Using a generator is like using a double-edged sword. It can be a real lifesaver, when used properly, or a killer if you don’t know what you are doing. Here are a few reminders to keep in mind:
The Dos of Using a Generator
Do Let the Generator Cool Down Before Refueling
Generators are designed with fuel tanks sitting on top of the engine. This is done so the tanks can gravity-feed fuel to the carburetor. While this setup sounds more efficient and practical, it could spell disaster when you accidentally spill fuel on a burning hot generator. Think about it — if that fuel ignites, you have at least 30 liters or more sitting on top of the fire! So be careful when using a generator. If you’re filling up at night, use a flashlight to avoid spilling. And be patient! If the machine is hot, wait. After all, the world will not end if you don’t have power for 20 minutes!
Do Run Your Generator on a Level Surface
Generators, especially small ones, have lubrication systems that use crankshaft dippers. This type of system works well on flat ground. If you run your generator on a slope, the dippers can’t reach all the oil causing some parts of the generator to run dry. This leads to catastrophic failure and not so good consequences. So if you don’t have a level surface, make one. This tip also applies to generators that use pressurized lubrication systems.
Do Keep Extra Motor Oil and Filters on Hand
Nowadays, new generators need their first oil change after 24 hours of use. After that, you can refill every 60 hours. It’s wise to keep extra cans of motor oil as you can easily burn through you refill during extended blackouts. Do keep extra filters too. You’ll never know when they come handy.
Do Limit Your Cord Length
Generators are usually parked as far from the house as possible for safety reasons. But there’s a limit. Even high-grade, out-door rated cords can never exceed the length of 30 meters. More than that and you’ll risk voltage drops which can damage your appliances.
The Don’ts of Using a Generator
Don’t Run Your Generator Inside or Close to Your House
Do you know what carbon monoxide poisoning is? Good for you because you know what? Many people die from it every year. Generator manufacturers aren’t kidding when they told you to avoid using a generator in your garage or close to your house. Yes, it’s heavy to move and needs longer cords. But hey, your life is more precious right?
Don’t Backfeed Power into Your House
Search Google and you’ll find hundreds of articles teaching you how to backfeed power into your house. Don’t follow it. Why? First of all, backfeeding is illegal. And second, it can kill, has killed, and will kill people. So if you want to do away with that extension cord jungle of yours, your best option is to purchase a transfer switch and then hire an electrician to install it. Backfeeding is beyond your DIY powers.
Don’t Run Out of Fuel
This is especially true for low-cost generators that use cheap voltage regulators that keep on putting out power even after the generator ran out of fuel. As the generator halts, the electrical load in your house can drain the residual magnetic field that produces power in the generator’s coils. When this residual field reaches zero, your unit will not be able to generate power even though it’s running. Yes, you can have it repaired. But good luck doing that in a major storm. So our advice? Cut the electrical load and shutdown your generator before it dries up. Then wait for it to cool down, refill, restart and reconnect the load.
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