The wind roars with anger. Lightning cracks across the sky. Thunder booms so loud you jump out of your seat.
Next thing you know you are in the dark, without power, and feeling like you were dropped in the middle of the Stone Age.
Before you head out to power on your trusty generator, be prepared with some safety tips so you don't harm yourself or others in the process of getting temporary relief.
When a Power Outage Strikes
Always keep a clear path to your generator to avoid running into obstacles due to low visibility with the power being out. The last thing you want to worry about is an injury before you even set up your generator.
Store your generator in a clean, dry area that is easy to get to. Never operate your generator while it is snowing or raining. Keep your generator out of rugged weather conditions by using an over-hang or a canopy to keep it dry. Touching electrical appliances or cords while you or they are wet could lead to shock or electrocution. Touching an electric fence while standing in wet grass isn't something you'd try, is it?
Make sure your generator is properly grounded by following the instructions in your owner's manual. The frame of a portable generator acts as the "ground", so you won't have to drive a grounding rod into the earth.
Carbon Monoxide: "The Silent Killer"
You can't see it. You can't taste it. You can't even smell it.
It creeps up on you before you know it and can be fatal within minutes.
Generators are culprits of producing an odorless, colorless, tasteless gas known as carbon monoxide. Breathing in too much of this gas can cause carbon monoxide poisoning that can lead to extreme, even fatal, symptoms. These symptoms include fatigue, shortness of breath, drowsiness, headache, nausea and in worst cases, death.
Some simple tips to avoid carbon monoxide poisoning include:
- Always use your generator in a well-ventilated area outside, away from doors, windows and vent openings. OSHA recommends 3-4 feet of clear space on all sides and above for proper ventilation purposes.
- Never run your generator in closed or even semi-closed spaces such as garages, sheds, carports or anywhere inside your home.
- Be aware that opening doors, windows and using fans will not prevent carbon monoxide buildup.
- Make sure you have a working carbon monoxide detector in your house at all times.
- Don't let children play around your generator while it is running.
- Watch for symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning. Receive medical attention immediately if poisoning is suspected.
The Dangers of Backfeeding
The storm hits, the lights go off, and panic sets in.
If you think you can attach your generator to your house through an electrical socket or directly to your household circuit, you're wrong. This is known as backfeeding.
Backfeeding is very dangerous, as well as illegal in most states. Power from your generator can back feed into utility lines. This can harm utility workers and/or overpower your generator when the electricity is turned back on, possibly injuring you and damaging your generator.
The proper way to connect the generator to your house wiring is by using a transfer switch. A transfer switch prevents utility power and generator power from running at the same time, allowing you to safely run your generator without risk of injury to you or utility workers. Always hire a licensed electrician to install a transfer switch for you.
Too Many Appliances, Too Little Power
Generators have set power ratings that include a starting wattage and a running wattage. Going over these set limits can cause overloading and damage to your generator and/or any household appliances hooked up to that generator. More power is needed to start an appliance than to keep it running over an extended amount of time. The starting wattage is higher than your running wattage. Make sure any appliance you hook up to your generator falls under the wattage amount your generator can handle.
Be prepared by knowing your generator's power rating and figure out how many appliances it can handle before the next power outage hits. Keep in mind that the starting power on an appliance could generate more power than running the appliance, this too can cause overload. Prioritize your needs and alternate appliance usage if necessary. Always start your generator first and allow it to run for a few minutes before hooking any appliances to it.
Power outages can leave you frustrated and helpless, but with the use of a generator you can be up and running again in no time. Following proper safety procedures can keep you and others safe from dangerous generator mishaps or mistakes.
Also, following a regular maintenance schedule can keep your generator running properly and safely so that you can be prepared for the next time a power outage wants to leave you in the Stone Age.
For guidelines specific to your generator always consult your owner's manual.
Jack's Safety Tips: Before servicing or repairing any power equipment, disconnect the spark plug and battery cables. Remember to wear appropriate safety glasses and gloves to protect against harmful chemicals and debris. View our Disclaimer.