Kerry Cartier, The Disaster Guy:
“Okay, I got me a little generator, just like you said to get,” Red said. “I started it up, and all it does is generate noise. What am I supposed to do with it?”
“This sounds like an Aggie chainsaw joke to me,” said the Disaster Guy. “Your first step is to buy a 50 feet long extension cord with 12-gauge wire. It needs to be 12-gauge wire. Anything smaller, like 14- or 16-gauge wire, might overheat and melt the cord.”
“Let’s say I have the heavy extension cord. What next?” Red asked.
“Get a multiple socket, the heavy-duty kind that is used in construction, and plug it into the extension cord,” the Disaster Guy said. “You now have multiple sockets on your extension cord.”
“Yup. What next?” Red asked.
“Position your generator so the exhaust goes outdoors. You don’t want to run the generator indoors or breathe the exhaust,” the Disaster Guy said. “Plug your extension cord into the generator, and run the extension cord into the living area of your home. You now have up to 900 watts of regular 110-volt AC electricity in your home.”
“But it isn’t doing anything!” Red said.
“Get some other heavy-duty extension cords and plug in your living room lamps, a box fan or two, your radio, and maybe even your refrigerator. You can now operate most of these using generator power,” the Disaster Guy said. “If your generator is like a Honda eu1000i, it has an electrical inverter that produces electricity with a sine wave good enough to power solid-state TVs and computers.”
“Pardon me, what what’s a sign wave?” Red asked.
“The way AC electricity comes from the power plant, there are 60 cycles per second with voltage going from 110 volts positive to 110 volts negative. A generator with a sine wave inverter matches the electricity that comes into your home,” the Disaster Guy said. “The quality of the electricity means you can power computers and other solid state electronics from your generator.”
“Okay, sign wave means better quality electricity. But if I had an old generator without the inverter, what could it power?” Red asked.
“It would work for most motors, incandescent light bulbs, electric typewriters, toasters, and most everything before 1990,” the Disaster Guy said. “Trouble is, today almost everything has solid-state electronics in it, and it takes a sine wave inverter to make it run correctly.”
“Oh, I should mention that a square wave sine wave doesn’t produce the quality of electricity you need, so old generators may not run your electronics,” the Disaster Guy said. “Some early inverters used a modified sine wave that looked like a bar chart, and they may not work well, either.”
“So the answer is, get a small inverter generator something like the Honda eu2000i, right?” Red asked.
“Right. Let’s say you have one, which means you can plug all your high-tech solid-state devices into it safely,” the Disaster Guy said. “Now let’s talk about power management.”
“Let’s say you have 900 watts available from your generator. You want to run your small refrigerator, which uses 185 watts; a box fan that uses 180 watts; and a small microwave oven that uses 750 watts,” the Disaster Guy said. That’s 1,115 watts. What do you do?”
“I don’t know,” Red said. “Buy a bigger generator?”
“Of course not. Unplug the refrigerator and turn off the box fan, then use your microwave,” the Disaster Guy said. “You’ll only be using the microwave for a few minutes, then you can unplug it and plug the others back in.”
“I get it! I can use up to 900 watts, and some appliances aren’t on all the time. So I can mix-and-match what is turned on, as long as it stays below 900 watts,” Red said.
“Precisely! Now, do you know how to replace the multiple socket and the rat’s nest of extension cords by plugging your generator directly into your breaker box?” the Disaster Guy asked.
“Nope. No clue,” Red said.
“You can get an electrician to install a transfer relay switch, so your generator will power certain circuits when the electrical grid goes down. Or just because you want to,” the Disaster Guy said.
“That sounds expensive!” Red said.
“Compared to the extension cords, it is. Usually a transfer relay is used with larger generators, but a good electrician can connect your generator to just a few circuits instead of the whole house,” the Disaster Guy said. “But the price will shock you!”
Kerry Cartier, the Disaster Guy, has his tiny generator output go through an extension cord to a small breaker box. It powers four circuits for ceiling lights, fans, and power outlets in four rooms. The generator does not power the rest of the house. The electric heater, air conditioner, water heater, and kitchen range receive no generator power. He says it’s nice to have lights at night and power for a refrigerator, TV, and computer. With 15 gallons of gas, he could have power for 100 hours. A small generator doesn’t use much fuel. For more preparedness info, go to www.DisasterGuy.com and download the free Tips.