Unlike static generators that are permanently secured to the ground, portable generators offer mobility and ease of use for occasional or less-demanding applications. If you don’t often experience power outages, a portable generator’s cost-effective nature and ability to provide emergency power to key appliances make it a smart choice. Static generators will kick on automatically in a fixed location, so it’s crucial to be aware of how to use them properly.
Review our portable generator buying guide to find out more about how to choose a generator and how to use portable generators appropriately.
How to Choose a Portable Generator
When you want to know how to choose a generator, you can start by learning more about the main factors to consider when selecting a portable generator. It’s easy to buy a portable generator, but you’ll want to have a set of criteria to judge the best portable generators. For example, if you want a quiet generator, you might want to gear your search toward portable silent generators.
Keep in mind that most portable generators will be powered by gas or diesel. These fuel sources can provide the necessary power for supporting large appliances and home necessities. Usually, electric “generators” are more aptly described as power banks, which are only intended for small items such as a laptop, phone or fan.
To find the best portable generators for your needs, check out some of the main factors to think about when buying portable generators:
- Potential power applications: When you’re looking for a portable generator, it’s crucial to start by determining what you’ll need to power. If you only need to supply a few items with minimal energy requirements, you may want a generator with a lower power output. However, if you have many appliances and electronics you want to power, you’d be better off with a more powerful option. By listing what you need to power, you can make a better decision.
- Appliance power starting needs: Another major factor in evaluating a portable generator is the starting wattage required by appliances you plan to power. Because starting wattages can be two or three times higher than what’s required to run an appliance, it’s crucial to check the starting wattages of crucial appliances to ensure your potential portable generator can handle them.
- Overall power requirements: Alongside checking the starting wattage of your essential appliances, you can evaluate portable generators by checking if they can handle your overall power requirements. To calculate your general power needs, add up the running wattage of the items you plan to run simultaneously. Additionally, calculate the total of your highest starting wattages. Add these two calculations together to find out how much power your portable generator needs.
- Transportation ease: As you might expect, portable generators should be mobile. Check that any portable generator you’re thinking of buying is easy to transport. For gas and diesel generators, portability usually entails wheels. Ensure the wheels are tough enough to navigate rugged terrain consistently.
- Tank size: If you plan to use your generator for extended periods, you’ll want a portable generator you won’t need to refuel too often. Look into how long your generator will last on a single tank. If you only anticipate a few hours without power, a smaller tank will do just fine. If you need to support an RV on a camping trip or expect long outages, you may want something with a larger tank.
- Number of outlets: An additional feature you’ll need to check is the number of outlets a portable generator offers. Consider how many appliances you’ll want to power at one time and see if the portable generator you’re interested in has enough power outlets to handle your needs.
How to Use Portable Generators
Once you’ve selected a portable generator, you’ll want to know about the best practices of using it. The first thing you’ll want to do is check the owner’s manual to ensure you know how to use the portable generator safely. Alongside reading the owner’s manual, review some of the top tips for using portable generators below:
1. Place the Generator in a Safe Location
When you first set up your generator, ensure you place it at least 20 feet from your house. Never run it indoors or in any other enclosed space, as these generators will release carbon monoxide at a lethal level. Additionally, place the generator on a stable and flat surface and have the exhaust vents pointed away from doorways and windows.
2. Start the Generator
Once you’ve placed your portable generator in a safe location, check that it has a full gas tank and doesn’t have any cords plugged into it. Then, see if the generator can use propane, gasoline or diesel and add the right fuel to it. After adding the appropriate fuel, review your owner’s manual for how to start the generator properly. Ensure you have the generator’s breaker turned off when you start the generator and give the generator a few minutes to warm up before switching it back on.
3. Plug in Appliances and Devices
With the generator turned on, start by plugging in a heavy-duty exterior extension cord or multiple extension cords into the generator. Keep in mind these extension cords should have a grounding pin, be outdoor-rated and have a heavy-duty construction. You can run these extension cords through a door or window, connecting your generator to your indoor appliances.
Once you’ve connected your extension cord or cords to your generator, you can then plug in the devices and appliances you want to power to the cord. Remember to never connect your generator to a wall outlet, as the generator’s current could harm workers trying to fix a utility line.
4. Refuel the Generator
Eventually, your generator is going to run out of fuel. When you go to refuel your generator, first turn off any electronics or appliances connected to it. Next, let the generator run for a little longer before turning it off. Unplug your extension cords and turn the fuel switch off. Let the generator cool off and then refuel it.
5. Inspect the Generator
When your generator isn’t in use, you should regularly inspect your generator to ensure it’ll work appropriately when you need it. By inspecting your generator and maintaining it throughout the year, you can reduce the chances of parts breaking down and requiring major repairs. Some common inspection tips include:
- Looking for damaged or clogged fuel lines
- Cleaning or replacing dirty air filters
- Checking the spark plugs’ condition
- Ensuring your generator doesn’t have old fuel resting in its fuel tank for long periods
Turn to Prime Source for Your Portable Generator Repair Needs
Even when you inspect your generators regularly, they still require repairs from time to time. While you might know how to repair portable generators yourself, it’s often a good idea to turn to a company specializing in generator repairs. At Prime Source, our trained technicians can help identify issues in your portable generators and make the needed repairs to ensure you always have emergency power. Besides making repairs, we can also provide you with planned maintenance services to keep your portable generators in the best condition possible.