What You Should Know Before Using Your Home Generator

Those of us who call Upstate New York home are accustomed to severe weather that causes wide-spread, and sometimes prolonged, power outages. Many New Yorkers use generators to power their homes while waiting for power to be restored. When doing so, it is important to remember that although your generator may feel like a life-saver, using one without being aware of the risks can be life-threatening. Below are safety tips from experts:

Beware of Carbon Monoxide Poisoning
It takes just five minutes for a generator that isn’t functioning properly to emit enough carbon monoxide to be lethal.  
“The primary hazards to avoid when using a generator are carbon monoxide (CO) poisoning from the toxic engine exhaust, electric shock or electrocution, and fire. Follow the directions supplied with the generator. Every year, people die in incidents related to portable generator use.

Never Use a Portable Generator Indoors- This includes inside a garage, carport, basement, crawlspace, or other enclosed or partially-enclosed area, even with ventilation. Opening doors and windows or using fans will not prevent CO buildup in the home. The CO from generators can rapidly lead to full incapacitation and death, but CO can’t be seen or smelled.

Even if you cannot smell exhaust fumes, you may still be exposed to CO. If you start to feel sleepy, sick, dizzy, or weak while using a generator, get to fresh air RIGHT AWAY – DO NOT DELAY.” – The American Red Cross

According to Consumer Reports, roughly 50 people die each year from carbon monoxide poisoning caused by a generator.

Never Connect your Generator Directly to your Home’s Wiring.

“Connecting a portable electric generator directly to your household wiring can be deadly. A generator that is directly connected to your home’s wiring can ‘backfeed’ into the power lines connected to your home. Utility transformers can then increase this lower electrical voltage to thousands of volts. That’s more than enough to kill a utility lineman making outage repairs many miles away. You could also cause expensive damage to utility equipment, your home appliances, and your generator. If you wish to hard-wire a generator to your home, it should be installed by a licensed electrician with an approved cut-off switch that will automatically disconnect the home from the power grid when the generator is being used. Please check with your local utility company and building office before installing a hard-wired generator.” – Consumer Energy Center

You should also refrain from plugging in a portable generator into an electrical outlet in your home/garage, overloading your generator, or storing gasoline for your generator indoors. Read more safety tips here