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Buying a Generator to Power Your Florida Home? Here’s What to Consider Before the Storm Hits.

by BROOKE GOLD HASSON | May 13, 2016

GeneratorTipsThe only thing worse than riding out the storm at home? Riding out the storm without power… especially if it feels like 100 degrees outside. Yuck! Fortunately, there’s an easy solution – generators.

Too often, Florida homeowners wait until a storm is looming to purchase a generator, and grab the first one that looks up to the task. But there’s more to consider when selecting a generator to power up your home during a storm. Let’s take a look…

How to Choose a Generator

Determine How Much Power You Need

To determine the amount of power you need from a generator, add up the wattage of all appliances, equipment, and lighting you’d expect to use during a power outage.

Some common household appliances that you’ll likely want to power up include the refrigerator (725 watts), sump pump (750 to 1,500 watts), central air conditioner (5,000 watts), lights (60 to 600 watts), and computers (60 to 300 watts).

Note: Failure to accurately calculate your power needs may result in damage to the items you plug into the generator, and to the device itself.

Standby vs. Portable: Which Is Better?

Depending on your needs and budget, you have two options when it comes to selecting a generator – standby or portable. If you’re unsure about which type of generator will best meet your power needs, consider enlisting the help of an electrician.

Standby Generator

  • Permanently installed outside your home
  • Provides 24/7 blackout protection and turns on automatically when the power goes out
  • Runs on natural gas or propane and connects to existing gas lines
  • Can power critical and sophisticated appliances and systems in your home
  • Power: ~ 5,000 to 20,000 watts
  • Cost: $5,000 - $10,000

Portable Generator

  • Can be used anywhere on or off your property, but must be placed outside
  • Must be filled with gasoline every few hours – many gas stations will not be able to pump gas during a power outage, so you’ll need to store enough to last through the outage
  • Appliances need to be plugged in directly to the generator, or through heavy-duty outdoor-rated extension cords
  • Cannot power items that are hard-wired to the home, such as heating/cooling systems, security systems, etc.
  • Power: ~ 3,000 to 8,500 watts
  • Cost: $400 to $1,000

Why You Need A Power Transfer Switch

When the power goes out, a power transfer switch automatically turns on the generator, transferring electricity from the utility grid to the generator, and then turns it off when regular power is restored. It’s important to install a power transfer switch to prevent the risk of appliances frying, endangering utility workers, or damaging the generator. To make sure the installation is done safely, we recommend hiring an electrician to connect the power transfer switch.

Safety Considerations

Generators are lifesavers when it comes to maintaining a level of comfort at home during a power outage, but they come with a host of dangers if not handled with proper care. The most common dangers associated with generators are carbon monoxide (CO) poisoning, electrical shock or electrocution, and fire.

Read the Instructions

While no one likes to read instruction manuals, the best way to avoid mishaps when operating your generator is to read the instructions in their entirety. The manufacturer’s guidelines will show you how to correctly operate and maintain the generator, as well as what not to do.

Using a Portable Generator?

Keep It Outside. Place the generator away from your house, at a spot where it gets sufficient air circulation. If the generator is placed in your garage or carport or near your house, it may release carbon monoxide into your home.

Keep It Dry. Keep the generator under a canopy or tarp, where it will stay dry. Never place electrical cords near a mud puddle or water source. If you’re running an electrical cord from the generator to your house, make sure it has a clear path where it’s not going to get rained on.

Be Alert for Carbon Monoxide

Know the warning signs. Symptoms of carbon monoxide (CO) poisoning can be easily confused with those of the common cold or flu. If you’re running a generator and experience dizziness, nausea, shortness of breath, headache, fatigue, or faintness, go outside right away. Consult with a doctor following the incident.

Install a CO detector. To prevent the risk of carbon monoxide (CO) poisoning, install a battery-operated or plug-in CO detector, with a battery backup so it will continue working after the power goes out. Regularly test your CO detector to make sure it’s working properly.

Storing Fuel

Use the appropriate type of fuel for your generator and store it in a safety-approved can in a building separate from your house, such as a shed or detached garage. Fuel should be stored at room temperature and away from heat sources. If the container spills or is not completely sealed, vapors can escape and ignite.

Secure Your Generator

When a disaster hits, portable generators become an extremely popular item for thieves. Secure a chain from your generator to a nearby structure or tree to prevent it from being stolen from your yard.

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