Load shedding has become a regular occurence and an affordable way to make sure that you are not left in the dark is to invest in a generator.
Determine the size of generator you need
If you have decided to invest in a generator to power your home when load shedding kicks in, your first step is deciding how much power you need when the electricity goes out. To determine the size (wattage) of the generator you'll need you need to check the label on each appliance that will be run from generator power. All appliances have a label that contains information such as wattage, model number and the year it was made. Make a comprehensive list of the items and how much wattage they use. Be sure to include essential household appliances like refrigerators and freezers.
During load shedding and when running on a generator make use of a small microwave rather than a hob/oven and have a standing or table fan as an alternative to an air conditioner, since both and oven and air conditioner use a lot of power.
Add together the wattage of all the items on your list and then multiply that number by 1.5 (appliances need the extra power to start up). That is the minimum wattage needed for your generator.
Check the rating on a generator before you buy
Most types of generators have two capacity ratings. The rated capacity is the maximum power that the generator will put out on an extended or continuous basis, and it is this rating that is important when purchasing a generator. The maximum rating refers to the extra power required to start up a generator - when running appliances - and this power is only sustainable for a short period of time if you want to avoid damaing the generator - or your appliances.
Find a suitable location
If you have invested in a backup generator when the power goes out, take cognisance of the fact that it is important that you place the generator as far away from the property as possible to avoid carbon monoxide poisoning. Like any combustion engine a generator exausts carbon monoxide gas, which is extremely toxic. A safe distance is at least 3 metres away from doors and windows.
Power into your electrical system
With load shedding becoming a regular occurence for the foreseeable future, the more permanent solution of having a standby generator connected to your electrical system is one that you may want to consider. However, this is not a job you can do yourself and will need to contract a qualified electrician to wire up the system for you. Request a compliance certificate to ensure the job is done properly and ask for a guarantee on the work done.
Accessories you will need
When you buy a generator you will also need to buy heavy-duty extension cables, anything less and you run the risk of a fire hazard and possible damage to appliances.
A 5 000-watt generator will run approximately eight hours on around 18 litres of petrol and, while most stage 1 power outages are about 4 hours, you also need to factor in for stage 3 outages, which can be two stage 1 outages per day. That means you need to keep a supply of fuel on hand to run the generator. Invest in three or four 20 litre fuel cans and store these in a safe place.
In addition to fuel you will also need oil and replacement filters for your new generator. A brand new generator will need an oil change after running for 25 to 30 hours, so buy this and store away when you buy the generator.
A quality generator is going to set you back a bit, but it's worth spending a little extra to buy from a local dealer. Buying from a local dealer means that replacement parts will be available, and the dealer will be familiar with maintenance and repair procedures for your particular model generator. You don't want to have to go through the inconvenience of having to wait weeks, or even months, to have a generator repaired.