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11 Tips for Portable Generator Care and Use

Bobbie O'Brien
WUSF Public Media

Electrical outages during recent hurricanes have many homeowners investing in portable generators which have become more affordable and available to consumers.

And while generating your own electricity can provide comfort and convenience in an emergency, it doesn’t come without potential dangers.

So, here are some general tips on the maintenance and operation of a portable generator as you prepare for the 2013 Hurricane season.

General Care of a Small Generator

  1. - Service it. At least once a year, make sure you start it and run it.
  2. - Tune it up, check and change the oil.
  3. - Don’t let your generator sit with fuel in the system.
  4. - If you do keep some fuel in the tank, you want to add some type of stabilizer to make sure the ethanol does not separate and damage some components in your carburetor.

 Setting Up a Small Generator

  1. DO find a level area, outside, that is well ventilated and protected from the elements.
  2. DO make sure to have an adequate supply of fuel and oil available.
  3. DO NOT use a generator inside a home, a garage or any enclosed space where deadly carbon monoxide gasses could build up.
  4. DO NOT connect your portable generator directly into your home circuits – your home’s wiring may not be able to handle the load and it can produce a dangerous “backfeed” of electricity into downed power lines.
  5. DO plug appliances and lights directly into the generator using a rated extension cord.
  6. DO NOT use an extension cord that is too long for the electrical load it’s carrying.
  7. DO use the shortest possible, rated extension cord for the appliance you’re going to run all the while keeping the generator outside.

As a safety precaution, when you lose electrical power and evacuate, you should turn your electrical breakers off – turn off the main breaker if possible - according to Steve Dosal, manager of Tampa Electric’s Energy Delivery, Safety and Environmental Training Department.
Also, make sure all electrical appliances like stoves, irons and the like are turned off to prevent hazards should the power come back on and you’re not at home.

Once power is restored, TECO suggests that customers turn on appliances one-by-one to prevent stressing the electrical system.


Bobbie O’Brien has been a Reporter/Producer at WUSF since 1991. She reports on general news topics in Florida and the Tampa Bay region.
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