Standby generators are quite common in homes today, especially in areas that are plagued with regular power outages due to storms, heat waves or mere power failures. As fantastic as having a standby generator is, it must be installed properly by a qualified electrician to make sure it functions properly during an emergency situation. Back up generators can produce fatal results if they have not been integrated into the main power distribution correctly.
Here are a few things you must be mindful of:
Make sure you follow the instructions on the manual to the T. If you are not too savvy with electrical connections then please hire a qualified electrician to do the wiring and the installation for you. Remember, that you cannot claim insurance if a fire brakes out in your home due to the generator not being installed properly.
The generator must be placed outside the house. Backup generators must never be used indoors and for further protection, carbon monoxide detectors must be installed near all bedrooms.
As a rule of thumb, you must always know the wattage limitation of your electrical generator and you must make sure you do not exceed it. Also make sure that you do not use your standby generator if it is cracked or leaking gas. You must never plug your generator into a wall outlet. Here again, a qualified electrician will be able to advise you on how it should be plugged in.
You need to also make sure that you have stockpiled enough fuel to keep your electricity going during an outage. You will need at least 20-30 gallons of fuel. Stockpiling fuel is always a good thing but you must also make sure that you don’t use old/stale fuel. Most often we feel that the backup generator should be used for just that – in case of a power outage. However, it is always a good idea to run your generator periodically to make sure that it is working trouble free.
Your generator must be placed in a secure dry place as excess moisture can damage the wiring/circuitry. A stand by generator must always be placed on a flat surface and must always have a protective covering. Never use a generator that does not have a protective covering.
If you are cleaning or doing any minor repairs on your stand by generator you must first make sure it is switched off and it is even better if you can unplug it first. Also, be ware of loose clothing, jewelry etc. as they can get caught in rotating parts and cause severe injury.
Last but not least, remember that the generator runs on a predetermined speed. Do not at any time try to tamper with it.
How does the generator actually work? There are two possible ways to activate this appliance. The first is simply by running extension cords from the generator to all household electrical devices. Although feasible, it is quite an inconvenient option: just think of the amount of cords lying around your house! This is not only an obstacle, but a potentially dangerous solution as well, particularly if you have toddlers running around.
The second, and markedly safer solution, is by connecting the generator to your home wiring. All your residential circuits can be easily activated by means of a single cord. The cord is connected to the generator via a transfer switch, a device which is mandatory according to the National Electrical Code. The switch in fact ensures that your house is not simultaneously powered by both the utility power and the generator. In case of a power outage, you plug the generator into the transfer switch, and shift the operating mode from "utility" to "generator", thus enabling your electrical appliances to be powered by the generator. Whereas most residential transfer switches are activated manually, commercial electrical systems include automatic transfer switches, which shift to generator power mode in case of a power outage.
Remember that the absence of a transfer switch is not only a violation of the National Electrical Code regulations, but can be detrimental and hazardous to you, your home and to the generator.