In the aftermath of a storm, a generator can be an incredibly useful tool to give you some comfort while waiting for utility crews to restore power. But if you plan to use one, always be sure to follow the manufacturer’s instructions. Here are some tips to keep you, your family, your neighbors and utility crews safe:
- Select a Safe Spot. Never run a generator in an enclosed space or indoors. Most generator-related injuries and deaths involve carbon monoxide poisoning that can build up. Always place a generator at least 20 feet from your house — and never in an attached garage — with the engine exhaust pointed away from windows and doors.
- Never plug a generator directly into your home’s outlets because it could re-energize power lines. This could endanger the lives of your neighbors who may be served by the same transformer and tree-trimming and utility crews working to restore power in your area.
- Install a transfer switch before a storm hits. This connection costs between $500 to $900, including labor, for a 5,000-rated-watt or larger generator. A transfer switch connects the generator to your circuit panel and lets you power hardwired appliances while avoiding the glaring safety risk of using extension cords. Most transfer switches also help you avoid overload by displaying wattage usage levels.
- Obey all local, state and national electrical and fire codes. You may not be aware, but it’s against the law and a violation of electrical codes to connect generators to your home’s electrical circuits without approved automatic-interrupt devices.
- Do not run a portable generator in rainy or wet conditions.
- Before refueling, turn off a gas-powered generator and let it cool. Any fuel spilled onto a hot surface could ignite. And a cool generator decreases the risk of burns while refueling.
- Always read the instructions carefully. Consult a licensed electrician if you have questions or concerns.
- Keep children and pets away from generators.
- Always keep a fully charged fire extinguisher nearby.
For more information and to view and download the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Alert regarding portable generator hazards, click here.