10 Tips for Using a Generator Safely

Whether it’s a hurricane, blizzard, Nor’easter or another blustery weather event, losing power is not just an inconvenience—it can put your family’s well-being at risk.

In light of this, many homeowners have opted to invest in a portable generator. It’s a more affordable option than the whole-house variety. While a generator may be a welcome addition to your home and emergency preparedness plan, it must be used properly in order to avoid risk. Be sure to keep the following tips in mind for safely operating a generator, courtesy of the Outdoor Power Equipment Institute (OPEI).

1. Get to know your generator before you use it.

Make sure your equipment is in good working order before starting it up. Do this well before a storm hits so that you are safely prepared for when you lose power.

2. Thoroughly review the directions.

Be sure to follow all manufacturer’s instructions and review the owner’s manuals so that the equipment is operated safely. If you’ve misplaced your manual, you can probably find it online.

3. Install a battery-operated carbon monoxide detector in your home.

This alarm will sound if it detects dangerous levels of carbon monoxide within your home.

4. Have the right fuel on hand.

Use the type of fuel recommended by the generator manufacturer. According to OPEI, it is illegal to use any fuel with more than 10% ethanol in outdoor power equipment. While fresh fuel is always the best option, if you have to use fuel that’s been sitting in a gas can for more than 30 days, add fuel stabilizer to it. Store gas only in an approved container and away from heat sources.

5. Ensure portable generators have plenty of ventilation.

Generators should never be used in an enclosed area or placed inside a home, building or garage, even if the windows or doors are open. Place the generator outside and away from windows, doors and vents that could allow carbon monoxide to drift indoors.

6. Keep the generator dry.

Do not use a generator in wet conditions. Cover and vent a generator. Model-specific tents or generator covers can be found online for purchase and at home centers and hardware stores.

7. Only add fuel to a cool generator.

Before refueling, turn the generator off and let it cool down.

8. Plug in safely.

If you don’t yet have a transfer switch, you can use the outlets on the generator. It’s best to plug in appliances directly to the generator. If you must use an extension cord, it should be heavy-duty and designed for outdoor use. Make sure the cord is free of cuts, and the plug has all three prongs.

9. Install a transfer switch.

A transfer switch connects the generator to the circuit panel and lets you power hardwired appliances. Most transfer switches also help avoid overload by displaying wattage usage levels.

10. Do not use the generator to “backfeed” power into your home electrical system.

Trying to power your home’s electrical wiring by “backfeeding” – where you plug the generator into a wall outlet – is dangerous. You could hurt utility workers and neighbors served by the same transformer. Backfeeding bypasses built-in circuit protection devices, so you could damage your electronics or start an electrical fire.

Final Thought

Be safe and smart when utilizing a generator this winter to keep your family safe when the power is down.


Related Post: Preparing Your Home for Inclement Weather: 5 Quick Tips for Homeowners