How to Wire a 240V Generator Cord

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Most generators run on a 240V circuit, but, in most cases, they don't get plugged into an outlet. If you look at the cord on such a generator, you will notice that it simply ends with the wires sticking out. This is because the generator gets connected directly to breakers inside of the electrical panel.

Things You'll Need

  • Insulated screwdrivers
  • Romex connector
  • Wire strippers
  • Double-pole breaker (appropriately rated)
  • Knockout hole blank
  • Read the instructions that came with your 240V generator cord to learn whether or not it will require a neutral connection. In most cases, basic generators do not, but some advanced models have features that require a 110V line.

  • Remove the screws that are holding the electrical panel's cover in place. The cover can be heavy, so it helps if you have someone hold it while you remove the screws. Once all of the screws are out, carefully lift the cover off and away and set it in a safe place where nobody will trip over it.

  • Look inside the panel for any available double-pole breakers. This is a breaker that takes up two spaces in your electrical panel. Remember, it has to be rated for your generator, so if your generator requires a 50 amp hookup, you will need a double-pole 50 amp breaker available. If you are running the generator for a short time, you can use the breaker that powers your range but if you are going to be keeping it wired for a while, then you will want to install a dedicated breaker for it if your panel can handle it. For this example, we will be using the breaker that feeds the range.

  • Turn off the breaker that feeds your range.

  • Loosen the terminals on the breaker and remove the two wires. Keep in mind which wire gets connected to which terminal. Write the information down or label the wires so you can hook it back up correctly once you're finished using the generator. Bend the wires out of the way.

  • Find an available knockout and remove it. Use caution when doing this. You don't want the piece of metal to fall inside the panel. Get the knockout started and then use needle nose pliers to pry it out the rest of the way.

  • Loosen the clamp screws on the Romex connector and remove the locknut from the threaded section. Install the connector in the knockout hole. The clamp should be on the outside part of the panel and the locknut on the inside.

  • Strip about 3/4 of an inch of insulation from the ends of the generator cord wires. These are threaded wires, so twist the tips so all of the threads are unified in direction and there are no stragglers.

  • Insert the cord through the connector until you have enough wire inside to reach your terminals. Then, tighten the clamp screws down on the connector to hold the cord in place.

  • Find a free terminal on the ground bar, loosen the screw and insert the ground wire beneath it. Then, tighten down the terminal screw to hold the ground wire in place.

  • The other two wires (black and white) get connected to the breaker, one wire under each screw. Tighten them securely and give them a light tug to make sure you definitely have them under the terminal clamp.

  • In most cases, if your generator requires a neutral, the cord will consist of a ground, a white neutral and a black and a red wire. In this case, the ground wire goes to the ground bar, the white wire to the neutral bar and the black and red wires will get connected to the breaker terminals.

  • Screw the electric panel's cover back in place and turn the circuit breaker back on.

  • You will now be able to use your 240V generator cord.

Tips & Warnings

  • Always turn off the breaker before working the circuit. Use extreme caution when working around or in an open electrical panel, even if the breaker is off, the rest of the panel is still hot! Use insulated screwdrivers whenever working inside an electrical panel. If you are at all nervous or afraid of working inside an electrical panel, please call an electrician to connect your generator's cord.

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