10 Tips on Using a Generator

Tips on using a generator

Tip 1: Never operate a generator in or too close to your house

Every year, people die from running their generators in their garage or too close to their house. You can’t run your generator in your garage, even with the door open. And you can’t run it under your eaves either. Yes, it’s a pain to move it away from the house and run longer extension cords. And yes, you’ll have to stand in the rain to refill the unit. But it’s better than burying your family.

Tip 2: Never “backfeed” power into your home

The Internet is filled with articles explaining how to “backfeed” power into your house with a “dual male-ended” extension cord. But that’s horrible advice and you shouldn’t follow it. Backfeeding is illegal—and for good reason. It can (and does) kill family members, neighbors and power company linemen every year. If you really want to get rid of all those extension cords, pony up the few hundred bucks for a transfer switch. Then pay an electrician to install it. That’s the only safe alternative to multiple extension cords.

Tip 3: Let the generator cool down before refilling

Generator fuel tanks are always on top of the engine so they can “gravity-feed” petrol to the carburetor or E.F.I. That setup can quickly turn into a disaster if you spill petrol when refueling a hot generator. Think about it—if you spill fresh petrol onto a hot engine and it ignites, you’ve got about 6 more litres of petrol sitting right above the fire. Talk about an inferno! It’s no wonder generators (and owners) go up in flames every year from that little mistake. Spilling is especially easy if you refill at night without a flashlight. We know you can go without power for a measly 15 minutes, so cool your heels while the sucker cools down.

Tip 4: Pour safely

Similar to Tip number 3, never put petrol into a generator that is running.


Tip 5: Run it on a level surface

Many small generators have “splash” lubrication systems with crankshaft “dippers” that scoop up oil and splash it onto moving parts. That system works well if the unit is on level ground. But if you park the generator on a slope (usually more than 10 degrees), the dippers can’t reach all the oil, and some engine parts run dry. That’s a recipe for catastrophic failure. So always place your generator on a level surface. If you don’t have a level spot, make one. That advice holds true even if you have a E.F.I system.

Tip 6: Keep enough motor oil and filters on hand to get you through an extended outage

Most new generators need their first oil change after just 20 hours. After that, you’ll have to dump the old stuff and refill every 50 or 60 hours. During extended outages, you can easily run your generator long enough to need an oil change. Stock up on the oil you need before the storm hits.

Tip 7: Limit cord length to prevent appliance damage

Generators can be noisy, so most users park them as far away from the house/caravan as possible. That’s OK as long as you use a heavy-duty, 15 amp, outdoor-rated extension cord. But even that type of cord has its limits. Never exceed a total length of 20 metres. from the generator to the appliance. The voltage drop on longer runs can cause premature appliance motor and compressor burnout.

Tip 8: Prevent theft

The only thing worse than the rumbling sound of a petrol engine outside your bedroom window is the sound of silence after someone steals your expensive generator. Combine security and electrical safety by digging a hole and sinking a grounding rod and an eye hook in cement for house use generators. Invest in a good solid padlock and chain for your caravan. 

Tip 9: Running out of petrol can cost you

Some low-cost generators with economy voltage regulators will keep putting out power as the generator runs out of petrol. As the generator comes to a stop, the electrical load in your house/caravan can drain the residual magnetic “field” from the generator coils. Sure, it’ll start up once you refill it, but it won’t generate power. You’ll have to haul it into a repair shop and pay a pro to rezap the “field.” That can cost you. But good luck getting it serviced in the aftermath of a big storm. Instead, turn off the electrical load and shut down the generator before it runs out of fuel. Let it cool. Then refill it, restart it and connect the load.

Tip 10: Bad fuel can stop you in your tracks

Stale fuel is the No. 1 cause of starting problems on all petrol-powered small engines. Even with their E.F.I models, iTechworld recommends adding fuel stabilizer to the petrol to minimize fuel breakdown and varnish and gum buildup. But even that is no guarantee against future problems. So, iTechworld recommend emptying the fuel tank and running the carburetor/E.F.I dry (run the engine until it stalls).


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