Portable Generator Safety Tips 298

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A portable generator is a great alternative power source for your RV or for powering some of your household appliances in emergency situations. Because we’re dealing with gas and electricity here, you’ll need to follow these portable generator safety tips for safe operation.

Test Your Carbon Monoxide (CO) Detector 

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Photo by Ralf Geithe via Shutterstock

Carbon monoxide is an invisible, odorless gas that can lead to full incapacitation and, in the worst case, death. You can be exposed to it even if you don’t smell exhaust fumes and the early warning signs are feelings of dizziness, weakness, and sickness. 

If you feel any of these signs, get outside and into fresh air IMMEDIATELY. 

To protect yourself from carbon monoxide exposure, make sure your CO detectors are plugged in and operating properly and have a battery backup or operate solely on batteries. Test the batteries frequently and replace them when needed. If your CO alarm goes off, move outside into fresh air or next to an open door or window. 

Install CO detectors in central locations in your home or RV to provide an early warning system in the event of a carbon monoxide accumulation. 

Place Your Generator Outside 

Generators produce carbon monoxide (CO). If placed inside and without proper ventilation, this poses a serious health risk. Your generator should always be positioned outside and at least 15 feet from any open doors, windows, or vents that could allow carbon monoxide to filter inside. 

Never operate a generator inside your home, garage, recreational vehicle, or any other enclosed area.

Keep It In a Dry Area 

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Photo by Warehouse of Images via Shutterstock

You also need to make sure your generator is protected from the elements. Place it in a dry area, ideally underneath some sort of canopy that will protect it from rainfall. The canopy should not be enclosed and should still provide plenty of airflow around your generator. 

Operate your generator in a dry, well-ventilated, but covered space. Never leave a generator out in wet or rainy conditions and never touch a generator with wet hands.

Disconnect From Regular Utilities 

Before using your generator to power household appliances, it’s a good idea to disconnect from your normal power source. You can do this by shutting off power from the main breaker behind your home’s electrical panel. 

Disconnect from your normal source of power before powering household appliances with your generator. This protects appliances from damage when power returns and eliminates the possibility of your generator sending power down utility lines, affecting workers attempting to repair an outage.

Plug Appliances Directly into the Generator

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Photo by Lisa F. Young via Shutterstock

If you’re using your generator in an emergency situation, you’ll need to plug individual appliances into it. That means running extension cords from your refrigerator, heater, and other appliances to the outdoor location where you’re safely running your generator.

Never plug your generator into a wall outlet or try to wire into your main electrical panel. This should only be done by an electrical professional who is familiar with local electrical codes and knows how to properly install an automatic transfer switch. 

Use The Right Extension Cords 

Heavy-duty extension cords designed for outdoor use should always be used when plugging into your generator. This is the case even if the majority of the cord is lying inside or in a protected area. 

Make sure your extension cords are in good condition and contain wire gauge rated for the electrical loads of all connected appliances. 

Maintain Ample Fuel Supply 

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Your generator is only as effective as the amount of fuel you have to keep it running. Whether your generator runs on propane, diesel, regular gasoline (or it gives you the option of using multiple fuel types), you need to keep enough on hand to refill as needed. 

Always keep a backup supply of fuel so you can refill your generator without making a supply run!

Always use the type of fuel recommended by the generator’s manufacturer and store it in a dry, well-ventilated location away from heat sources.

Turn It Off Before Refueling 

Make sure your generator is powered down before refueling. You should also give it plenty of time to cool off before adding more fuel. 

Never attempt to refuel a generator while it is running or immediately after it has been shut off. 

Follow The Manufacturer’s Operation and Maintenance Instructions

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Photo by Feng Yu via Shutterstock

In summary, read your owner’s manual and follow all instructions for safe generator operation and maintenance! 

Generators must be maintained properly just like any household or RV appliance. Your owner’s manual contains all the recommended information you will need to operate your generator safely and efficiently. 

Tucker Ballister is a Technical Content Writer for Camping World and a lover of the open road. You can check out more of his adventures and outdoor advice at thebackpackguide.com.
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