Generators may offer some conveniences during periods of long-term power outages, but they can also be dangerous and even deadly if they are not used or installed correctly. There are two basic types of generators - permanent, standby generators and portable generators. Both types of generators can pose a serious safety hazard that users should beware of if they are not used and installed according to the manufacturer's instructions.
Permanent, Standby Generator Safety
- A licensed professional should install a permanent, standby electric generator. Properly connecting a standby generator into your Cooperative's system is a critical step for safe and effective use.
- Have a qualified electrician install a transfer switch. The transfer switch breaks the path of electricity between your Cooperative's power lines and your main electrical panel. This is the best way to protect you, your neighbors and your Cooperative's linemen 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 nearby line crews working to restore power.
- According to your Cooperative's Tariff 19.4, Standby Generators, "No other source of supply of electricity shall be introduced or used by any member-owners in conjunction with electric service supplied by the Cooperative without prior approval of the Cooperative. If standby facilities are to be employed, a single-change-over switch or relay of adequate capacity shall be provided and so connected that the Cooperative's lines cannot be energized by standby power under any conditions."
Portable Generator Safety
Some homeowners choose smaller, portable generators that can be purchased at a local hardware store to power essential electrical equipment during outages.
Your Cooperative offers these tips for the safe operation and use of portable generators:
- 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.
- Read and follow all manufacturer operating instructions to properly ground 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.
- Turn off the generator and allow cooling before refueling.
- Protect your appliances. Turn off or disconnect all appliances and lights before you.
- Generators pose electrical risks especially when operated in wet conditions.
- Keep children and pets away from portable generators at all times.
- Use proper extension cords. Use only safety-tested, shop-type electrical cords designed and rated for heavier, outdoor use to connect appliances.
- Shut down the generator properly. Before shutting down a generator, turn off and unplug all appliances and equipment being powered by the generator.
Please contact either an electrician or your Cooperative's local energy adviser to determine the best equipment for your situation or needs. A professional electrician will know the existing safety codes and your Cooperative's safety requirements. If installed and operated correctly, the use of a standby or portable electric generators poses little danger, but improper installation or use could be deadly.