Oregon Trail Electric Cooperatives works hard to ensure that electrical outages are rare and short-lived. Nevertheless, there are times when, because of circumstances beyond our control, the flow of electricity to your home can be interrupted.
During extended outage you may wish to use a generator to provide power to run essential household appliances.
Know Your Generator!
If you use a portable generator, please do so with caution! Generators pose serious safety hazards when improperly used or installed. Remember to follow all manufacturer's instructions.
If it's an electric generator, never plug it into an outlet and don't connect a generator directly to your home's main fuse box or circuit panel. Use properly sized and grounded extension cords and plug strips. Place cords where they don't present a tripping hazard.
If it's gas-powered, never refuel the unit while its operating. Avoid spilling gas or other fuels on hot components.
Always isolate the generator from the utility supply system by plugging appliances directly into the generator itself. Don't try to wire your home's electrical system into the generator. The generator could feed power back into utility lines as power crews work to restore your electrical service, putting those workers' lives at risk!
If you absolutely must provide temporary power to your home's wiring system, the generator must be connected through an approved transfer switch that will isolate your house from OTEC's system. The switch must comply with the National Electric Code and local building codes. These include permits, inspections and installation by a certified electrician.
Always properly ventilate a portable generator. Gas-powered generators can produce carbon monoxide and the fumes can be deadly. Use them outdoors in open areas protected from weather and away from windows, doors and vents.
Make sure the total electric load won't exceed the generator's rating.
There are basically two ways to safely use a generator at home
1. Use a generator rated for 120-volts alternating current (VAC) systems and simply run extension cords from it to each individual appliance you want to power up, such as a freezer, refrigerator, lamp, etc. This method is inexpensive, simple and provides important electrical separation from OTEC's electrical system. But it can be messy if you end up with extension cords everywhere. Place the generator in a safe, dry and outdoor location. This method won't allow for power to well pump because of connection issues and the need for 230 VAC in most cases.
2. If you must absolutely connect a generator to your home's electrical system, use a generator for 240-VAC systems and connect it permanently to your home's electrical system using a transfer switch to ensure electrical separation from OTEC's system. This switch must be installed on the home side of your main disconnect. This transfer switch is a double pole-double throw enclosed switch and allows connection to your entire home from your generator. These switches come in 100 or 200 amp ratings, depending on the rating of the existing power service to your home.
The transfer switch is very important! If your generator is running and its output is not completely separated from OTEC's system, your generator will feed power back into OTEC's line through the transformer that provides you power. The transformer will step up the current to the normal line voltage. An unsuspecting line worker, working on what they think is a deactivated line, could be killed.
If you do not have this line transfer switch and your generator - running or not - is still connected to OTEC's system when the line is energized, your generator will be destroyed instantly.
This line transfer switch should only be installed by a certified electrician!
If you need more information about using electrical generators in your home, please contact OTEC at 541-523-3616 and ask to speak to a power quality engineer.
Please watch this video from our friends at Northern Lights Electric Cooperative in Idaho about just how important generator safety is to our cooperative and our communities. We need your help to ensure these kind of accidents don't happen!
Watch this video for even more generator safety tips!