Home Generator 101: How to Power your Home with a Generator?
Thursday, August 21, 2014 2:55:06 PM Australia/Sydney
Having a portable or stationary generator at home is practical for a number of uses, including restoring power during a power outage or even just saving on your energy bills.
Generators are simple to use if you arm yourself with information, but incorrectly used generators can be a serious risk to your health and your home. If you have been asking yourself how do you use a generator, then this post might provide some answers to your questions. Here are some tips on how to connect a gas generator to your home, how to maintain a generator and how to get the best use of out your generator in a variety of situations.
How to connect a generator
How you connect a generator largely depends on what kind of generator you have: portable or stationary. A stationary generator will likely need to be installed by a professional electrician, but once connected, it is easy to switch on and off. A portable generator can be connected by a layperson, but it does require some DIY know-how to get started, usually to do with electrical wiring.
Choosing between a portable and stationary generator largely depends on how much electricity you want to draw on from the generator. Go around and note down the wattage of items you would want to use, and then check that total wattage against what your chosen portable or stationary generators can produce. Stationary generators provide a lot more power, but are correspondingly more expensive.
If you simply want to run one or two essential items then you can simply use an extension cord from your portable generator outside. Whilst this option is not ideal as you can only use one or two items at a time, it is also the cheapest option as you do not need to make any changes to your breaker box. If instead you want to know how to connect a generator to your home mains network, you will need to a transfer system to redistribute power from the generator to the breaker panel.
A question that is often asked by those interested in how to use a generator to power home is which kind of wiring to use to connect your generator to your circuit panel. There are two options here: an interlock kit and a manual transfer switch. If you know very little about how to use a home generator, then it may be advisable to go for a manual transfer switch: they are more expensive, but they are also harder for a person how knows little about electrics to mess up. An interlock kit is often half as expensive, but you also can run the risk of back-feeding energy or overloading your generator if you make a mistake.
How to maintain generators and how to power a generator
One of the key factors in how to use a generator at home is to ensure you always keep your home generator in top condition. Generators do not require massive amounts of upkeep, but there are still a few tips you should follow if you are ensure how to use a gas generator. Firstly, although a generator should always be used outdoors, you should also keep it shielded from the elements to prolong its life. Ensure that when you purchase a generator, you also purchase a suitably sized cover or tarp.
Secondly, you should also turn off a generator and let it cool before refilling it. Thirdly, you should get your generator serviced at least twice a year: this involves refilling the distilled water in the battery, changing the oil, cleaning the spark plugs and fixing up any loose wires and other problem areas. If you do not know how to do that yourself, you should take your generator to the nearest garage or call out a mechanic to do the job for you.
Another important part of maintaining a generator is properly storing your generator fuel. Any fuel for your generator should be sorted in a dry place away from children or pets and away from any fire hazards. Fuel left inside a generator will also become useless after a few months, so ensure you drain your generator after use.
Different generators run on different kinds of fuel, like gas, diesel, bio-diesel and propane. Gasoline generators are by far the most common, and are also usually recommended by emergency and disaster preparedness groups because gasoline is more regularly available than other types of fuel and is therefore easier to source during a power outage. A gasoline generator, how to use and how to fuel, is therefore the easiest option.
How to use a generator to power your home during a blackout
If you want to use your generator as a backup for cases of emergency, then it is essential that you become familiar with how to use generator in lieu of your mains supply. Perhaps the most important piece of knowledge concerning how to use gas generators for home is that they should never ever be used inside, even if a room is well ventilated. A generator with the smallest of faults can easily produce lethal and odourless carbon monoxide gas, which can kill you before you even realise there is a issue. Otherwise, you should be able to use a generator during a blackout by simply plugging it in and switching on your transfer system.
How to power your home with a generator by peak shaving
Many people do not want to use a generator as a back-up power source but instead want to use it to cut their energy bills through a practice known as ‘peak shaving’. Energy companies often charge a premium for excess energy used during peak times (usually between 2-8PM during summer), so it is often cheaper to use a generator to provide some or all of your energy needs during peak times than to draw power from the grid. Peak shaving can be done in one of two ways.
First, you can simply manually turn on your generator on peak times, but this requires you to always be home to switch your generator on and off and the right times. Secondly, you can install a timed switched that will switch over your electricity supply during peak times. Such switches however tend to be expensive, and require a professional to come and install one near your transfer panel.
Overall, a generator is a great addition to your home because it can serve a variety of uses and be a lifesaver if disaster strikes. Consider your chosen generator carefully, and always have your set-up checked by a professional electrician.