Be safety conscious around generators

Knowing that there’s not enough power to go around, South Africans have become used to electricity blackouts in the winter months, and many have bought portable generators to take up the slack and at least keep the lights and fridge on.

But generators can be dangerous unless they’re used carefully, the biggest risk for yourself and your family being carbon monoxide poisoning unless the generator is properly positioned.

“You should never use a petrol or diesel-powered generator inside your home or in a closed garage, as opening doors and windows and even using a fan for ventilation will not prevent the build-up of carbon monoxide, which is a colourless, odourless and deadly gas,” notes Berry Everitt, MD of the Chas Everitt International property group.

“Generators belong outside, and yours should be set up in a well-ventilated area away from doors and windows and preferably under a canopy to protect it from rain.”

Writing in the Property Signposts newsletter, he says that for everyone’s safety, you should also store the fuel for the generator in proper metal containers away from wood, plastic and other flammable material and out of the reach of children.

“Generators also heat up as they work, so you should never leave a fuel container nearby, even if you think the generator might need a refill before the blackout is over – and of course never attempt a refill while the generator is running.”

It is also unwise, he says, to stockpile fuel. Rather rotate it with fresh fuel every few weeks when you “test-run” the generator, which is necessary to keep it in top operating condition and make sure it will work when needed.

“Depending on usage, you should service the generator about once a year by changing the oil and filters, and check for pest damage and any other wear-and-tear at the same time.

“And finally, you need to address the noise issue. Generators usually run at about 90 to 95 decibels, which is about the same noise level as heavy traffic, so you may not want yours too close to the house. But you need to be considerate of your neighbours too, especially if you are going to run your generator late at night or very early in the morning.”

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