When the weather hits and the power goes out, you need a reliable backup. While many people opt for a whole house generator to keep safe, warm, and productive during power outages, not everyone needs to keep their whole house powered up when the electrical grid is down. And many others who can’t afford a whole house generator still want backup options.

So what can you do to protect your family and your home in the event of a power outage? A portable generator with an interlock is a great option. That portable generator can be a true lifesaver, keeping your ventilation system, your lights, and your computers powered up.

You have a couple of options when it comes to connecting that portable generator to your home’s electrical system — and we recommend an interlock that connects to your existing electrical panel. Take a look at how a portable generator infeed and interlock works and why it might be the right answer for you.

What Is a Portable Generator Infeed and Interlock?

A portable generator can supply the power you need to stay safe and connected during an electrical outage. But you have to connect that generator to your home’s electrical panel in a safe way to make use of that backup power.

An interlock is a safe way to make that connection. This device provides a level of safety by ensuring that your home’s circuit breaker and your generator’s circuit breaker can’t be turned on simultaneously — a situation that can cause extremely dangerous electrical feedback.

When you install an interlock in your home, you make it possible to transfer control of your home’s electricity from your main power breaker to your generator. The interlock transfer switch, which is mounted to your home’s electrical panel, helps you conduct this transfer manually. 

How does it work? The important thing is to take all the steps in the right order:

  • Turn off all the circuit breakers to major appliances that your generator isn’t powerful enough to support. These might include your air conditioning, your electric water heater, your electric dryer, and your electric stovetop.
  • Turn on the generator.
  • Turn off your main circuit breaker.
  • Turn on your generator’s circuit breaker.

With these simple steps, made easy by the interlock, you can now power your house safely via your backup generator. The interlock isolates your generator from your main utility circuit breaker so that you can’t turn them both on at the same time (which can be dangerous). It also means you don’t have to run a zillion extension cords through your home, getting rid of both the tripping and the fire hazards involved.

Why Might You Need a Portable Generator Infeed and Interlock?

If you plug your generator into an electrical outlet or directly into your electrical panel, the electricity flows through your home’s electrical wiring, leaving your home through the electric meter. When this happens, voltage increases as it enters the power lines distributing electricity to your home — and that can create what’s known as back feed, which can cause a fatal electrical shock to anyone who touches one of those power lines.

If that back feed reaches your generator, it can burn out the generator. Your generator is also likely to be severely damaged when the power comes back on if you’ve connected it directly to an electrical outlet in your home.

Installing an interlock switch protects against both these dangerous situations. Because the interlock switch disconnects your electrical power from the main power grid provided by your utility service, the power generated by your generator stays within your home and doesn’t get out of control.

Interlock devices are typically the right choice for homes and small commercial enterprises, where someone is on the premises to provide the manual operation needed to flip the interlock switch. They’re a good choice when you don’t require enormous amounts of continuous power.

With an interlock, you have the flexibility to send power where you need it for safety and comfort. An interlock is far less expensive than a whole house generator, and as your local Greenville electrician, we can install one for you quickly and economically. 

Things to Keep in Mind If You Opt for a Portable Generator Infeed and Interlock

One of the most important things to bear in mind if you opt for a portable generator of any size: Never operate it indoors — and that includes in your garage or basement. Carbon monoxide can easily build up if you operate a generator indoors, and that can be deadly. Place your generator outdoors in a well-ventilated spot for safety.

If you choose a portable generator infeed and interlock system, remember that you have to manage the loads yourself. That means you have to make the connections and flip the interlock switch on your own — which means knowing how to do so correctly.

An interlock system is only worth it if you have a decent-sized generator. That means a generator in the 7,000-watt range.

To operate an interlock, your electrical panel needs to be up to date. Older panels may not be able to connect to interlock devices. In addition, your electrical panel needs a main breaker — which we can install for you if needed.

When it’s time to shut down your generator, protect your appliances by shutting them off before you turn off the generator. You can also protect them by paying attention to how much your generator can reasonably handle. If you overload your generator, you can cause real damage to both appliances and electronics.

For safety, it’s important to always have all electrical work done by a licensed and qualified electrician. At Upstate Electrical Solutions, we’re ready to install an interlock system for your portable generator or to do any work you need on your home’s electrical system. Contact us today to get started.