Using Generators Safely

Have a licensed electrical contractor install your generator.

Don't connect your generator directly to your home's wiring.

  • Connecting a portable generator directly to your household wiring can be deadly! It can 'backfeed' onto the power lines connected to your home.
  • Utility transformers can "step-up" or increase this backfeed to thousands of volts - enough to kill a utility lineman making repairs (even a long way from your house).
  • You could also cause expensive damage to utility equipment and your generator.
  • The only safe way to connect a portable generator to your existing wiring is to have a licensed electrical contractor install a transfer switch. The transfer switch transfers power from the utility power lines to the power coming from your generator.

Never plug a portable generator into a regular household outlet.

  • Plugging a generator into a regular household outlet can energize "dead" power lines and injure neighbors or utility workers. And always make sure to connect appliances directly to the receptacle outlet of the generator with appropriately-rated outdoor power cords.

Don't overload the generator.

  • Don't operate more appliances and equipment than the output rating of the generator. Overloading can damage appliances and electronics. Prioritize your needs. A portable electric generator should be used only when necessary, and only to power essential equipment.

Never use a generator indoors or in an attached garage.

  • Generators use an internal combustion engine that emits deadly carbon monoxide. Always place the generator where exhaust fumes will not enter the house. Only operate it outdoors in a well-ventilated, dry area, preferably under a canopy, open shed or carport.

Use proper power cords.

Plug individual appliances into the generator using heavy-duty, outdoor-rated cords with a wire gauge adequate for the appliance load. Overloaded cords can cause fires or equipment damage.

  • Don't use extension cords with exposed wires or worn shielding.
  • Make sure cords don't present a tripping hazard.
  • Don't run cords under rugs where heat might build up or cord damage may go unnoticed.

Follow the manufacturer's instructions for safe operation and proper grounding.

  • Don't cut corners when it comes to safety. Carefully read and observe all instructions in your portable electric generator's owner manual.
  • To prevent electrical shock, make sure your generator is properly grounded. Consult your manufacturer's manual for correct procedures.

Don't store fuel indoors or try to refuel a generator while it's running.

  • Gasoline (and other flammable liquids) should be stored outside in properly labeled, non-glass safety containers.
  • Never store fuel in a garage if a fuel-burning appliance is in the space. Vapor from gasoline can travel invisibly along the ground and be ignited by pilot lights or electric arcs caused by turning on the lights.
  • Always have a fully charged, approved fire extinguisher located near the generator.
  • Never attempt to refuel a portable generator while it's running.

Shut the generator down properly.

  • Turn off all equipment powered by the generator before shutting down your generator.

Avoid getting burned.

  • Many generator parts are hot enough to burn you during operation.

Keep children away.

  • Children are naturally curious. Keep them away from portable electric generators at all times to avoid injury.

Generator Safety Sheet