Generator Care

How Can You Run a Generator During Hurricane Season? (Safety Tips)

If you live in an area that receives hurricanes at least once in a year like Florida, Texas, North and South Carolina, you must be prepared for a power outage. When this natural disaster hits, it’ll cause some power loss. It forces many to invest in generators, portable or standby, to give them reliable emergency power supply on such occasion. That might be the reason you’re searching for how to use a generator during a hurricane (safely).

Generators are power supply units that can do more harm than good during a hurricane if not used suitably. That’s why you need to get the generator ready for a hurricane storm, run it outdoors protected from the water, use heavy-duty extension cords, use a transfer switch or interlock device, and keep all the flammable items away from the generator.

Everything you need to run your generator during a hurricane is in this post. I have detailed the pointers I listed above so that you can easily follow them when the day comes. It’d be best to go through them if the meteorologist has predicted a hurricane in your area. These guidelines can save your life and help keep your family safe during a disaster.

How Can You Use a Generator Safely during a Hurricane?

Hurricane might be predictable, but its aftermath isn’t. You have to get yourself ready, with one step is knowing how to use a generator safely during a hurricane. It might seem easy, but getting prepared is the crucial part.

And as you well know, generators can be dangerous if not used right. It’d be best to read through the following tips to understand what you have to do to ensure you have safe power during a hurricane.

1) Get a Generator Perfect for Your Needs

When you’re out shopping for a backup generator to use during a hurricane, it’d be best to purchase a model that will provide you enough power to run all your essential appliances.

That is why you’ve to make a list of these essentials such as lamps, a refrigerator, heater, air conditioner, and any medical equipment that you and your family may need.

When the list is ready, start adding up their wattage to get the total wattage you will need from the generator. Remember, you might want to use all these appliances simultaneously – so, get the total starting and running watts for all the appliances you will use.

Multiply the total running watts by 1.5 to get the total wattage if you can’t find the starting power of the motor-driven appliances. What you get here is the minimum power you need from the generator.

Typically, portable generator power output comes in watts, while standby generator ratings come in kilowatts, equivalent to 1000 watts.

So, assuming your appliance’s power needs totaled 20,000 watts, you will need a generator that delivers over 20,000 running watts (20kW).

Typically, you can’t get the power from a portable generator – a standby generator is the best generator for you, which can deliver more than 20,000 watts.

If you’re uncertain about the totals, you can get a local licensed electrician to help you out. An expert can help avoid wasting your money buying a generator that is either too small or too powerful for your home.

2) Install a Transfer Switch

A transfer switch or an interlock device is a legal requirement if you install a permanent standby generator, mostly above 15kW of power.

It’s not a must when using a portable generator, but if you plan to hook up the generator to the primary service panel other than using extension cords, then you’ll need it.

With an automatic transfer switch or generator interlock device, you hook up your generator to your home power system without the risk of back-feeding it.

Back-feeding can cause damage to your appliances and your generator, not forgetting to land you in jail for electrocuting service personnel working on the line.

If planning of using a standby generator to see you through a hurricane, an automatic transfer switch can ensure you get power every time the utility power goes off.

It has a mechanism of starting the generator automatically. You don’t need to go out to start the generator.

But if you plan to use a generator interlock kit, you have to switch off the main utility line and backup generator line in the service panel manually and get out of the house to start your generator.

That’s why the interlock device works perfectly with a portable generator since you have to get out of the house to start the engine unless the generator has remote control start such as Westinghouse WGen7500 Portable Generator with Remote Electric Start.

3) Get High-Quality Extension Cords

If you plan on installing a transfer switch or interlock, there is no need to buy high-quality extensions for all your items. It means your generator will be connected directly to the control panel, and from there, your appliances will use the existing line for a safe power supply.

But if you will not be installing a generator transfer switch or the interlock device, you will need to connect your essentials through extension cords.

That requires you to connect every item directly to the generator using a separate extension cord.

The many extension cords you use will increase the risk of using a generator during the hurricane. That’s why it’s crucially important that you use heavy-duty extension cords rated for the outlets on the generator.

The extension cords must be in good shape, with no open joint, and you MUST never join two extension cords.

When making your purchase, make sure you buy extension cords long enough to run from the generator to the appliance.

Remember though, too long cables can reduce the amount of power reaching the load. Also, it can lead to overheating of the wires because of the high resistance produced by the long-distance the charges have to travel.

4) Find a Safe Outdoor Spot to Place Your Generator

The rule of thumb of using a generator at any time is, you MUST NEVER run it indoors or in an enclosed shed allowing accumulation of fumes.

Generators produce deadly toxic fumes of carbon dioxide that are odorless and undetectable by the eyes. Proper generator placement can ensure you avoid the dangers of breathing these fumes.

And with CO poisoning being a national concern during hurricanes, the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA), so it’d be best for homeowners to use a generator to install a carbon monoxide alarm on every floor of their home and outside all the sleeping areas.

It’s a MUST you run your generator outdoors, 5-feet from your house and away from the windows, doors, and intake vents.

DON’T be tempted to run the generator in your garage. It must be away from your house. Also, consider a dry, level, highly-ventilated spot that is secure and high-wind resistant.

Are you concerned about the generator getting wet? You can get a generator enclosure to protect it from rain and moisture during the hurricane.

5) Practice Safe Operation Techniques

If you’ll be using a standby generator, there isn’t much you can do to maintain the generator amid the hurricane. Most of these units have sufficient fuel supply to keep them running all night, even for few days.

But, if you will be using a portable generator, you will need to refuel it. And since the generator exterior gets dangerously hot quite fast, you will want to keep your hands, kids, and pets away from it. It’d be best to use protective gear.

Avoid starting or operating your generator with wet hands or standing on wet ground – find a dry area to work on.

Start the generator without any load plugged in. Hook the appliances when its engine is up and running. And remember to hook them one by one to avoid overloading the generator – some appliances need more starting power, which can overload it.

When the hurricane is over, and the main power supply is back on, unplug the appliances first and then turn off the generator.

Shutting down the generator engine with the appliances hooked up can lead to loss of residue magnetism that can cause starting problems next time you need the generator services.

Never refuel the generator when hot. It’s always best to wait until it cools down to add the fuel. If you refuel when the generator is hot, the highly flammable fumes from the fuel can catch fire from the hot engine or sparks from the exhaust if the engine is running. And before you know it, there is fire or explosion potential of causing damages, injuries, or even death.

Always store the fuel and other flammable substances away from the generator and in a cool, dry, and adequately ventilated area free of sparks and flames.

Do and Don’t When Using a Generator during a Hurricane

  • Use thick, heavy-duty extension cords only or use a transfer switch to avoid using the extension cords.
  • Start your generator before plugging in the appliances and plug them one at a time. If you’re using an interlock device, turn off the branch breakers, and turn them one at a time one the generator starts. It’d be best to wait for the appliances to start fully.
  • Place your generator on a dry, wet-proof spot, away from rain and floodwater. Protect it from moisture and run it on a dry surface with exceptional ventilation.
  • Do not touch the generator with wet hands or operate it with wet feet.
  • Avoid overloading your generator – determine the amount of power you need from the generator before connecting the appliances.
  • Never use an extension cord with cuts or tears. Also, make sure the cable has all the prongs or pins, including the ground pin.
  • nvest in a CO detector to protect you from accidental carbon dioxide poisoning.
  • Always follow the generator manufacturer’s operating, inspection, and maintenance instructions when using it.

Related Questions

How far should a generator be from the house?

Your generator should be placed 1.5 feet from the house and any walls and 5-feet away from any wall entrance, including doors, windows, and any vent inlets.

Do I need a permit to install a generator transfer switch?

Yes. With a transfer switch being a permanent device that you’re adding to an existing breaker box panel. You need a building permit and a licensed electrician to install it.

Using a Generator Safely During a Hurricane

With everything about hurricane meaning trouble, you can ensure your family stays safe by investing in a generator that supplies you with enough wattage for all your essentials. Don’t wait until the disaster hits to start your generator. Give it a trial to see if it works once the reports about a possible hurricane are released. When the day comes, use a transfer switch or separate extension cords to connect appliances to the generator. Run the generator outdoors and also make sure it’s away from rain, moisture, and floodwater.

About the author

Sharif Gen

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