Follow the guidelines to ensure your generator is working safely

You can purchase an electric generator to serve as a standby power source during power outages. The generator can keep lights and appliances running until your service is restored. Generators have many benefits, including:

 

  • Keeping your home or office lights and appliances running.
  • Saving food in your freezer or refrigerator during a long outage.
  • Powering other essential equipment.

 

Electric generators can be expensive and noisy. Generators can also pose a safety hazard to you and others. Please follow any safety instructions provided by the manufacturer.

PLEASE NOTE: The law requires that customers with permanently installed or portable generators cannot connect them to other power sources. PG&E power lines are considered to be one of the sources. Ensure that the electricity from your unit does not flow back into the PG&E system. A generator that flows back into the PG&E system can damage your property and endanger your life. The “backfeed” can also endanger the life of PG&E line workers, who may be working on power lines away from your home. You’re responsible for any injuries or damages caused by an improperly installed or operated generator.


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Learn the safety guidelines for permanent standby generators

A permanent standby generator is connected directly to your electric system. The generator energizes your building’s wirings. This type of installation requires a device that prevents connection of the generator to PG&E power lines. Only a qualified professional, such as a licensed electric contractor, can install a permanent standby generator.


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Follow the safety tips for permanent standby generators.

 

  • Install a device that protects your generator, wiring and appliances from damage when your service is restored. A double-pole, double-throw transfer switch is recommended. This device keeps your generator from backfeeding into the PG&E system. The switch also keeps PG&E power from re-energizing your house wiring while your generator is running. Refer to diagram A2 on this page to learn more about the device.
  • Have all changes to your house wiring inspected by your city or county building department.
  • Call PG&E to let us know when your back-up system is installed. We make a note in our records to remind our workers of your generator when we are working on an outage in your area. In some cases, PG&E line workers may ask to check your electric generator transfer switch for safety.
  • Call your local building inspector or a licensed contractor for help if you’re unsure whether your generator is installed safely.


Learn the safety guidelines for portable generators

Portable generators are designed for connection only to selected appliances or lamps. Follow the safety tips for portable generators.

 

  • Never connect a portable generator directly to your building's wiring system.
  • Read and follow all of the manufacturer’s instructions before starting your generator.
  • Ensure that the total electric load on your generator does not exceed the manufacturer's rating.
  • Place your generator in an area where it can vent easily.
  • Prioritize your needs. Use the lowest wattage light bulbs that provide a safe level of light. Reserve power for additional lighting or a small appliance. Remember that, as you use more power, you use more fuel.
  • Keep cords out of the way to avoid tripping hazards. Never run cords under rugs, carpet or areas where heat might build up. The cords can be damaged without your notice.
  • Choose electric cords that can carry your generator’s electric load. Overloaded cords can overheat and cause fires or damage to equipment.

 

Find more information on how to stay safe with your generator. Download Electric Generator Safety (PDF, 257 KB).