Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

For Safer Emergencies, Give Your Power Generator Some Space

Date:
October 10, 2009
Source:
National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST)
Summary:
Gasoline-powered, portable generators can be a lifeline during weather emergencies, but they emit poisonous carbon monoxide. New research shows that to prevent potentially dangerous levels of carbon monoxide, users may need to keep generators farther from the house than previously believed -- perhaps as much as 25 feet.

To subdue the steaming heat of hurricanes or to thaw out during a blizzard, gasoline-powered, portable generators are a lifeline during weather emergencies when homes are cut off without electricity. But these generators emit poisonous carbon monoxide—a single generator can produce a hundred times more of the colorless, odorless gas than a modern car's exhaust.

New research from the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) shows that to prevent potentially dangerous levels of carbon monoxide, users may need to keep generators farther from the house than previously believed—perhaps as much as 25 feet.

Up to half of the incidents of non-fatal carbon monoxide (CO) poisoning reported in the 2004 and 2005 hurricane seasons involved generators run within 7 feet of the home, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

Carbon monoxide can enter a house through a number of airflow paths, such as a door or window left open to accommodate the extension cord that brings power from the generator into the house. While some guidance recommends 10 feet from open windows as a safe operating distance, NIST researcher Steven Emmerich says the "safe" operating distance depends on the house, the weather conditions and the unit. A generator's carbon monoxide output is usually higher than an automobile's, he says, because most generators do not have the sophisticated emission controls that cars do.

"People need to be aware that generators are potentially deadly and they need to educate themselves on proper use," Emmerich says. With funding from CDC, NIST researchers are gathering reliable data to support future CDC guidance.

NIST building researchers simulated multiple scenarios of a portable generator operating outside of a one-story house, using both a test structure and two different computer models—the NIST-developed CONTAM indoor air quality model and a computational fluid dynamics model.

The simulations included factors that could be controlled by humans, such as generator location, exhaust direction and window-opening size, and environmental factors such as wind, temperature and house dimensions. In the simulations the generator was placed at various distances from the house and tested under different weather conditions.

"We found that for the house modeled in this study," researcher Leon Wang says, "a generator position 15 feet away from open windows was not far enough to prevent carbon monoxide entry into the house."

Winds perpendicular to the open window resulted in more carbon monoxide entry than winds at an angle, and lower wind speeds generally allowed more carbon monoxide in the house. "Slow, stagnant wind seems to be the worst case because it leads to the carbon monoxide lingering by the windows," Wang explains. Researchers determined that placing the generator outside of the airflow recirculation regions near the open windows reduced carbon monoxide entry.

In the next phase of the study NIST will model a two-story house that researchers believe will interact with the wind differently. NIST researchers also have worked with the Consumer Product Safety Commission on related work. (See: "NIST to Study Hazards of Portable Gasoline-Powered Generators," NIST Tech Beat, March 5, 2008.)

* L. Wang and S.J. Emmerich. Modeling the Effects of Outdoor Gasoline Powered Generator Use on Indoor Carbon Monoxide Exposures. (NIST Technical Note 1637,) 2009.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST). Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Cite This Page:

National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST). "For Safer Emergencies, Give Your Power Generator Some Space." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 10 October 2009. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2009/10/091006191351.htm>.
National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST). (2009, October 10). For Safer Emergencies, Give Your Power Generator Some Space. ScienceDaily. Retrieved August 22, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2009/10/091006191351.htm
National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST). "For Safer Emergencies, Give Your Power Generator Some Space." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2009/10/091006191351.htm (accessed August 22, 2014).

Share This




More Matter & Energy News

Friday, August 22, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Former TSA X-Ray Scanners Easily Tricked To Miss Weapons

Former TSA X-Ray Scanners Easily Tricked To Miss Weapons

Newsy (Aug. 21, 2014) Researchers found the scanners could be duped simply by placing a weapon off to the side of the body or encasing it under a plastic shield. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Flower Power! Dandelions Make Car Tires?

Flower Power! Dandelions Make Car Tires?

Reuters - Business Video Online (Aug. 20, 2014) Forget rolling on rubber, could car drivers soon be traveling on tires made from dandelions? Teams of scientists are racing to breed a type of the yellow flower whose taproot has a milky fluid with tire-grade rubber particles in it. As Joanna Partridge reports, global tire makers are investing millions in research into a new tire source. Video provided by Reuters
Powered by NewsLook.com
Awesome New Camouflage Sheet Was Inspired By Octopus Skin

Awesome New Camouflage Sheet Was Inspired By Octopus Skin

Newsy (Aug. 19, 2014) Scientists have developed a new device that mimics the way octopuses blend in with their surroundings to hide from dangerous predators. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Researcher Testing on-Field Concussion Scanners

Researcher Testing on-Field Concussion Scanners

AP (Aug. 19, 2014) Four Texas high school football programs are trying out an experimental system designed to diagnose concussions on the field. The technology is in response to growing concern over head trauma in America's most watched sport. (Aug. 19) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:

Breaking News:
from the past week

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile: iPhone Android Web
Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins