It’s no secret that extreme weather is on the rise. From the East Coast’s hurricanes and blizzards to the West Coast’s wildfires, natural disasters are wreaking havoc on power grids everywhere. But no recent weather event has illuminated the vulnerability of current power supplies quite like February’s Texas freeze. When an unprecedented winter storm gripped the Lone Star State over President’s Day weekend, millions were left without electricity—not just for rolling blackout periods, but for days on end. Texans who did have electricity were charged astronomical rates.

The Texas freeze ranks as one of the worst blackouts in American history, and it has left people across the nation wondering how they can avoid suffering through prolonged power outages. One solution is investing in a residential power generator. In the Houston area, demand for residential generators was already surging before the February blackout. Now, it’s reached an all-time high. But as natural disasters and prolonged outages drive up demand across the nation, safety myths about home generators are also proliferating.

Will my residential generator catch fire? Does having a home generator put my family at risk? Here’s our evidence-based investigation into this common myth—plus steps you can take today to find the safest, most reliable power generator for your home.

What are the safety risks associated with home power generators?

When the electricity is running without a hitch, it’s easy to forget about all the ways we rely on it: refrigerating food and medicines, running air conditioners and heaters, keeping the lights on, using water treatment systems and softeners to clean our drinking water, washing clothes and more. But when the power goes out, these everyday necessities are impossible to ignore. Families have long relied on home generators to survive natural disasters and other outages. Consumer Reports puts it this way: “In the aftermath of a storm, a (home) generator is an invaluable piece of equipment that can, at the very least, help your life begin to feel normal again.”

For many, generators are lifesavers. But can they also pose a safety risk?

Like all devices that run on gasoline, diesel or other fuels, home generators can pose a risk if not used as intended. The improper use of portable generators has been associated with carbon monoxide (CO) poisoning, electric shock and fire. The most common safety concern reported by the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) is CO poisoning; exposure to this colorless, odorless gas has caused more than 900 reported deaths between 2005 to 2017. However, the National Fire Protection Association has found that the majority of home fires and CO poisoning cases stem from improper use. What does that mean for your family? The safety risks of a residential power generator can be significantly mitigated, and largely avoided, with proper use and maintenance.

If you have a portable home power generator, implement these best practices to keep your family safe:

  • Properly ground your generator. Consider a ground fault circuit interrupter (GFCI) to mitigate any risk of shock.
  • Don’t overload your generator. Pay attention to its power rating to avoid risk of fire.
  • Keep your portable generator outside in a dry place 20 feet from your house (NEVER inside your home). Most CO2 poisoning occurs from generators kept indoors.
  • Direct the exhaust away from your home any time you’re running the generator.
  • Shut down your generator before refueling. By doing so, you let the engine cool down and reduce the risk of burns while you’re refueling.
  • Never “backfeed” your house by attempting to power your home’s wiring by plugging the generator into a wall outlet. This can increase the risk of electrocution for both utility workers and any neighbors within the same utility transformer. It can also cause an electrical fire in your own home.

Fire hazards can be mitigated by not refueling the generator while it’s hot, keeping fuel in non-glass containers and storing that fuel outside, away from appliances. Electrical hazards, meanwhile, can be avoided by keeping the generator in a dry outdoor place, never touching it with wet hands, plugging appliances directly into the generator rather than using an extension cord, and never plugging the generator into a wall outlet. In addition to the best practices above, seek out a generator that has built-in safety technology to protect your most valuable assets: your family and your home.

What safety features should I look for in a residential power generator?

As more Americans rely on residential power generators during extreme weather, leading solutions are incorporating cutting-edge technology to ensure both reliability and safety. First and foremost is the “auto shutoff” feature, which is designed to prevent overloading and, as a result, mitigates the risk of CO exposure and fire. Another key feature is automated CO detection, which triggers a machine to shut down if CO reaches a dangerous level.

At Patriot Power Group (PPG), we’ve carefully selected our residential generators to deliver the safest, easiest experience for our customers and their families. Our generators use smart technology to sense when you experience power loss, enabling the device to turn on at the right time, every time. When it senses that utility power is restored, it shuts itself off automatically, and it does the same if dangerous levels of CO are detected. And every step of the way, our customers can monitor their generator’s status via a smartphone, tablet or PC for extra assurance. Our Texas-based team has experienced power outages firsthand, and we offer our customers the same generators we trust in our own homes.

To ensure every customer has the safest, most reliable power for their home, PPG follows a signature seven step process. We start with a site visit, during which our trained technicians survey your home and assess your true needs. We use your electrical usage information, state of the art equipment and other details gleaned from the site visit to identify the proper generator size for your home. Then, we access the generator location to ensure its safety. After developing a customized proposal for you, we schedule the installation. Our trained technicians will handle every detail—including the safest positioning of the generator—to eliminate any safety risk. The final step is equally critical. Through rigorous quality testing and comprehensive homeowner training, we give each family we serve the peace of mind that they will never have to sacrifice safety for reliable power.

Keep your most valuable assets—your family and home—protected from unreliable power or rolling blackouts. Contact PPG today to get the safe, reliable residential power generator your family deserves.