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generator advice

Post in 'DIY and General non-hearth advice' started by saichele, Aug 27, 2007.

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  1. Mike Wilson

    Mike Wilson New Member

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    Yeah, I saw it posted there the other day. I think that for the money, its an overlooked gem. Seems around here most people are pushing automatic transfer switches.

    I decided on this switch because it runs what I need to keep the place from freezing up in the winter, and keeps the well working. I can only spin up one of 3 air handlers on the hydronic hot air system, but its the central zone, and is enough to keep the house warm enough with a fan or two... plus the Jotul helps.

    -- Mike

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  2. Highbeam

    Highbeam Minister of Fire

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    In regards to Weigle tree service's quote concerning backfeeding:

    "Two: The wire size of the electric drier line becomes the transmission line to your house . Kind of small in my book. Too much of a load and the wire heats up and the possibility of fire becomes very real."

    This is false, the breaker that is sized to protect the dryer's circuit wiring doesn't care which way the alternating current is going and will protect the wire by tripping. My legal generator panel utilizes an "inlet" breaker at the panel in the same manner.
  3. Hbbyloggr

    Hbbyloggr New Member

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    You are correct , in theory.
    My point was wire size for the application.
    Read this:

    http://www.cabinet.com/apps/pbcs.dl...07/MILFORD01/70907004&SearchID=73292652716684

    Inadequate wire size and applications caused a fire in one of our local schools. The circuit breakers did not did not save this one.
  4. keyman512us

    keyman512us Member

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    Well I can't help but chime in on this one.

    While I highly recommend "NOT Doing a 'Bogart' backfeed setup to hook up a generator..." Using the 240 volt dryer line (Most often 10 Gauge wire) is more adviseable than "Just choosing any old circuit".

    As far as the "wiring fire" in the school??? Kind of Ironic that it happened over the computer lab area. Unfortunatley for the most part, electrical engineers/contractors usually aren't to good at getting a point across very effectively.

    A "Dime to a Doughnut bet" is the circuits were heavily loaded with outlets feeding computers. Unfortunately, computers use "Cheap junk s^itball switching type power supplies" that wreak havoc on electrical wiring systems. Amprobe readings are useless (unless true RMS) and unfortunately most buildings "aren't wired to handle computers". New installations use "Super Neautrals" (up sized vs old school downsized ones) and I'll bet the school in question wasn't exactly fit for regular loads...let alone computers. ;)
  5. gardenman

    gardenman New Member

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    I've read through the post replies to Steve's original query asking if the generator breakers would trip if connected to the street and it doesn't seem like its been answered. It seems to me he has a valid point - aside from the legalities of the whole idea. Its certainly not a good idea but it does seem like the generator breaker of say a 5KW generator would easily trip trying to power your house and 5 or 6 or you neighbors - never mind back feeding the transformer. It seems it would pop the instant you power on. We all agree on the legalities, this is a technical question.
  6. BrotherBart

    BrotherBart Hearth.com LLC Mid-Atlantic Division Staff Member

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    OK. The only thing I understand about electricity is that you should not stick your finger in a light socket. But reading all of this stuff I gotta ask. If you close the main breaker on the panel, is any current going to go out of the house to smack the guys on the poles? A guy on the block did the dryer plug thing for a week last year with a 4,800 watt generator. Mine.

    I don't do it but just want to know. I string extension cords from the generator and and power strips.
  7. keyman512us

    keyman512us Member

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    Technical??? How technical do we really want to get??? Do we really want to get into a long diatribe of technical terms like "Inductive Reactance" and on and on???

    "In a perfect world" in theory...yeah maybe the breaker on the generator will trip. Maybe it will 9 out of 10 times... But all it takes is the 10th..."How perfect" is the world we live in today (think of this as you read this) and then think of the last time the power went out for whatever reason. Wasn't exactly a perfect world then was it???

    Have you ever tried to run a LARGE motor off your generator??? Say a compressor etc??? What happens "more often than not"???
    The motor just sits there and hums...but does the breaker 'pop'???

    Take the large motor loads out of your home and you would be surprised what the current draw is. The average home, the majority of the time only draws an amp or two "at rest". At 2 AM how many lights are on at your house???

    So far alot of hypotheticals...if you have ever seen "brown power" (I have during a power failure...more than likely a 'neighborhood generator' is the culprit) fairly good chance someone has a 'bogart connection'....

    As far as "backfeeding" a transformer??? Hell you could backfeed 2,3, or 10 of them! Keep in mind (aside from 'minimal losses' inside a transformer) a transformer is not a "load"...it's just a really big (electro)magnet.

    Now I (being an electrician) should be able to quote "exact numbers"...but I (like BB) don't really care too much about the numbers, sticking your fingers in a light socket isn't good. Any shock isn't good. It only takes a threshold of 5 milliamps to be fatal....regardless of voltage.

    If your generator is "pushing the primary side" it can be lethal for those working on "supposedly dead lines"...

    Electricity doesn't "follow any rules" in all reality. If you give it a path...it goes where it wants.

    During a storm when all the wires out in the street "are turned into spaghetti" weird things can start happening. I've personally seen my fair shair of "weird s^it" happen when it comes to electricity. I've seen gas meters blown off the wall, holes blown through 1/8 plate steel, fires, welded breakers that have been 'hit by 13-8(13,800volts)'...ahh hell, just take my word for it.

    If you want to have a "quick un-expected bowel movement" watch a main breaker hit by 13-8 try to get reset...only to find out the busbars inside the panel have been 'welded to the grounded case'...It not a pleasant experience, between the flash the smoke and the fact you aren't going home at 5PM can ruin your day.

    Now imagine your a lineman working in an ice storm on a supposedly "dead line". You've been up for 36 hours dead tired freezing your a^s off and you and crew have many hours of work ahead of yourselves...people are waiting for you to "get the job DONE" and then it happens...Everything "falls into place" you let your guard down for just a second, some idiot has there generator backfeeding the primary, a ground is disconnected, a neautral is open the primary fuses are coordinated just right...ZAP!!!!!

    Maybe it's not the full 7,800 volts...maybe it's just enough to make a 'reactance charge on the line'...If your lucky it's just been a good 'wake up call'...maybe just a small 3rd degree burn or a hole in the flesh...Maybe your wife just became a widow.

    Is it really worth "F^%&ing;around with someone's life????"

    The next time the weather isn't so great...the lights are going out left and right and it's "Just one of those days" where you would rather be comfy cozy sitting around the fire enjoying your favorite beverage...just remember there are men and women out there doing a "miserable job on days like this" that can't afford "mistakes"...Stop and take a minute out of your day and watch them work...then ask yourself "Would I really want to be doing that????"

    Those folks...are called "Linemen".

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  8. keyman512us

    keyman512us Member

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    But to answer your question...it can and does happen.

    The two pictures above??? Live work. Coldest night in January (2003?) The driver of the Dodge had one too many and snapped this pole feeding half the town. They had to secure what was left of the pole before the truck could be removed.

    Nights like that "Those folks pay their dues".

    The next time your lights are out...they "may be taking their time" but they have to "get it right everytime".

    Usually a Linmans' first mistake...is their last.

    Attached Files:

  9. keyman512us

    keyman512us Member

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    The picture above (found on the web courtesy of LA DWP) shows "The violent fury when things go wrong".

    Hard to believe...but there is actually a person inside that ball of flames (and even more un-believably the person lived)!

    The one thing I find rather interesting is in the three photos the lineman in the bucket aparently started out trying to "rescue" the individual....but as you can see from the photos...he quickly gave up on that and decided to "move to a safer spot".

    Here's the link to the "entire story" if anyone is "interested":
    http://members.tripod.com/~StormTrooper_2/index2.htm

    Might have drifted a little "off topic" but it's still "food for thought" ;)
  10. Hbbyloggr

    Hbbyloggr New Member

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    Keyman,
    I don't think you drifted from the topic at all. Your previous post tells it like it is. Getting it wrong is instantaneous , no second chances, and " sorry" doesn't take it back.
    Give me a big double-throw disconnect any time. Everyone will be safer.
  11. BrotherBart

    BrotherBart Hearth.com LLC Mid-Atlantic Division Staff Member

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    Nothing but the utmost admiration for lineman here. We live where the lines go through miles and miles of trees and no matter what happens they are right there getting it done. Even on a Sunday afternoon when I dropped a pine on the lines. :red: Boggles my mind sometimes that they can manage it like they do. And you couldn't drag me up on one of those poles with a winch.

    I went to the annual co-op meeting one time just to stand up and tell them how much I appreciated the lineman.

    Murphy being Murphy the seven day outage in a snow storm came the next year and when they restored the area they only missed one house. Ours. >:-(
  12. Hbbyloggr

    Hbbyloggr New Member

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    I worked the lines with F.A.Bartlett Tree Expert Co as a younger man, bucket work, hand climbing and crane work. During power outages from storms and such, the " Bird dog" for the power co was with us with very definite policies for safe operating procedures. We were physically shown the fuse disconnect on the primary section to verify that it was " hanging ". We shut off engines to hear if small motors were running ( home generators ) and checked houses ahead to see if they were with or without power. All this was done before trees and limbs were taken off the wires. It was very serious business and has gotten a lot more serious over the years.
    None of us wanted to be a test for stray voltage. It really get my hackles up over this notion of trying to " beat the man." For those doubters, I would say that they be the first one to touch the line to test their theory. Then I would be happy to go ahead and clear the trees so that power can be restored.
    Enough said.
  13. gardenman

    gardenman New Member

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    Wow – and I thought this was a friendly discussion forum – oh well. Aside from some obvious misstatements (just a couple examples -- its 14-4 now, not 13-8 – and transformers most certainly do use power (not much) to the degree that your power company engineering department has a factor for it) – it was a question of theory. Would I put my hand on the 14-4 while someone backfed the street? – not a chance. Does my generator breaker trip when I plug in my compressor – yes – again, would I bet my life it would trip – no. The endless praise for linemen is nice – it’s a job they chose to take. I wouldn’t want it but it appeals to some. When the power goes out I feed my necessary appliances with three extension cords – even with that, when the line crews are in the area I turn off the generator just for their piece of mind. Take a deep breath.
  14. keyman512us

    keyman512us Member

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    This a "friendly discussion"...Welcome to the forum. If you think I'm pulling your leg, do some reading in the 'ash can'.

    Mis-statements??? I would say "no" not quite. 14-4(14,400 volt distribution)...I think you pulled that one "out of thin air". Did you mean 4160???(old slowly being replaced distribution voltage). 13,800 (East of the Mississippi, and 12,470 volts west) is considered the "standard" distribution voltage down local streets. Not to say higher and lower voltages aren't used...but again a "standard" for discussion.

    As far as "endless praise" not exactly but seeing as I work with them "on a fairly regular basis" and they are professionals at what they do... they are worthy of respect.

    Take a deep breath...no need to. If you think previous comments were "directed at you"...you take a deep breath...lol

    The "sharp angled responses" are directed at "future viewers" to educate them about the inherant dangers and get them to think things through.

    Whether it's a question about generators...or a question of clearance dimensions on a stove pipe we keep the discussion focused that way in the hopes of answering the question....before it gets asked. ;)
  15. gardenman

    gardenman New Member

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    Well, I think I'll leave the "friendly discussions" to you folks - not my idea of education and entertainment.

    14-4, by the way, is pretty much the standard on the east coast of the US - take a look in Google for starters. 13-8 was the standard when your household voltage was 115. Now that the wall outlet is 120 the primary feed is 14-4 - a simple math factor of 120. So, to beat a dead horse, it was by no means pulled out of thin air and I think your knowledge base needs a little update.
  16. velvetfoot

    velvetfoot Minister of Fire

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    My local area has 4160 delta, which is good for tree fault resistance; I haven't had many outages despite the fact that trees are growing up into the lines.
    When looking into a NG supply, you have to make sure you can get the amount of flow/pressure that is needed by the generator.
    It's probably not a bad idea to turn off all the breakers, maybe except for one, anyway when your power is flickering or there is an outage, so your stuff isn't blown out by surges when the power comes back on; practically everything has a computer in it nowadays, nevermind some expensive motors.
  17. jebatty

    jebatty Minister of Fire

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    Maybe a little late on this thread, but the original questions were 6-8000 watts and gasoline-ng-diesel? I scanned all the posts and I think most of this is not duplicative. First, several talk about diesel going "sour." I have never seen any real study on this, lots of anecdotes, which to me don't mean much. My bet is diesel kept in a watertight/airtight container will last a good deal more than two years. Diesel is oil and oil stays oil. Gasoline is not oil But even gasoline with preservative should make it at least one year and probably two; NG - note comments on availability if a real emergency. And LPG/propane: what do you do (if this also runs your furnace, cook stove, etc.) when the power outage hits at low tank?

    So, we bought a B&S;5500 watt, 240 volt gasoline generator; wired in a 10 circuit transfer switch (30A - 240V); have this transfer main panel circuits for the pump, refrigerator, freezer, septic lift pump, one kitchen circuit which power the microwave, one outlet circuit which powers the computer, tv, etc., and a couple of lighting circuits (all CFL's). We heat with a wood stove so nothing needed to provide heat protection. Essentially, we are at 90% or so operation in a power outage. 5500 watts is plenty to do all of this with power to spare. Note: transfer switch - we are DEAD SERIOUS ABOUT NOT BACKFEEDING THE LINE AND KILLING SOMEONE.

    Gasoline: always use premium, not ethanol; use preservative; rotate at least annually. Make sure generator is run dry after any use. We keep at least 10 gallons of gasoline on hand, rotated. We only need to run the generator maybe for an hour or two every 4-6 hours. So 10 gallons will last a long time.

    Generator: We run the generator at least once every two months for one hour on 1/2 load (two 1500w space heaters). Then run the generator dry. We want to be sure the generator actually will work when we need it. Also, at this time we actually may plug it into the transfer switch and run everything in the house, just like we're really ruffing it.

    Noise: who really cares if there is a power outage? We have no close neighbor, but if a neighbor complained, I would willingly offer to help store his refrigerated/freezer stuff, offer to let him use our toilets, offer to provide him with drinking water. I think only an S..B would complain after that.

    Cost: We bought the generator new for less than $600 (I see these now on Ebay for even less); bought the transfer switch on Ebay (about $150); bought a 40' cord to connect the generator to the transfer switch ($80 on Ebay); now pay $3.00 or more for a gallon of gas.

    Worth It?: I think the greatest benefit to having the generator is peace of mind. It's like an insurance policy. Once you have one, you probably never will need it. But if you do, glad that you ponied up.

    If a REAL disaster: since wood heat and wood gassification is a big part of this forum, do your Google research on wood gassification and you will find instructions and plans to build a wood gassifier to fuel a gasoline engine. Even FEMA has info on this. That is my future project, then my generator will be forever free of the Texas Oil Shieks stripping my pockets bare.

    Happy New Year!
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