Nowadays, a generator is more than a convenience, and these items are no longer used sporadically like in the past. In fact, they fly off the shelves of general stores every time the media channels broadcast the “BAD forecast for this week’s weather” message. While some people know how to use a generator, the vast majority has no idea what protocols to follow and which are the generator safety rules they should implement for their household.
Keeping a generator on-hand isn’t just a nice item to have when Mother Nature’s fury hits your region and the power goes out. This useful item will help you preserve food or medicine and even keep your air conditioning running in case of extreme heat.
Before we cover the generator safety rules, I think it’s better to recap what you need to know before buying a generator. I wrote in a previous article about this topic, but let’s make a quick summary:
- You need to figure out what type of devices you need to power and you have to calculate how many watts it will take to run each piece of equipment. Add up the wattage requirements for each piece of equipment on your list, and it will tell you what size of generators you will need.
- Establishing what type of appliances you want/need to run and once you know how many ways of power you will need will help you to decide if you go with an inverter or a generator.
- Choosing between the portable and standby generator. This is a question you need to find the answer for since generator safety rules may vary based on the type of generator you pick.
- Fuel is also a constant you need to take into account when planning to survive a natural disaster. The common sense rule is that the bigger the generator, the more fuel it will use. However, most manufacturers advertise the use of one gallon of fuel per hour, more or less.
- And last but not least, the budget required for buying a generator. Common sense dictates that one should get a generator long before the bad weather forecast. In fact, generators today are relatively inexpensive. Unless, of course, you buy them during the storm when prices go up due to high demand. As a quick tip, a reliable Coleman generator that gives 2,500 running watts and around 3000 surge watts can be purchased for $500-$600. The one I have at my “remote cabin” can produce ten hours of power on a three-gallon tank of gasoline.
Now that you have a general idea of what you need to know before buying a generator, it’s time to cover the generator safety rules. There are some hazards you need to consider when operating a portable generator. As a common classification, shock and electrocutions, CO poisoning, fire and even noise and vibration injuries can occur.
Generator Safety Rules to acknowledge and implement
Shock and Electrocution
A lot of people fail to understand that even portable a generator can cause the same dangers as normal utility-supplied electricity. Even more, some generator users often bypass the circuit breakers that are built into the electrical systems.
Don’t attach the generator to the regular electrical outlet of your home or trailer unless you are a qualified electrician that can install a transfer switch. If you attach the generator directly to the electrical system of your house without a transfer switch, the wiring systems can be energized for great distances. This creates a great risk of electrocution, and you can kill somebody outside your house without even knowing it.
When connecting electrical appliances always plug them into the generator using the supplied cords and extension cords provided by the manufacturers. These are grounded and will protect you from shock and electrocution. Before plugging in the appliances, you should inspect the cords to make sure they are fully intact and not damaged or cut. Also make sure that the cords are rated in amps or watts for the intended use and do no use underrated cords, not even for a short period. And most importantly, do not overload the generator as this creates fire hazards.
Recommended reading: Questions To Ask Before Choosing A Generator
Assure a proper grounding for the generator and check that the grounding connections are tight. Always consult the manufacturer’s instructions and follow the generator safety rules for grounding methods.
This should be common sense, but I’m going to write it anyway. Do not use the generator in the rain or wet conditions. If rain is in the forecast and you need to use it, make sure you protect it properly by using a canopy or waterproof tarp. When you manipulate the generator’s components, you shouldn’t stand in water. Make sure you are dry before starting it.
In wet or damp location, you should use a ground fault circuit interrupter. This will shut off power when an electrical current is detected outside normal paths. You can even buy extension cords with built-in GFCI protection at hardware stores. Regardless of these measures, make sure your portable generator is listed and approved for wet and damp locations.
Carbon Monoxide (CO) poisoning
One of the most important safety rules to implement is protection against CO buildup. Carbon monoxide is a colorless, odorless, toxic gas that has claimed many lives. This occurs when the generator is not properly ventilated, and people don’t even realize that the slow creeping sickness is more than a slight headache.
Once again we need to talk about common sense. Never, ever use a generator indoors or enclosed spaces such as basements, cellars or garages. Even if you open the windows and doors, CO can still build up in an enclosed space.
One of the generator safety rules I follow when using my generator is making sure there are at least 3 feet of clear space on all sides of my generator, to provide adequate ventilation.
Do not use your generator outdoors, near windows or doors since these spaces and vents in its vicinity can allow CO to enter and build up inside your home. Place it where carbon monoxide will not drift into your building.
Make sure you understand the symptoms of CO poisoning and don’t take things lightly. If you or your family members are suffering from headaches, nausea, dizziness, and tiredness, get immediately outside and get some fresh air. Even more, I advise you to seek medical attention and do not re-enter the area unless it has been determined to be safe by properly equipped personnel.
Install a CO detector to prevent CO poisoning. These small, inexpensive devices can save your life. There is no need to cut corners when it comes to the safety and well-being of your family.
If you operated a generator before, you should know by now that they become hot while running. Some models remain hot even after long periods after they are stopped. Not to mention that generator fuels can ignite when spilled on hot engine parts. Your generator safety rules should cover this topic as well and you should keep fire hazards to a minimum.
Never refuel the generator while it is still running and make sure it’s not hot. Allow it some time to cool before pouring the fuel (gasoline, propane, etc.).
The fuel you need for the generator should not be stored indoors. Keep it away from flame producing and heat generating devices (including the generator itself). Do not smoke or use candle, matches or any other open flame around it. The escaping vapors or the ones from the spilled fuel can travel long distances and are significant fire hazards.
Store your fuels and transport them only in approved containers that are specifically designed for this use. Every manual for generator safety rules recommends the use of certain containers. That’s not just a marketing scheme to convince you to buy their products.
Noise and vibration hazards
Generators, no matter how well-constructed are, will still generate vibrations and create noise. While excessive noise can cause hearing loss and keep you up at night, intense vibrations can cause even more serious accidents.
As I said before, generators get hot so you need to pay attention when handling it. Don’t get burned.
Keeping children away from the generator should be common sense and I should not even have to specify it here. This should be one of the most obvious generator safety rules. Never let your kids near dangerous equipment, regardless its nature.
Keep the generators as far away as possible from work areas and gathering spaces.
Do not store items on your generator as they can damage it once the vibrations intensify. This can cause a lot of accidents and you could start a fire without even knowing it.
Some powerful generators produce a lot of noise, so it is advised to wear hearing protection.
A few recommendations
Now that we covered the generator safety rules I can offer some recommendations since I have some experience with using generators.
Champion 5500/ 6800 Watt Portable Gas-Powered Generator
The Champion Power Equipment model 41135 is a gasoline-powered portable generator that is powered by a 338cc Champion single cylinder, 4-stroke OHV engine that produces 5500 running watts and 6800 starting watts. This is ideal for an off-grid living if you want to power lights, sump pump, refrigerator, a computer and many more.
- 5500 running watts/6800 starting watts
- 338cc OHV Champion single cylinder, 4-stroke air-cooled engine
- 120/240V AC Load
- Up to 10 hours run time at 50% load
- 74 dB at 23 ft.
Related article: How To Quiet A Noisy Generator
Generac 5945, 5500 Running Watts, Gas Powered Portable Generator
With a GP5500 portable generator, you get affordable reliability and features not usually found on basic portable models. That’s why these generators are the perfect solution for camping, power tool use and emergency backup power. The GP5500 portable generator provides 5,500 running watts and 6,875 starting watts.
- 5500 running watts/6875 starting watts
- 389cc OHV
- 120V AC Load
- Up to 10 hours run time at 50% load
- 23 dB at 50 ft.
Honda EU2000I 2000 Watt Portable Generator with Inverter
I still believe that Honda manufactures some of the best portable generators money can buy. The Honda EU2000I1A1 2000 Watt Portable Generator is super quiet, fuel efficient, and portable. When you need a generator, it’s usually an emergency situation. If you don’t have it you’ll wish you did when that time comes. But it can also be used for those times when convenient power isn’t available. It can be used to power electric tools on a new construction job site
- 2000 running watts/2200 starting watts
- 126cc 4-stroke OHV engine
- 120/240V AC Load
- Over 4.5 hours run time at 50% load
- 59 dB at 20 ft.
A last word
The above recommended generator safety rules are a must for every household, before, during and after a natural disaster. Understanding how a generator works and which hazards you need to prevent will keep your family safe and your home powered. We can’t live for extended periods of time without electricty and a power generator is the most common, handy option for most of us. Read this article well and pass these generator saftey rules to your firends and family members.