Portable electric generators can provide lifesaving benefits when your home or business is faced with a power outage. They can power a wide range of critical electrical equipment including portable heating units, refrigerators, freezers, lighting, computers, and water pumps. However, generators also come with their own set of risks. In order to ensure safety for yourself, your family, and the people working to restore power in your area, you must adhere to the following guidelines.
Read the owner's manual. Before you run your generator for the first time, read the instruction manual in full. If you're ever in doubt about operating or maintaining a generator, use common sense. For example, even if the manual doesn't say anything about replacing frayed power cords, you should still do so.
Use it in a safe, outdoor location. Never run a generator in an enclosed space, including the home, garage, or crawl space. Generators emit toxic fumes that fans, windows, and doors cannot extinguish adequately. Set up the generator in a safe, dry outdoor location away from the open windows, vents, and doors for both your own house and neighboring homes. You should never touch a generator if you are wet or are standing on damp ground or in water.
Lay extension cords properly. Are you using extension cords for your generators? Make sure that they are a heavy duty, grounded variety and that they're rated for the application. If the generator has a three-prong plug, you should always select a three-prong extension cord. Uncoil cords and lay them flat in open locations to prevent heat buildup.
Avoid using a home outlet. Don't ever plug a generator directly into a home outlet. If you're connecting a generator to a home electrical system, hire an experienced electrician to install a Power Transfer Switch.
Minimize risk of combustion. Gasoline and gas vapors are quite flammable. Before you refuel a generator, let the engine cool for a minimum of two minutes. Always use fresh gasoline. If you're not planning to use the generator within the next month, use a fuel stabilizer to stabilize the gas. You may also want to install a carbon monoxide alarm that will alert you if carbon monoxide levels become a potential hazard.
Stick to the recommended maintenance schedule. Follow the guidelines from the generator manufacturer for routine maintenance. These practices ensure optimal performance and safety.
Never operate your generator under wet conditions. Generators produce a powerful amount of voltage, so take precautions to protect your equipment from exposure to the rain or snow.