4 Portable Generator Rules for Emergencies

If you have a portable generator you plan on using as your home’s emergency power backup, there are a few practical things you should know. Living in the Waukegan, IL area means that we get our fair share of thunderstorms. For many, a portable generator is a cost-effective backup option for their home. Beyond the obvious needs of keeping fuel available and maintaining the generator, our team of electricians at Hucker Electric have put together these four tips to ensure your home’s electrical systems are ready.


Yellow Portable Generator Icon

1. Install permanent wiring to allow a portable generator to power portions of your home.

That’s right – even if you have a small generator, you can keep parts of your home powered during an electrical outage by installing the permanent wiring for it. Most portable generators do not produce enough power for the average home. However, if there are parts of your home that need power maintained during an emergency, your little generator could be just the ticket. Some areas we recommend keeping power are:

  • The utility room: If you want to keep using your toilets and showers during an outage, keep power running to your plumbing.
  • Your kitchen: One of the worst parts of an outage is the risk of food spoiling. Keep your refrigerator running if possible.
  • Extra freezers: Many of us keep chest freezers to stock extra food or wild game. Protect your perishable investments by ensuring your freezers do not lose power.

Things to avoid using while running your portable generator include: hairdryers, laundry machines, dishwashers, food disposals, and anything else not necessary during a brief power outage.

How To Power Your Refrigerator With A Generator

Your refrigerator is often times the most important thing to keep running during a power outage. During a blackout, food that is kept inside a refrigerator is more prone to go bad than food kept inside a freezer. This is because it will take longer for the freezer's temperature to decrease. For this reason, many homeowners want to make sure that their refrigerators are powered with a generator. However, it is very important to check the wattage output for your generator, to ensure that it will be able to power your refrigerator without potentially blowing a fuse due to overload. Some other things to keep in mind when powering your refrigerator or any other appliances during a blackout are grounding and transfer switches - we will go over both of these further into the article.

2. You may need to ground your portable generator for safety.

Many people forget this, but just because the generator is small, it does not mean that it’s safe. As far as human contact is concerned, portable generators kick out the same amount of ‘juice’ as your home’s utilities. Grounding your generator is important for your safety because it is able to displace any surplus of electricity, this way, preventing you from potentially electrocuting yourself.

How To Ground A Portable Generator

We recommend using GFCI (Ground Fault Circuit Interrupters) outlets when running your portable generator. GFCI outlets are very quick for an experienced electrician to install – we install them all the time.

3. A transfer switch allows you to turn some things on or off to avoid overloading the generator.

With most portable generators, you are going to have to make some quick choices during a power outage:

  • “What appliances can I live without?”
  • “My freezer can go several hours without power, but my refrigerator can’t.”
  • “It’s raining hard outside, my sump pump (or ejector pump) needs power.”

A transfer switch makes that decision points fast and easy to act on. Instead of switching power on and off for individual areas at your electrical panel, you can simplify it down to one switch. Our team of experienced electricians can help you decide what that perfect combination of things is for your home. The only thing worse than losing power without a generator is losing power because you overloaded the generator.

4. A generator of at least 4,000 watts is a good starting point.

If the idea of choosing a backup portable generator sounds daunting, don’t worry – An electrician can advise you on the generator size based on what you want to power.

Many people find that they really do not need as big of a generator as they think to get by during an outage. For them, a portable generator is a great backup power option, as long as you follow our previous three rules.

Others want life to ‘continue as normal’ when their home loses power. In that situation, we recommend having one of our licensed electricians come to your home. They will help you find the best stationary backup generator to fit your home and budget needs.

Contact our experts at Hucker Electric today at (847) 999-402, and let us take care of your electrical needs.