How To Use a Portable Generator During a Power Outage

One good reason why you need a portable generator is to back up your power supply during a power outage. The rate at which natural disasters occur in the United States keeps increasing and each time a disaster occurs, it causes a power outage. It could be for a few hours or sometimes, for days.

Now, imagine how uncomfortable it can be for you when there’s a power failure. Your lights will go off, your refrigerator will stop working, and all your groceries may perish. Even your TV won’t work. The list is long. It is better imagined. Now, you can’t prevent a power outage from happening but you can find an alternative source of power for your house.

A portable generator is an answer. Once power fails, your generator will kick in. But do you know how to use a portable generator during a power outage? Don’t worry if you don’t. We have already explained the details right below. In addition, we have also answered some frequently asked questions. So, let’s get down to business.

What Is a Power Outage?

The term power outage simply means power has gone out. It is when the grid power supply to your house or office stops. It is also called power failure. There are several reasons why a power outage often occurs. When a natural disaster like a hurricane, typhoon, or earthquake occurs, it could destroy electric poles and other electrical installations.

When that happens, there may be a power failure. And sometimes, your power supply may decide to shut down the supply in the wake of a natural disaster for safety reasons. Whatever the case may be, it will take a few days or weeks for power to be restored.

In addition, the power supply company may deliberately cease supply just to fix a problem or to carry out maintenance checks. In this case, the outage may not exceed a few hours. Finally, a nearby electric pole may be knocked down by a vehicle accident. This may disrupt the power supply to your house.

It could take a few hours for the pole to be erected and power restored. Since you can’t rule out all these situations, it is better to get a portable generator. So, when a power outage occurs, you’ll switch to your generator.

How To Use a Portable Generator During a Power Outage?

There are two major methods to hook up your generator to your house and we’ll discuss both methods now.

First Method: With a Transfer Switch

Step 1 – Get an electrician to wire a transfer switch to your electrical panel.

Step 2 – Get an outdoor socket installed and wired appropriately.

Step 3 – When a power outage strikes, start your generator and plug the generator cord into the outdoor socket.

Step 4 – Switch off all your electrical appliances.

Step 5 – Go to your transfer switch and change the supply from the grid to the generator. Some transfer switches are automatic. They are used for a standby generator that starts automatically. Once such switches sense a power outage, they’ll switch the supply to the generator.

Step 6 – Now that your generator has supplied your house with power, you can start switching on all the electrical appliances that you want the generator to power.

And when power is restored…

Step 7 – Change the transfer switch back to the grid.

Step 8 – Stop the generator and remove the generator cord from the outdoor socket. 

Second Method: Without a Transfer Switch

This method is not safe and not recommended but it saves you the cost of a transfer switch.

Step 1 – Start your generator.

Step 2 – Plug one or two extension cords into the generator outlets.

Step 3 – Plug your appliances into the extension cords. Another major disadvantage of this method is that it does not support hardwired appliances like an air conditioner and a water pump.

And when power is restored…

Step 4 – Stop your generator.

Step 5 – Unplug the extension cords from the generator outlets.

Step 6 – Unplug all the appliances from the extension cords.

Regardless of your chosen method, it is always a good idea to fill up the tank of your generator before you start it. Allowing the unit to run out of fuel while working can have an adverse effect on its lifespan. Also, ensure you service it according to the manufacturer’s instructions.

Is It Safe to Use a Portable Electric Generator at Home During Power Failure?

Yes, it is safe to use a portable generator during a power failure. However, how you use it will guarantee its safety. So, here are a few tips on how to use a portable generator safely.

  1. Never store fuel close to a working generator. A generator radiates heat while working and it could ignite a fire if fuel is stored close to it.
  2. Your generator should be installed in an open place. As mentioned above, the device generates heat while working and it gives off fumes. Without proper ventilation, there could be overheating and the fumes may accumulate to an unacceptable level.
  3. Never allow your generator to run out of fuel while in use. It will continue to suck dirt when its tank is empty.
  4. Don’t refill the tank of your generator while it’s working.
  5. Ensure your home is wired by a qualified electrician because a lot of things can go wrong in this process.
  6. It’s always a good idea to use your generator with a transfer switch to prevent back-feeding.

How Often Should You Run a Generator During a Power Outage?

You can run your generator anytime there’s a power outage. After all, that’s why you purchased it. Once an outage occurs, your generator should kick in. However, its working duration is what matters. Some generators can work for 10, 12, 14 hours, or more. You need to follow the manufacturer’s instructions on that.

For instance, if the manual says that the generator should not work for more than 10 straight hours, you should turn it off after working for 10 hours. Allow it to rest for about 2 hours before you start it again. That way, you’ll lengthen its lifespan.

What Size of Generator Do I Need During a Power Outage?

The size of the generator does not really matter. What matters is the capacity of the generator. We believe that with a 3000-watt generator, you should be able to power your appliances. Nevertheless, it is not advisable to choose any generator. You need to list out all the devices you want to power with your generator.

Sum up all the wattages of all the appliances. This should give you an idea of the required capacity of your generator.

How Many Watts Do I Need During a Power Outage?

As explained above, you can’t just guess a figure. You have to sum up the wattage needed by each of your electrical appliances. That’s the way to go. You don’t want to buy a generator that can’t power all your devices. Generally, most homes use between 3000 and 15000 watts.

Final Words

To end this article, we’d like to state that it is very safe to use a portable generator, but you must apply the safety guidelines listed above and follow all the manufacturer’s instructions.