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How Does That Work?

What you need to know about portable home generators

January 3, 2024 | Jason Kuiper | how does that work, safety, tips
portable home generator

Campers and preppers love them. Farmers do, too. And some people use them during a power outage to keep their home running. A portable home generator can be a valuable purchase for your family.

But the first priority should always be safety, and not just electrical safety, but also safety with the fuels a generator uses.

How do they work?

Portable engine generators can provide a reliable source of portable power for a variety of applications. These generators usually run on gas or diesel, but models are available to run on propane or natural gas.

Wherever and whenever grid power may not be available, power outlets on such units allow a person to plug in a variety of electric-powered tools and appliances.

Installation, use and safety

  • By design, portable generators should only connect with smaller selected appliances or lamps.  They cannot operate in parallel with the grid. And you should never connect them directly to your home’s wiring system without a proper transfer switch (see Chapter 11 of OPPD’s Meter Specification Manual for requirements). Significant safety hazards can result, including for OPPD’s line workers. If you have a larger generator that is capable of parallel operation with the grid, and you want to permanently install the generator for home or building backup power, the threat to safety can be greater. To do so you will need various approvals, including from OPPD. More information on that process can be found at OPPD’s Customer-Owned Generation (COG) page.
  • Be sure to carefully read all instructions included with the generator before operating it. Keep portable generators outside during use to ensure the exhaust will vent safely. The use of a generator in an enclosed area could cause a buildup of carbon monoxide or other harmful gases.
  • Always shut down the unit and wait five minutes or more for the generator to cool down prior to refueling.
  • Keep extension cords out of the way or protected so they don’t cause a tripping hazard.
  • Never run electrical cords under rugs or carpets, where damage to a cord may go unnoticed or heat might build up. Make sure cords are the proper size to carry the electric load. Overloaded cords can overheat and cause fires.

To learn more about safely using a generator, check out our Generators page.

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About Jason Kuiper

Jason Kuiper joined OPPD as a communications specialist in 2015. He is a former staff writer and reporter at the Omaha World-Herald, where he covered a wide range of topics but spent the majority of his career covering crime. He is a graduate of the University of Nebraska at Omaha and has also appeared in several true crime documentary shows. In his free time he enjoys cooking, spending time with his wife and three children, and reading crime novels.

View all posts by Jason Kuiper >

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