With fall and winter coming on, generators are more than likely going to be needed again soon. Every year, wind storms, rain and snow cause power outages all across the country. While some areas (the area where I have my home, for example) are more prone to power outages (out where I live, it’s because of the number of trees that fall and knock down power lines) no area is totally immune and having a generator is usually a good idea to avoid freezing, avoid losing food when the fridge goes out or having important medical equipment go off when it’s needed. Whether we are talking about a standby generator (the kind that kicks on automatically when the power goes out) or a portable generator (the kind you need to start up when the power goes off), there are certain safety measures to be followed in order to make sure that you are using your generator safely.
- Read and follow all the instructions and owner’s manuals that come with the generator. I understand that, as a guy, we don’t tend to read instructions; we prefer to just play with it until we can get it going properly, but in this case, it is critical to read, understand and follow all directions.
- Portable generators are run on gasoline and therefore produce carbon monoxide (CO). CO is a poisonous gas that is odorless, tasteless and invisible. As such it can be extremely dangerous. Without realizing that the CO is affecting you, you can become drowsy, fall asleep or get groggy and do stupid things without realizing it. This means that you will need to make sure that
a) the generator is used outdoors (NEVER indoors, in the garage, in the basement, on the deck, etc…) and
b) that it is not placed near a window or an intake vent where the CO might be sucked into the house.
- NEVER try to power the house electrical system by “backfeeding” the generator into a wall outlet. This can be extremely dangerous.
- Allow at least 10 seconds after firing up the generator in order to allow the generator to stabilize before plugging in your appliances.
- Always have a CO alarm installed to make sure you are instantly aware of CO build-up.
Having your power go out in the middle of a storm is inconvenient enough. Make sure that you don’t make it worse by not safely using the generator.