Generator Safety

Portable generators are a good source of alternate power if an outage occurs, but they should only be used in emergency situations. If a generator is improperly installed or improperly operated, it can be deadly. If you want to connect a generator to your home’s main electrical supply, you need an electrical permit. You also need to be sure a double-pole, double-throw transfer switch is installed.

Before operating a generator, determine wattage requirements (volts X amps) by listing all appliances that are going to operate at the same time, and then determine the starting wattage requirements and the running wattage requirements. The starting load lasts only for a few seconds but is very important when figuring your total wattage to be used. Your generator must be rated to handle the total wattage.

Here are some more tips on how to avoid the primary hazards when using generators: electrical, carbon monoxide, and fire.

Electrical Hazards

  • Make sure the generator is connected to an appropriate electrical ground, in accordance with the National Electrical Code.
  • Follow directions supplied with the generator. Inspect extension cords before use. If they are worn, cut, or frayed, replace them, and use electrically grounded cords of the proper size
  • Operate the generator in a clean, dry, well-ventilated area. Make sure your hands are dry, and do not use it in rainy, wet, or icy conditions.
  • Do not overload the generator.
  • Turn off all of the equipment being powered by the generator before turning off the generator.

Carbon Monoxide Hazards

  • Always use generators outdoors and away from doors, windows, and vents.
  • Never use generators inside homes or other enclosed or partially enclosed areas, even with ventilation.
  • Install battery-operated or plug-in (with battery backup) carbon monoxide (CO) alarms in your home. Test the CO alarms frequently and replace batteries when they are needed.

Fire Hazards

  • Before refueling the generator, turn it off to let it cool. Fuel spilled on hot engine parts could ignite.
  • Always store fuel in properly labeled, non-glass containers and away from any fuel-burning appliances.
  • Do not store fuel indoors.
  • Never tamper with factory set engine speed settings. This could cause overheating and result in a fire.

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