Uncle Bobs Tips

Portable Generators

Portable Generators

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Portable generators are a subcategory under the broad topic of generators. Portable generators are great for temporary use, such as black outs, or outdoor/remote use, such as outdoor parties, concerts or camping. These are divided into two categories: hand held and handcart. Small hand held generators can be used to jump a dead car battery, or, if connected with a cigarette-lighter adapter, run very low power appliances such as a laptop or cell phone. Handcart generators come in 1000 or 2000 watts. 1000 watts are good if you have only one or two small items to run at a time. 2000-watt generators are for running several appliances simultaneously. They run off of either a standard or inverter alternators.

The most important thing to consider when purchasing a portable generator is matched function and need. You have to check, double and even triple check that the portable generator you are looking at is suitable and capable for the workload you plan to employ it for. Calculate the amount of wattage necessary to run all the appliances that will be connected to the generator. All electric equipment will say somewhere on the product or handbook how much electricity it takes. The sum is the amount of juice your portable generator will need to run smoothly and safely. Note: If you are planning to alternate products, rather than using them all at once, you should calculate the highest amount of electricity that will be need at one time.

The initial start up for motorized equipment takes between four and five times the amount of energy that it does to run the appliance. For example, if you have something that runs at 200 watts, the machine will drain around 1000 watts at start up. Size of appliance doesn't determine how many watts it will use. The average refrigerator takes 700 watts to run, but an electric kettle can use anywhere from 1,000 to 5,000 watts. To save you a little bit, stagger the start up time for different appliances. If you're running a television, fridge and fan, plug in one at a time, waiting a little while between each one depending on the maximum or surge rating of the generator.

Safety

Carbon monoxide poisoning is a real and serious threat to generator owners. These machines produce CO, a toxic gas that is odorless and colorless. Even a 5.5kw generator can emit the amount of CO produced by six stationary cars according to this CDC study. Electric shock, electrocution, and fire are also possible hazards. Refueling should be done on cooled machines that are off only.

Never operate a generator in an enclosed area of any sort, even one with proper ventilation and large pockets of open space. Also, keep generators away from windows, doors and vents to ensure no CO escapes into your home or other structures. Severe wind can also blow CO into the home, so keep generators far from any openings or vents. The best home for your generator would be outside, on a solid (wood, stone, metal, concrete etc.) platform, under a wide canopy or awning, situated at least ten feet from any opening to the inside. It sounds like a tall order, but when it comes to the lives of you and your family, there are no extremes.

Use heavy-duty outdoor rated power cords with sufficient wire gauge to connect appliances. If plugging into your home's main power board is necessary there are three connections that must be made. The first is plugging the portable generator into a power inlet box(1). This acts as a weather tight connection to the manual transfer switch(2). From the transfer switch, power is channeled to selected circuits of the main distribution panel(3). That is where you decide which areas will go on the generator circuit. Portable generators should be connected to the electrical line by a double-pole, double throw transfer switch to prevent the power being reversed back into the power lines and causing severe injuries or fatalities to neighbors and utility workers "back feeding").

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