Backup Generator Safety Tips

Coloradans know that power outages are a way of life. Careless drivers and construction crews knock down poles and cut into underground lines. Snow, ice, and broken limbs take down overhead lines and lightning knocks out transformers.

Most of the time, utility crews work to restore power in a matter of hours, even minutes. But when outages drag on for extended periods, especially in remote areas where roads may be blocked or power lines are hard to reach to repair, an annoyance can turn into a life-threatening situation. That’s why many Colorado residents and businesses choose to have emergency backup power.

Backup batteries can power a few critical items for a while, but lots of people prefer to have portable or permanent generators standing by. While these machines can be lifesavers in an emergency, if they’re not operated and used properly, they can also be deadly, causing an average of 66 deaths and hundreds of injuries every year.

Here are some tips to keep your generator safe and functional while you wait for the power to come back on.

Never Run a Generator Indoors or in an Enclosed Space

Carbon monoxide (CO) poisoning is the leading cause of injury and death from household generators. Even smaller portable generators give off enough CO to be deadly if it’s concentrated by a closed or confined space. That includes garages, basements, work sheds and enclosed porches and patios. Deadly fumes are odorless and can seep into living spaces through gaps in doors, windows, and other structural breaches.

Keep Fumes Away

Keep generators outdoors at least 20 feet from the house; even farther from doors and windows. Make sure you have carbon monoxide detectors properly installed and that their batteries are fresh.

Operate Your Generator Safely

Water and electricity don’t play well together. Don’t run a portable generator in rain or heavy snow. If that’s not feasible, an online search turns up plenty of options for sheltering a generator outdoors. Just be sure whatever you choose is well ventilated to dissipate heat and provide air for fuel combustion.

Turn off the generator and let it cool before adding fuel to prevent accidental burns or fire from spills.

Don’t try to hook the generator to your household power unless you have a transfer switch installed by a licensed electrician. It’s dangerous and can cause major damage to your home’s wiring from back-feeding. If outages are frequent or extended, a transfer switch is a good investment in safety and convenience.

Otherwise, plug lights and appliances directly into the generator if you can. Use outdoor extension cords and power strips if needed. Make sure the cords and power strips are UL-approved, in good condition, and able to carry the load.

Plan Ahead

Keep enough fuel on hand for extended use and store it safely in ANSI-approved containers. Adding a gas stabilizer will extend its life, and if you don’t need it for the generator, you’ll have it handy for other uses. And maintain the generator so that it’s ready when you need it.

For more information about backup generators, see this article on the Allstar Electrical Services website.

If you have any problems or concerns about your generator or other electrical service, the pros at Allstar Electrical Services are ready to solve them for you. We offer homeowners, builders, and businesses reliable, professional electrical work that is safe and up to code.

Call Allstar Electrical at (303) 399-7420 or visit our website. We’ve served the Front Range for over 15 years and are top-rated by the BBB and Angie’s List.