If you live in Florida, you know hurricanes are a regular experience. And along with hurricanes come the inevitable consequences … flooding, debris, missing roof shingles, and power outages.

Our HouseMaster team in the Gainesville, Florida area has been inspecting homes since 1979. I’ve seen firsthand the effects of Florida’s hurricane season. There are many things you can do to prepare for hurricanes, such as using wind mitigation strategies. But one of the best ways to prepare is by getting a power generator—and ensuring your generator will work when the storm hits.

In this article, I’ll explain my top 3 tips for making sure your generator is in tiptop shape before the storm hits. I’ll also list 6 ways you can operate your generator safely and correctly. And if you don’t have a generator yet, I’ll provide two helpful options.

Before the storm: 3 guidelines for generator maintenance

Let’s start with the basics. There are three things you should do to make sure your generator will be ready to go when a storm comes calling:

  1. Keep a stock of gas, oil, and oil filters to fuel your generator when the power goes out. When you’re not using the generator, store the gas and oil separately. Refill your generator any time you test or use it.
  2. Refill stale fuel every year. Empty the fuel tank and carburetor of your generator after storm season, and restock before each new hurricane season.
  3. Do an annual test run—ideally, right before hurricane season starts in the spring. Turn your breaker off, fill up and start your generator, and make sure it’s running properly.

During the storm: 6 safety recommendations

Although generators are meant to help you access essential electrical systems during a storm, using a generator improperly can be risky. According to the CPSC, approximately 50 people die every year from generator-related carbon monoxide poisoning. To keep yourself and your family safe while using a generator, follow these safety precautions:

  1. Never use your generator inside an enclosed space. And make sure your generator is placed at least 20 feet away from openings like doors and windows. The Florida Department of Health warns that improperly placed generators can cause carbon monoxide poisoning and even death.
  2. Install—and regularly test—a carbon monoxide alarm to monitor CO levels while using your generator.
  3. Don’t run a portable generator in the rain unless you properly cover and vent it, says Consumer Reports.
  4. Avoid electrical shocks by installing a transfer switch so you can connect your generator directly to your circuit panel.
  5. If you have to use an extension cord, plug appliances directly into your generator. And make sure any extension cord you use is heavy-duty, rated for high power transfer, and in good condition.
  6. Whatever you do, do NOT back feed by using a dual-plug cord to plug your generator into a wall outlet. It’s illegal—and extremely dangerous.

Install and inspect: how to choose a generator

Wondering how to choose a generator? You have two basic options:

  1. A portable generator. This small system has the advantage of being portable, easy to maintain, and relatively low cost.
  2. A standby generator. Although this option is more costly, it has the advantage of being wired into your home’s electrical system. When the power goes out, your generator will automatically take over all electrical appliances.

Already have a standby generator? We include an inspection of your standby generator and basic electrical system in our standard home inspection option. To ensure your generator is in good shape, schedule a home inspection today!

Whether you’re wondering about your generator, your HVAC system, your roof, or any other component of your home, your local HouseMaster team has you covered. We serve the people of Gainesville, Morriston, Archer, Hampton, High Springs, Newberry and their neighboring communities. Want to watch us in action? Click here!