Generator Preparedness Back »

Photo by Randy Medicine Bear [CC BY 2.0] via Flickr


For many homeowners a power outage may be viewed as just and inconvenience with some potential repair cost associated with it. But for a lot of livestock operations, a power outage has the potential to be a very costly event.

Purchasing a Generator

Although we are not able to control the weather, there are things we can do to be prepared when we are struck with a power outage. If you don’t have a generator but are thinking you would like to have one for when the power goes out, don’t wait till the power goes out to purchase one. When a major storm knocks out power across the region, local retailers will quickly sell out of any size generator in stock. If you do happen to beat your neighbors to the store during a power outage, the available choices may not completely meet your needs.

As you contemplate the purchase of a back-up generation system, the first consideration is how it will be connected to the equipment you want to operate. If you are willing to make-do during the power outage with a few portable lamps, and a microwave or electric skillet for cooking, a small portable generator could supply these loads with extension cords. If you are wanting to utilize the generator to provide household heating during a power outage, you will need to keep a few additional things in mind. In order to utilize your existing household heating system, you will need a licensed electrician to install the proper switches and connectors that allow a generator to be connected to a home electrical system. If you plan to use portable electric space heaters, you will need to find a properly sized extension cord in order for them to safely operate. They consume large amounts of power and if a portable electric space heater needs to be placed 50 to 75 feet away from the portable generator, the properly sized extension cord will likely cost more than the heater.

Preparation & Maintenance

If you already have a generator, one way we can be better prepared is by making sure our generators are ready to go. There are a few simple checks that can be made to help ensure you will not have additional problems when the power goes out. Doing some simple preventative maintenance would be a good place to start. Checking the air filter, making sure the battery is in good condition and charged, checking fluid levels, and assuring you have enough fuel available and that the fuel in the generator is in good condition would be a good place to start.

Something to keep in mind in regards to the oil in the generator is a lot of motor oils, in use today, have a limited life span. So even if the oil doesn’t have a lot of hours on it, you may still want to consider changing it if it has been a while. If you do decide to change the oil, make sure the oil you use will work with the fuel used to run the engine and for the air temperature range the engine will be operated in. If the incorrect oil is used, accelerated engine wear will result. If you are unsure what oil to use in your generator, consult your owner’s manual or contact your local generator dealer for assistance.

Startup & Load Simulation

Starting the generator up and simulating the load it would face during a power outage would be another good exercise to do in order to prepare for a power outage. This would help purge out numerous potential startup and operational issues. You may even want to consider simulating a power outage event. Especially if you have a standby generator setup. This will help ensure automatic startup systems, transfer switches and other generator system components will work as intended during a power outage event. Simulating a power outage would also be able to provide you with an understanding of what rate of fuel consumption to expect so that you can prepare for and monitor that for generator usage. If you want to simulate a power outage to test out your generator setup but are unaware of how to do so, contact your local electrician for assistance.

Safety Considerations

The most important thing to keep in mind for generators is generator safety. Of course, one should always read and follow the safety guidelines listed in the generator’s owner’s manual. There are a couple of things I would like to highlight in regards to generator safety though. First, one should be aware of where the exhaust fumes from the generator are being distributed. Exhaust fumes should always be distributed or ventilated to outdoors. Exhaust fumes contained to areas like an attached garage have a high potential to leach in to the house and have potentially deadly effects on the occupants. Secondly, when using a generator don’t attempt to use it to feed power to a household or building’s electrical system unless it has been setup to do so by a licensed electrician. Improperly feeding power to a building’s electrical system not only creates potentially deadly hazards to you and other occupants, it also has the potential to create a deadly hazard to the linemen working to restore power to your home or building.

The Bottom Line

Although this may be the season for power outages, it doesn’t need to be a stressful season because of it. A little time and effort put towards preparing for the use of your generator can greatly reduce this source of stress and sleepless nights.

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