If you lose power during a storm, a generator can help restore some normalcy during recovery. Depending on the model, it can allow you to run your refrigerator, some lights and a few fans. Larger models can power your air-conditioner, electric stove and more.
“It all depends on what you want to hook up. Then you can determine the wattage for your needs,” said James Rudolfi, a sales associate with Lowe’s in Southwest Ranches.
Sites like consumerreports.org have online wattage calculators that allow you to check off what appliances you want to plug in, and figure out the total wattage needed.
As with most things in life, you get what you pay for — portable generators producing 2,500 to 15,000 watts cost $300 to $4,000. A standby or stationary generator that can power a whole house can run from $12,000 to $20,000, depending on installation needs, the unit size and fuel, said J.R. Dewall, a sales development representative with Don Hillman in Fort Lauderdale.
After you buy a generator, learn how to use it safely.
First, invest in a carbon monoxide detector with a battery backup, and put it outside of your sleeping areas. Carbon monoxide, known as the “invisible killer,” is a colorless, odorless, poisonous gas that portable generators produce. About 170 people die from carbon monoxide poisoning in the United States each year, according to the Consumer Product Safety Commission.
In 2005 alone, half of the generator-caused carbon monoxide deaths occurred during power outages after severe weather, including Hurricane Katrina.
Here’s the rule of thumb — your generator should be at least 10 feet from the opening to any building. Do not run it inside your house or garage, even if you have doors and windows open. If you live in a multi-unit building, don’t run it on your balcony — it’s too close to your living areas and to your neighbors’ homes.
“Make sure the exhaust from a generator does not enter the house in any way,” Dewall said. “It has to be in a well-ventilated area.” Place the generator so that the exhaust cannot enter living quarters through an under-eave vent, a window or an overhang.
Never run a generator on grass, or on a metal surface. Use a concrete pad, and elevate the generator if you’re in a flood-prone area. Make sure the surface is dry before starting a generator, and always dry your hands before touching it.
“Cover portables from the elements because the electrical connections are susceptible to the weather,” Dewall said. “You want to cover it with a little roof but still have ventilation, so it doesn’t trap those fumes.”