Electricity is something we use every day. But when a power outage occurs, a portable electric generator can keep lights, refrigerators, and other appliances running. More importantly. If someone in your home depends on electricity for medical needs, a portable generator can provide power in an emergency. Portable generators come in many sizes. If you’re thinking about buying a generator for back-up electricity here are some things you should know to select the right generator for your needs and operate it safely.
To purchase the right generator you need to add up the total power needed for the appliances you plan to run at any one time. This power is measured in Watts. The values can be found on name plates attached to the appliance or in your owners manual. This information may also be available online or by contacting the manufacturer. If power is not listed in watts, find the average in voltage ratings on the nameplate.
The power can then be estimated by multiplying the Amps and the Volts. For example. An appliance with an Ampere rating of 12 and a voltage rating of 120 will use about 1440 Watts in power. Some larger appliances such as refrigerators and air conditioners, require a brief surge of higher power to get them started. This can be an amount several times higher than their constant power draw. Look for a nameplate value for lock rotor amps or L.R.A. The L.R.A. usually does not last more than about ten seconds, but it can cause the generator to surge or trip off-line if it is too great for the generator to handle. If there is any doubt, contact the generator’s manufacturer to confirm the ability for the generator to provide start up power for larger appliances, or you can choose not to operate those appliances while running on generator power. Many manufactors label generators based on peak starting load, which is a higher rating than the generator is good for on a continuing basis.
Make sure the generator you choose matches the voltage ratings of the items you want to run. Most appliances are rated at 120 volts but some larger electric appliances, such as ovens, clothes dryers and air conditioners are rated at 240 volts. Portable generators may be rated at 120 volts only or a combination of 120 volts and 240 volts. The total electric load on your generator should never exceed the manufacturers rating. When using a portable generator, your life and the lives of others depends on its safe operation. It is extremely important to understand and follow the safety requirements for your generator. If not used correctly, a portable generator can be extremely dangerous. Some of the dangers include: carbon monoxide poisoning, fire and electrocution. Read all manufacturers instructions. Make sure you understand them and are able to follow them before you use your generator.
Good ventilation is important. Your generator should never be operated inside your home garage or other enclosed buildings. It should always be operated outside in a well ventilated dry location. Generators produce carbon monoxide, a colorless, oderless poisonous gas that can result in serious injuries and sometimes even death if levels become too high. The symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning are often described as flu-like and can be fatal to humans. Handle fuel carefully. Before re-fueling the generator, turn it off and let it cool. Gasoline that is vaporous can catch fire if it comes in contact with a spark or hot engine parts. Take care to wipe up any spills and store fuel in a properly designed container, in a safe location away from children. Use only UL listed extension cords of the proper size with your generator. The rating for each extension cord must exceed the total amperage ratings to support the appliances connected to it. Finally. Never backfeed your generator to a household outlet. It is critical to make sure your generator does not feed power back into SDG&E’s powerlines. Doing so is extremely dangerous and illegal under state law.
Connecting a generator in this manner could damage your appliances and seriously injure or kill you or an SDG&E worker who may working nearby. If you plan to permanently connect your generator to your home wiring, you are required to obtain a permit and inspection from the city or county where you live and to notify SDG&E.
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