Being prepared for winter means more than just stocking up on Vitamin C. It also means making sure your home is ready for the onslaught of cooler weather and potential power outages. 

Whether it’s just windy and blustery, or there’s an ice storm or blizzard, wicked weather can cause all sorts of damage or power outages.

One of the most important things you can do to ensure a safe, happy and healthy winter is equip your home with a portable generator, which can serve as a useful back up during an emergency or when a power source isn’t available.

Don’t forget, with great power comes great responsibility. When using a generator, keep these tips in mind:

• Always read and follow the manufacturer’s operating manual and instructions before running a generator.

• Engines emit carbon monoxide (CO), a colorless and odorless poisonous gas. Don’t run a generator inside homes, garages, crawlspaces, basements, sheds, or similar areas, even when using fans or opening doors and windows for ventilation.

Locate the unit outside and direct its exhaust away from doors, windows, vents and other openings to reduce the risk of CO from accumulating and potentially being drawn towards occupied spaces. Install a CO detector in your home.

• Connect electrically powered items to the generator using heavy-duty extension cords specifically designed for outdoor use. Ensure the wattage rating for each cord exceeds the total wattage of all appliances connected to it. Check that the entire length of each cord is free of cuts or tears and that the plug has all three prongs. Coiled cords can get hot, so always uncoil cords and lay them in flat open locations.

Connections for standby power to a home’s electrical system must use a listed transfer switch and be installed by an electrician. The connection must isolate the generator power from the utility power.

• Get the right generator size for your needs. For example, a 5500 Watt Portable Generator is ideal for powering a small appliance and a few household items, whereas the Briggs & Stratton 6250 Watt Storm Responder, a quick response generator that comes with maintenance reminders and a 25 foot generator adapter cord, can handle even more.

Use free online resources, such as a generator size and wattage calculators to determine how much power you need.

• Don’t wait for an emergency to operate your generator. Perform a dry run to make sure you’re familiar with its operation. Run the machine occasionally to keep the engine lubricated.

• Keep a flashlight handy to find your way to your generator. Store it conveniently, covered, to keep it free of dirt and debris.

• Proper generator maintenance includes several steps. For every eight hours of operation, check the oil. Change the air cleaner every 25 hours and the oil every 50 hours. Replace the spark plug every 100 hours. 

More portable generator safety tips can be found at

This winter, be prepared. Be sure you have a working portable generator, and the know-how to run it properly.



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