How to Use a Generator During a Power Outage

Power generators are frequently seen as RV Generators at campsites, construction sites, and sporting events as a means of powering tools and appliances and charging electronics. While they are common for recreation, home backup generators are also common, especially in areas that experience power outages as a result of inclement weather. As straightforward as it may seem, using a recreational or backup home generator during a power outage does come with some necessary setup for your safety. Learn more about how to use a generator during a power outage below.

Basic Generator Safety and Placement

One of the most important generator safety tips to keep in mind is to only use a power generator outside. Do not run the generator in your home, even your garage. All generators give off emissions, and the buildup of carbon monoxide can be deadly. Don’t think that an open window or some vents will provide enough airflow. Place the generator at least 20 feet away from your home. This distance prevents wind from pushing exhaust back into your home or into your neighbors’ homes.

Additionally, do not set your generator up in the rain or snow, as this poses a serious danger to you and the public safety of others. Some portable generators have some water resistance but make sure to check the user manual. Even if it is, consider investing in a generator tent, which is designed to protect the generator from perspiration. Similarly, only use extension cords specifically designed for outdoor use.


1. Check the oil.

A generator that doesn’t have enough oil could cause damage to the engine. Some generators have a low-oil shutoff feature but check manually regardless. If the oil is low, top it off before turning the generator on.

2. Add the fuel.

It is always better to use fresh fuel. Try to avoid keeping excess fuel, particularly gasoline, in your generator for more than a few months. Generators require different types of fuel, such as propane, gas, or can be dual fuel. 

3. Unplug any cords.

Before you flip the switch, unplug any extension cords connected to the generator. Generators are not designed to be turned on while already connected to a load. Doing so may prevent the generator from providing any power, even when the engine is running.


1. Turn on the fuel valve.

Turning on the fuel valve allows the fuel to reach the carburetor to get the engine started.

2. Turn on the choke.

The choke gives the engine a little extra fuel as the generator starts and warms up. Push button start generators will do this automatically.

3. Turn the ignition switch on.

The ignition switch is what powers the spark plug. When the ignition switch is off, the spark plug has no power, keeping it from starting the engine.

4. Push the starter or pull the cord.

Push the starter to get the engine going. If the engine doesn’t start with the starter, you may have a dead battery. In that case, you will have to start the engine using the pull cord. Pull the cord firmly and straight out, but avoid pulling too far. You may have to pull a few times to get the engine to turn over.

5. Let the engine warm-up.

Before you start to make any connections, let the engine warm up for a few seconds. Some generators may require a longer warmup period.

Plugging In

1. Run your cords.

Avoid stringing multiple extension cords together outside, especially in the rain. Choose the shortest route, avoiding any unnecessary loops or tangles.

2. Plug into the generator.

Plug the cords into the generator. For generators with multiple outlets, avoid plugging everything into one circuit breaker, which can result in an overload.

3. Connect your appliances.

You either want to plug appliances directly into the generator or into extension cords connected to the generator. Never plug a generator into a wall outlet, which is known as “back feeding.” Back feeding can potentially electrocute utility workers and neighbors.

4. Refuel when you need to.

For extended power outages, make sure to refuel when your generator is running low. To do so safely, unplug all of the connected appliances and cords and turn the generator off. Let the generator cool off. Even a minor gasoline spill can lead to a fire. About 10 minutes should be enough. Check the oil, add the fuel, and perform the same setup and starting steps above.

Once the utility company has turned your power back on (hopefully sooner than later), shut down your generator, unplugging all your cords and appliances. Turn the fuel switch off and allow the generator to cool off. Store the generator in your garage or shed. Make sure you perform regular maintenance on the generator, so it’s ready for you whenever you need it.

Lastly, Prepare Your Generator Before Outages Occur

At DuroMax, we have reliable generators ready for any power outage. Are you looking for your first generator but wondering how much a generator is? DuroMax has many different types of generators, from home standby generators to portable generators. Find what size generator you need, and explore our variety of DuroMax generators, engines, pressure washers, and more today.