How to Hook Up a Generator to Your House: A Step-by-Step Guide

You know the importance of having a backup generator if power outages are a common problem in your area. But hooking it up to your home can be daunting if you’ve never owned one. Don’t worry – it’s not as difficult as you may think! 

Hook Up a Generator to Your House
Hook Up a Generator to Your House

A few things matter when installing a generator. First, you can connect your unit in many different ways. You must also choose an ideal location for your backup power source.

Here’s everything on how to hook up a generator to your house, from preparing the area to connecting it to your electrical system. 

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Introduction: What You’ll Need and Why You Need It

  1. A generator: This is an essential part of the system. It provides you with power in case of a power outage.
  2. A transfer switch: This device helps you link the back up unit to your home’s electrical system.
  3. Extension cords: These will connect the generator to the transfer switch and any appliances or devices you want to power.
  4. Fuel: You’ll need a fuel supply for your backup unit, such as gasoline, propane, or diesel.
  5. A way to start the generator: This could be a manual pull-start or an electric starter, depending on the model you have.
  6. A few essential tools: You may require a few tools to hook up the generator, such as a wrench and a screwdriver.

Why You Need a Generator: The Impact of a Power Outage

If your power is completely cut off, most electric devices in your home will cease to function. Your refrigerator, lights, computers, TVs, and other appliances will stop working. Your ability to run electric devices will depend on how well-built your emergency power supply is.

You may be able to power some of your devices using the energy from the generator, but not all. For example, you can’t power a TV using a generator; you must connect it to the grid to get electricity.

Similarly, a microwave or other small appliance may run on battery power, but not if the battery is dead. In these cases, the only way to continue using that device would be to connect it to the grid.

Tiny emergency generators, such as those that run on car batteries, can only provide a few minutes of power to your devices. If your power goes out, you’ll have a few minutes to figure out what to do to continue living in the aftermath of a power outage.

The more power a generator can supply, the longer it will last after startup.

Step One: Choosing the Right Location for Your Generator

Before hooking it up to the electrical system, you must decide where to place the generator.

Ideally, you’ll want to choose a location close to the electrical power source but with good access to an outside outlet. 

Consider the following factors when choosing a location:

Distance to the electrical source

You’ll need to be close to the power grid to draw adequate electricity to start your generator. If you’re in a remote area, your generator may not be able to reach the grid.

Height of the building

If you install your generator on the roof of a two-story house, will a windy day cause it to fall off? You want to avoid repairing your generator after a power blackout.

Type of installation

Are you installing a standby generator that kicks in automatically after an outage? Or are you hooking up a portable generator for temporary use?

Outlet

It’s best to place your generator near an outlet, so you can plug in your devices when the power is restored. This will prevent you from carrying your generator from location to location when needed.

Step Two: Prepare the Area 

You’ll need to choose an area and clear some space to install your generator correctly. The site should be level and free of obstacles. You’ll also need to ensure the area is well-ventilated to avoid harmful fumes.

If you’re installing your generator on the ground, remove combustible materials – such as wood or leaves – from the surrounding area. You’ll also need to ensure the unit is reasonably far from the house to avoid excessive noise.

If you’re installing your unit on a building roof, secure it to the structure to prevent it from being damaged in a windstorm.

Step Three: Steps to Connect the Generator to the House: How to Do it

Depending on your situation, preference, and preparedness, you can connect a generator in many ways.

Here are five ways to link your unit:

Plug it into the main electrical panel

This is the easiest way to connect a unit to your house. If you have an outlet designed explicitly for generators, plug the unit into the outlet and turn it on. 

Use an adapter

You can use an adapter if you don’t have an outlet designed explicitly for generators. Adapters come in various shapes and sizes and will convert the standard household outlet into a compatible outlet for your generator.

Use a Power Inverter

An inverter converts DC to AC (direct current to alternating current). You can also use it to link a generator to your house and power all your devices.

Use a Breaker Box

A breaker box is an electrical panel that distributes power to multiple circuits. Once you connect it to your generator, the energy will flow to the different circuits in your house.

Use a Transfer Switch

This switch allows you to connect your generator to your house. You place it between the main electrical panel and the generator. 

This switch automatically switches the energy from the main electrical panel to the standby unit when the power goes out.

Step Four: Start the Generator and Test It

Once you’ve connected the generator to the house, test it out to ensure everything is working correctly. 

First, you need to startup the unit and let it run for a few minutes. This will allow the generator to properly circulate the oil and get all the engine parts moving. Once the unit is running, you can then start testing it.

To test the generator, you will need a load tester. This device tests the unit under different loads helping you determine if it’s running correctly.

Tips for Safe Connection & Usage

If you’re using a backup power source at home, you should keep a few safety tips in mind. 

  • Use heavy-duty, weather-resistant extension cords rated for the generator’s wattage. Go for a three-pronged cord and plug if possible.
  • Never try to connect the generator directly to your home’s wiring. This can backfeed electricity into power lines, posing a severe safety hazard to utility workers and your neighbors.
  • Always check the outlet. Ensure there isn’t anything live or metal near the electrical outlet before linking the generator.
  • Keep the backup unit in a well-ventilated area to avoid carbon monoxide poisoning. 
  • Remember to shut off and disconnect your unit before refueling it. 

These simple safety tips will help you avoid accidents when running your home on a backup power source.

Wrapping Up

There are many reasons to have a generator at home. The main one is to provide backup power during an electrical power outage.

Hooking a backup unit to your house is easier than it seems. If you still need help connecting yours, hire an electrician with knowledge of the specific requirements in your area. 

Once the generator is connected, turn it on and run it for a few minutes. After testing your unit for readiness, you can plug in devices and enjoy.

FAQs

How far should a generator be from the house?

If you have a generator, it is crucial to place it at a safe distance from your house to avoid any potential hazards. The rule of thumb is to place your unit at least 20 feet away from your home, especially if it runs on gasoline. You should also make sure to put it in a well-ventilated area to avoid any buildup of fumes.

Do I need any legal permit to install a generator or any of components in my house?

Yes, depending on the unit you install, you may need permits like an Electrical Permit and a Gas Piping Permit.

The requirements for permits vary by state, so it is essential to check with your local office to see what’s needed. Sometimes, a permit is optional for installation, but you may need to notify the relevant office.

Always comply with your state’s generator installation rules to avoid penalties and deadly accidents.

What is the difference between a standby and a portable generator?

A standby generator is a backup unit you install permanently into your home’s natural gas or propane supply. A standby unit kicks on automatically during a power outage and provides backup power for your home until the power is restored. 

On the other hand, a portable generator is a type of backup that you can easily move from one location to another. Portable units are used for short-term power outages and are not permanent installations.

How to Hook Up a Generator to Your House: A Step-by-Step Guide

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