Last week’s winter storm left hundreds of thousands of people across the United States without power, as it hit the country less than a week into the season. And with the Farmers’ Almanac extended forecast predicting a long, cold, wet winter for much of America, there’s a good chance the deadly storm—which claimed the lives of at least 37 people—was only the beginning.
With extreme weather happening year-round, many households are opting to purchase a generator as a backup power supply, in order to keep at least a few appliances running during electricity outages.
While generators are great to have around when you need them, they can also pose safety risks if used improperly. Here are a few mistakes to avoid when running a generator.
Not reading the manual
Technically, this is a mistake to avoid before you’re in a position of having to run your generator. Though there are general guidelines for use, different models have different requirements regarding where and how to run it safely. Don’t wait to read the manual to figure out how it works until you’re stuck in the dark.
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Running a generator too close to your home
Stationary generators are permanently installed by a professional. Portable generators, on the other hand, are typically stored away until they’re needed.
Some run on propane, others are solar-powered, but a large number of portable generators are gasoline-fueled. This means that like car engines, they emit harmful carbon dioxide—something you don’t want anywhere near your living space.
The owner’s manual will specify exactly how far away from your home the generator needs to be, but it’s usually at least 20 feet, and somewhere out of reach for kids and pets.
Running a generator inside your home
Never run a gas-powered generator inside any part of your home—including the garage or basement—even if windows and doors are open. Again, this is because of the poisonous carbon monoxide gas it gives off. If it’s raining, try to find a dry surface, and run the generator under an open, canopy-like structure, if possible.
Plugging any random extension cords and/or power strips into the generator
Most regular household extension cords and power strips weren’t designed to accommodate the amount of power coming through a generator. If you need the length they provide, have a few extension cords for outdoor use (that are compatible with generators) next to your generator and ready to go when you need them.