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Dangers of Portable Generators

Published by Steve Thurman in Customer Information · 27/8/2014 19:25:43

With fall right around the corner and winter close behind now is a good time to be thinking about purchasing a portable generator. Most of us who lived in Green Country back in 2007, remember the huge ice storm that crippled the Tulsa metro area and surrounding communities. Stories of being without power for 10-15 days were not uncommon. Many remember the shelves being bare, especially when it came to purchasing a generator. People were scrambling to locate one, prices suddenly sky rocketed and in many instances the stores could not get them in fast enough. Projections for the upcoming winter and all are predicting below average temperatures with above average Snowfall.
I suspect most have learned a lesson from the past and may have the intention of purchasing a generator to be prapared. With that in mind there are a couple of real dangers of using portable generators in the event of a power outage.
First of all, configuring your home electrical system to connect a portable generator should only be done by a licensed elelctrical contractor. Now there are those who will attempt to install a receptacle on the outside of a house, known as a "suicide plug" and connect it to a circuit breaker in the house to "back feed" the electricity produced by the generator into the home. Hundreds of utility linemen are killed every year by this very thing. Many homeowners forget to turn off or don't have a main breaker linking the power company service to the home electrical system. The result is the power from a portable generator travels up the service wires to the transformer on the pole which steps up the voltage from a couple hundred volts to several thousand. Then unsuspecting and exauhsted lineman shows up to repair the storm damage and winds up electrocuted. Many utility companies who find this type of set up will pull your house meter and will not return it until the suicide plug is removed or properly installed and it could cost the home owner a hefty fine. You should always have a licensed electrical contractor install a transfer switch. For most portable generators the transfer switch will be a manual one. This takes the danger of electrocution away from the equation and will allow the load on the generator to be balanced evenly and will help prevent overloading and damaging the generator.
Another by product of the generator shortage of 07 was theft. In trying to prevent theft people were running their generator in the garage with door propped open. This is a major No No. Having the door fully opened and running a generator in the garage can still lead to deadly build up of carbon monoxide. Always run your generator outside of the home. Anchor it to a sidewalk with a log chain, put it in the back yard with a big dog or have a steel cage built to secure it in, but never position the generator where exhaust travels towards the home.
Finally do not put fuel in a generator with the engine running. Always power down the generator and let it cool before adding fuel. Not only can a generator with a hot engine erupt in flames but the brushes inside of the generator can arc like the ignitor of a propane grill and cause serious injury from fire.
Portable generators can be a life saver in case of a power outage, but as with any electrical tool or piece of equipement it should be used according to manufacturer instructions and connected to your home electrical systems safely. At Abstract Electric, We are always available to answer any questions you may have regarding generator operation and connection and we would be happy to provide an estimate for the installation of any equipment you purchase.

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