Backup generator load and transfer switches

In recent years standby power generators have become a big topic.  If it is the fully automatic style, or just a manual portable.   The fact is, our power grid is getting old.  We are seeing more outages than ever, and a little bit of planning with ensure you are prepared.  Nothing would be worse than coming home to a frozen home, with busted pipes, a sump pump back-up, or a theft, because your security system was not portable.  Below is a little information to help you on your process using a manual generator.

One of the most important things to do is figure out your electrical load and generator wattage, and it’s best not figured out on the fly. If you think you might want to run your house (or a portion of it) on a generator, take some time to do some planning first.

1. Figure Out Your Load

Work with a generator installer to figure out what you want your generator to run. We decided on the sump pump, furnace, hot water heater, kitchen refrigerator and outlets, garage freezer, and the living room lights. A 5,000-watt generator will run all of that for us on about 13 gallons of fuel per 24 hours.

2. Install a Transfer Switch

You can’t just plug a generator into a wall outlet.  That’s called back feeding, and it is extremely dangerous. Your house needs to be disconnected from the grid before starting a generator. Otherwise, the electricity produced could travel beyond your house, entering the grid and potentially killing utility personnel at work. The safest way to run a generator is by installing a transfer switch. The switch includes an electrical sub panel  ( or transfer switch panel ) with a switch for each circuit you want to run with your generator. The transfer switch is wired directly to the house’s electrical service, and the generator gets plugged into that sub panel. (Our electrician wired an outlet for the generator on our garage exterior.) Throwing that transfer switch completely cuts your house off from the grid; meanwhile, power from the generator is only allowed to go to circuits you’ve designated.  You can also purchase transfer switches that can be used later as an automatic switch, if you ever are to upgrade to a stationary automatic generator.

3. Purchase the Right Generator

If you live in an area where services are not cut off regularly, is mot out very long, you have no medical equipment you need running, and you are typically at home a portable generator, verses an automatic standby generator may get you by. Larger systems are obviously more expensive to purchase, install, and run, however if you are prone to longer outages, or travel, it may be a better alternative.

4. Practice Installation

Take some time before disaster strikes to set your generator up and and get it running. You should plan to do it a couple of times a year, anyway—to make sure it starts, and so that it is a familiar routine for you. Put the generator outside on a level surface in a well-ventilated area at least ten feet away from the house. Carbon monoxide emitted from fuel can kill, so error on the side of caution. A generator’s engine can get very hot, so keep children and pets far away. Also, put it in a location that’s easy to access for refueling.

Disasters have taught us all that we need to be prepared—and that may require more than stocking up on water, canned goods, and batteries a day or two before a storm. With some planning, you can be comfortable knowing that if the power goes out for a day, or a week, you’ll be able to sustain the essentials.

Midwest Electric and Generator, Inc 612-284-1550