How to Connect a Portable Generator to an Electric Panel
If you look closely, a significant aspect of your life revolves around electricity. It powers the entertainment devices you love, such as phones, laptops, TVs, and others.
But electricity does a lot more than help keep you entertained. It adds to the safety and security of your home by providing lighting, powering security systems, and running the HVAC system.
Therefore a day or two without electricity can be very stressful. Now, can you imagine a week or more without power? Probably not.
Nevertheless, it's a reality that people face from time to time. It may be due to issues with the power grid or substations or extreme weather events.
To avoid such power disruptions, a portable generator is a handy device. However, purchasing a unit is the easy part. First, you need to connect it the right way. Otherwise, you risk electrocution, damaging house wiring and equipment, and causing fires.
Read on to learn how to connect a portable DuroMax generator to an electric panel.
A transfer switch is the first thing you'll need to connect a portable generator to an electrical system safely. It ensures you can power your house using a generator without damaging wiring or equipment. Moreover, it's the legal way to power your home.
You'll have to wire the transfer switch into the electrical panel. There are three types of generator home wiring solutions. These are automatic transfer switches, manual transfer switch, and breaker interlocks.
1. Automatic Transfer Switch
Automatic transfer switches allow you to switch from the grid to your generator without lifting a muscle. They detect power outages and automatically transfer the load to the generator.
While they offer convenience, automatic transfer switches are best used with standby generators; and they are very expensive.
2. Manual Transfer Switches
Manual transfer switches can help you power up a few breakers. As the name suggests, you'll need to switch from the grid to the portable generator's power manually. However, they are a reliable option if you want basic electrical usage and are also cheap.
3. Breaker Interlock
A breaker interlock may be the ideal option if you want power to keep you going when there's an outage without breaking the bank. Breaker interlocks are compliant with the National Electric Code and setting one up may cost you approximately $150.
Once you set it up, switching it on and off is easy, making breaker interlocks a convenient option.
Tools You'll Need
You'll need some tools as you prepare to connect your portable generator to the electric panel. Some make the operation easier, while others will keep you safe.
- Safety gear such as goggles and rubber gloves
- Electric drill to install the breaker interlock
- Appropriate screws
- Power inlet box
- Breaker interlock kit
- Conduit and the appropriate gauge wire based on the generator capacity
How to Connect a Portable Generator to an Electric Panel
As you begin the connection process, there are several things to keep in mind. It is important to first make some space for your generator circuit in your breaker panel. Also, you should only install the breaker interlock to the nearest left side of the breaker.
Here's a rundown of the steps you should follow:
1. Contact a local certified electrician.
Once you have the plan on the type of transfer switch or interlock kit, at this point it’s time to contact an electrician to get it installed correctly.
2. Test the Generator
Now that you've completed the connection, your generator should power up your house during emergencies. But don't wait till there's an emergency to find out if the connection works well.
Switch on the main circuit breaker and turn on the lights and appliances inside your home. If they work well, you're ready for future power outages.
Portable Generator Safety Tips
Portable generators are highly convenient and can provide immense relief during emergency power outages. However, if you do not operate it well, it can be a danger to you, your property and loved ones, and crew members from the electric company working to restore your power. These generator safety tips can help ensure you are operating your portable generator safely.
Here are some of the potential hazards and ways you can avoid them:
1. Carbon Monoxide
Carbon monoxide is a colorless, tasteless, and odorless gas. As such, it can be at high levels, and you may not be able to detect it.
Depending on the portable generator you're using, it may emit carbon monoxide as a byproduct. If you're exposed to this gas, it may easily lead to incapacitation and death.
If you experience carbon monoxide poisoning symptoms, seek medical attention immediately. And you should not return inside until the fire department declares the premise safe to enter. Learn more about Carbon Monoxide safety here.
Preventing Carbon Monoxide Poisoning
- Do not position your generator indoors or in any partially closed space. These also include your basement, garage, and crawl spaces. You are still at risk of carbon monoxide poisoning even if you open the doors and windows or use fans.
- Install carbon monoxide detectors in your house
- Test carbon monoxide alarms regularly and replace batteries when necessary
- Follow all the instructions provided by the generator manufacturer
Generators are powered by fuels such as gasoline, propane, and other fuel types. All these elements have one thing in common: they're highly flammable. If there's a spill or the vapors leak, they can easily ignite in the presence of fire or sparks.
So, don't store the fuel for your generator inside your house. Instead, keep it outside living quarters in well ventilated area with labeled non-glass safety containers. In addition, keep them away from any appliance that burns fuel, such as a natural gas water heater.
Furthermore, never attempt to refuel your generator when it's powered on or shortly afterward. If gasoline spills on hot engine components, it can ignite. Therefore, allow the generator to cool down before refueling it.
3. Electrical Hazards
Electrical hazards are arguably the biggest risk you face. They can come in the form of electrocution or cause electrical fires.
The first thing you should do to avoid electrical hazards is to avoid back feeding. This is the practice of plugging your generator into a wall socket. This method is dangerous as it bypasses the circuit protection devices in your home.
In so doing, anyone using the same transformer, including neighbors and utility workers, face the risk of being electrocuted. Considering that it's also a violation of the electric code, you'll also face legal charges.
Therefore, when using portable generators, be sure to use the appropriate methods. If you're not confident about doing it, call a professional to assist.
Once you begin using the generator, ensure that you operate it on a dry surface. Do not use it if it's remotely exposed to moisture. You should also make sure your hands are dry when operating it.
4. Noise and Vibration
When generating electricity to power your house, portable generators cause vibrations and make a lot of noise. Besides being a nuisance, this can cause fatigue and damage your ears. So, ensure that you keep the generator a safe distance away.
Get the Power You Need
One of the things you should consider when buying a portable generator is the power output. The last thing you want is to find out that your generator can not meet your electrical needs.
At DuroMax, we design and create powerful and durable portable generators. We are named Best Portable Generator of 2022 by Popular Mechanic. Find one today that adequately meets your power needs.