Shannon Stacey

The annual PSA from Mrs. Sparky

It’s that time of year again when Mother Nature randomly unleashes high winds and heavy ice down on us and there’s very little that sucks more than losing power when it’s cold. That leads us to…generators.

There’s the obvious, though at least a couple of people die or almost die every year of this: the generator has to be outside. It’s an engine and it puts out exhaust. Putting the generator in your basement is no different than running a car in a closed garage, except your babies don’t sleep in the garage.

Here’s the important part:

If you get a generator, you’re going to come to a part of the manual where it says to have it installed by a licensed electrician. I know we live in a do-it-yourself society now, but that isn’t some scam to earn electricians more money.

Here’s what happens: Your power goes out. You or your friend or your Joe Handyman brother-in-law hook up the generator and fire it up. Yay, you’re making power! And if it’s not hooked up correctly by a guy whose license says he knows what he’s doing, you’re sending that power down the dead line. Yeah, to where some guy’s working his ass off to get your television back on because your kids are driving you crazy.

If he’s lucky, you’ll only maim him. Maybe blow his hand off or give him some electrical burns that’ll scar him for life and maybe cause some neurological damage. If he’s not lucky, you’ll kill him and some little girl’s Daddy won’t ever come home so you could save a few hundred bucks.

If money’s an issue, get a list of the parts you’ll need besides the generator itself—there’s some kind of transfer switch thingy—and buy them at Home Depot. Then find an electrician who works solo or does post-retirement side jobs and ask him to do it for labor only. You’ll find one who will do it. My husband has done it.

Please have your generators installed by a licensed electrician.

4 comments to “The annual PSA from Mrs. Sparky”

  1. Ro
      · December 17th, 2009 at 11:50 am · Link

    Great advice, especially seeing that it’s -20 here today. I want to add another thing as well. If you intend to use a woodstove or fireplace for heat have the chimney checked every year. Carbon monoxide poising isn’t a nice side effect from the beautiful fire.

    We live in a condo, and the association won’t let us have generators. I wish we could- we lost power for a week a couple of years ago and had to leave home. My parents have a generator put in by the electricians who helped build their house and they’ve needed is frequently out on the lake.

    Stay warm!

  2. Ro
      · December 17th, 2009 at 5:20 pm · Link

    Shan- does your DH have a recomendation on ceiling fans and which direction to turn in this cold? Wiki makes no damn sense. Clockwise looking up and down seem to be the same to me. argh.

  3. Shannon
      · December 17th, 2009 at 8:11 pm · Link

    Don’t worry about clockwise and counterclockwise.

    Hold your hand under the fan.

    Regular, flat ceiling: If you can feel the air blowing down on your hand, that’s the wrong way for winter. You want it to feel like the air is being drawn up from your hand toward the ceiling. That pushes the air up and over and down the side walls, circulating the warmer air that’s on the ceiling. If you try to blow it straight down, it cools too fast.

    Cathedral ceiling: The opposite. You want to feel the air blowing down on your hand.

  4. Jean
      · December 17th, 2009 at 11:44 pm · Link

    Excellent advice.

    In today’s “do it yourself” society, I watched the cashier at Harbor Freight show a guy who was buying a drill how to use the chuck, because he couldn’t figure out how to get the bit installed in the drill. First, she showed him where the chuck was, but he tried to stick in the in hole in the drill where the bit goes — he didn’t have a clue. She politely took the chuck and showed him how to make the hole for the bit larger and smaller. Then he went on his way, I that man was an accident waiting to happen.

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