How to use a portable generator safely

Generators mean freedom: freedom to go off-grid, freedom to throw outdoor events or run mobile businesses, freedom from blackout worries. Almost all of us will use a generator at one time or another, or wish we had one.

Image Credit

People who are unfamiliar with generators – and quite a few are – need reminding how to use them safely. A generator has all the risks associated with electricity, such as shocks, shorts and fire, combined with those of engines, such as carbon monoxide, fire and moving parts.

Although safe and easy to use, nothing is foolproof. These pointers will help to keep you safe.


Cars have to be inspected every year; otherwise, they eventually become unsafe. Generators are much the same. If filters and vents get blocked and oil and timing deteriorate, you stop burning fuel cleanly. Grease or spilt oil on a hot engine can ignite, electric cables can become frayed or corroded, and so on.

If you are renting from a generator rental company, the maintenance responsibilities lie with them. Even if you own your own generator, a generator rental company such as will be happy to provide guidance.

Image Credit

Carbon monoxide

Never use a generator in an enclosed space – even a draughty tent is unsafe. Carbon monoxide is odourless, colourless and numbs your senses, so you can easily pass out before realising what is happening. Use carbon monoxide sensors and test them regularly.

Electrical hazards

Keep your generator protected from rain and damp. Electricity does not mix well with water. Remember to dry your hands whenever you touch it.

Never attach under-rated cables or extension cords. Don’t pull your cables, let them fray or continue to use any that split.

Never attempt to connect a generator into your home’s electrical wiring, which is known as back-feeding. Although there are types of generator designed to do this, a portable generator is not one of them. If you want a seamless backup generator for your home, consult a qualified installer. You will need a double-pole break-before-make changeover switch and a low impedance earth spike.

Fire hazards

Never top up fuel or oil while a generator is running; in fact, it shouldn’t even be warm. If you spill any, always clean it up scrupulously before powering up. Store your fuel in a safe place well away from the generator.