How to Use a Portable Generator

In an emergency, a portable generator can give you the energy to your home that you need, especially when the power source from the national grid goes out. You won’t necessarily need power to all of your appliances, but just to essential ones like TV, lighting, fridge, etc. Air conditioners, electric stoves and clothes dryers are among the appliances which use too much power to be given by a regular portable generator.

Will You Need an Electrician?

how to use a portable generator

How to use a portable generator

Plugging your generator into something called a transfer switch is the safest way to run it. this is a combination electrical and switch subpanel. It is wired right into the service panel of the house, and the generator gets plugged into it. When you turn on the switch, two things will happen. It will first disconnect the house from the outside grid. This will stop power from the generator from going outside the house where it can kill or injure a utility worker. Secondly, it sends power to just the circuits in the house which you’ve designated. In this way the generator can’t overload.

You will need a licensed electrician to install the transfer switch unless you are an experienced amateur, i.e. you’ve had mechanical and electrical training but do not have an electrician’s license.

Can’t I Just Plug the Generator into the Wall?

No, as this is known as backfeeding. It is extremely dangerous for several reasons. For one, if someone forgot how to throw the main circuit breaker to ensure the house is electrically isolated from the grid, electrical power could be sent past your home and out onto the grid by the generator. The electricity you are creating could kill or injure a utility worker who is trying to repair the grid which is down when that happens.

The Difference Between a Standby and Backup Generator

A permanently installed apparatus, a standby generator is a lot like a compressor for a central air conditioning system. The engine of this generator runs on propane or natural gas. A small, gas-engine generator, a backup generator wheels into position outside your house and then plugs into a transfer switch. It can also be connected to electrical loads with heavy-duty extension cords.

If It’s Snowing or Raining, Can I Use the Generator in the Garage with the Door Open?

Never run your generator inside the garage, inside a house, on a porch, under a carport, near an open window or inside a screened porch. The carbon monoxide from the exhaust of the generator, even with the gage door open, can make someone inside the house sick, or even worse.

Other Safety Tips

  • Have working CO and smoke detectors in your house when using a generator
  • Keep the generator ten feet or more from the house to lower the risk of CO and also the risk of the hot muffler of the generator melting vinyl siding
  • Do not ever fuel a generator while it is hot. Always let it cool down first
  • If you are in doubt about anything in regards to running your generator, make sure and speak with a licensed electrician for help.