Gas-powered generators are a must-have for anyone serious about thriving in power outages.
They are efficient, effective, and often portable enough to be transported far more easily than other types of generators. With these things in mind, the reason for their popularity becomes clear.
Even so, extreme care should be taken when using these generators. Gasoline, fire, and electricity are dangerous components by themselves. Combine them only adds to the potential harm. Make no mistake, gas generators can be dangerous.
I’ll always encourage you to use your discretion, and the tips below are an attempt at an exhaustive list. Here is Captain Patio’s gas generator safety guide.
- Don’t use indoors
- Keep in a ventilated area
- Beware of generator flammability
- Install indicators
- Fill the tank carefully
- Don’t overload
- Consider power cords and grounding
- Maintain clearance
- Check its condition
- Use new parts
- Common Questions
Don’t use indoors
First and foremost, if gas generators emit too much noxious gas, such as carbon monoxide, it can kill you within minutes.
This is especially dangerous if the gases become trapped indoors, building up with nowhere to go and forcing you to breathe in these poisonous fumes.
Under no circumstances should you use your gas generator indoors.
That said, while using generators outdoors, you need to take care to shelter them from the elements. You should not keep your generator in an exposed area, nor should you run it in rainy conditions. This should sound familiar if you’ve also read our guide about patio heater danger.
Keep in a ventilated area
As a corollary to this, you always want to make sure to keep your gas generator in a well-ventilated area. Enclosed spaces such as the interior of homes or closed-off garages are a no-go. Merely opening a door or flicking on a fan is not enough. Instead, find sheltered yet well-ventilated outdoor areas.
Beware of generator flammability
Not only is carbon monoxide noxious to inhale but many other gases are highly flammable as well. Even a small spark can set off a huge explosion and fire. You thus want to make sure that your gas generator isn’t located anywhere near a heat source or open flame. Even a stray ember from a cigarette can be enough to set off an inferno so you should never smoke near your generator.
Even if you keep your generator in a safe area, there is always the possibility of a leak. You’ll thus want to make sure that you’re buying a generator that has leak indicators or else install one yourself.
Fill the tank carefully
It is vital that you don’t overfill the tank for fear of it overflowing and the excess fuel becoming a fire hazard. You also want to make sure to account for fuel burning and expanding as it gets hot so filling your tank to the brim can be dangerous. Tanks get quite hot while they’re actively generating electricity so you don’t want to add additional fuel while the tanks already heated up and running.
For that same reason, you’ll want to let your generator cool all the way down before adding more fuel.
This heat also means that you should never touch the tank itself while it’s still hot.
Gas generators are quite powerful, which means that if it accidentally overloads and sends out electrical feedback or sparks as the result of substandard or broken equipment, the result can destroy power outlets and lines. You thus should not plug your generator into your home’s main power supply.
This also means that you should avoid excessive use of your gas generator lest it overload due to overuse. For safety as well as cost-effectiveness, you should always turn off your generator when you are not using it.
Consider power cords and grounding
You should always use proper power cords. Do not “daisy chain” extension cords together as this is very dangerous and they can become overloaded, which can cause electrical catastrophes. Any power cords you use should be heavy-duty in nature and be approved for outdoor use. Do not use cords whose wires are worn. Always make sure that you are using wires with proper shielding.
As stated above, you need to make sure that your generator has proper ventilation, which means that it has room to ventilate properly. The unit’s heat can also pose a severe fire hazard to walls and other parts of your home. You therefore need to maintain sufficient clearance — typically at least five feet — on all sides at all times while the generator is active.
Check its condition
Before using the generator, you should always check its condition. Make sure that there are no apparent leaks, dents, signs of rust, frayed wires, or other flaws. You should also make sure that the tank has not been exposed to corrosive liquids and that there are no strange vapors in the area.
Use new parts
Even if you have used your generator just fine before, you should always check the status of its parts before using it. If you notice or suspect that any of the parts are old, corroded, frayed, or otherwise substandard, replace them.
By following these safety tips and others recommended by the safety manual, you can use your gas generator in a safe and effective manner.
What kind of weather can gas generators run in?
Water and electricity do not mix. Therefore, your gas generator should only run under dry conditions. If you must run your generator in the rain, be sure to place it under an awning, covered porch, or overhang.
Many portable generators will actually shut themselves off when moisture is present, eliminating the possibility of generating electricity.
Are gas generators dangerous?
NPR reports that gas generators kill around 75 people annually, primarily due to carbon monoxide poisoning. Additionally, they can also start fires, cause contact burns, and electrocutions. Yes, gas generators are dangerous.