Use portable generators with caution
by Sharon Higa | June 7, 2022
My cousin’s next door neighbor uses some kind of generator to power his home, and the fumes combined with the low humming noise are enough to drive her crazy. While a portable generator is a handy source of backup power in the event of an extended outage caused by a storm, it should be used with caution and in accordance with the manufacturer’s specific instructions to avoid poisoning from the fumes and to prevent electric shock, electrocution and fire.
As hurricane season is around the corner, you may be considering a purchase of a small generator. Many hardware and big box retailers will carry a variety of brands in different wattages. Do some research and check consumer reports, ratings and reviews the same you would if buying a new appliance or a car.
While cost is important, most retailers will recommend at minimum you choose a quality generator with enough wattage output to power the appliances you’ll need in an emergency, has enough outlets for the devices, is simple to use, offers a long run time before refueling and is portable with wheels and handles.
After purchasing a generator, be sure to read the manual that comes with it and follow the instructions before attempting to use. I personally like manuals that have lots of pictures, easy-to-follow steps and simple, not-too-technical language. It’s even better if the instructions also are on the top or side of the generator in a large type size. If the manufacturer offers tech support, call or email to ask questions.
When the time comes that you need to use your generator, remember to:
- Place the equipment outside away from your home’s windows, doors and vents. And, be considerate of your neighbors, too!
- Set it on a dry surface where water can’t reach it or form a puddle underneath it and make sure your hands are dry before touching it.
- Use a heavy-duty, outdoor-rated extension cord to connect appliances to the generator.
- Check that the combined wattage of all the appliances powered by the generator doesn’t exceed its capacity or the capacity of the extension cord.
- Start and stop a generator only when no electric appliances, tools or lights are connected to it.
- Turn off and let the generator cool down before refueling.
- Store reserve fuel outside of your home and away from fuel-burning appliances.
Never plug a portable generator’s power into a household outlet! This is because electricity can backflow into utility lines endangering utility staff working to restore power in your neighborhood.
Sharon Higa is a senior communications consultant at Hawaiian Electric Company.