Providing your own emergency power is safer when you follow some basic guidelines
Personal generators are very useful following a disaster, but they also can be hazardous. The primary hazards to avoid when using a generator are carbon monoxide poisoning from the toxic engine exhaust, electric shock or electrocution and fire.
Portable generators are designed to provide power to a small number of selected appliances or lights. These tips will help you operate a portable generator safely:
- Purchase your portable electric generator only from a reputable dealer who can service and maintain the unit.
- Follow the manufacturer’s instructions that come with your generator. Locate the unit outdoors and away from doors, windows, and vents that could allow dangerous carbon monoxide gas to come indoors.
- The easiest way to use a portable generator is to plug lights or appliances directly into the proper electrical outlet on the generator itself. If you use extension cords, they should be run out of the way to help prevent tripping hazards.
- Portable generators should never be connected directly to a home or building’s wiring, even through an outlet. They may send electricity to the power lines linemen are working to restore.
- The generator should be sized for the expected load. For example, a 3-kilowatt generator produces 3,000 watts. This would be enough to power a 1,200-watt hair dryer and a 1,600-watt toaster, with some power left over for a few lights. You should plan for additional needs when sizing the generator.
- You should consider noise pollution as part of your decision. Your generator noise may be obtrusive to your neighbors who are without power.
- Follow the manufacturer's instructions that come with your generator.
Standby built-in generators
You may choose to install a standby built-in generator that could provide more electricity than a portable unit. Here are several tips to make them safer:
- A qualified, licensed electrician should install a standby built-in generator.
- The installation must include a switch to transfer the power source between Entergy and the standby built-in generator. When in use, the generator must be isolated from Entergy’s electrical system, meaning the main breakers should be open to prevent feeding power back into Entergy’s lines and creating a hazard for the public and power line workers. The switch shall be on the customer side of the meter socket. Entergy will not allow a switch or other device between the Entergy meter and the meter socket.
- Commercial customers should consult with an independent engineer or electrician to size the generator, modify wiring and provide an automatic method to transfer power during an outage.
- You should consult with local authorities about required permits before starting any work in a home or business. Purchase your portable electric generator only from a reputable dealer who can service and maintain the unit.
Safe use of a generator
- Keep the generator dry and do not use it in rain or wet conditions. To protect it from moisture, operate it on a dry surface under an open, canopy-like structure. Dry your hands if wet before touching the generator.
- Plug appliances directly into the generator. Or, use a heavy duty, outdoor-rated extension cord that is rated (in watts or amps) at least equal to the sum of the connected appliance loads. Check that the entire cord is free of cuts or tears and that the plug has all three prongs, especially a grounding pin.
- NEVER try to power the house wiring by plugging the generator into a wall outlet, a practice known as “backfeeding.” This is an extremely dangerous practice that presents an electrocution risk to utility workers and neighbors served by the same utility transformer. It also bypasses some of the built-in household circuit protection devices.
- If you must connect the generator to the house wiring to power appliances, have a qualified electrician install the appropriate equipment in accordance with local electrical codes.
- For power outages, permanently installed stationary generators are better suited for providing backup power to the home. Even a properly connected portable generator can become overloaded. This may result in overheating or stressing the generator components, possibly leading to a generator failure.
- Never store fuel for your generator in the home. Gasoline, propane, kerosene, and other flammable liquids should be stored outside of living areas in properly-labeled, non-glass safety containers. Do not store them near a fuel-burning appliance, such as a natural gas water heater in a garage. If the fuel is spilled or the container is not sealed properly, invisible vapors from the fuel can travel along the ground and can be ignited by the appliance’s pilot light or by arcs from electric switches in the appliance.
- Before refueling the generator, turn it off and let it cool down. Gasoline spilled on hot engine parts could ignite.
NEVER use a generator indoors, including in homes, garages, basements, crawl spaces, and other enclosed or partially-enclosed areas, even with ventilation. Generators can produce high levels of carbon monoxide very quickly.
Carbon monoxide hazards
- NEVER use a generator indoors, including in homes, garages, basements, crawl spaces, and other enclosed or partially-enclosed areas, even with ventilation. Generators can produce high levels of carbon monoxide very quickly.
- Opening doors and windows or using fans will not prevent carbon monoxide build-up in the home. When you use a portable generator, remember that you cannot smell or see carbon monoxide. Even if you can’t smell exhaust fumes, you may still be exposed to carbon monoxide.
- Keep generators positioned outside and away from doors, windows and vents so exhaust does not enter your home/business or a neighboring home/business.
- If you start to feel sick, dizzy or weak while using a generator, get to fresh air RIGHT AWAY. DO NOT DELAY. The carbon monoxide from generators can rapidly lead to full incapacitation and death.
- If you experience serious symptoms, get medical attention immediately. Inform medical staff that carbon monoxide poisoning is suspected. If you experienced symptoms while indoors, have someone call the fire department to determine when it is safe to re-enter the building.
- Install battery-operated carbon monoxide alarms or plug-in carbon monoxide alarms with battery back-up in your home, according to the manufacturer’s installation instructions. The carbon monoxide alarms should be certified to the requirements of the latest safety standards for carbon monoxide alarms (UL 2034, IAS 6-96, or CSA 6.19.01).
- Test your carbon monoxide alarms frequently and replace dead batteries.
Connecting a generator to the electric grid
To maintain the safety and quality of electric service, Entergy requires generators connected to the grid to be registered and meet the same safety and reliability standards as Entergy’s generators. For more information on connecting a generator to the electric grid, please call 1-800-ENTERGY (1-800-368-3749).
Call 1-800-9OUTAGE (1-800-968-8243) if you suspect a gas leak or to report downed power lines