If the power outage is frequent in your place, you will probably use the generator as a power supply backup. A transfer switch is necessary for connecting a generator to your home. Transfer switch safely links the generator to your home’s electrical wiring without causing any harm, and in most cases, it is also a legal requirement. It rules out any risk of energy spillage into the power lines and provides an uninterrupted power supply.
However, full home generators with built-in transfer switches are costly, and many people cannot afford them. Estimated, adding a transfer switch to the generator will cost around $500, including materials and labor. Also, you may not find enough time to call an electrician to install one.
As a generator can still run without a transfer switch, you can hook a generator to your house without a transfer switch. Here is the procedure to properly connect a generator to your home without a transfer switch.
Related: What Size Generator For House?
Table of Contents
Connect Generator to House without Switch
Before getting into different ways to connect a generator to your house without a transfer switch, I will recommend hiring a professional, if you are not familiar with electric devices.
Connect Via Power Inverter
Connecting the generator to the house via a power inverter is the most efficient and easiest way. Power inverter turns the DC power coming from the generator to AC power used by home appliances.
To make the inverter work, you need to set it in the transfer switch. When there is a power outage, set the inverter’s transfer switch to the generator and start the generator. The power inverter will convert DC power into AC for use.
The safest thing about a power inverter is that it automatically disconnects from the generator when the power comes back. Yet, you must set it on â€œautoâ€ or â€œnormalâ€ when the power comes back; otherwise, the generator will run for no reason, and fuel will be wasted.
Through Breaker Box
Connection through the breaker box is also the good and cheapest way. You can use a separate breaker box with wire and connect it with the generator. This way, the main breaker will stop the power supply to the generator when required.
Wiring To Main Electrical Panel
If you don’t want to connect a generator to a house with a transfer switch, you can wire it directly to the main electric panel. However, it is not recommended as it’s a dangerous method.
Through Transfer Switch
The best way is to connect a generator to the house with a transfer switch. It connects the generator with the main electrical panel.
Wiring via Relay
Relay can also be used to connect a generator to the house’s main electrical panel. It interrupts the power supply from the appliance to the house when it’s needed.
Once connected, you can also make it switch on and off automatically.
Transfer switches are expensive to install but ensure easy and safe operation of the house’s electrical system.
The US Department of Energy highly recommends transfer switches. State management agencies, municipal disaster management agencies, local utility providers also recommend transfer switches along with other guidelines.
Also, if you use a transfer switch, liability issues can arise in case of a hazardous event. If you didn’t follow the recommendations, any injury damage would be imposed on you, and your insurance company may also refuse to cover the expenses.
How can you Connect the Generator to House without Transfer Switch?
Things you need to connect a generator to your house via interlock kit are as follows:
Compared to the transfer switch, the interlock kit is less expensive. However, it is less effective than an interlock kit. To use it, it must be compatible with your generator’s model and specifications; otherwise, it would be of no use. You can ask the electrician to tell you if the interlock complies with your building and electrical system requirements.
When there is a power outage, you will need to plug the generator in the same outlet as you did before. As you are using an interlock, don’t connect the outside outlet to the transfer switch; instead, join it to the old circuit panel.
The interlock kit is a metal bracket mounted on a control panel. When it’s installed, it prevents turning on the service panel’s main cutoff switch while the generator is running. When the generator stops, the interlock moves back to its original position. That’s how it works and distracts electricity only one way.
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Choose a breaker that can handle your generator and house needs. Generally, a 30-amp double pole breaker is sufficient for most homes.
If the existing breaker panel has enough empty spaces, you may not need a new breaker. Yet, most installations need a new breaker.
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As the task you are going to do involves electric lines, you should prepare all the necessary safety equipment. You must have a voltage stick, pair of steel-capped work boots, protective eyewear, and sturdy work gloves.
If an electrician will do the entire task, he will already have all these things.
For connecting your generator via interlock kit, you will also need a large round plug. Also, check your generator amperage and ensure that your plug fits precisely with the generator.
Since the connection also needs various electrical wires to make a safe connection, you must have electrical wires before you start. Try to keep multiple differently colored wires.
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Additional Tools and Gear
Apart from safety equipment, proper equipment to conduct the process is also required. So before starting the work, bring everything that might be needed during the process, such as drills, screwdrivers, wrenches, and pliers.
Steps To Connect Generator to House Though Interlock Kit
It’s always better to hand over such tasks to an electrician as he is a professional and knows how to avoid danger. You can do it yourself, but be mindful that it is hazardous, especially if you have never had any experience before. So, we strongly recommend you consult an electrician to do all such tasks.
Here are the steps to connect a generator to house without transfer switch via an interlock kit:
Switch off all circuit breakers, including main breakers and branch breakers. If you are unfamiliar with the main breaker, turn off all the breakers. This ensures your safety and eliminates the risk of any hazardous event.
Install the interlock plate. Usually, interlock plates can easily slide in and adjust over the breakerâ€™s controls.
Use the generator’s power cord and kit wiring and connect the generator to the inlet plug.
Now start your generator and turn off the breakers on all the important appliances. Make sure not to load your generator more than its rated continuous wattage capacity.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQS)
Do You Need a Transfer Switch For Connecting Generators To House?
You can connect a generator without a switch, but there are several reasons you should use a transfer switch.
- The National Electric Code puts a requirement of having a properly fitted transfer switch when a portable generator is connected to power appliances of the house. This is worth your attentiveness, especially if you plan to sell your house in the future because if it’s not installed properly, it might come under code violations.
- The transfer switch method is the safest method of all possible ways to connect a generator to a house. It prevents the back feeding of power from the generator to the grid. With other methods, there are chances of electric shock or fire that can lead to significant injury, death, or property damage.
- Additionally, electrical appliances such as water heaters, furnaces, and air conditioners are connected, and you cannot rely simply on an extension cord to connect all these appliances to the generator. A transfer switch allows load shifting, so your generator will be able to power water heaters, furnaces, air conditioners, refrigerators, or other heavy appliances, depending on what circuit you choose.
- Also, when there is a blackout, you cannot waste time fumbling with extension cords and connecting the generator to the house. Probably, that would be the last thing you want to do.
Is Interlocking Kit Safe To Connect Generator To House?
Interlock kit is an affordable and safe alternative to transfer switch and electrical sub-panels. It allows feeding generator electricity to your house without back-feeding in the power grid.
The interlocking kit is legal to be used in the United States only if a licensed electrician approves its installation. It must be compliant with the specific panel for it to work. Compliance is a must because some home electrical systems may not allow the incorporation of interlocking kits.
How Does an Interlock Kit Actually Work?
The interlocking kit works by disconnecting the control panel to your house’s electrical system. When it’s installed and wired to the generator, it keeps the main power supply turned off. Now, your generator will act as a main electrical power supply instead of utility-fed energy.
It is mounted directly over the control panel. When mounted, it mechanically locks the breakers into a set position to allow a safe power supply.
Can You Install a Transfer Switch Yourself Without an Electricianâ€™s Help?
You can install an interlocking kit yourself. There are various types of DIY kits available in the market to install it without an electrician’s help. However, it is recommended to always hire a licensed electrician for installation.
If you are good at doing such things, you can try installing it. But if you are not handy and donâ€™t know much about electrical systems, do not attempt it. Also, you must have all the necessary equipment before starting the operation.
What Is the Difference Between Manual and Automatic Transfer Switch?
The manual transfer switch is installed for the manual connection of a generator to house an electrical system. It is mainly used when there is a rare power loss.
An automatic transfer switch is installed for the automatic connection of a generator to house an electrical system. It is used where there are higher chances of power loss.
Manual transfer switch depends on the operator’s transfer from utility power to generator power. It occurs when you manually start the process.
Automatic transfer switch relies on the generator to transfer the power supply from utility power to generator power. It is possible through a series of installed sensors that communicate with the device and operationalize it.
Can Generators Be Plugged Into Wall Sockets?
No, generators are never plugged into wall sockets. They are designed to be used with extension cords only. If you plug it into a wall socket, there is a high risk of overloading the generator, further leading it to shut down, overheat, or catch fire.
Is There Any Need Of Permit To Install Generator Transfer Switch?
Yes, you must have a permit to install a generator switch on the primary service panel. Installers have to comply with the local building codes and National Electrical Code (NEC) codes.
Transfer Switch or Interlocking Kit, Which One Is Better?
Both ways have their pros and cons. Transfer switches are expensive but a reliable option. The interlocking kit is cheaper and not as safe as a transfer switch.
If you ask for a superior long-term choice, a transfer switch is the best way to connect a generator to your house. A transfer switch is highly safe and also gives several breakers for efficient power management to electrical appliances. It is usually used in larger buildings where several circuits are operated from one switch.
As far as it is concerned regarding interlocking kit, it is also safe and legal to use. It isolates the circuit from the rest of the electrical system in case of a short circuit or fault. It is also cheaper than a transfer switch and is commonly used in a household.
If you cannot afford to connect a generator to a house with a transfer switch, you can opt for an interlock kit without any hesitation. It is convenient and less expensive. All you need to do is hire a licensed electrician and make sure that you are using a generator-compliant interlock kit and circuit breaker.