Home generators come in many sizes from built in full-power ones that kick in when electricity goes off or smaller gasoline-powered engines which can only handle limited voltage in your home. These “portable” generators (which may or may not be on wheels) can help you out in a pinch but safety is a real issue you should be concerned with.
Here are a few tips to keep you safe:
1. Plan ahead: Read the manual or ask a former user–how much gasoline can the tank hold and how long will it run for? Fill extra gas cans to help you get through the outage. Store them safely and not next to the generator.
2. Keep the generator outside: Do not operate a portable generator in your home, basement, or garage. Generators can very quickly produce high levels of carbon monoxide, which can be deadly.
3. Make sure that there is at least one working carbon monoxide detector in your home. Test the batteries at least twice a year, at the same time smoke detector batteries are tested.
4. Any extension cord running outside should have a GFI attached (Ground-Fault Interrupter). Like in a bathroom, it will trip a circuit if the connection gets wet.
5. Portable generators will not power your whole house. Check the voltage. You may want to run only your refrigerator, a space heater and a couple of lights for safety. Don’t overload the system.
6. Do not connect generators directly to household wiring (outlets). Power from generators can backfeed along power lines and electrocute anyone who comes into contact with them, including line workers making repairs.
More portable generator safety tips can be found at the Electrical Safety Foundation site.
If you want to plan ahead for the next storm, find out more about choosing a whole-house generator for your home from home experts at BobVila.com.