Do’s and Don’ts of Portable Generators

For midwest residents who live in blackout-prone areas, a portable generator can be a lifesaver. The electricity you receive from these incredible devices can power your refrigerator, heater, or air conditioner, giving you peace of mind, knowing that your family will be safe during a power outage. 

However, like any piece of machinery, there is a right and a wrong way to operate a generator. Here are a few “do’s” and “don’ts” to consider with your generator that will help you run your generator safely and efficiently.


  • Cover your generator – It’s crucial to protect your generator from precipitation. Snow and rainwater can damage your unit and seriously injure you. If you were to touch a wet generator or operate a generator with wet hands, you could be electrocuted. 

It’s best to store portable generators indoors in a dry and easily accessible place. When it comes to operating your unit, ensure it’s covered by an awning, shed, or portable shelter.

  • Use the proper extension cords – Extension cords are an often overlooked component of a backup generator system. A chord with too light of a gauge can cause damage to your generator and appliances and can even catch fire during extended use. When selecting a generator extension cord, a general rule is to choose at least a 12 gauge wire cord that’s just long enough to reach your appliance.
  • Wear proper protective equipment – It may sound a bit overkill, but in the end, a generator is a piece of heavy machinery and needs to be treated with respect. At a minimum, sturdy shoes, gloves, and safety glasses should be worn when operating a portable backup generator.


  • Use your generator indoors – Never, under any circumstances, should a portable generator be run indoors or in a garage. Gasoline-powered generators produce carbon monoxide fumes, which can be lethal if inhaled in large quantities. When using a generator, make sure your unit is located outside, at a safe distance away from doors or windows. 

As an extra security measure, you can place a carbon monoxide detector inside your home on the wall closest to your generator, alerting you if any carbon monoxide infiltrates your home.

  • Refuel your generator while it’s running – The metal components on a generator can get extremely hot. If you were to spill gasoline on one of these hot surfaces, it could ignite, causing a major fire. It’s best to allow sufficient time for the generator to cool down before refueling.
  • Overload the generator – Remember, generators can only produce so much power, so plugging in many demanding appliances is a recipe for disaster. It’s essential to pay close attention to the power rating of your generator, as well as the amount of power each of your appliances consumes. Doing so will help you calculate the appropriate number of devices to connect to a generator during a blackout.

Safety First!

When operating a portable generator, safety should be your top priority. If you have any questions or concerns about running your backup generator, contact a professional.