How to hook up a home power generator and stay alive doing it
As millions of people in New York and New Jersey areas are without power a home power generator is an excellent way to take away the fear of losing power. Here is how to get what you need, have it installed right, and then use it safely.
Step 1: Things You Will Need
CO Monitors First
Before you set about finding a home generator and an electrician to install the interface for it, be sure that you have an operating CO monitor on each level of your home. CO kills Americans each year and the two inexcusable ways this can happen are improperly uses gas grills and portable power generators. If you don’t already have one, you should get a CO monitor that has a digital readout and also stores the peak reading in memory. Kidde’s Nighthawk AC/DC model is one example that has these features. Be sure whatever model you choose has a battery back-up because for this application you must have that in order to stay safe.
CO is a tricky poison. It is odorless, has similar density to air, and it can kill both slowly and also quickly. Read and understand the instructions that come with your CO monitor. They will tell you that if the alarm goes off you should leave the house. Don’t ventilate, don’t look for the problem. Leave the house and then call 911. If you ventilate the home you will make it harder for the fire department to find the source of the problem. Stories abound of homeowners who ignored their CO monitor thinking it was a false alarm. This is not because they were dumb. It is because CO poisoning impairs one’s ability to reason. So don’t. Just leave and call 911.
Fire Extinguisher and Other Equipment
Also buy a fire extinguisher, outdoor lock, 6 foot bicycle lock cable, a funnel, a good quality 5 gallon or larger plastic gas container, a headlamp flashlight, a brown tarp and some bunji cords. The fire extinguisher is to put out the fire you (or someone else) will start if you pour gasoline into the power generator and it spills on the hot manifold. The outdoor lock and cable is to allow you to make it hard for someone to simply carry off your generator, and the brown tarp will keep the generator dry and ice free during the storm. Brown is better than blue because it calls less attention to your little gem. The headlamp flashlight allows you to see in the dark when you will start the generator after the power goes out. I’m betting you know why you need a funnel and gas container.
Step 2: Buy a home generator and an Interface
Many home owners think that when they get a generator they will need one that can handle every single appliance in the house all at one time. Not true. All you will need is one that can run the furnace, or other highest load item, plus the well pump (if you have one) and lights in a few rooms. I will tell you now that answer is less than 3000 watts of power. Most units use the number of watts in the model number. For example, the Honda EU3000iS. As you shop for your generator be sure that the interface you select will accept the plug in-connection from your generator. Ask questions of the personal selling you the interface. Once you know what you plan to buy- stop. Call the electrician you will use to install the interface and tell him (or her) the part numbers and ask that he verify the equipment is to code in your area and that he trusts it. Ask that he confirm you will have the plug ends you will need as well. Some electricians will create power cord for you to go between the generator and the hook up to the interface (which will be on an outside wall of your home). The plug ends may come as part of your generator or interface, or you may need to buy them, or a completed cord may come with it.
Your budget will include the Generator, interface and the cost of the electrician’s time. Tell the electrician you want the town electrical inspector to certify the installation. He should not charge more for this, but there may be a modest fee from the town inspection.
Step 3: Installation of a home generator
After you source your equipment the electrician and you will select a spot for the home generator to operate when needed. If you are lucky, you may find an easy solution. The author’s home had a porch with good ventilation under which the generator could sit waiting for a storm. He uses boards to slide the unit out away from the house before use. You may need to move your generator into place. Plan for that considering mud, ice and snow will be part of the fun. Get a generator with wheels if you will need to move it. The electrician will install the interface near your electrical main in the basement or wherever it is in the house. He will then run a line to the outside connection and mount the connection on the outside of the house for you. A cable will be created or may come with your equipment to connect the generator to the connection on the house outside wall.
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