1. Welcome Hearth.com Guests and Visitors - Please enjoy our forums!
    Hearth.com GOLD Sponsors who help bring the site content to you:
    Hearthstone Soapstone and Cast-Iron stoves( Wood, Gas or Pellet Stoves and Inserts)
    Caluwe - Passion for Fire and Water ( Pellet and Wood Hydronic and Space Heating)

Running household services off a generator

Post in 'DIY and General non-hearth advice' started by mayhem, Dec 12, 2008.

Thread Status:
Not open for further replies.
  1. Kenny1

    Kenny1 Feeling the Heat

    Joined:
    Oct 20, 2006
    Messages:
    304
    Loc:
    Eastern ON
    No.

    Cheers
    kenny

    Helpful Sponsor Ads!





  2. jdemaris

    jdemaris New Member

    Joined:
    Oct 11, 2008
    Messages:
    452
    Loc:
    Central New York State
    Technically, my next door neighbor has Time Warner cable. She he the last on the line. TimeWarner gave me a price-quote of $18,000 to run cable to my home from "next door."
    I'll add that I've got over 100 acres and "next door" is a bit of a distance. Years ago, I asked the cable company why I couldn't build a shed on the property line and have them run cable to it. Then, I'd take care of running it through my own property to my house - and they said absolutely not.

    So, we got Hugesnet satellite. It costs a lot and we have many small outages during the day - which gets anoying - but overall works pretty well on downloading data, and is awful at upload. In fact, sometimes dial-up is faster in the upload mode.

    Yesterday was the worst day ever with the satellite hookup - it was out most of the day. We had a huge ice storm here. Power has been out for days, and everything is glistening from the ice cover. Yesterday, everytime the sun came out - we lost our signal. Every time it got cloudy, the signal came back Weird.

    A nearby farmer friend of mine just got Internet access via his cell-phone accout with Verizon and he says it's been working pretty well. I'm considering it - but - as it is my cell phone only works some times - and when it does - only on one side of my house.
  3. velvetfoot

    velvetfoot Minister of Fire

    Joined:
    Dec 5, 2005
    Messages:
    5,935
    Loc:
    Sand Lake, NY
    Yeah, don't forget to see if you might not have another cell service, like we did with Sprint. It's working out really well.
    You can get an exterior antenna, I think.
  4. velvetfoot

    velvetfoot Minister of Fire

    Joined:
    Dec 5, 2005
    Messages:
    5,935
    Loc:
    Sand Lake, NY
    Taking my daily generator break.
    Crews are getting closer, but I'm on a lightly loaded line so who knows.
    It's amazing how things sag when the water pump comes on.
    I was in the basement, and the oil boiler definately stumbled when that thing came on.
    Hopefully not doing harm.
  5. Gooserider

    Gooserider Mod Emeritus

    Joined:
    Nov 20, 2006
    Messages:
    6,737
    Loc:
    Northeastern MA (near Lowell)
    So far this year we've had two major outages (i.e. more than an hour or so) - neither has been long enough to be a real problem, but did give me reason to test our generator out... One was a few weeks ago when a tree came down in a windstorm and took out THREE poles - and I didn't even get the tree... :cry: The other was the ice storm... We have a generator, and I've been running at home by just doing the 110v extension cord to the critical appliances drill so far - it works but is a bit of a pain.... However we didn't do to badly as we were only out for around 12 hours or so, power went out around midnight Thursday, and came back about noon Friday... But CommieCast couldn't get our internet back until some time on Saturday - :mad: What good is power without a net connection?

    Technically I could backfeed through the outlet I put in for my welder in the garage, however it is worth pointing out that technically it is ILLEGAL to backfeed unless you are using one of those panel interlock switches mentioned earlier, or have a proper transfer switch installed.

    I had much more fun on Saturday when we got a call from a friend who was still out. He wanted to borrow some wood, but we decided to loan him the generator instead - loaded it up in the van, trucked it up to his place, and went off to get the plugs and so forth needed to make a "suicide cord" to backfeed between his dryer outlet and the generator....... Found some solid 10/3 w/ ground dryer cable, but forget plugs, they were long gone from both Home Despot and Sloews, not to mention local hardware stores, etc...

    Trying to figure out alternatives - I ended up with a seriously scary setup, :bug: but it worked, kept him going until the power came back on late Sunday... I did find some male 110 AC plugs that were labled 20 amp, and had one blade turned sideways - figured that I could wire one side of the 220 volt drier line to each one and plug into the 110v outlets on the generator and get power that way... The dryer end I could fake by taking the dryer plug apart and splicing the wires together.... Easy....

    Then I found the plugs I'd purchased had the wrong blade turned sideways, so they wouldn't plug into the 20A outlets on the generator... I removed the ground prongs, which allowed me to flip them over, so they'd plug in, but left me with no ground... So I put one of the hot wires for each leg of the 220 volt line to the hot side of each plug, and put a 12g pigtail from the neutral to each of the neutral prongs, then stripped back the ground wire enough to reach the ground wingnut on the generator - did all this with both the house main and the dryer breakers off, and connected everything, then fired up the generator, and turned on the dryer breaker and a few selected loads, I think he ended up with the furnace, the fridge and freezer, and a few lights - enough to manage with, barely...

    I am going to be very glad to get back up there and work on rebuilding that cable with the RIGHT power connectors - may never need it again, but I don't EVER want to have to put that kind of scary connection together again either...

    Gooserider
  6. stee6043

    stee6043 Minister of Fire

    Joined:
    Aug 22, 2008
    Messages:
    2,272
    Loc:
    West Michigan
    Yeah, I guess that was the point I was trying to make in a not-so-clear way. The standard off the shelf "orange" extension cord I was using would not support my well demand. When I dropped the cash on a 10 foot 10 x 3 wire with the 30 amp twist lock plugs I was good to go when plugged directly in to my breaker. It was all in the wire in my case...
  7. colebrookman

    colebrookman Minister of Fire

    Joined:
    Feb 7, 2008
    Messages:
    776
    Loc:
    Middlefield, Ma
    Please take that Safety Disconnect seriously. Two years ago a firefighter was electrocuted when the supposedly dead line was back fed from a house generator nearby. Telephone repair men have also been electrocuted from bare broken wires that were back fed from power lines that were touching. Either buy the correct switch or just plug directly into the appliance. Be safe.
    Ed
  8. seige101

    seige101 Minister of Fire

    Joined:
    Mar 25, 2008
    Messages:
    519
    Loc:
    Palmer, MA
    As i said in the other thread in the pellet forum. Please buy the manual transfer switch kit. It's only $300 bucks at depot, and if you are at least a little savvy with wiring you can do it your self. If not it should not take a decent electrician more than a few hours to install.

    Every time there is a extended outage we always hear about 2 things in the news. 1, being a lineman was killed because some idiot homeowner was backfeeding the entire grid, and 2, another idiot homeowner died because they put the generator in the house, or the attached garage.

    Please don't cheap out on safety!

    Heck i should see what kind of bulk rate i can get these for at the supply house, sell them to you guys at cost, and wire them up for little to no charge (talking cover the gas out there, buy some lunch, and a six pack or a small bottle for the trouble)
  9. jdemaris

    jdemaris New Member

    Joined:
    Oct 11, 2008
    Messages:
    452
    Loc:
    Central New York State
    Shop around a little and a 100 amp, double-pole manual transfer switch is usually $140- $160.
    Smaller manual switchs, e.g. single pole 50 amp switches are often $100, sometimes a little less.
  10. Gooserider

    Gooserider Mod Emeritus

    Joined:
    Nov 20, 2006
    Messages:
    6,737
    Loc:
    Northeastern MA (near Lowell)
    I'd love to get a transfer switch, and be able to do the generator connection right at our house at least... The situation at my friends fell in the category of semi-emergency when you have to do whatever it takes (Given how cold it got Saturday night, he almost certainly would have lost some pipes if I hadn't gotten him hooked up) Fortunately, while I'm not an electrician, I do have a very healthy respect for juice and a good understanding of how it works... (I've done work that was subsequently inspected by a code guy, and been praised for doing it better than code required)

    The problem in our house is that we don't seem to have a good setup for many of the lower cost options...

    I'm not sure if we have the right panel type, and I KNOW we don't have the open breaker slots to do that interlocking plate kit.

    We need juice for several small things scattered around the house on different circuits (fridge, freezer, sump pump, GF's CPAP machine, etc. all on different circuits) and we have a sub-panel for some of them so the Home Depot box that taps into the existing panel doesn't work.

    As I understand it, a main line transfer switch must be able to carry the full main load, so I need more than a 100 amp switch - I think we have a 200 amp service, I'm not sure...

    That said, if I could find a deal on the right setup, I'd definitely be interested.

    Gooserider
  11. seige101

    seige101 Minister of Fire

    Joined:
    Mar 25, 2008
    Messages:
    519
    Loc:
    Palmer, MA
    The kit i am referring to is essentially a subpanel that installs next to your existing panel. It also includes, the wire from the generator to an inlet box usually mounted in the outside of the house, and all the related wiring. http://www.electricgeneratorsdirect...tag&utm_source=nextag&utm_medium=shop portals Thats the $300 kit i recommend

    You feed this with a 50 amp breaker. The subpanel then has about 6-10 circuits, and the breakers are modified, they have a utility, off, generator position. The pre-wired whip that comes with it goes into the main panel, and the circuits you want on the generator connection are then spliced in. Most of these also have a watt meter built in so you have a good idea of what you are running and the draw can then be compared to the rating of the generator. The rule of thumb if you don't want to exceed 80% for continuous duty.

    The interlock kits for the panel themselves are $150 Here. These do not include the plugs or other stuff usually needed. I do not prefer this style because the entire panel will be life, and it's much easier to overload the generator.

    I missed the key detail about you having the subpanel.

    In your case, one of the interlock kits, a 30 amp 2-pole breaker for the generator part(based on a 5000-7500 watt gen), input plug for the generator, cord for the generator, and wire from the panel to the input plug. Because you said your panel is full, add 2 mini breakers in there to create space for the generator breaker. All told materials would be approx $500 bucks. Another nice thing to have would be watt meters inline somewhere, add about $75-100 if you desire these.

    If you are more serious PM me and i can give you an exact list of what you require.
  12. struggle

    struggle Minister of Fire

    Joined:
    Oct 24, 2006
    Messages:
    727
    Loc:
    NW Iowa
    Here is what I did. I got a dummy meter base and cut the power cross over tabs far apart so power does not go through the dummy base and wired my generator cord into the power to house only side of my outside box. I have to clamp onto the copper ground wire via vise-grips.

    If power goes out for a long time all I have to do is pull the meter out and install my dummy meter in place. It is completely disconnected from the grid and it powers my whole house except for what I shut off in the panel like things that would over load the generator.

    I have used it a couple of times with a 5500 watt troy built generator and it works like a charm.

    When the power comes back on I just pull the dummy out and put the normal meter back in.

    In 11 years I have lived hear we only had one time we were out of power for more than 3 hours. If I lived somewhere I had multiple power outages I would put in a transfer switch with an outside plug for the generator put as it is we thankfully do not lose power often. My whole neighbor hood is underground serviced so it takes a large transmission line to go down to shut us off.
  13. Gooserider

    Gooserider Mod Emeritus

    Joined:
    Nov 20, 2006
    Messages:
    6,737
    Loc:
    Northeastern MA (near Lowell)
    A good idea in some cases, certainly it solves the "disconnecting from the main" problem quite emphatically... The problem with it though is that in many places (like ours) the electric company puts a seal on the meter mount, such that you can't unplug the meter w/o breaking the seal - and I hear that they get downright obnoxious when the seal is broken....

    Gooserider
  14. seige101

    seige101 Minister of Fire

    Joined:
    Mar 25, 2008
    Messages:
    519
    Loc:
    Palmer, MA
    Yea the power company gets all bent out of shape about that one. Don't ask me how i know this. They get even madder when you cut the locking ring off the meter socket too.. Hey boss told me to change the service, well it got changed.
  15. struggle

    struggle Minister of Fire

    Joined:
    Oct 24, 2006
    Messages:
    727
    Loc:
    NW Iowa
    I have done it a couple of times and they just put a new seal back on it and never say anything. They cannot tell you you cannot access your box on your house. At least in my parts they leave us alone.

    I would guess though in areas where theft of electric is more common it might be an issue for the power company.

    Heres the dummy meter
    [​IMG]
  16. jdemaris

    jdemaris New Member

    Joined:
    Oct 11, 2008
    Messages:
    452
    Loc:
    Central New York State
    I've dealt with five different power companies with cutting seals - in New York, Vermont, and Michigan. For myself and for customers. It has never been an issue yet. I usually call and ask first, but not always. They don't get upset unless they suspect fraud. Remeber, if it's your house, the meter is on your property, and in most places, you actually own the meter socket.
    I just installed a new run-backwards meter here. I had to pay for the socket and I own it.
  17. Highbeam

    Highbeam Minister of Fire

    Joined:
    Dec 28, 2006
    Messages:
    8,479
    Loc:
    base of Mt. Rainier on the wet side, WA
    Sure, you pay for it. Just like you pay for the new transformer which you don't own. At least that's the way our power company does it. I had to cut my meter seal when I removed the meter for a new service panel installation. We just did it. I had the power company out to fix a bad connection on their side of the meter and asked them to put on a new one. They did it without any gripes.

    Struggle: That's a truly safe setup except for the time when you need to reinstall the meter into the live meter base after the power comes on. Anytime those sockets are exposed there is risk. Just like removing the panel covers, exposed hot connections are risky.
  18. jdemaris

    jdemaris New Member

    Joined:
    Oct 11, 2008
    Messages:
    452
    Loc:
    Central New York State

    Your company must have different policies. If I pay for a transformer, I own that transformer. Power company usually owns them for in-air services, but for underground the recent trend is for homeowner to pay for it and own it. If it fails, the homeowner pays for it - again.

    With meter sockets - maybe 15-20 years ago, the power company paid for them and owned them. Not any more, but they DO own the meters.

    With some of this stuff, owning your property DOES matter in certain circumstances. Just had a go-around with Verizon trying to sue me for damages when I cut their unmarked underground line out in the middle of my cornfield. Ended up I was NOT liable since a property owner is NOT an outside contractor, and a farmer who cuts an underground line on land he owns - with farm equipment cannot be held liable.

    My general point is - property owners - in some cases - have more rights then they might think when it comes to utility company stuff.
  19. daveswoodhauler

    daveswoodhauler Minister of Fire

    Joined:
    May 20, 2008
    Messages:
    1,847
    Loc:
    Massachusetts
    Siege - Thanks much for the post and info for the switch. This is exactly what I was looking for, and gets rid of the 4 cords coming into my house.
    Now, all I need is an electrician, cause National Grid is only going to bring the feed to my house, and I still need to get the lines run from the peak to the meter.
    Again, thanks for the info
  20. struggle

    struggle Minister of Fire

    Joined:
    Oct 24, 2006
    Messages:
    727
    Loc:
    NW Iowa
    There really is no more danger to plugging the meter back in then my air-compressor in the outlet which is 220. The meter is much further from the bars than my bare hands would be from the air-compressor plug.

    One thing is to make sure nothing is drawing inside the house when switching them out.
Thread Status:
Not open for further replies.

Share This Page