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Electric Generator Safety

A backup electric generator can be an valuable thing to have when the power goes out. Find out whether you need one for your home, how to shop for the right generator and use it properly to avoid risking you  and your family’s safety.

Generator Safety

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Generator Basics

Backup electric generators aren’t connected to SDG&E’s power grid. This means that, in the event of an outage, a backup generator can turn the lights back on, keep appliances running, and power essential equipment and electronic devices.

The two main types of residential generators are portable and permanent standby.

Portable generators are designed to provide temporary power for basic needs. They can range in price from a few hundred dollars to more than $1,000. It is extremely important to determine what size generator you will need and how to operate it safely before running it for the first time.


Permanent standby generators are bigger and better equipped to power larger structures, such as an entire home, if sized properly. When a power outage occurs, they turn on automatically and turn off when power is restored. These generators require professional installation from a licensed electrician.

Download Electric Generator Fact Sheet


Power outages can happen at any time, sometimes lasting for a few hours or days at a time. A backup generator is your own personal electrical power source.

Backup generators aren’t for everyone. They can be loud when running, costly, require regular maintenance, and can result in safety hazards if used improperly. Keep this in mind alongside your electric needs.

If you meet the criteria outlined below, consider getting a backup generator for your home. Don’t wait for an emergency to occur to determine whether you’re reliant on a steady stream of power.

  • Medical Needs

Are you dependent on electricity for a medical device, such as assistive technology, breathing machines, a power wheelchair or scooter, home oxygen or dialysis? Do your medicines have to be refrigerated?

  • Safety

Planned and unplanned power outages happen often. Do you live in an area with frequent or lengthy power outages? What about a high-risk climate area? Some communities are more vulnerable to weather-related outages

  • Comfort

The decision to purchase a generator is entirely personal in some cases. Are your children afraid of the dark? You may decide you don’t want to be inconvenienced by a power outage and keep the essentials on to provide household comfort.

  • Energy Needs

How many appliances will you want to run in a power outage? What kind of appliances are they? Small or large? Are there any older people in your home who use a stairlift? You’ll figure how much power you need by adding the amount of wattage on each item that you need powered.

  • Fuel Source

You can choose battery, natural gas, gasoline, propane, diesel fuel, and solar with back-up storage.

  • Installation

Consider whether you need a portable generator or a standby generator. Does your backup generator need to be easily moved around? A portable generator may be for you. On the other hand, when the lights go dark, a standby generator will start up in a matter of seconds. A standby generator needs to be installed by a certified, licensed electrician.

  • Work with a licensed electrician. Professionals will make sure local, state, and national regulations are adhered to when installing the generator and that the generator works properly so it can deliver power when required.
  • Store your generator outside in a dry location.
  • Avoid running your generator in the rain. Make sure it’s covered properly and well ventilated.
  • Never plug your generator into any electric outlet in your home or business. This is known as back-feeding and it can be extremely dangerous for you, your neighbors, and utility workers that may be working on power lines.
  • Read all manufacturer instructions. Make sure you understand them and follow all instructions on properly “grounding” your portable generator.
  • Turn off a gas-powered generator for at least five minutes before refueling to allow it to cool and avoid risk of fire.
  • Keep extension cords out of the way so they don’t present a tripping hazard.
  • If you’re using a gas-powered generator, stock up on extra gasoline and store it in a cool, well-ventilated location – preferably outside your home or business and away from sources of heat.
  • Always run your generator at least 20 feet from your home or business and make sure the exhaust is being directed away from your location.   

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Public Safety Power Shutoffs

As a last resort, we might need to shut off your electricity for public safety.


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Power Outage Safety

Learn more about when we turn off power to protect public safety and the steps we take to restore power afterwards.


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