Setting Up Your Home’s Emergency Generator Safely

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A reliable backup generator can prove invaluable if it helps you weather even one extended power outage in your area. Storm-leveled trees, power line accidents, and blown transformers are just a few of the more common reasons your home could be left in the dark.

The right generator, properly installed, can allow your family to continue enjoying everyday comforts while waiting for power crews to restore electrical service.

However, if your generator is not properly installed, the results can be damaging and outright dangerous.

Here are some helpful generator installation tips. Additionally, you will want to check out our blog on the proper maintenance of your generator to maximize its lifecycle.

1. Purchase the Right Generator for Your Needs

There are three types of generators; standby, large inverter, and backup (portable). For the purposes of this article, we will focus on backup generators which are a very popular choice for average households looking for 3000-7000 watts of juice when the lights go out.  These are also, on average, more affordable than their larger counterparts. Most homes can power their appliances and comfort systems for between 3000 and 5000 watts. For homes with a larger furnace and/or a well pump, between 5000 and 6500 watts is recommended.

2. Install a Transfer Switch

This is a critical component to have for a backup generator. Your house needs to be disconnected from the power grid before you can run your generator. If you simply plug your generator directly into a regular wall outlet, you risk “backfeeding”.  This is an extremely dangerous situation where the electricity produced could travel beyond your house, enter the grid and potentially kill utility personnel at work.

The transfer switch includes an electrical subpanel with a switch for each circuit you want to run with your generator. It’s wired directly to the house’s electrical service and the generator plugs into that subpanel. The transfer switch completely cuts your house off from the grid; meanwhile, power from the generator is only allowed to go to circuits you’ve designated. We strongly recommend you let your On Time Electrical technician come properly install the transfer switch, both for your safety and that of the power workers who respond to your area during a blackout.

3.  Know the Carbon Monoxide Poisoning Risks 

Carbon monoxide is odorless, tasteless, invisible and deadly. It’s also a very real risk when you are running a backup generator near your home. Never run a generator in your garage, under your porch, in any enclosed or partially enclosed area, around any doors, windows or other openings.  NEVER run a generator inside your house.  For maximum safety, the generator should be installed at manufacturer and NFPA specified distances and never be operated inside enclosed spaces. As an added precaution, you should install carbon monoxide detectors throughout your home, which is a good idea even if you do not own a generator.

4. Do a Test Run 

The chaos and darkness of a power outage is not the time to realize you don’t know how to safely and properly plug in or turn on your generator. It’s highly recommended you do a test run or two once you get it home. In fact, you should plan on running it a couple times a year anyway to make sure it starts and that the process stays familiar.


  1. Put the generator outside on a level surface in a well-ventilated area at least ten feet away from the house.
  2. Carbon monoxide can kill, so be extremely cautious.
  3. A generator’s engine can get very hot, so keep children and pets far away.
  4. Put it in a location that’s easy to access for refueling.

If you have questions about the best size generator for your home and anticipated usage, give On Time Electrical a call!  We’ll send one of our licensed, insured, and highly trained electricians to your home to determine exactly what you need. Check out our weekly and monthly specials, plus we waive the service call fee on ANY repair!

At On Time Electrical, giving our customers safe, reliable, and affordable power solutions is our daily goal.

Call your 24/7 On Time Electrical specialists at (704) 675-7400 or contact us online anytime. With our A+ Better Business Bureau rating, we guarantee courteous, reliable, and trustworthy customer service each and every time! Locally owned and operated, we’re On Time Electrical. It’s electric!