Can I Install My Generator Myself?

There are many reasons for someone to purchase a generator. It could be that they are looking for a power source on a camping trip, they need power during a job site, or they are looking for an alternative power source for their home in case of an emergency. A question that we see a lot when it comes to generators is if the consumer can install the system themselves. There isn’t a simple answer to this question. Let’s dive in here and take a look:


First, we have to look at what type of generator you will be purchasing. By knowing this we can then begin to make the determination if you are able and if you should install the system yourself or if you should hire a trained professional. What will you be using your generator for? Do you have an application in mind already? If so, then we can most likely determine the install and what will be involved. Let’s say for example you want to purchase a generator as a backup power source for your RV during camping trips. The generator will allow you to keep your refrigerator and a few other things running on your RV without having to idle the engine or drain the battery. In this example the install is rather simple and you will most likely not need an electrician.

Let’s take a look at another example. Let’s say it’s winter and a blizzard just rolled through your town. The power was cut and you need your phones charged and maybe power to an infrared heater you have in your living room. You don’t need to power on your whole home again, or even your furnace, but you do need enough power for some smaller appliances. In this scenario the setup is still relatively simple for your portable generator. Be sure to setup your generator outside of your home by about fifteen to twenty feet. Never run your generator near your home, in your garage, your closet, or your basement. This can be a HUGE safety risk. (For more information on safety and generators click here to be taken to our Generator Safety Guide.)

Once you have your generator setup all you have to to is route an extension cord from the generator into your home to power your appliances. There you have it, you’re setup. Not so bad! Again, keep in mind that this is ONLY for smaller appliances and is not intended to power your whole home. Also, whatever you do, do NOT backfeed your generator into your home. Backfeeding your generator is taking an extension cord with two male ends and plugging one end into your generator and one into an outlet of your home. This can create a fire hazard at best and at worst can cause serious electrocution injury to you or local electrical workers.

Ok folks, I have two more examples for us to go through. The next is if you are in a similar situation as above. Your power is out and you need to get some things back on. The difference here though is that you want to turn your furnace back on. Your furnace is hooked directly to your circuit breaker. There isn’t an outlet for it to plug into. So how do you turn it back on? The only way to get your furnace back during a power outage is by installing what’s known as a manual transfer switch. This transfer switch will allow you to hook your generator directly to your circuit breaker. In these situations it is imperative that you consult a trained electrician or professional. Installing a transfer switch can be a difficult task for a laymen and along with the transfer switch your electrician will tell you if you need a grounding rod for your generator or not. (In most cases you WILL need a grounding rod if you are hooking your generator up to your circuit breaker via  manual transfer switch.) On top of all that the professional will be able to tell you if you are complying with all city, county, and state regulations and codes.

Alright, our last example are on standby generators. For those of you who don’t know a standby generator is a much larger version of your portable generator. A standby unit will automatically switch the power of your home over to the generator in the event of a power loss. These units will switch between power sources after just a few seconds of outage. They make things easy and allow you not to worry during a power outage. The downside of these is that they are quite expensive and the install can be very complicated. When purchasing a standby generator it is imperative that you have a certified electrician come out and install the system. If possible, try to get an electrician that is familiar with the brand of standby generator that you will be purchasing. (Even the most trained professionals can sometimes make mistakes on systems they are not familiar with.) If you were to try and install one of these systems yourself you risk harming yourself, your home, not following codes and regulations, AND voiding the warranty on the system. Is all of that really worth it? Or, should you pony up the cash and get it installed right the first time? I know what I would do.


As you can see above there are many types of scenarios and possible outcomes when it comes to installing a generator. Depending on what application you need the decision for a do-it-yourself install and a professional install will be made for you. Remember folks, it is always better to be safer then sorry.

As always, since this article has to deal with generators I have to put our ToughAssTool’s disclaimer here stating that we are NOT liable for any product damage, property damage, or injuries when dealing with generators. This article was a guide to best practices. If you have further questions we HIGHLY recommend you converse with your local electrician.

Thanks for reading,

Alec Johnson


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