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How to Hook a Portable Generator up to Your House

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Portable generators are live-savers to have on hand during power outages. They can keep your electronics, appliances, and other electrical devices going until the power is restored. If you’ve ever been in a sustained outage, you’ll understand how helpful it is to have the most important electricity-dependent appliances going when you need them. Unfortunately, it can be tedious running extension cords throughout the house by running them through windows or doors. Many get around this by hooking their portable generators directly up to their house. Unlike standby generators (see Types of Generators for Home), which are permanently hooked into the house, portable generators can still be unplugged and used for other things like at a job site or running tools (see our review of the Champion 4000-Watt inverter generator). Read the below article to find out about two methods of connecting your portable generator to your home.

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Hooking up Your Generator

You can hook up your portable generator up to your house using two methods, primarily:

-Extension cords
-Transfer switch

However, each comes with its own advantages and disadvantages. It is up to you to choose the one that suits you, especially from the electrical service provider, your budget, and the geographic location perspective.

Extension Cords

Hooking up your generator via extension cords is pretty cut and dry. You will need to use appropriate extension cords based on the amount of current and type of outlet. Depending on the generator, you may have a 50A (normally for RV hookups), 30A, and your typical 15A – 20A outlet, commonly used for everyday appliance hookups. The problem with running extension cords is that during a power outage, who wants to fuss with running extension cords everywhere? Especially if it’s cold outside, running the cords through a window or door lets the cold in.

Transfer Switch

Using a transfer switch is the most reliable way of hooking up your portable generator. Setting up a transfer switch should be done by a licensed electrician to prevent any accidents or miswiring. Furthermore, there are three varying models of transfer switches you can comfortably choose to use.

Electrician switching the power switch with protecting gloves.Breaker Interlock Panel – It falls under the National Electric Code Compliant. Moreover, it is flexible and affordable. This switch allows you to utilize a breaker to ensure that you energize the existing breaker box. You will not experience any hassle when switching on since it is entirely safe and easy. Besides, this transfer switch is convenient, and you can quickly use it to hook up your generator. It allows you to run your internet, charge your phone, use your refrigerator, wash your clothes and switch on the overhead lights, depending on the power output of the generator.

Manual Transfer Switch – This is a good option when it comes to a transfer switch. Besides, it is less costly compared to the automatic transfer switches. Most people love it since it applies to portable generators. On the other hand, many users find it problematic because it engulfs a few breakers.

Automatic Transfer Switch – The automatic transfer switch is responsible for sensing the power outage and immediately turns on your standby generator. Furthermore, it moves the load to your generator automatically. It delivers extraordinary performance, but they are very expensive and requires a generator devoted to it at all times.

Generlink Meter-Mounted Transfer Switch – The Generlink meter-mounted transfer switch is suitable for hooking up your portable emergency generator to your entire house. This model of transfer switch is very easy to install; you can complete installing within one hour. However, it is a must that the electrical utility provider installs and approves it. On the other hand, some provinces and states install the Generlink meter-mounted transfer switch while others opt not to. As mentioned before, you need to have the electrical utility provider’s approval before purchasing this switch.

Which is Best?

Connecting your generator to your home is an important process to ensure no accidents occur during your next power outage. Running extension cords, while definitely cheaper and less initial investment, is often troublesome and a real hassle. Furthermore, purchasing heavy-duty cords can cost hundreds of dollars, so it is debatable how much money you are actually saving after factoring in the headache of dealing with cords. Installation via transfer switch is the best option for most homeowners. Most portable generators won’t be able to power an entire home, so the transfer switch gives you the ability to easily switch between which appliances you need to use most. For example, do you need to take a warm shower? Switch on the water heater for about an hour and turn off the other heavy draws so the generator can handle it.