How to Install Standby Generators

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Standby generators are major appliances that must be installed following national and local construction and electrical codes. Transfer switches should be installed by licensed electrical contractors only. Do not confuse a standby generator with a portable generator, which can be taken on camping trips.

Things You'll Need

  • Construction tools
  • Mechanic's tools
  • Electrician's tools
  • Electrical wire
  • Conduit
  • Fuel line (types may vary)
  • Exhaust pipes (optional)

Location and Pad

  • Find a suitable location where fuel, exhaust and wiring will not be a hazard. Beware that children should not play around a standby generator. If it has automatic start and transfer, it may cycle periodically to exercise. Consider an enclosure in colder areas as snow could block air flow causing it to overheat.

  • Pour a concrete pad on which to install the generator so it will not sink into mud.

  • Bolt the generator to the concrete pad so it cannot "walk" while running.

Fuel Tank and Exhaust

  • Install the fuel tank in compliance with national and local building codes. Options for fuel are gasoline, propane and diesel. Be sure to use the correct fuel for your generator.

  • Run the fuel lines.

  • Fill the fuel tank and check connections for leaks.

  • If your standby generator is in a building, enclosure or shed, you need to install an exhaust system. Be aware that the exhaust pipe will get hot and could cause a fire. Building codes may apply.

Transfer Panel and Wiring

  • Install your transfer panel near your main power panel. Remember you will be working with live electrical wiring and you should not attempt this if you are not a licensed electrical contractor.

  • Run your wiring from your generator to your transfer switch. You may want to use an underground conduit. Check local building and electrical codes. Check with your transfer switch manufacturer for proper connections.

  • Start your generator and check the operation of the transfer panel. If it has automatic start and transfer, it may have automatic cycling as well. Set your automatic cycling time considering noise, children and the like. Check your generator manual for proper cycling interval and duration.

Tips & Warnings

  • Never, under any circumstances, attempt to connect a generator to a house or a building without going through a professionally installed transfer switch.
  • If you use a manual transfer switch, always disconnect your commercial power before connecting your generator.
  • Never run your generator in a manner where it can "backfeed" power back onto the grid.

References

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