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Established June 2, 1997
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March 16, 1998
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August 13, 1997
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Emergency Electrical Generation
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The diagrams below are very generic. Each home is laid out differently, but the basic principles are the same.
Figure 1 shows the "before" setup. PECO delivers 240 volt power to the outside of your home, typically to the meter that measures your consumption. A wire runs from the meter to your circuit breaker cabinet by way of your main switch. The individual 120 volt circuits run from the cabinet to various parts of your home.
Figure 2 shows the generator and new items installed by your electrician. For a larger image, click here and then use your "Back" button to return to this page.
You must have an electrician do your installation. The electrician will know what size power cord to use (it's comparable to the one running to your home from the street) as well as the switch device which must satisfy the electric code requirements. I'm sure many electricians will provide everything, including helping you size and purchase a generator. One thing to be careful of is to purchase the generator before purchasing the plug for the end of the cord. It seems there are many 240 volt twist-lock plugs sizes and configurations, and you need to know what your particular generator requires before purchasing it.
We have one of the larger Honda generators. Ours generates 6500 watts peak and 5500 watts rated output. In our case, with oil-fired hot water heat, this is more than sufficient keep us warm and with hot water available plus plenty left over for appliances, computers, lights, tv, etc. Generators can be purchased from Sears, Home Depot and similar stores as well as from lawn supply dealers such as Honda. It's pretty easy to estimate the minimum capacity generator you will be satisfied with by adding up the watts consumed by the devices you want to run simultaneously. Your electrician can help with this as well. We know of a home with a 3500 watt generator where the owners simply have to be more careful what they allow to run simultaneously.
Locating the Generator
Where you locate the generator while it is running is determined by the most convenient place to run the cord (red) that connects the generator to the switch near your circuit breaker cabinet. The generator (most are on wheels) must also be located where the engine exhausts outdoors. We have ours in our garage. We wheel it over to the garage door which we raise about 3' and orient it so it exhausts outside. Our cord to the switch in our basement comes into our garage and we have about 8' extra which we keep coiled up when not in use. The generator could easily be used on a porch or patio or simply in the yard. We prefer to keep ours under cover in bad weather. In fact, it is best to store the generator in an attached garage or walk-out basement, if you have one, as this will keep it warmer in extreme cold weather when you most want it to be able to start.
The Switch (Yellow)
I was amazed by the size of the switch that switches back and forth between PECO and the generator. Building codes determine its size, and ours looks big enough to switch the power for all of Malvern.
The Outlet (Yellow)
One problem with having your home running on the generator is you don't know when the power has been restored by PECO. We solved this problem by providing a standard electric outlet on the PECO side of the circuit breakers. It is a standard 120 volt outlet that is wired across half of the 240 volt incoming circuit. This outlet only has power when the PECO line has power. When we throw the switch to the generator, we plug a cheap a/c powered radio into this outlet, turned up to maximum volume. When we hear the radio come on, which we can hear from most rooms in our house, we know the power has been restored. When we throw the switch back to PECO, we also unplug the radio.
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