Do Standby Generators Produce Carbon Monoxide?

Going through a power loss is never an enjoyable time. In most cases the power comes back on within a few hours or so, but in other more severe cases the power may be out for days at a time. These prolonged periods without power can lead to boredom but it can also lead to loss of refrigerated/frozen food as well as having your home’s temperature rise or fall to uncomfortable levels. I remember a time back when my oldest daughter was just an infant we had our power go out in the middle of July. We live in Kansas and July temperatures can routinely be over one-hundred degrees. We needed air conditioning and had taken to hunkering down in the basement to try and stay cool. Luckily, in our situation the power came back on after only a few hours.

It is when you face prolonged power outages that it makes sense to seriously look at purchasing a standby generator. Sure a portable generator can help you out as well but these systems cannot power your entire home, they are noisy, and have to be manually setup each and every time. One of the biggest downfalls though of using a portable generators is safety. As many of you know portable generators produce carbon monoxide when running. This is the same substance that your car burns when running.

It is imperative that portable generators never be placed in your home or even close to your home. This includes your garage, near your windows, or anywhere else nearby. Most professionals recommend placing portable units at least twenty feet away from your home with the exhaust chute pointed away. If the threat of carbon monoxide is not taken seriously enough then there can be dire consequences to you and your family.

But what about on standby generators? What is the risk of carbon monoxide poisoning when using a standby system? Over the past few months we have been writing article after article on standby generators and today’s topic is no different. What is the risk of carbon monoxide poisoning when dealing with a standby generator system?

Standby Systems & Carbon Monoxide

The good news here folks is that the risk of carbon monoxide poisoning from a standby generator is much much lower then that of a portable system. Now, I’m not going to lie to you and say that there is no risk at all. The standby system, just like the portable system, has an engine. This engine when ran produces carbon monoxide from the spent fuel. This is how your car works. There are a few main differences that set standby generators apart from portable generators.

As I said before, both of these systems will produce carbon monoxide… but some will produce more then others. For example, depending on the fuel your standby system is using it will most likely produce less carbon monoxide then a standard diesel or gasoline portable generator model. Typically a standby system will either use natural gas or propane. Both of these produce less carbon monoxide then a standard gasoline or diesel burn found with portable generators.

The most important difference though with standby systems is that they are, or should be, installed by professionals. These professionals do these installations frequently and know exactly how and how not to setup the systems. They will determine how close the unit is to your home, how close it is to the fuel lines, where the exhaust is blown to, and even where the wind is blowing so that the monoxide is blown away from your home.

If you were using a portable system then the chances are that you are NOT going to know all of this information. There are still so many folks today that set these portable systems up in their garages with the exhaust vent pointed outwards thinking that they are being safe. Worse yet are some people running generators in their closets INSIDE their home. All of this is a recipe for disaster. But, let’s say you have setup your portable system outside of your home and have everything plugged in. The unit is working but it is only ten feet away from the home, the window is open, and the wind is blowing. Monoxide can sneak into your home and begin to accumulate. With a standby system you can rest assured knowing that the unit was setup correctly and safely.

One last thing to mention here is that your standby systems will require regular maintenance. If this maintenance is not done then the amount of carbon monoxide it produces can increase. Remember, that carbon monoxide forms during incomplete combustion of the fuel. If your generator’s engine is not taken care of then it will become less efficient which will result in less fuel being used during the combustion process which will result in more monoxide forming. So, it is not only important to maintenance your system for its longevity but also for the safety of you and your family.


To answer the question in this article, yes, standby generators do produce carbon monoxide. The thing to remember that it is less then your standard portable system and that they are installed by professionals that know what and what not to do. As a safety precaution though I highly recommend having carbon monoxide detectors installed throughout your home to ensure that if it is getting in then you can recognize it and leave the home. It is always better to be safe then sorry.

Remember that while generators can be a lifesaver during a power loss they can also be quite dangerous. It is up to you to take the proper precautions to ensure that you and your family are safe. Lastly, please note that this article is intended for informational purposes only. We here at ToughAssTools are not liable for any property damage or personal injuries that can occur when operating generators.

Thanks for reading,

Alec Johnson


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