‘Connecting and using a generator,’ advice from the San Luis Obispo electricians

Winter is coming and with it come the rain and wind. Even though California has been experiencing a drought for the past few years, some areas still get at least one heavy storm every winter that causes the power to go out. Regions that have experienced drought and wildfires have lost much of the root systems that hold soil in place. When winter rain does arrive, the dried soil and lack of roots and vegetation to hold the soil can result in slides and erosion that can dislodge power poles and snap power lines.

The San Luis Obispo electricians from Electricraft, Inc. understand that no one wants to be without light at night, charge cell phones, lose food in the refrigerator and freezer, or not be able to cook, check email or watch or listen to news and weather reports. Generators are powered by gasoline, diesel, or natural gas and are a way to help keep the essentials running when the power goes out. There are two ways to use a generator for backup power:

  • A portable generator, powered by gasoline, diesel, or propane that can be connected to appliances and essential electronics.
  • A standby generator that detects a power outage and switches on to power the home or business.

Portable generators

Portable generators come in a variety of brands and capacities. Most hardware stores carry a range of portable generators that are fueled with gasoline or diesel. Depending on the capacity, portable generators can power everything from a few necessary appliances to the lights in certain rooms.

The most common way to use a portable generator is to connect a cable between the generator and directly plug appliances and lamps into that cable. This type of generator does not plug directly into an outlet or electric circuit and doing so is dangerous and illegal.  

There are portable generators that can be connected directly to electrical circuits. The San Luis Obispo electricians can install a manual transfer switch on the main panel that connects a generator directly to electrical circuits. Direct connectivity makes it possible to run just about anything that is connected to the main panel.

The transfer switch eliminates the need for cords and keeping doors and windows open to run the cords through.

Standby generators

Standby generators are systems that supply power to the entire home and are fueled by propane or natural gas. The term “standby” means the generator is ready to automatically come on when the transfer switch senses an interruption from the main power grid.

Standby generators are installed outside the home on a concrete pad for stability and connected to the home’s natural gas or propane supply.

Generator safety

Maintenance is key to flawless generator operation and safety. The San Luis Obispo electricians recommend:

  • Empty the fuel tank of portable generators between uses.
  • Store the generator in a safe, dry place where it is easily accessible.
  • Test both portable and standby generators a couple of times a year. There’s nothing more annoying than having the lights go out and the generator doesn’t work.

Generators come with use, maintenance and safety instructions from the manufacturer. Be sure to read them thoroughly.

Call Electricraft for advice and help setting up the electrical connections and switches for your generator to make sure it works and doesn’t overload the electrical system.