Since many home appliances need electricity to work, and the rate at which power outages occur is increasing, you need to get a portable generator to back up your power supply. So, whenever a power failure occurs, you’ll just switch to your generator. You’ll agree that spending a few minutes without electricity can be difficult. Imagine if you have to stay without power for days.
To avoid such situations, you need a portable generator. You need to know how to choose the right generator for your home, and how to connect a portable generator to an electrical panel. We have discussed the steps below. It is not difficult at all.
In addition, we have also answered some frequently asked questions below. So, without further ado, let’s get down to business right away.
Can You Plug a Generator into an Electrical Panel?
No, you can’t plug a generator directly into an electric panel. It does not work that way. Rather, you’ll install an outdoor socket. This socket will be wired to your electric panel. After that, you’ll connect your generator indirectly to your electrical panel.
Can You Connect a Generator Directly to Breaker Box?
You need to understand that the breaker box is the same as an electrical panel. A lot of people erroneously think that a breaker box and an electric panel are different appliances. In fact, an electrical panel is the breaker box that contains circuit breakers.
That being said, you can’t connect a generator directly to a breaker box. Rather, a breaker box can only be connected to the outdoor socket through wiring. And the generator can be connected to the outdoor socket with a generator cord.
How to Connect a Portable Generator to an Electrical Panel?
You must first get an electrician to wire your electrical panel appropriately before you’re able to make the connection. Wiring isn’t what you can do. Besides, no number of YouTube videos can teach you how to wire an electrical panel. You must hire an experienced electrician for the job.
Secondly, you must install an interlock in your electrical panel. In fact, it is illegal to connect your generator to your electrical panel without an interlock. You could be fined for it. So, you may want to know the function of the interlock and why it is mandatory. The interlock prevents you from being able to switch on the breakers when your main supply is on. This is for safety reasons. When your generator has powered your electrical panel and your main supply is on, the power in the panel will be sent to the grid. And if someone is working on the line, thinking there’s no power in the grid, such person may be electrocuted.
And you could be jailed for it. In fact, it is possible that your power was deliberately put out for line workers to carry out some maintenance tasks. And when you connect your generator to your electrical panel, electricity will travel from the panel back to the grid. The process is called back-feeding.
Therefore, after starting your generator, let it run for about 2 minutes to allow it to stabilize. Within that period, go and switch off your mains in the electric panel. You should also flip all the breakers off.
After that, connect the generator to the outdoor socket with the generator cord. You can now go back to the electrical panel. Remember that by now, you should have turned off your main switch. In fact, the interlock will prevent you from flipping any breaker on if you don’t turn off your main switch.
The next step is to go to the breaker and switch on the 30-amp breaker. Remember, the panel is already energized, and the generator is sending power to the panel. Now, start switching on the breakers to the appliances you want to power with your generator. For instance, if you want your generator to power your water pump, you can turn on the breaker that controls the water pump.
You can also flip on the breaker that controls the lights and TV. Check through the panel and switch on all the breakers of the appliances you want to power.
So, what happens when power is restored? First of all, we will advise you to install a pilot lamp or a siren. This lamp or siren will be connected to the grid permanently. And it won’t be controlled by the main switch. That way, if you turn off the main switch, the pilot lamp or siren will still be on.
While you’re running your generator, if power is restored from the grid, the lamp will come on or the siren will sound. So, you’ll go and switch back to the grid and shut down your generator. Without a pilot lamp or siren, it may take several hours before you realize that power has been restored. You would have wasted several liters of fuel by then.
Now, when power is restored, what do you do? The first thing to do is to shut down your generator to remove power from the electrical panel. Now, all the appliances in your house will go off. The next step is to turn on the main switch and power goes into your home. Remember that while using the generator, you didn’t switch on all the breakers. Now, you can switch on the remaining breakers that are off.
Connecting your generator to your electrical panel is the safest way to hook up your generator. In fact, that is the method recommended by the regulatory authorities. Since it is linked to the electrical panel, it prevents short circuits and overheating.
This is better and more convenient than connecting all your appliances directly to the generator. Finally, with this method, your generator will be able to power some hardwired appliances like the air conditioner and water pump.
1. Read the manufacturer’s instructions
Like every other appliance, it is necessary to study the user manual of your generator. Read and follow the instructions before you start using it. Remember that the manufacturer took some time to write the instructions. That effort will be wasted if you don’t read it.
Besides, every instruction guides you and prevents you from making a costly mistake. So, even if you’ve been using generators for years, every model and brand of generator is unique. Get to know your generator very well before you start using it.
2. Wiring your generator isn’t child’s play
If you are not a professional electrician, you can’t possibly wire an electrical panel for your generator. Improper wiring could cause electrocution, fire, or death. So, hire an electrician for the wiring. Don’t do it yourself!
3. Proper ventilation is important
Generators burn fuel, and they emit dangerous fumes. You need to place your generator outside where there’s adequate airflow. It will prevent the fumes from building up. Also, don’t place it near your window. Some of the fumes could find their way into your house through the window.
4. Never let it run out of fuel
When your generator runs out of fuel while in use, it will automatically shut down. And when you refill its tank and start it, the beast gets back to work. Of course, you may think nothing has happened. The generator sucks fuel as it works. And when the tank is empty, it will suck dirt. This dirt will continue to build up in its engine.
In the long run, the dirt will hinder the performance of the generator and shorten its lifespan. So, don’t let your generator run out of fuel. Check the tank and refill the generator before you start it. Also, don’t refill the generator while it is working. This is very dangerous. Gasoline and diesel are highly inflammable. When any of them accidentally drops on a very hot part of the generator, a fire could be ignited.
5. Don’t overload your generator
Most generators will automatically shut down when overloaded. This does not mean that you should load your generator recklessly. Each time you overload it, you put a strain on its engine even before it shuts down. When this continues to happen, the lifespan of the generator will be shortened.
6. Manage your power
We’d like you to understand two facts about a generator. The more load you put on your generator, the more you shorten its lifespan. This means that a generator that powers only 25% of its load capacity will outlast the one that always powers 50% of its load capacity. Also, the more the load, the higher the rate of fuel consumption. 50% load will drain more fuel from a generator than 25% load on the same generator.
So, to reduce the fuel consumption and lengthen the lifespan of your generator, use it to power only the appliances that you need at the moment.
After taking note of what to do in your electrical panel, we’d also want you to remember to apply all the safety tips. They are all very important for you, your house, and the generator itself.