Proper generator installation key for Islanders thinking of getting a backup, electrician says

An Island company has been getting lots of calls from people looking to get generators installed since the storm on Nov. 29 caused thousands of power outages across the Island.

'Peace of mind ... and comfort whenever we don't have the regular power going'

This crew says they have had 10-times the normal number of calls from Islanders looking to get a generator installed. (Jessica Doria-Brown/CBC)

An Island company has been getting lots of calls from people looking to get generators installed since the storm on Nov. 29 caused thousands of power outages across the Island.

People like the Wyands in the Cavendish area. They are getting a permanent propane generator installed that will kick in within 20 seconds of an outage and power their entire home.

"Peace of mind ... and comfort whenever we don't have the regular power going," said Gwen Wyand. "Seems like when the power goes out it's out for a longer period of time.

"If there's a lot of snow then we have to get the tractor going and go to another barn to get the generator out — so this makes it easier for us."

Gwen Wyand said that it was great to get the work done locally so the company would just be a quick phone call away to help out with any issues. (Jessica Doria-Brown/CBC)

'Extremely busy'

Their propane tanks will be installed away from the generator itself which will be on a concrete pad a distance from the house with wires and pipes buried in the ground.

An electrical switch in the panel will automatically start and connect the generator in the event of another blackout.

Jordan Chandler, with Chandler Motor Repair, says it was important to have qualified workers because of all the rules and regulations that must be followed for a safe installation. (Jessica Doria-Brown/CBC)

"We've been extremely busy lately. We have been getting lots of calls about generators," said Jordan Chandler with Chandler Motor Repair.

He estimates that the call volume has increased tenfold since the storm last week.

Ted Kitson, chief electrical inspector for P.E.I., recommends going with a professional contractor as there could be risks of fire or shocks when unqualified people are doing electrical work. (Jessica Doria-Brown/CBC)

"This time of year we are getting into December and the ground is getting frozen and it is getting difficult to dig these lines to these generators," Chandler said.  

"So we have a short window now to help some Islanders to get these generators installed because once the ground is frozen it is very difficult if not impossible to install these generators and you're going to be waiting until the spring."

'They do it right'

These automatic systems can cost a homeowner between $8,000 and $11,000 including the parts and labour.

"In order to accommodate that type of a setup where your essential circuits are going to be wired in, you have to get an electrical contractor to do that," said Ted Kitson, the province's chief electrical inspector.

"That's the law on Prince Edward Island. Then, of course, that person is obligated to deal with us as well on it so to do it all properly. That's the way it should be."

Kitson says the province has approved of a switch that detects power outages and will turn to the alternate power source automatically. (Jessica Doria-Brown/CBC)

Kitson said it's important people don't try to do these setups themselves but should look for licensed electricians and contractors.

"They do it, they do it right," Kitson said. "Someone who is not licensed and someone who doesn't know what they're doing comes in and you're gonna end up getting these guys to come and fix it for you anyway."

Kitson said that often after a storm people rush out to buy generators and may not necessarily get what they actually need.

"It's dollars and cents, for sure, if they can get a generator that's on sale," Kitson said.

He said it was important to look beyond the price and pay for a generator system that would meet your household needs.

The lines are run through the ground from the generator to the house — something that is more difficult to do as the weather turns colder and the ground freezes. (Jessica Doria-Brown/CBC)

Kitson advises to follow some general rules when using generators.

Only use them outside, fill them up when they have cooled down — and if they are wired, use a professional.

Chandler said improper extension cord usage and faulty wiring can have dire consequences. 

"It can be extremely dangerous," he said. "Fires happen often. Flooding of basements and just not having heat. Ruining food. There's all kinds of things that can go wrong when you don't have this set up properly."

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With files from Jessica Doria-Brown