Can You Plug A Generator Into A Wall Socket?

Can You Plug A Generator Into A Wall Socket

Dealing with a power outage can be a miserable and frustrating experience, especially when hours turn into days and longer. Plus, if it’s during times of intense weather, with sweltering or freezing temps, a power outage can pose health hazards. Therefore, many people have a generator to use in these types of emergencies.

However, installing and using a generator is not as simple as plugging it into a socket. You should never plug a generator into a wall socket as it can have dangerous consequences. It results in backfeeding, injuries, property damage, and legal ramifications, so you need to make sure to use your generator correctly.

For larger generators and those powering hardwired systems, you need an electrician to handle the install. But for small to mid-sized portable generators, you can use a generator cord. However, you need to use the right type and know how to use it properly.

What Happens If You Plug A Generator Into A Wall Socket?

There are so many reasons you shouldn’t plug a generator into a wall socket, and most of them are dangerous. Not to mention you should never be plugging your generator in indoors, anyway.

Here’s what could happen if you plug a generator into a wall socket.

1. Backfeeding And Injuries

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Backfeeding is when the electrical current flows backward through the line. If you plug your generator into a wall socket and backfeeding occurs, you can potentially injure or kill someone working on the other end of the line.

This often ends up being linemen who are working on restoring the outage. You could also cause damage or injury to neighbors that are on the same transformer as you.

2. Property Damage

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Plugging a generator into a wall socket is a surefire way to overload your electrical system. You can cause severe damage to your home’s wiring and appliances and likely start a fire.

3. Liability And Other Legal Issues

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If you insist on plugging your generator into a wall socket, you need to know that it is illegal to do so in most states.  Therefore, any damage, injuries, or death that occur as a result will be your responsibility, and you will have to answer for them. Plus, you can forget about your homeowner’s insurance covering anything that’s damaged as a result.

Requirements For Plugging In A Generator

If you use a portable generator, you should use a generator cord. This cord plugs into the outlet on your generator; then the other end features several household outlets. You can plug various items into these outlets to power them during an outage.


The cord is long so that you can run it from the generator outside, a safe distance away from your home. This allows you to work multiple appliances with one cord instead of using several extension cords.

Trying to use regular extension cords with a generator isn’t the greatest. It might work for a while, but you risk damaging your generator. You also won’t get nearly the power you would going with the appropriately-sized gen-cord.

It’s kind of like paying an Uber driver the full amount but having them only go halfway to your destination. In the worst-case scenario, it could lead to overheating and potentially cause a fire. Therefore, it’s critical to use the correct type of cord with your generator.

How To Choose The Right Cord For Your Generator

When determining the best cord for your generator, you need to think about the gauge/amperage, length, and connection. For the connection, you want to make sure the cord you get can plug into the outlet on your generator.

For length, you want to make sure you can position your generator far enough away from your home for safety. The typically recommended distance is 20-feet. Most generator cords come in 25-feet lengths, which would be an ideal size in most situations.

However, you only want a cord that goes this distance. Getting a cord that is longer than you need results in increased resistance, which lowers the voltage.

One of the most essential considerations is amperage. Most generators have a 20-amp to 30-amp outlet. When selecting a cord, you can’t exceed the AMPs for your generator.

Most cords will feature the AMP rating on the label. Or, some might express the American Wire Gauge (AWG) or the gauge of the wire. The lower this number, the higher the amps. Here’s a handy chart so you can determine the AMPs if your cord’s label only has the AWG.

16 AWG10 AMPs Max
14 AWG15 AMPs Max
12 AWG20 AMPs Max
10 AWG30 AMPs Max
8 AWG40 AMPs Max

Tips For Generator Safety

  • Always ensure the generator is at least 20 feet away from your home. It should never be near any windows or doors.
  • Do not run your generator in your garage.
  • Make sure to install carbon monoxide detectors in your home and test them regularly. Carbon monoxide is invisible and odorless, so these devices can alert you to potential CO leaks in your home.
  • Never exceed the wattage of your generator. If necessary, stagger the items you use with the generator to prevent an overload.
  • Use the appropriate cords and ensure they are not damaged or frayed.
  • Store the gas or your generator in the appropriate container and in an outdoor, well-ventilated area free from heat sources.
  • Make sure the generator is powered off and cool before you refuel it.
  • Don’t operate the generator in rainy, wet conditions. Set it up on a dry surface and under an open structure like a canopy.
  • You need to call an electrician if you plan to get a whole-house generator or backup generator to power hardwired systems like your A/C. Your generator will need to be professionally installed along with the appropriate transfer switch on your circuit board. You’ll also likely have an appropriately-sized receptacle installed on the outside of your home to connect your generator to.

Frequently Asked Questions

What kind of gas do you use in a generator?

The type of gas you need depends on your generator. Many home generators run on regular unleaded gasoline. Others use diesel, propane, or natural gas.

It’s vital to read the instructions that come with your generator to determine the appropriate fuel source. Then, only use that type of gas to run your generator.

How much do generators cost?

A small generator that runs an appliance or two and a couple of lights could cost you between $800 and $1,200. Larger generators can start to cost between $2,000 and $4,000 and power more appliances and lights. Whole-house generators can cost $7,000 to over $10,000, including the cost of the professional install.

What size generator do I need?

You need to determine which appliances you will run with your generator and add up the power requirements. If you also plan to power up lamps and other light sources, include the wattage of the light bulbs.

Divide the total amount of the wattage by volts to determine the amps. Then it’s best to multiply the result by three to ensure you get the power you need. Many appliances take more amps to power on, so the listed amperage is likely their running amperage.

If you only plan to run one or two appliances, typically, a 3,500-5,000-watt generator will do the trick. If you’re trying to power your whole house, you would need at least 25,000 watts.