How to use a generator

Powering Up Your Generator

  • Check fuel level.
  • If you must add fuel, be sure generator is cooled down.
  • Do not over fill.
  • Check oil level.
  • Check filter.
  • Check voltage selector to make sure it matches the type of application you are connecting to (CHOOSE BETWEEN '120-VOLTS AND 120-VOLT/240').
  • Move generator outside to well-ventilated area.
  • Place on a firm, level surface.
  • Connect a heavy duty, outdoor-rated power cord to generated, or connect appliances directly to generator to generator.
  • Turn generator's circuit breaker off.
  • Turn power switch on.
  • Pull cord.
  • Let generator warm up before turning circuit breaker back on.


Some generators operate on unleaded gasoline. Others use diesel fuel. Five gallons of gas will power a 5,600 watt generator for about eight hours. One gallon of gas will power a 3,000 watt generator for about 3 1/2 hours.

Additional supplies

You will also need multi-gallon, vented containers for storing gasoline (fill before storm comes), engine oil, an outdoors-rated extension cord and a carbon-monoxide detector.

Caring for your generator

  • Never over fill gas.
  • Don't use stale or contaminated gas.
  • Avoid getting dirt or water in the fuel tank.
  • Turn fuel valve off when transporting or storing generator. This keeps fuel from diluting engine oil and damaging engine.
  • Run generator at least once a month. This lubricates the engine, recharges the battery and lets fresh gas through the carburetor.
  • When storing a generator for more than two months, drain fuel and add fuel conditioner to top it off, following directions on the label.
  • Change oil regularly, according to your model's manual.
  • Change filter regularly. according to your model's manual.

Safety Tips

The risks (if you don't do it right): carbon-monoxide poisoning, electrocution, fire and explosion.

  • Never use wet hands to operate the generator. Never let water come in contact with the generator.
  • Never run your generator in a garage because the carbon-moxide exhaust is toxic. Find a well-ventilated space with some cover, but be sure the generator isn't positioned outside an open window. Use a battery-powered carbon monoxide detector. Always turn the engine off before refueling and let the generator cool.
  • Don't spill fuel. It can ignite.
  • Store fuel and generator in a ventilated area and away from natural gas water heaters. Vapors can escape from closed cans and tanks, then travel to the pilot light and ignite.
  • Never feed power from a portable generator into a wall outlet. This can kill linemen working to restore power. It also can damage your generator.
  • Don't use power cords that are frayed. This can cause a fire. Be sure all prongs are intact and that the cord is outdoor-rated. The cord's wattage or amps must not be smaller than the sum of the connected appliance loads.

Shopping Tips

  • Ask the dealer how many watts it will put out and for how long and how big a load it can handle.
  • You could spend around $350 for a 2,400 watts model, $600 for an industrial-strength model. A television uses 300 watts; a freezer, 330; a water heater 3,000.
  • Compare brands and models. Get manufacturer's toll-free numbers for technical questions.
  • Make sure you have the right cords and connectors or the generator will be useless. Consider an auxiliary fuel tank.
  • Don't fill fuel tanks until right before the storm. Stored fuel will grow stale and is unsafe in a hot garage.
  • Most starters use rope pulls. If your use a battery, make sure it's kept charged.
  • Buy now, not after the storm. You'll pay a lot less.
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