4 Tips for Using Home Generators

While home generators are handy for backup electricity in case of an outage, there are hazards to be aware of. Serious accidents can result when a home generator is connected to an existing electrical circuit.

Here is what you should know, with tips from the Red Cross and the National Safety Council.

Where to Install

  • Install the generator outdoors in a well-ventilated location away from all doors, windows and vent openings.
  • Never use a generator inside your home, garage, crawl space or other enclosed areas since the engine emits carbon monoxide (CO).
  • Use a battery-powered carbon monoxide detector in your home to alert you if any CO from the generator has come into your home.
  • To avoid electrocution, keep the generator dry and do not use in rain or wet conditions. To protect the generator from moisture, operate it on a dry surface under an open canopy-like structure, such as under a tarp held up on poles.

How to Connect

  • Never connect your generator directly into a wall outlet, a practice known as “backfeeding.” This creates an electrocution risk to utility workers and neighbors served by the same utility transformer and also bypasses some of the built-in household protection devices.
  • To have the generator connected into your home electrical system, have it done by a qualified electrician who will install a Power Transfer Switch. Be sure to have the installation approved by your electric supply authority.

How to Use

  • Always read and follow the manufacturer’s operating instructions before running the generator.
  • Do not touch the generator with wet hands.
  • Plug appliances directly into the generator.
  • If you have to use extension cords, choose a heavy-duty, outdoor-rated extension cord that is rated (in watts or amps) at least equal to the sum of the connected appliance loads. Keep cords uncoiled and lay them in flat open locations.

How to Maintain

  • Maintain your generator according to the manufacturer’s maintenance schedule for peak performance and safety.
  • Turn off generators and let them cool down before refueling. Never refuel a generator while it is running.