How to use your Generator in a Blackout – What you need to know before the power goes out!

How to use your Generator in a Blackout – What you need to know before the power goes out!

Posted by The Generator Guru Team on 8th Sep 2022

This is a Public Service Announcement from Generator Guru Parts and Spares.

They are reporting expected blackouts this winter everywhere! If you are planning to run a generator during these blackouts, here is what you need to know before the power goes out:

1) Be sure you have plenty of fuel in the tank and make sure the fuel is fresh.

2) Be sure to have backup fuel as pumps at fuel service stations need power and will not work during a blackout. As fuel is a fire hazard, be sure you store it in a cool place away from Residential and Commercial buildings.

3) Try running the generator and putting a small load on it to test it is running correctly. If you need Service Kits, Parts or Repair Advice we are always happy to help.

4) Be sure you have serviced the generator recently and check fuel is not dirty or rusty as this will damage your engine. Thick oil, rust particles from metal fuel tanks and old sludgy fuel residue in carbs cause the most problems for generator owners. See our Repair Videos on how to service your generator.

5. NEVER RUN YOUR GENERATOR INSIDE, IN A GARAGE OR WITHIN 20’ (6m) OF AN OCCUPIED BUILDING. You might keep the generator safe, but the carbon monoxide will kill you! Over 70% of carbon monoxide poisonings are due to generators being run indoors, in garages, or too close to the building. And.. don’t believe that pointing the muffler out the door will prevent this. Sooo many dead people have thought this! (see here for more info.)

If you have to run the Generator closer than 20 feet/ 6 meters to an occupied building, then be sure you have a battery-operated Carbon Monoxide detector to warn you of this odourless killer.

If you are worried about the security of your Generator, we suggest you lock the Generator to a tree, tall pole or vehicle, rather than risk death from Carbon Monoxide poisoning.

6) Do not plug your Generator into the home as Electricity Back-feed causes Fires and Explosions! When the grid electricity comes back on it will feed back into the Generator alternator. This will cause a fire in the alternator, which considering it is sat underneath a tank of fuel, is a very bad combination!

This can only be done if you have a professional Transfer Switch installed in your home to isolate the supply. If you do not have a transfer switch installed, you will need to plug in anything you want to run directly into the generator using extension cords. Do not use too long an extension cord, as for every 100 feet of extension cord used, 1kw of power will be lost. This can overload the generator, so be sure you take this into account when loading the generator, as the repair might be expensive!

7) Do not place Generators where they can get wet from rain, snow or rising water. Electricity and Water do not mix!! Keep portable Generators covered from rain and snow, but be sure not to restrict air flow as this creates a fire hazard and will damage your engine and alternator as they will overheat. Raise the generator on pallets to prevent rain splash and rising water or snow from entering your alternator. A wet alternator will not run and the particles in the water can damage the alternator windings. Ideally, do not run the portable Generator until any storm has passed, unless the situation is dire!

8) Always Earth/Ground your Generator before use. If there is a fault or water gets into the generator it could make the whole generator live with electricity. The metal components and frame conduct the electricity, effectively making the whole generator one big electricity connection between the generator voltage output and whatever it can find to ground the power. If someone were to touch the generator while it was live, and the generator is not earth grounded, the electricity will discharge through the person electrocuting them! Much like when you get hit by lightning, but in this case the electricity will keep flowing until the generator is turned off.

It is easy to ground the generator. On the front of all generator control panels there should be a grounding connection pin. You can identify it by a symbol that looks like an arrow pointing down with lines.

Using electrical wire, connect this grounding pin to a metal object that penetrates the ground (i.e. metal rod or piping that goes into the ground.) This will earth ground your generator.

9) Do not Overload your Generator! When plugging things in you need to add up the watts required by each electrical device you plug into the generator, as you can burn out the alternator parts if you run more than the maximum of the generator output. Every piece of electrical equipment will have a sticker on it, usually near to where the power cord enters, telling you the watts or amps. If in amps run the following mathematical equation to get the watts it requires:

Amps x Volts = Watts

(fyi.. 1000 watts = 1 kw for those of you with generators stating output in Kw.)

To keep your generator in tip top shape, it is ideal to only load the generator by 2/3 of the maximum output stated by the manufacturer. This allows for surges, especially when items with motors start up, such as fridges and freezers.

10) Keep an eye on the Voltmeter on the control panel. The voltmeter is an early warning to you when things go wrong in the alternator. If the voltage changes, turn off the Generator immediately to keep your equipment and everyone safe. Then see our Repair Advice about how to test and fix the issue.

11) Never fill the Generator when it is running! Fuel will spill, run down the generator, and if it touches the hot engine or alternator, will cause a fire or explosion!! Always turn off the generator before fuelling.

12) If you have a Gasoline Generator, you might be able to convert it to a tri fuel generator which can run on Gasoline, Natural Gas and LPG (Propane and Butane.) In many cases this can be cheaper to run as it allows for either direct feed of natural gas, or long-term storage of fuels that do not perish such as LPG bottles. LPG bottles also have the advantage that you effectively have a detachable fuel tank, making moving the generator much lighter. Visit our website to see if we have a kit for your generator.

13) Save money on fuel when running Fridges and Freezers. These do not need to be run 24/7, as they have insulation inside, and so long as you do not open the door for any length of time, Fridges can keep food fresh for up to 4 hours, and a freezer can last up to 24 hours. Therefore, you might be lucky enough to be able to keep your fridge/freezer cool by only plugging it into the generator for 1-3 hours when it starts to warm up.

You may also be able to extend this time by wrapping them in heavy blankets when not running or by keeping your fridge or freezer in a cool room. Be aware some fridges do no operate correctly below 56f (15c). This should be stated in the fridge or freezer manual and is obvious by the motor continuously running.

This is a Public Service Announcement from Generator Guru Parts and Spares.

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