Emergency Power Generators

Emergency power generators are the number one choice of disaster equipment... when preparing for the possibility of a power outage.

The majority of us want the peace of mind that comes with having a reliable, back-up emergency power source.

Learn a few basics before purchasing a generator - Know what size generator you need, how to use it, how to be safe, and how to watch out for carbon monoxide poisoning when using the generator.

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Read the following information BEFORE a power outage, or emergency. These precautions can help keep you and your family safe when using portable emergency power generators.

  • Contact a licensed electrician to install your generator to make sure it meets local codes.
  • Do not connect generators directly to household wiring without an appropriate transfer switch installed.
  • Power from generators connected directly to household wiring can back-feed along power lines and electrocute anyone coming in contact with them, including lineworkers making repairs.
  • Make sure your generator is properly grounded.
  • Keep the generator dry.
  • Make sure extension cords used with generators are rated for the load, and are free of cuts, worn insulation, and have three-pronged plugs.
  • Do not overload the generator. A portable generator should be used only when necessary, and only to power essential equipment or appliances.
  • Never operate the generator in enclosed or partially enclosed spaces. Use carbon monoxide detectors in nearby enclosed spaces to monitor levels.
  • Generators can produce high levels of carbon monoxide very quickly, which can be deadly.
  • Use a ground fault circuit interrupter (GFCI) to help prevent electrocutions and electrical shock injuries.
  • Make sure fuel for the generator is stored safely, away from living areas, in properly labeled containers, and away from fuel-burning appliances.
  • Before re-fueling, always turn the generator off and let it cool down.
  • Turn off all appliances powered by the generator before shutting down the generator.
  • Keep children away from portable generators at all times.

Statistics from the Northeastern Ice Storm of January/February 1997 show that as many as 100 people were killed and 5,000 people injured by misuse of a generator at home.


Look at the labels on lighting, appliances and equipment you plan to connect to your emergency power generator to determine the amount of power that will be needed to operate the equipment.

  • For lighting, the wattage of the light bulb indicates the power needed.

  • Appliances and equipment usually have labels indicating power requirements on them.

  • Choose a generator that produces more power than will be drawn by the combination of lighting, appliances and equipment you plan to connect to the generator including the initial surge when it is turned on.

If your generator does not produce adequate power for all your needs, plan to stagger the operating times for various equipment.

If you can not determine the amount of power that will be needed, ask an electrician to determine that for you. (If your equipment draws more power than the generator can produce, then you may blow a fuse on the generator or damage the connected equipment).


NEVER operate emergency power generators in enclosed or partially enclosed spaces. Use carbon monoxide detectors in nearby enclosed spaces to monitor levels. Generators can produce high levels of carbon monoxide very quickly, which can be deadly.

It is a good idea to install one or more Carbon Monoxide (CO) alarms inside your home (following manufacturer’s installation directions). If CO gas from the generator enters your home and poses a health risk, the alarm will sound to warn you. Many home fires and deaths from carbon monoxide poisoning have occurred from using a generator improperly.


  • Be sure to let the generator cool down before refueling.
  • Store fuel for the generator in an approved safety can.
  • Use the type of fuel recommended in the instructions or on the label on the generator.
  • Local laws may restrict the amount of fuel you may store, or the storage location. Ask your local fire department for additional information about local regulations.
  • Store fuel for the generator out of doors in a locked shed or other protected area.
  • Do not store fuel in a garage, basement or anywhere inside a home, as vapors can be released that may cause illness and are a potential fire or explosion hazard.


  • DO NOT hook up a generator directly to your home’s wiring.
  • The safest thing to do is connect the equipment you want to power directly to the outlets on the generator.

There are several reasons why hooking up a generator to your home’s electrical service is not a wise idea.

  • Home-use (non-industrial) generators do not supply enough amperage to supply sufficient power for today’s homes (that is, to run a furnace, lighting, appliances and other electronic equipment).

  • Simply connecting a cord from the generator to a point on the permanent wiring system and back-feeding power is an unsafe method to supply a building during a power outage.

  • Unless your home’s power supply was installed with a disconnect to the main power feeding lines, power you put into your home from a generator could back-feed into the main line and cause problems for the electrical utility company, your neighbors or yourself.

  • Back-feeding is supplying electrical power from a generator at the residence back into the incoming utility lines. This occurs when the necessary equipment used to isolate the generator from the incoming power lines is not installed.

The product must be installed according to the NEC®, all applicable state and local codes, and the manufacturer’s instructions. Homeowners should only attempt to install such products if they have a thorough knowledge of safe electrical installation practices for this type of equipment. Otherwise a qualified electrician should be contacted.

The NEC® does permit an interface between the normal power source (generally the electric utility) and an alternate power source (such as a standby or portable generator), provided proper transfer equipment that prevents back-feeding is used.

There are a number of products available that will provide either an automatic or manual transfer between two power sources in a manner prescribed by the NEC®.

When selecting a product for this function, it should be one that has been evaluated for safe performance by a nationally recognized testing organization such as Underwriters Laboratories.

If you have additional questions, please consult a licensed electrician, your local fire department or your community’s building safety or engineering department.


  • If you choose to buy an emergency power generator, make sure you get one that is listed with:

    the Underwriter’s Laboratory (UL)
    or Factory Mutual (FM).

  • Determine the correct engine size (wattage) for your needs.

  • Determine the desired fuel type:

    Gas emergency power generator,
    Diesel emergency power generator,
    Propane emergency power generator.

  • Make your purchase from a reputable dealer.

    Compact, fuel efficient generator models provide smooth, clean power for emergencies, home, recreation, and construction use.

Interested in a Light Weight, Quiet & Clean generator option?

click on the picture below to check it out.

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Content Credits:
The Electrical Safety Foundation International
National Fire Protection Association (publisher of the National Electric Code®).