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How to use a generator, generator safety and shopping

Posted at 6:10 PM, May 22, 2010
and last updated 2017-05-12 10:27:15-04

Powering Up Your Generator

  • Check fuel level.
  • If you must add fuel, be sure generator is cooled down.
  • Do not over fill.
  • Check oil level.
  • Check filter.
  • Check voltage selector to make sure it matches the type of application you are connecting to (CHOOSE BETWEEN '120-VOLTS AND 120-VOLT/240').
  • Move generator outside to well-ventilated area.
  • Place on a firm, level surface.
  • Connect a heavy duty, outdoor-rated power cord to generated, or connect appliances directly to generator to generator.
  • Turn generator's circuit breaker off.
  • Turn power switch on.
  • Pull cord.
  • Let generator warm up before turning circuit breaker back on.


Some generators operate on unleaded gasoline. Others use diesel fuel. Five gallons of gas will power a 5,600 watt generator for about eight hours. One gallon of gas will power a 3,000 watt generator for about 3 1/2 hours.

Additional supplies

You will also need multi-gallon, vented containers for storing gasoline (fill before storm comes), engine oil, an outdoors-rated extension cord and a carbon-monoxide detector.

Caring for your generator

  • Never over fill gas.
  • Don't use stale or contaminated gas.
  • Avoid getting dirt or water in the fuel tank.
  • Turn fuel valve off when transporting or storing generator. This keeps fuel from diluting engine oil and damaging engine.
  • Run generator at least once a month. This lubricates the engine, recharges the battery and lets fresh gas through the carburetor.
  • When storing a generator for more than two months, drain fuel and add fuel conditioner to top it off, following directions on the label.
  • Change oil regularly, according to your model's manual.
  • Change filter regularly. according to your model's manual.

Safety Tips

The risks (if you don't do it right): carbon-monoxide poisoning, electrocution, fire and explosion.

  • Never use wet hands to operate the generator. Never let water come in contact with the generator.
  • Never run your generator in a garage because the carbon-moxide exhaust is toxic. Find a well-ventilated space with some cover, but be sure the generator isn't positioned outside an open window. Use a battery-powered carbon monoxide detector. Always turn the engine off before refueling and let the generator cool.
  • Don't spill fuel. It can ignite.
  • Store fuel and generator in a ventilated area and away from natural gas water heaters. Vapors can escape from closed cans and tanks, then travel to the pilot light and ignite.
  • Never feed power from a portable generator into a wall outlet. This can kill linemen working to restore power. It also can damage your generator.
  • Don't use power cords that are frayed. This can cause a fire. Be sure all prongs are intact and that the cord is outdoor-rated. The cord's wattage or amps must not be smaller than the sum of the connected appliance loads.

Shopping Tips

  • Ask the dealer how many watts it will put out and for how long and how big a load it can handle.
  • You could spend around $350 for a 2,400 watts model, $600 for an industrial-strength model. A television uses 300 watts; a freezer, 330; a water heater 3,000.
  • Compare brands and models. Get manufacturer's toll-free numbers for technical questions.
  • Make sure you have the right cords and connectors or the generator will be useless. Consider an auxiliary fuel tank.
  • Don't fill fuel tanks until right before the storm. Stored fuel will grow stale and is unsafe in a hot garage.
  • Most starters use rope pulls. If your use a battery, make sure it's kept charged.
  • Buy now, not after the storm. You'll pay a lot less.

CHECKLIST: Power Outages

After the storm has passed, we may experience widespread power outages. 
For the safety of repair crews, power companies will not begin restoration efforts until wind speeds are under 35 miles per hour. Please be patient.
Power suppliers will provide service restoration updates to NewsChannel 5 to keep everyone informed of their progress. Call your power company to report power lines that are sparking or any obviously unsafe electrical equipment. Encourage everyone to stay away from these hazards.

Turn off circuit breakers before the power goes. Leave on one circuit breaker with a lamp on so you will know when the power has resumed.

Repair crews work to return power to the facilities that serve the largest number of affected customers first. Priorities are not established by where your home is located geographically, your payment history, or how often you call. Crews focus on facilities that provide essential service to your community, such as hospitals, police and fire stations, and television or radio stations. Once major repairs have been made, work begins to restore smaller groups and
individual customers.

Please read the instruction booklet that accompanies the generator that you’ve purchased. It will contain specific information for your make and model of generator.

Never operate the generator indoors, neither in the home nor in the garage or carport. During operation, always position the generator outdoors and away from any open windows, doors, intake vents, or air conditioning unit air handlers to prevent exhaust fumes from entering the home.

Once a storm has passed and you are going to use your generator, find a well vented space outdoors, and secure it with a chain and padlock to an immovable structure such as a tree, fence, railing or pillar. Many generators are stolen due to high demand.

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