Tag Archives: RVs and carbon monoxide poisoning

Series: 5 lessons I learned from boondocking: Part 3 of 5

RV boondocking or dry campingLesson 3: Doggie parents should probably babysit the generator

While many RVs carry their own electrical system, a generator, there are safety concerns you should know about so you can make the best decision for you and those traveling with you.

Our third lesson also concerned our generator, but not the noise it made. It had to do with our pet. Even if you  don’t have a pet, you should read this post because it will teach you about one of the greatest dangers RVers face.

Supervising the generator

A generator is a machine running on gasoline. Like most machines, it can burn up. It can also, as I’d mentioned earlier, put off carbon monoxide, especially if it malfunctions.

While in probability, it won’t catch fire or put off too much carbon monoxide, doggie parents should consider that It Could.

Here we were, in the middle of Paradise—the East Glacier area is one of our favorite U.S. locations—and we couldn’t leave our motorhome with the generator running because it wasn’t safe for our dog.

A German Shepherd sits in the sun with a valley thousands of feet down behind him.
This is our German Shepherd, Max, at the summit of Mt. Evans. He’s an adventurer like us, our “Road Dog,” and worth the extra trouble.

I guess some people might to do this, but gee whiz, if that generator catches fire and burns up Fido, that isn’t one to get over in a lifetime, so living for no regrets here, we did what we had to do.

We babysat the damn generator.

Well, come on, it’s no fun! Six hours a day, we had to be in the RV, not exploring Paradise. Utter bummer.

The six hours a day were from 8 a.m.-10 a.m., 12:00 p.m.-2:00 p.m., and 5:00 p.m.-7:00 p.m.

If you’re an avid traveler/adventurer, then you know this is the epic ugh.

Notice there are two hours between 10 a.m. and noon to travel.

Then, you have three hours between 2:00 p.m. and 5:00 p.m. to escape.

Since the drive to where we wanted to hang out in the mountains was an hour-and-a-half away, that meant going nowhere from 8:00 a.m.-2:00 p.m., taking a brief excursion between 2:00 p.m. and 5:00 p.m. and then finally escaping with limited travel benefits after 7:00 p.m., right?

Umm, no. Remember my previous entry. We had to go somewhere else to continue to run our generator before bed, so we traveled from 7:00 p.m. to 9 or 10:00 p.m., then had to return, move the motorhome, and continue to babysit the generator.

So…this is why it was impossible not to curse.

Can generators be dangerous for people? Yes. Many RVers don’t go to sleep with their generators running, because if it puts off carbon monoxide, you can’t smell it.

Some people have died from inhaling the fumes from a generator. Roadtreking calls carbon monoxide poisoning “the RVers’ biggest danger.”

Keeping this in mind, we ran the generator until we were ready to sleep, then turned it off. If it was really hot, we used battery-powered fans.

Picture of an alarm that says Carbon Monoxide Alarm and reads 0
A carbon monoxide alarm. Make sure your RV has one, and change the batteries annually at the same time. photo credit: hardwired co alarm via photopin (license)

Even though we have a carbon monoxide alarm, and you should too (as well as a propane and fire alarm), our greatest risk is when we sleep and to avoid that risk, we just–don’t take that risk.

My next lesson didn’t have to do with unscented fumes, but instead, about what happens when you need to dump your RV’s dirty water… and you don’t know where you can!