Lifestyle Weather

SDSU: Is your generator ready for extreme winter weather?


During this year’s holiday season, many residents across the Northern Plains were reminded how quickly extreme winter weather challenges can take away the power and why a quality generator is a must for every farm.

“Although we are not able to control the weather, there are things we can do to be prepared when we are struck with a power outage,” said Jeff VanderSchaaf, Precision Agriculture Machinery Research Coordinator at South Dakota State University, in a recent release.

A generator is first on VanderSchaaf’s list – and he says not to wait until the next power outage to purchase one.

“When a major storm knocks out power across the region, local retailers quickly sell out of any size generator in stock. If you do happen to beat your neighbors to the store during a power outage, the available choices may not completely meet your needs,” he said.

VanderSchaaf suggests these five considerations when purchasing a generator:

  1. Connection: As you contemplate the purchase of a back-up generation system, the first consideration is how it will be connected to the equipment you want to operate.
  2. Home heating: In order to utilize your existing household heating system, you will need a licensed electrician to install the proper switches and connectors that allow a generator to be connected to a home electrical system. If you plan to use portable electric space heaters, you will need to find a properly sized extension cord in order for them to safely operate. They consume large amounts of power and if a portable electric space heater needs to be placed 50 to 75 away from the portable generator, the properly sized extension cord will likely cost more than the heater.
  3. Generator Maintenance: If you already have a generator, one way you can be better prepared is by making sure the generators are ready to go. Doing some simple preventative maintenance would be a good place to start such as checking the air filter, the battery to ensure it’s in good condition and charged, fluid levels, and fuel supply. If you do decide to change the oil, make sure the oil you use will work with the fuel used to run the engine and for the air temperature range the engine will be operated in.
  4. Practice run: Starting the generator up and simulating the load it would face during a power outage would be another good exercise to do in order to prepare for a power outage. Local electricians can help set up a power outage simulation.
  5. Generator safety:  Exhaust fumes should always be distributed or ventilated to outdoors. Exhaust fumes contained to areas like an attached garage have a high potential to leach in to the house and have potentially deadly effects on the occupants. When using a generator don’t attempt to use it to feed power to a household or building’s electrical system unless it has been setup to do so by a licensed electrician.
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