Is It Safe to Backfeed a Generator

Generators are great, but they can be dangerous if not used properly.  One of the risky scenarios of using a generator is when you want to backfeed it. But is it safe to backfeed a generator? While backfeeding may sound like a quick way to power your house, it is illegal, and it can be dangerous. You could get electrocuted if something goes wrong while trying to do this task yourself at home.  And even if everything works as planned, there are still risks associated with backfeeding that make it unsafe for everyone involved, including family members and neighbors. The question comes in when one asks is it safe to back feed a generator


You don’t want to put yourself, your family, or your neighbors at risk when there is no need! This article will help you understand what is backfeeding a generator, why it’s dangerous, and precautions before doing it.


What is Backfeeding a Generator?

Backfeeding is when you connect your generator to your home’s electrical outlet (such as a dryer outlet). During this procedure, the electrical power from the generator flows in reverse to your electrical panel through the circuit breaker of the particular outlet the generator has been plugged in. Once the power is in the electric panel, it is distributed to the whole house through the various circuit breakers on the panel.

The normal or recommendable procedure of powering a house with a generator is directly connecting the generator to your electric panel through a transfer switch. This procedure allows power to be distributed from the panel to the whole house safely.

Why Is Backfeeding a Generator Dangerous?

Backfeeding is a dangerous and illegal procedure, especially when the main breaker is not off. In such a situation, power from your backfeeding method will back feed the utility line outside your house. Such a procedure can electrocute lineworkers working to restore power on the utility line. In case of any injuries or death to the maintenance team due to your backfeeding, you will be held personally responsible, and you can face criminal prosecution.


If the power comes back and your generator is still running, your home circuit will have two power sources. This situation will strain your generator and your house’s electric panel, which may lead to a fire outbreak.

Most insurance companies across the USA will not cover damages or losses resulting from backfeeding a generator. This is because it’s an illegal procedure, and they consider such losses your fault. Therefore,  if your house is damaged by fire, you will have to pay for the repairs by yourself.

The male-to-male cords used during backfeeding pose an electric hazard. Anyone tripping onto the cord or touching either end of the cord accidentally may suffer an electrical shock.


Precautions to Take Before Backfeeding a Generator

Backfeeding a generator is dangerous and illegal in most states. However, emergencies call for desperate measures. Though it’s not advisable, if you have no other choice but to backfeed a generator, then follow the below precautions:


Switch off the main breaker

It’s very important to make sure the main breaker is switched off before proceeding with backfeeding. This will ensure that your appliances at home will only use the power from the generator to run. And the power does not flow from your electric panel to the utility line outside your home.

Ensure the generator is grounded

Another way to ensure that there are no risks of electrocution and fire outbreaks while backfeeding a generator is by grounding your generator. Grounding your generator will direct any excess voltages to the earth, safeguarding your appliances and yourself from stray voltages.

Hire a qualified electrician

It’s essential to hire a qualified electrician for your backfeeding procedure. Qualified electricians know the correct method to follow during such an emergency. They will be able to backfeed your generator without creating a safety risk for you and the rest of your family members. Additionally, they can check your home’s wiring and ensure that there are no potential risks.

Do not backfeed the generator through your home wiring:

You should never try to backfeed the generator through your home wiring. Any fault with the home’s electrical panel will not stop power flow to any plugged-in appliances.  This may lead to a fire outbreak if you are not careful enough.

If you have no other option but to backfeed the generator, then follow all safety precautions. Ensure that your electrician is a licensed professional and he knows what he is doing.


How to Avoid Backfeeding a Generator

Backfeeding a generator is illegal and dangerous as it can lead to damage to your property, serious injuries, or death. If you want to avoid any adverse repercussions of backfeeding a generator, then follow the below tips:

1. Invest in a Reliable Transfer Switch

Is It Safe to Backfeed a Generator

If your power supply is frequently interrupted and you need a backup generator, it would be best to invest in a reliable transfer switch. A transfer switch is a device that allows you to safely and efficiently connect your generator to your home’s electrical panel. It can either be automatic or manual. The switch separates the main electricity from electricity coming from your generator, removing the possibility of accidental backfeeding and vice versa when the main grid is restored. This way, you will be able to power your home appliances through the electric panel without needing to backfeed the generator.


2. Use Reliable Extension Cords

If you are not in a position to buy a transfer switch, you can use reliable extension cords to power your selected appliances directly. However, you need to ensure that the cable is rated for use with an electric generator and that it’s long enough to cover the distance between the generator and your appliances. You must keep the cord away from moisture and any other flammable materials in your home. Additionally, ensure that it’s not damaged or frayed.  You don’t want the cord to break when you are using it.

3. Always Read the Manual

Before you start using your generator, it’s essential to read the user’s manual carefully.  You will get all the information you need about installing your generator and how to use it safely.


Frequently Asked Questions

Is it safe to backfeed electricity from generator?

No, It’s not safe to backfeed electricity from a generator.  You need a transfer switch or extension cords to avoid backfeeding from a generator.

Why is backfeeding a generator dangerous?

Backfeeding a generator is dangerous because it can re-energize the utility lines outside your home, which may electrocute servicemen working on the utility lines. In addition, it may damage your appliances, property or hurt you and your family members.

How do you backfeed safely?

The safe way to backfeed is to contract a qualified electrician to do the backfeeding for you. A professional electrician knows the correct procedure to follow when backfeeding. But remember, backfeeding is dangerous, and it’s illegal in most states. You should not do it.

What happens if the generator is running when the power comes back on?

If you have installed an automatic transfer switch and the power comes back on when the generator runs, you have no reason to panic. The transfer switch will immediately signal the generator to shut down. Still, the generator will continue to run as it waits for the restored power to stabilize before the engine shuts down.

How do I backfeed a generator to my house?

Backfeeding is dangerous, but you must do it the right way if you have to do it. Ensure to switch off the main power breaker and connect the generator (ensure the generator is off) into the dryer outlet. Proceed to the breaker box and switch on the selected breakers to power your chosen appliances; the main breaker must be maintained off. With the dryer, outlet breaker switch turned on, power on your generator, and it will be ready to power your house.

Can I backfeed my house with a generator through my dryer plug?

Yes, however, this is a risky method of powering your house. The risks involved include damaging your property and appliances and electrocuting the linemen working to restore the main grid.

Can you connect a generator to an outlet?

While this is physically possible, it is not recommendable. It is an illegal and dangerous way of powering your home.

How can I power my house with a generator without a transfer switch?

You can power your house with a generator without a transfer switch by using extension cords.  However, ensure that they are rated for use with an electric generator.

How do you hook up a portable generator to your house?

Hooking up a portable generator to your house should be done by a qualified electrician. If you have to do it by yourself, ensure there is a transfer switch. A transfer switch makes your connection safe.

Can you wire a generator to a breaker box?

Is It Safe to Backfeed a Generator

Yes, connect the generator cable to your home’s switch or breaker box. Switch off all power switches on the transfer switch before starting the generator. Start the generator and wait a few minutes for it to get warm. Then, on the transfer switch,  change the main switch to the generator position.

Do you have to turn off your main breaker when using a generator?

Yes, this is a sure way of preventing backfeeding to the utility lines. You will also safeguard your home’s electric panel from the risks of having two power sources when the main grid is restored when the generator is running.

How do I run an extension cord from a generator to my house?

Plug the extension cord into your generator’s 20 or 30 Amp receptacle and extend the cord to your house. However, you have to ensure that the cord is rated for use with electric generators and that it is long enough.

Is it safe to use extension cords with generator?

Yes, provided the extension cord is rated for use with an electric generator. Not all extension cords are suitable for use with generators. However, the use of extension cords with your generator should be a temporary thing. Unless it is for outdoor powering activities, you need to invest in a transfer switch for a safe connection of your home to the generator.

Is it bad to connect two extension cords?

Yes, connecting two extension cords is not a good idea. Connecting two extension cords reduces the wattage capabilities of the two cords, which can be hazardous, mainly when the connection is used as a long-term thing. Keep your home safe by investing in a long extension cord suitable for your home or uses.

What size extension cord do I need to run a refrigerator on a generator?

You need a 14-gauge extension cord to power your refrigerator on a generator comfortably. The 14-gauge category is medium-duty, while the heavy and extra heavy duties are 12 and 10, respectively.

Is it illegal to use a generator to power your house?

No. However, it is illegal if you incorrectly connect your generator to your house, such as backfeeding, through a dryer outlet. Instead, you need to connect the house through a breaker box by using a transfer switch.

Can I backfeed through a 110v receptacle?

Backfeeding through any of your home’s receptacles is not recommendable. While you can still do this safely, backfeeding through a 110v receptacle will only power one of the bus bars. Therefore, half of your home will receive power.

Can a portable generator be plugged into the electrical box when an electrical outage occurs?

Yes. However, you will need to install a transfer switch before connecting the generator into the electrical box. The transfer switch separates the two sources of power, the main grid, and the generator, from meeting up in the electrical box.

How do you make a backfeed cord?

You will need a 30 amp three-prong cord and an L-1430 30 amp plug. You will plug one side of the cord with three prongs into the generator and the other into the dryer outlet. Remove the terminals on the dryer cord, remove about half an inch of the insulation, and fix the wire into the plug. Ensure the plug is correctly fixed and it is water-resistant.


Final Word

Is it safe to backfeed a generator? No, backfeeding a generator is illegal, and it’s dangerous. Instead, use a transfer switch to connect your generator to the house. You can also do it safely by backfeeding through an extension cord with a 14-gauge wire. If you have to do the backfeeding during an emergency, be sure to consult a qualified technician to do it for you safely.


About Steve Stuart

Steve Stuart is an electrical engineer who developed interest on generators during his school years. After school, he became a generator enthusiast. This is after encountering power supply problems at the area of residence where he lived. Power would be on and off and so food would go bad and the room heater would go off especially during winter. After trying the different generator brands for several years, Steve now provides information on the available brands and products in the market today. Based on his experience, he gives the do’s and the don’ts when it comes to generator use.

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