No one likes being left in the dark during a power outage. It doesn’t matter if you live in a log home, or a stick frame home. To avoid the hassle, and the expense of rotting food, many people use back up generators for power. Whole house systems are the most convenient, because they run power through your entire log home. It is important that whole house generator systems be set up and installed properly. You want to avoid the risk of shock and fire to the homeowner during use. You also want a system that can’t back feed into the grid when in use, because you could harming utility workers who are trying to restore power. When it comes to safe, code compliant options, there are 3 main methods of powering your whole house with a generator. Some methods are more expensive and harder to install than others. Here’s a quick overview of the 3 common methods:
- You can install a transfer switch between the meter and your electrical panel (or between your meter and the street). This is the most expensive and complicated option. You will usually have to temporarily cut off power at the street during the installation. That switch can cost up to $500, and sometimes you will need a new meter. This option is difficult and time consuming to install, but it has one advantage — you can use an automatic transfer switch (ATS), so your log home automatically transfers to generator power during a blackout.
- You can install a generator sub-panel, which will power a limited number of circuits in your house. Sub panels are slightly easier and less expensive than the first option. A generator sub panel sits next to your existing panel, and gets spliced into the circuits on the main panel that you want powered. Usually you don’t need to need to have the power company cut power to the house during the installation. Generator sub-panels cost about $400, and will typically run 6 to 12 circuits.
- You can install an aftermarket generator interlock switch on your existing panel. This is the easiest and least expensive option, and it will work for most panels. All it takes is an inter-lock kit designed to fit your existing panel. They costs about $50 and take 10 minutes to install. You’ll need an open 30 amp breaker on your panel, which will get wired to a NEMA outlet on the outside of your home (that cost about $50 in parts and less than an hour to install) An interlock switch allows you to safely backfeed your panel — because it ensures that can’t have the main switch on, while the generator breaker is on. You must turn off the main, slide the metal plate up, and then turn on the generator breaker. At a cost of about $100, and an hour of work, this is the easiest and least expensive option.
There you have it, 3 different options for running whole house generators — from hardest and most expensive, to easiest and least expensive. As always, we recommend that your hire a licensed electrician, adhere to local codes, pull the appropriate permits, and have whatever inspections that are required.