Generator safety

If you own a standby or portable generator, be sure you know how to operate it safely. Improper use may cause carbon monoxide poisoning, electrocution or fire.

If you suspect carbon monoxide exposure, call 911 immediately.

To reduce risk of carbon monoxide exposure

  • Never install or use your generator indoors or in enclosed or partially-enclosed areas, even those that are ventilated.
  • When using your generator outdoors during a power outage, avoid placing it near windows, doors and vents.
  • Install carbon monoxide detectors (CO alarms) both near the area where your generator is stored and within your home. Check them regularly to be sure they are in working order.

To learn more about CO, visit our Carbon Monoxide Safety section.

To reduce risk of electrocution

  • Never operate your generator in rain or wet conditions. To protect it from moisture, keep it on a dry surface under an open, canopy-like structure such as a tarp.
  • Never touch your generator with wet or damp hands.
  • Always either plug appliances directly into your generator or use a heavy-duty outdoor extension cord that's rated (in watts or amps) at or above the sum of the loads of your connected appliances. If you use an extension cord, make sure it's free of cuts or tears and has all three prongs, especially a grounding pin.

To reduce risk of fire

  • When in use, make sure your generator is at least 10 feet from any combustible surface.
  • Turn your generator off and let it cool before refueling. If you accidentally spill fuel on hot engine parts, it can ignite.
  • Only use the type of fuel recommended in your generator's instructions or on the label.
  • Store fuel for your generator in an approved safety can, away from fuel-burning appliances.

To protect lineworkers (backfeeding)

Never connect your standby or portable generator to your home's electrical wiring, as electricity will flow through your PSE meter to the outside transformer and into connected power lines. This is called “backfeeding” and poses a potentially fatal shock hazard to line workers who may be trying to restore power during an outage.

  • Never plug your generator into a wall outlet or your home's electrical circuits.
  • Only a qualified professional, such as a licensed electric contractor, should install a permanent standby generator at your home. It must be connected to your home via a transfer switch that's been correctly installed in accordance with federal, state and local electrical codes.

When installation is complete, call PSE at 1-888-225-5773 to let us know about your new backup system.

In general

  • Always follow all safety instructions provided by the manufacturer.
  • Only use a generator that's rated for your needs. If you draw more power than the generator can produce, you may blow a fuse, damage the connected equipment or worse.

We can help

If you have generator safety questions, call us at 1-888-225-5773.

For help choosing or installing a generator, call an Energy Advisor at 1-800-562-1482 or visit our Backup Generators section.