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How to Get Your House Wired in an Emergency with a Generator

This article is about wiring your house to use a generator in an emergency. With power out, and no water or sewer service available, many people are left without light and the ability to cook food. We will discuss how you can wire your house for these occasions by installing a transfer switch that will allow you to connect the generator safely to your home’s electrical system so that all of these needs are taken care of until power returns! Also related is our 72 hour emergency family go bag.

Selecting the right transfer switch

There are a few things you will need to consider when selecting the right transfer switch for your home. The first is the size of the generator you have. You will also need to know what type of electrical service your house has, either single or three-phase. Most homes in North America have single-phase power, so we will focus on that one, but really this is something that we did not have to consider.

The last thing you will need to consider is the method of installation. There are two types: hard-wired and plug-in models. For our purposes, we opted for a plug in model because it made things easier when wiring up everything before turning on power with the generator switch—which we recommend doing outside your home’s breaker box!

There are two types of transfer switch that we considered: typical wall mounted switch which is next to your home main breaker box and the meter mounted type (Generlink) which required the power utility to come in and install it from the outside. The Generlink switch is more expensive, but it does not require any additional wiring in your home.

The smaller box is the one where the generator will feed in.
Turn off the main breaker from the house box and switch over to the generator breaker

Both cost the same, but we opted for a traditional wall mounted switch as the other type was not easily available in our area and had some reliability issues at the time.

Picking the right generator size for your home

Picking a right generator size is probably one of the most difficult parts of getting prepared. If you get too small, it will have trouble keeping up with your energy needs and then you’ll be out in the dark anyway. However, going big will mean that you’re spending more money on gas to run it than if you had gotten an appropriate sized generator.

Luckily I had a friend who also went through this process and during hurricane Dorian, he made a rush purchased and got a 3000 watt generator. Unfortunately for him, he actually had to use it a few times and found that it could not power the basics in his home: water pump, water heater & fridge.

After doing some more research, he realized that he needed at least a 6000 watt generator to power his home. If you’re in the market for a generator, I would recommend checking out this guide on choosing the right sized generator for your needs.

Generator with battery starter and 22L fuel tank

If you are not getting city water or sewer and need electricity to power things like your well then you need to consider the starting amps when these motors turn on. This is the important factor to consider when sizing your generator.

We opted for a generator with 6800 starting watt and with a constant of 5500 watts. This should provide us with enough power and get a room heated if we have an outage in the winter.

Last thing is the power cord to use. We have a 30 amp cord and it plugs right into the generator from outside the house. We should not run the generator inside the house – ever.

An appropriate plug-in to handle the current

Now that our house is wired for a generator, we are ready for anything. Stay safe out there!

By Jim Cyr

Exploring Nova Scotia with a constellation of satellites to guide me along the way. Producing hiking, outdoors, local drink & food videos, you can find Jim's contributions on novascotiablogs.com and a few other places. Jim carries a ZOLEO Satellite Communicator for all of his outdoor adventures.