An emergency generator is a great backup source of power that you can easily get set up in your home. Having an easily available portable generator means that in the event of your home losing access to utility power, like in the event of a major power cut, you can still power your appliances, charge your batteries, and carry on with your life. But setting up a generator power house is not as simple as running extension cords from a generator to the main circuit board of your home.
You need to approach everything carefully and correctly in order to stay safe and avoid blowing out your home circuits. Approaching this without the proper precautions could lead to the electrocution and potential death of utility workers working on power lines near your home, as well as damage to your home circuit system and the creation of an unreliable power supply that causes regular power cuts.
Fortunately, here at Best of Machinery, we have put together a simple and easy to understand guide on how to connect a generator to power house as well as how to work a generator and many other important pieces of information about how to get your generator set up.
So no matter how inexperienced you are with electronics or generator power, you can read on below to learn how to use your generator and how to get it set up. We will demystify everything from the transfer switch to the generator itself and every single one of the essential components. Read on below to find out more!
How to set up a Generator to Power a House
Whether you are trying to connect a smaller portable generator to your house or set up a large scale dual fuel generator for home use, there are a number of important steps you should follow. The most important one is that you should never under any circumstances plug your generator directly into a wall socket.
There are a number of different ways you can connect up your generator. Let us take a look at each main way you can connect up your generator to your home and restore utility power.
Using Extension Cords to Setup a Generator
The cheapest and easiest way to get your generator set up is to use extension cords and a power inverter. This is easy to set up, but can be risky and does not provide the best results. An extension cord might be easy to use, but it will not allow you to use the full power of a larger main generator. It will be fine to get backup power, maybe enough to use a couple of appliances, but it won’t be suitable for running your entire home.
They are also dangerous, as a worn-out wire, an incorrect gauge, or the wrong length of an extension cord can cause major fire hazards and a shock risk. An extension cord is an acceptable option in an emergency if you only need to power one or two things, but it is far from ideal.
Connecting a Generator with Generator Cords
If your generator is a relatively small one and you are willing to plug appliances in during storms and other risky situations in which your utility power might go down, then a gen cord might be a good option. Just plug the gen cord into the main outlet of your generator, and then you can use the selection of standard home outlets on the other end to connect up all of your most important appliances and cables safely from the indoors.
Using a Transfer Switch to Set up a Generator
The safest and most versatile option for connecting a generator up to utility power is to use a transfer switch. This is a simple unit that fits onto your main breaker box panel system, offering far more control and power in every way to every single one of your home systems. Power transfer switch systems can be used to power an entire circuit of appliances rather than just one single appliance, including hard-wired appliances like your lights, air conditioning units, security systems, and many other main hard-wired devices that require power. Let us go through how to set up a generator using a transfer switch, an inlet box, and a breaker box panel.
Step 1: Finding out your amperage and Plug Type
There are some bits of information you will need to obtain before you can get onto the main stages of the process of setting up a generator. The most important information is the plug type and amperage, both of which are relatively easy to find out. What you are looking for is a generator with a large round plug. This will provide 220 volts of power and will power both sides of your main breaker box. The amperage should be written near the plug somewhere. The most common sizes of generator are the 20 amp Nema L14 20, the 30 amp Nema L14 30, and the larger 50 amp Nema CS6365.
Step 2: Gather your Supplies
There are a number of essential supplies that you will need to use in the process of getting your generator and transfer switch correctly set up in a safe and straightforward way. We will go through the most essential pieces of equipment that you will need available for use. You are going to need a breaker interlock kit. Make sure that you buy a kit that is fully UL rated for safety and approved for use with your specific main breaker system. These are not all the same, and it is essential that you do not try to use one which does not fit your main breaker panel properly.
You will also need a 2 pole double breaker designed for the same amperage as your generator. If you have a 30 amp generator, buy a 30 amp breaker. Again, this will need to be designed to fit your breaker system, and breaker designs are not interchangeable. The wire is an essential component. You will need 3 wires of at least 10 feet in length and a 10 gauge size. Buying 3 different colors can make it easier to keep track of which wire is attached to which switch during the process of installing your transfer switch.
The other tools you will need are a generator extension lead of the same amperage as your generator, an inlet box of the same amperage as your generator, an electrical conduit, and all of its fittings, as well as some solid waterproof glue for attaching your conduit to your house.
Step 3: Setting up your Access Hole, Inlet box, and Conduit
If you are lucky, you might have an old conduit access hole already drilled in a wall near your breaker box, but in most cases, you will have to drill one yourself. A hammer drill is an excellent option for breaking through tough walls quickly! Drill your hole as close to the breaker panel as you can manage. Then, remove the front cover from your power inlet box. Remove one of the knockouts and attach a conduit fitting, making sure that the fitting is fully watertight around the join. Using tapcons, mount your inlet box onto the exterior wall.
Your next step is to set up the conduit. Measure the space between your inlet box and your access hole carefully, and cut your conduit to length as accurately as you can. Once you are sure, it is precisely the right length, glue it firmly to the wall with waterproof, long-lasting construction glue.
Step 4: Wiring the Generator Inlet plug
Once the glue holding your conduit to the wall is completely dry and secure, you can start working on the wiring that you will use to connect your generator to the system. Set up your generator outside your home, at least 3 feet away from the hole in the wall. Remove the cover from the outside of the conduit body. Pull the wires through it one at a time, attaching each of them to the plugin the inlet box as you go. Then, use a wire stripper to remove about 3/4 of an inch of the insulation at the end of the wire and attach the stripped end to the plug.
Finally, use a larger flat-headed screwdriver or a standard nut driver to tighten up all the terminals. Push each of the wires through the conduit and into the house, one at a time. Then, replace the conduit cover, and seal up any gaps tightly with expanding foam or a silicone sealant of some sort.
Step 5: Wiring up your Breaker Panel
Turn off the main power breaker in your box, as well as all of the other branch breaker units. Once you are sure every part of the main breaker system has been turned off, remove the front panel from the breaker box. Take out one of the knockouts from the breaker container and attach a conduit adapter in whichever way is most appropriate. That could be a screw-in system or a glue option. Then, pull the wires all the way through the conduit and into the inside of the circuit breaker box.
To make space for your transfer switch, you will need to clear some space in the top right corner of the panel. Most boxes will require you to move a couple of breakers down a little. Use caution and appropriate tools for this, as keeping them wired up appropriately is very important. Then, install your transfer switch system in the corner of the breaker panel. Alternatively, if you use a system with a larger transfer switch, you can wire up the transfer switch on an interior wall next to your breaker box.
The transfer switch should be spaced about 18 inches away from the main breaker system, with a conduit connecting the transfer switch to the box. Pass the transfer switch wires through the conduit, and attach each one of the transfer switch wires to the corresponding wire in the breaker system. Make sure that every single wire of the transfer switch circuits is connected to the switch system and the breakers!
Once you have put the covers back onto both the box and the switch panel, you will be ready to test the system. Turn the generator on, and then try flipping every switch on your transfer system to the GEN setting and making sure the wattage remains constant.
Can you Plug a Generator into a wall Socket?
This is one of the most straightforward answers to any question about a generator and how it works. The answer is clear and unequivocal no. You should never plug a generator into a wall socket, as wall sockets do not have any safety systems in place to handle the high level of power produced by a generator. If you plug a generator straight into a wall socket, then there is nothing to filter the power produced by it.
The high level of power outputted by a generator without a transfer switch can be extremely dangerous and can cause problems as serious as causing a significant risk of death to any utility workers working on the electrical cables outside your home. More directly within your home, directly plugging a generator into the wall can overload your home circuit system, damaging your appliances and blowing out fuses and panels.
A generator also does not produce a constant, reliable power output. This means that when your power level fluctuates, there might not be enough power for all of your appliances, and one or more of them could lose main power. A generator should only ever be connected to your home with an appropriate system of transfer switches run through your breaker box.
How much does it Cost to Install a Generator Transfer Switch?
Transfer switches are an essential part of generator systems. These are devices that allow power to be transferred between sources, allowing your generator to provide power to selected circuits and preventing the generator from back feeding into the power line and causing problems. Installing a transfer switch is a relatively major project, so it will take an electrician a while to do correctly. There are a few different things that affect how much getting a transfer switch installed will cost, however.
The first thing to consider is the labor costs. It should take most electricians around 3 to 4 hours to connect up a transfer switch for your house. That means that depending on the electrician you have chosen to hire, it is likely to cost you somewhere between $200 and $600 in labor costs for installing a transfer switch for your home generator.
You are also going to have to consider the purchase cost of your transfer switch itself. There are many different types of transfer switch available, and different models have different prices, so the transfer switch you choose to use will affect the cost. In general, though, you will be looking at somewhere between $250 and $500 for the cost of the transfer switch.
Combining the purchase cost and the labor cost of your transfer switch, the range of different possible prices is enormous. At the low end, you are looking at around $450 in total, while a higher-end option could cost you well over $1000 to get set up for home use.
How many watt Generators do you need to Run a House?
The power level and wattage of the generator you need to run your home will depend on what size home you have and how many appliances you want to run at the same time. If you are just trying to keep your refrigerator running during a power cut, you won’t need as large and powerful a model of generator as you would if you wanted to keep every appliance in your home continually running, a task that would require a much larger and more powerful one.
If you just want to run a relatively small circuit of appliances, like the appliances that you might be operating in an RV or on a camping trip, then you would be able to use a relatively small generator of around 3000 watts in power. If, however, you want to use a generator to power a larger home, then you will need one with a much higher wattage. That means you will need something of around 10,000 watts in power, which can provide full utility power.
Connecting up a generator to your home might look complicated at first, but as long as you approach it slowly and carefully and are prepared to be patient and take your time, it does not have to be a difficult process. Make sure you have all of the tools and information you need easily available to you before you start the installation process in order to have a smoother and easier experience!