When the Power Goes Kaput

Posted on December 1, 2005 by Wayne Blanchard

As part of their emergency planning, many people are opting to use a portable electric generator if a power failure occurs. These handy devices can keep your business operational in a blackout situation. But they can also be dangerous — many people are killed each year through misuse, improper installation and poor maintenance of portable generators. Carbon monoxide poisoning, electrocution and fires are the most common dangers associated with generators.


To ensure the safety of you and your personnel, follow these recommendations when operating a portable electric generator.


Never plug directly into a building outlet. Directly connected generators can “backfeed” onto the power lines connected to your building. Utility transformers can then step up or magnify this backfeed into thousands of volts, injuring neighbors or utility workers. This backfeed can also cause your generator to catch fire or explode when the line power is restored. Connect individual appliances that you wish to power directly to the outlet of the generator or connect these appliances to the generator with the appropriate outdoor-rated power cord.


If you wish to connect a generator directly into the wiring of your home or business, a transfer switch must first be installed to isolate your building from utility power. A manual or automatic transfer switch can be wired directly into your distribution system so you can use your home power receptacles rather than plugging into the generator.


Avoid overloading the generator. Overloading your generator can seriously damage appliances and electronics. Know your generator’s limits and adhere to them. Set priorities on what you use the generator for.


Never use a generator indoors. Generators use a standard gasoline engine that emits deadly carbon monoxide; therefore, they should never be used inside any type of building.


Minimize the risk of electrocution. Generators should be kept dry and properly grounded. Don’t touch a generator if you are wet or are standing in water or on damp ground. Ground fault interruption devices that are built into wall outlets should be used to protect main household circuits. These circuits trip off if the current surges.


Use the proper power cords. Plug individual appliances into the generator using heavy-duty, outdoor-rated cords with a wire gauge adequate for the appliance load. Overloaded cords can cause fires or equipment damage. Don’t use extension cords with exposed wires or worn casings. Make sure the cords from the generator are arranged so they don’t cause a tripping hazard. Never run cords under rugs where heat might build up or cord damage may go unnoticed.


Read and adhere to the manufacturer’s safety and operation manuals. Carefully read and observe all instructions in your portable electric generator’s owner’s manual. These instructions give you the proper procedures for starting, stopping, installing and maintaining your generator.


Do not store fuel indoors or try to refuel a generator while it’s running. Gasoline should be stored outside of living areas in properly labeled and approved containers. It should not be stored in a garage if a fuel-burning appliance is housed there. Highly flammable vapors from gasoline can drift along the ground and be ignited by pilot lights or electric arcs caused by turning on an electrical appliance. Avoid spilling fuel on hot components. Extinguish all flames or cigarettes when handling gasoline or any other combustible material. Always have a fully charged, approved fire extinguisher near the generator, and never refuel a generator while it’s running.


Purchasing Power

When purchasing a generator, be sure to buy one that suits your needs. Selecting the proper wattage of a generator involves more than simply adding up the wattage of lights and appliances you wish to operate. You need to be sure the generator can handle start-up requirements for many motorized items. Don’t allow your generator to be overwhelmed by start-up power needs or the total running load of the appliances or other uses you attach to it. A furnace fan, for example, may need over 2,000 watts to start. In addition, if you plan to hook up large appliances, such as compressors, welders, well pumps or dryers, make sure your generator is rated for 240-volt as well as 120-volt loads.


Purchasing a portable generator for home or business use can range from $450 to $4,500, depending on manufacturer, output, design and features. The higher the output, the more sophisticated the design, and the more features a generator provides, the more the generator will cost. You must also add in the cost of all accessories and installation. A transfer switch, for example, can cost an average of $150 for a light-duty, 30-amp model, and a heavy-duty power cable can cost from $75 to $150. Professional installation can cost from $400 to $800, depending on travel time for the contractor, the type of transfer switch and the distance of the transfer switch from the main service panel.


View comments or post a comment on this story. (1 Comment)

More News

10 Breakthrough Vehicle Features Coming For 2018

Cadillac, Volvo, Mercedes S Class, Lincoln Navigator, Genesis, and BMW are among the luxury makes/models with dynamic  amenities.

Growing Denver Operation Adds Motorcoach Service

Hermes Worldwide buys the newest model MCI buses allowing it to serve all types of group events.

Lincoln Continental Proves It's The Real Deal

Vehicle Review: The sedan has a comfortable, cushy ride without inducing motion sickness like some of the big luxury cars of yore.

Grech Bus From A Good Home Seeks New Owner

Vehicle Pick of the Week: Arizona operator Billy Jinks is selling a 2015 mini bus shuttle perfect for those looking to buy used.

Aadvanced Adds New Grech Bus, Lincoln MKT To Fleet

The 33-vehicle Indianapolis-based service adds new models as its market grows.

See More News

Facebook Comments ()

Comments (1)

Post a Comment



See More

LCT Store

LCT Magazine - September 2017 $12.95 MOTORCOACH / BUS ISSUE COVER STORY: * Irizar Racks Up A Good Rookie Year * *


Experience the three annual industry events for networking for business, showcasing vehicles and products, and getting the tools for success.

Read About Your Region

What’s Happening Near You?
Click on any state to see the latest industry news and events in that region.

More From The World's Largest Fleet Publisher

Automotive Fleet

The Car and truck fleet and leasing management magazine

Business Fleet

managing 10-50 company vehicles

Fleet Financials

Executive vehicle management

Government Fleet

managing public sector vehicles & equipment


Work Truck Magazine

The number 1 resource for vocational truck fleets

Metro Magazine

Serving the bus and passenger rail industries for more than a century

Schoolbus Fleet

Serving school transportation professionals in the U.S. and Canada

Please sign in or register to .    Close