Frequently Asked Questions

They can never ever be operated indoors, in garages, or in any partially enclosed spaces. These are sophisticated tools that can be life-saving resources during times of emergency. Still, the exhaust emissions from portable generators contain carbon monoxide (CO), a deadly poisonous gas that is tasteless, colorless, and odorless. For this reason, portable generators can NEVER be used inside. Even using them in partially enclosed spaces can be deadly. Taking your generator outside is the ONLY safe way to use portable generators. It must be located far away from buildings, doors, windows, and vents. After placing the portable generator far away from any occupied dwelling, always point exhaust fumes away from home, people, pets, and neighboring homes.

Everyone should be aware of how carbon monoxide attacks the body. It’s important to know the symptoms: headache, dizziness, nausea, fatigue, shortness of breath. If you experience symptoms, leave the area right away, seek fresh air, and seek medical attention.

Nearly all incidents associated with misuse of portable generators happen indoors. We want to reinforce this point, so consumers understand the issues of misusing a portable generator. Therefore PGMA developed its extensive Take it Outside™ education and awareness campaign. The key to safe, successful portable generator operation begins with taking it outside. It can’t be emphasized enough; your life may depend on this.

Because poisonous carbon monoxide exposure is dangerous and deadly, and because kitchen appliances, chimneys, furnaces, and many other common household tools can malfunction and result in accumulating poisonous carbon monoxide gas, PGMA strongly recommends that you install carbon monoxide detectors on each level of your home and test them regularly according to the manufacturer’s instructions.

PGMA also encourages the purchase and use of portable generators that meet ANSI/PGMA G300-2018 safety standard requirements, which include built-in shut-off systems to protect against dangerous carbon monoxide levels. While each manufacturer’s approach is unique, all generators that meet the standard automatically detect dangerous concentration levels of carbon monoxide (CO), shutting off the portable generator engine before carbon monoxide concentration levels exceed 800 parts per million (PPM). Once the portable generator engine has shut down, a notification light remains illuminated for a minimum of five minutes after shut-off occurs. Extensive industry testing with “real world” indoor and outdoor conditions demonstrates that these carbon monoxide (CO) shut-off systems will prevent 99% of fatalities from exposure to carbon monoxide (CO) concentrations from the portable generator’s exhaust emissions.

As with fire safety and preparedness, portable generators owners need to have a plan for how to respond to a power outage and practice that plan. Part of this is collecting and storing the supplies necessary to successfully use the portable generator. For example, a ready supply of gasoline stored in an EPA/CARB compliant container – while adhering to all recommendations for safe storage of gasoline. Gasoline containers must be stored in a well-ventilated place — even if that means NOT with the stored generator. It’s also important to predetermine where on your property your portable generator will have to be positioned so it is operated far away from your residence, doors, windows, vents, garages, and semi-enclosed areas including sheds. Then purchase extension cords long enough to extend from this predetermined location to appliances you will want to power such as refrigerators, freezers and other crucial devices. Store these extension cords with your portable generator. Lastly, always be sure to maintain fresh batteries in your homes carbon monoxide (CO) detector. Like a fire alarm, you won’t know when you need it, but having your carbon monoxide (CO) alarm ready, will be the most important first line of defense for you and your family.

If you must operate your portable generator in rain or damp locations, do not operate without proper protection of the electrical components (as described in the manufacturers owner’s manual) to prevent shock or an electrocution hazard. Never operate the portable generator inside any building, garage, basement, crawlspace, shed, enclosure, compartment, or near any windows, doors, air intake vents or other openings to prevent dangerous and poisonous carbon monoxide (CO) from entering into your home.

Before refueling a generator, turn it off and let it cool down for at least two minutes before removing the fuel cap. Loosen fuel cap slowly to release vapor pressure and to keep gasoline from escaping around the fuel cap. Never remove the fuel cap or add gasoline while the engine is running or when the engine is hot. Gasoline spilled on hot engine parts could ignite.

Everyone. Just like fire safety, we encourage that these instructional and important safety messages be shared with every member of the household. Also remember, if your power is out, so might be others in your neighborhood. If you see a portable generator being used improperly and dangerously, please share the safety information learned here. It could save a life.