The power is out, what should we do?
You’ve had your electrical panel made ready for a portable back up generator. Your generator is gassed up and ready. A storm hits and the power goes out. Now what? You can be back up and running by following these few easy steps. This can only by done if your home’s electrical panel has a generator interlock kit installed or a separate generator transfer panel. Failure to have the proper connections installed in your home can be very dangerous. Electricity can be fed back onto the utilities power grid possibly harming those working to restore the power. Lets walk through this process!
- First you will want to go to your electrical panel and turn off all of the circuit breakers including the main circuit breaker.
- Next you want to make sure your generator is gassed up, oil checked and it is in a well ventilated outdoor area. Once here, lets connect the cord to the generator outlet as well as the inlet plug located on your home.
- Start up the generator. Let it run for a few minutes to get warmed up, then check to make sure the switch to turn the power on to the outlets of your generator is on. (If it is equipped with this)
- Back inside at the electrical panel, double check to make sure the main circuit breaker is in the off position. At this time, move the interlock kit over and turn on the generator breaker.
- Looking at the branch circuit breakers of your electrical panel, turn on the essential circuits that you would want to use during this outage. As things turn on, you will hear the sound of the generator change sounding like it is working harder to carry the load. If the load becomes too great for the generator to handle, the circuit breaker on the generator will trip. If this happens, turn off some of the non-essential circuits of your panel to reduce the load placed on the generator.
- Your generator and your home should be able to operate for hours or even days in this configuration provided you fuel up the generator every few hours as needed following the instructions provided with your portable generator.
Operating your home on a portable generator is as simple as that!
Once the utility has power restored to your home, what do you do? Here are the steps to disconnect your electrical system from the generator and switch back to utility power.
- Turn off all of the branch circuit breakers, taking the load off of your system. You will never want to switch the generator or main circuit breakers on or off with a load on them.
- Once the load has been removed from the electrical panel, turn the generator breaker off. This will allow you to move the generator interlock over and allow the main circuit breaker to be turned on. This breaker can be very stiff on some panel, so two hands may be needed to switch this on. Never force the breaker on or use tools to switch it, damage the the panel or harm to the operator can occur.
- Once the main circuit breaker has been moved to the on position, turn on all of the branch circuit breakers. You will want to do this one at a time, until full power has been restored to your home.
- Going out to the generator, turn the generator off. At this point you can disconnect the cord and put things away so they are ready for the next outage.
Do I need GFCI outlets in my house?
The short answer is yes! Ground fault circuit interrupter devices are required to by code to be installed to protect outlets in kitchens, bathrooms, laundry rooms, garages, basements, and exterior locations. Basically anywhere there is a chance that an electrical device could come in contact with water you would want those outlets to be protected with ground fault protection. Water and electricity don’t mix!
What does a GFCI outlet do?
Good question! Ground fault circuit interrupter receptacle monitors the flow of current to your device and back to the electrical panel. When it detects this flow becoming out of balance it shuts the electricity off. This is to protect this current from going to ground elsewhere other than back to the panel. It could mean that the current if flowing through someone’s body and going to ground through them. The GFCI protects us from hazardous shock that could result in serious injury or death. How much electrical current does it take to kill us? Studies have shown that as little as 10 milliamps can stop a human heart. A GFCI is set to trip at 5 milliamps to keep this from happening.
How do I know if I have GFCI protection?
GFCI protection can be tested using a receptacle tester with ground fault circuit interrupter testing capabilities. A tester can be found in most hardware stores and are used by plugging them into an outlet and pushing the button. If the power shuts off you have successfully tripped the GFCI and that outlet is indeed GFCI protected. Find the receptacle with two buttons on the front of it and one should say test and the other reset. Push the reset button in until it clicks and the power should be back on again. The test button is used to ensure the receptacle is still working properly and should be pressed on a monthly basis to test the outlet. If it fails the outlet needs to be replaced.
I have a GFCI outlet in one bathroom but not the others, why?
One GFCI outlet can protect other outlets given that they are wired correctly connecting them to a single ground fault circuit interrupter device. A common example is a GFCI outlet in the bathroom closest to the electrical panel that is wired to serve the receptacle in another bathroom within the home. It is also common for a garage outlet to protect an outside receptacle. Not every outlet in an area has to be a GFCI receptacle but it needs to be protected by a ground fault circuit interrupter outlet or circuit breaker.
How much does it cost to have GFCI receptacles installed?
Our current cost to install GFCI protection on an existing circuit would run between $200-$300 per device. HB Electric Solutions would be glad to help any homeowner out with upgrading the safety of their home. Feel free to reach out via email or phone anytime!