Storm Season

Portable Generators: Don'ts and Do's

Make sure your emergency generator, and you, are ready when a storm knocks out power

If you lost power during Hurricane Ian, a portable generator can be your best mechanical friend.

Or, it can cause serious harm.

If you rely on a generator to provide power in an outage, it's critical to know how to use it properly. Here are some tips:


Place a running generator inside your home or garage. Keep it at least 15 feet from any enclosed structure. The odorless carbon monoxide exhaust fumes are deadly.

Store fuel in your home, or in your garage near potentially combustible appliances such as a furnace or water heater.

Connect a generator directly to your home's electrical box. It can create a fire hazard, and might energize area power lines that utility workers assume are not "live."

Operate a generator in rain or damp conditions. If the electrical panel gets wet, it could cause electrical shock or damage the machine.

Refuel a generator while it's running. Fuel spilled on a hot motor can spark an explosion or fire.


Start and briefly run your machine a few times during the year, to ensure it is ready when you need it.

Make sure you have plenty of fresh fuel to power your generator. If the machine runs on gasoline, figure on up to 21 gallons a day, if you want to operate it around the clock.

Check the oil.

Make sure the combined wattage of devices you plan to power does not exceed the generator's capacity.
Use heavy-duty, properly grounded extension cords.

Hire a qualified technician to install a transfer switch if you want to connect an emergency generator to your home's main electrical system.