I’ve been meaning to write a short article on portable generators following the latest flooding in Calgary. I have not really had a lot of spare time but here I am sitting in the dark at home in Toronto following a tremendous storm. Looks like I have time now.
While it’s handy that my laptop has 75% battery and the cuckoo clock is working like a charm maybe a portable generator would be of some help. I suppose if I had a generator at my house I could set it up outside, run a cord in the house and plug in a few items for comfort or entertainment. It sounds simple but from the perspective of an ESA licensed electrical contractor, when I step back and look at the planning, some concerns emerge.
- Where will I store the generator?
- Where will I store the fuel safely?
- How much fuel should I store?
- Will I be able to test run the generator every 6 months to make sure that it will work when I need it?
- Where will I place the generator when I am ready to use it?
- Will it be safe to use in the pouring rain?
- The generator should be grounded. How will I accomplish that?
- Fumes from a generator produce higher levels of CO than a car. The generator needs to be placed at least 7 feet from the house and away from open windows. Battery powered CO sensors should be in use in the house to warn against high CO levels.
- Now that the generator is placed and running how will you secure it against theft?
- The generator needs to be turned off to be refuelled. Who will handle that job throughout the night?
I don’t really have adequate answers to all of these questions. I really just wanted to point out some of the pitfalls of a portable generator. Tonight we are managing with 5 battery powered emergency lights that can convert to flashlights and serve as a nightlight at other times. This is a fairly economical and modest solution.
If you really have a concern for a loss of power, perhaps a permanent backup generator installed by a licensed electrical contractor with an automatic transfer switch might truly be a better option.