How To Look At A House
McGarry and Madsen's home inspection blog for buyers of
site-built, mobile/manufactured and modular homes
Can you plug a generator into a wall receptacle outlet?
Saturday, May 23, 2020
You could call it “good ole Yankee ingenuity” or “white trash engineering,” depending on whether you approve or not. But, either way, it’s both dangerous and illegal. Here’s four reasons why:
1) It’s against code. The National Electrical Code [NEC 406.6(B)], states that “no receptacle shall be installed so as to require the insertion of an energized attachment as its source of supply."
2) Potential fireworks. If the main breaker in the service panel is not turned off, or inadvertently turned back on while generator is still connected, when the local utility power comes back on there will be an explosion in the panel.
3) It’s a "dead-man’s plug.” Anyone who does not know that the cord is a power source will be shocked by touching the bare prongs if they touch them when they pull it out.
4) Wiring from receptacle to panel may be undersize for generator amperage rating. Also, any fixtures or other receptacles between plug-in point and panel would not have correct over-current protection.
The correct way to power your home through a portable generator is to connect it thru a generator-rated power inlet, dedicated for just that purpose, to a breaker in the panel with an overlay plate between the generator breaker and main breaker that makes it impossible to have both on at the same time. A power inlet box has male prongs instead of female slots.
Another, more expensive option is an electronic automatic transfer switch and a separate subpanel. See our blog post Why did my generator hookup get tagged as defective by the home inspector? for more on this.
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