Last Updated on October 2, 2023 by Kyle Whitley
If you lost power and have a generator at your disposal you might be wondering, can I plug a generator into my house? Yes, you can, but you need to have specific equipment like a transfer switch and possibly and interlock switch to make if a safe experience for you and the folks that are trying to restore you power.
We will take a look at why you can connect a generator to your home and how to do it safely, and why you shouldn’t connect a generator directly to an outlet in your home.
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Table of Contents
- 1 How to Hook Up a Generator
- 2 Cords vs Power Transfer Systems
- 3 Connecting a Portable Generator To a House
- 4 Why to Not Plug a Portable Generator Into a Wall Socket
- 5 Hooking up a Portable Generator to a Home
- 6 Summing it Up: Can I plug a generator into my house?
How to Hook Up a Generator
A generator is one of those things you don’t think about much until it’s needed. But what happens when there’s no power? You’re stuck without heat, lights, air conditioning, refrigeration, and even your phone charger.
So how do you get around this problem? By plugging everything into an extension cord. And while most people know that extension cords are used to run electrical devices like TVs, stereos, computers, etc., many aren’t aware that they can also be used to provide electricity during blackouts.
The best way to hook up a generator is to use a transfer switch. These switches allow you to connect multiple circuits together, such as lighting, heating/cooling, and hot water. This allows you to turn on just one circuit at a time, rather than turning on every single outlet in your home.
Transfer switches come in two different types:
Manual switches require you to manually flip each circuit on and off.
Automatic switches automatically toggle the circuit on and off based on whether or not the main breaker is tripped.
While some generators will work fine plugged directly into the wall, others require an inverter. An inverter converts DC current into AC current. In addition to providing power, an inverter helps prevent surges from damaging your equipment.
Consider purchasing a surge protector if you run several loads, such as a refrigerator, freezer, washing machine, dryer, dishwasher, and oven. Surge protectors help filter out high voltage spikes caused by lightning strikes, utility grid issues, or brownouts. They also reduce the risk of fire and damage to your electronic equipment.
Cords vs Power Transfer Systems
Extension cords are great if you have a limited number of outlets and don’t mind having several different power sources plugged into one wall socket. If you have a lot of devices, extension cords won’t do much good because you’ll end up with too many dangling cords. You could use surge protectors, but those add bulk and cost money.
Generator cords are great if you’ve got a big appliance that needs lots of electricity. These cords allow you to plug it straight into the generator and bypass the circuit breaker entirely.
Transfer switches are great if multiple circuits need to go to specific outlets. With a switch, you can control each circuit individually. For example, you might have lights in the kitchen and living room, and a fan in the bedroom.
Connecting a Portable Generator To a House
Always follow the manufacturer’s recommendations regarding electrical connections. Don’t use extension cords unless absolutely necessary. If you must use one, make sure it is rated up to handle the device you are powering and is protected against overload.
Never connect a generator directly into a wall outlet. This could cause serious damage to both the generator and the home wiring system. Instead, install a transfer switch. Make sure your transfer switch is rated for the power output of your generator.
The average household uses about 30 feet of electrical power each month. If you’re planning to use an extension cord, buy one that meets UL standards. You don’t want to risk getting shocked or having your house fire because of a faulty cord.
A good rule of thumb is purchasing a cord twice as long as you need. For example, if you need a 10′ cord, look for a 20′. This way, you won’t end up wasting money on small cords that are too short.
A GenCord is an additional electrical cable set that allows you to connect multiple devices to one power outlet. They are designed to be used with portable generator systems and will last much longer than standard extension cords. Generators usually come with multiple outlets, but it is still possible to use a single cord to power multiple devices.
Why to Not Plug a Portable Generator Into a Wall Socket
If you’re looking to start up a portable generator, it might seem like a good idea to simply plug it directly into the wall socket. After all, there are plenty of people out there who do just that. But doing so could cause serious problems.
First, there’s the issue of whether or not your local utility even allows generators to run off the grid. You’ll want to find another solution if your area doesn’t allow it. Otherwise, you could end up damaging your neighbor’s property.
Second, a single surge of electricity can destroy everything inside your home, including appliances, wiring, and electronics. And since generators use alternating current (AC), they can easily overload permanent circuits.
Finally, if you fail to properly disconnect the generator once you’ve finished running it, could potentially cause damage to your home’s electrical and backfeed power into the electrical grid.
This includes tripping circuit breakers, causing short circuits, and creating arcing issues. Those things can lead to fires and explosions, which can burn down your entire home.
So what does one do if he wants to keep his generator plugged in? You can always go with a transfer switch, essentially a device connecting your generator to the main breaker box.
If you don’t know what this means, here are some things you should look out for:- You could damage the generator itself.
– You could overload the power lines feeding your home.
– And worst case scenario, you could start a fire.
What Is Backfeeding?
Backfeeding is dangerous and should always be done carefully. If you are unfamiliar with the process, it could lead to serious injury or death. Backfeeding involves connecting a power source to another power grid via a neutral wire. This allows electricity to flow from one system to the next.
The National Electrical Code requires generators to be registered before being operated near any public place. Additionally, many utilities will shut off service to your house if you attempt to backfeed your home without permission.
Damage Can Happen
Overloading an electrical circuit can cause serious problems including fires, overheating, and even death. Electrical circuits should never be directly connected to generators or other large power sources. Generators should always be pluged into a dedicated circuit breaker box.
Is it Illegal?
In many parts of the United States, connecting a portable generator to a house electrical outlet is illegal. This is because doing so poses a danger to people and property. Portable generators are powerful enough to cause serious damage to homes and businesses and even kill someone.
The generator must be connected to a transfer switch at the service panel to protect your home from backfeeding power to the electrical grid.
Hooking up a Portable Generator to a Home
Generators power homes during outages caused by storms, tornadoes, hurricanes, etc. However, it is important to understand how generators work before connecting one to a home’s electrical system.
There are two primary ways to connect a generator to a home:
- Transfer Switches
- Interlock Switches
Plugging a generator directly into a home’s electrical socket is unsafe because the generator could overload the household wiring and cause damage.
When installing a generator, ensure enough space around the generator to allow room for movement. Ensure the generator does not block access to doors, windows, vents, and stairways.
You will also want to ensure the generator is located so close to the home that dangerous carbon monoxide gases drift back into the home.
Finally, install the generator away from combustible materials such as wood framing, drywall, insulation, and heating ducts.
Always follow your manufactures instructions on how to safely stage, run, and store your portable generator.
The transfer switch is a safety device used to protect your home during power outages. An electrician installs it to ensure your generator connects safely to an electrical outlet within your home.
There are two main types of transfer switches: manual and automatic.
Manual transfer switches require you to manually turn off the electricity to your home before connecting the generator.
Automatic transfer switches shut off the electricity when the generator is plugged into the wall socket.
We highly suggest you get a qualified licensed electrician to install the transfer switch.
How a Transfer Switch Works
A transfer switch protects your home or business against power outages. During a blackout, it disconnects your electrical system from the main grid.
Once the power returns, depending on if you have an automatic or manual transfer switch, the transfer switch will automatically reconnect everything to the grid.
If there are problems with the grid, such as damaged wires or trees falling across lines, the transfer switch keeps the lights on in your house or business.
An interlock switch prevents the generator from starting if it detects that electricity is still coming to the home. This way, you don’t risk damaging the generator.
Interlock switches work in conjunction with transfer switches, to help keep you safe and the people working on the grid.
Is the Difference Between a Transfer Switch and an Interlock Switch?
A transfer switch is designed to supply power to specific devices, such as air conditioning units, refrigerators, and computers. These switches are typically outdoors and connected directly to the main breaker box. They allow you to choose which appliances to turn on during a power outage.
An interlock switch allows homeowners to control the flow of electricity to certain circuits within the home. This device often shuts current flow to electrical outlets, lights, and heating systems. You might use it to prevent someone from turning on a stovetop burner while cooking.
Portable Generator Safety Features
A new generation of portable generators is being introduced to the market today to help prevent carbon monoxide poisoning. Carbon monoxide poisoning occurs when people breathe in high levels of carbon monoxide. This happens most often during power outages. Generators produce carbon monoxide because they run on gasoline or diesel fuel. They are designed to provide emergency power for about six hours.
The EPA recommends that consumers use generators outdoors, away from buildings and vehicles. When operating a generator indoors, consumers should follow these safety precautions:
• Never run a generator inside a building or garage.
• Keep generators outside near the home and properly ventilate exhaust fumes.
• Run generators at least 10 feet from flammable materials like wood stoves, fireplaces, oil heaters, propane tanks, etc.
• Do not store generators in basements or garages where children might accidentally enter.
• Never operate a generator while sleeping or intoxicated.
As always, follow your generator’s instruction manual to safely operate your generator.
Summing it Up: Can I plug a generator into my house?
In conclusion, yes, you can plug a generator into your home without worrying about damaging anything. However, if you want to use a generator safely, you should use a transfer switch to connect the generator to your home’s wiring. If you are simply powering a few devices directly you can connect them to the generator itself.
Make sure you use your generator correctly and safely, and make sure that the next power outage doesn’t keep you in the dark for long.