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Mayor Marvin: Do's And Don'ts Of Installing A Generator

Bronxville Mayor Mary Marvin.
Bronxville Mayor Mary Marvin. Photo Credit: Paul Bufano

BRONXVILLE, N.Y. Mayor Mary Marvin writes a weekly column. It is being reprinted by The Bronxville Daily Voice.

One of the predictable consequences of Hurricane Sandy was a marked increase in the number of inquiries and permit applications for generators. In a similar pattern to the several prolonged power interruptions over the past few years, a significant number of generator permit requests came in the weeks following the event. Last year more than two dozen generator applications were processed by the Building Department. Recognizing that the requests will most probably continue given the fragility of Con Edison’s overhead supply network, the trustees and I asked the Building Department to memorialize in regulations what has been done in practice regarding the installation of these units. These regulations are necessary to ensure that future installations are done safely and with the minimum disruption to surrounding properties.  Generator application forms and information packets are available on the village website , and in the Building Department form rack in Village Hall. Copies can also be mailed upon request.

The following Q and A is intended to highlight the major requirements of the regulations and provide general guidance regarding the installation and use of emergency generators in residential areas of the village.

Is a generator permit required for all generator installations?

A permit is required for all permanently installed emergency standby generators. Portable temporary generators are only required to have a permit if they are connected directly to the building’s electrical distribution system and/or to the building’s fuel gas system. Portable temporary generators which are connected using extension cords are not required to have a permit but are subject to the noise limitations outlined below and are to be used in strict accordance with the manufacturer’s requirements regarding their placement, connection and operation.

What information is required for a generator permit request?

A completed Emergency Generator Permit Application with a filing fee of $100 and a permit fee based on the size of the generator or estimated cost of the installation are required prior to permit release. Three complete submission sets including the following information are required:

  • A copy of a current land survey.
  • A site plan drawing, drawn to scale and based on a current survey showing location of generator from property line, combustible walls and any openings in a building.
  • Location of gas meter and generator fuel supply piping as well as location of electric meter.
  • Catalog cut sheets of the proposed generator including sound data.

In addition, completed electrical and plumbing permit applications are to be filed by a Westchester County licensed tradesmen. The installer’s Westchester County license and/or certificate of insurance are also required before a permit can be issued.

Where can my generator be located?

Generators must be located in side or rear yards, with a minimum setback distance of 5 feet to any property boundary. Front yard installations are not permitted. Generators or generator enclosures more than 6-feet  6-inches high as measured from finished grade are mandated to comply with setback distances required for buildings (typically 15 feet in a side yard; 30 feet setback in a rear yard).

Generators must be a minimum of five feet from any opening in a building defined as a window, door, oven or dryer vent or bathroom. Generators are required to be placed a minimum of 5 feet from any combustible wall, unless otherwise approved by the manufacturer. A copy of the specs along with test data must be submitted with the permit application for review and approval. Some Generac generators have met this requirement, and allow units to be within 18 inches of a combustible wall. Portable temporary generators are to be located in accordance with the manufacturers’ requirements.

All generators must be placed so as to minimize the visual impact on adjacent properties using appropriate sound attenuating architectural materials and landscaped screening.

What are the noise limitations?

Generator noise levels may not exceed 65 decibels at any property boundary and the property owner shall be required to prove, if necessary, upon request of the Building Department, that an acoustical engineer has certified that the decibel level does not exceed the 65 decibel limitation.

Generator noise levels should not exceed 65db at any property boundary. If an otherwise non-regulated portable generator results in a higher decibel reading, or with such volume, particularly between 11:00 p.m. and 6:00 a.m., as to annoy or disturb the comfort or repose of others, the generator may not be operated between the hours of 11:00 p.m. and 6:00 a.m.

When can my generator be operated?

Generators may only be used during electrical outages and maintenance operations may only take place weekdays between 10 a.m. and 5 p.m. for a period not to exceed 45 minutes.

What type of fuel is allowable for my generator?

A permanent generator shall operate only on natural gas (other fuel sources are not permitted, unless natural gas is not available). Natural gas is considered available if utility gas distribution piping is available in proximity to the property and natural gas service can be provided. A separate plumbing permit for this fuel gas source must be filed by a Westchester County licensed plumber.

Portable generators may operate on fuel approved by the manufacturer. All fuel is to be stored safely and in approved storage containers.

These requirements are intended to ensure the safety of the generator owner as well as nearby residents. In addition, they are intended to preserve the peace and tranquility of our neighborhoods as much as possible during these emergency situations. If you have questions or need additional assistance, please contact the Building Department (914) 337-7338.

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