The mission of Columbia Water & Light is to provide you with electricity when and where you need it. Sometimes, however, there are circumstances beyond our control that interrupt your electric supply — natural disasters such as tornadoes or ice storms, for example. Most of these interruptions are of short duration. If you have electrical equipment in your home you feel you cannot be without and you're considering purchasing a generator, take a few moments to think about safety.
Before Purchasing A Generator
- Inventory the appliances that you want the generator to power.
- Determine the total wattage it will take to power these selected appliances.
- Choose a generator that outputs more than your total wattage requirement.
- Find a safe place outdoors to run the generator that will provide proper ventilation.
- Consider how you will safely store the fuel for the generator.
How To Power Appliances From A Generator
Distributing electricity safely is a complicated process. Utility companies have a detailed process for delivering electricity so it does not surge or back feed into the system. Without proper transfer switches, equipment can be damaged and people can be injured. After purchasing a generator, you will need to determine how the electricity will be distributed to the electrical equipment in your home.
- Plug the appliances directly into the generator. The most straight forward approach to using a generator is to unplug the appliance and then plug it into a power cord that runs to the generator outside. This method makes it easier to control overloading the generator and is the method most suggested by Columbia Water and Light.
- Hook the generator into the electric panel. Hooking a generator into your home's wiring system is not a do-it-yourself project! It requires a certified electrician and a transfer switch. Your electrician will need to apply for a permit from the City of Columbia's Building and Site Development office in the Public Works Department. The electrician will need to install the manual transfer switch between the house breaker and the electric supply. This will require coordination with Water and Light to get your electric service disconnected while the transfer switch is being installed.
WARNING! If you try to hook the generator into your house's wiring system without disconnecting from the utility's supply, there could be disastrous results. You could permanently damage your generator and the electrical appliances in your house. The generator could also back feed electricity into the utility's system. This could mean injury or death for the utility worker repairing service on a line he didn't know was energized.
Generator Safety Tips
- Follow all manufacturer's instructions for operating your generator safely.
- Hooking a generator into your electric panel can be dangerous.
- Consult a certified electrician.
- Install a transfer switch.
- Always disconnect from the utility before starting a generator hooked into your electric panel.
- Check and follow all national, state, county and city fire and electric codes.
- Do not remove any safety devices on the generator.
- Never run a generator inside a building.
- Insure that there is proper ventilation for the generator.
- Store fuel in approved containers and place out of the reach of children.
- Replace any power cord that is frayed or has exposed wires.
- Store a fire extinguisher near the generator.