Portable generator image

When there is an outage, a generator appropriate for your home or business provides back up power to help keep you up and running. However, generators can be very dangerous when not used properly.

Pay attention to these guidelines if you are considering using a generator for backup power.

Purchasing a Generator

There are many choices for generators - a wide variety of sizes and quality are available today. That's why it pays to do some research.

  • Size: Consider the size you will need based on what you need to power during an outage. For example, if you want to power two 60-watt lights and a 750-watt refrigerator, you will want to select a 1000-watt generator.
  • Type: Determine if you need a portable generator or a home standby generator, and consider the fuel capacity of the generator if you want to keep a refrigerator running during the day while you're away from home.
  • Budget: Think about how much you want to pay - your budget will help you determine what size and type you can afford.

Safe Ways to Connect a Generator

Connecting a Portable Generator

The safest way to use a portable generator is to connect it directly to the load being served (e.g. your refrigerator or furnace or whatever appliance you want to power). You would do this using an extension cord from the generator to the appliance or fixture.

Connecting a Standby Generator

A transfer switch is another way to connect a standby generator to your home's circuit box. Transfer switches must be installed by a licensed electrician and approved by City Light to ensure safety.

Dangerous Ways to Connect a Generator

Never connect a generator directly to household wiring without a transfer switch. Doing so would create a backfeed (electrical energy from the house to the utility wires), creating a severe risk for electrical crews working on the wires. The generator could also explode and catch fire, putting your home/business and others in danger.

Opening the main breaker to isolate household wiring from the utility's wires is illegal and unsafe. The household breaker does not provide a sufficient gap to ensure isolation of the energy. The breaker may have also been damaged as a result of the outage, which could cause a fire or electrocution.

Safe Ventilation for Your Generator

A portable generator uses an internal combustion engine which emits carbon monoxide, so it must be well ventilated. Place your portable generator in a place that keeps exhaust fumes from entering your home - preferably outdoors or in a garage safely separated from the house by a door.

City Light

Dawn Lindell, General Manager and CEO
Address: 700 5th Ave, Seattle, WA, 98104
Mailing Address: PO Box 34023, Seattle, WA, 98124-4023
Phone: (206) 684-3000

Seattle City Light was created by the citizens of Seattle in 1902 to provide affordable, reliable, and environmentally responsible electric power to the City of Seattle and neighboring suburbs.