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Avoid Overloading Your Generator

If you're lucky enough to own an at-home generator, you probably want to baby it and keep it humming with regular service checks and ongoing, tender loving care. If the grid goes down, keeping your generator operational and avoiding overload is essential. Your generator may automatically turn itself on and shut itself off when needed, but keeping it running relies on you and your knowledge of these at-home generator best practices.

Installation – It all starts here. An improperly installed generator is not only more likely to overload, but it can also cause fire and injury, not only to you, but also to linemen and your neighbors. Backup power is an investment in your family's safety and while doing it yourself may make sense for many at-home projects, pinching pennies on generator installation probably isn't one of them. Make sure your generator is professionally installed, utilizing an automatic transfer switch, and never connect your generator directly into your home's wiring. Your installer should be well-acquainted with NEC requirements for overload protection for generators and standby power systems.

Dial Down Electrical Use – Your generator will keep your home's power on when the grid goes down, but a power outage is not the time to throw a party and increase your electrical usage. Overloading your generator can damage or destroy your appliances and electronics, such as computers. Stay within the output rating of your generator and turn off all non-essentials, such as multiple televisions, dishwashers and washing machines. This will stop your generator from overloading and also conserve fuel. The holiday lights and video games can wait until power is completely restored.

Provide Regular Maintenance – Your generator probably came with an owner's manual. Become familiar with the do's and don'ts of regular maintenance, paying special attention to the manufacturer's suggestions for oil, spark plug and air filter replacement and routine cleaning. Keeping your generator well serviced will help to avoid overload and ensure that you get optimum performance from it when you need it most.

Corey Whelan is a freelance writer in New York. Her work can be found at

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