A portable generator solves your most immediate Isaias-related problem, an agonizing power outage that could last days in some parts of Connecticut, as long as you know what you’re doing.
Test your generator knowledge:
Q. Which creates more carbon monoxide, a portable generator or a car’s exhaust?
A. A single gas-powered generator can produce as much as 100 times more poisonous carbon monoxide than a car’s exhaust, according to the Centers for Disease Control & Prevention. Carbon monoxide, when inhaled, replaces oxygen in the blood. It deprives critical oxygen to the heart, brain and other vital organs. You can lose consciousness without minutes of exposure to carbon monoxide.
Q. What are some symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning?
A. If you’ve been near a generator and experience a headache, dizziness, upset stomach, vomiting, weakness, chest pain or confusion, get some fresh air immediately and get emergency medical treatment.
Q. To prevent carbon monoxide from entering your home, how far away should you position your generator?
A. Operating a portable generator safely requires positioning it at least 20 feet from your home. Close to half of the non-fatal carbon monoxide poisonings reported during the 2004-05 hurricane season were caused by generators placed within 7 feet of a home. Researchers from the National Institute of Standards and Technology found that even 15 feet wasn’t far enough to keep carbon monoxide from entering a home. A light wind or no wind increased the danger because it allows carbon monoxide to collect close to the house. Never use a generator in a garage or carport.
Q. I’ve heard about a little trick that lets you power your entire house by connecting your generator to an appliance outlet, such as a dryer outlet, so electricity flows backward into the house. Is that OK?
A. No! That is called backfeeding. It’s extremely dangerous. If the main breaker is not turned off, the power also backfeeds to the utility lines outside your house. It could potentially kill a utility technician working to restore power in your neighborhood. Backfeeding electricity also creates an unbalanced load, which is also dangerous. Never try to backfeed electricity.
Q. Can I power my 65-inch HDTV and desktop computer with my generator?
A. It’s not recommended because a conventional portable generator cannot replicate the “clean” power we get through utility lines. Here’s why: Portable generators are designed to produce 120 volts and a frequency of 60 hertz while running continuously at 3,600 revolutions per minute. But most cannot maintain 3,600 rpm, so the voltage and frequency also wavers. That’s not good for your sensitive electronic equipment. Instead, look for an inverter generator. It produces more stable current that starts as AC current before being converted to DC current by an alternator, then back to AC current.
Q. What’s the safest way to connect a generator?
A. If you want to power the refrigerator and a fan, connect them directly to the generator with an extension cord. Or ask you electrician to install a transfer switch near your service panel. Once installed, the transfer switch allows you to plug in your generator to an outside outlet leading to the service panel. You must flip the transfer switch at your service panel that switches the power-supply position from your utility-company electricity to your generator. You can then decide which circuits to power by turning various breakers on or off.
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