The reasonable cost and availability of portable generators has resulted in an increase in home generator use. Members who use portable generators to deal with power outages must be sure they are installed properly and used safely. Otherwise, injury or death to you, a utility line worker or someone else could occur.

Generators that are installed improperly can cause deadly exhaust fumes, damage your generator and/or appliances, and backfeed electricity onto utility lines posing danger to line workers. The safest way to connect a portable generator to your existing wiring is to have a licensed electrician install a special transfer switch. The switch will ensure that electricity from the generator won’t backfeed onto utility electric lines causing serious injury or electrocution to a line worker.

VEC encourages the safe use of generators and requests that members adhere to the following tips regarding safe generator use:
  • Purchase a generator that is listed with Underwriter’s Laboratory &UL) or Factory Mutual (FM).
  • Read the owner’s manual provided before using your generator.
  • Never plug the generator(s) directly into a household outlet. This can energize “dead” power lines and pose harm to neighbors and/or utility workers.
  • Always operate the generator outdoors. Never run a generator in a barn, shed or garage.
  • Plug individual appliances directly into a portable generator using heavy-duty, outdoor rated cords with a wire gauge adequate for the appliance load.
  • Turn off all equipment powered by the generator before shutting it down.
  • Follow proper refueling practices. Always let the generator cool down before refueling and only use the type of fuel recommended by the manufacturer.
  • Install carbon monoxide detectors in your home as they will warn you of any CO gas entering your home as a result of improper installation of the generator.

Your electrician or a dealer in generators should be able to assist you with properly sizing your generator and the type of transfer switch that will be most suitable for your needs.