Portable standby generators, when used properly, can provide an alternative energy source until conventional power is restored. The Electrical Safety Authority, which regulates the safe use of electrical equipment in Ontario, cautions consumers contemplating the purchase of a portable standby generator to do some homework first - for safety's sake!
The Power of Portable Generators
Portable standby generators are fuel driven devices designed to produce electrical energy. These devices are used to power electrical equipment and appliances and are not intended to meet all the electrical requirements of a home or business. Portable standby generators should not be directly connected into a home wiring system without safety precautions being taken.
Careful purchase decisions, proper installation and diligent inspection are essential to make the portable generator safe for owners, their families, neighbours and others.
If You are Considering a Generator
- Clearly understand your electricity requirements to ensure the unit is the correct size and voltage for your application. A small generator will not power many devices; understand your power requirements before purchasing a generator.
Purchase the appropriate generator accessories including:
- an approved transfer device
- a properly sized connection cord and plugs
- some manufacturers offer complete generator packages
- Ensure all generator components have been approved by a recognized approval agency.
- Hire a licensed and knowledgeable electrical contractor to install the unit and get the necessary permits.
- Be sure to have the installation inspected by the Electrical Safety Authority
A Safety Check List
- Research your purchase carefully; consult a licensed and knowledgeable electrical contractor
- Ensure all components of the generator carry approved labels
- Check to be sure you have the following components in addition to the generator itself: a transfer device or panel and proper connection cords and receptacles
- Retain the services of a licensed and knowledgeable contractor to install your unit. Ask about measures you should take to ensure proper grounding and bonding of the unit
- Read and follow the instructions in your owner's manual
- Contact the Electrical Safety Authority to arrange for an inspection of the installation
More Important Safety Information from the Electrical Safety Authority
Portable generators can provide security and comfort during power outages. However, they can create electrical shock and fire hazards if connected or used incorrectly. In addition, you should never operate a generator inside your home or garage. Generators produce carbon monoxide, and if used indoors will cause a build-up of fatal fumes – fans or open windows and doors won’t provide enough fresh air to keep you and your family safe. Follow these tips to ensure you’re using your generator safely:
- Never use a generator indoors; use it in a dry area outdoors and away from open doors, windows and vents.
- Check the generator and all component parts to ensure that they have been approved by a recognized certification agency. Approved marks can be found at www.esasafe.com/electricalproducts/marks.
- Portable generators that are permanently installed into your electrical wiring must have a transfer device to protect your home and the utility system by preventing generator power from flowing back into the utility system. You must take out an electrical permit to permanently connect a generator to your home’s electrical system. Electrical Safety Authority recommends hiring a Licensed Electrical Contractor to ensure your generator is installed correctly. You can find a Licensed Electrical Contractor near you by using the Electrical Safety Authority's contractor lookup tool at www.esasafe.com.
- Never connect portable generators to electrical appliances or wiring components that have been affected by flood water.
- If you have to use extension cords, make sure they are the grounded type with three prongs and rated for how you’re planning to use them. Coiled cords can get extremely hot; always uncoil cords and lay them flat.
- Gasoline and its vapors are extremely flammable. Allow the generator engine to cool at least 2 minutes before refueling and always use fresh gasoline.