Portable Backup Home Generator project part 2. Making a connection.

In order to use a portable generator to power appliances you need a quality connection.

As you connect individual items, you begin to see some of the issues with using a standard extension cord.

1. generators can’t come inside safely. It’s noisy and generates dangerous carbon monoxide exhaust. So the generator sits outside and the cord has to come into the house through a door or window cracked open.

2. You can’t plug in much with standard outlets on the generator. It doesn’t matter how big your generator is, ~15 amps at 120 volts is about all you get even with power strips connected. So roughly the equivalent of ONE single home circuit for lights or a room.

3. It becomes very apparent that some things can’t be plugged in at all. Your dishwasher, your air conditioner, ceiling lights, bathroom fan, etc.

On larger generators there are the large plugs you may have never seen before. These allow you to hook up much higher capacity circuits and appliances.

For instance my generator has a NEMA 14-50 receptacle. This can supply 240 volts AC at 50 amps! That’s enough to power a good amount of residential household items at once.

The cable is essential to making a high capacity connection to our “power inlet box” the two most common are 30 and 50 amps. I chose the highest capacity compatible with my generator which was 50 amps.

50 amp power inlet box.

This box will be mounted to an exterior brick wall using tapcon screws and conduit will reach between the breaker box and the power inlet.

The power inlet box “knockout” only accepts up to 3/4” conduit. Given our application with (4) 6 gauge wires we will need to make a larger hole to accommodate a 1” conduit. The hole size for 1” conduit is 1 3/8”. We will use a step drill to enlarge the hole.
This is a “step drill” bit. They cost about $60 for a decent one that’s big enough and will last longer than one time use.

We will keep working on the project this weekend!

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