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Generators useful during power outages, but be safe

Posted: March 30, 2021

Generators useful during power outages, but be safe

During a power outage you can restore your electricity with a portable or stationary manual-start generator or a stationary automatic-start unit.

Stationary Manual-Start or Automatic-Start Unit
Generator Safety - Prevent Back-feeding

If you are a homeowner considering a generator for long power outages, be sure that you hire an electrician to configure your setup and properly install the system. This is not a task for the novice. Serious injury or death (to you or others) can be caused by an improper installation, not to mention significant property damage is possible. Be sure to have all safety features installed and NEVER override a safety feature.

A proper transfer switch is required for a generator setup. A transfer switch will allow either the main/normal power from the utility, or power from the generator, to be fed into the building’s electrical system. It will never allow both normal power and emergency power to be on at the same time; the transfer switch disconnects the building from the utility feed while the generator is active, which is also referred to as islanding.

This ensures that the generator cannot back-feed the electrical grid, which could cause injury or death to technicians working to repair the power lines.

In addition, it prevents serious damage to the generator and other building equipment when normal power is restored by preventing the two out-of-phase power feeds from "fighting” with each other and overloading equipment that is intended for a lower amperage.

Stationary (standby) generators

A stationary (or standby) generator can be powered by gas, natural gas, diesel or propane. Most are powerful enough to run a central air conditioner, kitchen appliances, pumps, and other large items at the same time. A stationary generator, the transfer switch, and any electrical panels must be installed by a licensed electrician.

Portable generators

The size of the portable generator that you choose for your home depends on how many electrical devices you want to run at the same time. A supplier can help you choose the right generator for your needs.

To prevent carbon monoxide poisoning:
  • always keep your portable generator outside;
  • never operate the generator in a house, garage, or other enclosed building;
  • keep the generator at least 3 meters from windows, doors, and fresh air intake areas.

Know how to use your portable generator and follow the manufacturer’s instructions:
  • When the power goes out, wait 10 minutes before starting up the generator.
  • Make sure the transfer switch and all breakers are correctly positioned before you start up the generator.
  • Keep the generator dry and protect it from rain or snow.
  • Make sure that your hands are dry and stand in a dry place when operating the generator.
  • Use a ground fault circuit interrupter (GFCI) extension cord when using electrical tools outdoors. 


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