Are You Prepared? Planning for Approaching Hurricanes

The active hurricane season began this month and FEMA and the U.S. Department of Homeland Security advise preparedness plans are essential to avoid being left in the dark should a hurricane or other natural disaster strike.

Essential to disaster preparedness is a generator to power a house, small business, farm, or ranch. Generators come in a variety of starting watts and running watts, so what should you consider when you need a solution to not only keep food cold and well or sump pumps running, but also keeping the home cool enough in hot-weather conditions. Air conditioning needs are critical for the very young, the elderly, and the sick.

A-iPower offers these tips for homeowners choosing a generator. 

Enough Power
Choose a generator with enough wattage output to power the appliances you’ll need in an emergency. Look for continuous running watts rather than surge wattage ratings when determining the correct generator to buy.

The more watts your generator has, the more items you can power at the same time. To know how much you will need, calculate all the wattage requirements of all the items you may need to operate in case of an emergency. Typically, wattage is listed on the device, on the back or on the bottom. If not, a simple formula for determining watts is multiplying volts x amps. The total will tell you the model of generator you need.

One thing to remember is some devices have starting wattage requirements that are larger than running watts, like the air-conditioner, which is the biggest power user. To calculate the minimum number of watts you need, use the starting watts of the air conditioner plus the running watts for all other devices. This is the minimum wattage you will need from a generator.

For example, let’s say you have a generator with 4,500 starting watts and 3,500 running watts. A 10,000 btu central air conditioner will take about 3,000 (depending on model) starting watts. After it has powered up, it will run at about 1,500 watts. That leaves you 2,000 watts to power other items. So, if you plan to run more items that will exceed 2,000 watts, you will need a larger generator.

It’s a good idea to give yourself some wiggle room on the total watts needed and go for a model the next size up. 

Run times
Check to see how long the run times are on a full tank of gas. The generator run time is found on the generator spec sheet and owner’s manual. Run time is determined at 50% load levels and the power used directly impacts the run time. The more power used, the shorter the run time and the sooner you will have to refuel. 

Sufficient electrical outlets
A portable generator should have enough receptacles for the devices a homeowner wants to run. Models that include a multi-outlet cord offer greater convenience. 

Always Be Safe
When using your generator, take time to observe the following important safety rules.

  • Always read and follow the manufacturer’s operating manual and instructions before running a generator.
  • NEVER run a generator inside the house or a garage. Running engines give off carbon monoxide fumes, which can be lethal. Keep the generator away from open windows, vents, and doors.
  • Never try to power the house wiring by plugging the generator into a wall outlet, a practice known as “backfeeding.” This is an extremely dangerous practice that presents an electrocution risk to utility workers and neighbors served by the same utility transformer. It also bypasses some of the built-in household protection devices. Either plug appliances directly into the generator with power cords that are in good condition or have an electrician install a certified transfer switch.
  • Be careful when refueling the portable generator. Shut it down and allow it to cool down between fills.
  • Do not operate the generator near combustible materials.
  • Don’t get the generator wet or you risk the possibility of electrocution. Running it in your garage is not safe either because the carbon monoxide fumes can seep into your house. There are products on the market that provides a tent-like cover on the machine, allowing you to safely run it and refuel it during wet weather.