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Understanding Safe Generator Operation

It seems every time we read or watch the news, yet another natural disaster has struck the U.S., ranging from floods and fires to superstorms. It goes without saying backup generators have become quite popular as a result, providing power until officials and aid organization can restore effected neighborhoods to normalcy. Far too often, though, these essential devices result in personal disaster as well, as key operational procedures go overlooked. Fortunately, you can weather the storm – and what comes after – with a few essential generator safety tips.

Avoid Generator Dangers

It’s easy to overlook basic safety measures, especially when you are preoccupied or overwhelmed with post-disaster recovery. But it’s important to think of your family and personal safety first, and avoid cutting corners. Operating your backup generator improperly can result in death in as little as 5 minutes if carbon monoxide levels are high enough. Fifty people per year die from carbon monoxide poisoning from improper generator operation annually. Don’t become a statistic.

Follow these Essential Backup Generator Dos and Don’ts & Ensure Safety

Though not difficult to use, generators require a bit of special attention to ensure safe operation…

  • When Operating a Generator, Do…
    • Choose a model that produces more amps than you need.
      Larger appliances often need twice as much energy to start than to run. Manufacturer worksheets and online wattage calculators can help you easily tackle this task.
    • Read the instructions.
      Even properly operated generators can become overloaded.
    • Plug appliances directly into the generator.
      Using a heavy-duty, outdoor extension cord rated for the sum of the connected loads, if one is needed.
    • Stagger equipment/appliance operation.
      This can prevent overloads.
    • Store fuel in approved containers.
      Store outside living areas, away from combustion appliances. Ask your local fire department about appropriate storage locations, always allowing your generator to cool before refueling to avoid fire risks.
    • Look to carbon monoxide detectors to ensure safety.
      Install at every level of the home, and outside sleeping areas. The primary hazard of generator operation is carbon monoxide poisoning.
  • When Operating a Generator, Do NOT…
    • Never use a generator in enclosed/partially enclosed areas.
      Always run your generator outside, at least 15 feet away from doors, windows, and vents that could allow carbon monoxide to infiltrate your home. Opening doors and windows is not enough to prevent the buildup of potentially deadly carbon monoxide, which you will not see or smell, inside your home. If you feel sick, dizzy or weak, while operating a backup generator, get fresh air immediately!
    • Never run a generator without installing a transfer switch.
      Plugging your generator into a wall outlet without a transfer switch can cause a back feed in electrical current that can be deadly for area utility workers and neighbors. It also bypasses essential household electrical safety devices like circuit protectors, putting your expensive electronics and appliances at-risk of excess current and electrical fire.  
    • Never refuel when hot.
      Always turn your generator off, giving it plenty of time to cool down before refueling. Spilling fuel on hot surfaces could result in fire.
    • Never operate wet.
      Never use your generator in the rain, work with your generator if you are in stranding water, or operate it with wet hands. See manufacturer recommendations for proper operation under open, canopy-like structures. Proper operation will safeguards your life – and the life of your appliances.

Stay safe. Get through the aftermath with the help of Mr. Electric. Ensure the safety of your home and family with proper backup generator operation and installation. Contact us today.

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This blog is made available by Mr. Electric for educational purposes only to give the reader general information and a general understanding on the specific subject above. The blog should not be used as a substitute for a licensed electrical professional in your state or region. Check with city and state laws before performing any household project.