Portable Generators – Safe Use

The demand for portable generators has increased substantially in recent years. There are myriad reasons for this increase. Emergency portable generators can have significant benefits to individuals and communities, helping to save lives, and lessening the hardships caused by natural disasters and lengthy power outages. Consumers should, however, be aware of the dangers associated with improper use of electric generators. We will highlight a few of these in the following paragraphs. https://rbxlibrary.my.id/

Portable Generators Produce Poisonous Carbon Monoxide

Carbon monoxide is an odorless and colorless gas discharged in generator exhaust. Inhalation of carbon monoxide is often lethal, and a number of deaths occur each year as a result of consumer generator use.

In 2004, the Consumer Products Safety Commission (CPSC) studied deaths from generator use following four major hurricanes that struck land in the state of Florida. Powering air conditioners and other appliances during nighttime hours was the primary factor identified in generator-related deaths in the CPSC Florida study, and in each of the cited cases, improper location of the portable generator became key to the tragic outcome. In 2000, two children swimming behind a family houseboat on Utah’s Lake Powell drowned after losing consciousness when a portable generator beneath a swim deck produced dangerous fumes. Once again, poorly planned placement of a consumer-use generator was cited as the primary cause of the tragedy.

Because of many similar incidents, the Consumer Products Safety Commission promulgated in December, 2006 that all new generators sold after March of 2007 be affixed with labels setting forth technical and performance data, in addition to the following warning:

“Using a generator indoors CAN KILL YOU IN MINUTES. Generator exhaust contains carbon monoxide. This is a poison you cannot see or smell. NEVER use (generator) inside a home or garage, EVEN IF doors and windows are open. ONLY use outside and far away from windows, doors, and vents.”

The CDC reported that a small portable generator will produce the carbon-monoxide level of six idling cars, a reality that surprises many consumers. Carbon-monoxide levels can be compounded with generator use because the gas is heavy and tends to linger, making it difficult to expunge from an infected area. This means that generators are never safe to use indoors, including inside of open garages, and that during operation they should be located as far from residential units or buildings as possible. In particular, operation near windows, screen doors, vents, and air conditioning ducts should be avoided. Operators should also note wind direction, and locate generators so that prevailing air currents carry fumes away from nearby buildings or residences.

Though all portable generators produce carbon monoxide, certain models create less CO emissions than others. For example, generators equipped with overhead valve (OHV) engines, a standard design in modern models, produce less carbon monoxide emissions than models sporting older side-valve, pushrod engines. Any consumer who intends to use a portable generator in locations with restricted airflow should seek a model creating the fewest emissions possible.

Portable Generators must be Dry and Free from Debris

Safe emergency portable generator use requires planning. Since portable generators are often used in inclement weather, or during the night when visibility is restricted, understanding how and where to use them in advance is critical. It is best to operate generators only in open areas, and, whenever possible, in locations where the generators will be protected from falling debris like leaves and twigs, and from blowing rain, sleet, or snow. A portable generator should never be wet during operation. An operator should likewise never be standing in water or on damp ground when he or she starts a portable generator. Portable generators should always be grounded according to manufacturers’ recommendations. Methods of grounding vary by generator model, but in general will require that a generator be connected to a fixed metal object (for instance, a cold water pipe – spigots for hoses or sprinklers on the outside of the house can be effective choices for generator use).

If heavy debris falls onto the engine of a portable generator, covering it or restricting air flow, the unit can overheat, producing dangerous levels of heat that in extreme instances can even ignite debris. If possible, an operator should dislodge undesired debris from a generator using pressurized air rather than scooping the debris out by hand.

We recommend placing a portable generator atop a concrete pad which rests at least 15 feet from all residences or buildings. Ideally a small roof should cover the pad, leaving a minimum of three feet of clearance on all sides of the generator for ventilation purposes. Other suggested generator locations are beneath a canopy, or inside an open or well-ventilated shed or carport.

Portable Generators must be Properly Connected

A portable generator should never be plugged directly into a residential electrical system (i.e., a wall outlet). Appliances should either be plugged straight into a generator outlet, or into a generator-ready extension cord (often referred to on packaging as “generator cords”). Since portable generators will be placed outdoors, operators need to be sure that any extension cord employed has been manufacturer-rated for outdoor use, and that it carries the Underwriters Laboratories endorsement for the maximum wattage produced by the generator model. Whenever possible, operators should also avoid routing extension cords in a manner that would create tripping hazards or covering extension cords with combustible carpets or padding which can cause heat build-up and perhaps even fire. Particular care must be taken when using an extension cord in wet conditions. If an extension cord is hot to the touch, it has been overloaded and must be either replaced or its load reduced. Operators should periodically inspect all extension cords for frays, cuts, cracks, exposed wiring, and plug damage, and replace any which have been compromised. An operator should always power on a portable generator before connecting a load to it (this is true whether appliances are to be connected directly or via an extension cord), and when connecting appliances, an operator should first connect the highest-wattage ones.

Rather than plugging appliances into a portable generator directly or via an extension cord, a user may wish to employ an electric transfer switch (which should be installed by a licensed electrician or somebody familiar with building codes in the operator’s area). A transfer switch serves as a bridge between the generator and main circuit-breaker panel of a building or residence. It allows a portable generator to send power directly and safely into a home electrical system. The National Electrical Code (700-6) provides that transfer equipment must be designed and installed to prevent inadvertent interconnection of normal and emergency power sources. In other words, an electric transfer switch needs to stop a potentially-lethal problem known as back feed — electricity being created by a home generator that enters outside power lines where it poses an electrocution risk to unsuspecting power-company workers. In an attempt to ensure that transfer equipment is installed according to code, some local government agencies require that the installer obtain a permit prior to installation. A qualified electrician will know when a permit is needed, and how to go about obtaining one. One type of transfer switch, referred to as a double-pole, double throw model, won’t engage unless outside utility power has been safely disconnected. Models of this kind are an excellent way to ensure that rules of safety are observed.

Operators need to keep something else in mind: Because utility workers are completely vulnerable when working on downed lines, lines that they believe are without power, many municipalities have criminalized the reckless use of portable and home generators. Violators can be subject to harsh fines, and even incarceration if convicted. Improper or reckless employment of portable or home generators can also void homeowners’ insurance in the event of property damage or personal injury. Given the number of drawbacks, engaging a licensed electrician to install transfer equipment is a sound investment.

Operators should take care not to overload a portable generator. In addition to its running watts, all generators have a maximum or surge-watts rating, reserve power which is intended to start appliance motors, and is not available for more than a few seconds at a time. During normal use, appliances connected to a generator should not consume above 80% of the generator’s maximum running watts. This reduces the chance of unintended damage or overheating. The watts used by an appliance will often be listed on a data plate attached to its back or underside. If a data plate cannot be located, a wattage meter which is inserted between an appliance and wall outlet is a good way to determine its exact wattage demands. A list of the average watts used by many common household appliances is also available on our website. Lists like ours are not intended to be comprehensive; however, such lists give some indication of the number and size of appliances a portable or home generator model ought to power safely.


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