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Generator Installation: Key Dos and Don’ts for Safe and Effective Setup

Generator installations should preferably only be undertaken by generator specialists who employ electricians and engineers with the necessary qualifications and experience. Most commercial and industrial users of generators will use qualified professionals to install the units they purchase, unless they have in-house qualified electricians capable of installing large gensets. Considering the persistent challenges posed by load-shedding in the country, residential generators have become a ubiquitous fixture in the homes of many South Africans. However, the inherent drawbacks of these devices, including noise and potential safety hazards, necessitate careful consideration during installation and operation.

It is in the residential market that end users try and do their own installs, and this is consequently where problems arise. There are several important dos and don’ts to consider to ensure a safe and effective generator installation. It is a legal requirement in South Africa that any changes to your home’s electrical system be conducted by, or under the direct supervision of, a qualified electrician. They are up to date with the relevant codes and standards and will deliver a generator installation that’s safe and compliant. They will also be able to provide a certificate of compliance for the work done.

The following is intended to provide the homeowner with an overview of what should happen when they arrange for a generator installation to be done. It is not a guide for DIY installation (which is illegal).

Compliant Generator Installations – the Dos

Most importantly, generator installations should only be undertaken by certified electricians who understand local electrical codes and safety standards.

They will choose an appropriate location for the generator that is well-ventilated, is easily accessible for maintenance, and complies with any zoning or safety requirements. Factors such as engine noise levels, exhaust emissions, and proximity to other buildings or facilities will be considered. There are specific rules where the generator is to be situated near educational or medical facilities, for instance. For housing complexes, the body corporate should be approached, prior to generator acquisition or installation, to check whether the complex rules allow generator installations and whether there are additional rules specific to the complex.

Qualified and experienced professionals should be able to provide several contactable references that can be asked about their experience with the installer.

Purchase the generator from someone who can size the generator appropriately for the intended load. A generator that is too small may not provide sufficient power, while one that is too large may be inefficient, be unnecessarily costly, and get damaged by working under too little load.

Professional installers will ensure that there is proper ventilation to prevent the generator from overheating. Generators produce heat, and adequate airflow is essential for their efficient operation and longevity.

Any additional fuel for the generator should be safely stored to prevent any fires from occurring. A regime for regularly running the generator must be part of the installation handover to prevent fuel stagnation and ensure the generator starts reliability during power outages.

Good installers will require that a routine maintenance schedule, for the intervals specified by the generator manufacturer, be set up and adhered to. Regular maintenance helps identify and address potential issues before they become major, expensive problems.

Proper generator installations should include safety features, such as automatic shutdown systems in case of faults, proper grounding, safety signage, and a change-over or transfer switch to safely connect the generator to the electrical system. This may be a solely manual or an automated switching process. Consider installing smoke and carbon monoxide detectors in the house where the generator is in proximity to the house.

Generator Installations – the Don’ts

Don’t attempt to install a generator without the necessary expertise and don’t employ anyone else who also lacks the correct qualifications and experience. Bad, non-compliant generator installations are unsafe and can be lethal. They can lead to equipment damage, fires, electrocution, and legal liability. All the above negative consequences will, likely, not be covered by insurance. Consumers bear the responsibility of ensuring compliance with installation requirements as mandated by law, along with other pertinent regulations, such as health and safety standards.

It is obvious, to most, that a generator that’s too small for the intended load will be a problem but what many people are unaware of is that a generator installation where the unit is far too large for the load can be equally bad. Proper sizing is crucial for efficient and cost-effective operation.

Don’t neglect routine maintenance. Regular checks and servicing are essential for the longevity and reliability of the generator.

Don’t disable or bypass any of the required safety features. These features are designed to protect the generator, the electrical system, and individuals from potential hazards. Refrain from fuelling the generator while operational or hot to prevent fire or explosions and do not operate the generator with wet hands.

Generator Installation Procedures

For residential generator installations, one can distinguish between backup generators and standby generators. Backup generators operate independently and are not integrated into the home electrical system. They require manual initiation and connection to specific appliances or tools during power interruptions. Backup generators on construction sites are an example. Under no circumstances should you plug the output of a backup generator into one of the plugs in your home using a lead with a three prong plug on either end. This practice is illegal and extremely dangerous and may cause electric shock or even death.

Standby generators are directly linked to the main distribution board (DB) and may be manually or automatically activated by means of an automatic changeover switch during power disruptions. The installation of standby generators necessitates the expertise of a qualified electrician and must culminate with the issuance of a Certificate of Electrical Compliance (COC).

Both backup and standby generators must conform to the South African National Standard (SANS 10142-1:2003). Generators must also comply with the ISO SANS 8528 series of standards.

Specific regulations, such as those in force in the City of Cape Town, may enforce noise limitations on the degree to which the generator noise may exceed residual levels. Adhere to neighbourhood regulations regarding generator usage, as noise complaints may be lodged if generator activity disrupts quiet periods.

Generator Installation is Not a DIY Proposition

Regardless of the application, it is always best to engage with specialists for generators. Choose a generator company who really knows and understands generators. We at PacB are known in the South African generator industry as a manufacturer of superior-quality diesel generators. Talk to us for the best outcome with regards to the cost, reliability, and durability of your generator solution.

Even residential-size generators are subject to specific regulations. Safety concerns alone make their installation a task best performed by specialists. At PacB, we provide a one-stop experience, including design and implementation of the complete system. Avoid the temptation of buying a cheap unit from a mass retailer whose staff have little to no knowledge and where you need to find a competent installer yourself.

Leave the technical questions to the experts. We also provide rental gensets for those who don’t want to purchase a generator outright now. Contact us today for class-leading products and service.

Our qualified technicians offer support and advice in the selection of the right power solution for your needs by calculating your power requirements.

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