The use of generators is becoming more and more popular due to the increasing frequency of power outages.
They are great when you need a little bit of electricity, but dangerous when malfunctioning; thus learn how to prevent back feed electricity from a Generator.
This happens in two ways:
- Your generator is wired incorrectly to create an electrical loop with the primary power grid.
- You have a transfer switch installed on your home’s breaker box, which transfers all incoming electricity from one circuit to another.
This blog post will explore how you can fix both scenarios so that you don’t cause any damage to your home or property.
What is Back Feeding?
This is a term used in electrical power distribution to describe the condition in which an inverter is connected without a line interactive UPS (uninterruptible Power Supply) between it and its utility input.
So, when there’s no incoming power, the back feeds get into your building wiring, causing all sorts of problems; lights dimming out or tripping breakers due to increased equipment load.
Is Back Feeding Dangerous?
Yes, back feeding is dangerous to both people and equipment. It can cause severe damage if it doesn’t trip the circuit breaker in time, sending high voltage power through your building wiring at 240 volts instead of 120 volts.
Back feeding can also be dangerous to your generator, as it will likely cause the circuit breaker or GFCI (ground fault) outlet that you’re plugged into to trip and shut off the power.
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What is a Transfer Switch?
A transfer switch is an electrical switch that allows manual or automatic switching between two power sources, most commonly used to switch from utility power to generator power during blackouts.
A typical purpose of this device is for backup power when there’s no electricity coming in from your utility company.
When it’s switched to the “off” position, you’re essentially just turning off all power coming into your home or building from that particular circuit breaker in question.
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How to Prevent Back Feed Electricity from a Generator
If your generator is wired backwards or “daisy chained” with extension cords, it can back feed electricity into the building’s electrical system.
To fix this issue, you’ll need a set of wire strippers and a voltage meter to test for current in each line before connecting them to ensure that there isn’t any leakage from one circuit to another.
1. Transfer Switch Off
If you already have your transfer switch installed but want to be sure that it’s off. This ensures no one can accidentally turn on the generator and cause back feed electricity into your home wiring system.
Flip the breaker in your main electrical panel labelled “generator” or something similar that disconnects all incoming power to your home.
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What Kind of Damage Can Back Feeding Cause?
If your main circuit breaker is turned off, it’s probably because too much equipment was powered by too little incoming electricity from your utility company.
Back feeds are dangerous for people and equipment because they can cause severe damage if they don’t trip the circuit breaker in time, sending high voltage power through your building wiring at 240 volts instead of 120 volts.
Generator Maintenance Tips
1. Clean the Area Around the Generator
To prevent back feeding, you’ll need to clean the area around your generator and remove any objects or materials that may interfere with airflow.
This will help ensure it does not overheat because of lack of ventilation which can cause irreparable damage.
2. Replace Oil Before Each Start
If your generator is equipped with an automatic transfer switch, it’s generally a good idea to take the time before each start to replace the oil and check other internal components.
This will help prevent parts from wearing out prematurely, which can eventually cause irreparable damage.
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3. Check the Battery Regularly
If your generator does not have an automatic transfer switch, you should test it by plugging in one appliance at a time to be sure that everything is working correctly.
If there’s no electricity coming from any of your appliances and you’ve tried resetting all breakers and checking for loose wires, check the battery. This is a sure sign that the generator needs to be serviced.
4. Replace Old Generator Sets
If your generators are older than 20 years, it’s probably time to upgrade them.
If you have one on your home or business property and there aren’t any gas stations nearby where you can get fuel for an emergency, this is a significant problem.
It might be time to consider purchasing replacement generators equipped with automatic transfer switches, which will allow you to power your home or business safely without worrying about back feeds.
Frequently Asked Questions on Power Back Feed from Generators
1. Can I Plug My Generator into the Primary Power Grid?
To prevent back feeding, you’ll need to clean the area around your generator and remove any objects or materials that may interfere with airflow. This will help ensure it does not overheat because of lack of ventilation which can cause irreparable damage.
2. How Can I Get my Generator Wired to the Primary Power Grid?
Suppose your generator has an auto-transfer switch installed. In that case, this should not happen because it does not allow electricity from the generators to flow back into the primary power grid, protecting both people and equipment. If there’s no automatic transfer switch, you need to install a manual one between the incoming feed and generator power source.
3. How Do I Wire a Transfer Switch?
Suppose the generator has an auto-transfer switch installed. In that case, this will not happen because it does not allow electricity to flow back into the primary power grid, protecting both people and equipment! If there’s no automatic transfer switch, you need to install a manual one between the incoming feed and generator power source.
4. Can I Install an Auto Transfer Switch Myself?
It’s generally a good idea to take the time to replace the oil and check other internal components before each start. This will help prevent parts from wearing out prematurely, which can eventually cause irreparable damage.
Preventing back feeding is an integral part of generator maintenance and should be done before each start.
Taking the time to clean the area around your generator and checking your battery will help it run as efficiently as possible so you can power your home or business safely.
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References and Citations:
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC): Electrical Safety and Generators- https://www.cdc.gov/disasters/elecgenerators.html