Using a Generator at Home
Preventing Shock / Electrocution:
The electricity created by generators has the same hazards as normal utility-supplied electricity. It also has some additional hazards because generator users often bypass the safety devices (such as circuit breakers) that are built into electrical systems.
The following precautions are provided to reduce shock and electrocution hazards:
- Never attach a generator directly to the electrical system of a structure (home, office, trailer, etc.) unless a qualified electrician has properly installed the generator with a transfer switch.
- Always plug electrical appliances directly into the generator using the manufacturer’s supplied cords or extension cords that are grounded (3-pronged).
- Inspect the cords to make sure they are fully intact and not damaged, cut or abraded. Never use frayed or damaged extension cords.
- Ensure the cords are appropriately rated in watts or amps for the intended use.
- Do not overload a generator; this can lead to overheating which can create a fire hazard.
- Make sure a generator is properly grounded and the grounding connections are tight. Consult the manufacturer's instructions for proper grounding methods.
- Keep a generator dry; do not use it in the rain or wet conditions. If needed, protect a generator with a canopy. Never manipulate a generator’s electrical components if you are wet or standing in water.
- Do not use electrical equipment that has been submerged in water. Equipment must be thoroughly dried out and properly evaluated before using.
- Power off and do not use any electrical equipment that has strange odors or begins smoking.
Carbon Monoxide Poisoning:
Carbon monoxide (CO) is a colorless, odorless, toxic gas. Many people have died from CO poisoning because their generator was not adequately ventilated.
Never use a generator, grill, camp stove or other gasoline, propane, natural gas or charcoal-burning devices inside a home, garage, basement, crawlspace or any partially enclosed area.
NOTE: Open windows and doors may NOT prevent CO from building up when a generator is located in an enclosed space.
- Make sure a generator has 3 to 4 feet of clear space on all sides and above it to ensure adequate ventilation.
- Do not place a generator near doors, windows, and vents, which could allow CO to enter and build up in occupied spaces.
- If you or others show symptoms of CO poisoning—dizziness, headaches, nausea, tiredness—get to fresh air immediately and seek medical attention. Do not re-enter the area until it is determined to be safe by trained and properly equipped personnel.
- Install CO alarms in central locations on every level of your home and outside sleeping areas to provide early warning of accumulating carbon monoxide.
- Generators become hot while running and remain hot for long periods after they are stopped. Generator fuels (gasoline, kerosene, etc.) can ignite when spilled on hot engine parts.
- Before refueling, shut down the generator and allow it to cool.
- Gasoline and other generator fuels should be stored and transported in approved containers that are properly designed and marked for their contents, and vented.
- Do not store generator fuels in your home. Store fuels away from living areas.
Sources: Occupational Safety and Health Administration, Red Cross, RG&E