A transfer switch is a crucial aspect of running a home generator safely (and, in many cases, legally). The transfer switch isolates the electrical load, allowing your home to run off of municipal power or generator power, without mixing the two.
This prevents electricity from your generator from flowing outward onto city power lines, and endangering people who may be working on those utilities during a power outage. A professionally installed transfer switch is the best and safest way to use a generator to power your house.
However, generators with built-in transfer switches can be more expensive, and, in an emergency, there may not be time for an electrician to install one. So here are instructions on how to hook up a generator to your house without a transfer switch
To Hook a Generator Up to Your House Without a Transfer Switch
Remember that this task can be dangerous for people who are not trained electricians, and is illegal in many areas.
It should not be done by an amateur, except in case of emergency. With that said, if you think this is out of your depth, you could always consider hiring a qualified electrician to install a transfer switch to your generator.
So, with the safety precautions out of the way, let's get to it and break down how to hook up your generator.
What You Will Need
An electrical tool kit. You will need tools like a drill, wrench, pliers, electrical tape, screwdrivers, and similar items. You may also need chisels, glue, and other common household tools.
You will need work steel capped work boots that ground your body, protective eyewear, a voltage stick, and some sturdy work gloves.
In most cases, you will need at least three sets of wires - at least 10 feet of 10 gauge wires. For beginners, it is best to get three different colors of wires, to prevent confusion
An Interlock Kit
The interlock kit must match the specifications and model of your generator. An interlock kit is less effective, but more affordable, than a transfer switch
If your existing breaker box has several empty spaces, you may not need a new breaker, but most installations will.
Choose a breaker that matches the output of your generator and the demands of your home. For most homes, a 30 double amp breaker with two poles is sufficient, but make sure it’s compatible with your generator as well
An Inlet Plug
Your generator needs to have a large round plug in order to be connected in this way. The generator should indicate the amperage it is rated for, and make sure that your plug is compatible with your generator
To Connect the Generator, Follow These Steps
- Locate the access point and drill a hole in the wall of your house. This hole should be as far away from the generator as possible, and large enough to accommodate your incoming wires.
- Mount the power inlet to the exterior of your house. Locate it several feet away from the access hole you have drilled.
- Turn off your main power. It is extremely important to turn off the power at the main switch before proceeding.
- Assemble the conduit at the power inlet. Pass the wires one by one, and ensure that all connections are tight and secure.
- Install the breaker retainer in the breaker box, or install the new breaker.
- Connect the inlet wires to the breaker retainer or to the new breaker.
- Cover the breaker box.
During your next power outage, simply use a cable to connect your generator to your new inlet plug, which will in turn connect to the breaker box.
While this option is more affordable than a transfer box, it can be extremely hazardous, and may be illegal. If you plan on using an interlock kit instead of a transfer box permanently, you should still have it installed by a professional electrician.
If you are confident in your skills, you may complete the installation of the interlock kit, but then have your work inspected by a professional electrician. This may allow you to save some money while still ensuring that you are using your generator safely and legally.
Today, many of the best, most reliable home generators come with transfer switches, and they are decreasing in cost all the time.
In an emergency, instead of installing your generator to your whole house, it is easier, safer, and more affordable to simply run high quality extension cords from the generator to your necessary equipment.
That saves you from potentially illegal and risky installations. Hooking a generator up to your house, with or without a transfer switch, should always be done by a professional.