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Portable Generator Safety Guide

Now that you’ve committed to owning and operating a portable, it’s time to learn how to use one safely. It can be daunting to try and decipher through all of the technical information about your product, so we’ve broken it down into a few simple tips for staying safe and sound while using your portable generator. Ensure that you and your loved ones are safe by following these simple safety tips.

5 Tips For A Safe Portable Generator

  1. Check out your manual

    One of the first things you’ll need to do is make your way through that user manual. Yes, it can be intimidating. Daunting. Tiresome. Grueling. But there’s no better way to learn the ins and outs of your machine and how to manage it than to sit down with the user manual. You don’t need to read every word—just get the basics on how to keep your machine in good condition, which includes normal procedures for regular maintenance, and also how to use your machine safely. You’ll also need this guide when it comes to installation, so keep the manual handy. Be mindful where you place it, as long it can cause a lot of headaches when you want to do some troubleshooting in the future.

One aspect to pay close attention to in the user manual for your portable generator is how to ground your machine when in use. Proper grounding will ensure safety should your machine malfunction.

  1. Use in a well-ventilated area only

    Maybe this seems obvious, but there are places you should use your generator and places you shouldn’t – but this is one of the most crucial safety tips to follow. Because this is a fuel-powered machine, it will emit chemicals (mostly carbon monoxide) that could be harmful if breathed in a closed area where proper ventilation isn’t present. Just like you wouldn’t run your car in a closed garage, don’t operate your generator in a closed area. Even with garage windows open, the exhaust can be toxic to humans and animals. Make sure there’s plenty of open air before starting it up.

You’ll even want to ensure that it’s not near a vent or window where the fumes could be piped into your home at dangerous levels.If you want to be extra safe, you can even install a carbon monoxide sensor in your home or wherever you’re using the generator to ensure that fumes do not reach dangerous levels.

  1. Consider safe placement

    Sometimes, we all get busy or caught up in completing a task and we just miss basic things. Even though it is common sense to make sure your generator is in a safe place when being operated, it can be just as easy to forget or not realize. In order to avoid safety hazards, place your portable generator on a flat surface where there’s no danger of it tipping over. Also, make sure it’s not in the way of a walkway or path…passersby are likely to trip over a cord or cause other damage if the generator is in the way.

You’ll also want to make sure the area is clear of general hazards or issues that could interfere with normal function. Never store flammable materials near your machine. That means you need to move the gas can a safe distance from your generator. And don’t forget– if your machine came with wheels, make sure they’re locked so it doesn’t roll away! 

  1. Avoid moisture

    Like the plague. Even a small amount of moisture on your hands can disrupt normal use and lead to a serious shock or injury. So, after washing hands or touching water, please make sure your hands are dried thoroughly before operating a generator.

Given that some people use portable generators when camping, avoid bodies of water or rainfall. Again, these things can lead to electrical shock. Even if you’re not touching the generator and there is a malfunction due to moisture, you could be at risk of getting shocked. If the generator is exposed to the outdoors, make sure you cover or secure it before leaving it unattended, as rain seeping into the machine can damage it permanently or cause other issues. 

  1. Be mindful of outlets

    Things like splitters and extension cords can be helpful in some situations, but they also increase the risk of malfunction. If you need to use a splitter or extension cord, make sure it is heavy duty and that it is approved for use with a portable generator. By using extensions or splitters which are not suitable for this type of use, you can easily blow a fuse, short circuit, or overheat a cord. This increases risk of fire or other types of injury. You should acquaint yourself with the wattage for your machine, and only apply extensions that can support that amount of wattage or more.

Using cords that can support your wattage and cord placement are important, but also be mindful of the condition of your cords. Often, it may be tempting to pull out an old extension cord from the garage that is a bit worn out. Loose wire connections or internal problems can easily lead to overheating or even electrical shock. Check your cords for wear and tear, kinks, damage of any kind, or other hazards.

Another thing to keep in mind is cord placement. A coiled cord can overheat, so be sure the cord is uncoiled and laid flat on a stable surface, away from any interferences. A quick look-up online can be useful when trying to decide which kinds of cords or splitters are safe for use with a generator.

However you decide to use your generator—camping in the great outdoors, or just using it around the yard for special projects — make sure you’re following the safety tips outlined here and in the generator’s user manual for optimum function and safety. It’s always better to play it safe than to regret breaking your machine, or worse. By following these few simple safety tips, you’ll have safe power right there when you need it.