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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.
- 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 Entergy employees 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.
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 should 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. 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 would consult with an independent engineer or electrician to size the generator, modify wiring and provide and 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.
- Portable 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 (CO) poisoning from the toxic engine exhaust, electric shock or electrocution and fire.
Carbon Monoxide Hazards
- Never use a generator in enclosed or partially-enclosed spaces. Generators can produce high levels of CO very quickly. When you use a portable generator, remember that you cannot smell or see CO. Even if you can’t smell exhaust fumes, you may still be exposed to CO.
- If you start to feel sick, dizzy, or weak while using a generator, get to fresh air RIGHT AWAY. DO NOT DELAY. The CO from generators can rapidly lead to full incapacitation and death.
- If you experience serious symptoms, get medical attention immediately. Inform medical staff that CO 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.
Follow these safety tips to protect against CO poisoning:
- NEVER use a generator indoors, including in homes, garages, basements, crawl spaces, and other enclosed or partially-enclosed areas, even with ventilation. Opening doors and windows or using fans will not prevent CO build-up in the home.
- Follow the instructions that come with your generator. Locate the unit outdoors and away from doors, windows, and vents that could allow CO to come indoors.
- Install battery-operated CO alarms or plug-in CO alarms with battery back-up in your home, according to the manufacturer’s installation instructions. The CO alarms should be certified to the requirements of the latest safety standards for CO alarms (UL 2034, IAS 6-96, or CSA 6.19.01).
- Test your CO alarms frequently and replace dead batteries.
Follow these tips to protect against shock and electrocution:
- Keep the generator dry and do not use in rain or wet conditions. To protect 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.
Follow these tips to prevent fires:
- 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.
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:
For more details, please see Sections 14 and 15 of Entergy’s Customer Installation Standards.