What Happens to a Portable Generator When the Power Comes Back On

A portable generator will save you from the disappoints of unreliable power supply from the power company. It is an electrical equipment that allows you to produce your electricity when there is a blackout. In case of a blackout, you can choose to power your appliances by plugging them directly into the generator via an extension. Alternatively, you can connect the generator through your home’s breaker box to supply power to your preferred circuits. However, you will need a transfer switch to connect your generator to your home via your breaker box. So, what happens to a portable generator when the power comes back on? Read on this article to learn.

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Things That Happen To a Portable Generator When Power Comes Back

What Happens to a Portable Generator When the Power Comes Back OnIf you are powering your appliances directly via an extension cord, restoring the mainline will not affect your generator’s running. It is because the generator is not linked to your home’s electric panel. It is like powering your electric appliances at a campsite or in any other outdoor activity.

Portable Generator Switches Off

The portable generator automatically switches off because of the neutralization of its electrical connection in the transfer switch. However, if your generator is connected to your home’s breaker box or an interlock, it will automatically stop supplying electricity after the restoration of the main grid. This occurrence may temporarily power off all the appliances plugged into the outlets.

The following steps can help you ensure the restoration of the main grid does not damage your home, plugged-in appliances, or portable generator:

1. Do not back feed power through any of your wall outlets:

Back feeding is an illegal way of powering your home by linking your generator to a wall socket. The connection makes power go back to your electric panel for redistribution to all the circuits in your house. Back feeding can also reverse power to the utility lines connecting your home to the main power, which may electrocute maintenance workers on the lines.

When the main power is restored while you are back feeding, your generator may severely get damage. You also risk damaging your plugged-in appliances. However, if you have to power your home through this illegal method, ensure to turn off the main breaker at your home’s panel box. Doing so will ensure there is no reversal of power to the utility lines outside your home. And restoration of the utility lien will also not damage your portable generator.

2. Use a transfer switch or an interlock switch when connecting your home with a portable generator.

The transfer switch or an interlock system is an electric mechanism that automatically allows you to connect your generator with the electrical panel when there is a blackout. You can then choose to operate specific circuits or appliances connected to your home’s breaker box via the transfer switch. A transfer switch will automatically disconnect power from the generator after the restoration of the mainline. The working mechanism of a transfer switch prevents damages to your portable generator during power restoration.

3. You should not allow anyone without training to install transfer switches, interlock systems, or other electrical devices related to your generator.

Do not attempt an installation any yourself if you lack knowledge about how to do it. You may get electrocuted or cause damage to your home if you error with the connection. Be sure to check with certified technicians when purchasing generators and related devices. If you do not have a transfer switch or an interlock system, ensure that you turn off the main breaker of your home’s panel box. You will then be able to choose which appliances and circuits you plug into your generator via extension cords.

4. Do not overload your generator.

An overloaded portable generator will automatically shut down to prevent damage. Ensure you follow the instructions on your generator’s manual about how many watts it can handle for an appropriate output. If you power appliances through a transfer switch or interlock switch, turn them off before turning on your transfer switch or generator.

How do you tell the main power is back on when using a portable generator?

Standby generators will automatically shut down when the main power is restored, but this is different for portable generators. An easier route to tell whether the main grid is restored or not is to install a utility power restored alert system on a manual electric panel. However, to install this system, you will need to install a manual interlock kit.

Activate the alert system once you switch the interlock switch to allow the generator to supply power to the panel. This system will produce a pulsing 100 decibels alarm to alert you the main power is back. And you can once again switch the interlock to allow the primary utility lien to power your home.

The main breaker is usually turned off when people are running their house with power from the generator. And it is therefore not easy to tell when the utility power has been restored. For this reason, installing a utility power restored alert system is paramount.

Portable Generator Vs. Standby Generator

While both are reliable sources of emergency power, their functionality is not the same. A portable generator is a temporary power solution whenever you need an emergency power solution. On the other hand, a standby generator is a permanent power backup option should you experience a power outage.

Unlike portable generators, standby generators have long-running hours and generate more power output, ideal for powering an entire house. They are also fuel-efficient when compared to portable units. While a portable generator will provide you with power wherever you go, a standby generator is mounted permanently in a homestead or office building. It will also need ample space for installation compared to the space required by a portable generator.

Which One Should You Go for; Portable or Standby Generator?

How do you tell the main power is back on when using a portable generator?Both portable and standby generators are perfect power solutions during emergencies. However, there are particular situations when one is more appropriate than the other. Regardless of which type you will invest in; you are sure of meeting your power demands when the need comes.

Situations that require a portable generator include;

1. When there is an emergency, and you don’t need to power your entire house, a portable generator is ideal.

You can quickly connect your selected appliances such as refrigerator and cooking appliances to the generator via an extension cord, and they’ll comfortably run. Portable models are also ideal when you only need to power your devices for few hours.

2. When you have a small budget:

Portable generators are cheap when compared to standby generators. If you have a low power demand and looking for a budget-friendly generator, a portable generator will fit your needs. They’re affordable to buy and install than the standby models, which are expensive to buy and require a certified electrician to install.

3. When generator noise is your main concern:

Standby generators are generally big, which means they have a big engine size. This contributes to the high noise that they make compared to their counterparts. Portable generators may be noisy but not as much as the standby units. There are particular models of portable generators that come built with sound dampening materials that limit the amount of noise the engine produces. If you are looking for a silent portable generator, consider going for a portable inverter model. Such models come with small engine sizes and have a compact design that lowers their noise output.

Check out this video on generator noise

4. When portability is your main concern:

Are you looking for a generator that can provide you with power while on the go? It would be best if you considered buying a portable generator. They come with portable features, including flexible handles, wheels (not all models), and bearable weights. The portability of portable generators is because of their small engine size, making them ideal for powering outdoor activities. Standby generators are not portable; they are heavy and built for permanent installation.

When should you go for a standby generator model?

Check out this video for more

1. If you have high power demand for your house or office:

Portable generators will provide you with emergency power but only run a few electric appliances. If you have high power demands for running multiple power-intensive machines, a portable generator may not be ideal for you. You should invest in a standby generator, and they are powerful for handling multiple heavy-duty appliances.

2. If you are looking for a ready-to-use generator.

Standby generators come with an automatic transfer switch that detects when your utility line goes off and automatically power on. It is ideal, especially in banks, hospitals, and homes with sensitive medical equipment where a consistent power supply is needed. You may not even notice that there was a power blackout; the generator starts in seconds. Standby models offer a convenient way of enjoying backup power.

3. When looking for a durable generator.

Standby generators are made with insulated materials that withstand any weather condition. You may only need to build a stand or shade to protect it from direct storms or rain. While there are durable portable generators, their durability does not match the durability of standby models.

4. When looking for a permanent power backup option:

Standby models are permanently installed in homesteads or within a commercial property. Furthermore, they guarantee you long running hours because of the big fuel tank and high energy efficiency rate compared to portable models. You can also choose to install a natural gas pipe to supply fuel to a standby generator that runs on natural gas. The generator will always be there to pick up when grid is down automatically. You don’t have to plan on refueling it after several hours of operations, like what happens when using a portable model.

How Does a Standby Generator Behave When Power is Restored?

Standby generators are connected to a home’s transfer switch. Connecting a generator with your home is often the best choice in the event of a power outage. It allows you to utilize all your preferred circuits. So, what happens to a standby generator when the power comes back on?

A standby generator has an automatic transfer switch operation. This type of generator switches on automatically when the main utility line goes out. Standby generators have an in-built system that detects the power loss from the mainline. Before the system auto-starts the generator, it delays for a few seconds allowing the main power to restore. If it doesn’t, then the generator will run. The automatic transfer switch cuts off the main utility line from the house’s power panel, linking to the generator’s power. Once the utility line is restored, the automatic transfer switch disconnects the generator’s supply, shutting down as the utility line reconnects to the house.

Key Questions to Answer Before Buying a Backup Generator

1. Which appliances need to be connected, and how many watts do they require?

What Happens to a Portable Generator When the Power Comes Back OnAnswering this question will help you estimate your total power demands, determining the size of the generator to buy. Most people choose to power selected appliances depending on how essential they are in the house. Get the total starting and running wattage and budget for a generator with about 15% more power output than your demand. The provision for more power output is to ensure your generator does not always run on full load.

2. Should you buy a portable or standby generator?

Portable generators are suitable for people looking for temporary power solutions wherever they go. Such models are affordable but come with a high maintenance cost. They also offer a short runtime compared to standby models.

Standby generators are suitable for people looking for permanent power solutions for their homes, offices, or commercial buildings. They are expensive to buy, ranging from $3,000 to $20,000 depending on the variety. Their installation cost is also high, but they come with low maintenance costs.

3. When should you buy a generator?

There is no appropriate time to plan on when you should buy a generator backup plan. However, if you want to get a sound generator at a sensible price, avoid the rush that comes with last-minute purchases. When a hurricane is quickly approaching, there will undoubtedly be a mad rush for buying generators. During such times, generators are expensive because of their high demand during such seasons. However, you can get a good discount if you purchase one in early spring or late fall.

Frequently Asked Questions

1. How long will the generator run after the power comes back on?

Generators do not shut down immediately after the power is restored. Instead, they run for an additional 1 to 3 minutes to ensure the power restored is stable. The delay in shutting down also allows the engine to cool down, which is safe for generators.

2. Will the installation of a standby generator increase the value of my home?

What Happens to a Portable Generator When the Power Comes Back OnYes. Homebuyers are now looking for homes with backup power solutions. Installing a standby generator may add the value of your property by few thousand dollars depending on the model of the generator and status. Your property can therefore fetch a higher market value if you have a standby generator installation in place.

3. What is back feeding a generator, and is it legal?

It is the act of connecting a portable generator directly to the electrical panel through a wall socket or any other means besides using a transfer switch. It’s a dangerous connection that may damage your electrical circuits and generator and electrocute the servicemen working on the electrical line.

It is an illegal connection that any homeowner across the USA should not practice under any circumstances. Should your house catch fire, your insurance provider will not compensate you once they learn you were back feeding. If you don’t have a transfer switch, power your appliances via an extension cord.

4. Do I need a transfer switch to connect my house to a generator?

Running your home off a generator via a transfer switch is a quick and safe way of powering your home with a generator. A transfer switch mitigates the risks associated with powering your home through a dryer outlet.

Final word

A backup generator can be a lifesaver in case of a power outage. It can also be expensive to purchase, install and maintain. However, the benefits outweigh the costs making it a worthy investment. If you are looking for backup generator installation services in your vicinity, it is best to get one from reputable companies that offer quality services coupled with competitive prices. Do thorough research before settling on any generator model or dealer.

So, what happens to a portable generator when the power comes back on? If you were running your appliances via an extension cord, restoring power wouldn’t impact the generator or the plugged-in appliances. However, if you have connected the generator to your house through an inter-switch, it will automatically disconnect power from the generator and allow the utility power into the house. The generator will then power off.


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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