Tips for choosing and using a generator – safely

Power failures are a familiar occurrence for many South Africans and now with the prospect of rolling blackouts again for the next few months, it’s no wonder that sales of portable generators are soaring.

Landlords, shopkeepers and home-owners are increasingly using them to keep the lights on and to power security systems, refrigerators, phones and other electronics when the electricity goes off.

However, notes Gerhard Kotzé, MD of the RealNet estate agency group, while having quick access to emergency power is really handy, the use of petrol and diesel-powered generators comes with a big responsibility to ensure that they don’t harm anyone in your home or neighbourhood.

Consequently, those who are setting out to buy a portable generator this week should follow these guidelines:

*Choose a generator with enough power for your needs. You will need to calculate the combined running wattage required by the various items you want to power and make sure your generator will deliver that total running wattage or slightly above. Then check out the starting wattages of your items, select the highest one, and pick a generator which delivers at least that starting wattage;

*Choose a generator with enough outlets for the items you want to power. Or look for one with a heavy-duty generator cord that has four outlets at the end, so you don’t have to worry about trying to manage several different extension cords;

*Choose a generator that has a long run-time before it needs to be refuelled and do yourself a favour by making sure it has a handle and wheels that make it easy to move around;

*When setting up your generator, choose a dry, well-ventilated area outside, away from any air intake into your shop or home – not a closed shed, garage or basement. It is very important to note that opening doors and windows or operating fans does not prevent deadly carbon-monoxide (CO) gas from building up in a room where a generator is running;

*Store the fuel for the generator in an appropriate container away from wood, plastic and other flammables – and away from the generator itself and any other possible ignition source such as a stove. Never use a candle or matches as a light-source to see if the generator needs more fuel;

*Test-operate the generator once a week for 15 minutes or so to ensure it will work when needed and keep it maintained and serviced – the oil and filters should be changed at least once a year; and

*Be considerate of your neighbours when running the generator, given that the noise associated with most of these machines is in the 90 to 95-decibel range.

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