5 On Your Side

Weather power outages with safe use of generators

Posted February 11, 2014
Updated February 13, 2014

When ice build ups on power lines and trees, they come down and the power often goes out.

Generators can help get essential electricity flowing again.

Before you crank one up, you should know they can quickly produce large amounts of carbon monoxide, a colorless, odorless gas that can cause loss of consciousness or death.

Generators must be placed outside and at least 15 feet from your home with the exhaust pointed away. The same goes for charcoal and propane grills and heaters: Use them outside only.

Generators also come with electrical dangers that many people don't realize. The machines must be kept dry, so they need to be covered when it's raining or snowing.

Don't connect a generator directly to your circuit box or try to power the house wiring by plugging the machine directly into a wall outlet. Known as "backfeeding," it can create an electrocution risk to utility workers and neighbors.

For those who have had a generator just sitting in the garage, experts say it won't run if the gas is old. The gas should be replaced every six months.

Also, generators work best with a gas stabilizer, and they use 8 to 22 gallons a day.

If you lose power:

  • Preserve cell phones batteries by closing apps not in use and lowering the screen brightness. Only use WiFi if necessary, and send text messages instead of making calls. 
  • Gather extra batteries for flashlights and skip open candle flames to avoid a potential fire.
  • Use gas or wood fireplaces for heat and light. Never light a charcoal grill indoors. 
  • Keep the refrigerator closed. Foods will keep safely for about four hours in a closed fridge and about 48 hours in the freezer.
  • To report a power outage, call 1- 800-POWER-ON or 1-800-419-6356 for Duke Energy Progress. If available, you'll get information on when the power is expected to be restored to your location.

This story is closed for comments.

Oldest First
View all
  • sidecutter Feb 14, 2014

    Depending on how your house is wired, generator interface kits can be installed for under $1,500. You pre-select which loads will be powered by the generator and during an outage you flip switches to transfer these loads, plug in and crank your generator and you are back in business. I have installed several of these and they work well. "Northern Tool" has carried these kits in the past. A good electrician can install one in fours hours or so assuming you have the correct parts.

  • glarg Feb 13, 2014

    Instead of going stir crazy put on some boots and thick gloves and go down to the main road and see if anyone needs a push.

  • irbthbow Feb 12, 2014

    If you backfeed, just turn your main power breaker off until your neighbors get power restored. Then unhook the generator and turn the main back on. Also, if you have a fuel shut off valve on your generator and don't plan on using it for a while, cut the fuel off and let it run the gas out of the carburator. This will get you started next time for sure.

  • smalldogsrule Feb 12, 2014

    I second Bluechargers staements. There is absolutely nothing you need that is worth risking your life or property for. Business owners take note, there is NOTHING (not even your precious money) that is worth forcing your employees to risk life and property for. Close it down. If you don't close your business during an event like this, I will boycott you forever more. Human life is worth more than money. Don't make things harder on our emergency workers than it already is. Everyone keep your tails at home.

  • Forthe Newssite Feb 12, 2014
    user avatar

    BUT it can't be said enough....

    DO NOT use generators inside!!!! Just NOT worth the huge risk.

  • Rebelyell55 Feb 12, 2014

    Can't use a propane heater in the house? I'm bad, I've use it ever time for extra heat. I would also add you should run you generator for a while every three or four months or more to keep it lube.

  • Don Dickerson Feb 12, 2014
    user avatar

    other things to remember are charge your cell phone and tablets, but with the full knowledge that wifi is likely to go soon after the electricity, and cell towers historically haven't fared well in these situations, never mind the overwhelming they usually succumb to before that happens. Portable DVD and CD players, charge'm up now! Know where your emergency lighting is and keep a good book or three handy. Anyone with Yahoo email already knows they're having issues, others will likely follow. Have a working corded phone handy if you use wireless handsets. Above all, don't be selfish, folks. 90% of us are NOT the ones "they" mean when they say "only necessary personnel should be going out now". If you're not with law enforcement, or a hospital, or a firefighter or other first-responder, stay out of the way until crews can deal with whatever falls on the roads. I don't care what you see others do, YOUR PRESENCE AND TIRE TRACKS MAKE THEIR JOBS HARDER!
    be safe y'all.