Backup Generators

Operation and safety

If a family member depends on medical life-support equipment, a back-up generator is important to consider in case of an extended power outage.

A generator can also save perishable food during a prolonged outage, let you keep your home office running, or power other essential equipment.


A portable generator is the most common choice for home use. The power can have lower voltage and frequency regulation than utility power. Plug appliances directly into them. For your safety and to protect line crews, never connect portable generators to your home’s wiring.

A stationary generator is connected to your home wiring and should only be installed by an electrical contractor.

This option is the best choice for people who need to keep medical equipment powered at all times.

You will also need to install a device that keeps your generator from back feeding into PGE’s system. See the “Generator Safety” tab for more information.

Emergency fuel supply

Have enough generator fuel to last through an extended outage or natural disaster: Emergency preparedness experts suggest supplies for at least 3 to 10 days.


Contact the PGE Power Quality Hotline at 503-736-5750 or 800-270-7016 or send us a message.

Generator Safety

A home generator can be a convenient back-up solution during a power outage, if you use it safely. Before turning on a generator always follow manufacturer instructions!

  • Always operate your portable generator outside. Place it in a well-ventilated area way from doors, windows and your garage. Otherwise, deadly odorless carbon monoxide can be drawn into your house and poison your family.
  • Don’t get shocked! Use only an outdoor-rated, grounded extension cord — one with a GFCI (ground-fault circuit interrupter) is best.
  • Never “back feed.” Don’t try ­­to power the house by using a doctored extension cord to plug a generator into a household outlet. This is extremely dangerous! It can not only ruin your home’s wiring and start a fire, it can also accidentally energize a power line our crew thinks is safe to work on. An unsuspecting PGE lineman could be seriously injured or killed. Only connect individual appliances to the receptacle outlet of the generator.
  • Install a transfer switch. Prevent portable generator back-feed problems by having a transfer switch installed in your home. It permits the home’s wiring to be disconnected from PGE’s system, and allows you to control the flow of electricity to those circuits you need most (like your heater or refrigerator). Transfer switches must be installed by a licensed electrician.
  • Gas-powered generators can get very hot during operation. Use extreme caution to avoid burns and let the engine cool before you refuel.
  • Keep children and pets away from generators at all times.
  • Turn off all equipment powered by the generator before shutting down the generator.
  • Don’t overload your generator. Follow wattage guidelines in your owner’s manual.

Special considerations for permanent backup generators

Permanently installed backup generators must meet electric codes and have a transfer switch to prevent dangerous back feed of electricity into power lines. Contact a licensed electrician. Also, please notify PGE if you have a permanent generator.

If you will use your generator to operate an appliance with a large motor, you may need to install a power conditioning device such as an uninterruptible power supply at sensitive appliances. Check the manufacturer’s specifications for details.


Q. How large a generator should I invest in?

That depends on how much equipment you need to operate during a power outage. For assistance in sizing a generator, contact the PGE Power Quality Hotline at 503-736-5750 or 800-270-7016 or send us a message.

Q. What should I do about my life-safety equipment that needs constant power?

A stationary, or permanently installed generator, is your best choice. After an outage, it can restore power in seconds and support all loads as long as needed.

Q. Will all of my equipment run properly when powered from a generator?

Newer generators feature electronic governors, which can regulate voltage to plus or minus 6 percent of nominal or better. Most equipment should work with this type of voltage regulation.

Q. How can I use my home generator to power lights in my home or my electric water heater?

To power circuits in your home safely, you need the right switch. You can choose an electrician-installed transfer switch, which will cost $500 to $800. Never plug your generator directly into an outlet in your home. You can ruin your home’s wiring and cause a fire, or power may back feed into PGE’s lines, putting our repair crews at risk.

For more information, call the PGE Power Quality Hotline at 503-736-5750 or 800-270-7016 or send us a message.