When a power outage hits, having a generator can be a lifesaver. It can keep your lights on, your refrigerator running, and your essential devices charged. But how do you safely and correctly attach a generator to your house? Here's a straightforward guide to help you understand the basics.

1. Choose the Right Generator

First, make sure you have the right type of generator for your needs. There are two main types:

  • Portable Generators: These are smaller, mobile units that you can move around as needed. Bryan suggests these for most homeowners, as they are more cost efficient and require less initial setup, such as HOA approvals and additional plumbing/permitting requirements.
  • Standby Generators: These are larger, permanent units installed outside your home that automatically turn on during an outage.

2. Understand Power Needs

Determine what you want to power during an outage. Make a list of essential appliances and devices. Check their wattage requirements to ensure your generator can handle the load.

3. Safety First

Safety is crucial when dealing with generators. Here are some key tips:

  • Never run a generator indoors or in enclosed spaces like garages. Generators emit carbon monoxide, which is deadly.
  • Use a transfer switch to connect your generator to your home. This device prevents back-feeding, which can be dangerous for utility workers and your electrical system.

4. Installing an Inlet and Transfer Switch or Interlock Kit

A generator inlet box, also known as a power inlet box, is like an electrical outlet for your house. It'll allow you to connect your portable generator quickly and easily.  A transfer switch is a small board installed next to your main electrical panel. It safely connects your generator to your home's electrical system.  An alternative to installing a transfer switch is an Interlock, which is installed directly into your electrical panel.  What is required for your home depends upon your current setup.

Here’s a simple overview:

  • Hire a licensed electrician: Installing a transfer switch or inlet involves working with your home's electrical system, which can be complex and dangerous.
  • Installation process: The electrician will install the transfer switch near your main electrical panel (or an interlock in your main electrical panel) and connect it to the circuits you want to power during an outage. They will then create an outlet where your generator can be plugged in.

5. Connecting the Generator

Once the transfer switch is installed, connecting your generator is straightforward:

  1. Place the generator outdoors on a flat, stable surface away from windows, doors, and vents.
  2. Plug the generator into the transfer switch using a heavy-duty extension cord rated for the wattage of your generator.
  3. Start the generator according to the manufacturer's instructions.
  4. Flip the switches on the transfer switch to the "Generator" position to start powering your selected circuits.

6. Maintenance and Testing

Regular maintenance ensures your generator is ready when you need it:

  • Run your generator periodically to keep it in good working condition.
  • Check the oil level, fuel, and air filters regularly.
  • Test the transfer switch and generator connection a few times a year to ensure everything works properly.

One of the most important safety tips to remember is to never plug a generator directly into a regular home outlet. This can cause back feeding, which is extremely dangerous and can even be deadly for utility workers.

Final Thoughts

Attaching a generator to your house involves understanding your power needs, prioritizing safety, and using the right equipment. While it's tempting to do it yourself, hiring a professional electrician to install your inlet and transfer switch or interlock is the safest and most reliable approach. With the right setup, you'll be well-prepared for any power outage, keeping your home and family safe and comfortable.

Remember, this guide provides general advice. Always consult with professionals and follow local regulations and manufacturer instructions when dealing with electrical systems and generators. Stay safe and powered up!