When storms hit, many homeowners break out their portable generators. Here’s what you should know to operate them safely.

What You Must Know About Portable Generators

“Today’s Homeowner” host Danny Lipford, pictured with a generator and a gas can
Portable generators make life easier when you’re riding out a storm.

• Location, location, location. Portable generators belong outdoors, in open spaces. Place one under a shaded tree, far from the home.
• Never place generators in enclosed spaces. Places to avoid are under a carport, in a garage or anywhere near open windows and doors.
• Watch out for carbon monoxide. All generators create carbon monoxide, which is colorless, odorless and can be very dangerous. Install a carbon monoxide detector in your home for monitoring CO levels and safety

About the Power a Portable Generator Produces

House generator
A house generator. (©bildlove, Adobe Stock Photos)

• Maintain realistic expectations. You may want to run a few lamps or fans while the power is out. Those don’t require much power and you can use almost any size generator to run them. Small inverters are popular generators, but you won’t run a refrigerator or air conditioner with them.
• Know your generator’s load limits. Some options include 1,000 watt, 2,000 watts and up to 8,000 watts. (That last one could run a window air conditioner and a refrigerator). Look for calculators online —particularly on the generator manufacturer’s website — that can tell you exactly which devices and appliances you can run based on the load.
• Use the right cord. Only use heavy-duty (exterior-rated) extension cords. Flimsy, interior cords are not made for portable generators and can be hazardous — never use them for this purpose.
• Fuel up safely. Only add fuel when the generator is off and has cooled down.

Clean fuel is required for generators to work properly.

What You Should Know to Keep Your Generator Working Properly

• Clean fuel. If the portable generator has been setting out a few months, not in use, drain all the fuel out of it and properly dispose of it.
• Change spark plugs. It’s inexpensive to purchase new spark plugs and easy to install them — and doing so will make the engine work so much better.
• Clean or replace the air filter. If you haven’t maintained the generator’s air filter in awhile, it’s time to clean or replace it. Because when you need the generator, it’s going to work hard and needs to be in top shape.

Further Reading

Editorial Contributors
Danny Lipford

Danny Lipford


Danny Lipford is a home improvement expert and television personality who started his remodeling business, Lipford Construction, at the age of 21 in Mobile, Alabama. He gained national recognition as the host of the nationally syndicated television show, Today's Homeowner with Danny Lipford, which started as a small cable show in Mobile. Danny's expertise in home improvement has also led him to be a contributor to popular magazines and websites and the go-to source for advice on everything related to the home. He has made over 200 national television appearances and served as the home improvement expert for CBS's The Early Show and The Weather Channel for over a decade. Danny is also the founder of 3 Echoes Content Studio, TodaysHomeowner.com, and Checking In With Chelsea, a décor and lifestyle blog.

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