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How to Use a Portable Home Generator

A home generator eases the inconvenience caused by power outages. Due to safety issues, it’s important to know how to use a home generator. You don’t want exhaust fumes to enter your home or cause damage to your electrical wiring or appliances.

The directions below apply to portable home generators. They differ from standby generators that are stationary outdoor units permanently connected to your home. A standby generator has a dedicated fuel supply, normally natural gas or propane. A licensed electrician integrates it with a building’s electrical system. When your grid power fails, the standby generator detects the loss of power and automatically turns on.

A portable home generator, on the other hand, needs to be manually connected to your home. You fuel it and turn it on to provide power when you need it. We outline the operation of these types of generators below.

Two Types of Portable Generator ConnectionsHow to Use a Portable Home Generator

A portable generator has electrical outlets on it that you plug extension cords into. For this reason, it can supply power without any kind of direct connection to your home’s internal wiring.

However, you have the option of installing a transfer switch for connecting a portable generator. You have an electrician install this equipment so that it’s ready when a power emergency happens. When needed, you connect the portable generator to the transfer switch. It then sends power into your home’s wiring.

Portable Generators

A portable generator is usually a small, emergency power source. This type of generator is perfect for powering small home appliances and lights if the power goes out. This generator can easily be moved from place to place and is great if power is lost during a harsh storm. These generators provide electricity by running a gas engine that must be manually started to generate electricity. The larger the portable generator, the more appliances can be plugged directly into the power outlets on the unit.

Important Safety Notes

  • Always shut off a generator and let it cool down before refueling.
  • Never connect a generator by an extension cord to an electrical outlet in your home.
  • If you have any questions, contact a licensed electrician.

How to Use a Home Generator Step by Step

For use with extension cords:

  1. Position your home generator 10 to 20 feet from your home’s exterior wall. You do not want exhaust fumes containing dangerous carbon monoxide to enter your home.
  2. Confirm that no flammable objects are near the generator.
  3. Check the oil on the generator. Add oil if it is low.
  4. Fill the generator’s tank with its proper fuel type, either gas or diesel.
  5. Make sure no extension cords are currently plugged into the generator.
  6. Set the fuel valve to ON.
  7. Pull out the choke.
  8. Ignite the generator with its start switch or by pulling the cord.
  9. Shift the choke to the RUN position.
  10. Let the generator run for 5 minutes.
  11. You can now plug in extension cords to connect to appliances and lamps.
  12. Consult your generator’s manual for guidance about choosing extension cords. Generally, you’ll need cords with three prongs and 10 or 12-gauge wire.

For use with a transfer switch:

The steps for how to use a home generator are somewhat different when you have a dedicated transfer switch.

  1. Position the generator away from your home’s wall but within reach of the exterior generator plug-in assembly.
  2. Shut OFF the MAIN power circuit on your home’s panel. This disconnects your home from the grid power supply. You need to do this to prevent safety problems or damage should the power come back on while your generator is running.
  3. Your panel will have a circuit for the generator. Switch this circuit to ON.
  4. Check the oil on your generator.
  5. Fill the fuel tank.
  6. Set its fuel valve to ON.
  7. Pull out the choke.
  8. Start the generator.
  9. Place the choke in the RUN position.
  10. Let it run for 5 minutes.
  11. Connect the generator cord to the special exterior generator plug on the house.
  12. Your home will now receive power through its electrical wiring.

Backup Power Generators Installed by Oliver

While portable generators are good in a pinch or for versatility of use, a professionally installed standby generator connected to your home provides the most seamless solution when the power goes out. It automatically turns on and keeps your home’s appliances and lights running like normal. If you live in the Delaware Valley, before doing anything that ties into the power of your home, consult with the pros at Oliver. Our licensed electricians can help you select the best home generator to meet your power needs. Contact us today for a backup generator estimate.

Need help with this project?

If you do not have the time, tools, or experience necessary to complete the project, please contact the professionals at Oliver for help.

Contact us today at 1-888-810-2681 Get a Free Estimate
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