07 May 2008
Janice Anderssen offers a few safety tips for the many South African homeowners buying petrol generators.
In line with Eskom's load shedding affecting homes throughout South Africa, many homeowners have rushed out to buy a petrol generator.
Whilst these offer a convenient way to power up a home during power outs, you need to apply common sense and follow the manufacturer's instructions when buying for home use.
Did you know that petrol generators vent out carbon monoxide? This gas is both invisible and odorless, and can cause asphyxiation as a result of fumes entering the house through an open door or window. In fact, a small 5,5kW petrol powered generator emits the same amount of carbon monoxide as six idling cars.
Even with safety in mind, though, generating your own power is not without its risks. Homeowners need to be aware of the dangers of using petrol generators outside of recommended guidelines. For example:
- Never operate a generator within a built structure such as a home, shed, garage, or even a carport. The generator needs to be sited at least 3 metres away from any structure, with the exhaust pointing in the opposite direction.
- When using a petrol generator in windy conditions, ensure that the wind direction does not blow toxic fumes into the house, or other structure. It is better to site the generator downwind and out of the low pressure envelope created around a house or similar large structure, as this low pressure can pull vented fumes into the building.
- Every homeowner making using of a petrol generator should have a working carbon monoxide detector.
- Only use SABS-approved power cable extensions from a generator. And always check to ensure that power cable extensions are in good condition and free from damaged cables, or loose wiring in the plugs. Replace any cord with damaged insulation.
- To prevent electrical shock, support the generator cords off the ground or relocate them rather than allowing them to lie in wet spots.
- Do not store petrol in the house, and do not add petrol to the generator whilst it is running. Instead, shut the engine off, let it cool then refuel it. Make sure to clean up any spilled petrol before restarting the generator.
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