If you're one of the millions of people who had your precious electricity knocked out thanks to Hurricane Sandy -- or maybe it happened during Hurricane Irene, or the storm that hit the Washington, D.C., area a year ago, or any other time the lights have gone out -- you're probably kicking yourself that you didn't have a generator. Considering that it doesn't seem to take much for the power lines to go down, and it seems to take forever for them to come back up, why don't we all have them? Well, unfortunately, it's not that simple for everyone. Let's look at the ABCs of generator ownership.

Because generators run on fuel -- either propane or diesel or even natural gas -- they need to be kept where they have a lot of ventilation, like in a garage or a porch or outside. Which pretty much leaves out anyone with an apartment. But for people who do have homes, you can't just set up a generator anywhere. They should be kept away from any other vehicles. Also, they make a lot of noise, so you don't want it loudly humming away where it's going to bother your neighbor -- unless you're inviting your powerless neighbor over for hot meals and showers.

Whatever type of fuel your generator runs on, you want to make sure you have extra on hand before a storm. And that too needs to be kept somewhere there's a lot of ventilation and away from any other engines or anything that could send off a spark. After Sandy, even some people with generators were in trouble because they didn't have enough diesel.

Generators not only need to be kept away from anything that could cause an explosion, but they need to be kept away from children and pets too. If it's running, the engine gets hot and can burn anyone who touches it.

Generators don't mean you get to live like normal while everyone else suffers without power. They aren't meant to run your whole house as it normally runs. You still have to keep your electrical usage as low as possible, turning it on only to run the refrigerator or heat. It's not going to get you days of television watching.

Generators aren't as easy as plugging in a microwave. Nope, it's pretty complex, actually, figuring out what kind of generator you need in order to power up. You need to know how many watts your generator should generate and this requires figuring out how much power all of the circuits in your home use. So please do your research or ask someone who has a generator to give you a lesson.

Don't wait until right before a big storm or after the power has gone out before trying to get a generator. Trust me. They're nowhere to be found.

If you've got the space, and you're the handy type who can figure out how to get a generator safely running, then they can be incredibly useful. You'll never quake at a big storm coming in quite the same way again.

Do you have a generator?


Image via Terry Wha/Flickr