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Generator safety  Smart Choices Archive

Generator safety

A generator is a useful appliance during storm-related power outages, but be sure to follow these safety precautions.


Improperly connecting a standby generator to the electrical system of any building carries lethal consequences, according to the producers of a new video, “Avoid Deadly Hazards, Use Generators Safely.”

The five-minute program begins with a situation of a homeowner’s “near miss” with an unsafe generator connection. The program then explains, in a way consumers can understand,:

  • How improperly connecting a generator can create back-feed, which occurs when an improperly connected generator sends electricity back from a home or building onto the utility electric lines through a line that is thought to be "dead."
  • Potential consequences of back-feed.
  • The use of generator transfer switches.
  • The safety steps needed to keep families, utility workers, and neighbors safe.
  • The alternative of connecting directly to outlets through suitable extension cords.
  • Other common safety hazards, such as not operating a generator in a garage because of the danger of carbon monoxide.

The video is a collaborative effort between the Energy Education Council (EEC) Safe Electricity program and the Rural Electricity Resource Council. “We knew that with the increasing frequency of severe storms and the corresponding use of generators, the time was right,” says Molly Hall, EEC executive director. “There are now millions of households with generators, and many consumers don't understand the consequences of connecting them incorrectly. As we examined videos already available, we found none that explained how electricity traveled back from a building onto outside wires could be so dangerous.”

And according to the Rural Electricity Resource Council, avoiding an electrical accident is always less expensive than dealing with the results after it happens.

Watch the video, "Avoid Deadly Hazards, Use Generators Safely," below.

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