Uncle Bobs Tips: Generator Guide

Portable Generators

Portable generators are used to provide power in places where there isn't any, such as construction sites or other remote locations.

Imagine being able to create a constant supply of electricity whenever you need it! Portable generators are used to provide power in places where there isn't any, such as construction sites or other remote locations. Many homeowners are investing in small output portable generators for recreational and other uses. Increasingly, portable generators are also being used to supply power to a home or business during a power outage, just like the larger standby generators. However, unlike standby generators, portable generators are designed to be used for only short periods of time, i.e. a few hours at a stretch. As a result, they tend to be much smaller and less expensive.

This versatility of portable generators is one of their many advantages. Portable generators provide comfort, safety and security to meet your power needs. However, a portable generator must be connected properly to protect electrical utility workers, family members and property. Improper connection of your portable generator could also void your homeowner's insurance.

The most economical way to supply power during a power outage is to use a portable generator of the appropriate wattage for your needs and run extension cords into the house to power chosen appliances. A safer system, however, is to have an electrician install a transfer switch, connected to the house's main electrical panel. A manual transfer switch is the key to safe operation of portable generators for emergency power. A transfer switch is installed at your breaker box. By connecting a portable generator to the transfer switch, you can run selected circuits for appliances such as a furnace, well pump, refrigerator, television, computer or lighting circuit during a power outage, depending on the capacity of your generator. By isolating those circuits using generator power, a transfer switch eliminates the risk of back feeding the electrical utility, which can cause injury to workers and property damage. Typically, portable generators over 2000 watts can be used to power microwave ovens, toaster ovens, and other 120V electrical cooking devices for meal preparation. Mastering the art of "Power Management" will allow you to discover that a small portable generator can safely provide power for many of the conveniences you count on everyday.

Generators made for the US market operate at one of two speeds: 1800 RPM or 3600 RPM. 1800 RPM motors last longer and run quieter; 3600 RPM motors are smaller and lighter. Portable generators are almost always 3600 RPM models to take advantage of the lower weight.

For portable generators, the most common choice for fuel is gasoline. However, gasoline cannot be stored for very long, so if you intend to keep a portable generator around for emergencies, you may want to consider propane instead. Whichever fuel you choose, make sure the fuel tank is large enough to give you an appropriate amount of generator running time. When purchasing your portable generator, look for a fuel indicator gauge that tells you how much gas is left in the tank.

Here are some safety tips for using portable generators:

Be sure to purchase the correct size generator for your needs and carefully follow all instructions regarding proper grounding and total electric load.

Ensure proper ventilation as generators produce carbon monoxide. Generators should only be operated outside in dry locations.

When using extension cords, use only UL-listed, three pronged extension cords. Keep them out of the way to avoid tripping and never run them under a carpet as this is a fire hazard.

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