Preventing Carbon Monoxide Poisoning When You Use Your Generator

“Using a generator indoors CAN KILL YOU IN MINUTES.”
That label on your generator is nothing to laugh at. The CDC estimates 430 people die and 50,000 people visit the emergency room each year because of Carbon Monoxide poisoning. Most of these deaths are caused by improper use of generators in winter. How can you protect yourself, while getting the power you need?

What is Carbon Monoxide?

This odorless gas forms during combustion. It creates a strong bond with red blood cells, blocking the connections used to carry oxygen in your blood stream. Absorb too much CO, and you will suffocate.

A New Standard for CO Protection

In 2018, the Portable Generator Manufacturer’s Association and the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) agreed upon a new safety standard, ANSI/PGMA G300-2018. This standard requires a carbon monoxide safety system on all portable generators 15 kW and smaller made by PGMA members. Compliant devices will shut off if the sensor detects CO levels over 800 parts per million (PPM.) In tests covering a variety of use cases, including indoors and outside, this system was 99% effective at preventing carbon monoxide poisoning. This regulation went into effect on generators built after March 31, 2020.
Most devices work like Honda’s CO-MINDER. When the sensor picks up high levels of CO, it interrupts the ignition system, shutting off the generator. Since the oil level sensor does the same thing to protect the engine, there are separate warning lights for oil and CO.

Preventing CO Buildup

Even if you have a generator with CO detection, it won’t do much good if it shuts down constantly. The solution is simple: use quality extension cords. This lets you place your generator outside, away from buildings, and still get power where you need it.
Product labeling for extension cords can be confusing. Fortunately, there’s a standard labeling system printed directly on cables sold in the U.S. Look for these letters when you buy cords to use with your generator.
– “S,” “E” and either “W” or “W-A”
Certified for Outdoor Use
– “O” or “OO”
Oil resistant
– “AWG” followed by 10, 12 or 14
This is the size of the copper wire inside the cord, measured using the American Wire Gauge standard. Cables with lower numbers use thicker wire. 14 and 12 gauge wire can handle 10-15 amps, while 10 gauge can handle over 15 amps.

Are You Ready for Winter?

When you need help with your generator, talk to the experts at Shank’s Lawn Equipment. We’re an authorized dealer for Honda and Briggs & Stratton, so we can help you get your generator in ready for winter blackouts. If you’re looking for a new generator, or need repairs, visit our shop at 4900 Molly Pitcher Highway in Chambersburg, PA. If you need parts and accessories, visit us online at We can ship your order to any address in the U.S. or Canada.

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