Maybe it’s raining outside, or it’s not possible to run your generator outdoors for whatever reason, and your garage is the only spot available; you must be wondering if you can run a generator in the garage.
Well! No, and for a perfect reason. Generators burn fuel and produce carbon dioxide as a byproduct. This killer gas can accumulate in the garage, and that’s why you must always run the generator in a highly ventilated area. There is also the risk of causing a fire in the garage. There are exceptions, though, like extending the generator muffler outdoors.
That isn’t it; you must understand some facts before making any moves. Your safety and that of your family must come first. I will take you through why it’s not a good idea to run your generator in the garage, how to run it safely if it’s the only option, and the possible alternatives. Let’s get right into it.
What Are the Dangers of Running a Generator in the Garage?
Many homeowners are now and again tempted to run generators indoors. Almost every generator owner knows it’s the worst idea to run a generator indoors, yet most of them keep searching the internet for tips from people who’ve successfully run theirs in a garage.
However, assuming you also want to know if there is a chance, you might want to go through the compelling reasons why running the generator in the garage or near your house is not in your best interest.
1) Carbon Monoxide Poisoning
Generators burn fuel to produce energy and byproducts such as carbon monoxide fume and at high levels. Compared to cars, a single generator can produce carbon monoxide produced by 100 cars.
That’s alarming. The worst is, a generator runs continuously, waiting for the grid power to be restored. That means the unit will keep producing the toxic carbon monoxide fumes for hours.
Running a generator in your garage puts your family at the risk of CO poisoning. With the generator running in the garage, it’s easy for the fumes to seep into the living area and your home’s bedrooms. And since it’s odorless and colorless, you might not even know.
You cannot rely on the wall sealing between the garage and the living area to keep you and your family safe from the poisonous fumes. Several reports say that multiple people die from these fumes for operating generators near their homes every couple of years. Some are seriously ill because of these killer fumes.
So, as far as I know, it’s never an option to run a generator in an attached garage. Avoid it if you want to keep yourself and your family safe.
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.
Remember, some generators aren’t well ventilated, and most garages have no windows or vents. And if there are, they barely get opened to reduce the risk of burglary.
Because of that, your generator can run very hot and probably overheat due to a lack of cold air circulation. That puts it in danger and also increases the risk of starting a fire in your garage.
As you well know, a garage carries all types of items, including those that can catch fire easily and lead to fire outbreaks. The whole setup puts everything and everyone living in your home in danger.
As you well know, generators produce a lot of noise. It’s probably the noisiest electricity producer. Operating it in your garage can inconvenience everyone living in the house, making it uncomfortable and unpleasant to live or sleep there.
You might get away with the generator noise by running it in a garage with insulated walls and doors, but that won’t help eliminate the generator’s buzzing noise and vibration.
How to Safely Run a Generator in a Garage (Workarounds)
Don’t get me wrong; running a generator in a garage is NEVER safe. However, you find yourself with no other option than to run it in your garage. Maybe it’s raining outside, and there isn’t a safer spot to place the generator or whatever your reason not to run it outdoors, there are some workarounds that can help make sure it’s safe.
1) Make a Generator Exhaust Extension
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.
You can read my full article on how to extend a generator exhaust here.
2) Maximize the Garage Ventilation
Even after extending the exhaust, there might be some fumes finding their way into the garage. And since this isn’t something you can risk, you want to make sure you maximize your garage ventilation.
Open all the garage windows and doors to allow maximum airflow. Place the generator near the garage door and ensure it’s at the most ventilated spot. You can also get a high-velocity fan to help blow any remaining gas outside the garage.
3) Install a CO Detector in All Rooms in Your Home
Take advantage of technology, get yourself Carbon Monoxide detectors, and install them in every room in your house, including the garage. The gadgets function similar to smoke detectors – instead of sensing smoke, they sense Carbon Monoxide fumes and sound a loud alarm when it’s in high concentration.
It can come in handy when running a generator in your garage. Even if you have extended the exhaust and ventilated the area, it would be best to add the CO detectors. You might even come around a Smart CO detector capable of sending notifications directly to your phone.
4) Use Proper Extension Cords
Power cords seem relatively non-threatening at first sight. However, there’re serious risks related to generator extension cords, such as:
Generator extension cords might seem non-threatening at first sight, but if misused, they can cause issues such as
- Tripping hazards,
- Overheating, and
- Short circuits
And those are the last thing you want to experience in an enclosed garage space. You can avoid all these by constantly checking the user’s manual for the right extension cords to use with your generator. Also, avoid joining two extensions together.
5) NEVER Refill Gasoline Generator When It’s Running
Gasoline is a highly flammable fuel that can catch fire even from as little as a single spark. That’s why you can NEVER attempt to refuel a gasoline generator while the engine is running.
A hot engine can easily cause sparks that light up the gasoline fumes lingering around the fuel tank as you refuel it.
Because of the explosive nature of gasoline, the fire can lead to a massive explosion that would potentially cause a fire outbreak in your garage and probably burn your house down.
So, you must shut the generator down and give it time to cool down before refueling it.
6) AVOID Storing Gasoline in the Garage
I’ve mentioned already mentioned that gasoline is highly flammable. That means you must avoid storing it in a closed space, including the garage, where its fumes can accumulate quickly.
And with the generator running hot, the risk of these fumes igniting is even higher. There is a higher chance of the fuel exploding.
Avoid the risk by safely storing gasoline in a safe, well-ventilated spot away from your garage or any other room in your house.
7) Mark the Garage as a NO-GO-ZONE When the Generator is Running
When the generator is running inside your garage, you want to ensure you or anyone else doesn’t go near it. With Carbon Monoxide being colorless and odorless, it’s straightforward for it to poison you even without you knowing.
And running a generator in a ventilated garage, even with a CO monitor, might not be enough to protect you from the toxic fumes. So, the best thing you can do is to avoid the area entirely. Of course, you will have to get inside to start the generator, stop it or refuel it. While doing these things, avoid spending too much time in the garage.
Also, make sure everyone knows the danger of entering the garage and limit access to the area. Make sure kids and pets don’t have access to the garage at all.
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) Use a Solar-Powered Generator
Unless you live in an area that receives small to no sunlight, a solar-powered generator is an excellent alternative to risking yourself to Carbon Monoxide poisoning. You can invest in a heavy-duty solar power generator, but be prepared to spend a huge among of investment to acquire one.
You could also decide to invest in a portable power station enough to keep a couple of appliances running until utility power gets restored. If you experience prolonged and frequent power outages, a power station might not be enough for you.
2) Use a Weather-Resistant Cover or Tent
Running a generator in the garage is dangerous. There is no way to safely run it and be 100% sure you’re safe. So, if rain or snow is the main issue forcing you not to run your generator outdoors, there’s an option to cover the generator with a weather-resistance cover.
You can invest in a generator canopy, cover, or tent built to shield the unit from weather elements and keep it dry. What you want to consider here is the size of your generator. You want to make sure the model you buy can cover the generator wholly and enough protect it from the wet elements.
3) Buy or Build a Generator Enclosure Outdoors
There is also the option of building or buying a ready-made generator enclosure enough to shield the unit from rain, snow, and wind. Most of the ready-made models are easy to assemble, and building one isn’t that hassle. You can find out more about building a generator enclosure here.
How far from the house should a generator be placed?
Most of the time, your generator should be placed at least 1.5-feet away from the house and 5-feet away from any window, door, or air vent opening. Additionally, it should be 3.5-feet away from any power company meter front and 1.5-feet away from vinyl, brick, or block foundation.
Can you run a generator in the rain
No. You must never run a generator in wet conditions. Electricity and water don’t mix. Why? Water is a good conductor of electricity that can easily lead to electrocution or short circuit. If water was to enter the generator outlets, it could lead to damages to your appliances. If you stand on water and touch a wet generator, you could easily get electrocuted, leading to hospitalization or death.