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GenTent's Top 10 Portable Generator Safety Tips

“Regardless of the numerous published warnings, consumers continue to operate portable generators in unsafe manners which prove to result in serious injuries and deaths every year,” said Mark Carpenter, CEO, Founder, GenTent Safety Canopies. “GenTent’s Top 10 Portable Generator Safety Tips list is a playbook for the proper use of portable generators and it enables owners to experience safe generator use year round.”

Portable Generator Safety becomes a hot topic each year as we enter storm season. Here are our Top 10 list on how to safely operate a portable generator.

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Tip1
Never run a generator in wet weather without a generator tent to avoid electrocution and generator damage.

Water and electricity create both an electrocution and generator damage hazard. Water seeping into the electrical outlets or electrical panel area can create a short circuit to the frame (and many generators are self grounded to the frame), thereby creating a static charge on the metallic areas. Further, plugging into or out of a wet generator can cause an electrical arc that can cause serious injury or death.

Tip2
Never operate indoors or in a garage, even with the door open, or CO poisoning may result. Always run it outdoors at least 20 feet from any buildings.

Carbon Monoxide (CO) kills and kills quickly. CO is odorless and colorless and weighs more than air. Therefore it collects and builds up in any structure. Open the garage door? This does not guarantee that CO will be taken out of the garage, in fact if the wind is blowing inward it can cause the CO to get into your home through any opening in door or window seals. Have a detached garage or shed? CO can linger for hours and hours and be present in a strong enough density that you can be overcome when simply refueling your generator -- even if it is hours later. According to CPSC research, CO levels from portable generators are 1500 times higher than modern automobile engines! Don't chance it, keep those portable generators outdoors and well away from structures.

Tip3
To prevent overheating, never fully enclose the generator.

Portable generators produce significant heat - 600 degrees Fahrenheit at the exhaust is not uncommon. Open framed generators dissipate heat on all four sides. In our tests in 20 degree Fahrenheit outdoor temperatures with snow on the ground, it took less than 30 minutes to melt the snow in a six foot radius around the generator. Enclosing a generator decreases the life of the generator because the generator runs too hot! Further, if it is enclosed within meltable or flash-flammable materials, fire and serious injury can result.

Tip4
Avoid creating a circuit through your body by using only one hand when touching your generator and always wear rubber-soled shoes.

Don't help electricity move into places it shouldn't - like your body. When you approach a running generator, touch the metallic surfaces with only one hand. Also be sure to wear rubber soled shoes - no open sandals, especially if the ground is wet. Electricity flows through the least resistant path possible - don't let it be your body!

Tip5
Don't run your generator in Hurricane Force (>60-70mph winds).

Let's be practical. Hurricane, Tornado and Cyclone force winds cause heavy objects to move. Portable generators are no exception. Although the GenTent has been tested above 70mph forecast winds and proved to stay attached, do not risk a running portable generator moving around or being lifted during the height of the storm. Wait until the winds subside.

Tip6
Never stand over the hot muffler area while refueling.

The part of gasoline that ignites are the fumes -- small droplets of gasoline that are mixed with air. The safest bet is to give the generator muffler a chance to cool for 10 minutes before refueling, and certainly don't ever stand over the hot muffler side of your generator to refuel.

Tip7
Avoid fuel clogging – shut off the fuel valve and run the generator until it stalls to keep fuel from clogging the carburetor or fuel injectors. Use fresh fuel and a fuel stabilizer if storing the generator for long periods of time.

You need your generator to be ready to go at a moments notice. The most common reason it won't start is fuel related. Gasoline breaks down and can gum up the works when it sits too long. The best scenario is to run the generator completely dry of gasoline before storing it, but this isn't always practical. The next best thing is to turn the fuel supply valve off and let the carburetor (or fuel injectors) run dry. The generator will stall and this way you'll know its dry. Then add a fuel stabilizer to the rest of the gasoline in the tank. These simple steps, along with running the generator at least every 3 months, will minimize start up issues when you need the portable generator the most.

Tip8
Turn off the generator main switch before plugging in your generator or starting. Then once it has started and is idling, turn the main switch on.

Most portable generators built in the last 5 years have a main on/off switch. Be sure the switch is off when starting the generator and before stopping the generator. The switch should always be off whenever plugging in or unplugging cords at the generator's electrical panel. These steps ensure your safety and also ensure the generator is ready to take the load. During start up or shut down the electricity the generator can create can have amperage and voltage spikes and dropouts, all of which can damage any appliances or electronics that are connected.

Tip9
Never operate in floodwaters.

Another common sense tip -- don't put your portable generator in an area that can flood. As flood waters rise, the probability of damage to your generator, or injury to you, rise!

Tip10
For emergency backup power to a home or building, always use a transfer switch.

A properly installed transfer switch isolates the circuits that will get electricity from the portable generator. This is important for two reasons: First, it ensures that electricity doesn't backfeed onto the powerlines. Backfed electricity can instantly kill line workers! Second, it helps keep the generator from being overloaded (if you do a little bit of planning and are aware that perhaps not all of the circuits should be turned on the same time). Along these lines, create a sequence of which circuits get turned on in which order. Give each circuit some time to settle in before turning the next up (5-10 seconds typically). This is because many devices, like the motors that run pumps in your water, heating, cooling and refigeration, require a spike in wattage to get going.

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