Watts safe with standby generators?

Ariel view of Coal CreekIt is difficult, perhaps almost impossible in some cases, to live without electricity in today’s world. For some of you, your life, home, or business is dependent on electricity. That’s why your electric cooperative does everything possible to keep the lights on and to restore service as soon as possible when there is an outage.

If you have or are considering purchasing a standby electric generator, it is vital to follow proper procedures. When used incorrectly, a standby generator can cause serious harm or even death.

Generators can produce power to a homes 120/240-volt service. However, if a generator is not properly installed, the backfeed will result in an output of 7,200 volts on the power line. As a result, line personnel working on the system would be put in danger. To eliminate this risk, wiring must meet the specifications described in the National Electric Code.

For everyone’s safety, yours, the co-op, and its line personnel, generators need to be isolated from the electric co-ops power lines. This means you should have a qualified electrician install a double-throw switch which will separate your service and generator from the co-ops system. The National Electric Code requires this switch to prevent the backfeed of electricity from the generator into the power line. The switch also protects your generator from damage when the power is restored. If you only have a small portable generator, generally 5,000 watts or less, you should connect appliances or other devices directly to the generator with the appropriate-sized cord.

Before buying a generator, determine the wattage output you will need. Manufacturers rate a generator in terms of wattage and KW. Follow the manufacturers recommendations to determine the size that will meet your needs. The generators wattage output should at least meet or exceed the total rated watts of the appliances you will operate in the case of an outage.

Read all operating and maintenance instructions supplied by the manufacturer thoroughly before using any generator. While we do not sell generators, Jeff (jdaley@swce.coop) or Dan (dmeier@swce.coop) in our Operations Division will be happy to help you with any questions you may have.