Generator Installation and Safety
When would I need a generator?
What is a permanent unit?
How do I connect it safely?
Do I need any permits?
Can someone or something be hurt by a generator?
Who can help me with installation and sizing?
1. When would I need a generator?
Generators are very handy to have in the event the power goes out because of a storm or other natural event. They are a good backup system for heaters, freezers, well pumps and lights. There are two different types of generators available. The first are the Portable models. These are very popular for those who need to run equipment away from electricity. Many are available for light duty residential use, while others are rated for heavier commercial and industrial use. The second type is a fully automatic permanently installed unit attached to a home or business. Both have dual-fuel capability.
2. What is a permanent unit?
Permanent units are fully automatic generators that can be installed next to a home or business in a fixed location. These units typically can perform such functions as monthly self-tests and systems checks. They generally are directly wired into the main breaker panel and can operate the entire facility or a part of it in the event of an outage. In addition, they automatically turn themselves on when they sense a power failure. While these units are the most expensive to purchase, they are also the most convenient to operate.
3. How do I connect my portable generator safely?
There are two ways to connect a generator:
First, you can plug your appliances directly into the generator and run them as needed.
Second, you can have the generator connected to your breaker panel, by a licensed electrician, through a transfer switch. This enables you to throw the switch and have the items that you have designated as important continue to operate from the generator.
VERY IMPORTANT NOTICE: The main breaker on your panel does not qualify as a transfer switch under the National Safety Code. Using it in such a manner is illegal!
4. Do I need any permits?
It depends on your application. If you choose to have the transfer switch installed you will need a permit and the electrician will get the necessary permits for the job. If you choose to operate a portable generator with items plugged into it, you do not need a permit.
However, please let your local utility know that you are running a generator. Line crews may pass you by if they see lights on.
Also, crews in the area can plan on working in the vicinity of an operating generator.
5. Can someone or something be hurt by a generator?
Yes, emergency generators that are permanently wired into your home or structure pose safety hazards that you may not be aware of. Transfer switches are required because electricity from the generator can be sent through the meter base and into the distribution lines. This could be life-threatening to workers, neighbors, children or animals in the vicinity of a downed power line. In addition, when power is restored it will flow back to your home, and can seriously damage or destroy a generator that does not have approved safety switching.
Portable generators can also be dangerous if operated improperly so please consult the owners manual for proper operation.
6. Who can help me do this?
Your local utility can provide you with information and assistance on generator installation and safety. They can also help you contact the appropriate people to size, connect and maintain your unit once you have decided you want to seriously consider a generator.