BACKUP ELECTRICAL GENERATORS - CONTENTS: Emergency electrical power generators for residential use - hookup basics. We explain how to hook up or wire an electrical generator at a building, and we describe the transfer switch or isolation switch necessary to avoid dangerous electrical shock or fire hazards.
We describe several methods for obtaining temporary or emergency electrical power from a car, RV or other 12-V or 24-V vehicle or system. At above left we illustrate an electrical transfer switch required for safe connection of a backup generator to a building's electrical system. A common exception to the practice of using only a single power source at an electrical sub panel is the provision for backup electrical generator power that feeds an electrical sub panel (or panel) that contains critical electrical circuits for a building (such as heat, refrigeration, communications equipment, medical equipment). In that case indeed there are two electrical power sources that in a sense "feed" an individual panel or sub panel but only one power source can be connected at a time. Watch out: Emergency backup electrical generators produce 120V and 240V which may cause fatal electrical shock if precautions are not followed.
DO NOT under any circumstances connect your electrical generator to any circuit or receptacle that is receiving electrical power (home, office, etc) from any other sources as this is likely to result in a fire and damage all electrical systems and could also shock someone working on the system. Other key safety warnings include the warning that the backup generator should not be operated indoors nor in an enclosed area - there are fire and also potentially fatal carbon monoxide hazard risks.
Key in making that a safe installation is the use of an isolation switch that switches to provide an electrical power feed into the panel (or sub panel) from EITHER the electrical service entry from the utility company OR from the backup electrical generator. Our photo (left) shows a close-up view of the same isolation switch in our earlier picture. An isolation switch allows only one electrical power source to be connected to feed a sub panel at a given time.
As an example of an isolation switch set-up for an auxiliary electrical power generator hookup at a private home, our photo (above left) shows the backup generator hookup that provides limited electrical power for critical building circuits during a power outage from the electrical utility. Electrical Code" and acceptable for load transfer use on optional standby systems only. We do not hook up multiple electrical power sources to a single electrical sub panel without using an isolation switch.
In our photograph of an isolation switch hook-up (above left), the main electrical panel (1) is at left. The sub panel shown at right (next to our client) was an addition to the original electrical system to support central air conditioning and is not part of this discussion.
O'Connor also warns that the generator must be located where exhaust fumes cannot enter the building (a carbon monoxide hazard), and about unsafe storage of fuel containers for the backup generator. The commercial backup electrical power generator shown at left includes its own fuel storage tank (at left in the photo). In the event of a power failure the system may start automatically and the necessary isolation switch may also be switched automatically to keep critical equipment in operation. A significant portion of the cost of installing a backup generator system will involve the provision for fuel storage, transfer switches, and the establishment & connection of the system to critical electrical circuits in the building.
In a separate article found at ELECTRIC GENERATOR CAPACITY REQUIREMENTS [live link just below] we give backup generator size requirements tables for both backup electrical generators for home or commercial use and for smaller car or truck AC adapters. Continue reading at ELECTRIC GENERATOR CAPACITY REQUIREMENTS or select a topic from the More Reading links or topic ARTICLE INDEX shown below. Now I am told that this panel cannot use the existing breakers as they are CH and it take BR. A competent onsite inspection by an expert usually finds additional clues that help accurately diagnose a problem or in this case to make recommendations for what you actually need.
Eaton Corp., Cutler Hammer Products Adjustable Retrofit Kits, E-CH Load Centers and load center parts can be purchased through any E-CH distributor.
But in my OPINION, if your panel is an older one, it would be safer not to re-use the old circuit breakers during a new panel replacement, even if they fit onto the new panel bus. Before you replace your existing panel to expand the existing unit you first have a clear and correct plan for how you're going to hook up your generator to the existing house circuits. Safe hookup of a generator requires an isolation switch that isolates the subset of circuits and original panel from the incoming electrical service mains when you are running the generator - it's got to be an exclusive OR - setup.

Finally, while I prefer to completely replace an older, obsolete, under-sized existing electrical panel, and while I will often upgrade the entire electrical service (incoming mains, main disconnect) at the same time (to be better able to meet contemporary electricity usage and the expanded number of circuits found in modern or upgraded homes) there are other options.
Do you suggest I shop for the breakers, or just get a list of what I need and get them at the electrical parts distributor where I purchased the panel?
If money's tight it may be worth comparing prices between the electrical supplier and Home Depot. Anon, if you mean can you use SEC grade or weight wire, sure, though depending on your generator size (output capacity) and distance from the building it may be overkill in wire size. If you mean can you connect the generator to the same lugs in the electric panel as the entering SEC wires, absolutely not. I considered installing the standard transfer panel when I got a backup generator, but my main panel was already way too crowded.
The transfer switch is fed by a 60amp dual breaker in the main and the transfer switch has a 60amp dual breaker for supplying the sub panel I installed with 8 circuits in it.
I used a couple of junction boxes to accomplish this since some of the wires were too short to reach the sub. Contact information for Reliance Controls who sells this product can be found in our reference listing just below. As life and safety issues as well as permit and code issues are involved I'd expect one to use a licensed electrician who is familiar with aux generator and transfer switch wiring. Our recommended books about building & mechanical systems design, inspection, problem diagnosis, and repair, and about indoor environment and IAQ testing, diagnosis, and cleanup are at the InspectAPedia Bookstore.
Recommended books on electrical inspection, electrical wiring, electrical problem diagnosis, and electrical repair can be found in the Electrical Books section of the InspectAPedia Bookstore.
The Illustrated Home illustrates construction details and building components, a reference for owners & inspectors. WHERE TO BUY ELECTRICAL GENERATORS - CONTENTS: where to buy electric generators for portable or backup power use.
Where to find emergency electrical generators or portable electric generators for residential or light commercial use. This article series discusses the use of emergency generators for electrical power backup at residential properties. The commecial-grade backup generator by Katolight Corporation shown at left is installed at an adult care facility in New York. Backup Generator Fuel: cost for fuel storage for the generator or for fuel piping if your stationary unit is to be connected to piped in natural gas or propane.
According to a recent article in the New York Times, Generac, the largest manufacturer of electrical generators in the U.S. Sumas power inverters provides their Sumas 200 watts Power Inverter with 2 USB charging port - SM-2011US that plugs into the vehicle cigarette lighter. In a separate article found at ELECTRIC GENERATOR CAPACITY REQUIREMENTS we give backup generator size requirements tables for both backup electrical generators for home or commercial use and for smaller car or truck AC adapters.
Continue reading at BACKUP ELECTRICAL GENERATORS or select a topic from the More Reading links or topic ARTICLE INDEX shown below. Try the search box below or CONTACT US by email if you cannot find the answer you need at InspectApedia.
We describe how to determine how much back up generator capacity or power in watts you'll require. Photo courtesy of Davies Hardware, Poughkeepsie, NY.[12] Similar models found at building suppliers range in capacity with common sizes in the 10,000 - 12,500 watt range for residential use. Some owners connect an extension cord to the generator's electrical supply receptacle and connect the other cord end to a tool or appliance - which may be safe. Note that other safety precautions also apply - be sure to see the instructions provided with the generator.
This avoids, for example, the hazard of shocking electrical workers who might be repairing the main electrical service.
In general it is very dangerous to have multiple sources of power into a single panel or sub panel because of the possibility of back feeding and shocking someone who thinks power is off from a given source.

In the photo center is an isolation switch (2) that allows the homeowner to switch individual circuits from being powered either by the main electrical panel's service entry mains or by an electrical generator (located outdoors) that is connected to the isolation switch by a removable plug shown hanging on the wall (3).
Rebuild and Floodproof, locating a backup generator onto upper building floors or the rooftop may not be enough to assure that the system can continue to operate during times of area flooding. A whole new larger electrical panel with new circuit breakers can often be obtained for economically from your local electrical or building suppliers.
But watch out for third party "look alike" breakers - the panel manufacturer may object to their use, and indeed some substitute breakers made in China have performed poorly. The only draw back is that I had to physically remove the wiring for 8 circuits from the main panel and move them to the sub panel. The interlinked circuit breakers keep the generator isolated from the utility at all times, even with the deadfront removed.
The TCA is suitable for service entrance and may be used as a main panel for a single load or to feed a sub-panel.
The text is intended as a reference guide to help building owners operate and maintain their home effectively.
We describe generator size requirements, where to buy an electrical generator or voltage converter, and how to hook up or wire a portable or backup electric generator. The cost of the transfer or isolation switch system itself can vary significantly depending on whether you expect to be present to turn on the backup or standby generator or if instead you want to the system to turn on automatically even if no one is in attendance. Depending on the disaster for which you are preparing, don't assume that the gas supply will necessarily remain available - for example flooding or an earthquake can put such systems out of commission, leaving a portable unit more versatile if you were able to protect it and its fuel supply.
We describe electrical grounding and other wiring & control or installation procedures backup electrical generators. So we don't hookup simultaneous live electrical power sources to a single electrical sub panel or main panel. You can see the receiving plug receptacle at the bottom center of the isolation switch (2). The fuel supply and isolation or transfer switches must also be located where they are protected from flood waters.
Indeed a common solution to wiring a backup generator is to feed a sub panel through an individual transfer switch, then wiring the critical building circuits out of the sub panel.
The bottom of the bus has lugs that feed the house sub panel without any breakers between the disconnect and the house sub.
One does not normally install a standby generator to power all of the circuits in a building nor a main panel nor a house sub panel that is really running all of the house circuits. We also describe methods for obtaining temporary electrical power from a car, RV or other 12-V or 24-V vehicle or system. Cost for electrical components is also increased by the battery & controls for electric starting components for the generator. Our electrician tells me that our panel is full and to get a panel with at lest 24 circuits. My question is can I remove the bus bars and route 4awgcu from the disconnect to the transfer switch and then the load from the switch to the breaker bus?
To do so would require a larger standby generator than we usually find at residential properties. Special Offer: For a 10% discount on any number of copies of the Home Reference Book purchased as a single order.
Thanks to Alan Carson and Bob Dunlop, for permission for InspectAPedia to use text excerpts from The Home Reference Book & illustrations from The Illustrated Home. Carson Dunlop Associates' provides extensive home inspection education and report writing material.
Special Offer: For a 5% discount on any number of copies of the Home Reference eBook purchased as a single order.

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