Portable Generator Safety Tips: Use a Generator Safely

Updated – 2024

The number of households with a generator has increased over the last few years because of natural disasters, power outages, and other events that can leave people without electricity.

Generators provide an excellent way to stay warm and use appliances when there is no power. However, generators are not safe for everyone to operate.

In this blog post, we will discuss portable generator safety tips that will help you avoid potential dangers associated with using a generator.

Ask a Professional

  1. If you’re looking to install a generator but don’t know where it should be placed, an electrician can help. You may also want one on hand when connecting the power transfer switch and wiring for your new system.
  2. A power transfer switch is a device you can have an electrician install to permanently connect your generator to your home’s house wiring. The National Electrical Code® (NEC) and all applicable state and local codes should be followed when installing the switch, which will allow for a permanent connection that meets safety standards during storms or blackouts so generators may provide electricity in emergencies where there are no grid-tied alternatives available.

Using a Portable Generator at Home

portable generator safety
  • Carefully follow the directions for use on your generator to minimize risks. Keep these risks in mind when preparing for a power outage: carbon monoxide poisoning, electric shock or electrocution, and fire hazards.
  • Keep the generator dry to avoid electrocution. Link to the photo shown of a cut-away of the generator and curbs around it. You want to keep your feet clear in case there is an accident that might cause fuel leakage, but be careful not to touch anything on or near the engine itself.
  • In order to refuel the generator, you’ll need an approved can of fuel. Surge protectors for computer equipment are useful in preventing damage from spikes in power load while on a generator
  • Storing fuel for the generator in a safe place is half of what it takes. The kind of fuel you can use depends on instructions or labels on your generator.

10 Portable Generator Safety Tips and Usage Guidelines 

In order to use a generator safely, one must be aware of the generator safety rules. The new portable generators in the market can produce deadly levels of Carbon Monoxide.

A generator can be dangerous if used incorrectly. For example, prolonged use of a generator in an enclosed space increases the risk of serious symptoms or death from carbon monoxide poisoning.

Consider installing battery-operated gas detection devices and reading the manufacturer’s instructions to avoid high carbon levels.

Electric shock is an issue. There are many dangers with an electric shock. It can cause death.

Fire is one possible consequence of the incorrect use of a power generator.
Use a generator only when necessary, and only to power essential items.

  1. When you are running your generator, make sure it is outside. Position the generator at least 15 feet away from any open windows so the exhaust doesn’t enter your home or a neighboring one and leads to carbon monoxide levels that could be fatal.
  2. Keep the generator dry before touching the generator. You should operate your generator on a dry surface under an open, canopy-like structure and make sure you have wet hands before touching it or else water may get into the machine causing damage to its components.
  3. Before refueling your generator, shut down the engine and let it cool.
  4. It’s important to know how dangerous it can be for a generator that isn’t properly grounded. Shock and electrocution are both very real dangers you may face if your generator is not connected to the ground through some sort of grounding wire or metal stake, so make sure to refer back to OSHA guidelines before getting started on any DIY project involving generators.
  5. Connect the generator to all of your power-hungry appliances so that you can keep them running during a blackout. Plugin extension cords to make sure nothing is too far from the plug and use heavy-duty, outdoor-rated extensions with wire gauges capable of handling any electric load on them.
  6. Back-feeding is a careless and hazardous practice according to CPS. It puts you, utility workers, and nearby residents at risk of electrocution because it uses the same utility transformer. Additionally, it gets around some of the built-in household circuit protection mechanisms, which increases the risk of damaging some of your electronics or igniting an electrical fire.
  7. You may be tempted to plug-in your generator, but if you do not have an automatic transfer switch installed by a licensed electrician then when the power comes back on it will send electricity straight through your house and leave everything fried. It is absolutely essential that this measure has been taken before you ever try anything like that. Transfer switches are also helpful in preventing overload by showing wattage usage levels.
  8. Maintain an adequate supply of fuel for your generator. You must know how much it will consume at various power output levels, and carefully consider the amount that you can store safely without running out too soon. Gasoline or diesel stored in containers may need some chemical additives to make them safe to use if they are not used regularly enough during storage periods; check with your supplier about what is needed before storing these fuels long-term! Keep all generators well-ventilated and away from any potential heat sources while keeping a cool temperature – ideally between 10°C (50°F) and 15°C (59ºF).
  9. If you want to make sure that your generator is running as efficiently and for a long time, then it’s important not to put too much fuel in the tank at once. Too high of an octane level can shorten its lifespan greatly!
  10. You can plug your appliances straight into your generator, but if you must use an extension cable, make sure it is high-duty and fray-free, and that it is rated in watts or amps.

How to Prevent Carbon Monoxide (CO) Poisoning When Using a Generator

Generators produce CO which is extremely dangerous. It’s odorless, colorless and tasteless, and undetectable without a CO alarm.

But there are ways to reduce the amount of CO that is produced and enters your home.

First, make sure you place your generator outside or in an open area away from any windows or doors.

Second, use only a properly vented portable generator for inside use; never operate an unvented gas-powered engine indoors because it can lead to deadly levels of CO gas buildup.

Third, keep all doors and windows closed while operating the generator inside since this will help prevent any CO from entering through these openings as well as provide fresh air circulation within the building if needed during periods where operation is not taking place.

  • Make sure the generator is at least 20 feet away from any open doors, windows, or vents (recommended by Consumer Product Safety Commission)
  • Do not run a generator indoors or even in a garage.
  • Make sure you have a CO detector in your home and that it’s working properly
  • Don’t use an extension cord with a generator – this can lead to electrical shock or fire hazards
  • Keep children and pets away while running a generator, as they could be tempted to touch them or get too close for comfort
  • If you are using multiple appliances on the same circuit, make sure they are all rated for outdoor usage (if available)

Electrical Shock Hazards- Warning

Electrical hazards are a very real danger in the home. Many different types of electrical shock hazards can cause injury or death

The most common type of electric shock hazard is an electrocution hazard, which occurs when electricity flows through your body and disrupts the normal functioning of your heart, lungs, muscles, and nerves

Electrocutions may occur from contact with live wires or cables, faulty wiring such as frayed cords that have exposed wire insulation, or energized equipment such as power tools

Other types of electrical shocks include arc flash accidents (which result from high-voltage arcing), contact with voltage sources without physical contact (such as touching metal objects connected to a power line), and accidental exposure to voltages at relatively low levels (such as using hair dryers near sinks)

To prevent these dangers it’s important to take precautions including keeping all outlets covered by safety covers if you don’t use them often enough for plugs to fit securely; not running extension cords under carpets where they could overheat; making sure any outdoor lights are properly grounded before turning them on; never touch anything while working on household wiring – call an electrician instead.

source: Esfi, energy.gov

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