How to Wire a Generator to Your Home
An Off the Grid Alternate Power Source During a Natural Disaster
© 2013 by Sarah Harris; all rights reserved; content may not be copied, rewritten, or republished without written permission.
Connecting a generator to your home is a great way to guard yourself from the unexpected. In the event that a storm, hurricane, or other widespread problem knocks out the power in your area, you can go on powering your home with a generator as a backup source of electricity.
Of course, wiring a generator to your home is a slightly more involved process than you may be imagining. Working with electrical equipment can be very dangerous to those who dont know what theyre doing.
Be sure to start working on wiring your generator only after you understand how to do so safely.
Determine Your Needs with an Electrical Load Assessment
First, make sure that your generator suits your needs. If you dont already own a generator, start shopping the smart way. The average home can only handle so much power, but sales associates will always try to sell you on the extra power that you might need just in case.
Try to figure out how much electricity your home uses in an average day. A typical home can support up to 24,000 watts, and remember—thats the maximum.
Your home most likely uses far less than that on average, so dont buy a generator thats putting out more power than you need. To determine exactly how much power is needed in your exact case, you will need to perform an electrical load assessment.
Getting the generator hooked up so that it can actually power your home is a slightly complicated affair, and may require professional assistance for some tasks. In fact, chances are that your local building code mandates it. Be sure to check.
You will need to set up either a generator interlock, or a separate breaker panel for your generator. Interlocks are the most common and easy setup, and they offer the freedom of running power to every circuit in your house.
Essentially, the generator interlock is a switch that determines from which source your home draws its power. On a daily basis, your home will still be connected to your local power grid.
When that power fails, you can switch over to generator power and completely disconnect from your usual power source.
Consider Investing in an Automatic Transfer Switch
For uninterrupted electrical service, spend the extra money and install an automatic transfer switch. It monitors the electrical supply and will automatically start the generator when the grid goes dead, all without your intervention.
Another important function of an ATS is that it prevents backfeeding from your emergency generator back into the utility line. This protects electric company linemen working to restore power from inadvertent electrocution.
This alone makes it a morally sagacious investment, in addition to the convenience factor it offers the homeowner.
Hire a Licensed Electrician to Comply with Building Codes
Keep in mind that there are legal and safety issues to be considered here, and it is usually better to have your breaker box alterations carried out by a professional if youre not experienced with electrical work.
Your home needs to be in compliance with electrical codes, and you also need to set up a secure box that wont allow any outside power into the line while your generator is running.
Furthermore, if your wiring is faulty, you could end up sending more power into your lines than they can handle. Too much voltage can immediately destroy your electronics and creates serious fire hazards.
When your wiring is all in order, youll need to figure out where to run your generator. Keep in mind that this is not necessarily clean energy.
Most generators run on gasoline or some similar fuel, and they give off carbon monoxide emissions. Running your generator in an enclosed space can be very risky for this reason, so be sure to find a safe place for it.
Follow these guidelines to get your generator wired safely and securely, and youll have a great backup power source in case of any unforeseen emergency.