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Mistakes to Avoid When Using Portable Backup Generators

Portable generators are a more affordable alternative to home standby generators, and they’re perfect for avid campers who love to spend time outdoors while still maintaining some comforts from home.


But while portable generators are a great option for some, they’re definitely not equal to standby generators when it comes to how much of your home they can power, or when it comes to operational safety.

Here are some of the top mistakes to avoid when using a portable generator as a backup power source:


1. No Ventilation


Carbon monoxide, otherwise known as the silent killer, can occur when you run a portable generator without proper ventilation. A portable generator should never be running inside of your home and should be kept at least 10 feet, possibly even 25 feet, away from any open windows or doors.


2. Improper Maintenance


Just like any major appliance, portable generators require proper and regular maintenance. Routinely check the gas lines for leaks to prevent wasted fuel, or worse, a fire. Follow the manufacturer’s recommendations for oil changes and make sure to run the generator regularly to ensure it’s operating efficiently.


3. Using Without Surge Protectors and Arresters


Surge protectors prevent your appliances from becoming damaged during power surges. We recommend using surge protector strips for all of your electronic devices, even when using the main power supply. A surge arrester is a device that protects your home from power surges, which means your home will be protected from any surges caused by your backup generator.


4. Using Poor Quality Fuel


It’s tempting to opt for the cheapest fuel to save a few bucks, but this can actually damage your backup generator and end up costing more in the long run. If a backup generator sits idle for months, the old gas might go bad. Make sure you run your generator regularly to avoid this or drain the gas before using it if it hasn’t been used in a while.


5. Connecting to Service Panel


Connecting a portable generator directly to the service panel of your home can create a hazardous risk of an electrical fire. It’s possible for residual energy to actually travel up the line backward once the main power kicks back on. It’s safer for you and your neighbors if you have a licensed electrician install a manual transfer switch to use with your portable generator. This way, you’ll be changing the source of power for the home completely.


6. Fueling up While Generator is Hot


It’s important to never add fuel to a generator that hasn’t had time to cool off. Adding gas while the generator is still running, or if it’s off but still hot, can result in a fire. Always make sure the generator has been turned off for a while, giving it a chance to cool down, before adding fuel.


7. Not Properly Protecting Generator in Elements


You shouldn’t run your portable generator in wet weather without using a generator cover and ensuring it’s on level ground in a dry area. Water can cause damage electrocution when it makes its way into the inverter, outlets, or electrical panels.

Portable generators are a great way to temporarily maintain power during an outage or while camping and enjoy the outdoors, but it’s important to make sure you know the risks and how to protect yourself when operating them.

At Northside Power, generators are our only focus. Give us a call at 501-315-7213 if you’re interested in a portable or standby backup generator. We love to talk generators!