Connecting a Generator to Your Home

When powering your home, the generator is only half of the equation. You’ll also want to consider how to connect the generator to your home safely.

What are your Options to connect?

Extension Cords

  • Less Expensive
  • No installation needed
  • Best for powering basics, like fridge, lights, and charging phones
  • Cannot be used to power appliances that are hardwired (Stove, hot water heater, etc.)
  • Best for short term, occasional power outages and smaller generators

Extension cords are the easiest and least expensive option. But, they do have limitations on what they can power. If you only have occasional need for backup power, and you only want to power the basics, using extension cords is a good option.

To connect your generator, you’ll run extension cords from the appliances you want to power to the generator. You’ll want to make sure the generator is a safe distance from your home, and of course, keep all doors and windows closed.

You can use extension cords to power your refrigerator, coffee maker, microwave, chargers for electronic devices, and much more.

However, you cannot power items like ceiling fans, overhead lights, or your furnace or hot water heater with extension cords. These items are wired into your home, so they don’t have a separate plug to connect to the extension cord.

Transfer Switches

  • Easier and more convenient than extension cords
  • Powers more appliances, like your stove, water pump, and water heater
  • Easy to manage power from different areas of your house
  • Needs to be installed by an electrician

A transfer switch is an electrical device that switches the power from your electrical utility to your generator, and vice versa. It is usually installed next to the electric panel in your home. An inlet box is usually installed to your home’s exterior to connect the generator.

A transfer switch makes it easy and convenient to power your home. When the power goes out, you simply flip the switch to “Generator Power,” connect your generator, and start the generator. There’s no need to mess with multiple extension cords.

A transfer switch lets you use your home’s wiring system to power any appliance in your home with your generator quickly and easily. This includes items like a stove or a water pump, ceiling fans, and other appliances are hard wired into your home. A transfer switch is the easiest and safest way to connect these items to the generator.

A transfer switch can also increase the usefulness of your generator. A transfer switch makes power management very easy to do. You can easily turn on and off various circuits to accommodate changing power needs.

This helps you to use a smaller, less expensive generator to meet your power needs. It lets you use your generator more efficiently – with less effort on your part.

We have multiple types of transfer switches available call Powerlite to assist you https://powerlite.com.au/what-is-a-transfer-switch-changeover-switch/

A licensed electrician is recommended to install your transfer switch. Your local Honda dealer can often recommend a good electrician to help you with this.

There are many different kinds of transfer switches available. Your Powerlite dealer will help you to choose one that works best with your power needs.

Never Plug a Generator Directly into an Outlet

You might hear someone suggest you just “plug the generator into an outlet” to power your home. This is not a safe idea and should never be done..

If you plug your generator into your home without a transfer switch, the power from your generator will back-feed – meaning it goes back down the utility lines. Back-feeding could electrocute any technicians who are working on the lines – causing injury or even death.

In addition, if your generator is powering your home, and the utility power comes back on, it could not only damage the generator, but has the potential to cause a fire in your home.

A transfer switch eliminates the risk of back-feeding. It is the only safe way to connect your generator directly to your home. This is why a transfer switch is required by the Australian Licencing Authorities for any connection of power to a home.

Using a Transfer Switch to Power Your Home

How does a transfer switch work?

A transfer switch is usually installed near your circuit panel. The main breaker in the transfer switch moves the power source from utility to generator.

The house cannot be connected to both the generator and utility power at the same time – the main breaker transfers power from one source to the other.

The transfer switch also isolates your home from utility power. This stops the power from your generator from back-feeding down utility lines – a major hazard to utility workers. It also ensures that when utility power comes back on, the power won’t feed into your generator – which could damage the generator and start a fire.

The transfer switch also contains a number of circuits. You can assign each circuit to a different load. For example, you might want to power your furnace, well pump, refrigerator, and some lights. You can assign different circuits to power each appliance or room.

You may have more items on different circuits than the generator is capable of powering at the same time. However, using a transfer switch will make it easy to switch between different loads. Just turn one circuit off, and the other on. A transfer switch makes it easier and safer to manage your power usage.

Types of Transfer Switches

Powerlite offers two types of transfer switches: manual and “Automatic.”

The manual types can transfer power with a large, single master breaker, and other versions use individual breakers.

The “Automatic” transfer switch is also called a Universal Transfer Switch or UTS. The UTS will manage available power to whichever applications you set as a priority. This allows a smaller generator to power more critical appliances in your home. It makes it very easy to manage power effectively.

You will also need an inlet box installed. Typically these are installed on the exterior of your home to make it easy to plug in your generator in order to safely connect it to your home.


What should I expect during installation?

A licensed electrician should install the transfer switch and inlet box into your home and connect them with the main breaker box. Your Powerlite dealer can recommend a good electrician if you need assistance.

You will want to communicate with your electrician about your priorities for what you want to power. The electrician will assign those loads to the various circuits in the transfer switch.

Installation typically takes a few hours, depending on the complexity of your system. You may need a permit or inspection. Your electrician can advise you on these matters, or check with your local municipality regarding regulations near you.


How do I use a Transfer Switch?

Manual Switches:

Your owner’s manual will have detailed instructions on using your transfer switch properly. Be sure to review it thoroughly before use.

When the utility power goes out:

  1. Turn off all the circuit breakers in the transfer switch to the off position.
  2. Move your generator outside. Connect the generator cord to the transfer switch or inlet box.
  3. Start the generator and let it warm up.
  4. Flip the main breakers in the transfer switch to the Generator position.
  5. Turn on the circuits you wish to power, one at a time. This will help to prevent the generator from being overloaded.

 

When the power is restored:
  1. Turn the main breakers in the transfer switch back to Utility Power.
  2. Turn on any other circuits that were turned off.
  3. Turn off the generator.
  4. Disconnect any cords.

 

Automatic Transfer Switch

Simply start your generator and connect it to the transfer switch. The UTS will automatically detect power and adjust the circuits as necessary. When power is restored, disconnect your generator and turn it off.

Be sure to review your owner’s manual thoroughly before use.

Generator Safety

Customer safety is very important to Powerlite Australia, so we want to point out hazards of improper generator operation. Carbon monoxide (CO) poisoning, electrocution, and fire are hazards that can be avoided by following instructions in the owner’s manual and on the generator safety labels.


Carbon Monoxide Poisoning

A generator’s exhaust contains toxic carbon monoxide, which you cannot see or smell. Breathing carbon monoxide can KILL YOU IN MINUTES. To avoid carbon monoxide poisoning, follow these instructions when operating a generator:

  1. Only run a generator OUTSIDE, far away from windows, doors, and vents or have an approved exhaust system installed.
  2. Never operate a generator inside a house, garage, basement, crawl space, or any enclosed or partially enclosed space unless an approved exhaust system is installed.
  3. Never operate a generator near open doors or windows.
  4. Get fresh air and seek medical attention immediately if you suspect you have inhaled carbon monoxide.

Early symptoms of carbon monoxide exposure include headache, fatigue, shortness of breath, nausea, and dizziness. Continued exposure to carbon monoxide can cause loss of muscular coordination, loss of consciousness, and then death.

Black and white Carbon Monoxide Warning icon

Electrocution

A generator produces enough electrical power to cause serious shock or electrocution if misused.

Using a generator in wet conditions such as in rain or snow, near a pool or sprinkler, or with wet hands could result in electrocution. Keep the generator dry.

Connecting a generator to a building improperly could allow electrical current to feed back into utility lines, creating an electrocution hazard for utility workers. Connections to a building must isolate generator power from utility lines and comply with all local laws and electrical codes.

Black and white Electrocution Warning icon

Fire

Parts of a generator become very hot during operation and remain hot for a while after stopping the engine. Be careful not to touch the muffler while it is hot. Let the engine cool before storing the generator indoors.

Keep flammable materials away from the generator when it is running.

Keep the generator at least three feet (one meter) away from buildings when the engine is running. The generator needs at least one meter of clearance on the top and all four sides for cooling.

petrol is extremely flammable and petrol vapors can explode. Do not refuel while the engine is hot or running, and do not overfill the fuel tank. Refuel only outdoors in a well ventilated area. Never smoke near petrol, and keep flames and sparks away. Store fuel in an approved container.

Portable Generator or Home Standby Generator: Which is Right For You?

One of the first decisions many homeowners make when deciding on backup power is whether to use a portable or a home standby generator. There are pros and cons to both options.

Portable Generators Pros

  • Much less expensive
  • No installation required
  • Useful for more than just powering your home
  • Take it with you if you move

Portable generators are significantly less expensive than a home standby generator. You can save thousands by opting for a portable generator. This is one of the reasons they are so popular.

Portable generators are much easier to set up. There is no need to pour a cement pad or cover installation costs for a portable generator. The only installation cost would be if you choose to use a transfer switch, which is still significantly less expensive and time consuming. While a site permit may be required for a transfer switch in some areas, it is generally a much easier undertaking than the permits and inspections generally required for a home standby installation.

Because a portable generator can be moved, you can use it for many different applications. For example, the same Honda generator can power your home, tailgate party, and camping trip. And, unlike a home standby unit, you can take a portable generator with you if you move. So you can take your investment wherever life takes you.


Portable Generator Cons

  • Does not automatically start
  • Refueling is necessary
  • May not be able to power everything

Portable generators do not automatically come on when the power comes out. You would need to move the generator outside away from your home, add fuel, start it, and connect it to your home with a transfer switch or extension cords. While this is not difficult to do, some people find it inconvenient.

While Portable generators are fuel efficient, you’ll need to refuel them occasionally for longer outages. Portable generators are generally petrol powered, so you’ll want to have a supply of fuel on hand if an outage is anticipated, like a storm.

Finally, because portable generators are smaller than a home standby, they may not be able to power everything in your home. Most homeowners work with an electrician to decide which items are most important – like the refrigerator, stove, and hot water heater.

Home Standby Pros

  • Power comes on automatically
  • Refueling is not as necessary
  • Larger units can power more

The biggest benefit of a home standby unit is it will automatically start when the power goes out. It also typically has a propane or natural gas connection, so there’s no need to refuel as often. For some homeowners, this convenience outweighs their high cost.

Home Standby generators tend to be larger than a portable generator, so they can power more appliances in your home.

Home Standby Cons

  • Much more expensive
  • Installation is more expensive expensive
  • Permanently installed
  • May not be as a good investment value proposition
  • Maintenance contract may be needed
  • Generally over 10kW or Kva will be diesel powered

There are several drawbacks to home standby generators. The biggest is their cost. These generators are significantly more expensive than a portable generator. The installation cost can also be very expensive – often similar to the cost of the generator itself.

Home standby units are only good for powering your home, and if you move, you can’t take them with you. And unfortunately, the value of your home does not typically increase enough to recoup the cost of a home standby generator.

Because the generator requires regular maintenance, you will also want to factor in the cost for a maintenance contract.

You’ll want to keep in mind that because the generator must exercise itself monthly, it will be using fuel. Generally this is a 20-30 minute period. This also can add up in cost.

So in conclusion you will need to know what you need to run, where you intend to install of store your genset, how you will maintain your genset.

Powerlite can help but contact a local electrician first, the right direction from the beginning is best.

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