NFPA 110 Compliance: Your Check-Up List

NFPA 110 Compliance: Your Check-Up List

With a new year upon us, most facilities managers are going to test their critical systems to make sure they’re up to operational standards. But your emergency power system (EPS) has a whole other test it needs to pass: one with legal ramifications to your business.

Each year, the fire marshal schedules a visit to your business to make sure your commercial generator is NFPA 110 compliant. If it’s not, you could face fines or even worse.

So how do you know if your EPS is NFPA 110 compliant? Is there a way to check to make sure your generator is up to the standard?

What is NFPA 110?

Before we look at our checklist, it’s important to understand what the NFPA is and the importance of its work. NFPA 110 is the standard for emergency and standby power systems. It’s created by the National Fire Protection Association, the leading information and knowledge resource on fire, electrical, and related hazards. 

The NFPA 110 standard covers performance requirements for emergency and standby power systems providing an alternate source of electrical power in buildings and facilities in the event that the normal electrical power source fails. Systems include power sources, transfer equipment, controls, supervisory equipment, and accessory equipment needed to supply electrical power to the selected circuits.

For buildings in which human lives would be at risk if the power goes out, such as a hospital, the NFPA 110 a legally enforceable set of installation requirements. The rules are enforced by the local fire marshal or building code enforcement office having jurisdiction of your area (AHJ). If your building has less essential uses, the NFPA 110 standard is still defines the reliable and safe way to maintain a backup power system. The full text of the standard is currently available in the 2022 edition, but here’s an overview:

The NFPA 110 Checklist

To make sure your generator is NFPA 110 compliant, you’ll need to check items pertaining to several aspects of generator selection, maintenance, installation, and testing (both long and short term). These items include:

    • Was the generator and all its related equipment—including equipment to monitor generator activity—installed correctly?
    • Are you abiding by all the short-and-long-term maintenance and routine testing requirements that ensure your commercial generator is still operating according to the standard?
    • Is the generator protected against emergency situations that can trigger a power loss, such as fire, flooding, and earthquake damage to the building?
    • Was the automatic transfer switch (ATS) installed and maintained correctly? Likewise, were the other transfer switches that control which parts of a facility receive power from the backup system?
    • Are you accurately maintaining fuel storage requirements based on generator type in order to prevent fire risks?
    • Is your generator the proper size based on ratings for the class, level, and type of power supply needed?

Application Classifications

You may notice that the NFPA 110 standard has several references to class, level, and type. This is because there are varying levels of importance for backup power, so the system you choose may differ, whether you run a biomedical lab, a grocery store, or a data center. 

For this reason, the NFPA 110 standard recognizes different classes, levels, and types of standby generators. Here’s a review:


The class of a generator is determined by both the equipment it needs to power and the length of time it should run at its rated output without the need for refueling. The NFPA has designated dozens of different classes, so refer to the formal documentation for more details. 

One common class in the state of California, however, is Class X. Class X generators are required if a facility is located near an earthquake fault line. This class of generator needs to run for 96 hours at full output without refueling. 

The location of your building, the type of business, and other factors can all change the class of generator required.


The level of a backup power system is determined by how important the generator is to the facility. “Level 1” generators are the top tier, as these are relied on for human life and safety during a power outage. “Level 2” generators are for buildings and facilities where a power interruption won’t cause safety issues but could still damage equipment or products. 


Finally, a generator’s type refers to how long it takes for the backup power to kick-in once the generator starts. A high-end type of generator creates an uninterrupted power supply because it turns on within a second or two when the power goes out. Other generator types can have delays up to 10 seconds, or potentially no automatic start at all. 

The more critical the system is, the better “type” of generator will be required. Non-essential systems, however, may work just fine with a 60-second delay before the generator restores power.

How Does Your Generator Become Compliant With NFPA 110?

If you’re installing a new generator, here’s a step-by-step process to ensure your generator is NFPA 110 Compliant:

  1. Make sure the generator is installed professionally and according to the standard.
  2. Have the generator tested. This includes a series of short power up tests and then a two-hour test at full load. 
  3. After you’ve completed the test to the satisfaction of your local authority holding jurisdiction, you’ll receive approval from them to use the system as needed. 

These same rules basically apply if your commercial generator is already installed and you’re getting ready for an annual inspection. The bottom line is this: you need to have a certified technician looking at your generator to ensure that it’s NFPA 110 compliant. 

At Electro-Motion, we make sure every one of our customers’ generators is running efficiently and ready to pass inspection. If you have concerns about the status of your backup power system, call Electro-Motion for a free consultation today.

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