Portable generators are useful when temporary electric power is needed but they can be hazardous if not used properly. The primary hazards to avoid when using them are carbon monoxide poisoning, electrocution, and fire.
View the Generator Wattage Worksheet to determine what appliances your generator can power safely
To avoid carbon monoxide poisoning:
To Avoid Electrical Hazards:
- Always use generators outdoors and away from doors, windows and vents.
- NEVER use generators in homes, garages, basements, crawl spaces, or other enclosed or partially enclosed areas, even with ventilation.
- Follow the generator manufacturer's instructions.
- Install battery-operated or plug-in carbon monoxide (CO) alarms with battery backup in your home.
- Test CO alarms often and replace batteries when needed.
To Avoid Fire Hazards:
- Keep the generator dry. Operate on a dry surface under an open, canopy- like structure.
- Dry your hands before touching the generator.
- Plug appliances directly into generator or use a heavy duty, outdoor-rated extension cord. Make sure the entire extension cord is free of cuts or tears and the plug has all 3 prongs, especially a grounding pin.
- NEVER plug the generator into a wall outlet. This practice, known as backfeeding, can create an electrocution risk to utility workers and others served by the same utility transformer.
- If necessary to connect a generator to house wiring to power appliances, have a qualified electrician install the appropriate equipment. Your utility company also may be able to install an appropriate transfer switch.
- Before refueling the generator, turn it off and let it cool. Fuel spilled on hot engine parts could ignite.
- Always store fuel outside of living areas in properly labeled, non-glass containers.
- Store fuel away from any fuel-burning appliance.
In case of an emergency, dial 911.