Portable Generators

When temporary or remote electric power is need, generators are very useful. Generators can also be hazardous. The primary hazards to avoid when using a generator are carbon monoxide (CO) poisoning from the engine exhaust, electric shock or electrocution, and fire.

  1. Never use a generator indoors, including in homes, garages, basements, crawl spaces, and other enclosed or partially-enclosed areas, even with ventilation. Opening doors and windows or using fans will not prevent CO build-up in the home
  2. Follow the instructions that come with the generator. Locate the unit outdoors and away from doors, windows, and vents that could allow CO to come indoors.
  3. Install battery-operated CO alarms or plug-in CO alarms with battery backup in your home, according to the manufacturer's installation instructions. The CO alarms should be certified to the requirements of the latest safety standards for CO alarms.
  4. Test your CO alarms frequently and replace dead batteries.
  5. Keep the generator dry and do not use in rain or wet conditions.
  6. Dry hands if wet before touching generator.
  7. Plug appliances directly into the generator.
  8. Never try to power the house by plugging the generator into a wall outlet. This is an extremely dangerous practice that presents an electrocution risk to utility workers and neighbors served by the same utility transformer.
  9. If you must connect the generator to the house wiring to power appliances, have a qualified electrician install the appropriate equipment.
  10. Never store fuel in the home.
  11. Before refueling the generator, turn it off and let it cool down. Gasoline spilled on hot engine parts could ignite.

Adapted from a report by the Consumer Product Safety Commission.