# Can you run a generator in a basement with the windows open?

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• posted on December 31, 2005, 3:30 pm
Bill Kearney wrote:

Although I would never recommend a portable generator indoors, a correctly installed outside vented exhaust would greatly reduce the possibility of not waking up the next morning. It's best to put it in the garage and leave the garage door open, or build a shed for it outdoors. We have a portable backup gen in the garage and pipe the exhaust outdoors.
--
Steve Spence
Dir., Green Trust, http://www.green-trust.org

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<%-name%>
• posted on December 31, 2005, 6:54 pm

Indeed! There are two related issues here.
a) the ability of one gas to "mix" (term used a bit loosely) with others. At one extreme, for example, if you pour cooking oil into water there's very little mixing, and you've got a rpetty clear line between the two.
(Yes, there _is_ some oil mixed in with the water lower down, but it's a pretty small percentage).
b) the density of one gas compared to the others. The lighter ones tend to want to go upwards, but if the difference is small, they'll stay together.
Now...
1) Molecular density of air:
Nitrogen (N2) is (14*2)    =    28     Oxygen (O2) is (16*2)    -    32
(note that they're pretty close, so there's no "huge" differential pulling them apart).
WAG, since O2 is 19% of air (call it 20) and N2 is 80%, and ignoring the small noise from dissolving...
28     *    80    =    2,240     32    *    20    =     640
2,880
or... molecular weight of air is about 29.
So... let's see what CO is like.
Carbon = 12, Oxygen = 16, therefor CO = 28
That's pretty close to ambient air, so it hangs around.
Now in regards to the other stuff, and why propane is a _serious_ fire hazard indoors, and methane (natural gas) is much safer:
Propane = C3H8, so (12*3) + (1*8) = 44. That's much, much, heavier than room air, so propane sinks and stayd in the house/basement.
Natural gas = methane = C1H4, so (12*1) + (1*4) = 16.
That's a lot _lighter_ than air so it quickly rises and dissipates.
Now neither claim is perfect, of course, Some propane does mix and go up and out, while some methane mixes and stays around, but the percentages are pretty weighted...
--
_____________________________________________________
Knowledge may be power, but communications is the key

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<%-name%>
• posted on December 31, 2005, 6:58 pm
writes:

OK, OK! Enough already, I was mistaken. Other poisonous gases are heavier than air, but apparently CO isn't one of them.

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<%-name%>
• posted on December 31, 2005, 8:07 pm
writes:

Okay, ready for one more bit?
CO2 *is* heavier than air. With a molecular weight of 44, it sinks to the floor pretty much. Although not as toxic as CO, it will displace air and sufficate. Perhaps you just mixed (pun) the two gasses up?
daestrom

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<%-name%>
• posted on January 1, 2006, 3:59 am

One question: what's CO2 got to do with this discussion?

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<%-name%>
• posted on January 1, 2006, 3:54 pm

What does CO have to do with it?
Both are products of combustion of any fuel that has carbon in it (such as fossil fuel running in a generator). Either one, if allowed to accumulate in a closed space (such as a basement) can be deadly.
daestrom

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<%-name%>
• posted on December 31, 2005, 8:27 pm
I've been wishing someone would come up with that! Good analysis, and understandable too! Thanks.
Pop
: [to foil spammers, my address has been double rot-13 encoded]

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<%-name%>
• posted on December 30, 2005, 4:22 am

You are going to do it anyhow, and you want someone to tell you that it is okay. That way it isn't your fault.
Its a stupid thing to do and you know it. Sure, the odds are you will get away with it, but in view of the potential downside....

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<%-name%>
• posted on December 30, 2005, 4:30 am
dean wrote:

Sure no problem and when the gas gets low be sure an use a match to check the level in the tank. I've seen the results of what you are asking about destroy a home not to mention the effects it had on the family involved. They survived but never recovered.

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<%-name%>
• posted on December 30, 2005, 5:06 am
Its a good sized basement, but look at it this way...
How much is your life worth??? You want to run exaust fumes through some tubing out of the house? Bad idea. What happens if snow plugs up your home made tube. In no time you can get carbon monoxide poisoning down there and we'll read about you in the paper.
Have fun storing GAS in the basement too. That's one the insurance company would love. Gas vapors and a furnace or boiler...
Seriously if you have to run this pump on a regular basis either get a batter backup or make some sort of semi perminant enclosure for this generator OUTSIDE.
Its not even remotely a good idea to risk your life for something so trivial.

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<%-name%>
• posted on December 30, 2005, 10:58 am

Unbolting the muffler and attaching a stainless steel flex hose to its port and piping that out a window would be less messy.
Nick

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<%-name%>
• posted on December 30, 2005, 11:57 am
perhaps instead, see if your pump can be more safely plugged into a 110v inverter you run off your car's battery?

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<%-name%>
• posted on December 30, 2005, 7:08 pm

Sure, but it won't do much for his 240v pump. That is the whole point of it, he needs 240v for pump alone.

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<%-name%>
• posted on December 30, 2005, 3:25 pm
dean wrote:

I hereby submit your name as a potential Darwin Award nominee. Eric

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<%-name%>
• posted on December 30, 2005, 10:24 pm
Yes you can. No you should not.
If this is only to run a well pump during short power outages you could look at a 12 v battery (car or boat) and an inverter. Much safer.
It may be feasible for you to use one of the windows as a hatch to access the generator in a nice housing outside.

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<%-name%>
• posted on December 31, 2005, 4:37 am
Ok all, OP back again. I thank you all for convincing me that my original idea was indeed rather stupid. I was not trolling. I am not even sure what that means. I apologize if I lashed out at some of you.
What I'll do is get another generator, one that's 240V, and when the time comes I'll just have to carry/wheel it outside over to the basement window and run a cable through the window. It may never happen, or not so much to be a big pain - better than not having water though.
Thanks for the ideas and comments.
Dean

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<%-name%>
• posted on December 31, 2005, 5:15 am
dean wrote:

It doesn't matter how big your basement is. One gallon of gasoline vaporised is roughly equivalent to 10 sticks of dynamite. Enough to open all of the windows in your house with tremendous heat.

Or, your family could come trudging through the snow to see your headstone and wish you had just put a water storage tank in the basement. OR, if you need running water, put a tank in the attic and let gravity do it's thing.
Tom in KY, Just Say No.

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<%-name%>
• posted on January 1, 2006, 7:40 pm
On Fri, 30 Dec 2005 21:15:24 -0800, squarei4dtoolguy wrote:

Only if perfectly mixed with air. I have an "infinite" supply of gas in my basement too, perfectly mixed with air will make the gasoline look petty. Many have 275 gallons of fuel oil in their basements as well as 40 gallons of gaoline sitting in their driveway too. There are very good reasons not to do this, but an explosion is way down the list.
--
Keith

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<%-name%>
• posted on January 5, 2006, 4:14 pm

While you're not likely to see your basement gallon of gasoline completely vaporized, there is a substantial difference between the behaviour/safety of various fuels.
The vapor pressure of an open can of gasoline is perfectly capable of producing an explosive mixture in an unvented/enclosed space all by itself. Fuel oil won't. Nor will gasoline sitting in a car on a driveway.
A natural gas supply in a basement, of course _can_ produce an explosive mixture in an enclosed space. As can propane. But it's rather better secured than a random can of gasoline.
--
Chris Lewis, Una confibula non set est
It\'s not just anyone who gets a Starship Cruiser class named after them.

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<%-name%>
• posted on January 5, 2006, 6:55 pm

to
40
driveway.
Not only that just a couple minutes of operation really stinks up the basement filling it with exhause fumes. Unless you have a good exhaust fan it will stay there. Try running it in a closed garage for just a short time. Does it really need to be in the basement? Build a little enclosure close to the house.