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Generators

Back-Up Generators Could Be Deadly

Professional installation, an important safety step

Generator

Portable generators may come in handy during long-term power outages. The growing popularity of portable generators has resulted in millions being placed in homes and small businesses across the nation. However, recent studies show that an overwhelming percentage may be installed incorrectly. Consolidated Electric Cooperative urges members to understand the proper safety steps that must be taken.

"A qualified vendor or electrical professional should be consulted to determine the best equipment for your situation or needs, " advises Troy Crum, CEC Safety Manager. "A reliable vendor will know existing safety codes and the utility's safety requirements. If installed and operated correctly, use of a standby or portable electric generators poses little danger, but improper installation or use could be deadly."

"A qualified vendor or electrical professional should be consulted to determine the best equipment for your situation or needs, " advises Troy Crum, CEC Safety Manager. "A reliable vendor will know existing safety codes and the utility's safety requirements. If installed and operated correctly, use of a standby or portable electric generators poses little danger, but improper installation or use could be deadly."

Have a qualified electrician install a transfer switch. The transfer switch breaks the path of electricity between the power lines and your main electrical panel. This is the best way to protect you, your neighbors and repair crews from 'back feed.' Back feed occurs when an improperly connected generator begins feeding electricity "back" through the power lines. It is your responsibility to take necessary steps to prevent the injury of anyone near lines, especially crews working to restore power.

"Safety for the operators and users of a generating system in the home and utility crews cannot be over-emphasized," says Crum.

Some homeowners choose smaller, portable generators to power essential electrical equipment during outages. Consolidated Electric Cooperative offers these tips for the safe operation and use of portable generators:

  • Read and follow all manufacturer operating instructions to properly ground the generator. Be sure you understand them before hooking up the generator.
  • Maintain adequate ventilation. Generators emit carbon monoxide. It is against fire code to operate a generator in your home, garage or other enclosed building. Place it in a dry location outside.
  • Never plug a portable electric generator into a wall outlet or connect directly to a home's wiring. This can energize utility power lines and injure you or others working nearby. Electrical back feed can also damage the generator and home electrical equipment.
  • Turn off the generator and allow cooling before refueling. Gasoline and its vapors may ignite if they come in contact with hot components or an electrical spark. Store fuel in a properly designed container in a secure location away from the generator or other fuel-burning appliances, such as water heaters. Always have a fully charged, approved fire extinguisher located nearby.
  • Protect your appliances. Turn off or disconnect all appliances and lights before you begin operating the portable generator. Once the generator is running, turn your appliances and lights on one at a time to avoid overloading the unit. Remember, generators are for temporary usage, prioritize your needs.
  • Generators pose electrical risks especially when operated in wet conditions. Use a generator only when neccessary when the weather creates wet or moist conditions. Protect the generator by operating it under an open, canopy-like structure on a dry surface where water cannot form puddles or drain under it. Always ensure that your hands are dry before touching the generator.
  • Keep children and pets away from portable generators at all times. Many generator componencts are hot enough to burn you during operation.
  • Use proper extension cords. Use only safety-tested, shop-type electrical cords designed and rated for heavier, outdoor use to connect appliances. Many generators are equipped with twist-lock connects to reduce the chance of accidental disconnections due to vibrations.
  • Shut down the generator properly. Before shutting down a generator, turn off and unplug all appliances and equipment being powered by the generator.
  • Remember maintenance between uses. It's important to drain the gasoline from the generator while it is being stored. It's also a good idea to inspect the fuel and oil filters, spark plug, oil level and fuel quality and start the generator on a regular basis before an emergency situation happens.

Consolidated Electric Cooperative suggests that these safety guidelines and basic operating instructions be posted in the home and with the generator. For additional electric generator and safety information, visit the Safe Electricity website at www.SafeElectricity.org.

Keeping members safe is the goal of Consolidated Electric and the Safe Electricity "Teach Learn Care" TLC campaign, an electrical safety public awareness program created and supported by a coalition of hundreds of organizations, including electric utilities, educators and other entities committed to promoting electrical safety.