Winter in the northern hemisphere officially began Dec. 21, but many parts of the U.S. have already been pummeled by snowstorms. Sometimes, these storms can cause extended power outages that last hours, days, or even weeks. That’s why many homeowners opt to have a residential generator until power is restored.

But be careful, gasoline-powered electric generators, as well as other combustion-based heating appliances, can emit carbon monoxide when they are not working properly or their exhaust systems are blocked, according to a fact sheet from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. Carbon monoxide is an odorless gas that causes symptoms similar to the flu, allergies, or a stroke, and can be fatal when breathed.

If you have any equipment like this in your home, or plan to use a generator during a power outage caused by a snowstorm, follow these tips from HUD to minimize the risk of carbon monoxide:

  • Make sure that fuel-burning appliances are installed by professionals, and check that they are working efficiently. If possible, have vented appliances (such as gas fireplaces) set up instead.
  • Never use a gas range or an oven to heat your home.
  • Have your heating systems inspected and cleaned by a qualified technician every year.
  • Replace dirty air filters on heating appliances.
  • Never run a gasoline-powered generator inside a basement, garage, or other enclosed structure even if the doors or windows are open.
  • Ensure there is proper ventilation for interior combustion appliances. Consider installing air exchangers or air conditioning for “tightly sealed” homes.
  • Install carbon monoxide detectors near sleeping areas. Replace batteries on a regular basis.

In addition, residents in a community association should follow the rules and regulations of the architectural review committee before installing an electric generator. These may include placing the generator in a specific spot outside the home, putting up a visual barrier like a screen, fence, or shrubbery to hide it from sight, and stipulations on the times when it can be used.

Daniel Brannigan

Daniel Brannigan

Daniel Brannigan is CAI's Director of Publishing and Managing Editor of Common Ground™ magazine. He has been editor of CAI's flagship publication since 2010 and previously edited CAI's newsletters Community Manager, Minutes, and Law Reporter. Daniel has helped guide Common Ground to awards for feature article design and single-topic issue from Association Media & Publishing's EXCEL Awards. Community Manager picked up six awards for general excellence and newswriting under Daniel's guidance from 2007-2010. A former reporter, Daniel is a graduate of Syracuse University's S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communications. He lives in Philadelphia with his wife, daughter, pug, and cat.

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