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Use generators responsibly this winter season during power outages

Use generators responsibly this winter season during power outages Use generators responsibly this winter season during power outages

Winter is nearly here, and if electricity goes out because of snow and ice, a generator can keep power flowing to a home or business. The Outdoor Power Equipment Institute (OPEI), an international trade association representing small engine, utility vehicle, and outdoor power equipment manufacturers and suppliers, reminds home and business owners to keep safety in mind, when using generators this winter.

“Not having power when you need it is frustrating, so a generator can provide emergency backup power at a reasonable cost,” said Kris Kiser, president and CEO of OPEI. “It’s important to follow all manufacturer’s instructions, and never place a generator in your garage or inside your home, or building. It should be a safe distance from the structure and not near an air intake.”

The OPEI offers the following tips for generator safety:

• Take stock of a generator. Make sure equipment is in good working order before starting and using it, especially before a storm hits.

• Review the directions. Follow all manufacturer’s instructions. Review the owner’s manuals (manuals can be found online), so equipment is operated safely.

• Install a battery operated carbon monoxide detector in the home. This alarm will sound if dangerous levels of carbon monoxide enter the building.

• Have the right fuel on hand. Use the type of fuel recommended by the generator manufacturer. It is illegal to use any fuel with more than 10 percent ethanol in outdoor power equipment. It’s best to use fresh fuel, but if using fuel that has sat in a gas can for more than 30 days, add fuel stabilizer to it. Store gas only in an approved container and away from heat sources.

• Ensure portable generators have plenty of ventilation. Generators should NEVER be used in an enclosed area or placed inside a home, a building or a garage, even if the windows or doors are open. Place the generator outside and away from windows, doors and vents that could allow carbon monoxide to drift indoors.

• Keep the generator dry. Do not use a generator in wet conditions. Cover and vent a generator. Model-specific tents or generator covers can be found online for purchase, and at home centers and hardware stores.

• Only add fuel to a cool generator. Before refueling, turn the generator off and let it cool down.

• Plug in safely. If there is not a transfer switch, use the outlets on the generator. It’s best to plug in appliances directly to the generator. If an extension cord must be used, it should be heavyduty and designed for outdoor use. It should be rated (in watts or amps) at least equal to the sum of the connected appliance loads. Make sure the cord is free of cuts and the plug has all three prongs.

• Install a transfer switch. A transfer switch connects the generator to the circuit panel and provides power to hardwired appliances. Most transfer switches also help avoid overload, by displaying wattage usage levels.

• Do not use the generator to “backfeed” power into a home electrical system. Trying to power the home’s electrical wiring by “backfeeding” – where the generator is plugged into a wall outlet – is dangerous. Utility workers and neighbors could be hurt, who are served by the same transformer. Backfeeding bypasses built-in circuit protection devices, so it could damage electronics or start an electrical fire.