Video: How to Wire a Generator to a House

This video explains how to wire a generator to a house. There are many videos about generators out there, but this one was exceptionally well done.

Two important notes to remember before watching:

* Check your local regulations regarding electricity. This video doesn’t take your area’s ordinances and laws into consideration.

* Living Ready isn’t responsible if you wind up electrocuting someone.

That said, it’s important to understand how to wire a generator to a house. Spending a large chunk of money on a portable generator doesn’t accomplish much if the wiring isn’t set – and set correctly.

As you learn how to wire a generator to a house, here are some tips to consider.

Don’t Create “Backfeed”

Prior to Hurricane Sandy, Chief Anthony DeZenzo of the Parsippany, New Jersey, police department issued this warning in the Parsippany Patch:

One thing he said is crucial is to ensure that your power is off when using a generator.

“A generator connected to a home’s wiring or plugged into a regular household outlet can cause ‘backfeeding’ along power lines and electrocute anyone who comes in contact with them—even if the line seems dead,” he said. “It happens when a portable generator is connected directly to the home’s wiring without having a functional transfer switch. Without a transfer switch, a portable generator’s electricity can be sent back into the power grid from your house. This will energize the utility’s power lines on the street and poses an electrocution hazard for those who may not know that the voltage is present on the shared lines.”

Shutting power off before starting the generator, even if your regular electric service is down, ensures that no one is at risk of electrocution.

Make Sure the Generator Can Produce More Power than Needed

This one seems obvious, but it isn’t considered often enough. Plan ahead (i.e. not running to the hardware store the day before a big storm when selection is limited) by calculating how much wattage is required to operate critical appliances. Then buy a generator capable of producing more than that amount.

3 thoughts on “Video: How to Wire a Generator to a House

  1. Albertville Al

    One point that should be made is that the ground lug on your generator should be connected to a suitable earth ground. The earth ground (third pin on your 120 outlet) is connected to the earth ground at your utility feed. For safeties sake, that return path needs to be completed back to the generator frame.

  2. retired75th

    Excellent video! Well done, understandable and very useful. THANKYOU. I thought the transfer switch box kit was legal and the best solution. Not so. Installing a sub panel with disconnect makes far more sense. And if you have an undersized main panel, as the narrator, you can kill 2 birds with one stone. It is also cheaper and simpler and will be what I do.. We are in Colorado and if the power goes put in winter, the pipes can freeze, which is a VERY expensive repair. If you follow Hurrican Sandy, there are a lot of folks still without power and this is the end of Nov. here you need to draw a permit to do this work. That means a fee, inspection and rework if you don’t pass inspection. Have a good electrician do the work, get materials and the inspections are his responsible. Excellent video as I said, but there is one question. Should the generator be running first before you plug in the powers cord ?

    1. Ben Sobieck


      The best idea is to turn the generator on first, then attach the power cord into your sub-panel hookup (or however you’re drawing power from the generator). Then hit the breakers one at a time. The point is that you gradually draw power.

      Do the reverse order when powering down. The generator should be the last thing to shut off.

      – Ben