Electrical Safety and Generators

If it is necessary to use a generator during an outage, manufacturer recommendations and specifications must be strictly followed. If there are any questions regarding the operation or installation of the generator, a qualified electrician should be immediately contacted to assist in installation and start-up activities. The generator should always be positioned outside a structure in a well-ventilated area.

Please, follow these tips if you are connecting a portable generator directly into your household wiring:

  • If the generator is plugged into a household circuit the main breaker should be turned to the 'OFF' position prior to starting the generator to prevent back feed. If this is not done the back feed could energize power lines and become a major safety hazard for your neighbors or line crews working to restore power.
  • Please, notify Northern Electric Cooperative by calling 1-800-529-0310 so the co-op is aware a generator is powering your service location during an outage. The co-op can notify you when power is restored.
  • Follow all manufacturer's recommendations on the generator.
  • Generators should only be used outside in well-ventilated areas to avoid the risk of carbon monoxide poisoning.

Effects of Back Feed

Back feed is a potential risk to line workers. Electrocutions are the fifth leading cause of all reported occupational deaths. The following safety guidelines can reduce this risk.

When using gasoline- and diesel-powered portable generators to supply power to a building or electric service, switch the main breaker or fuse on the service panel to the "OFF" position prior to starting the generator. This will prevent power lines from being inadvertently energized by back feed from the generator, and help protect utility line workers, repair workers, or people in neighboring buildings from possible electrocution.

If the generator is plugged into a household circuit without turning the main breaker to the “off” position or removing the main fuse, the electrical current could reverse, go back through the circuit to the outside power grid, and energize power lines or electrical systems in other buildings at or near their original voltage without the knowledge of utility or other workers.

Other Generator Hazards

Generator use is also a major cause of carbon monoxide (CO) poisoning. Generators should only be used outside in well-ventilated areas. Generators should be used at least 20 feet away from your home.