Summer has many things that likely make you rejoice. More hours of daylight, budding flowers and hummingbirds zipping about the garden are all joyful things. However, with summer also come some pretty fierce storms as hot and cold fronts collide with one another. Those storms can knock out your power and put all the food in your freezer and refrigerator at risk, as well as leave you at the hands of soaring temperatures without a running air conditioner. Summer is known as "blackout season". Disasters impact about 500,000 people per day who lose power an average of two hours or more. Having backup power is a great solution to get you through unexpected blackouts. A generator is an excellent solution that can allow you to have at least some power during outages. However, there is a lot more to owning a generator than just purchasing it. You have to keep it prepped and ready for when those summer storms arrive.
Part of your generator usage preparation should include becoming familiar with the safety regulations that relate to your particular generator model. You should familiarize yourself with the capacity your generator is capable of. For example, if the generator is 5,000 watts, it can run your HVAC unit, your refrigerator, a sump pump and a few lights. You also should never use a generator inside an enclosed space, as carbon monoxide fumes can build up. The generator should not be used inside your home or an attached garage. Carbon monoxide is odorless and colorless and can be lethal.
Stocking Up & Getting Organized
There are some things you'll want to stock up on to prepare for summer storms. For example, do you have enough fuel to run your generator for at least 24 hours? It can often take power companies several days to get the power back on during devastating storms. As you prepare for summer power outages, take the time to get your garage organized and inventory essentials so you can find everything quickly when you most need it during a blackout. On top of that, some generators can be harmed if they run out of gas because of the drain that occurs when the generator stops but the house keeps trying to pull power. The generator coils will be damaged, and you'll have to pay for repairs. Keep in mind that old fuel can also damage motors, so you'll want to use and replenish your fuel supply every month or two. Do not try to refill a generator while it is running.
Call an Electrician
The safest thing is to have an electrician install a lockable open transition transfer switch. Plugging into a normal power outlet can actually send a backfeed out. This voltage is in the thousands and can cause injury or death to crew people or neighbors or damage neighbors' appliances. You can plug items into the generator's outlets safely, such as a refrigerator, through extension cords.
Ground Your Generator
The last thing you want is to suffer an accidental shock while trying to keep your family safe and comfortable. Be sure that you ground your generator to a rod. You can also use the rod to chain your generator up and prevent theft. The best thing to do is to dig a hole and sink the grounding rod into concrete. You can also add a metal anchor hook for a chain if you want to securely lock the generator.
A Few Additional Tips to Keep Your Generator Prepped & Running
To keep your generator running and in optimal working condition, you'll also want to do a few things from time to time:
- Start your generator at least once a month to be sure it starts easily.
- Check the oil levels and change as needed.
- When not in use, drain the fuel from the generator, but make sure you have enough on hand as mentioned above.
- Store all your extension cords in one place.
- Consider placing the generator about 100 feet from your house to reduce the noise you hear and purchase a longer extension cord.
- If you have to run the generator for several days, turn it off after a few hours and try to go without it while you sleep.
Making sure you're ready for the next storm is a fairly simple process. By following some basic safety tips and making sure you have the supplies you need on hand, you won't have to worry about food spoiling or not being able to prepare dinner for the family. Megan Wild is a home improvement author who enjoys spending her free time fixing up homes that are in need of a little TLC. When she's not investigating the latest energy-saving trends, you can find her tweeting @Megan_Wild.