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Using Portable Generators

Portable, gasoline-driven generators can be used to bring electricity to construction sites, recreational areas and other remote locations.

Generators bring power where you need it

  • Small appliances, lights and pumps can be plugged directly into outlets on portable generators.

Read and follow the owner's manual

  • Carefully read and follow the manufacturer's instructions prior to operating your generator.

Never use a generator in an enclosed area

  • Generators emit carbon monoxide, which can be deadly. Operate generators outdoors in well-ventilated, dry areas and away from doors, windows, intakes and vents that can draw air into an enclosed area.

Use extension cords safely

  • Use only Underwriters Laboratories-listed, three-prong extension cords with generators. Plug the appliance into the extension cord first, and then plug the extension cord into the generator outlet.

Beware of fuel-related fire hazards

  • Store flammable liquids outside of living areas in properly labeled, nonglass safety containers. Store the containers away from fuel-burning appliances. Never refuel a generator while it is running or warm/hot to touch.

Transfer switches are essential

  • In the event of an outage, the only safe way to run electricity through your home wiring with a generator is to use a manual or automatic transfer switch. This switch will isolate your home wiring from power lines so the electricity runs through your home but does not get sent back out onto the lines. If you do not use a transfer switch, the generator will send electricity back onto power lines. This could suddenly result in a very dangerous situation: a downed line in an area of an outage could become live with electricity from the generator, or utility workers who expect certain power lines to be dead due to outage might suddenly find them energized.
  • If you use a generator for backup power, make sure it has a transfer switch to disconnect it from power lines. Units without these switches can endanger utility workers.