For some boaters wanting off-grid electrical power means that they see portable generators as the only option, but if the risks that come with their use are not fully appreciated deaths, injuries and loss of property can and has happened
Carbon monoxide (CO) – generators especially petrol ones can produce extremely high levels of CO, a poison gas that can kill in minutes or leave survivors with long term critical health effects. However diesel engine exhausts have also been linked to illness and CO deaths
Fire & explosion – the mishandling of petrol and leaking fuel from generators have resulted in spectacular incidents and that have seriously injured people and wrecked boats.
Also the use of poor cabling and connectors can also introduce just as real although possibly less obvious fire hazards.
Electrocution – any 230 V AC system can be a killer and must be given
proper respect and precautions should be taken to guard against shocks.
These are the core points that should never be forgotten.
- Never install a portable generator permanently or make unauthorised modifications that are not supported by the manufacturer, or proprietary component supplier.
- Never run generators on the boat, or on the bank near to doors, vents, windows and hatches. If you can smell exhaust fumes in the boat, it could mean the cabin is also filling with deadly carbon monoxide.
- Never refuel any generator anywhere aboard the boat; take it to the bank and ensure you are a safe distance from other boats and potential sources of ignition.
However, make sure you are keeping to any marina or mooring-owner guidance and rules on the use of generators, refuelling and the handling of petrol on their sites.
Stowage of generators that have integral fuel tanks containing petrol and spare fuel cans
More details here
Some further points electrical safety to consider
Make sure the boats 230 V system cannot be fed by more than one power supply source at any one time (for example, shore supply, on-board generator, inverter) - a switchover system should be used.
Never use a domestic type plug on each end of a cable to connect between an inverter or generator and the boat's domestic sockets. With the inverter/generator operating and the cable plugged in to it, the plug pins at the other end of the cable would be live and present a high risk of electrocution.
If you run a generator on-board - to be protected by an RCD, a connection must be made between the boat's protective earth terminal and any generator earth terminal.
See more 230 V electrical safety advice here
Carbon monoxide kills boaters
More carbon monoxide safety advice here
Would all your crew know how to spot early signs of CO problems?
More details here