Operating Your Backup Generator Safely This Winter

Bad weather and power outages are no fun, but it’s even worse in the winter. If a major storm comes through, you and your family could be left in the cold for hours or even days before power is restored. A backup generator can keep your fridge at the right temperature and allow your family to stay warm, no matter the temperature outside.

Is your backup generator ready to operate safely this winter? If it hasn’t been turned on recently, now is the time to do some maintenance to make sure it’s prepared, in case the power goes out.

Here are some tips to get your generator winter-ready.

Know How Your Backup Generator Works

If you’ve never used your generator, be sure to read through the manual, so you know how to operate it correctly. Make sure you know how it works, what each switch or button does, how to refuel and maintain it, and how to plug it in properly.

Fill the generator with fuel and try a test run. You never want the first time you use the generator to be when the power goes out. A trial run will help you work out the kinks, so if the time comes, you’re ready. You can also determine how much the generator can handle and what appliances are the most important.

Have a Plan for Your Backup Generator

If the power goes out when it’s dark, it may be harder to get to the generator. Map out your route to the generator, how you’ll get it plugged in and turned on. Know where your extension cords are to be sure you have compliant outdoor cables if needed.

Figure Out Your Fuel Needs

Every generator needs fuel to operate, but how much fuel will you need? It depends on your generator’s type and wattage, but most can take anywhere from 12 to 20 gallons per day if running 24/7.
It’s safe to store fuel, but keeping fuel for more than 30 days unused can cause it to go stale and potentially damage your generator. If you plan to store fuel, you may need fuel stabilizer to keep your fuel fresh for up to a year in storage.

Don’t Forget About Backup Generator Maintenance

Just like a car, generators need to be maintained to keep them running properly. This includes checking and changing the oil regularly. The timeframe will vary by manufacturer, but generally, the oil should be changed after 1,000 hours of use. Check the manual for oil specifications and keep some on hand.

Check the air filter, spark plug, and fuel filter based on maintenance guidelines in the manual. Run the generator at least once a month for about 20 minutes to recharge the battery and lubricate the parts. These simple maintenance items will ensure the generator will run whenever it’s needed.

Install a Transfer Switch

A transfer switch is installed at the exterior inlet box and is used to keep everyone safe. When the generator is in use, the transfer switch will turn off the power from the grid, reducing the risk of accidental shock to utility workers and preventing overload in your home’s wiring.

Beware of Carbon Monoxide

Carbon monoxide is a dangerous gas that is colorless and odorless. Never operate the generator indoors, including in a shed, porch, or garage. Instead, place the generator outside, far from any doors or windows.

For an extra layer of protection, consider purchasing carbon monoxide detectors. These can be plugged into any household outlet and detect small carbon monoxide levels, alerting you and your family to the danger of entering your home. You can also outfit your home with carbon monoxide detectors built into your smoke alarms.

Stay Safe This Winter

Be sure to observe the above precautions when running your backup generator this winter. Don’t let a bad situation turn deadly. Follow the safety guidelines for using your generator. Contact us at Deshaies Electrical Services if you have any questions about generator safety. We’re here to help!