The Do’s and Don’ts of Generator Safety

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Whether you are facing severe weather or just a lost power issue, a generator can be your last line of defense for keeping things up and going when electricity is down. Generators can be used to keep your refrigerator, appliances, chargers or other powered devices running. The majority of generator use in the Charlotte, NC area is due to power loss during storms, with the second highest use being due to power shut-off.

Many homeowners like to have a generator on hand in case of a power outage that lasts more than an hour or two. Some power outages last for days or weeks, depending on the nature of the power outage and the process of restoration by the utilities company. In longer power outages, food, necessary medical equipment, lights, heat, AC, fans, chargers and other important items that need power cannot be used, which can lead to harmful situations or damaged property. However, using a generator improperly and not practicing proper generator safety can also lead to hazardous situations, injury, property damage and even death.

Common Household Portable Power Generator Dangers

Improper use of home generators can cause hazardous situations that may threaten your home or well-being. According to the CPSC, 851 deaths were associated with portable home generator incidents between 2005-2016. In those incidents, 82% of victims were more than 25 years old, and more than 75% were male. Several hundred more incidents were reported with property damage or hazardous situations that did not result in death, and these are only the reported incidents.

Portable Home Generators may be a life-saver in terms of keeping necessary equipment running or temperatures in a reasonable range during a power outage. However, unsafe use could lead to unnecessary risk and danger. The most common hazards that occur with generator use include:

  • Shocks and electrocution
  • Fire
  • Carbon monoxide poisoning
  • Noise hazards
  • Vibration hazards
  • Fuel spills and hazards

Rules for Safe Portable Generator Use and Generator Safety

Follow the Instructions

Many owners skim or ignore the instruction book, but this can lead to unsafe operation. Every generator model is different, so owners should read through the instructions for any new generator, even if they’ve owned or operated generators in the past. One of the most important steps to safe portable generator use is to read the do’s and don’ts specifically listed in the instructions for your specific generator model.

Use Outside Only

Portable generators should always be used outside due to high levels of carbon monoxide fumes produced as they operate. Operating a generator in your home, shed, garage, camper or barn can result in a dangerous buildup of poisonous gases. Always have a working carbon monoxide detector in your home to ensure you are alerted if there is any kind of unsafe level. Generators should be kept away from windows, including those of your home or neighbor’s structures. Keep your generator under an overhang and protected from rain.

Wear the Proper Clothing

Closed toe shoes, jeans, gloves and even safety goggles are best to wear when operating heavy equipment like a portable generator. Many small incidents are completely avoidable if operators take proper precaution and don’t feel overly confident with operating the equipment they own. Broken toes, burns to the skin, cuts, scrapes, broken fingers, eye injury and bruising are all possible hazards when the right clothing and safety equipment is not worn. It is better to be safe than sorry. Children should always be kept away from the generator, and only an educated adult should operate the machine.

Practice Safe Fuel Use and Storage

Incidents may occur that are indirectly related to your generator—specifically hazards due to fuel use and storage. Only use the fuel recommended for your generator according to the instructions. Turn the generator off and allow it to cool completely before adding fuel, since fuel on a hot engine could ignite and lead to a fire. Always store your fuel outside of your living space and in an approved fuel storage container that is properly sealed. Completely clean up all spills in order to avoid potential fire or fume hazards.

Do Not Overload the Generator

Before buying a portable generator, you will want to calculate the amount of power you are going to need to run your appliances and equipment. You can check the labels on your devices and equipment to see what the power requirements are to run them and then plan accordingly. The total power load of your items should be lower than the amount of power produced by the generator.
You may be able to get away with only operating certain items at a time, since you will likely not need chargers, hair blow dryers and your microwave plugged in all at the same time. If you plan to have certain items running continuously, you will need to have additional power to cover any other items you may need to use periodically. You can always unplug certain items, like a window air conditioner or refrigerator for a shorter time if you need to free up power for a different appliance or device. Overloading the generator could lead to blowing a fuse, damaging the generator or even damaging your connected equipment.

Do NOT Power Your ENTIRE House With A Portable Generator

Never try to power the entire house by plugging the portable generator into a wall outlet. This can lead to electrocution and could send electricity into the switchboard and power lines. It could even cause harm to your neighbors and utilities staff. If you want to have your whole house power covered in the case of a power outage, you can install a special auto-start home backup generator that is wired into your house’s main electrical breaker by an electrician.

Getting Professional Help with Generator Safety and Installation in Charlotte, NC

If you need help with generator installation in Charlotte, NC, give us a call. We will be happy to answer all of your questions. We can provide helpful insight on what kind of generator would be ideal for your household needs. If you are interested in having a permanent auto-start generator wired into your home, we can provide quotes and properly install your equipment. Call us today to schedule your appointment with one of our licensed electricians.