Maintenance, safety for generators

Staying safe at home with a generator

JACKSONVILLE. Fla. – Many Floridians bought generators during or after previous hurricane seasons -- but if the generator has been sitting ever since, there are some important steps you need to follow to be sure you won't end up with a useless piece of equipment when a storm hits.

It is important to follow the manufacturer's instructions that came with your generator about how to connect, use, and maintain your generator, including how to ground it.

For a permanent, or hard-wired generator, you must have a qualified licensed electrician connect the generator to your home's wiring, and you need to have the wiring inspected by the local building department.

With portable generators, it is extremely important that they are operated outside homes and garages. They should be far enough away from living spaces that fumes will not be able to get into open doors or windows.

After every hurricane in recent years, several of the storm-related deaths have been due to carbon monoxide poisoning from improper use of portable generators.

If your portable generator has been in storage:

  • Check the oil and gas before starting.
  • Start the generator up once a month to keep it in working condition and to be certain the battery hasn't died.
  • At least once a year, clean the terminals and coat them with an anti-oxide grease to prevent corrosion.
  • Always use clean gas and be sure no rain water or storm debris from previous seaons is in the fuel.
  • Do not start the generator right after filling the tank if any gasoline has spilled onto the generator. Let the gas evaporate before starting.
  • Use only extension cords that can safely handle the load. Multiple extension cords are not advisable. Buy one that is long enough for the whole distance to the generator.
  • Let the generator run for several minutes before plugging in any appliance. For light loads, you can plug the appliance directly into the ground fault circuit interrupter receptacle. If you are using extension cords to run several appliances, plug them in at different times several minutes apart, never at the same time.