Generators… Good; Carbon Monoxide Poisoning… Bad

A generator is the best way to deal with a power outage. There is no dispute about that. And if that were the only thing you need to know about generators, there would be little reason for this communication.  

After all, generators can be lifesavers. When you own a generator, you know the next time the lights go out, you have a backup power source to support you and your family.

Generators allow you to keep medical devices functioning. And they can power up your refrigerator and a fan or space heater. Plus a TV, phones, laptops, and more.

But the fact is, the type of generator you use can make a huge difference in your safety. Today I’m going to tell you exactly why that’s true.

Failing to Heed Warnings

A generator is a machine that produces electrical energy in the form of voltage and current. Generators for home use produce AC (alternating current) power. They can power electrical appliances that ordinarily would be dead during a blackout.

Why is it important to have one? Because power outages are increasingly rapidly across the U.S. Just last month in Texas, electricity prices soared and utilities officials pleaded with businesses and residents to voluntarily conserve power from 3 to 8 p.m.

If rolling blackouts occur – or if extreme weather causes a blackout – generators will be used. Gas-powered generator manufacturers warn consumers about carbon monoxide (CO) poisoning. But those warnings are not always heeded. 

Regardless of what kind of generator you own – big or small, solar or gas – knowing generator safety is key.

It’s Called the Silent Killer

Depending on the levels, carbon monoxide poisoning can be fatal. In just five minutes. Most people won’t notice it until they start feeling ill. That’s because it’s odorless and colorless. Falling asleep while CO is present can be deadly. They call it the silent killer. 

Following Hurricane Irma in 2017, 11 deaths in Florida, Georgia, and North Carolina were attributed to the storm. But an additional 16 deaths were caused by carbon monoxide poisoning. 

In 2020, Hurricane Laura tied the record for strongest storm making landfall in Louisiana. More than 900,000 people lost power in the states affected by the Category 4 storm. 

Forty-two people in the U.S. were killed by the storm. Among them were at least nine who died of CO poisoning from their gas-powered generators.

‘Disaster Within a Disaster’

During Winter Storm Uri in 2021, some 1,400 people visited emergency rooms for CO poisoning in Texas alone. At least 11 people lost their lives due to it. Dr. Neil Hampson called it the country’s “biggest epidemic of CO poisoning in recent history.” 

Harris County Judge Lina Hidalgo oversees emergency management in the Houston area. She labeled the carbon monoxide crisis a “disaster within a disaster.”

Many of those who suffered carbon monoxide poisoning were improperly using gas-powered generators. 

Some were running them in garages. Others were using them too close to vents and widows. In each case, toxic fumes entered their homes. According to the CDC, some 430 Americans die every year from CO poisoning.

Not Just Safety Concerns

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention issued this warning about generators:

“If used or placed improperly, these sources can lead to carbon monoxide (CO) buildup. Inside buildings, garages, and campers. And poison the people and animals inside. 

“These devices should never be used inside an enclosed space, home, basement, garage, or camper. Or even outside near an open window or window air conditioner.”

In addition to CO poisoning, users of gas-powered generators can also experience electric shock, fire, and burns.  

If safety concerns were not enough, gas generators are also noisy, which can alert looters to you. You could also run out of fuel to power it. Or that fuel could become unusable if your garage floods. Even well-versed preppers can fall victim to gas generator malfunctions. 

Generator Safety Tips 

If you absolutely have to use a gas-powered generator, please follow these important safety tips: 

  • Read the generator manual carefully. Follow the instructions to the letter. 
  • Keep your generator at least 25 feet from any building. 
  • Make sure fumes are not blowing toward anything flammable. Such as vegetation.
  • Store your gas cans properly. And far away from the generator.
  • Keep your generator away from vents and windows. 
  • Install at least one carbon monoxide alarm in your home. And keep a fire extinguisher handy. 
  • Don’t run your generator while it’s raining. Unless it’s shielded by a waterproof and well-ventilated tent.
  • Never try to power the house wiring by plugging the generator into a wall outlet. Instead, use a heavy-duty, outdoor extension cord to plug appliances into generators.
  • Before refueling, turn the generator off and allow it to cool for 15-20 minutes. Gasoline and other flammable liquid spilled on hot engine parts could ignite.
  • Have your generator inspected annually and replace any worn parts.

 Solar = Safe

And now for the safety tip you need when using a solar-powered generator: Don’t throw it at someone.

That’s about it. A solar-powered generator produces an endless supply of life-saving electricity when you need it most. 

And without gas, fumes, or noise. Plus, it’s safe enough to use indoors. Even in your bedroom.

When it comes to safety, a solar-powered generator is the clear choice over a gas generator.

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