A backup generator can be a tremendous asset during power outages, providing you with much-needed electricity and comfort. However, ensuring the safe operation of your generator is paramount to prevent accidents and hazards.
Generator Safety Tips
Following best practices for generator use can keep your family safe, warm, and comfortable during a power outage. Here are some essential safety tips for using a backup generator.
Use Generators Outdoors
Generators should only be operated outdoors in well-ventilated areas to prevent the buildup of dangerous carbon monoxide (CO) gas. Never, under any circumstances, should you use them inside your home, garage, or any enclosed space, even if you think there's adequate ventilation. The exception to this rule is a portable power station that doesn't rely on flammable fuels and instead uses solar or electrical power.
Keep Generators Dry
Shield your generator from rain and moisture. Always operate it on a dry surface and cover it with a canopy or tent if necessary.
Install Carbon Monoxide Detection
For added safety, install carbon monoxide detectors in your home, especially near sleeping areas. These detectors can alert you if CO levels become dangerously high.
Use Generators at a Distance
Place the generator at least 20 feet away from your home, windows, and doors. This ensures that exhaust fumes do not find their way into your building.
Don't overload the generator. Calculate the total wattage of the appliances and devices you plan to power and make sure it falls within the generator's capacity. A good rule of thumb is to aim for a maximum load of 80% of the total capacity.
Use the Right Cords and Outlets
Use heavy-duty, outdoor-rated extension cords for your generator. Be certain they are in good condition and have exposed wires. Ideally, your cords and the outlet you plug them into should be equipped with built-in GFCIs to protect against electric shock.
Turn Off Before Refueling
Always allow the generator to cool down before refueling to avoid the risk of a fire. Never attempt to refuel it while it's running.
Perform Regular Maintenance
Routine generator maintenance is key to generator longevity. Perform tasks like oil changes and air filter replacements as per the manufacturer's recommendations.
Use a Transfer Switch Properly
Consider installing a transfer switch for your generator. This guarantees a safe and proper connection to your electrical system. If you do use a transfer switch to connect the generator to your electrical panel, be sure to turn the generator off before making the connection.
Keep Children and Pets Away
While the generator is running, it's important to keep children and pets at a safe distance.
Follow the Manufacturer's Guidelines
Always adhere to the instructions provided in the generator's manual. Different models may have unique operating requirements.
Fuel Types for a Backup Generator
Portable generators can run on various types of fuels, each with its advantages and safety considerations. Here are the most common fuel types used for portable generators.
Readily available and easy to find, gasoline can be stored for long periods with a fuel stabilizer. Still, gasoline has a shorter shelf life than other fuels, so it may require more frequent replacement if stored for extended periods. It can also be hazardous if not stored properly, so adding fuel stabilizers is strongly advised for mid to long-term storage.
Propane (LPG - Liquified Petroleum Gas)
Propane can be stored indefinitely without deterioration. Propane is a cleaner-burning fuel, resulting in fewer emissions and less engine maintenance. Note that propane requires a separate tank, which adds to the initial setup. Propane generators may have slightly lower power output than gasoline or diesel generators.
Diesel fuel has a longer shelf life than gasoline and can be more fuel-efficient, providing longer run times. It’s important to realize that diesel generators are more expensive upfront, and diesel fuel may not be as readily available in all areas.
Natural gas is a convenient fuel source if accessible. It can be more cost-effective and reliable than other fuels. However, a natural gas line installation may be required, which can add to the initial setup cost. Natural gas generators may also have slightly lower power output than other fuels.
Dual-Fuel (Gasoline/Propane or Gasoline/Natural Gas)
Dual-fuel generators offer versatility, allowing you to switch between two fuel sources. This can be beneficial if one fuel source is not readily available. Be aware that dual-fuel generators are more expensive upfront and may have slightly lower power output than single-fuel models.
Hydrogen is a highly clean-burning fuel with no harmful emissions. It can be produced from renewable sources, making it a sustainable option. Hydrogen-powered generators are less common and may not be as readily available in all areas. Storage and handling of hydrogen can also be more complex and require specialized equipment.
Generator Fuel Selection Basics
Always follow the manufacturer's recommendations for fuel type and storage. Consider factors like fuel availability in your area, storage requirements, and your specific needs when selecting a portable generator and its fuel source.
Generator Fuel Safety
When it comes to portable generators, safety extends to the fuels they use. Mishandling fuels can lead to dangerous situations, including fires, explosions, and exposure to harmful fumes. Here are some critical fuel safety tips for portable generators.
Store Fuel Properly
Store fuel in containers specifically designed for that purpose. These containers are usually labeled and constructed to prevent leaks and spills. If they aren’t labeled, you should mark the container to prevent accidental use of the wrong fuel.
Keep fuel in a cool, well-ventilated area away from heat sources, flames, or electrical equipment. Do not store fuel near living spaces or in enclosed areas. If you plan to store fuel for an extended period, consider using additives or stabilizers to maintain its quality.
Use the Correct Fuel Type
Only use the fuel recommended by the manufacturer for your generator model. Using the wrong fuel can damage the generator and pose a safety hazard. Avoid mixing different types of fuels, as this can be dangerous and may cause damage.
Pour Fuel Carefully
Using a funnel to pour fuel into the generator's tank can help prevent spills and ensure that fuel is directed into the tank.
Do not overfill the fuel tank. Instead, leave some room for expansion. If you happen to spill fuel, clean it up immediately using absorbent materials, and dispose of contaminated materials properly.
Turn Off the Generator Before Refueling
Always let the generator cool down before refueling to prevent hot engine parts from igniting the fuel.
Avoid Smoking and Open Flames
Never smoke near a generator or while handling fuel. Keep open flames, including pilot lights, away from the area where you're handling fuel.
Dispose of Unused Fuel Properly
If you have unused fuel, follow local regulations for proper disposal. Do not pour it on the ground or down the drains.
Check for Leaks
Inspect fuel lines and connections for any signs of leakage. If you detect a leak, shut off the generator and address the issue immediately.
Keep Children and Pets Away
Ensure that children and pets are kept away from areas where fuel is stored and the generator is refueled.
Get Help with Your Generator
Your safety is paramount, and these safety tips should help you make the most of your backup generator without compromising your or your family's well-being. If you ever encounter any electrical issues or have questions, remember that consulting a qualified electrician, like the friendly professionals at Thomas Edison Electric, is always a smart choice.
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