Getting A Generator? Make Sure You Know About Carbon Monoxide Poisoning

Having an emergency generator can certainly come in handy when the power goes out. But, generators do come with certain risks. One of those is carbon monoxide poisoning. This gas is generated whenever fuels, including propane, natural gas, and gasoline, are burned. If you're not careful, your generator may exhaust carbon monoxide, or CO, into your home. Here's a look at how to keep this from happening.

How do you prevent your generator from leaking CO into your home?

Never put the generator in your home, in an attached garage, or on an enclosed porch. Place it outside and at least five feet from any windows, vents, or doors so that the fumes are less likely to blow into your home. If you have the space, push the generator even further back for more protection. Note that most homes have soffit vents under roofing overhangs, so putting your generator against the home under an overhang is not a good idea.

Figure out which way the prevailing winds blow before placing your generator. You want to place it on the side of your home that results in the wind blowing the fumes further from your home, not towards it. If you can, have a professional install your generator so you can be confident it is placed safely.

What other precautions should you take against CO poisoning?

Make sure you have a CO detector in your home on each floor. If CO does enter your home, the detector should beep and alert you. If this ever happens, get everyone out of the house and turn the generator off. Don't return to the home until the power is restored and the place has had a chance to air out. Test the air by resetting the detector to see if it still rings.

What are signs of carbon monoxide poisoning?

Even when you take all of the precautions above, accidents can happen. If anyone in your family complains of these symptoms while the generator is running, they should seek medical attention and you should get out of the house:

  • Nausea
  • Headaches
  • Confusion
  • Feelings of mental fog
  • Memory problems
  • Struggling to wake up
  • Lethargy

Most people recover just fine from carbon monoxide poisoning if it is caught and they are moved somewhere with fresh air. However, the gas can be deadly if it is breathed in over a long period of time or if you inhale it throughout the night while you're sleeping. Be as cautious as possible when installing and using your generator.