Whether it’s a hurricane or a routine power outage, navigating a dark house is never fun. That’s why many people choose to install backup generators in their homes. A backup generator can power your home until regular electricity resumes.
While backup generators can come in handy in a pinch, owners should know the right way to install and maintain them. Knowing what to do can help reduce risks like fire, electrical damage, injuries, and more. Here are nine things to do now if you have (or will soon have) a backup generator.
GENERATOR SAFETY TIPS
- Review your local laws. Depending on your state, you may be responsible for making sure your generator’s current doesn’t feed back into power lines (Learn why this matters below in number eight). You might also be required to give local utility companies a head’s up about your generator.
- Keep the surrounding area clear. Backup generators give off a lot of heat. Help prevent a fire by keeping any items far away.
- Check the ventilation. This one is best left to the pros during the installation. If your generator doesn’t have enough room to properly ventilate, dangerous carbon monoxide can build up.
- Invest in a carbon monoxide detector. Speaking of carbon monoxide, you’ll definitely want to invest in a carbon monoxide detector if you have a backup generator. It will warn you if levels are rising —a good thing, since carbon monoxide poisoning can be fatal.
- Keep it dry. Wet conditions can lead to short circuits—and that could lead to a generator fire. For this reason, keep your generator in a dry place. An open-canopy structure can help protect it if you’re worried about water.
- Stash a fire extinguisher close by. Consider it an added precaution in case a fire was to break out (Check out this handy fire extinguisher guide before you buy.).
- Corral the cords. Cords should be out of any foot paths, yet still easy to access. You’ll want to check them regularly to see if they’re frayed or cut—both types of damage could cause a fire.
- Say no to wall outlets. Plugging your generator into a wall outlet is known as “back feeding,” and it’s a bad idea. That’s because the low voltage from the generator can increase to thousands of volts when it passes through a utility transformer. And that could put you and utility workers at serious risk. Instead, plug your generator into a manual transfer switch that distributes power in a safer manner.
- Have protection handy. Backup generators heat up fast. Protect yourself from potential skin burns by putting on protective gear before touching your backup generator. Hearing protection is a good idea, too.
Uncertainty is part of life – but it doesn’t have to rule your roost. When you’re with ERIE, you have a local agent in your neighborhood to help you understand how your homeowners insurance can protect you from the unexpected things in life. Learn more about homeowners insurance or contact your local ERIE agent today.
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This story was originally published in 2017. It was updated with new information in 2019.