If you’re considering a portable generator to make life more convenient during an outage, here’s something you need to know: You can’t just plug a generator into your electrical panel, which means you can’t power household systems or provide power through outlets. Instead, you’ll need to connect your gadgets using long extension cords.

That’s not convenient at all.

If you really want convenience, you’ll need a safe, reliable, and up-to-code connection between your generator and your electrical panel. (Only then can you power your systems and gadgets without running clumsy extension cords throughout your home.) You’ve got two basic options: A manual transfer switch and an interlock kit.

Manual transfer switches are expensive. The less expensive option is to use an interlock kit to connect your generator.

Interlock kits are like stainless steel plates that cover a portion of the electrical panel. They’re configured to make it impossible for the utility power and generator breakers to be on at the same time; utility and generator circuits are kept isolated, so electricity can never flow from one to the other. This is the key to ensuring a safe connection between the generator, the electrical panel, and the connecting utility lines.

For a licensed electrician, mounting an interlock kit to an electrical panel is easy. Original circuits are used, and only minimal rewiring will be required to complete the kit installation. As a result, installation times are short and costs are low.

Interlock kits also allow you the option to choose which outlets or systems in your home will receive generator power. This lets you allocate power from your generator in the way that’s most useful for you. In short: Interlock kits enable portable generators to provide the kind of convenience you always wanted.

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