Generators can keep critical parts of your home or business functioning during a power outage, but be careful not to create an unsafe situation. Improperly used generators pose a risk of carbon monoxide poisoning, fire, and electrocution.
A portable generator can be helpful during storm season, especially in rural areas where power outages can last for long periods of time. Portable generators can generate 2,000 to 7,2000 watts, and cannot power your entire home. Plugging the generator into an outlet inside your home or running it through the electrical panel without a professionally installed cut-off switch is extremely dangerous and puts utility crews in life-threatening danger of electrocution. Instead, plug an extension cord directly from your generator into an appliance. Use a heavy-duty extension cord rate for the size of generator to rotate power to appliance as needed. For example: run the refrigerator for a while, then the chest freezer, then a space heater, etc.
Take care where you place your generator. Put the generator in a dry location that is as far from your home as possible. If needed, use a portable canopy to shield it from rain or snow.
The exhaust from a generator is dangerous. A small generator puts out approximately one hundred times more carbon monoxide than a car's exhaust system because it lacks emission controls for filtering exhaust fumes.
Never place a generator in a garage or enclosed area where fumes can and will build up. Situate the generator in a safe area outdoors, away from doors and windows with at least three feet of clearance on all sides for ventilation and cooling. Always point the exhaust away from your home. Even then, wind can blow the fumes toward the house and into your home, where it builds up.
Carbon monoxide may build up in any enclosed area and it may not have a noticeable smell. Breathing it can make occupants experience flu-like symptoms - weakness, headaches, upset stomach, vomiting, dizziness, chest pain and confusion. When people breathe too much carbon monoxide, they may lose consciousness and can die if they do not get fresh air immediately.
A battery-powered carbon monoxide alarm can alert occupants of the home if the gas is building up indoors before it is too late. Someone asleep will not feel the typical symptoms and may die unless awakened. If anyone shows these symptoms or the alarm goes off, get outside right away. Air out the building by opening all the doors and windows to let the poisonous gas escape before returning.
See below for further safety tips when using generators:
• Never refuel a running generator. Any spills may ignite a fire.
• Reduce the chance of tripping accidents by placing the extension cord out of the way, so no one will stumble over it.
• Only use an outside extension cord with amperage rated for your appliances. A tag on the cord shows its rating. Never exceed the noted amperage of the cord when powering your appliances.
• Check your cord for cracks and breaks and replace it if you find any. Never use a patched cord or an indoor cord that is too small for the generator’s output.