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Portable Gas Generator Safety
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By Member John Long, Jr.
December 31, 2015

Tips for Using Portable Generators Safely
Portable electric generators offer great benefits when outages affect your home, but can also be hazardous. The primary hazards to avoid when using a generator are carbon monoxide (CO) poisoning from toxic engine exhaust, electric shock, and fire. Below are guidelines for safely connecting and operating portable generators.

Never use a generator indoors or in an attached garage.
Just like your automobile, a portable generator uses an internal combustion engine that emits deadly carbon monoxide. Be sure to place the generator where exhaust fumes will not enter the house. Only operate it outdoors in a well-ventilated, dry area, away from air intakes to the home, and protected from direct exposure to rain, preferably under a canopy, open shed or carport.

Don't connect your generator directly to your home's wiring, or to a regular household outlet.
Connecting a portable electric generator directly to your household wiring can be deadly to you and others. A generator that is directly connected to your home's wiring can 'back feed' onto the power lines connected to your home.

Utility transformers can then "step-up" or increase this "backfeed" to thousands of volts—with the potential to severely injure or even kill a utility worker trying to restore service or others served by the same transformer. You could also cause expensive damage to utility equipment and your generator. Connect individual appliances that have their outdoor-rated power cords directly to the generator, or connect these cord-connected appliances to the generator with the appropriate outdoor-rated power cord having a sufficient wire gauge to handle the electrical load.

Don't overload the generator.
Do not operate more appliances and equipment than the continuous or rated output of the generator. Overloading your generator can seriously damage your valuable appliances and electronics. Turn connected appliances on one at a time, never exceeding the rated wattage. Prioritize your needs. A portable electric generator should be used only when necessary, and only to power essential equipment. 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.

Use the proper power cords.
Plug individual appliances into the generator using heavy-duty, outdoor-rated cords with a wire gauge adequate for the appliance load. Overloaded cords can cause fires or equipment damage. Don't use extension cords with exposed wires or worn shielding. Make sure the cords from the generator don't present a tripping hazard. Don't run cords under rugs where heat might build up or cord damage may go unnoticed.

Read and adhere to the manufacturer's instructions for safe operation.
Don't cut corners when it comes to safety. Carefully read and observe all instructions in your portable electric generator's owner manual. Consult the manufacturer's help line if you have additional concerns or questions.

To prevent electrical shock, make sure your generator is properly grounded.
Consult your manufacturer's manual for correct grounding procedures.

Do not store fuel indoors or try to refuel a hot generator or one that is running.
Gasoline (and other flammable liquids) should be stored outside of living areas in properly labeled, non-glass safety containers. They should not be stored in a garage if a fuel-burning appliance is in the garage. The vapor from gasoline can travel invisibly along the ground and be ignited by pilot lights or electric arcs caused by turning on the lights. Avoid spilling fuel on hot components. Put out all flames or cigarettes when handling gasoline. Always have a fully charged, approved fire extinguisher located near the generator. Never attempt to refuel a portable generator while it's hot or running. Hot engine parts or exhaust can ignite gasoline.

Turn off all equipment powered by the generator before starting or shutting down your generator.
Avoid getting burned.
Many generator parts are hot enough to burn you during operation.

Keep children away from portable electric generators at all times.


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