Home Generator Safety Checklist

Home Generator Safety Tips - Cummins

Follow these home generator safety tips when preparing your home and family for long-term power outages.

With a little more than one month left on the already tumultuous Atlantic hurricane season, not to mention the likelihood of severe winter storms on the horizon, now is the time for power outage preparation

Preparing for long term outages is important, and if you have already taken the step to ensure continuous emergency power by purchasing a generator, consider the steps you need to take to safely operate a backup home generator. 

The biggest risk of home generators is carbon monoxide (CO) gas. It is called “the silent killer” because it is odorless and colorless, meaning that most people inhaling it don’t even realize until it is too late. Symptoms of CO poisoning can look a lot like the flu, and in severe cases, it can cause permanent brain damage or death. CO can be especially dangerous for people who are sleeping or intoxicated.

Here are a few tips for keeping your family safe while operating a generator during your next power outage.

Portable Gas or Diesel Generators Safety Tips:

  1. Always follow manufacturer instructions when setting up a generator.
  2. Never use a generator inside your home or garage. They should be used outdoors in well-ventilated areas that are at least 20 feet away from any homes or dwellings.
  3. Look for any places air can enter the home near your unit and ensure that those are properly closed and sealed off. This includes windows or doors, air intakes, nearby dryer vents or crawl spaces.
  4. Reliable, approved, and operable battery powered CO detector alarms should be installed in proper locations on each floor in the home as specified by the manufacturer. 
  5. Give the generator a break that allows for any concentrated exhaust to clear away from the area. Open your windows and doors during this break to air out any concentration that may have collected in your home.
  6. Ensure that your generator is being appropriately maintained, including regular oil changes. 

Permanently Installed Gas or Diesel Generators Safety Tips:

  1. Install the generator outdoors only.  Work with a professional installer (link to https://cummins.tech/tj1e6z) to locate the generator away from windows, doors, and other openings to the house where exhaust gases will disperse away from the house or occupied areas.
  2. Install all parts of the generator enclosure at least 60 inches from any openings in walls of structures that may be occupied.  Examples of wall openings include, but are not limited to, operable windows, doors, dryer vents, fresh air intakes for heaters, etc.
  3. Look for any places air can enter the home near your unit and ensure that those are properly closed and sealed off. This includes, but not limited to, windows or doors, air intakes, nearby dryer vents or crawl spaces. Your generator must be located such that exhaust gases are not able to accumulate in an occupied area.
  4. Ensure that generators are used, maintained, and operated in accordance with manufacturer recommendations. If there is a concern that the installation standards have not been met, get an appropriate party, like the installer, out to inspect it.
  5. Give the generator a break that allows for any concentrated exhaust to clear away from the area. Open your windows and doors during this break to air out any concentration that may have collected in your home.
  6. Check the exhaust system for corrosion, obstruction, and leaks every time you start the generator and every eight hours when run continuously.
  7. Ensure that your generator is being appropriately maintained, including regular oil changes.
  8. Reliable, approved, and operable battery powered CO detector alarms should be installed in proper locations on each floor in the home as specified by the manufacturer.

Cummins home generators are extremely quiet, aesthetically pleasing and remotely accessible. If you have not yet taken the step to purchase a backup generator, consider scheduling a painless home assessment with your nearest Cummins dealer. In just a few minutes you can know exactly how little the ultimate peace of mind can cost.
 

Catherine Morgenstern - Cummins Inc.

Catherine Morgenstern

Catherine Morgenstern is a Brand Journalist for Cummins, covering topics such as alternative propulsion, digitalization, manufacturing innovation, autonomy, sustainability, and workplace trends. She has more than 20 years of experience in corporate communications, holding leadership positions most recently within the Industrial Capital Goods sector.

Catherine began her career as a marketing writer for a biotechnology company, where she learned to take complicated and highly technical information and make it accessible to everyone. She believes the concept of “storytelling” is more than a trendy buzzword and loves to find ways for her readers to make personal connections to her subjects. Catherine has a passion for technology and innovation and how its intersection can make an impact in all our lives.

Catherine recently moved back to her hometown in the Hudson Valley, New York after a several decades in Los Angeles and Chicago. She is a graduate of UCLA and enjoys gardening and spending time with her husband and three children.

Components of Microgrids

Microgrids are technology marvels. Check out the different components that come together under a microgrid.

Utility grids and microgrids have a lot in common. Both serve the same function—to provide electrical power to consumers. Both are subject to the same constraints—ensuring that electrical generation and electric load are equal at all times. Their components, however, are different. 

Microgrids are at a much smaller scale than utility grids and as a result include components that are accordingly scaled down. 

Here are the main components of a microgrid:

Electricity generation resources within microgrids

The beating heart of a microgrid consists of a set of electricity generation resources. Typical generation resources found in microgrids include diesel and/or natural gas generators, solar arrays and wind turbines.

The most basic microgrids are usually built around one or more diesel generators. When natural gas is available, gas generators are also among the options available. Older island microgrids, for example, are based on a small power plant consisting of a few diesel engines coupled to alternators. Generators are the default choice to power a microgrid because they can cover a wide range of loads and because they can be used as backup power. They start quickly, are responsive to changes in load, and can operate on a variety of fuels. 

Fuel cell technology is emerging as a valid option to provide on-demand power on microgrids. Fuel cells can run on natural gas, hydrogen and other less common fuels. Although their cost remains too high to be widely used, hydrogen fuel cells are seen as a potential source of small-scale CO2-free electricity.

Typical components of an island microgrid
Click the image to take a closer look at microgrid components

Intermittent energy resources within microgrids

The cost of solar panels has become so low that, in some regions, their installation on homes and businesses is a no-brainer. University campuses, industrial facilities and others equipped with a microgrid can install solar arrays in large numbers, thus achieving significant savings on their energy bills. In fact, many build a microgrid specifically to be able to better integrate and take advantage of their solar resources. 

Energy storage within microgrids

Many homeowners sometimes choose to supplement their home photovoltaic installation with a battery pack. Likewise, many microgrid owners incorporate battery energy storage in their system. With the price of lithium-ion batteries at an all-time low, the benefits of adding an energy storage resource often justify the additional cost. 

For one, battery energy storage systems provide a service known as “time-shifting”. Time-shifting batteries collect extra electricity from an oversized solar system during the day, and then discharge the battery after the sun has set to meet overnight load demands. Similarly, batteries can be discharged at times when the solar array output does not match the load requirements such as short periods of peak demand. This allows the owner to maximize the use of intermittent resources.

Another benefit of battery systems is their ability to instantly respond to changes in electricity demand on the microgrid. Having a battery serve as standby capacity is often much more cost-effective than idling an extra generator 24/7 in case demand increases unexpectedly. Think of energy storage as the fat on the microgrid where energy is stored.

Load management within microgrids

Some microgrid owners have the option to actively manage electricity demand in the same way that they manage electricity generation. 

By default, when a large electric machine starts up somewhere on the microgrid, the generators supplying the microgrid need to quickly ramp up to meet the additional demand. Microgrids that actively manage demand have another option. They can decrease demand somewhere else on the microgrid, for example by switching off a building’s AC temporarily. The result is that demand and generation are again balanced out without increasing generation.

Control and communications within microgrids

Microgrids need a brain and a nervous system to operate safely and effectively, thus needing to possess sophisticated microgrid control systems

Wide-area utility grids serve millions of consumers and have a considerable amount of inertia, limiting the potential for fast, uncontrolled changes. Microgrids, in contrast, include fewer loads and resources and are more sensitive to variations in load and generation. Starting up several large electrical machines without the assurance that an equivalent amount of generation is available is a sure way to crash the microgrid. 

A microgrid’s control system typically includes multiple controllers and sensors distributed over its territory. A Supervisory Control and Data Acquisition (SCADA) system is also required to collect data and distribute instructions. 

If the SCADA system is the nervous system of the microgrid, then the energy management software is the brain; that software can be highly sophisticated. Artificial Intelligence (AI) and machine-learning features allow modern energy management software to learn to better anticipate load from the consumers on the microgrid and generation from renewable assets, to optimize the system to run in the most cost-effective way. Maximizing the use of renewable resources, minimizing fossil fuel costs and maintaining the reliability of the equipment and the microgrid, all while dispatching the load, is all taken care of by the energy management software, within the parameters specified by the owner of the microgrid.

Switchgears, inverters and other equipment

Finally, microgrids include other critical components such as electrical cables, circuit breakers, transformers and more. These components are the bones, muscles and blood vessels of a microgrid. They connect generation resources to consumers, and allow the microgrid’s control system to effect changes to the state of the microgrid.

Automatic transfer switches, for instance, isolate different generation assets to ensure that, for example, the AC inverter associated with a solar array does not feed electricity to a diesel generator. Inverters convert the DC power supplied by batteries or by solar panels to AC power that is adequately synchronized to other AC resources on the microgrid. 

Interested in more on microgrids? You might also like: 

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Aytek Yuksel - Cummins Inc

Aytek Yuksel

Aytek Yuksel is the Content Marketing Leader for Cummins Inc., with a focus on Power Systems markets. Aytek joined the Company in 2008. Since then, he has worked in several marketing roles and now brings you the learnings from our key markets ranging from industrial to residential markets. Aytek lives in Minneapolis, Minnesota with his wife and two kids.

Types of microgrids, with examples

Types of microgrids

No two microgrids are the same. Check out types of microgrids with real life case studies.

Microgrids are not fundamentally different from wide-area grids. They support smaller loads, serve fewer consumers, and are deployed over smaller areas. But microgrids and wide-area grids have the same job within the power generation eco-system, distributing electricity, and the same constraints, perfectly matching generation and load at all times. 

Microgrids existed before anybody used the word microgrid. For example, smaller islands have electric grids which usually qualify as microgrids. Likewise, in the early days of electricity, the individual systems of private utilities were microgrids. Over time, almost all of those individual systems were linked, resulting in continent-wide interconnections. 

Microgrids, however, are making a comeback. They are seen as a practical, cost-effective way to integrate local renewable energy resources, and to provide redundancy and resilience. There are two categories of microgrids, off-grid and grid-connected and each encompass many different setups. 

Off-grid microgrids

Off-grid microgrids are constructed where there is a significant need for electricity but no access to a wide-area electrical grid. 

Islands that are too far from the mainland are typically served by their own microgrid. In the past, island microgrids were usually built around diesel or heavy fuel oil generators. While easy to transport and easy to store, these fuels could prove to be expensive. However, in the absence of a suitable alternative, many islands continue to rely heavily on such generators. 

Why were suitable alternatives absent? Islands have more than enough wind and plenty of sun. Yes, but integrating large quantities of solar arrays and wind turbines on the electrical system of an island can be very difficult. Diesel generators can be switched on and off, on-demand. They have the capability to closely match the electrical demand of the island as it increases and decreases. Wind turbines, in contrast, produce electricity when there is wind. Solar panels work when the sun is shining. If the wind abates or if clouds obscure the sun for moments, another source of electricity needs to be available to pick up the slack and meet the electrical load demand. This type of dynamic management of generation and demand requires sophisticated supervisory controls and advanced power electronics. In the past neither were a practical option for small-scale island systems. 

Today, modern microgrid features allow island utilities to integrate larger quantities of intermittent renewable resources such as solar and wind. Stationary energy storage, in particular, is extremely helpful in managing transitions between intermittent resources and traditional generators. 

Island utilities find that investing in a modern microgrid grants multiple benefits. Generating more electricity from renewable resources allows islands to reduce both their fuel costs and the local environmental impact associated with the use of those fossil fuels. Using their generators in a more optimized way allows island utilities to reduce maintenance costs, increase efficiency, and, in many cases, reduce the number of generators needed on the island. The reliability of the electrical system is also improved, leading to better service quality and less frequent outages. 

You can find a real life example at Calvert Island in British Columbia, Canada, where Cummins Inc. was involved in a project to upgrade the island’s microgrid.

Off-grid microgrids also exist in remote areas. Many settlements in Siberia and in Northern Canada, for example, are not connected to any outside electrical system. Remote industrial operations also possess a self-sufficient electrical system. Mines, in particular, require large and robust electrical installations. 

These remote electrical systems are required to ship diesel, fuel oil or other liquid fuels over long distances. Unsurprisingly, this can quickly become very expensive. Imagine trucking fuel across hundreds of miles of frozen terrain or on a dirt road. As a result, the owners of these remote industrial operations are eager to deploy as much renewable power as possible, along with sophisticated microgrids to effectively integrate and distribute that power. Some mines also seek to synthesize their own fuel on site using renewable electricity.

Grid-connected microgrids

You don’t need to be on an island or in the middle of the desert to benefit from a microgrid. 

In fact, many microgrid users are located in urban or industrial areas that are fully served by an electric utility. Why do businesses and institutions go through the trouble of investing in a microgrid when they can simply receive electricity from the utility? There are two main reasons. 

One reason is that they want to avoid power outages

Homeowners invest in a home generator for the same reason. The difference between a home with a generator and, for example, a military base with a microgrid is complexity and scale. A home has one, maybe two electrical panels. All it takes to integrate a home generator to a residential electricity system is a transfer switch. 

A military base includes dozens of buildings, several generators and a variety of critical electrical equipment such as radars and air traffic control systems, often spread over hundreds of acres. Integrating these components requires a sophisticated electrical infrastructure—in other words, a microgrid. 

Civilian facilities with complex electrical systems incorporate microgrids to ensure the reliability of their electrical service as well. Hospitals, airports, university campuses and large industrial plants all utilize microgrid components to effectively integrate backup power generation into their electrical system.

The other reason that motivates grid-connected facilities to invest in a microgrid is cost: A microgrid encapsulates all of a facility’s electrical equipment. 

Example of a microgrid delayed at a port
Click on the image to take a closer look at an example of a microgrid deployed at a port.

From the perspective of the utility, only one electrical meter is seen. This allows the microgrid owner to deploy solar arrays, wind turbines, backup or prime power generators and other electrical equipment without direct connection to the utility grid. 

Many port operators, for example, own a type of shipping container crane known as regenerative cranes. Regenerative cranes consume electricity when they lift a container, and generate electricity when they lower a container. Few utilities would allow this type of electrical equipment to be directly connected to their grid—at least not with the regenerative mode enabled. Port operators therefore create microgrids connecting their cranes (as well as backup generators). This allows the cranes that are lowering containers to provide electricity to the cranes that are lifting containers. This results in a dramatic reduction in the net electrical consumption supported by the utility, and, thus, in savings for the port operator.

Microgrid options are driven by the global imperative to move quickly to renewable energy for power generation. They also allow facility owners to meet immediate practical needs. Improvements in microgrid technology mean that the possibilities for both large and small, connected, or remote microgrids are increasing. Modern microgrids are making innovations in electricity generation possible in all corners of the globe.

Interested in more on microgrids? You might also like: 

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Aytek Yuksel - Cummins Inc

Aytek Yuksel

Aytek Yuksel is the Content Marketing Leader for Cummins Inc., with a focus on Power Systems markets. Aytek joined the Company in 2008. Since then, he has worked in several marketing roles and now brings you the learnings from our key markets ranging from industrial to residential markets. Aytek lives in Minneapolis, Minnesota with his wife and two kids.

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