As anyone who has ever been without power knows, a generator can be a lifesaver. Whether you’re dealing with a winter storm or a summer power outage, a generator can keep your home warm, your fridge cold, and your lights on.
However, it’s important to use caution when operating a generator. Every year, people are injured or killed by accidents involving generators. By following these simple generator safety tips, you can enjoy the benefits of your generator without putting yourself or your family at risk.
Table of Contents
- How Far Should A Generator Be From The House?
- How Long Does A Generator Need To Cool Down?
- Can I Run My Generator In The Rain?
- Can You Put Gas In A Generator While It’s Running?
- Is It Safe To Run A Generator In The Rain?
- Can Generators Be Used Indoors?
- Is it Safe to Use Extension Cords on Portable Generators?
- Do I Need to Use a Transfer Switch With Portable Generators?
- Can’t I Just Backfeed Generator Power to My House?
How Far Should A Generator Be From The House?
The answer to this question depends on a number of factors, including the type of generator you have and the regulations in your area. For example, portable generators should generally be kept at least 20 feet away from the house to prevent carbon monoxide from entering your home. If you have a permanently installed generator, the distance may be less. Consult your owner’s manual or a qualified technician to be sure.
How Long Does A Generator Need To Cool Down?
Small generators cool down in an hour or so after being switched off. Mid-size generators can take a few hours to cool off. Large generators, such as whole-house standby generators, may take even longer than that.
See our related article “How Long Can A Generator Run Continuously?“
Can I Run My Generator In The Rain?
Yes, but you need to make sure that your generator is properly protected from the elements. This means shielding it with a tarp or other waterproof structure. To avoid overheating or generator failure, allow enough room around the generator for ventilation, so the generator can cool properly and the combustion air intake for the engine is not blocked. Also see our article “Can a Generator Get Wet?“
Can You Put Gas In A Generator While It’s Running?
It’s definitely not a good idea to put gas in a portable generator while it’s running. The generator can create sparks that could ignite the gas, leading to an accidental fire or even an explosion. Additionally, gas fumes can be dangerous, particularly if the generator is enclosed in a space such as a garage. If you need to add gas to your generator, shut it off and let it cool down first. Once it’s cool, open the gas tank and add the gas slowly, so that it doesn’t overflow. Wipe up any spills immediately, and then ventilate the area before restarting the generator.
Is It Safe To Run A Generator In The Rain?
Running portable generators in the rain can be dangerous, especially if you don’t take the proper precautions. Exposed electrical outlets and cords can create a shock hazard in any conditions, even more so when there’s water around. So making sure that the generator is properly grounded (How to Ground a Generator) will help to prevent electrocution if the generator comes into contact with water. Keep the generator dry as much as possible. If it does get wet, make sure to dry it off before running it again.
Can Generators Be Used Indoors?
No, you should never use a portable generator indoors. It’s a bad idea even to run one in a garage, as you could still end up with the threat of accumulating carbon monoxide. Even if you have a carbon monoxide alarm on your generator, by the time the carbon monoxide alarm sounds you may already have a dangerous concentration of toxic engine exhaust in some other part of the garage or house.
Is it Safe to Use Extension Cords on Portable Generators?
It’s not ideal, but you can safely use extension cords if you make sure they are heavy-duty three-prong (grounded) cords in good condition. They should be rated both for outdoor use and high enough wattage to handle the appliances you will be powering.
Do I Need to Use a Transfer Switch With Portable Generators?
No, but it does improve safety. A transfer switch connects the generator to your electrical service panel, allowing you to use the built-in power outlets on your household wiring. This avoids even the minimal safety hazard of using extension cords. Some transfer switches display wattage usage, which is information you can use to avoid overload. Make sure your transfer switch is installed by a qualified electrician.
Can’t I Just Backfeed Generator Power to My House?
No! Backfeeding involves connecting the generator directly to your house wiring through a wall outlet. This can energize the electrical grid near your home, posing a risk to utility workers working to restore power and could even harm nearby residents. It’s dangerous and is illegal in many places. Even a properly connected portable generator poses risks, don’t make things worse by backfeeding.
And our last generator safety tip: don’t neglect generator maintenance.