During an outage, many individuals sometimes use a backup generator for electricity. While this standby power option is a handy one, an improperly-installed generator can be both destructive and dangerous.
The two most important steps to follow when using a generator are to: install it with a proper regulator so that it doesn't overpower or damage your appliances; and to isolate it so it can't feed electricity back into powerlines causing serious harm or death to a line crew working to get the power back on.
First of all, purchase a generator appropriate for how you'll be using it. (Keep in mind that you should never use a gas-powered generation inside your house or garage due to the danger of carbon monoxide poisoning.) The generator's output is rated in Watts, so to determine the size you'll need, start by totaling the wattage of the lights and appliances you'd like to power. Check the labels or owner's manuals for each appliance's rating. Then, add about 20 percent as a reserve to handle the increased start-up power requirements.
For example, if you want to power at least two fixtures on a general-lighting circuit (240 watts, when used sparingly), a sump pump (1500 watts), and a refrigerator (600 watts), you'll need a generator that can handle 2340 watts.
Installing a regulator will control the charging rate, but if you plan on operating sensitive equipment like televisions and computers from the generator, also use a surge protector.
To isolate your generator, plug the appliances you want to power directly into the generator with the appropriate-sized cords, and install a double-throw switch that disconnects your home from the Co-op's system.
Always follow the manufacturer's recommendations on how to use your generator.