Home Generator Safety Alert
When the power goes out, having a residential generator installed at your house is great. If it has a transfer switch when the power goes out, the generator automatically kicks on and your house has electric power. However, someone from our office recently experienced a really scary situation involving carbon monoxide contamination in the house from the generator. We wanted to tell you all about it.
The homeowner had a Generac 20kw air-cooled generator, model number G0070390 installed in 2017. The power went out on Tuesday, August 4th and the generator kicked on. On Wednesday, August 5, 2020 at 11:30 pm, the carbon monoxide detectors went off in the house. Police, fire and first aid responded. The readings in the basement were well in excess of 100 PPM, we understand they were about 112 or 120. This is well in the danger zone. We also understand there were also positive readings on the other floors of the house ranging from 20-50 PPM. Three family members were in the house at the time. One was administered oxygen. Thankfully the carbon monoxide detectors functioned properly and they are all ok and unharmed.
It seems there may be a critical safety issue in connection with the generator. We are not experts in generators, but as far as we can tell from reading the Installation Manual, it was installed consistent with the installation guidelines provided by Generac which are apparently based on the standards of the National Fire Protection Association (standard 37). Most importantly, it seems to meet or exceeds the required installation clearances. The generator was installed about 7 feet away from the house. The guidelines say it must be installed at least 5 feet away. There are no obstructions around it, etc. Yet it still caused CO contamination in the house.
Again, we are not experts. But from speaking with the first responders and looking at the situation, it seems the CO was aggregating in the basement door and window wells, as well as was probably getting into the house via the three white HVAC exhaust cones on the house. At the time the CO detector alarms went off, the atmosphere/air was rather heavy and still; there was no wind. It had been running for about 30 hours.
We are alerting you all to this because it is a critical safety hazard. Carbon monoxide is colorless, odorless, tasteless and extremely dangerous. Every year hundreds of people die in the U.S. from accidental carbon monoxide (CO) poisoning. The molecules can even seep through the drywall. An entire family could have been seriously injured or killed here. This kind of thing should never happen again.
It seems clear that the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) and Generac Power Systems, Inc. should do an immediate review of their standards and installation guidelines to address this situation. It would be a good idea for other generator manufacturers like Cummins, Briggs and Stratton, Champion and Kohler to review their installation and clearance guidelines as well. Anyone with these home generators should take a look at their generator installation placement situation and consult a professional to make sure this does not happen to you or your family.