Generator Safety Tips

When bad weather rolls in and power outages occur, many homeowners turn to generators for electricity. However, improperly used generators can pose a huge safety risk, especially when they are positioned too close to open windows and doors due to the exhaust gases they emit that contain carbon monoxide. You should always keep windows and doors closed if they are in the vicinity of a generator.

Homeowners typically have one of the following types of generators (rated from safest to least safe below):

  1. A natural gas generator permanently installed with an automatic transfer switch installed by a professional (the safest means of backup power)
  2. A portable unit with a dedicated connection and manual transfer switch (typically fueled with gasoline and stored in a garage or shed when not in use)
  3. A portable unit with extension cords (the least desirable method of backup power since cords that run through windows and doors can become damaged and also allow the exhaust gases to enter the home more easily. They also need to be refueled more often, posing a greater risk of fire).

When using any type of generator, please keep these 5 safety tips in mind:

  1. Always have working smoke and carbon monoxide alarms. If a smoke or carbon monoxide alarm activates, immediately gather family members, leave the home, and call 911.
  2. Always operate a generator outdoors in open air. Never use a generator inside the home, a garage, an enclosed patio, front porch or near combustibles that could catch fire.
  3. Always operate a generator at least 10 feet from any opening into a home. In addition to checking doors and windows that can open, make sure the generator is located at least 10 feet away from a crawl space or dryer event, window well or ventilated soffit - any opening that would allow exhaust gases that contain carbon monoxide to get into your home. Permanently installed natural gas generators need to be at least 5 feet away from openings.
  4. Never use an extension cord with a plug on both ends to "backfeed" your home electrical system. This is a dangerous practice that can damage your home's wiring and reenergize electrical utility wires that can endanger line workers who are making repairs.
  5. Always store gasoline in a safety can and have a fire extinguisher nearby.

Courtesy of John Drucker (MTFD)

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