Backup Power for Your Backup Generator

Recently one of our readers had an objective that many of us don’t think about or is just a flickering thought in our minds. That has to do with redundancy of backup power.

The question becomes what if my standby generator fails to work at the start of a power outage or shortly after use? It becomes a question of can I fix it or would I need to wait for a service professional to attend to it.

If the later, how long would I have to wait and would I have an alternate means for providing power of sufficient capacity to meet your needs.

Therefore if my primary means of backup power were to fail which options could I use for accommodating alternate means of portable power?

Scenario 1: Small Portable Power Generator

First would be to use a small portable power generator with some power cords to run your most critical elements that one might need such as refrigeration or heating and some radio and lighting.

This is probably what most folks have the ability to do. You could cover the absolute essentials until you can get your other one repaired. This is what I’d call the bear minimum for redundant power needs.

The option also allows you to have a portable generator for other activities when needed.

Scenario 2: Second large size generator

This would be where you can decouple the first generator and connect a second generator of sufficient size.

In the initial inception this is no more than unplugging a portable generator from the transfer input plug (usually the L14 type) and plugging in the generator.

Of course you’ll have to consider power management if the second generator does not have a the same capacity, but it’s a direct and simple application to provide the backup power you may need.

Scenario 3: Standby hardwired generator fails.

This is the problem that one of your readers brought to our attention. His standby generator was failing during maintenance cycling and he had to wait for a technician to come and fix it which could be 2 or more days. That brought up another problem; his transfer switch had no external plug to utilize a second generating source.

There were a couple of options available.

Option 1: Basic Needs

Refer to Scenario 1 above use a small portable generator to get through the few days needed to get fixes done.

However, this wasn’t a really valid solution for him as this set up was for his very elderly parents who needed more in the way of heating and power for the house than would be available with this option.

Option 2: Separate Supply System

Wire up a secondary transfer switch that would be wired separately or provide for major power cords to be strung though out the home to those critical parts of the house where power was an absolute necessity.

This was the path that he was headed down to keep the systems separate and not mess with the current wired generator.

This solution to wire a separate and additional panel is one I’ve not heard being done on at the residential level.

I felt this was an expensive option to complete the wiring or that those cords could be a hazard for tripping or being able to properly seal off doors.

However, the concept has validity depending on the significance of distribution of power needed. It would require at least some consideration given parameters of your exact situation.

Option 3: Provide for Alternate power sources to the transfer switch.

manual-3way-bbm-switchMy first thought about this situation was to consider wiring in a break before make switch upstream of the transfer switch which would allow you to cut out and supply power from one generator and connect to another.

Only one source could be active to provide gen side power. That way you could use just one transfer switch and then the manual switch to source power from either generator to the transfer switch.

Of course you would need to consider the actual power management and use that would be needed to ensure proper loading (restrict loads) before making the switch to a lower power unit if that were the case.

The switch itself could be a single circuit manual transfer switch which is wired in reverse. [Always check with your electrician prior to trying to accomplish the wiring to ensure you are meeting your code requirements.

Implementing A Backup To The Backup Power

Here’s some food for thought and you can see my simplified diagram as a suggestion you could run by your electrician to make such an installation.

What this requires is finding a manual switch you can wire your standby generator through as wells as an alternate source whether it be another hardwired generator or even battery backup or solar or a inlet box for a portable generator.


Sourcing from Alternate Generators | Source 1 – OFF – Source 2


Considering this gives you a backup to the backup it’s a simpler and more cost effective installation to meet those extra special needs.

Here’s a few components you can check out over at Amazon that could meet those needs.

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