Generators are always run outdoors. But sometimes, this isn’t possible; maybe it’s raining, and the weather is terrible. If that is the case, you will have to find an alternative, and if you have a shed in your backyard, you might be tempted to run it there. But, can you run a generator in a shed?
Well! No, and for a very good reason. Fuel generators produce dangerous fumes as a byproduct that can accumulate in the shed and end up killing or hospitalizing someone. Besides this, there is the risk of the generator overheating or causing a fire in the shed. However, there are some workarounds that you can apply to run your generator in a shed safely.
You must understand the dangers of running a generator in a shed before making a move. This post is here to elaborate on this and also give you some workarounds that you can take to make it safe.
Why is it Dangerous to Run a Generator in a Shed
The temptations of running a generator indoors during lousy weather always come up during
You might also be searching for a secure place to run it. Whatever the reason, running a generator in a shed is like running a generator indoors. If you don’t already know the dangers of running a generator indoors, I will take you through some compelling reasons why it’d be best to avoid running your generator in a shed.
1) Carbon Monoxide Poisoning
Most sheds are confined, and running a generator inside could make it dangerous for you, the kids, and pets. When a generator is running, the engine burns fuel to produce electricity. In the process, carbon monoxide fumes are produced as a byproduct.
Carbon monoxide is odorless and colorless. When exposed to it, it takes away oxygen molecules around you and in your body leading to CO poisoning. It’s pretty dangerous; at some level, 5-minute exposure to the fumes can be fatal.
Because of the shed space confinement, the gas can accumulate quite fast. If you entered the shed while the generator was running, you might not come out. Research suggests that CO poisoning from the generator has more potential to kill people than the disaster that prompts them to use it.
A 2017 study on Deaths Related to Hurricane Irma that affected North Carolina, Florida, and Georgia confirmed that 16 people lost their lives to carbon monoxide poisoning, a number higher than those who died (11) because of the storm itself. It’s alarming.
Running your generator in a shed puts you, your loved ones at the risk of carbon monoxide poisoning. It’s pretty easy for anyone to find themselves trapped in the shed. It’d be best to avoid the idea altogether to protect you and your family.
2) Generator Overheating and Fire Hazard
Generator engines produce a lot of heat and rely on air to help cool it down a bit. So running a generator in an enclosed area such as your garage can cause problems.
The generator burns fuel through an explosion in the combustion chamber. This explosion provides the much-needed mechanical energy to turn the crankshaft, which rotates other parts during power production.
As the engine continues to burn fuel, the heat continues to build up. Typically, portable generators rely on air cooling, something limited in a shed.
The confinement and lack of proper ventilation can prompt the generator to overheat, something you want to avoid to prevent expensive repairs and damages.
Besides that, if there are flammable items in the shed, they risk catching fire from the hot engine. If that were to happen, you could be staring at an explosion and destruction of your property. The same could happen if there is dry stuff in the shed that can catch fire.
And with carbon monoxide being a FLAMMABLE GAS, it also increases the risk of burning down your shed and everything in it.
Some generators produce high noise levels potential of affecting your hearing. Combining the combustion noise with the exhaust pop and vibrations can be too much for your ears.
That’s why it’s never safe to work around a generator without hearing protection, something you might find yourself doing when running a generator in a workshop shed. If the generator fumes don’t kill or hospitalize you, you might end using a hearing aid.
How to Safely Run a Generator in a Garage (Workarounds)
Running a generator in a shed is a big NO! However, there might be no other place available to run the generator other than the backyard shed. If that is the case, I have two or three workarounds to share with you that you can use to make it safe to run the generator in your confined shed.
1) Extend Your Generator Exhaust
If you plan to run your generator inside the garage, you must ensure the carbon monoxide fumes get exhausted outside the garage. That will reduce the amount of CO that gets trapped in the garage.
Even if your garage is fully ventilated, the roofing and walls will still allow some CO fumes to get trapped there. Extending the generator exhaust can help vent most of it outside, reducing the risk of CO poisoning.
The first step is to make sure the fumes don’t accumulate in the shed. The best way to do this is to extend the generator’s exhaust. That will help vent the poisonous carbon monoxide gas outside the shed.
Even if the shed has some ventilation holes, they might not be enough to help the fumes vent out. But using a generator extension can ensure the most of the fumes the generator produces exit outside the shed.
If you decide to try this method, I have a whole article on extending a generator exhaust here.
2) Improve the Shed’s Ventilation
Even though a generator exhaust extension can vent most generator fumes outside the shed, some might accumulate inside it. That’s why it’s best to improve the ventilation. It can even help improve the air circulation inside and allow cool the engine.
You can start by opening the windows if there are any or installing some. Keep the doors wide open but keep the area inaccessible to everyone, especially kids and pets. Place the generator near the door, the most ventilated spot in the shed.
If you feel that isn’t enough to cool the engine, use a high-velocity fan to help blow cold air in and push hot air plus the remaining fumes out.
3) Do the Right Wiring Job
The first thing you want to make sure of before running a generator from the shed is how long your power cord is. It’s never a good idea to join two extension cords to increase the distance. You want to make sure you’re using one cord that isn’t that long. Extended cables produce more resistance that can produce heat enough to melt the insulation rubber.
If the extension cord is enough to run from the load to the shed inside the shed, you want to make sure the wiring is done right. You could opt to install a generator inlet box around the shed and run the right wiring through waterproof, electrical PVC pipes to the house. You want to make sure the wiring or the extension doesn’t come into contact with water in any way. It shouldn’t also run across pathways so that they can trip someone, especially the kids.
Do the ideal extension cords or wires to avoid:
- Tripping hazards,
- Overheating, and
- Short circuits
4) NEVER Store Gasoline in the Shed
Gasoline is something you want to store in a high-ventilated area away from any fire starters. And that won’t be your shed.
Even though you improved your backyard shed’s ventilation to run the in it, you ought to avoid storing the generator there.
The confinement and the hot generator create a perfect environment to start if the gasoline fumes were to escape the storage container.
5) Never Refill the Generator When It’s Running or in the Shed
As you well know, fuels such as gasoline, natural gas, and propane are highly flammable. A simple mistake with hot stuff puts you and your property at the risk of getting burned.
A generator engine gets super hot when the fuel is burned in the combustion chamber. Gasoline generator relies on spontaneous production of sparks that ignite the fuel.
If you were to attempt to refill the generator when running or when hot, you’re risking igniting the fuel and causing a tragedy.
You want to make sure you shut the generator engine and allow it to cool down before refilling the fuel tanks or connecting another propane tank. That way, you’re sure there is no way the fuel can light up.
Unless it’s raining outside, never try to refill the generator inside the shed. Gasoline spills are also dangerous. Apart from being poisonous to your body, you might forget to wipe off the gasoline fumes, and when you try to restart the generator, they might catch fire and create fire.
6) Restrict Access to the Shed
You want to make sure you avoid the shed while the generator is running. Also, make sure no one enters it. You can install a mesh second door to make the area inaccessible.
Also, consider installing a carbon monoxide alarm inside it to monitor the CO levels and alert you when they are at dangerous levels. That’s especially useful if you have a workshop near the shed.
Don’t forget to get one in your working shop and your home if the shed is near it, less than 10 feet. Put a caution sign to alert anyone nearing the area that they may be exposed to CO poisoning if they entered the shed.
Are There Safer Alternatives to Run Your Generator?
If running a generator outdoors isn’t an option for you, you can avoid running it at all. Instead, you can go with one of the following alternatives.
1) Go Green – Use Solar Power
If you live in an area that receives enough sunlight (more than four peak sunlight hours), you can opt to install solar panels and a battery backup to offer the needed emergency power. You can even use it as an on-grid system to help reduce the overall electricity bill.
The best part is that your hybrid system can supplement the lost power at least until it’s restored when the main power is off. You can also invest in a power station enough to run a few of your home essentials during an outage. You can get a model sufficient to power on few LED lights and run a small refrigerator.
You will love to hear; these power sources eliminate fuel usage, thus eliminating the production of poisonous gas.
2) Get Weather-Resistant Cover or Tent
If your primary reason for considering running a generator in a shed is to avoid wet weather, you can buy a weather-resistant generator cover or tent. A good quality model of ideal size can help protect the generator from the wet elements and ensure it runs safely.
Make sure the type of cover you buy fits your generator size perfectly – you want to make sure it protects the electrical generator parts fully.
3) Use a Generator Enclosure
If you water a secure, weatherproof spot to place the generator, get a generator enclosure. You can buy a ready-made unit or build one yourself.
You want to make sure that the enclosure has enough ventilation and doesn’t allow wet elements to reach the generator. Also, make sure there is enough clearance between the generator and the walls.
Here is a whole article on how you can build a secure, noise-reducing, and weatherproof generator enclosure.
How much clearance does a generator need?
Generators require enough clearance from the ends and front, at least 36 inches. That includes the distance from trees, shrubs, and any other vegetation. From the top, the generator needs 48-inch clearance from any overhang, structure, and wall projections.