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Using Generators Following a Major Storm

In the wake of recent Hurricane Irma I thought this would be a good time to discuss portable backup generators. We are going to be talking about electricity and gas powered machines.

You must never operate a generator in an enclosed space. Generators produce carbon monoxide, which is tasteless, odorless and deadly. Sadly, in the wake of every storm, you see the inevitable news story about a family or person that has died because they didn’t operate a generator in a safe and proper manor. Next up, to state the obvious, electricity is dangerous. Electricity will not only kill you but it is going to hurt the entire time you are dying. I don’t mean to sound morbid, however, if you are unsure about anything you are going to read here, please consult with a professional to assist you with backup power following a storm.

So the storm has passed, the electricity is out and the question becomes now what do I do? Step one is to head to your home’s circuit breaker panel and turn off all the breakers. This is going to protect all the appliances and other devices in your home from power surges. When the power is interrupted from the grid, it comes back in bursts. These bursts or surges can fry computer boards, motors and air conditioning compressors. If you don’t have surge protection on your home, turning off the breakers is your best defense against loss of property. It is worth noting that you should wait an hour or so after power is restored to turn the breakers back on to ensure the power grid has stabilized.

Step two; after the generator is started the question is what are you going to be able to power-up? This ultimately depends on the size of the generator you have purchased. In terms of portable generators they typically range from 2,000 to 15,000 watts. There is going to be a little math involved here because the air conditioner and refrigerator both tell you how much power they use in terms of amps. This information is typically found on the manufacturer tags. The third factor is voltage. Air conditioning systems are always 240 volts while the refrigerator is 110 volts. The easiest way to know how many amps you are going to be able to generate is to plug your information into one of the many online calculators designed to do the conversions for you.

Step three; you are going to run a heavy gauge wire from the 240 volt port on the generator back and plug it into the receptacle for your clothes dryer. This is going to back feed the circuit breaker panel in your home. In this scenario you should, if you have purchased the correct sized generator, be able to run the air conditioner, refrigerator and a couple of outlets to keep phones and tablets charged. We are going to head back to the circuit breaker panel and bring just the air conditioner online first and by itself. Do not turn on any other breakers at this point. Allow the air conditioner to run for at least thirty minutes before turning on the breaker that powers the refrigerator. Again let the refrigerator run for thirty minutes or so and then turn on a breaker to power-up some outlets. When you need to fuel the generator or turn it off for any reason, shut off all the breakers off before shutting the generator down. When you are ready to re-start the generator, repeat the process with the circuit breakers to power everything back up.

I can’t emphasize this enough… if you are not comfortable with anything you’ve read, consult a professional to get you the backup power you need. On a final note, portable generators are not the only option if you want to have seamless power to your home all the time. Give us a call to discuss a whole home generator with a transfer switch.

Until your path leads you back in my direction my friends, let us all hope it is another ten years before we have to discuss hurricanes and backup generators again.

House Whisperer out!!


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