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SME Inc of Seattle offers our customers a broad and deep range of electrical services across commercial and industrial industries and residential properties. From tenant improvement, new build or renovations to assembly lines, healthcare facilities or multi- or single-family residences, the team at SME Inc provides experienced engineers and licensed electricians who have the skill and expertise to design, install and complete any project.

Residential Generator Safety

Generator Safety

When considering the purchase of an electrical power generator, whether portable or permanently installed, there are some generator safety concerns to keep in mind.

Portable Generators

If you are going to utilize a portable standby generator or back-up electric generator without a generator transfer switch, and you are only working with few appliances, you may be able to plug them into the standby generator directly. This is fairly straightforward, but isn't recommended if you are operating more than a couple of electrical appliances. The electric power cord you will utilize to feed the electrical appliances should be a heavy duty outdoor-rated extension cord. When picking one out, you need to consider the total appliance wattage or ampacity. The rating of the power cord needs to exceed the total load you will be operating in order to prevent unnecessary heat buildup and degradation of the power cord. An overloaded power cord can potentially overheat and start a fire. Ensure that the cord has three prongs, and has no cuts or holes in the casing. An even greater concern is that you do not, under any circumstances, simply plug the generator into a wall outlet - a practice known as "back-feeding". This will put not only you but utility line workers at serious risk. If back-fed, your utility transformer can increase the lower voltage from your electric generator to thousands of volts, more than enough to kill a electrician lineman doing repairs. In certain regions, substantial fines can be imposed if this situation is discovered.

Permanently Installed Power Generators

A permanently installed power generator that is used for either standby electric power or emergency electric power should be wired into the house or office wiring directly by using what's known as a generator transfer switch. This switch should be installed by a licensed electrician to comply with the National Electrical Code (NEC). A manual generator transfer switch can be utilized. This is basically a double-pole, double-throw switch. This will prevent your power generator from back-feeding to the electrical transformer and will protect your standby equipment and more importantly, the lives of the electrician linemen attempting to restore electrical power to your area. When the power is restored, the switch will protect your power generator and electric appliances from being surged or affected by the electrical power being restored and coming from the electrical power lines feeding your home.

Typically there are three settings on the generator transfer switch: Line, Off, and Generator. In the Line setting, electric power is being fed from the serving utilities power lines. In the Generator setting the electric power is coming from the standby generator. To switch from one to the other, you must transition to the "Off" position. This creates a positive break to avoid damaging any equipment as a result of sparks, arcs, and short-circuiting.

Another type of generator transfer switch is the automatic generator transfer switch which, when properly installed and maintained, is the safest and most trouble-free installation. It incorporates a battery to initiate power generator start-up via electronic ignition as soon as the power generator senses the loss of utility electric power. When utility electric power is restored, the power generator senses that electricity has been restored via the utility and safely shuts the power generator down and automatically transfers the load back to the utility source.

Carbon Monoxide

Poisoning from CO (Carbon Monoxide) is a very common and very serious accident that can result in death if standby generators are used improperly. Every proper precaution should be taken as it is a very serious danger. Portable power generators should never be used indoors. This includes: basements, crawlspaces, garages, carports, and any other imaginable enclosed or partially enclosed space. Electric power generators should not be used or permanently installed near open windows or inlets that may allow for exhaust fumes to leak in.

CO is odorless, and invisible, so people don't realize that the silent predator is gaining access to your home. If while using a power generator you begin to feel sick, dizzy or light headed, get to fresh air immediately. You can be overtaken by the effects of CO very quickly so it is imperative that you don't delay. To add extra safety you may want to buy a CO detector to warn you of rising CO levels. Be sure, when running the electric generator, that it is kept dry. If needed run under an open canopy type structure. Store fuel in an approved container, and only use the fuel that is recommended in the instructions. Never store fuel indoors. Do not keep it near the electric generator while the electric generator is in use as it could start a fire. Never refuel while the power generator is running, and always keep a fully charged fire extinguisher located near the power generator.

If you have questions about the safety or safe operation of your standby generator, SME Inc of Seattle's factory trained and certified licensed electricians are at your service to perform a safety inspection and evaluation of your electric generator.