Operate your portable generator safely

Operate your portable generator safely

During a power outage, a generator can provide the electricity you need to keep your home warm and power your appliances. However, if a generator is not used properly, it may present serious hazards.

Generators carbon monoxide

If you think you need a generator, begin by identifying your basic electrical needs in the event of a power outage and calculating the number of watts needed. You will want a generator that produces more power than all the equipment combined plus the initial surge when it is turned on. You may want to contact an electrician to determine your needed power usage.

Generator safety tips

There are two types of generators for homeowners to choose from: portable and standby.

Standby generators start automatically when the power goes out. They are wired directly to the house and are typically powered by natural gas or propane. A qualified electrician must install a standby generator, which requires a transfer switch to separate your home system from Rock Energy’s system to prevent backfeed.

Backfeed means the generator is feeding electricity back through your electrical system and meter and into the power lines. This jeopardizes the safety of line workers attempting to restore power as well as anyone who may be near downed or sagging lines because it energizes the previously dead lines. 

Portable generators are usually gas powered and movable. They generally operate as a stand-alone unit completely separate from your home’s electrical system. An extension cord is used to plug appliances and electronics into an outlet on the portable generator to power them.

If a portable generator is connected directly to your home, a transfer switch must be installed to prevent backfeeding electricity onto Rock Energy’s lines.

It's important to perform regular maintenance on your generator so it will work when you need it. Operate it once a month for 10 minutes to ensure it is running properly. Keep the generator where it will be easily accessible and weatherproof. It is advisable to have enough fuel for at least 24 hours.

After choosing a generator, there are many safety concerns to consider.

  • Always make sure that the generator is grounded and used in a dry area. Use a generator only when necessary during moist conditions. Protect the generator by operating it under an open, canopy-like structure and on a dry surface where water cannot form puddles or drain under it.
  • Never use a portable generator indoors and remember that opening a window or door or turning on a fan will not produce enough fresh air to reduce the danger of carbon monoxide emissions. Never run the generator nearby windows or doors that can draw the carbon monoxide back indoors. It is a good idea to clear at least three to four feet on all sides of the generator to allow for ventilation.
  • Install a battery-operated carbon monoxide detector and test it often, but also know and be on the lookout for the signs of carbon monoxide inhalation. Symptoms include dizziness, nausea, headaches, and lethargy. If you suspect that you or someone you are with is showing these symptoms, get some fresh air and seek immediate medical attention. 
  • Nothing should be plugged into the generator when you turn it on. This prevents a surge from damaging your generator and appliances.
  • Shut down the generator properly. Before shutting down a generator, turn off and unplug all appliances and equipment being powered by the generator.
  • Remember to shut down your generator and give it time to cool before refueling. Always store your fuel away from the generator in an approved, non-glass safety container with a charged fire extinguisher nearby. Never operate your generator near flame-producing devices and be sure not to smoke nearby. 
  • Be sure to keep children and pets away from the generator, which could burn them.
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