Generator Safety and Tips

Batten down the hatches! Residents of Florida, South Carolina and Alabama know their states are among the most frequent targets for hurricanes. Geology.com provides an overview of some of the largest U.S. hurricanes in this link. In 1969, Hurricane Camille slammed Alabama and the Gulf Coast with record winds clocked at an astounding 190 mph. Hurricane Andrew, another Category 5 storm, ravaged Florida in 1992 with winds nearing 170 mph. The South Carolina Hurricane in 1893 caused some 2,000 deaths.

When officials announce hurricane warnings, many consumers rush to their local hardware store to buy a home generator to provide backup power in case of an outage. A backup generator will enable families to keep their food fresh, their lights on, their telephones operational and their computers and televisions functioning.

Alabama, South Carolina and Florida residents who have experienced the wrath of a severe hurricane know it is a safe bet they will lose power – sometimes for days or weeks following the storm. Flooding, fallen trees and high winds can knock out power lines. Hurricanes can cause such widespread damage that it may take utility companies weeks to restore power.

Buying the right generator:

There are many highly-rated generators on the market. A small generator, such as the Honda EU3000is or the Yamaha EF3000ise, can operate power tools and an RV air conditioning unit, but will not be powerful enough to handle your home’s appliances. According to Consumersearch.com, a mid-sized unit, such as the Briggs & Stratton 30242, can run the power for a medium-sized home. Larger homes may need the strength of a substantial generator, for example the Kohler 12RESL. Ehow.com advises the price tag for a generator will range from $1,000 to as much as $4,000.

Safety tips to know before the storm:

There are numerous safety precautions consumers must follow when running a generator, both before and after the storm hits.

Keep the generator in an open space, preferably outdoors. Generators produce poisonous, potentially deadly carbon monoxide exhaust. From 1999 to 2011, 695 deaths occurred in the U.S. due to carbon monoxide exhaust from generators according to the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission.

Tips for safe usage:

Use heavy-duty cords adequate for large appliances and make sure the cords are in top condition. If the generator has a three-pronged outlet, then always use three-pronged cords.

  • Turn off appliances that are connected to the generator before starting the generator.
  • Move any flammable items away from the generator. The exhaust from the generator may ignite a fire.
  • Keep the generator away from moist areas, which could cause an electrical shock.
  • Do not overload the generator by trying to operate tools or appliances that exceed the limits of the generator. The manufacturer provides written recommendations for proper capacity limits.
  • Make sure the generator is adequately filled with fuel and oil before using it. Add a gasoline stabilizer if the gas has been sitting for more than 30 days. The stabilizer prevents sludge that can impair the generator’s performance.
  • If you are not comfortable setting up your generator, be sure to hire a licensed electrician to help.

 

When using the generator:

Turn on appliances one at a time. Pay attention to the generator wattage so you do not exceed the maximum level.

Only use appliances as needed to conserve your generator’s gasoline. Shut off your generator when you are not using appliances or electrical devices.

After the storm:

When the hurricane passes, you will want to make sure your generator is kept in proper condition.

  • Fill the fuel tank with gas and add stabilizer to keep the gasoline fresh.
  • Drain the sediment cup and the carburetor float bowl.
  • Check the oil and change it if necessary.

Although you may assume you know how to set up and run a generator, always read the owner’s manual. Never assume you can understand how to properly operate your generator without manufacturer help. Keep the manual in a safe place; secure it in a zip-lock bag to avoid water damage. Make sure you know how to access the online version in case you lose the printed manual.

A generator can be a major investment in your safety. By choosing the proper generator and with appropriate maintenance, you can be sure that if a storm knocks out your power, you are well prepared.

Please remember that the comments contained in this blog are general in nature and that coverage under any specific policy of insurance will depend upon the terms and conditions of such policy.