Safety guide for powering up portable generators

Some homeowners invest in portable generators just for storms like Harvey where many could lose power. If you're thinking about buying one or if you have one you haven't used in awhile, consumer expert Amy Davis has some advice from the professionals to make sure you stay safe in the storm.

You can get a medium-sized portable generator that will power your fridge, a deep freeze and a couple of circuits in your home for lighting for about $600 to $700. If you already have one sitting in your garage, you need to get it out now to make sure it is working if the power goes out for an extended period of time.

So much of Houston was in the dark after Hurricane Ike in 2008, the city of Houston imposed a week-long curfew. Some families stuck inside their own homes with no power relied on generators to run fans and refrigerators.

That was 9 years ago. Abacus Plumbing, Air Conditioning and Electrical licensed electrician Angel Torres says it's time to check yours to make sure it will help this time around.

You will need gas and you need to check the oil. If it's dirty or dark, you need to change it. Portable generators won't keep your whole house powered, just a couple of appliances; and you can't let them run non-stop.

"I would run it like 3 to 4 hours and then let it rest for about 15 to 20 minutes," said Torres. "And then start it back up."

Generators should stay outside, so you will need extension cords long enough to reach the appliance you want to power. They can withstand the rain; but make sure cables and the generator itself are not sitting in water.
Because carbon monoxide poisoning is a real threat, you should position your generator to protect your family from those deadly fumes.

"Your exhaust is gonna come out through here, so you want it to go out that way," explained Torres, motioning away from the home. "You don't want it to go back inside your house."

Start the generator first; then plug in the cords for appliances.
Before the storm, you can test it by plugging in just a lamp to make sure it's working.

After you use your generator, you shouldn't let the gas and oil just sit in it. You need to siphon it out or Torres says you can put a fuel saver like Seafoam into the gas tank. That will protect the gas for about 6 months.

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