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Generator Safety

Generators: Safe installation and operation

Electric generators can help you in many ways during a power outage.

Generators can run a refrigerator, keeping food from spoiling, operate life-sustaining equipment, run an electric grill or small toaster oven and allow you to have some lights. Overcoming Mother Nature’s with such a machine is nice, but be sure to hookup the generator correctly and handle it with care.

Keep these safety tips in mind if you will be installing a generator:

  • Do business with a company that has a good reputation and offers a warranty.
  • Install your generator outside under cover of a weather shield, like a vented shed. Most units use the type of gasoline used in a lawnmower, which when burning its fuel emits deadly carbon monoxide fumes. Never operate the generator in enclosed or partially enclosed spaces, because generators quickly produce high levels of colorless, odorless carbon monoxide.
  • If you buy a generator, have a qualified electrician install a power transfer switch, also called a double-pole, double-throw switch. This switch will protect lineworkers from being injured, if someone were to connect their generator directly to household wiring, causing a back feed of power along the power lines, energizing lines that workers believed were out of service. An NGEMC lineworker unaware of the situation could be killed.
  • Keep the generator dry. To protect it from moisture, operate on a dry surface under an open canopy-like structure.
  • Plug appliances directly into the generator. Or, use a heavy-duty outdoor-rated extension cord that is rated in watts or amps at least equal to the sum of the connected appliance loads.
  • Make sure the generator is properly grounded.
  • Buy a generator with enough capacity to run the appliances you will need during an outage. If you plan to operate expensive equipment like a computer, double-check with your dealer to make sure the generator can safely power sensitive electronics.
  • Do not overload the generator. A portable generator should be used only when necessary, and only to power essential equipment or appliances.
  • Make sure fuel for the generator is stored safely, away from living areas, in properly labeled containers, and away from fuel-burning appliances. Try using fuel stabilizer, a gas preservative, between uses. Many generators have tanks as big as five gallons. But because power outages aren’t frequent, there’s a good chance the gas in your machine will go bad between uses.
  • Turn off all appliances powered by the generator before shutting down the generator.
  • Follow the manufacturer’s instructions for safe operation and maintenance.
  • Keep children away from portable generators at all times.


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