Manufacturer Reports

How to Safely Restore Power Using a Generator

May 22, 2006
/ Print / Reprints /
ShareMore
/ Text Size+
ROMEOVILLE, Ill. - With hurricane season just around the corner, homeowners are buying portable generators in record numbers, says Jon Hoch, founder of ElectricGeneratorsDirect.com. However, very few people truly understand how to safely get the electricity from the generator into the house.

According to Hoch, you never should back feed the electricity into the house. If done incorrectly, you can electrocute utility workers repairing downed power lines.

He recommends two safe ways to get the electricity from the generator into the home:

1. Extension Cords
Hoch says extension cords are fine for small generators because you can only plug in one or two appliances.

The most common way to use a portable electric generator is to place it outdoors, then run extension cords through an open window or door to the chosen appliances.

Extension cords have several drawbacks. First, most extension cords can't be plugged into a furnace, well pump, or ceiling-light fixture. If the cords are too long, the resulting power drop may damage the generator and appliances. And, if they are placed under rugs or carpets, heat can build up and spark a fire.

If you want to use extension cords, consider getting a Gen-Cord. You simply plug the all-weather cord into your 20- or 30-amp generator outlet, then run it inside. The plug on the inside splits into four 120-volt outlets, where you can plug in several household appliances or additional extension cords.

2. Power Transfer Systems
For safety's sake, Hoch recommends hiring a licensed electrician to install a power transfer system that redistributes power from the generator to the circuit panel.

The power transfer system (starting around $250) reduces the need for multiple extension cords running from the generator to an individual appliance.

It is installed beside the main electrical panel, and then it's connected to the circuits the homeowner will want running during a blackout. When the power goes out, you simply crank up the generator and run a single power cord from it to a transfer switch.

"Once the generator is running, you can choose which appliances and circuits you want to use by simply flipping the switches," said Hoch.

Most manual transfer switches also include built-in wattage meters, which keep track of what's being powered. Without them, you can overload the system, damaging your generator and appliances.

"A typical power transfer system installation will take about 3-4 hours and cost around $200-$300," said Hoch. "But it's an investment that will be fully appreciated the next time the power goes out."

Picking the Right Size
For those new to portable generators, the electrical equations may look as foreign as high school algebra.

Don't worry. You can put the math books and calculators away. According to Hoch, the concept is extremely simple.

"Portable generators are measured by watts. Power transfer systems are measured in amps," he said.

Basically, the larger the amps, the more electricity the power transfer system can handle. For example, a 50-amp power cord is a lot thicker than a 20-amp power cord, allowing it to handle larger wattages.

According to Hoch, all you need to worry about is your generator. Everything else is irrelevant.

"Take a look at the most powerful outlet on your generator. If you have a 50-amp outlet, you'll need a 50-amp power transfer system. If you have a 20-amp outlet, you'll need a 20-amp power transfer system," said Hoch.

Picking the Right Shape
Once you've selected the right size, you just need to pick the right shape.

The plugs and connectors are purposely designed in different shapes, helping to prevent an electrical overload.

ElectricGeneratorsDirect.com publishes the outlet configurations on all of its generators. Simply match the shape of the plug to the shape of the generator outlet.

For example, if you have a three-prong outlet on your generator, use a three-prong plug. If it's a four-prong outlet, use a four-prong plug.

ElectricGeneratorsDirect.com is an online generator store owned and operated by Power Equipment Direct Inc. For more information, visit www.powerequipmentdirect.com.

Publication date: 05/22/2006

Did you enjoy this article? Click here to subscribe to The NEWS Magazine

You must login or register in order to post a comment.

Ah!

Janie Graham
November 22, 2011
This is exactly what I'm looking for. We have a diesel generator in our home (less expensive overall) and I'm always worried that when I will need to restore power to it, I will do it wrong and get electrocuted! Thanks for all of the information.

Multimedia

Videos

Image Galleries

2014 MCAA Annual Convention

Scenes from the 2014 MCAA Annual Convention in Scottsdale, Ariz.

Podcasts

NEWSmakers: Julian Scadden

Training is an ongoing process. Julian will discuss how you can generate maximum return on time and energy invested training by following a three part process. Listen to this podcast to get expert tips on training, tracking and follow up. 

More Podcasts

THE MAGAZINE

ACHRNEWS

NEWS 04-21-14 cover

2014 April 21

Check out the weekly edition of The NEWS today!

Table Of Contents Subscribe

SERVICE CALLS POLL

Which statement on service calls best applies to your business?
View Results Poll Archive

HVACR INDUSTRY STORE

plumbing-hvac.gif
2014 National Plumbing & HVAC Estimator

Every plumbing and HVAC estimator can use the cost estimates in this practical manual!

More Products

Clear Seas Research

 

Clear Seas ResearchWith access to over one million professionals and more than 60 industry-specific publications, Clear Seas Research offers relevant insights from those who know your industry best. Let us customize a market research solution that exceeds your marketing goals.

DON'T MISS A THING

Magazine image
 
Register today for complete access to ACHRNews.com. Get full access to the latest features, Extra Edition, and more.

STAY CONNECTED

facebook icontwitter iconyoutube iconLinkedIn i con