Generator Safety

Using Portable Generators Safely

A portable generator can help restore life to normal during emergencies, but its safe use requires care and planning. The following tips - and a thorough reading of the generator's instructions - can help avoid dangerous shortcuts.

Gasoline-powered generators produce deadly carbon monoxide fumes

Tip: You can't trust your senses for protection from carbon monoxide; this deadly gas is invisible and odorless. When buying a generator, also buy a battery-operated carbon monoxide alarm. It works like a smoke alarm, sounding an alert if carbon monoxide levels become dangerous

Never connect a generator directly to your home's wiring

Power from a generator connected to a home's wiring will "back feed" into utility lines, potentially injuring severely or killing a neighbor or utility crew working to restore service.

Tip: If the appliance has a three-prong plug, always use a three-prong extension cord.

What will a small generator run?

A small generator of about 3,000 watts can run a few lights, fans and a refrigerator all at one time. If used to start and run only one item at a time, it can run a ½ horsepower pump, or a small window air conditioner of about 5,000 BTUs.

Tip: You do not need to run everything at same time; rotating larger items allows the use of a smaller generator which costs less to buy and is easier to move.

Getting started

Get the most from your generator

Tip: Refrigerators may only need to run a few hours a day to preserve food. Using a refrigerator thermometer, aim to maintain 40 degrees in the refrigerator compartment and 0 degrees in the freezer.

Be a good neighbor

If the power is out, your neighbors are probably sleeping with their windows open. Consider that the sound of your generator may not be music to everyone's ears!