How to Properly (And Safely) Use a Portable Generator

portable generator
Portable Generator Advice

Power outages can be exciting for about three minutes. Once it moves past that, things get hairy. It’s dark, you can’t cook, and you can’t run the air conditioner or the heat.

It’s fine to have a few flashlights and candles around for emergencies, but if you live in an area with regular power outages due to weather, scheduled or rolling blackouts, you need more than a few candles.

It sounds like you could use a portable generator. A generator will fill in for those times when the power is out. It isn’t enough to power the whole house but it will allow you to function during what could be a long outage.

There are different types of generators that provide different types of power, so consider that when looking to buy. Once you have the generator, you need to know how to operate it.

Let’s look at how to use your generator safely to make sure you have the power you need to keep yourself and everyone else safe.

Types of Generators

Besides the type of gas the generator uses, there are two basic types of generators. The two choices are standby and portable generators.

Standby: This generator is permanently installed outside of the home, much like an air conditioning unit.

Portable: Portables move into place when there is an outage.

Safety for Portable Generators

Never take it indoors: There are no excuses for bringing a portable generator indoors. Place it where it’s protected from the elements but never inside the house, the garage, on the porch near an open window or under the porch or carport.

The carbon monoxide will make you sick or can even kill someone. You should have working CO detectors in the house to monitor Co2 levels in your home. Even if you have the generator set up a long way from the home, the fumes can still get in.

Mind the Heat: Generators generate a lot of heat, so make sure you don’t have it against anything flammable or in an area where people will brush against it.

This includes side panels, vinyl, wood, or any other flammable substances near the generator.

Fuel when Cool: If the generator runs out of gas, you have to let it cool down before adding fuel to it. This can cause burns, explosions, property damage.


Propane gas is an easier way to go if you use your generator a lot. Use a stabilizer you store gasoline for long periods of time. If you think you’ll need the generator for several days, make sure you store enough gas.

You can store propane indefinitely. The tanks are replaced when needed. It never goes bad and doesn’t gum up the carburetor and the filters. It’s often less expensive, as well.

Do Not Plug it In

Plugging the generator in compromises the wiring in the house and could overheat the circuits. It can cause a lot of damage or it can burn the house down.

During a Power Outage

Once you have checked the gas levels and other safety measures, move it away from the house.

  • Turn off the circuit breaker on the portable generator. Make sure it is off before starting it.
  • Turn the fuel valve on. This allows the fuel to flow to the engine. This should only be on when you are about to start the generator.
  • Turn on the generator. There might be a start button to turn or push, a key or a cord you pull.
  • Allow the generator to warm up before you turn the circuit breaker back on.
  • Connect your devices. Most portable generators allow you to plug things directly into them. You may want to use an extension cord with power surge protection when powering your personal items.
  • Once you no longer need the power, or you need to refuel, turn everything off. This includes the circuit breaker, the fuel, and the ignition. if you need to refuel, let the machine cool down.


You don’t always know when you will need to use your portable generator, so it’s a great idea to make sure it will be ready for when you do.

  • Change and check the oil on a regular basis.
  • Change the oil filter.
  • Store it properly. If you leave fuel in the tank, you need fuel stabilizer as well. You can leave the tank full, thus avoiding the gas turning and clogging up the tank and lines.
  • Find out about any laws regarding how much fuel you can keep around and how to store it.
  • Check and change spark plugs regularly. These can get worn out or lose power when not in use.
  • Try starting it regularly to make sure it is all working.
  • Regular cleaning. This will keep things in working order and give you a chance to give it a check over to see if anything is out of place.

Take Care Of Your Generator, And It Will Take Care Of You

Keep the owner’s manual close in case you need to refer to it. You don’t want to stumble around in the dark trying to figure everything out.

It might be a good idea to set up reminders for yourself for regular maintenance checks on your generator. It may go a long time without use, so it’s a good idea to always keep it ready.

It’s easy to only think of the types of generators when we need it, but if we take care of it, it will take care of us. Before you buy your next generator, be sure to check out our honest reviews!

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