When a hurricane or tropical storm hits the Central Florida area you can be sure power outages will follow, some that can drag on for weeks. It is due to that scenario that many people have chosen to purchase a portable generator, maybe your one of them.
While portable generators are convenient and can bring relief during power outages, they are not always used correctly. Carbon monoxide poisoning is all too common with portable generators. Here are several ways you can be sure that you are being safe when you use your portable generator.
Always use your portable generator outside. Exhaust fumes from your portable generator will fill your house with carbon monoxide, and it will slowly poison you, your family and any pets you may have. This rule also applies to your garage, attic, and basement.
It is a good idea when using a generator near your house to have carbon monoxide detectors. Strong winds can blow the exhaust from your generator into the house through an open door or window. You should always keep your generator at least ten feet away from your house, but even at that distance winds could still blow the exhaust into your home.
Remember, your portable generator is producing electricity and electrocution is a real hazard. Do not place your generator in a puddle or damp ground that could conduct electricity. Never use your generator when it raining unless you have a shelter that will keep it and the ground around it dry, the shelter won’t trap carbon monoxide, and it is not flammable.
Backfeeding occurs when a generator is plugged into an outlet like the ones above your kitchen counter, or where your lamps are plugged in. If you send power into your home by that method, you are sending electricity in the wrong direction, and nothing good can come of it.
Things like burning up your TV or computer are a real possibility when you backfeed with your portable generator. Backfeeding also sends power out to the nearby power lines and has caused the death of more than one lineman trying to repair the lines.
In order to avoid backfeeding, you will need to have something called a transfer switch installed before a power outage happens. Make sure a licensed electrician installs the transfer switch, so it is installed correctly. The transfer switch will switch the load from the power lines to the generator to ensure power from both sources doesn’t cause serious damage to your home, appliances, and electronics.
There are two types of transfer switches, automatic and manual. Automatic is preferable because it switches when it senses that a power source has been gained or lost.
Don’t ever add gasoline to your portable generator while it is running, not only is it hot and combustible, gas is a conductor of electricity. Pouring gasoline into a running portable generator could very possibly end in your electrocution.
Likewise, don’t pour gas into a generator into it when it’s hot, even if it is not running. Portable generators can get very hot and are likely to ignite the gasoline that is being poured. A trip to a burn unit is not why you purchased a portable generator.
With that in mind keep your portable generator away from anything that off-gasses flammable fumes. Things like solvent-based paints and cleaning products should be kept well away from your portable generator. Don’t place any materials that could easily burn against your generator either; this includes rags that have been soaked in solvents, things like hay or straw, and paper.
If you follow these safety tips, there is no reason that you should not be comfortable in your home while the power is out around you.
Don Westerfeld has been active in the field of Insurance and Financial Planning since 1997. Don grew up in Indiana later moving to Lakeland Florida where he continues to reside with his wife and children. When he’s not in the office you can find him enjoying the great outdoors. He has served on several charitable business and non-profit organizations and continues to provide guidance, advice and support to local charities.
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