Try Not To Kill Yourself By Using A Gas Generator Inside A Building

The CPSC is reminding people not to use portable gas generators inside, even if the windows are open. Even if the building is just a garage and the garage door is open. Believe it or not, this can kill you.

Portable gas generators, often used by consumers to restore power to their homes and businesses in the aftermath of a storm, produce high levels of deadly carbon monoxide (CO). CPSC warns consumers that generators should be used outdoors only, far from doors, windows, and vents that could allow CO to come indoors.

“Carbon monoxide is an odorless, colorless poison gas. It is an invisible killer,” said CPSC Acting Chairman Nancy Nord. “While generators can come in handy after a storm, using one indoors can kill you and your family in minutes.”

Gas generators inside = bad. Thanks for the safety tip, Nancy.

CPSC Warns of Dangers at Home in the Aftermath of Tropical Storm Fay [CPSC]

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  1. jaydez says:

    Didnt Will Smith have a bunch in his kitchen in I am Legend?

    Way to set an example for the kids, Will!!!

  2. A.W.E.S.O.M.-O says:

    @jaydez: Well personally, I think carbon monoxide is a pretty good way to go compared to being ripped to shreds by zombified New Yorkers. Or regular New Yorkers, for that matter.

  3. timmus says:

    Well, if this [en.wikipedia.org] is any indication, you might literally see the Grim Reaper coming for you.

  4. bohemian says:

    We had a neighbor try to stay warm by using a charcoal habachi in her house with the windows shut after a blizzard.
    Yea she wasn’t very smart.
    There is a reason govt. agencies have to put out these warnings…

  5. backbroken says:

    So, I should abandon my preliminary design for a gas powered refrigerator?

    *crumples paper*

  6. kimsama says:

    If you have any friends who regularly get their heat shut off (for whatever reason), it’s also a good idea to warn them that using a gas range/oven to heat your home is also a CO risk. I guess the generators would kill you off faster, but probably there are fewer people out there using them than there are people trying to heat their homes with their gas stove (argh, I personally know a few people who have tried to do this).

  7. RevRagnarok says:

    I like to consider myself smarter than the average moron, but I would’ve assumed that a garage door would be enough airflow – we’re talking about one open wall here. Glad to know I’m wrong before I needed to.

    My wife mentioned another possible issue – putting it next to an in-window A/C unit on a ground floor may pull in CO too.

  8. sir_pantsalot says:

    I can still put my shirt on before I iron it right?

  9. satoru says:

    @RevRagnarok: I think this is more for homes that have a connected garage to the house. Since you’re more likely to put the generator near the inside door, which is usually at the back of the garage. So even with an open wall, you can still get CO seeping into your home.

  10. Werrick says:

    File this under “duh”.

    This is a bit like buying a screw-driver and having to read the instructions to find out that you shouldn’t go jabbing it in your eye.

    I find myself torn… on the one hand, I hope that this helps someone to be safer, but on the other hand I hope that there is nobody out there dumb enough to actually need this advice.

  11. schiff says:

    Its kinda funny, My brother decided that running the generator in the uninhabited detached garage was a good idea because it masked the sound (the gen is really loud). It would only run for 10 minute clips… Basically once the garage was saturated in co2 it stalled. Luckily that was the extent of the troubles.

  12. zigziggityzoo says:

    we had an exhaust vent installed on our garage. The exhaust is piped directly from the pipe on the generator to the vent pipe. These are standard items, and work well.

  13. econobiker says:

    Or sleeping in a running van to keep warm can kill you too if the exhaust system is bad. We had two rednecks habitual drunks off themselves this way last winter in my region.

  14. wgrune says:

    @jaydez:

    I know Honda (I don’t remember what brand was in ‘I am Legend’) makes a generator that is in fact designed to be run indoors.

  15. wgrune says:

    @wgrune:

    Scratch that. It doesn’t look like they make it anymore. If I remember correctly it ran on something other then gasoline.

  16. breny says:

    Three words – carbon monoxide detector. Every home should have one.

  17. Bryan Price says:

    Don’t have one. The neighbors that do was running it outside.

    I’m thinking about one to keep the refrigerator and the freezer going, and probably the TV. Certainly won’t buy something big enough to run my A/C, although that would be nice.

    I hate hurricanes/tropical storms. Although you do get days of warning versus the tornadoes and blizzards in Ohio.

  18. Trai_Dep says:

    @breny: I use the neighbor’s kids. Much more economical.

  19. Parapraxis says:

    @Trai_Dep:

    like a canary in a coal mine…

    (they’re also great for cleaning chimneys… small hands and flexible bodies, you know)

  20. krom says:

    During the Northwest power outage in 2006, there were a handful of publicized deaths and hundreds of CO poisoning cases from families using generators or grills indoors. There was a public service campaign urging people not to do that, but that sort of thing only works so well during a power outage, compounded by having a linguistically diverse populace.

    So, like, don’t do it.

  21. Nytmare says:

    @Werrick: You’re wrong. “odorless, colorless poison gas” means there’s no way to know it exists or that it’s dangerous unless you are told about it. This article is telling people about it.

  22. orielbean says:

    It wouldn’t be so bad to have one indoors if you have it properly ventilated with an exhaust tube running outside. reminds me of the tentacle scene in The Mist…

  23. MrEvil says:

    @kimsama: Just because the power is out doesn’t mean the vent hood can’t evacuate the gasses though. It might not be quite as effective as having the fan going, but the CO should be able to escape since it’s warm. Wouldn’t probably be much difference if the wind is blowing past the vent on the roof since it would create a venturi effect.

    @RevRagnarok: I could see it being a possible issue if the generator is next to a window unit that doesn’t have much wind blowing past it. Otherwise most all window AC units recirculate air that’s already in the room. A bad seal around the window might make it an issue too. It does make a case for having a generator panel with a linked breaker though.

  24. redheadedstepchild says:

    @backbroken: Actually, I know people with propane fridges

  25. Reading this makes me want to try building an extended exhaust system on a gas powered generator.

  26. HogwartsAlum says:

    We had people die doing this during the January 2007 ice storm. They kept warning people on the radio and TV but at least two people offed themselves this way.

    You can also die fairly quickly by starting the car BEFORE opening the garage. It’s surprising how many people do this without thinking when it’s cold (unintentionally). I personally knew a customer of a place I used to work who died this way. By the time he got out and went to open the door, he had passed out and it was too late.

  27. Grrrrrrr, now with two buns made of bacon. says:

    You would think this would be common sense, but last year a local construction worker died after she fired up a gasoline powered generator in the basement of a house that was under construction and eventually succumbed to CO poisoning.

    The tragic part of this story was that she fired it up…just to run her radio. Apparently the paramedics arrived and found her dead with the radio still blaring away.

  28. dorastandpipe says:

    @backbroken:

    We actually have a gas powered refrigerator in our cabin that was from the 1950’s. It uses propane. Search for “Servel” they are still making these. Works great!

  29. Fist-o™ says:

    Oh, great. Does this mean the torches in my dungeon are a hazard too?

    I’m so tired of these 3rd-level Magic-Users trying to tell ME how to run my dungeon.

  30. FrankenPC says:

    Wow…good to know. I’ve often used my generator during blackouts. I roll it over to the garage door and aim the exhaust outwards. Then I open the door just enough to go above the exhaust port.

    That is probably not safe. Hmmm…..