Disclosure: This post may contain affiliate links. This means that at no cost to you, we may earn a small commission for qualifying purchases.
Last Updated on August 9, 2021
Using a generator the right way can allow itself to last a long time. But what if you backfeed a generator? What are the risks that are involved?
We will be answering that question shortly. But in short, back feeding a generator is something you shouldn’t do. But why do generator users do it?
What makes back feeding a bad thing is that it poses a safety hazard. And it carries the risk of electrical shock even in the least of expected situations. If you want to know more about the risks of back feeding your generator, keep reading.
What Is Backfeeding?
Note: This section is for informational purposes only. We do not condone nor suggest that you backfeed a generator due to the risks and dangers involved. back feeding a generator is also illegal in various jurisdictions.
To best explain what backfeeding is, it’s basically plugging in a generator to an appliance outlet and flowing that electrical power in a reverse direction. As this happens, the power is redistributed throughout your home while it moves back towards your panel. Doing this will pose a dangerous risk.
It can get to the point where backfeeding can even spread to your utility lines outside. Beyond that, the dangers still exist. For example, if there is a lineman working on the electric wires or making routine maintenance checks, they could get shocked just by touching the line alone.
This could pose a risk for serious injury and death. If this occurs and your backfeeding played a role in this, you will likely face criminal charges. Do not backfeed electricity into your home since the electrical loads are unbalanced. Also, it can put a lot of extra strain on the generator that you are using.
At this point, you want to make sure that you are properly connecting your generator as opposed to plugging it into an appliance outlet. Knowing this before even using a generator will save you a lot of problems (especially legal issues if you inadvertently backfed your generator).
Safety Measures To Consider
One of the best safety measures to practice is using a transfer switch. This will allow you to power your home safely without having to risk any backfeeding. This will usually come in handy if you have a large generator that will power the entire house.
A transfer switch must be installed permanently so you can isolate the main circuit from your generator. There are manual or automatic switches that you can use. Either way, you will be preventing any kind of backfeeding just by installing a transfer switch.
But what if you are using a portable generator? These generators are used to power recreational vehicles (RVs) or even campers. They are portable and for this reason, they are not designed to be installed in a home permanently.
Because of their size and portability, there is no transfer switch that is used to prevent backfeeding. Even plugging a portable generator into your home using an appliance outlet is considered backfeeding, which is still something you should never do.
One thing to be aware of is that ‘male to male’ cords shall not be used at all. This is a kind of cord that has two pronged plugs at each end. If one end is plugged in and the other end is open, it will pose a risk for electrical shock.
It is for this reason why we refrain from using male to male cords at all. Someone may accidentally make contact with the other end of the cord and it could shock them. So touching it deliberately while knowing the risk (as stupid of a move it is) isn’t the only thing to worry about.
Related Reading: Importance of Transfer Switch Explained
Is there a legal way to backfeed a generator?
Despite videos or articles you find on the internet about legal ways to backfeed a generator, the practice itself shall not be done at all. There are no ‘any means necessary’ situations that exist that would justify backfeeding a generator. The simple rule of thumb is to basically not do it at all.
When a generator is being used, there is a good chance that the power is out for the rest of your neighborhood. When this happens, electrical workers will be repairing or performing line maintenance. The last thing you want to do is accidentally shock someone down the road who is working on the wires.
What is the punishment for backfeeding a generator?
The answer is that it depends. If you are backfeeding a generator and it results in the serious injury or death of an electrical worker, the crime could range anywhere from committing serious bodily harm to negligent homicide (i.e — involuntary manslaughter). That is why it is important to know what you can or cannot do BEFORE using a generator even for the first time.
There may be no specific law that specifies backfeeding, but the safety risks involved are tied to specific laws that pertain to causing serious harm or even indirectly causing death. That is why it is smart to at least refrain from the process anyway regardless if there is a certain law in the books on backfeeding or not.
There are proper and improper ways to use a generator. Before using it, please take the time to read the owner’s manual so you know how to use it safely and properly.
According to Indiana Electric Cooperatives, backfeeding your generator will pose a safety risk that can cause serious injury or death. It should not be practiced regardless if there are so-called ‘legal’ ways to do it. Using your generator safely is your only option.
If you have never used a generator before, you may risk backfeeding and it may be a rookie mistake that can cost someone’s life. That’s why it is important for you to read the owner’s manual before you use a generator for the first time.
Do not be afraid to ask for help on how to use a generator from someone who may have experience. The dangers of backfeeding applies to both home and portable generators.