MISSION, KS--(Marketwire - November 22, 2010) - (Family Features) When a storm knocks out the power, many homeowners turn to a portable generator to keep the lights on or the furnace running when cooler temperatures hit. While portable electric generators are very useful for temporary power, they can be dangerous if used incorrectly.

The most common dangers involving generators are carbon monoxide (CO) poisoning, electrical shock or electrocution and fire hazards. The Electrical Safety Foundation International (ESFI) and Reliance Controls are warning homeowners about the hazards of improperly installing and operating portable generators.

  • Never use a gasoline-powered generator inside your home or garage. Generators can produce high levels of carbon monoxide very quickly, and opening doors or windows or using fans will not prevent CO build-up. Always use a portable generator outside and locate it away from opened windows or doors. Use CO detectors to monitor levels.
  • Make sure generator fuel is stored safely, away from living areas and fuel-burning appliances, and in properly labeled containers. Before refueling, turn off the generator and let it cool down.
  • Check extension cords before using -- they should be rated for the load, free of cuts or worn insulation, and have three-pronged plugs.
  • Do not overload the generator. Use it only when necessary to power essential equipment or appliances.

Do not connect generators directly to your household wiring without an appropriate transfer switch being installed. A transfer switch is an electrical device that is permanently installed near the service panel in your home. It prevents the utility power and the generator power from powering your household circuits at the same time. A transfer switch also eliminates the possibility of backfeeding, which is when generator power travels back up the utility service line. Backfeeding can result in fires and serious injury or even death to you, utility workers or electricians working on nearby electrical systems.

"Transfer switches have been around a long time, but we find that a lot of people still don't know what they are, or they don't think they're necessary," said Jeff Flegel, with Reliance Controls Corporation, the first company to put its user-friendly transfer switch concept on the market. "A transfer switch is easy to install, can spare a lot of heartache and is an essential safeguard to protect families and property."

The National Electrical Code®, (NEC®) which sets national standards intended to minimize the possibility and effects of fire and other risks, requires that transfer switches be used with all portable generators supplying alternate power to a home or business.

"This is the time of year when many people rely on portable generators for their homes, and many times they're putting themselves at risk by not installing or using the generator properly," said Brett Brenner, President of the Electrical Safety Foundation International. "People are in such a hurry to keep the heat, lights and television on, the refrigerator running, or the basement's sump pump operating, they don't think about the potentially devastating consequences of hooking up a generator incorrectly."

For more on transfer switches and generator safety, visit www.transferswitches.com.