Tips for Back-Up Generator Safety
In recent years, Dodge City and the surrounding areas have had several serious ice storms. Many residents have started installing back-up generators to provide power when the power goes out, and during these long-term power outages many rely heavily on portable generators for emergency power. The growing popularity of portable electric generators has resulted in millions being placed in homes and small businesses across the nation. But it’s estimated only a small percentage are hooked up correctly. The Victory Electric Cooperative Association, Inc. urges members to understand the proper safety steps that must be taken.
“A qualified vendor or electrical professional can help you select the best equipment for your situation or needs,” advises Josh Schmidt, Manager of Member Service. “A reliable vendor will know existing safety codes and your utility’s safety requirements. Installed and operated correctly, use of a standby or portable electric generator poses little danger, but improper installation or use could be dangerous to you and threaten the lives of your family, friends, neighbors and electric utility crews trying to restore power.”
Properly connecting the generator into the system is a critical step for safe and effective use. A licensed professional should install a permanent, standby electric generator and can help with proper equipment for safely using a portable generator.
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 Schmidt. “A qualified electrician should be consulted to ensure proper installation and electrical grounding requirements, circuit overload protections and local codes are met.”
Some homeowners choose smaller, portable generators to power essential electrical equipment during outages. Victory Electric 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, outside location.
- 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 also can damage the generator and home electrical equipment.
- Turn off 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.
- Keep children and pets away from portable generators at all times. Many generator components 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 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.
Victory Electric suggests that these safety guidelines and basic operating instructions be posted in the home and with the generator.