The demand for portable generators has increased substantially in recent years. There are myriad reasons for this increase. Emergency portable generators can have significant benefits to individuals and communities, helping to save lives, and lessening the hardships caused by natural disasters and lengthy power outages. Consumers should, however, be aware of the dangers associated with improper use of electric generators. We will highlight a few of these in the following paragraphs. Portable Generators Produce Poisonous Carbon Monoxide Carbon monoxide is an odorless and colorless gas discharged in generator exhaust. Inhalation of carbon monoxide is often lethal, and a number of deaths occur each year as a result of consumer generator use. In 2004, the Consumer Products Safety Commission (CPSC) studied deaths from generator use following four major hurricanes that struck land in the state of Florida. Powering air conditioners and other appliances during nighttime hours was the primary factor identified in generator-related deaths in the CPSC Florida study, and in each of the cited cases, improper location of the portable generator became key to the tragic outcome. In 2000, two children swimming behind a family houseboat on Utah's Lake Powell drowned after losing consciousness when a portable generator beneath a swim deck produced dangerous fumes. Once again, poorly planned placement of a consumer-use generator was cited as the primary cause of the tragedy. generatorinsight.com Because of many similar incidents, the Consumer Products Safety Commission promulgated in December, 2006 that all new generators sold after March of 2007 be affixed with labels setting forth technical and performance data, in addition to the following warning: "Using a generator indoors CAN KILL YOU IN MINUTES. Generator exhaust contains carbon monoxide. This is a poison you cannot see or smell. NEVER use (generator) inside a home or garage, EVEN IF doors and windows are open. ONLY use outside and far away from windows, doors, and vents." The CDC reported that a small portable generator will produce the carbon-monoxide level of six idling cars, a reality that surprises many consumers. Carbon-monoxide levels can be compounded with generator use because the gas is heavy and tends to linger, making it difficult to expunge from an infected area. This means that generators are never safe to use indoors, including inside of open garages, and that during operation they should be located as far from residential units or buildings as possible. In particular, operation near windows, screen doors, vents, and air conditioning ducts should be avoided. Operators should also note wind direction, and locate generators so that prevailing air currents carry fumes away from nearby buildings or residences. Though all portable generators produce carbon monoxide, certain models create less CO emissions than others. For example, generators equipped with overhead valve (OHV) engines, a standard design in modern models, produce less carbon monoxide emissions than models sporting older side-valve, pushrod engines. Any consumer who intends to use a portable generator in locations with restricted airflow should seek a model creating the fewest emissions possible.