For many, a generator is an indispensable tool for providing off-grid power during outages, or for powering appliances while camping or tailgating. Portable generators are ideal for multiple uses. They are smaller, quieter, and more versatile than larger and louder stationary generators.
Portable generators feature several power outlets that make it easy to power appliances in a recreational vehicle, or while camping and tailgating. You can simply plug in appliances into the power outlets on the generator, and you are powered up!
But how to connect portable generator to electrical panel? Learning how to connect portable generator to electrical panel is a bit more complicated than plug-and-play.
You should not connect a portable generator to your home’s electrical outlet or directly to the circuit breaker panel, unless you are interested in burning your house down.
You can use an extension cord to connect your portable generator to your house, but it is not safe and can result in fire and electrocution. The safest way to connect your generator to your home’s electrical panel is using a transfer switch or safety interlock system.
The article below explains how to connect a portable generator to electrical panel safely. To make the connection, you need the right tools and appliances such a power cord and transfer switch. The connection can be somewhat complicated, so hiring a licensed electrician to do the job is recommended.
The 3 Main Connection Options
Using a generator transfer switch is the safest way to connect an emergency generator to your home. This electrical device is installed adjacent to the electrical panel, and is crucial for how to connect portable generator to electrical panel.
It is connected to all circuits in the panel that need power during an outage separating them from the power lines to prevent back-feed. This device is a safety feature required by the National Electric Code to eliminate the risk of back-feed, which may cause injury or death.
The transfer switch alternates the power supply between utility power and generated power. In essence, it shuts off one supply and switches to the other. The switch makes power management easy since it enables control of the various circuits to accommodate changing power needs. Effective power management maximizes your generator’s performance.
You have three options for connecting your portable generator to your house’s electrical panel. These are:
- Automatic transfer switch: The switch recognize a power outage and automatically starts the standby generator. It also turns off the generator and switches back to utility power automatically when the grid power comes back on. This switch is very efficient, so it has an expensive price tag. It is also more suited to a fulltime standby generator than a portable generator.
- Manual transfer sub–panel switch: This is the less expensive option to the automatic switch. It is ideal when you are using a portable generator for backup power to your house.
- Breaker interlock: Most homeowners prefer this option since it is the least expensive and most flexible to set up. A breaker interlock connection is ideal for houses with a standard house panel as it gives you the option of choosing which home appliances to power. It may feature a built-in amp meter to help prevent overload and tripping of the generator output breaker.
In the absence of a transfer switch or a breaker interlock, you can power your home appliances by using extension cords connected to the generator’s power outlets. Extension cords cannot be used to power large home systems such as the well pump or furnace. Having extension cords running to and from appliances is cumbersome and time-consuming to set up.
NOTE FROM THE GENERATOR EXPERT: Transfer switches can be confusing. One thing that can alleviate some of the confusion is to get the most simple and effective piece of equipment. For these cases, we at GELC highly recommend the Reliance 31406CRK 30-Amp 6-Circuit.
How To Connect Portable Generator To Electrical Panel
This section outlines the step-by-step instructions of connecting a portable generator to your house’s electrical panel.
Step 1: Ready the tools and parts
Gather a long cable, a wire cutter, wire nuts, a drill and a non-metallic sheathed cable clamp connect. You can use a 10/4, 30-Amp cable or a 12/2, 20-Amp cable, based on the recommendations of your local power department or planning department.
Step 2: Install a generator breaker
You will need to install a generator breaker that complements your generator’s rating. This is one of the most crucial parts for how to connect portable generator to electrical panel.
You can (and should) use two 30-amp circuit breakers. Start by turning off your house’s electrical panel breaker to isolate your home from the general power grid. Ensure that all the breaker slots are off before installing the new generator breaker.
Step 3: Mount the service cable and feedback breaker
Route the service cable to the main power inlet box from your main home panel. Start by knocking off a hole at the top of the main panel to fit a 2-inch NM cable clamp connector. Pass the service panel cable through the connector, ensuring it doesn’t touch any energized parts. Give the cable enough length to allow maneuverability within the service panel.
Attach the black and red wires to the newly installed circuit breaker and the neutral white wire to the neutral bus bar. Finish by installing the service feedback breaker to the house’s main service panel.
Step 4: Mount the inlet box
After wiring the electrical panel, you can then direct the wires to the inlet point. Drill a hole in your house’s wall to pass the electrical wires. The hole should be wide enough and in a downward position to prevent water entry.
Take the inlet box apart and fix its back bracket to the wall. Insert NOALOX into the wire receptacles and screw them into place accordingly. The hot black and red wires should connect to the live, silver terminals, the green wire to the ground terminal and the white wire to the neutral point.
Use the proper wire cable to connect the generator to the inlet box. The cable should meet the generator rated requirements. The generator end should have a male twist lock while the flanged connector connecting end should have a female twist lock.
NOTE FROM THE GENERATOR EXPERT: When you are looking for good quality extension cords, it’s important to not cheap out, for the sake of your home. We recommend products from Clear Power, including the 100 ft Extra Heavy Duty Contractor Grade Extension Cord.
Step 5: Install the switch
When using a portable generator, it is better to use an interlock kit than the transfer switch, which is more expensive to buy and install. Hiring a licensed electrician to install the interlock kit is recommended as well, in the best interest of safety for your family and your home.
Step 6: Testing
To avoid accidents or getting into trouble with the planning agencies, insurance company or power company, you should have the connection inspected and tested by a certified electrician.
Final Thoughts On How To Connect Portable Generator To Electrical Panel
The article highlights the tips and steps of how to connect portable generator to electrical panel like a professional. The connection should make powering your house with a portable generator quick and easy.
Additional Generator Resources
- How Long Will A Whole Home Generator Effectively Run?
- Do Whole Home Generators Add Strong Home Value?
- Starting Watts vs Running Watts: The Great Debate
- The Ultimate Guide to Boondocking With A Generator
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