitive of electronics.
Are your ready for the next winter storm power outage?