Preparing for power outages is the most frequently asked question from readers. One of the common recommendations is to “have a generator” when preparing for hurricane season, power outages or even winter storms. But I’ll be the first to admit that until I actually set one up, I didn’t really know what was involved.
Harbor Freight has given me the opportunity to test out a generator. The Predator 8750 Watt Portable Generator was delivered while I was at work. First of all, it weighed about 100 lbs., so the leasing office staff let the delivery guy leave my package at the backdoor outside the office. They did not want to have to lift it. So if you have a generator being delivered to your apartment, you need to make sure you have a way to get it to your unit, in case it does not get delivered at your front door.
The generator was well-packaged, and arrived in great condition. It came with an instruction manual and even included some small tools.
I am not very knowledgeable about things electrical so I enlisted the help of Mr. Apt Prepper. He had been away on business but fortunately had returned by the time the generator was delivered. The first thing we did was read the manual thoroughly. This is where I learned all sorts of things.
Every generator includes the wattage it is rated for, and the maximum watts you can use with it. In this case, the Predator Generator is “7000 rated watts; 8750 maximum watts.”
What does this mean?
This means there is a bit of calculation involved when deciding which devices you will be using with the generator. This is to make sure that the items you want to plug in are below the rated and maximum wattage ratings of the generator. The manual included a Wattage Calculation Table, along with Wattage Calculation Charts, which gave the “Running Watts” and the “Additional Startup Watts” for common household appliances. For example, you want to use a combination of appliances:
- computer with monitor, it will need 800 running watts, but 0 additional startup watts.
- A refrigerator/freezer needs 700 running watts, and 1500 startup watts.
- Window AC needs 1200 running watts and 600 additional startup watts
If you wanted to use these three things at the same time, you add 800+700+1200=2700, well under the 7000 rated watts of the Predator Generator. For the Startup Watts, you only take the highest startup watts, in this case, it’s 1500. 2700+1500=4200, which is under the 8750 maximum wattage the generator can handle.
There are a few more considerations before getting started.
1. Decide in advance where you will place the generator. A generator can only be used in a well ventilated area and it cannot be inside the home, shed or garage. Even if you think you can leave the garage door a crack open, that will not be sufficient ventilation. Generator exhaust fumes contain carbon monoxide which cannot be seen and not always smelled. According to the manual, “when using a generator, keep them outdoors and far away from open doors, windows and vents to avoid toxic levels of carbon monoxide from building up indoors.” You will also need help lifting the generator. This particular model does not have wheels, but some other models do. We have a small covered patio in the back of the unit, and that is where we placed it for this test.
2. Before using the generator, it must be properly grounded. If you live in a higher floor, you will need an electrician to ground the unit for you.
3. You will need fuel and engine oil to run the generator: For the Predator, fuel is 87 + octane unleaded gasoline, maximum capacity is 6.6 gallons. To purchase gas, we used our gasoline container which carries five gallons. The engine oil is a common one, SAE 10W-30. As part of the pre-start steps, you add oil to the engine’s crankcase, and fill the fuel tank with gasoline. We already had an extension cord to connect an appliance to the generator so we did not need to buy one.
4. The Predator model has an electric start option which requires the installation of a battery to use. But all generators can be started using the recoil method, which is done by turning on the engine then pulling the starter handle gently until resistance is felt. For this test, we did not get the battery, so we tried the recoil method.
5. Prior to trying this out, I had thought you just use a generator when the need arises, then leave it alone until next time you need it. Not so. If you are not going to use a generator after 20 days, you must drain out the the gasoline and the oil.
Back to the test…
After turning on the power, we ran the generator for five minutes with nothing connected, as specified by the instructions.
As expected, generators do make a bit of noise, and you can smell some exhaust fumes as the engine is running.
We plugged in our microwave to see if it would actually work.
And it turned on!
Learning how to set up a generator was quite a valuable experience for me. As with other emergency preparedness steps, you cannot just take it for granted. Just having a generator does not guarantee you will have access to power at the next outage. Buying it is only the first step. You need to read the manual ahead of time, have the items you need and do the proper setup prior to an actual emergency.
Harbor Freight has a great selection of generators and a wide selection of tools. They have excellent prices, fast shipping and great customer service. Give them a try – tell them Apartment Prepper sent you!