According to Consumer Reports, we should always position a generator at a minimum of 20 feet from a building. We should also ensure that its engine exhaust faces away from our doors and windows.
When there’s a power cut, we all want to know that there’s a backup system, but knowing where to place it and how to don’t properly is vital. Believe it or not, many people have even placed their generators indoors, unfortunately, leading to deaths and injuries. That’s because the carbon monoxide builds up inside with no way to escape.
Let’s get through the smog and learn more about how to place and operate a generator safely, whether you’re looking to buy one or if you already have a generator at home.
How Far Should a Generator Be From the House?
A generator should be no less than 20 feet from our house when in operation. Anything less than that can prove dangerous to our health or even our lives.
Nothing is more convenient than a mobile gas-powered generator when the electricity goes out in the middle of a storm, but it could also be the most dangerous. Unbelievably, the exhaust from just one gas-powered generator can release as much as 100 times the amount of deadly carbon monoxide as a car’s.
The poisonous gas is invisible and odorless, so it can readily enter a home through a window or door if the generator is run too close to the building.
What is a Generator?
It’s a device that gives us electrical energy by converting mechanical energy into. Without being plugged into the mains, it may power electronics and appliances. Having a backup power source, such as a generator, is crucial in the event of a power loss or other emergency.
With a home generator, you can keep your power on for things like lighting, appliances, and medical equipment. A generator can help you go through the day unfazed by a sudden blackout if you reside in a region that has frequent but brief outages.
Smaller generators can also be used to power appliances in places where standard electrical outlets are unavailable, such as recreational vehicles, boats, and garages. For events like camping and picnicking, where you might want to use small appliances as well as charge devices, it’s a good idea to have a portable generator on hand.
What the Center For Disease Control Has to Say About Carbon Monoxide Poisoning
Almost 50% of the non-fatal CO poisonings documented throughout the 2004 to 2005 hurricane seasons comprised generators used seven feet or less from a residence, according to research by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. According to the CDC’s research, customers need more specific instructions on how to place a generator to minimize the risk of carbon monoxide poisoning.
Regrettably, no one had investigated the question of what constitutes a safe operating distance. The CDC collaborated with NIST’s building experts to determine the minimum distance that would ensure safe operation.
The researchers at NIST had to perform two things before beginning their testing: gather information about the amount of carbon monoxide emitted from a portable generator, and construct a digital replica of a one-story test house located on the agency’s Maryland site.
After collecting this information, the researchers sent it into two complex computer programs, one to estimate the levels of gas contaminants from outside the house and another to compute the movement of gases and air pollutants entering the house.
They found that placing a generator 15 feet from home may not be far enough to prevent carbon monoxide leaks, and their findings were detailed in a subsequent NIST paper. The lack of wind, or a slow wind speed, was shown to be a greater threat by the researchers. Since the carbon monoxide stays in the area around the house, there is a greater chance that it will seep inside.
For those blustery winter evenings when the electricity goes out, the NIST team has some advice, albeit further studies with portable generators are required to clarify specifically what the appropriate operating distances are for specific instances.
Your generators should be kept outside, as far away from the house as possible, and never near any openings. And be sure you have a carbon monoxide alarm wired into your home near each bedroom and that it runs on batteries or has a backup power source.
Types of Generators
There are three primary types of generators: portable, inverter, and standby. On-site, a wide range of tools and appliances can be powered by portable and inverter generators. Choose the right size by adding up the total running wattage of the devices you plan to plug into them and the total surge wattage you’ll need to get them going.
In contrast to the other two types of generators, standby generators are used as backup power for buildings with permanent electrical systems, such as homes, businesses, and factories. All operations should be treated with the same level of caution to reduce potential risks.
1. Portable Generator
Here are some aspects to mention about traditional portable generators:
- Most run on gasoline, but some can also be fueled by diesel or hybrid fuels like gasoline and liquid propane, or even natural gas.
- Most have a half-load run time of between 10 and 15 hours, but this can go as high as 32 hours.
- As a rule, they can run on either 120 or 240 volts.
- They are often constructed to function reliably in severe conditions.
2. Inverter Generator
Here are some common properties of inverter generators:
- The vast majority run on gasoline.
- Commonly used to run smaller or more delicate gadgets than can be safely powered by regular portable generators, as most versions only provide power to 120-volt outlets.
- Since the engine speed can be adjusted based on the load, these portable generators are more efficient than their static counterparts.
- They are easily transportable in a car, boat, or RV and are much smaller and lighter than portable generators.
- There are also specialist battery-powered inverter generators that will operate corded toolsets.
3. Standby Power System
When the main power goes out at a building, a standby generator can kick on immediately thanks to a transfer switch.
In this context, it is important to take note of the following features of such generators:
- Natural gas, liquid propane, and diesel, liquid propane, natural gas, or a mix of these fuels are used to power them.
- They are permanently implanted and are not movable.
- Power for industrial systems can be supplied by three-phase models, while single-phase ones can be used in homes and businesses.
- The customer can track the standby generator’s status from anywhere with an internet connection and a smartphone app that supports remote monitoring.
- Many will do weekly automatic self-tests to guarantee proper operation in the event of a power outage.
- Performance standards of standby energy systems for facilities and buildings are outlined in documents published by the National Fire Protection Association.
How to Run a Generator Safely?
Never use a generator indoors or in an enclosed area. When generators are utilized indoors or in semi-enclosed environments, carbon monoxide poisoning is the leading cause of injury and death.
In the garage or basement, for example, carbon monoxide can accumulate to potentially fatal amounts. A generator should be placed 20 feet away from home, with the exhaust pointing away from any windows or doors.
Don’t Forget the Carbon Monoxide Detector
“Use a functional, battery-operated CO detector simultaneously,” advises Ken Boyce, UL’s principal designated engineer manager, if you are running a generator to keep the lights on during a cleanup job. Having a CO alarm is an extra precaution you can take to ensure you and your loved ones are safe from an unintentional but possibly fatal oversight.
Portable generators should not be used when it is raining. A generator tent, which provides shelter while allowing for airflow, is available for purchase at many different retail locations, including home improvement or hardware stores, and even online.
A gas-powered generator should be turned off and allowed to cool before being refueled. If gas leaks onto engine parts that are already hot, it can spark. Reducing the potential for burns during fueling is another benefit of letting the engine cool down.
Get Some Extra Gas And Put It Away Safely.
When you anticipate needing to run the generator for a long period, it’s a good idea to stock up on gasoline. Gas should be kept in a cool, dry environment and only in ANSI-approved containers. You can extend the life of gasoline in a can by adding a stabilizer to it, but it should never be kept indoors or near a heat or fire source.
The presence of carbon monoxide (CO) safety technology in a generator is a must-have. Newer models of generators typically incorporate a carbon monoxide detector that automatically shuts off the unit when CO concentrations reach unsafe levels. CR now only recommends generators that have been tested for this safety feature.