Portable generators are proving a hot item as people in southern Connecticut prepare for Hurricane Irene, scheduled to make landfall in the area this weekend. The Waterford Patch noted today that generators have been selling almost as fast as the Lowes and Home Depot stores there can get them. At Lowes, 12 of the devices arrived in the morning and were gone in 10 minutes.
These gasoline-powered generators can provide electrical power for household needs in the wake of a prolonged power outage, but they have their dangers if used improperly. Follow these tips from Connecticut Light and Power and the Consumer Product Safety Commission to ensure the safe use of your generator.
Never use a generator inside
You shouldn’t use a generator indoors even if you open the windows and doors—an unlikely action indeed in hurricane conditions. Generators should never be used inside, including areas such as garages, crawlspaces, and basements. They should be placed outdoors and should be kept far away from doors and vents. Generators can quickly produce high levels of the poisonous gas carbon monoxide if not used in a ventilated area.
Avoid electrical hazards
Set up a canopy or other cover over the generator to prevent moisture from gathering. Make sure your hands are dry to avoid electrocution while using the generator.
Heavy duty extension cords rated for outdoor use should be used for the generator. The wattage for each cord should exceed the total wattage of all appliances connected to it. Cords should have three prongs and not be pinched or torn.
Generators should never be plugged into an outlet to power a house’s electrical grid. This creates “backfeeding,” or the transfer of electrical power into utility lines connected to your home, and this poses a risk to utility workers and neighbors on the same transformer. Backfeeding will also bypass some circuitry safeguards. Consult a qualified electrician if you wish to incorporate your generator into your home electrical system.
Generators should be properly grounded, and the techniques can be found in the instruction manual. Do not overload the generator, as this can cause damage to electronics and appliances. Before turning off the generator, turn off all the equipment hooked up to it.
Never store fuel for the generator in your home. Flammable fuel should be stored in properly labeled, non-glass containers and kept away from other fuel-burning devices such as gas-powered water heaters.
Allow generators to cool down before refueling, as fuel spilled on hot components could ignite.
Keep children and pets away from portable generators.
Turn off the generator when you go to sleep.
Read the instruction manual for the generator and adhere to its directions.