Generators are a handy addition to any household, and they can certainly make life easier when power disruptions occur. Below is information regarding selecting a generator, how to use it safely, and how to connect a generator to your home.
Generators are a handy addition to any household, and they can certainly make life easier when power disruptions occur. However, for safety, you have to take into account the added dangers that generators can bring...electrical hazards and carbon monoxide.
Shock and Electrocution
- Never attach a generator directly to the electrical system of 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 cord to make sure they are fully intact and not damaged. Never use frayed or damaged extension cords.
- Keep a generator dry; do not use it in the rain or in wet conditions. If needed, protect a generator with a canopy.
Carbon Monoxide Poisoning
- Never use a generator indoors or in enclosed spaces such as garages, crawl spaces, and basements.
- Make sure a generator has three to four feet of clear space on all sides and above it to ensure adequate ventilation.
- Be cautious when using a generator outdoors to ensure it is not placed near doors, windows, and vents 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 no re-enter the area until it is determined to be safe by trained and properly equipped personnel.
- 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.
- Keep fuel containers away from flame producing and heat generating devices (such as the generator itself, water heaters, cigarettes, lighters, and matches). Do not smoke around fuel containers.
Noise and Vibration Hazards
- Generator engines vibrate and create noise.
- Excessive noise and vibration could cause hearing loss and fatigue that may affect job performance.
- Keep portable generators as far away as possible from work areas and gathering spaces.
- Wear hearing protection if this is not possible.
Connecting Your Home
Portable generators are not designed for powering your home's electrical system. Connecting a generator through your house wiring can introduce new hazards for both your home and electrical workers who are restoring power.
Energizing your home wiring without proper disconnects in place can energize lines creating a major hazard for workers and for the general public who may be exposed to downed lines.
Any connection for a generator to power your home should be made by a licensed electrician to ensure that the wiring and connections are correct and that proper safety disconnects are in place.
If you live somewhere where storms and severe weather cause frequent power outages, you may be considering purchasing a generator to hold you over during outages. Safe Electricity wants you to understand the benefits, limitations, and safety considerations of generators before you even enter a store.
Before anything else, you need to know where you will put a generator. Never use a generator in your home or garage. They give off deadly carbon monoxide. You should operate your generator outdoors on a dry, level surface. Your generator should be under a canopy. Remember, water and a generator is a dangerous combination.
After you know where you will run a generator, you should decide what electronics the generator will power. A portable generator cannot meet all your electric needs. You must decide what electronics would be most important during a power outage. Add up the wattage of these appliances. Your generator should have more output than the wattage of your require electronics. This way, the generator will be able to create the extra electricity it takes to start up some appliances.
An alternative to the portable generator is a permanent generator. These generators are wired directly into your home by a qualified electrician. The electrician should also install a transfer switch. A transfer switch prevents energy from leaving your generator and getting into power lines where it could injure a line man. This is known as “back feed.”