How Do I Know if My Generator is Overloaded?

Standby generators are made to be used during stressful, uncomfortable situations. We’re so used to having all of the comforts of electricity that when the power fails, our whole way of life is threatened. If anyone in your home or business requires supplemental oxygen or another medical device that uses electricity, their life and safety is at risk, too.

When the power fails, having a standby generator ready to go can be an enormous relief. It means the security of charged devices, the safety of a chilled refrigerator and freezer that keeps your groceries from going bad, and even life-saving air conditioning or heat, depending on the size of your unit.

Since the generator is needed for so many necessary domestic tasks, it just makes sense to keep it close to the house. If you happen to have an attached garage, you might be tempted to just keep it in there for the easiest access (and to limit the amount of extension cords you’ll need to run!)

Generators can kill (if used improperly)

It’s very important that everyone in your family is aware that generators can be incredibly harmful and even deadly if the proper precautions aren’t followed. Your family should have a plan in the event of an emergency, and generator safety should be a part of that plan to prevent needless injury or tragedy.

For people who aren’t familiar with how generators work, they might seem pretty benign. They provide electricity, and we have lots of things that provide electricity in our homes all the time! The way they work is very different from our typical power sources, though.

Generators are combustion motors. That means that inside of them is an engine that burns fuel in a closed combustion chamber to create energy, or electricity. The process of that combustion, which is a chemical reaction, creates fumes.

The dangers of exhaust fumes

These fumes are more than just a bad smell. The generator’s exhaust itself can be very flammable, and if a lot of it collects within an enclosed space in your home– especially one where things like oil and gasoline are stored– it could be disastrous.

The generator exhaust on its own has a distinct smell, and at least if you notice it you’ll know to stay away. But that’s not the only dangerous substance a generator produces. The one to be most aware of is carbon monoxide, otherwise known as CO.

Carbon monoxide is a colorless, odorless gas– which means that if it’s in your home, you might not know it until it’s too late. Generators produce a lot of carbon monoxide while they’re running, and if your unit is placed inside a space with improper or insufficient ventilation, that gas will have nowhere to go but inside your home.

If carbon monoxide gas enters your home and your family is breathing it, the symptoms that it causes might be mistaken for another kind of illness. Typically, it gives you a headache, dizziness, and flu-like symptoms, and when we’re feeling sick we tend to lie down and rest. In this situation, lying down inside the home would be the worst thing you could do and could very likely be deadly.

Running a generator safely

The ideal location for a generator is outside the home in the open air, so that the exhaust can harmlessly dissipate without collecting in any space.

If for some reason you absolutely must run your generator in your garage, it’s extremely important that you provide as much ventilation as you can. This means that your garage door needs to be completely open, as well as any doors and windows in the room. 

You should be sure not to store gasoline or oil anywhere near the generator, and if at all possible should purchase some portable exhaust fans to aid the ventilation. For added safety, it helps to install CO detectors around your home and check the batteries regularly. These devices can save your life.

At Northside Power, we are committed to providing high-quality generators that safely provide backup during power failures. If you have any questions about safe usage of your standby generator, or need recommendations for placement, we’re only a phone call away. It’s much better to be safe than sorry!