Power outages can happen at any time

Backup electric generators can be a part of any preparedness plan. Find out what you need to know about using a generator.


Generators are not connected to PG&E's grid


Backup electric generators operate as a stand-alone power source and are not connected to PG&E's power grid. Generators are typically powered by solar with back-up storage, battery, natural gas, gasoline, propane or diesel fuel.


Ready to go solar? Learn more about your options.



Solar customers, please note: During an electric power outage, your solar system will not function unless designed to work with a battery or standby generator. For more information, call your service provider.

Electric backup generators can keep the lights on, help appliances stay running, save perishable food, and power essential equipment and electronics during a power outage.


Generators can also be expensive, noisy, and can pose safety hazards. It's important to understand how to safely operate your generator before an emergency occurs. This means doing regular safety checks and being sure you have enough fuel to last a few days.


Consider these factors when deciding whether you need a generator.

General rates

Energy needs

Do you own certain devices or equipment that need to keep functioning in the event of a loss of power? How crucial is it for you to have power during an extended outage? This is especially important for customers who are dependent on life-support equipment or require special heating or cooling needs for a medical condition.

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Noise

Are there community ordinances where you live or work that restrict or limit the decibel level allowance for outdoor equipment?

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Cost

Generators can cost thousands of dollars. Take any immediate needs into consideration as you examine which generator option may be the best choice for you.

Medical assistance

Are you dependent on electricity for a medical device?

If you rely on electric or battery-dependent medical technologies such as assistive technology, breathing machines, a power wheelchair or scooter, and home oxygen or dialysis, it is critical that you have a plan in place for an extended power outage.



DOWNLOAD THE PACIFIC ADA CENTER'S EMERGENCY POWER PLANNING FACT SHEET (PDF, 272 KB)

If you decide to purchase a generator, explore what will work for you. Factors to consider include:

Charging various smartphones and tablets

Sizing your energy needs


Generators can produce enough electricity to power your phone and laptop or power your whole home.


  • How much power would you need during an outage?
  • Would you want power for a few critical items, or for an entire home, business or facility?
  • Which appliances and equipment need to be functional and how much energy does each require?
Fuel

Fuel


Your preference may be determined by environmental concerns, accessibility, affordability, and available space for secure generator storage.

Electric generator

Installation requirements


  • Small batteries used for power are often portable and do not require professional installation for use.
  • Rented generators can offer a source of power but you must follow all safety tips. Your rental store professional can also instruct you on the proper use of your rented generator.
  • A permanent standby generator requires professional installation because of the direct connection to a home or business electric system.
  • Permanent generation requires high ground, where flooding is not likely to be a concern. Building code requirements must also be taken into account, particularly in densely populated areas.
  • No matter what type of generator you have, always consult the owner's manual for detailed instructions and safety guidelines prior to operation.

If you don't understand how to use your generator, you risk damaging your property, endangering your life and endangering the lives of PG&E employees who may be working on power lines in your community.


FOR YOUR SAFETY: Understand and follow all safety instructions provided by the manufacturer. Never connect any generator to another power source, including PG&E power lines.


power line

Portable generator safety


  • Be sure that the power needs of the device (electric load) is supported by your generator and does not exceed the manufacturer’s specifications.
  • Position your generator where its exhaust can vent safely to prevent carbon monoxide poisoning and death.
  • Only use extension cords that are properly sized for an individual generator’s electric to prevent overheating. The American Wire Gauge (AWG) chart can be utilized to determine which extension cord is right for you. AWG measures extension cord thickness; keep in mind that the thicker the cord, the smaller the AWG rating will be.
  • Keep cords out of high-traffic areas so they don’t present a tripping hazard.
  • Never run cords under rugs or carpets where heat can be generated or where damage to a cord may go unnoticed.

Permanent-standby generator safety


  • Installation requires a licensed electric contractor or other qualified professional.
  • Ensure electricity from your generator does not flow or "backfeed" into PG&E's power lines. The most common way to prevent backfeeding is to install a "double-pole, double-throw transfer switch" along with your permanent standby generator.
  • Any additions or adjustments to your house wiring should be inspected by your city or county building department.
  • Once installation is complete, call PG&E at 1-800-743-5000 to let us know about your backup system. PG&E line workers will then be aware of your generator when working on an outage in your area.

PG&E does not make any endorsements or recommendations. Below is a representative list of suppliers and contractors that may be able to help you. This list is not inclusive. Contact retailers directly for additional information, including FAQs, pricing, and financing.


Alternatives to generators


In contrast to generators, with portable power stations and battery technology you can charge anything from phones to refrigerators and everything in between. These solutions work indoors and out, without the noise, fumes, or maintenance of a traditional gasoline-powered generator.


For more information on portable power stations and battery technology visit PG&E's Marketplace.


Financing options for backup generators


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Find out about our financial incentives


PG&E provides financial incentives for business and residential customers installing new, qualifying equipment for generating and storing energy.



Learn about the Self-Generation Incentive Program