While many of the products we review here are readily available to purchase and operate without a license, we always recommend hiring a qualified electrician to install and demonstrate their use.
In some cases, improper use and installation may result in a breach of insurance. Even worse, you could be putting yourself or your family at risk as an incorrectly installed electrical device could start a fire. So, don’t risk it - seek the services of a fully licensed electrician instead.
A generator is a great way to ensure that you get a constant supply of electricity to your home. This even applies if you have a power outage in your area.
Many people in the US do have access to a generator so if you don’t already, you should definitely look into them.
If you decide that a generator is what you need, you will have to decide how you will use it. There are usually two ways of connecting your home generator.
First up, you can connect it to individual appliances. For example, you may choose a low Wattage generator to connect your refrigerator or freezer.
This type of generator is good for short-term power shortages. However, if you are in an area where shortages of electricity are more common, you’re going to want to invest in a bigger and more powerful generator.
The second way to connect a generator is to connect it to your home’s electrical grid. This is an efficient way to use a generator as it means that you can use the majority of your electrical appliances without any interruptions.
Connecting a generator to your electrical grid sounds complicated, right? Well, it may be a little complicated at first but it is the safest way to provide a flow of electricity to your home during a power outage.
You may be tempted to start out by plugging your generator into your wall socket, but do not do this. This is called backfeeding. By doing this you will significantly damage the electrical wiring of your home and is a fire risk. Don’t do this.
Backfeeding is illegal. If you plug your generator into a wall socket you risk harming any electricians who are working elsewhere on the grid. It is not worth the risk so don’t even think about doing it.
So how should you connect a generator to your home? Keep reading to find out two ways of safely connecting your generator to your home.
Transfer Switch: Safely Connecting Your Generator
The first way that we’re going to take a look at is by using a transfer switch. If you have never heard of a transfer switch before the clue is in the name. It’s a switch that you use to transfer your electricity source from your utility grid to your generator.
Installing one of these switches into your home can make using your generator a lot easier in times where you have no electricity available. This is mainly down to the fact that you can use it to power different rooms in your home.
You have full control over what appliances or rooms you can add to your sub-breaker.
Having this control over your power will reduce the risk of running your generator overcapacity. Overall, this is an efficient way to run electricity safely in your home.
How to Install a Transfer Switch
If this sounds good to you, we are now going to run through the steps on how to install a transfer switch.
We do want to preface this by mentioning that installing a transfer switch should be done by a professional. Working with electricity can be a dangerous thing to do if you have no prior training.
Before you connect your transfer switch, you will need to decide which circuits you would like to move over to your transfer circuits. The deciding factor for this can be which appliances do you need to run during a power outage.
Depending on the size of your generator, you may want to focus on key appliances such as a refrigerator, freezer, and/or oven.
Don’t forget to program your appliance priorities if you have a universal transfer switch. The major benefit of using a universal transfer switch is that it turns on automatically. This is ideal for business owners or for people who work away from home.
It ensures that no food in the freezer completely thaws through which means less household waste.
Connecting a Generator to a Transfer Switch
To prepare to connect your generator to a transfer switch, there is one piece of equipment that you will need to buy. Make sure that you have a generator cord that is made specifically for your make of generator. This cord will connect your generator to your chosen transfer switch.
So how do you safely connect them? Firstly, if you have a manual transfer switch, you will want to switch off all breakers. It is also important to ensure that the main breaker is flipped to the transfer switch. This will prevent any electricity from the electrical grid from passing through the switch.
Once you are happy with all of the above, you can turn your generator on. One by one you will want to switch on the breakers. This will direct the power to your home in a more manageable way.
When you are finished using your generator, you can begin to shut down the transfer of electricity. To begin, turn off the breakers on your transfer switch. Then you will be able to flip the main breaker so that the power comes from the utility grid rather than your generator.
A top tip on where to store your generator is to place it somewhere outside. This is the easiest way to ensure that it doesn’t get overheated. If you must place it inside, then put it somewhere well ventilated. This will prevent any accidents from happening.
Outdoor Generator Plug: Connecting Your Generator to Your Home
If you don’t want to or aren’t able to install a transfer switch, then there is another way that you can connect your generator to your home. We must say that using a transfer switch is the most efficient and safe way to connect your generator.
If you decide to use this option, you will definitely need to hire an electrician. There are a few items that you will need so let us help break them down for you.
1. Interlock Kit
One piece of equipment you will need is an interlock kit. This kit will connect your generator to your home without the need for a transfer switch. An interlock kit is designed to feed power to your home when the main supply is no longer available.
It does this by not letting your generator power on until the grid supply is off. This is good as you know that your generator will never take power from your main grid electricity supply.
Before you go purchasing the top-rated interlock kit, you will need to make sure that it is compatible with your generator. If you don’t do this, you risk the interlock kit working for your generator.
2. Circuit Breaker
The next thing you will need is a circuit breaker. This piece of equipment will help stop the flow of electricity from one source to another so you can divert it if necessary. As we have mentioned above, it is recommended that you get an electrician in to help set this up in your home.
If you are interested in learning more about how a circuit breaker works then here is our summary. Circuit breakers put a “break” in a circuit. By doing this there is a risk that it could become overloaded with electricity. This is a huge hazard that you want to avoid in your home.
The good thing about circuit breakers is that they have two features that stop this from happening. A circuit breaker will have a thermal metallic strip that will automatically turn the switch off if it is overheated.
Circuit breakers also have an electromagnet built into them which turns off the electricity when too much power is detected. Both of these features make the circuit breaker one of the best items to have for electrical safety.
When you purchase your circuit breaker, you will have to take note of the power your generator provides. Most of the time you will want to keep your eye out for breakers with a voltage around 220-240 volts.
3. Plug, Wires, and Tools
The most common extension cord is one at around 240 volts. Make sure that it is compatible with your generator before clicking buy now.
You will also need some popular electrical tools such as an electric drill, screwdrivers, wrenches, electrical tape, pliers, and anything else you deem necessary.
Keep in mind that working with electricity can be dangerous so ensure that safety goggles and gloves are worn at all times.
Installing an Outdoor Generator Outlet
Firstly, you will want to decide where you will be installing your generator outlet. Ensure that it is located away from any fire hazards.
When you are happy with the location, you can begin to drill a hole in the wall. Make the hole wide enough for you to be able to pull the cord through.
Now you can mount the power inlet box onto your wall. Use a screwdriver to remove the front of the inlet box and then attach the back of the box to your wall.
Then, it is time to wire the generator plug. Ensure that no power is going through the circuit by using a breaker. Then pull each wire through one by one. Remove around an inch of the insulation from the wires.
Keep this information fresh in your mind:
- Green - Ground
- White - Common
- Black and Red - Load
You’re now going to want to push the wires inside the hole you made earlier on. Do this one at a time to ensure that you don’t forget any. If you find the whole you made it too big once you have finished pushing the wires through, you can touch this up with either expanding foam or silicon.
Installing an Interlock Kit
It is now time to get your breaker box ready for the wires. Again, make sure there is no current of electricity running through the wires when you carry out this step.
Use a screwdriver to remove the front panel of your breaker box. Pull the wires through and into the box. For most breaker interlock systems, you will need to move some breakers down as the right upper space must remain free.
Remember to not wire copper and aluminum together. This is not a long-lasting method and you will need to rewire sooner rather than later.
The free space left in your breaker box will now be used to accommodate your new breaker. Ensure that the red wire goes to one terminal and the black wire goes to another terminal on the breaker. The green wire should go to the ground rail and the white wire should go to the common rail in the box.
This method will provide you with a steady flow of electricity if you need to use your generator in the future. If you do not connect it properly, then your interlock kit will not work.
To keep the breaker box in place, use a retaining bracket. Once it is secured, flip the cover over and add the sliding interlock bolts. Make sure that the interlock system lets the generator breaker move to the on and off positions. You may have to make some slight adjustments to the panel cover.
Lastly, attach the decals from your interlock kit to your breaker box and the outdoor generator outlet.
It is important to carry out a test before finishing for the day. If the test goes well, congratulations! If it doesn’t seem to be working, then get back in and check your wiring or connections.
Frequently Asked Questions
What size generator will run a house?
To power a whole house, you will need a generator with at least 10,000 Watts.
This Wattage can be found in both portable and home backup generator systems.
Can a generator run in the rain?
Many generator manufacturers heavily advise against using your generator during heavy rain.
We all know that water and electricity do not mix well together. Avoid using it during a downpour to reduce any safety hazards.
Is a transfer switch or interlock system better?
We always advise installing a transfer switch if it is a possible option for you. It is an easy and efficient way to connect your generator to your home.
If this isn’t an option or you think an interlock system would be more suited to your needs, then always call in the professionals.