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Texas Department of Insurance
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June 1, 2023

How to safely use a portable generator


If you’ve had a power outage in your home, you might have bought a portable generator. Here’s how to stay safe while using it.

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What’s considered a portable generator?

Portable generators are intended to be used temporarily while you’re without power. They take gas, diesel, or propane. You plug an extension cord into the generator to run small appliances, fans, and phone chargers. Portable generators will not power a house.

What is the biggest danger when using a generator?

Carbon monoxide is always present with generators, even when used properly. It’s a colorless, odorless, tasteless gas. The only warning signs are headaches and fatigue, so people might not know they’re being poisoned.

How do I use a portable generator safely?

Generators should be at least 20 feet away from your house, doors, windows, and any openings, like dryer vents. Since the generator will be away from your house– never in your garage -- you can keep a canopy over it to keep it dry.

What kind of extension cord do I need for a generator?

You need a heavy-duty cord that's suitable for your generator’s amperage. Refer to your generator’s manual for more information.

Make sure your extension cord isn’t frayed or damaged in any way.

What safety tips do you have for running a generator?

  • Shut off the generator before putting fuel in it.
  • If it’s very noisy or making a lot of black smoke, there could be something wrong with it. Turn it off and get it serviced.
  • Keep kids and pets away from generators. They’re hot and combustible.

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