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Installing and Running a Generator

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If you've previously experienced a power outage, whether it's a problem with the utility company, a storm, or other natural disaster, you are well aware of the inconvenience of not having electricity. Having a generator can help you keep things going until main power is restored. Whether you have a permanently-installed generator or a portable one, it's important to know how to install and run it properly.


Installation of a generator will have to be handled by a professional. The company from which you purchase your generator will likely take care of its installation. Even if you have a portable generator, you'll need to have a special power line installed, through which the generator will supply power to your home.

Location of your generator

Your generator should be located outside in a level and well-ventilated spot, far from any flammable materials and with plenty of room around it. The exhaust port especially needs room to breathe. A permanent generator will need to be installed outside on a cement pad that will allow water to drain away from the generator.

Running a Generator

Fueling your generator

When fueling your generator, never fill the fuel tank to the brim. You should leave about an inch and a half of air space. Leaving space for air gives the gas room to expand and helps to prevent spillage. Every generator is different, so make sure you check your owner's manual for fueling details.

You should always have some extra fuel on hand in case it becomes necessary to use it. In the case of a hurricane or natural disaster, many gas stations will run out of fuel quickly trying to meet the demand of those needing to fuel their generators.

Exhaust port

It's important to pay close attention to the exhaust port. Close all doors and windows that are near the generator, and always point the exhaust away from your home. Once the generator is in place and fueled, you'll need to plug it in to the specialized generator outlet attached to the side of your home. Permanent generators will likely remain plugged in at all times.

TIP: Some portable generators have standard outlets on them. This is great for portable usage (e.g., while camping), but when used at home, it's best to plug the generator directly into the specialized generator outlet.

The transfer switch

The transfer switch will most likely be installed somewhere near your gas and electric meters. It safely accomplishes the transfer of power from the power lines to the generator.

The switch will have three positions:

  • Line


  • Off


  • Generator

Once your generator is up and running, turn the switch from "line," to "off," and then to "generator." This prevents the power from the generator from back feeding into the power grid. This could seriously harm a utility worker who is making repairs to the power lines. For this reason, you should never plug an electric generator into one of your home's outlets while it's in use.

Adam Mandelbaum  Posted by Adam Mandelbaum on January 7, 2013

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