Video: How to Wire a Generator to a House

Video: How to Wire a Generator to a House
This video explains how to wire a generator to a house.

A video on how to wire a generator to a house
This video explains how to wire a generator to a house.

This video explains how to wire a generator to a house. There are many videos about generators out there, but this one was exceptionally well done.

Two important notes to remember before watching:

* Check your local regulations regarding electricity. This video doesn't take your area's ordinances and laws into consideration.

* Living Ready and Gun Digest aren't responsible if you wind up electrocuting someone.

That said, it's important to understand how to wire a generator to a house. Spending a large chunk of money on a portable generator doesn't accomplish much if the wiring isn't set – and set correctly.

As you learn how to wire a generator to a house, here are some tips to consider.

Don't Create “Backfeed”

Prior to Hurricane Sandy, Chief Anthony DeZenzo of the Parsippany, New Jersey, police department issued this warning in the Parsippany Patch:

One thing he said is crucial is to ensure that your power is off when using a generator.

“A generator connected to a home's wiring or plugged into a regular household outlet can cause ‘backfeeding' along power lines and electrocute anyone who comes in contact with them—even if the line seems dead,” he said. “It happens when a portable generator is connected directly to the home's wiring without having a functional transfer switch. Without a transfer switch, a portable generator's electricity can be sent back into the power grid from your house. This will energize the utility's power lines on the street and poses an electrocution hazard for those who may not know that the voltage is present on the shared lines.”

Shutting power off before starting the generator, even if your regular electric service is down, ensures that no one is at risk of electrocution.

Make Sure the Generator Can Produce More Power than Needed

This one seems obvious, but it isn't considered often enough. Plan ahead (i.e. not running to the hardware store the day before a big storm when selection is limited) by calculating how much wattage is required to operate critical appliances. Then buy a generator capable of producing more than that amount.

Here's How Not to Electrocute Yourself

Generac Power offers excellent safety tips about how to wire a generator to a house here. Among them are these points:

  • Connecting a portable electric generator directly to your household wiring can be deadly to you and others.  A generator that is directly connected to your home's wiring can ‘back feed' onto the power lines connected to your home and injure neighbors or utility workers.
  • Do not connect your generator directly to your home's wiring or into a regular household outlet.
  • Always start or stop the generator only when no electrical loads are connected.
  • Overloading your generator can seriously damage your valuable appliances and electronics.  Do not overload the generator.  Do not operate more appliances and equipment than the output rating of the generator. Prioritize your needs. A portable electric generator should be used only when necessary, and only to power essential equipment.
  • Use the proper power cords.  Plug individual appliances into the generator using heavy-duty, outdoor-rated cords with a wire gauge adequate for the appliance load. Overloaded cords can cause fires or equipment damage. Do not use extension cords with exposed wires or worn shielding.
  • Do not operate the generator in wet conditions such as rain or snow.
  • The generator must be properly grounded. If the generator is not grounded, you run the risk of electrocution. We strongly recommend that you check and adhere to all applicable federal, state and local regulations relating to grounding.

Keep Those Fumes Away

Exhaust from gasoline and diesel generators produces carbon monoxide. This poisonous gas is deadly. Don't operate generators indoors, close to windows, near doors, inside an attached garage or next to any opening in a home. Position the generator many feet away from those areas. While you're at it, install battery-powered carbon monoxide detectors in your home.

One More Time: Don't Connect a Generator Directly to a Home's Wiring

This can't be understated, because it's such a pervasive myth about generators. The “back feed” created can damage people and appliances.


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  1. One point that should be made is that the ground lug on your generator should be connected to a suitable earth ground. The earth ground (third pin on your 120 outlet) is connected to the earth ground at your utility feed. For safeties sake, that return path needs to be completed back to the generator frame.

  2. Excellent video! Well done, understandable and very useful. THANKYOU. I thought the transfer switch box kit was legal and the best solution. Not so. Installing a sub panel with disconnect makes far more sense. And if you have an undersized main panel, as the narrator, you can kill 2 birds with one stone. It is also cheaper and simpler and will be what I do.. We are in Colorado and if the power goes put in winter, the pipes can freeze, which is a VERY expensive repair. If you follow Hurrican Sandy, there are a lot of folks still without power and this is the end of Nov. here you need to draw a permit to do this work. That means a fee, inspection and rework if you don’t pass inspection. Have a good electrician do the work, get materials and the inspections are his responsible. Excellent video as I said, but there is one question. Should the generator be running first before you plug in the powers cord ?

    • Retired,

      The best idea is to turn the generator on first, then attach the power cord into your sub-panel hookup (or however you’re drawing power from the generator). Then hit the breakers one at a time. The point is that you gradually draw power.

      Do the reverse order when powering down. The generator should be the last thing to shut off.

      – Ben


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