How to Use a Generator

In past blogs, I have spoken about how to store equipment properly but with Sandy and winter fast approaching, the need to use a generator has increased. This is going to be a short blog (but I think very important) about how to use a portable generator safely. Below is a list of do’s and don’ts of proper generator use as well as a load chart.

First a quick lesson on how a generator works. Most generators over 1800 watts have 3 potential sides (or circuits) to them, 1 – 240 volt circuit and 2 – 120 volt circuits. When buying a generator, it is important to note the wattage of the generator. A sales ploy is to list the generators full potential wattage. Unfortunately, a generator cannot run at full potential for more than a few minutes at a time or it will literally burn up. The better term to look for is running wattage. This is the wattage the generator can continually put out.

Once you know running wattage, this is how much wattage that can be used on the 240 volt side or divide it by 2. So if it is rated at 3600 watts, divided by 2, equals 1800 watts. This means that you have 3600 watts at 240 volts (15 amps) or 1800 watts per 120 volt circuit (15 amps each). Now when things are plugged into the generator, the user needs to be aware of “watt” is being plugged into it. Five 60 watt bulbs will only draw 300 watts (at all times) so there is still plenty of room left for more items. However, a refrigerator may only draw 800 running watts, however, it has a motor in it that requires extra wattage to start the motor. Always double (some like to triple) the wattage as this is called the start up wattage. So the 800 watt refrigerator is now at 1600 watts which is almost max for one circuit of the generator. The rule of thumb is to put a refrigerator on one circuit and use the other side for lights.


  • Balance loads properly – try to keep the loads equal between circuits
  • Keep a generator outside when running
  • Keep ethanol Shield and a Tank Snake in the fuel tank at all times
  • Follow local codes for generator use


  • Never plug a generator directly into the house. This is very dangerous
  • Never run a generator indoors – not even in the garage
  • Never overload a generator

As noted above, always keep the fuel stabilized as one never knows how long the generator will sit not being used. Using the new Tank Snake will ensure that any moisture that is in the gas or enters the fuel tank is absorbed. The Tank Snake also releases a stabilizer and antioxidants to keep the fuel fresh for the next use. For optimal protection, use Ethanol Shield in the gas as well. This will provide the Gold Standard in fuel protection. Ethanol Shield will provide fuel stabilization for up to 3 years as well as provide protection against ethanol related issues.