New Portable Generators Must Cut CO Emissions

In February 2016, a family of six died as a result of a portable generator, causing lethal levels of carbon monoxide almost immediately, according to MLive. In the wake of Hurricane Matthew, people were using portable generators and subsequently experiencing carbon monoxide poisoning, one case even killing a young child. These are just a few of the cases we’ve seen of people succumbing to carbon monoxide coming from portable generators.

Consumer Reports came out with an article about the Consumer Product Safety Commission passing a rule that would require a new portable generator model to cut down carbon monoxide emissions.

In 2007, the CPSC required a warning label about not operating a generator inside. Considering the deaths and injuries that still occur, the warning label is not enough. According to the CPSC, about 70 people die of this tragedy every year.

THESE WARNING LABELS ARE INSUFFICIENT AND WE BELIEVE THE MANUFACTURER’S OF THESE GENERATORS COULD BE FOUND LIABLE IN TORT FOR THE INADEQUACY OF THOSE WARNINGS, UNDER THE EXISTING STANDARDS.

In a response to these tragic deaths, the CPSC has voted in favor of a policy that would reduce emissions from several classes of spark-ignited engines, which are found on portable generators. For a blog on why the existing warning label is not enough, click here. “Using a generator indoors can kill you in minutes,” the warning label reads. No consumer product should be dangerous enough to kill people in minutes. Thanks to the CPSC, new products may not be this dangerous.

WE BELIEVE THAT EXISTING PRODUCT LIABILITY LAWS WOULD FIND THE MANUFACTURERS OF THESE GENERATORS STRICTLY LIABLE IN TORT FOR THE MANUFACTURE OF A DANGEROUS PRODUCT.

The CPSC proposal would significantly lower the amount of carbon monoxide emissions from a generator per hour. This would make the situation of operating a generator indoors safer. Instead of succumbing to the fumes right away, people would hopefully notice the symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning, such as headaches, dizziness and nausea, before it’s too late.

The amount of time you could have to respond to operating a generator in an enclosed garage would increase to 96 minutes. This would be if manufacturers install a closed-loop fuel injection and a small catalyst. In an enclosed garage, current models can create lethal levels of carbon monoxide in just eight minutes.

The transition is already starting. It requires switching from carburetor systems to fuel injection systems. This switch would add about $300 to the cost of the generator. The price will likely come down as more manufacturers start to adopt this new standard.

WE HAVE HAD THESE TYPES OF FUEL INJECTION SYSTEMS IN CARS FOR A COUPLE OF GENERATIONS. THERE IS NO REASON THAT THEY HAVE NOT BEEN IN GENERATORS LONG AGO.

The new models featuring fuel injection will not only add safety benefits but also improve performance. The new models will have easier starts even with ethanol-blended fuels found at gas stations. They will also feature 25 percent longer run times using the same amount of gas.

Portable generators are generally only used in an emergency. They can sit in the garage unused until a storm comes and the power goes out. Therefore, it will take a long time to phase out the older models of portable generators. Older generators do not typically meet the new standard, so you must never operate these models indoors.

Specifically, operate the generator at least fifteen feet from an enclosed space. Never use it in a garage or crawl space. In addition, make sure your carbon monoxide alarms are working properly. This could be the warning signal that the toxic gas is filling your home. It could save lives.

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