Whether or not you can connect a normal power strip to a generator is a common question. We all know that generators need to be stored and run outside for safety reasons. Consequently, you have to find a way to get power from outdoors to indoors during a blackout. What can be plugged into a generator? Do you need special cables and converters, or can you treat it like an outdoor outlet?
Most generators come with a variety of outlets with different voltage and current configurations. If one of them is a standard household outlet (120V and 15A), then yes you can connect a power strip straight into the generator. Just make sure you use an outdoor-rated power strip or extension cord.
A generator can be a hazardous piece of machinery if you don’t know how to use it correctly. It is vital to understand what you should plug into it and that you have everything you need at hand before an emergency strikes. Let’s cover the details so that you can be well-informed.
Using Power Strips With Generators
Generators are available with different power outputs, which are measured in watts. The higher wattage models come with various outlets offering a variety of voltages and amps. Most models have at least one of what are called household outlets that provide 120V and 15A. You can plug a power strip into the generator directly.
Most likely, though, you want a bit of distance between the generator and your appliances and yourself. Remember, larger generators produce toxic fumes that you don’t want to inhale. They are also noisy! Therefore, it is best to plug an outdoor extension cord into the generator, just make sure it is rated for the watts that your generator produces and can handle the wattage from the generator.
Here is a power cord that I recommend, found on Amazon. It even comes with a household rated power strip built-in! Click the link or image to see the latest price.
After running the extension cord into the house, or to your tent at a campsite, connect a power strip to it. It might be tempting, but do not try to double your outlets by connecting a power strip to a power strip. Such action increases the chances of a fire.
When you use a power strip with a generator, it is always best to use one with a surge protector. Admittingly, most generators provide stable power that is akin to the power you get from your regular household supply, but fluctuations in power can happen. In the worst-case scenario, a surge can ruin computers, phones, tablets, even coffee makers. No one wants to be without their phone and coffee.
It is always best to spend the few extra dollars and get a surge protector in your power strip to be safe. Here is one that I recommend:
What Can be Plugged in to a Generator?
Large generators have a multitude of outlets that are rated differently and accept a variety of shaped plugs. You will typically have a heavy-duty outlet (120/240 V, 50 A) that has four prongs. Recreation vehicles tend to run off of this power outlet. The generator will also have a 120/240 V 30A twist-lock outlet. Often, homes with a transfer switch will connect using this outlet. The other option for your home is the 120V 30A twist-lock – which to use will depend on your wiring.
Small generators (<3,200 watts), like my favorite one, mostly incorporate only 120V outlets, just like the ones in your home, into their design. Into these outlets, you can plug extension cords, power strips, or electronics directly into the generator. They are great for use at a campground, construction site, or to keep you going during short power outages.
Due to the variety of outlets available and the high wattage of some generators, you can plug almost anything into them directly. Seriously, some models have a USB charging facility. However, you must be sure that the cables you connect are rated to accept the power from the outlet, or you will overpower the system and potentially cause a fire.
Differences Between an Indoor and an Outdoor Power or Extension Cable
Power and extension cords can be a lifesaver when you don’t have enough outlets or is a device’s power cord can’t reach them. You may be aware that you have to use outdoor-rated extension cords for some uses, and this includes any connections to a generator. That because your generator should be outside for safety. So, what’s the difference between an outdoor and an indoor cable? Five key differences make an outdoor cable a far safer cable of choice with your generator.
Outdoor cords are coated in heat-resistant Polyvinyl Chloride (PVC), which also withstand temperature changes, moisture, sunlight, and is thicker to tolerate more considerable wear and tear. Indoor cables use a much lighter plastic coating that cannot withstand such abuse from the elements.
The higher the gauge, the greater the current that can flow through it. Typically outdoor extension cords/power cables are more extended than indoor ones, which means you can use the cord over a greater distance and still get enough amps to the appliance to run it. Therefore, outdoor cables tend to come in larger gauges than indoor cables to account for the distance differences.
You may have noticed that many indoor power cables come with only two prongs, whereas those designed for outdoors have three prongs. The third prong is the ground, which helps protect you against an electrical fire or shock. Two prong cables should only be used for small appliances like lamps or radios. Never combine a two-prong and a three-prong cable in series – it is dangerous!
Bigger appliances need a larger current to run. Power tools and gardening accessories tend to require a lot of amps to run them, as many as 12 in some instances. Conversely, your table side clock probably needs less than half an amp to run. Outdoor cables are designed to handle such large current loads, whereas indoor cables are not capable of carrying that many amps.
Ground Fault Circuit Interrupter (GFCI)
A GFCI is a desirable safety feature in your circuits. It senses when there is something in the circuit that should not be conducting electricity, like water, a person, or clothing. When it detects that there is danger, it shuts the circuit off. The National Electrical Code requires all outdoor cables to be connected to one due to the larger current loads being used. You can get GFCI for indoor plugs too – it just isn’t something people often think about adding to their extension cables.
Generators come in all shapes and sizes. Some are designed to provide portable power so you can watch a movie in a tent while others are made to run a home and an RV. All models come with conventional household outlets that you can plug electronics and appliances directly in to. If one outlet isn’t enough, use a power strip. As your generator will be outside, make sure you use outdoor-rated cables between your generator and your power strip.
Be sure to check out my related articles before you go. Thanks for reading!
- How to Run a Generator in the Rain (And Not Ruin It)
- How to Ground a Portable Generator | The Complete Guide
What Should Never Be Plugged into A Power Strip?
Certain appliances draw a lot of power/amperage, and therefore it is not safe to use them with a power strip. These items include items that heat up, like a coffee maker, hairdryer, hair straightener, toaster, kettle, microwave, space heater, or a slow cooker. You also don’t want to plug in large appliances like the dishwasher, fridge, freezer, washing machine, or tumble dryer. If you look at the item and know it will draw a lot of power, don’t use it with a power strip. If you don’t have enough outlets, learn to unplug things to share an outlet. It is the far safer option.
How Do I Safely Use a Generator?
Generators can be hazardous if you don’t use them correctly. They pose a threat to life through electric shocks, fire, and carbon monoxide poisoning. To curtail these hazards, use your generator outside, away from ventilation systems and windows. The fumes from your generator are just like those for a car exhaust – you don’t want to be breathing them in! Keep the generator dry by having it covered; a simple canopy will be sufficient. Avoiding moisture will reduce the opportunity for electric shocks. Finally, only use outdoor-rated power chords to lower the fire danger.
How Much Power Do I Need To Run My House Off a Generator?
If you are looking to purchase a generator to keep your home powered during an outage, you are probably wondering what size of generator you need. For a modest house that uses city water and has a small furnace will require between 3,000-5,000 watts to run everything effectively. If you have a substantial furnace and pump your water, then you will probably need between 5,000-6,5000 watts. It is always best to buy a generator that exceeds what you think you will need. Therefore, spend the extra money to get yourself a 7,500-watt generator. You will be grateful when everything in your home has power.