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Back-up generators can provide power during outages, but it's important to size accordingly

Oregonians know all too well how quickly the power can be wiped out by trees during heavy rains, winds or snow storms.

Many homes in rural areas are equipped with back-up generators, but for those still considering one, local utility district experts have some advice.

SPOTLIGHT PHOTO: COURTNEY VAUGHN - Portable generators like the ones sold at Ace Hardware can provide power for certain appliances during a power outage. Generators range in size and capacity, and it's important to know how many watts your household appliances use before purchasing a generator.Before deciding to backup your home's power supply, determine if you want a larger system, hard-wired into your home's electrical supply, or a smaller, portable generator.

Start by determining how much power your home needs. In the case of portable generators, which often provide somewhere between 1,500 to 8,000 watts, determine which appliances are essential during an outage, find out how many watts they use and how many they need to start up, add the total watts of each, and find a generator that can handle the load you will need to power one or more appliances at once.

"Sometimes people think that a small portable generator will provide enough electricity to power everything in their home but this is rarely the case," Tim Lammers, an energy services supervisor with Columbia River People's Utility District, says. "Typically, portable generators that are used for emergency backup at home range from around 3,000 to 9,000 watts. It takes about 2,200 - 2,500 watts just to start a refrigerator or freezer."

Appliances that run on gas often still have some electrical component, advises an Ace Hardware customer service adviser, and some small portable generators won't be enough to power seemingly small plug-in appliances like hair dryers, which use up more power than many household appliances.

Anything with a heating component will use up more energy, so take that into consideration.

"Electric motors require two to three times their nameplate amperage or wattage, to compensate for the initial power surge needed to start the motor," a guidesheet from the PUD advises.

If using a portable generator, make sure you have an extension cord and always run the generator outside in a well-ventilated area.

To maximize efficiency of your generator during a power outage, use only certain devices at the same time, and turn off the power supply

to other devices at the circuit breaker panel in your home.

If you're hardwiring a more robust generator into your home to automatically kick on during an outage, talk with your electrical installer and consider the safety of repair crews. Having a backup power supply means energy can be flowing through power lines when repair crews aren't expecting it. Talk to your electrical provider about options and precautions to take to avoid injury or death of line crews.

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