Portable Generators

As consumer reliance on electricity has increased, tolerance for power outages has declined. To combat the havoc wreaked by ice storms, thunderstorms, and high winds, many homeowners turn to portable electric generators.

According to The Electrical Safety Foundation International (ESFI) portable electric generators are a good source of power for heat, light, refrigeration, and cooking during electrical outages. But, if used improperly, they can kill both you and the people who are restoring power to your building. People die needlessly every year in accidents that involve portable electric generators. Safety awareness can prevent those deaths.

You can use a portable generator to supply electricity to your appliances if an emergency exists during a power outage.

Home emergency generators are usually powered by gasoline, which must be properly handled, as well.

Generator sizes vary. Common units can be from 8 to 14 horsepower and capable of handling from 4,000 to 8,400 watts (including starting surge requirements).

Prices may range from $800 to $3,000. Connecting a generator to the main electrical supply for your house requires a transfer switch and the services of a qualified, licensed electrician.

For everyone's safety, notify your electric cooperative if you own a generator.

  • Read and follow all the manufacturer's operating instructions to install and properly ground the generator – Be sure you understand all instructions before starting the generator
  • Portable generators should never be operated indoors or in a confined space like a garage – It's best to have them under an open canopy area where rainwater will not pool or drain around it
  • Make sure the generator is properly grounded – Look for the Underwriters Laboratory (UL) or Factory Mutual (FM) safety designations
  • Never touch a portable generator with wet hands or clothing
  • Always refuel the generator when the motor has cooled down to prevent a possible fire if fuel is spilled – Keep pets and children away from hot generators
  • Always start the portable generator first before plugging in electric appliances with extension cords – Failure to do so may result in damaged appliances – Always use three-wire extension cords
  • Make sure your generator and extension cords are sized for the electrical load you are trying to service – Check to see the starting wattage and running wattage of your appliances – Use this information to avoid overloading your portable generator
  • Turn all appliances being powered by a portable generator off before shutting down the generator
  • Connecting a portable generator directly to your home's electrical system will require the proper transfer switches and electrical permit with the Union County Engineers Office – The work would need to be performed by a qualified electrical contractor
  • The alternative to plugging appliances directly into the generator or using transfer switches installed in the home would be a "GenerLink Transfer Switch" – This product allows the generator to be plugged into an automatic transfer switch when the utility power is out and power critical appliances in the home – GenerLink products are available and installed by Union Rural Electric Cooperative for our members