One question that homeowners have after purchasing a portable generator is how to connect it to the electrical system in their homes. One common choice is to try plugging the generator into an electrical outlet in the house. It is a good thing that you did research before attempting to do so because the result could be disastrous.
A generator should not be plugged into a wall socket. While it is physically possible to do so, there are substantial risks involved. Not only is it illegal in some areas, but permanent damage could also be done to the home’s electrical system by way of backfeeding.
However, there is a way to make it safe to plug a generator in via a transfer switch, like one of these found on Amazon. More on that in a bit.
Please read on as we take a closer look at why plugging into a wall socket is a bad idea. I’ll also provide basic safety guidelines on how to hook a generator up properly.
Why to Not Plug a Portable Generator Into a Wall Socket
Here are some points that homeowners will want to consider before plugging a generator into a standard electrical outlet.
This is usually the biggest concern when a portable generator is plugged into a wall outlet. A generator transfers a lot of energy into the home. If it is connected through a regular wall socket, the electrical power goes straight into the house’s wiring without the benefit of a breaker to regulate the energy.
What Is Backfeeding?
Backfeeding can occur when a strong, unfiltered electrical current overpowers the home’s electrical system, causing a feedback loop where the electrical current runs the wrong way. Permanent damage can be caused to the electrical system. The potential risk of electrocution is also elevated.
Warning: If backfeeding occurs and someone in the home touches the cord running from the generator to the wall outlet, there is a good chance that they will receive an electric shock. The danger is that the backfeed and resultant overload will overflow from the home’s electrical system into the public system. This means that any workmen operating on the main powerlines might get a potentially life-threatening jolt of electricity.
Permanent Damage Can Happen
Damage often occurs as a result of plugging a generator into a wall outlet. There is a good chance that the overload caused by the feedback from the generator will cause permanent damage to the electrical wiring in a home. As with any electrical problem, there is a high risk of a fire occurring. The overloaded may also circle back and burn out the generator as well.
It Is Illegal
It is against the law to connect a portable generator to a wall socket in most places. Because of the dangers inherent in using a generator in this way, most jurisdictions do not allow it.
Often a permit must be acquired to install a backup or a portable generator, and the method that will be used to connect it to a home would be reviewed at that time. There may be occasional exceptions, but they are few and far between.
Insurance May Not Cover Damage
Any damage resulting from plugging a generator directly into a wall socket may not be covered under your homeowner’s policy. Because of the risks and the illegality of this type of connection, insurance policies often will not cover the cost of any damages. Instead, the homeowner will be left to cover those expenses on their own.
Guidelines for Hooking up a Portable Generator to a Home
While plugging a generator directly into a wall socket in a home might not be the best option, other ways are much safer. The key to safely connecting a generator to a home is to make sure that the home’s electric system is not connected to the main utility power grid and the generator at the same time. There are several ways to accomplish this.
A Transfer Switch
This is the easiest option for the safe connection of a portable generator to a home. However, you will need a licensed electrician to install the transfer switch, but the extra expense will be worth it in the long run.
How a Transfer Switch Works
The transfer switch connects the generator to a power inlet box on the outside of the house with a special four-pronged extension cord. The power inlet box is then connected to the transfer switch, which will usually be installed next to the main panel in the home.
With a transfer switch, the most important things that need to be powered will be selected by the homeowner before the generator is required. The generator will be set up to automatically provide power to only those breakers that power the preselected items. All the homeowner needs to do is go to the transfer switch box and flip the switch from utility power to generator power.
This video explains the process very well.
Interlock switches are wired the same way as transfer switches. The power is run from the portable generator through the four-pronged cord into the power inlet box.
However, instead of running the generator power into a separate transfer switch, the power goes to an interlock switch located in the main breaker panel. The interlock switch is operated by two switches, one for the main power and one for the generator. The interlocking design prevents the generator switch from going on unless the main power is disconnected first.
What Is the Difference Between a Transfer Switch and an Interlock Switch?
The main difference between the transfer switch and the interlock switch is that the transfer switch provides power only to those things that have been preselected. The interlock switch powers the entire breaker panel and allows the homeowner to manually choose which items the generator will power.
In today’s turbulent world, having a generator backup is an intelligent way to ensure your quality of living in times of strife. I hope this article has helped you avoid common problems and make the most of your situation. Let me know how it goes in the comments below.
Thanks for reading!
For more, don’t miss Can You Connect a Power Strip to a Generator?
Hey, I’m Jim and the author of this website. I have always been interested in survival, fishing, camping, and anything in nature. In fact, while growing up I spent more time on the water than on land! I am also a best-selling author and have a degree in History, Anthropology, and Music. I hope you find value in the articles on this website. Feel free to contact me if you have any questions or input!