What You Need To Know To Safely Use Your Emergency Generator

What You Need To Know To Safely Use Your Emergency Generator

A generator is an internal combustion engine used to generate electricity and can help life feel more normal in the aftermath of a strong storm. While it is important to be prepared for power outages, it is even more important to understand the proper use and the dangers of misuse of this equipment.

The only way to safely connect your home to a generator is with a professionally installed transfer switch. Fixed, or installed, generators are connected by a licensed electrician and the transfer switch is installed to prevent back-feeding utility lines. Backfeeding occurs when a generator is inappropriately plugged into a wall outlet. The wiring in your house is no longer protected by a circuit breaker or fuse in your power panel. If the wiring overloads, it will overheat and start a fire in your house. Backfeeding also creates an electrocution risk to workers and neighbors on the same utility transformer and can also damage the generator.

Portable Generators

  • Carbon Monoxide (CO) Poisoning
  • The generator’s exhaust contains carbon monoxide so adequate ventilation is essential.
  • Carbon monoxide can kill in as little as 5 minutes – use a CO detector when you are using a generator.
  • Set the generator up outside, away from windows, doors, and vents; 15-20 feet from buildings.
  • Opening doors and windows or using a fan will NOT prevent CO danger.
  • The garage is NOT an appropriate place to use a generator, even if the garage door is open.


  • Set up the generator on a dry surface that water can’t reach in any way.
  • Don’t operate in direct rain or snow – keep the generator dry with a tarp or canopy.
  • Don’t run in a water-damaged environment and never use a generator that has been completely submerged in water.
  • Don’t touch your generator if you are wet (including wet hands) or standing in water or on wet ground.
  • Use heavy-duty, non-worn, outdoor extension cords with 3-prongs (grounded).
  • Don’t overload the generator, use it only for essential appliances, and only when necessary, as this can cause damage or malfunctions.
  • Don’t try to backfeed your home by plugging a portable generator into a wall plug.


  • Gasoline is explosive and flammable; spilled fuel and vapors can be ignited or cause an explosion.
  • Don’t refuel the generator while it is running or hot, allow the generator to cool completely first.
  • Don’t smoke near the generator or fuel.
  • Store fuel in proper containers away from the generator and other flame or heat making devices and never store fuel inside your home.
  • Don’t run cords underneath rugs or carpets.


  • Operate your generator on a level surface to prevent engine damage.
  • Have 3-4 feet of clear space around all sides of the generator for proper ventilation.
  • Use a generator that produces more amps than you need and remember that machines draw more power than normal when they are starting up.
  • Turn off appliances prior to connecting them to the generator.
  • Plug appliances directly into the generator or use grounded (3-prong) extension cords.
  • Never exceed the rated wattage by plugging in too many devices.
  • Turn on connected appliances one at a time
  • Turn off the generator when you are away from your home.
  • Do not plug a portable generator into a wall outlet of your home. (backfeeding)
  • Keep children and pets away from fuel and the generator.

Portable generators pose serious hazards when not used properly so it is vital that you follow safety instructions when utilizing this equipment. Generators with circuit breakers are highly recommended to keep you and your appliances safe. It is also recommended to start your generator at least once a month to ensure it is ready when needed. If it has an electric start, be sure to trickle charge the battery so it is also ready when the time comes. For more information about generators or any of your HVAC needs, contact us at GV’S Heating and Cooling today.