Because of the recent spate of power outages from winter storms and wacky weather events, I’ve had the need to use my generator to keep my home powered and heated on several occasions.
I can’t tell you how many hotel stays I haven’t bought, or how many nights of couch camping I skipped, or even how much food we would’ve had to throw away…I can’t! However, I can easily say it’s been a life-saver! I saved myself from burning cash during a power outage by having a generator.
I can honestly say this is one of the better investments I’ve made in my adult life, and it’s paid for itself in blessings more than once. But just because I have a generator doesn’t mean it has been stress-free experience overall.
When we’ve used it to power our home, there’s a lot that needs to be done before we turn anything on. To begin there is the task of bringing up a wire from where the generator is (from the outside of the house to the inside of the house) through a window and then a long extension cord upstairs to the second floor where we live; I use a 50ft heavy-duty extension cord. We have to cover that gap in the window because it’s cold outside! We used a combination of towels and tape for this part, but it’s another thing we have to do.
Once I got the extension cord upstairs, I made a base-station in the room where I’d hook up a power strip and start running extension cords all over the place. I had around 6-8 power cords total to reach all the things we could connect, basically this is all in the main room of the house. Once you’ve run your wires and plugged stuff in (with the power block OFF), then you can head back outside to get the generator started. Luckily I’ve got a nice one, so it starts right up! Now you can plug in your one extension cord and head back inside.
NOWWWW… you can turn on your power block and VOILA! The power is back on in your house, kinda. The reality is that you can only “plug in” a few items you need: The fridge, the TV, a space heater, and of course – our cell phones. Now what?
Cords everywhere – what a mess! Doing it this way there are wires everywhere – really not something you want, even moreso if you have young kids at home. If you’re anything like me, you’re likely to be tripping on the cords, and getting frustrated.
This is alot of work to get to this point, and while you have power… it’s alot like camping out inside your own house. Realisitically, you don’t have power to your whole kitchen, so using the stove, oven, or dishwasher is not possible. Also using all of your home’s lights is not happening either, again it’s like camping without the tent. It’s a huge plus to have a generator, but it’s far from perfect and it’s a huge P.I.T.A.
There’s almost as many issues created by using a generator (this way) as it solves. There has to be a better way!
So after having gone through this exercise a few times, I decided it was time to get real and have this professionally connected to my home. As connecting a generator requires serious electrical know-how, this is NOT something you want to play with as a DIY project. You might need to pull permits from your local utility or township, so again this is something that needs to be done right by a licensed electrician, and has to be upto code.
Hey You- The Reader! If you have a portable generator that you bought to protect yourself and your family from power outages, I encourage you to think about getting a professional to get this done right. It wasn’t really expensive, the job was actually less than I thought it was going to be. You can thank me later!
I got a referral to Craig Colbert Electric services, and I called and spoke to Craig himself! He came out and looked at my circuit panel, and we discussed a few options. I was fortunate that I have a relatively low power load in my home (as the heat and hot water are powered by oil), so I just need a basic level of power to keep my house heated, illumninated, and running as normal. I won’t be running my home’s AC or anything like that with my generator.
A few weeks after I got a quote, I am able to walk by the electrical work in my garage and marvel at how it’s done (and how it’s done right)
Wiring up along the top of the wall, all of the way to the outside inlet box.
Same great professional wiring – right to a transfer switch that connects to my circuit panel. I now have the ability to power up from my generator. It essentially lights up my whole electric panel. Learn more about Transfer Switches, see a few of them at Lowes | Home Depot | Generac.
A good friend of mine suggested that I make a statement that “You MUST check with your local utility company to see if a transfer switch is required” as I bet most of them would require this. The danger here is that if one doesn’t do it this way, you can kill a lineman that is working on the power lines down the street. This is called “Back-lining” and not only is it illegal, but very dangerous!
He made the connection with an outdoor/enclosed power inlet, which makes it possible for me to use the heavy duty power cord that comes out of my generator’s output panel.
From there – this inlet box is wired right to my transfer switch – again this is something that the electrician would install, NOT something to do on a DIY basis. So with this – I’m setup and ready! #Prepared
I don’t wish for a power outage, but when it comes I know I’ll be ready for it. I’m looking forward to plugging in, flipping a few switches, and hearing that lovely (loud) sound that my generator makes when it’s running. This is when I can breathe a sigh of relief. It will be nice to do just these few steps and know that my whole household is back “on” and I won’t be tripping on wires either!
As for my electrician – Craig Colbert – I highly recommend him for anything and everything electric. After all, he is a master electrician and I’m not! Reach him at http://www.colbertelectric.net/
By Louis Wing