We’ve all experienced a power outage and all of the inconveniences that go along with it. For some people, being without electricity for even an hour can actually be a health hazard. But if there’s a power outage from a natural disaster, storm or accident, a standby generator can be an invaluable energy source when you need it most.
Standby generators, also known as stationary generators, are designed to provide temporary power for appliances, lights and other essentials in a home. Most standby generators generate electricity by tapping into the natural gas line or using a whole-house propane tank. They will automatically come on and start providing electricity the moment the power goes out.
A standby generator can be a lifesaver during a power outage, but it can also be a danger if it isn’t used properly. Here’s some helpful advice from the experts on how to safely use a standby generator.
Safety Concerns Associated With Standby Generators
In general, standby generators are relatively safe. That said, they are still a complex piece of equipment that runs on gas and generates electricity. Because of this, there are four primary safety concerns associated with standby generators.
The biggest safety hazard to watch out for when using any kind of generator is carbon monoxide poisoning. Carbon monoxide is a toxic gas that is colorless and odorless. It’s produced any time gas is burned. If a person breathes in carbon monoxide it can be deadly. Carbon monoxide is also highly flammable and can create an explosion.
Any time you are dealing with equipment that produces electricity, electric shock is a possibility. Standby generators are built with weatherproof housing to safely operate out in the elements, but precautions should always be taken if it’s raining or the generator is wet.
Like electric shock, fire is another safety hazard related to electricity. As noted above, carbon monoxide from the natural gas supply can pose a serious fire risk.
The other serious concern with using standby generators is overloading the unit. Overloading is when you exceed the load capacity for the generator. It can completely fry your standby generator as well as the appliances and equipment that are plugged in. You can find load capacity information for a generator in the owners manual.
How to Safely Set Up a Standby Generator
The power has suddenly gone out, and now it’s time to put your standby generator to use. Setting up a standby generator may seem straightforward, but there’s a bit more to it than simply plugging in a piece of equipment. To ensure the safety of everyone in the home, have the standby generator professionally installed following all of the best practices below.
Read the Owner’s Manual
Safe standby generator setup and operation starts with the owner’s manual. Read through the manual before the first use. Pay careful attention to the voltage warnings, operation directions and recommendations for use.
Placement: Outside of the House Away from Vents, Windows and Doors
The standby generator should always be set up outside of the home on a concrete pad. NEVER run a standby or portable generator indoors. The goal is to keep fumes and carbon monoxide from getting inside where it can become deadly. For that reason, a standby generator should be installed at least 5 feet away from all doors, windows and vents.
Size It Right: Avoid Overloads and Inadequate Power Supply
Choosing the right size standby generator is very important. You want a generator that can supply enough electricity to power your entire house without overloading the system.
Before purchasing a generator, go through your home and add up the power requirements for all of the essential appliances, equipment and devices. Also include the wattage of all the lights you’ll want to use. To determine your power needs add up the watts for everything and divide it by volts to get the amps that are needed.
Watts ÷ Volts = Amps
Get a standby generator that produces more than the minimum amps needed. Generators are notorious for drawing excessive amounts of power when they are first turned on so make sure you allow for a bit of excess beyond your minimum needs.
Connection: Choose the Between Natural Gas Supply Lines and Propane Tanks
If you have natural gas at your home, then you can choose to either connect into the gas line or get a generator that runs on a whole-house propane tank. One advantage of a standby generator that connects into the natural gas line is you don’t have to worry about switching out propane tanks.
Power Cords: Keep Them Out of Water and Out of the Way
If the power was knocked out by a storm there may be puddles of rain on the ground. Make sure any power cords coming out of or going into the generator aren’t sitting on the ground where they may be in standing water.
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