If You've Purchased A Generator, Contact An Electrician To Install Proper Safeguards Before Connecting It To Your Home

Whenever hurricane season starts in the southeast or strong blizzards are on the way in the north, hardware stores quickly sell out of generators as people rush out to buy them ahead of the storms. Unfortunately, this is incredibly reckless behavior; not only is it dangerous to connect a generator to your home without the proper safeguards, it's also illegal in most areas. You must have either a transfer switch or an interlock installed in your home before you operate your generator. Failing to do so can cause power to backflow onto the municipal electric grid. This can cause fires due to electrical arcing, permanently damage your generator or electrocute linemen who are working to restore your power. Before you use your generator, contact an electrician specializing in house generator electrical services to discuss your options for connecting your generator safely to your home.

Transfer Switches Prevent Backflow And Regulate Your Home's Power

A transfer switch provides a point of contact between your home's main service panel and the power coming from your generator; it prevents any power from the generator from backflowing onto the municipal electric grid and is typically set up to power the most important circuits on your home with an easy flip of the switch. For example, you can connect the transfer switch to the circuits that power devices that need to be kept on in the event of an emergency, such as your lights, your sump pump, your refrigerator or any medical devices in your home. Modern transfer switches are computerized and will automatically distribute power to the circuits in your home that need it the most without overloading the generator by drawing too much power. Some transfer switch and generator combinations are capable of automatically turning on whenever your home loses power, making them especially useful in areas that commonly lose power for short periods of time.

Interlocks Are Less Expensive, But Not Legal Everywhere

If you're put off by the high price of a transfer switch, you can look into having an interlock installed on your main electrical panel. An interlock plate attaches to your main electrical panel and only allows power from one source at a time; you can either choose to power your home with your generator or connect your electrical panel to the municipal power lines. This guarantees that your generator will not backflow onto the municipal power grid while it is operational, since the interlock forces your home to detach from the power grid. Make sure that you check your local regulations before installing an interlock, as some areas only allow generators to be connected to your home via a transfer switch.

While they are a less expensive option, interlocks have several downsides compared to a transfer switch. Whereas a transfer switch is set up to only power a few circuits inside your home, an interlock exposes your entire power system to your generator. In order to avoid overloading your generator, you must switch off circuits at the main panel and monitor the power current over your generator's electrical line with a meter. Too many open circuits in your home drawing power from your generator will damage both your generator and the appliances inside your home. Interlocks also do not provide any way of knowing if power has been restored to the municipal electric grid and require manual operation, so they are more suitable for long-term power loss after a natural disaster rather than intermittent power losses.

Transfer switches are overall the better option for connecting your generator to your home; they are much more convenient to operate and prevent damage to the generator or your appliances caused by overloading the generator. Transfer switches are more expensive and must be installed by an electrician specializing in generator electrical services, but their features make up for their cost. Whichever option you choose, ensure that you never connect your generator directly into your main electrical panel without an interlock in place; not only can this destroy your generator, the backflow onto the power grid can be fatal to any linemen who are repairing your power lines.

Contact a company, like Hans Electrical Inc, for more help.