Natural disasters such as storms, hurricanes, earthquakes, floods can cause disruptions in the power grid. In addition to such disasters, emergencies like fires can also cause temporary or long-term loss of power to one’s dwelling or place of business. There can also be other causes of loss of power supply from your local energy grid, such as power plant breakdown, acts of terrorism, or transmission line cut-offs.
Sometimes, if the power grid is expected to be down for a long period of time, or when uncertainty of the restoration of normal electrical supply is the issue, some homes and businesses would opt to hire the services of temporary power generators. The use of temporary power generators is very common after a disaster. At the very least, the generators are used to provide lighting and for thermo-regulation. Most importantly, the use of emergency power will help preserve the food stored in freezers and refrigerators.
Temporary power generators come about in different brands, models and capacities. Some can be very small man-portable or car-portable units that provide a couple of thousand Watts of electricity. A lot are towed units or large trailer units. Typical towed power generators' capacity can range from 10 kilowatts (kW) to over 2000 kW of power. Some can run for a few hours, while others can run for over a day at a time. Most models use diesel or gasoline as a fuel source.
Most power generator rental service companies today offer start-to-finish power generation services. They confer with the client and determine the optimal generator set-up needed for the client’s situation. These power generator rental services could provide the personnel to run the systems for the duration of the rental, or at the very least, educate the client on the proper operation and safe maintenance of the generators leased. These temporary power providers also deliver and then retrieve the generators. Some generator rental companies also have client pick-up and return option much like rent-a-car services.
In addition to the actual rental of the generator units and the instructions/personnel needed to operate the set-up, these same temporary power generator rental services provide the manufacturer, approved consumables necessary to run the power production units. These consumables are typically the fuel source, and the lubricants needed to keep the machinery in working order. Fuel stabilizers are also often provided for the safe post-operation handling of temporary power generators.
With improvements in science and technology, today’s temporary power generators are more efficient and much safer to use than early model temporary power generators. Modern generators are generally less bulky and much easier to transport and set up. Ease of use and more reliable failsafe systems also distinguish modern power generators from older models.
While modern temporary power generators are generally better, safer, and more efficient than older models, appropriate safety measures must be taken when using such equipment. Improper and inappropriate use of temporary power generators can be very dangerous. The consequences of such could range from property damage or bodily injury to loss of life.
· Gas and diesel powered temporary energy generators emit carbon monoxide as a by-product. Carbon monoxide is a colorless, odorless gas that is harmful to human and animal life. Inhalation of large amounts of carbon monoxide can lead to unconsciousness and death. In order to prevent carbon monoxide poisoning, avoid running the temporary power generator in enclosed areas. Ideally, temporary power generators should be placed on a level and secure ground that is well ventilated and reasonably far from places of human activity. At the very least, to keep the temporary power generator well ventilated, atleast three feet or four feet of clear space should be around and above the generator. Placing the generator on a level surface would also help keep the oil and fuel at proper levels while in the engine. If possible, carbon monoxide alarms may be installed to minimize the health risks caused by the build-up of this dangerous gas.
· Engine heat is another by-product of temporary power generators. Heat emitted by power generators can damage nearby structures and might cause combustible materials and gases to ignite. It would be wise to have emergency firefighting and cooling equipment nearby when running a temporary power generator.
· Before adding fuel to the temporary power generator, make sure that the engine has been shut down and allowed to cool. Adding fuel to a heated up generator can cause the fuel to ignite when it comes in contact with the hot engine parts.
· When handling fuel and lubricants, use appropriate protective equipment such as gloves. The use of funnels will help in reducing spillage while pouring fuel into the engine. Appropriate storage containers for gasoline and other temporary generator fuels should be used at all times, and these storage containers should be kept away from flames and heat-producing machinery such as the power generator itself.
· While it is important to keep the power generator on a level surface at a reasonably far distance from structures and people, it is also important to keep the generator from getting wet by rain or flood. A canopy can help protect a temporary power generator from getting wet, if it is absolutely necessary to run the generator during rainy conditions. Water can damage the power generator’s engine, and it can produce an electrical hazard.
· Noise and vibration caused by the operation of temporary power generators can be bothersome to people, so it is best to keep the generator at a reasonably safe distance from human activity areas. Vibrations caused by temporary power generators may literally shake up structures that are either flimsy or compromised by earlier impact, fire, or water damage. It would be best to avoid placing temporary power generators near flimsy or previously damaged structures.
1. In order to prevent and minimize electrical hazards from the operation of temporary power generators, sufficient grounding should be established. Never attach a temporary power generator to the house or building’s main electrical system, unless the generator has been installed by a qualified electrical professional in order to run that way. Transfer switches and appropriate electrical protection systems will be installed by the electrical professional in order for the temporary generator to provide power through the house’s or building’s main electrical system. Hooking up a temporary power generator to the house's main electric wiring may cause feedback to the main power grid, and cause damage to the electric utility provider, or may cause fire at the building and its surroundings.
· Appliances and electrical devices should always be plugged to the temporary power generator using the manufacturer-supplied cords. Avoid using third-party extension cords when possible, but if the use of an extension cord is necessary, use extension cords with sufficient grounding. Inspect the cords often to make sure that they are not damaged or frayed, as these can cause electric shock and fire risks.
· Some temporary power generators have the capability to produce 110 volts or 220 volts. It is important to identify the voltage required by the appliance to be used, and select the appropriate outlet that corresponds to the voltage required. Mismatches in the voltage outlet and appliance requirements can severely damage the appliance or the temporary power generator, or both items.
· Overloading a temporary power generator is a common, yet serious, but preventable problem. Know the generator’s power capacity, and the appliances' energy requirements. Plug in appliances one at a time in order to avoid taxing the generator’s capacity. It is best to plug in an appliance that requires the most energy before plugging in the next appliance that requires less energy. An example is to plug in a refrigerator that needs 1,200 Watts of electricity to run before plugging in lighting systems that would require 400 Watts of electricity.
· Appliances that have been damaged, especially water-damaged appliances, may not work properly when using a temporary power generator. Avoid running these appliances with the power generator as doing so could also damage the generator.
· Proper maintenance intervals should be done during the temporary power generator’s operation. This is outlined in the user’s operations manual, and should be followed for safe and efficient operation. Fuel and oil check should be done periodically.
· After using a temporary power generator, whether it has been rented from power equipment companies or bought as part of the property’s emergency equipment, proper handling should be done to prepare the temporary power generator for either its return to the rental service or storage. At the very least, the power generator should be allowed to cool down before it is repacked and stored. Fuel stabilizers should be added to any of the remaining gas in the generator, in order to minimize fire hazards. Fuel and other consumables should be properly kept and secured in their designated containers before transport or storage.
Temporary power generators are very useful in times of emergency, and are available either for purchase or for rent. It is important to follow the manufacturer’s recommendations and any federal, state, or city laws for the safe and efficient of such equipment.