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Yet another generator...

Post in 'DIY and General non-hearth advice' started by bluedogz, Nov 4, 2012.

  1. bluedogz

    bluedogz Minister of Fire

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    Afternoon, all...

    After Irene, I coughed up and bought a portable generator, specifically:
    http://www.amazon.com/Champion-Equipment-46515-4-Stroke-Generator/dp/B000TK2PLI/ref=sr_1_2?ie=UTF8&qid=1352062952&sr=8-2&keywords=champion generator 4000 watt

    It made the aftermath of Sandy at least bearable. I would LIKE to set the house up so that I can run the well pump and maybe even have a shower without power, even if it's a cold one.

    I am a reasonably handy (no pun intended) sort of guy who has done many home renovations safely, including a lot of wiring, but there's a big difference between running a new outlet or garage sub panel and wiring a genset.

    I have found kits such as: http://www.amazon.com/Reliance-31406CRK-6-Circuit-Generator-Generators/dp/B000BQN4T2/ref=sr_1_1?s=lawn-garden&ie=UTF8&qid=1352063263&sr=1-1&keywords=generator transfer switch kit

    However, I am unsure:
    1) How do I assure I have enough generator?
    2) How do I SAFELY wire up such a switch so that when the power goes out, I just plug in the genset and go?

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  2. EatenByLimestone

    EatenByLimestone Minister of Fire

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    I'd first check to see if your well pump is 120 volt or 240 volt. The product description doesn't mention 240v outlets.

    If it is 120V, see how much power it requires to run.

    For hooking up to your subpanel, there are good and bad ways. You might want to get 240v capability so you can run both sides evenly.


    Matt
  3. bluedogz

    bluedogz Minister of Fire

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    Well pump has 2 breakers in the panel- assume that means 240v?

    Oh... and yeah, the genset I have does not have a 240v out. Seems to be meant more for RVs with a 30A plug.

    It's a submersible pump, so I have no way of seeing brand or anything else- I can only deduce from the breaker panel.

    Not sure what you mean by You might want to get 240v capability so you can run both sides evenly. Can you help me understand that?
  4. seige101

    seige101 Minister of Fire

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    The generator you linked to is good for 120 volts only. You won't to be able to correctly use the generator panel you linked to. You will not be able to power you well pump with it.
  5. EatenByLimestone

    EatenByLimestone Minister of Fire

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    If you look at the lines coming into your house, you will see 2 insulated lines and one bare. The insulated ones are "Hot", supplying power to your house, and the bare one is the neutral. The 2 hot lines run to your meter and then down into your fuse or breaker box. (I'll go on as if you have a breaker box, but fuses are similar.) They will each connect to one side of a set of bars running down the center. Your well pump is a double breaker and connects to both of these bars. Single breakers will only connect to one of the bars but may connect from either side of it. (This is why your double breaker connects to both bars but is only on one side.)

    Since your generator only has 120V outlets you can't safely power both sides.

    Matt
  6. bluedogz

    bluedogz Minister of Fire

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    Ah, I see... just a matter of wording. I get it now.

    Indeed, I know that a new genset is probably in order. That's one of the things I'm trying to learn- how to choose the right one.
  7. Highbeam

    Highbeam Minister of Fire

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    I have the 120/240 version of that genset and it has been great, my versino also has the 30 amp 120 volt RV plug. I use it to backfeed my home legally and properly by using an interlock at the panel and feeding both "sides" of my panel. I have no well and really no essential 240 volt appliances so I plan to use the big 30 amp 120 volt plug to feed both sides of my panel. Our gensets offer all 30 amps to that plug which means any side or circuit can access all 30 amps instead of splitting it with 240 volts so that each side can only get 15 amps.

    If you lived nearby I would try and arrange a trade.
  8. bluedogz

    bluedogz Minister of Fire

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    That sounds like exactly the sort of setup I was hoping for! If I set it up to backfeed, installed an appropriate interlock, and just went down the cellar and cut off the non-essential breakers, couldn't that work?

    I am unfamiliarwith the correct type of interlock, though- can you point the right way?

    I'm willing to trade... homemade cookies, or a big hug. Your pick.
  9. BrotherBart

    BrotherBart Hearth.com LLC Mid-Atlantic Division Staff Member

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  10. Highbeam

    Highbeam Minister of Fire

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    I wanted to trade your newer 120 genset for my older 120/240 genset. Not too serious about it since I see you live across the country.

    The interlocks are the best solution to genset power. People installing and selling those 10 circuit transfer panels are making a mistake. Yes, you flip off the big automatic 220 loads like the water heater or hot tub and then flip the interlock and send genset power into the panel. From then on you manage your power demands based only on size of genset. ALL circuits work so you walk into the bathroom and flip the light on, run the fart fan, then run the microwave and/or the range top depending on available power.

    Maximum flexibility and safety plus minimum cost. Mine was inspected and passed.
  11. bluedogz

    bluedogz Minister of Fire

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    Ah, perfect! Thanks to both of you. I am far from a professional, but quite capable (and safety-conscious) enough to install a correct interlock kit as illustrated on BBart's link. Looks to be about a $300 or so job.

    Oh, a big hug it is, then... :)

    Oh, I forgot- this genset seems to put out "dirty' power, in that the first time I plugged in my AppleTV to it, it fried the unit. I now plug everything but the coffeepot into surge protectors, and everything seems good. Would installing an interlock make that a whole-house problem?
  12. Jags

    Jags Moderate Moderator Staff Member

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    Yes - but you need a different genny anyhow. Get one with clean power.
  13. bluedogz

    bluedogz Minister of Fire

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    I agree, but budget may demand I work with the one I have for now.
    Also, what is that problem even called?
  14. Jags

    Jags Moderate Moderator Staff Member

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    Okay - first, if your genny is a 120V genny you are not gonna want to light up your panel with it. You will only be able to power one half of the box. NO 220V stuff is gonna work. Including a 220V well pump.

    The "dirty" power comes from the way the genny actually "makes" the electricity. Instead of a nice rounded sine wave you are generating a squared off wave (this is because of the method used to rectify the cycles). And or possibly even getting spikes in the wave form (noise).

    Don't take this wrong - because even low end gennys have their uses, but most cheaper units don't really generate juice designed for sensitive stuff. Light bulbs don't care. Heating elements don't care. Electronics and some motors are sensitive (hence your cooked Apple TV).

    You may be well served to go old school and run extension cords to the appliances you want running.

    To add...most anything that uses a wall wart to convert to DC (like cell phones and laptops) don't really care either.
  15. bluedogz

    bluedogz Minister of Fire

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    I get that- my expectation was to cut the breakers for any 220v appliances entirely. Really, the goal here is to get rid of the forest of extension cords snaking around the house when the power goes out- I don't expect that this itty-bitty genny is going to run a well pump, heat pump, or anything of the kind.

    This also makes sense. I am really more concerned about getting power throughtout the house without the aforementioned forest. Would be nice to have both living room AND bedroom lights at the same time.

    This is what I'm doing now. However, this means no wall lights, no cieling fan(s), and few tower fans to push heat around because there are only so many cords.

    Also a big help...
  16. Jags

    Jags Moderate Moderator Staff Member

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    Hmmm...If you are stuck with the unit it may be time to rig up a sub panel. Drop the main off line and power up the sub panel. Depending on the wiring/outlets/light circuits it could be simple - but that doesn't always mean that it will be.

    You are dealing with a genny with 3500W of running power with a little extra kick for startup loads (motors like fridge, freezer, etc). The genny could be overwhelmed quickly if it isn't setup correctly. I know how hard it is for DIY types to consult with a pro, but this may be the time. Without a visual and a few tests, I (me) wouldn't have a chance in giving you all the proper instruction.
    There are a few forum members that ARE pro's. Maybe a new thread begging for info on hooking this to the house would get their attention. Even then, they will probably be at the same point that I am. Visual/ inspection/ circuit testing.

    A single heavy guage extension with the 30 amp twist lock on one end and a duplex outlet on the other running to the center of the house could eliminate much of the cord jungle you are dealing with. But I will quit beating that horse.;)
  17. Highbeam

    Highbeam Minister of Fire

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    No no, it is not time for a subpanel, that is crazy talk. Understand the interlock, use the interlock. It is very cheap and easy. Your built in wiring becomes your extension cords and with a 120 genset, you only run 120 volt appliances. With a 240 genset, a much bigger one, you can run 240 stuff as well. It is not normal to backfeed the whole panel with 120 but it will work safely with the proper generator circuit, breaker, and plug. You can stick with backfeeding 240 if you aren't familiar with electricity.

    The interlock allows you to, actually requires, that you run a generator circuit which runs between the genset and the panel. At the end of this cable is a generator inlet plug, a male plug, that you use to plug into the genset. A short cord between the genset and the inlet and you are ready.

    The dirty power you speak of is the same with all non-inverter generators. The champion makes a relatively clean sine wave as the "dorks" have determined on the RV forums. The champion is one of the best non-inverter sets that can be considered portable. Your apple device was either overly sensitive, commited suicide, or was already fried from the original outage. Being a non-apple guy I believe it commited suicide. I have run computers and big screen TVs with my champion and only noticed a light hum from the ceiling fan.

    Wouldn't an inverter genset be nice? Getting one large enough to run a fridge and freezer costs more than 2500$. They are very very expensive. They are also very easy on gas, quiet, heavy, and durable. I actually would like one of the very small 2000 watt versions for camping but at 1000$ it is a decently large investment.
  18. jharkin

    jharkin Minister of Fire

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    I dont necessarily agree. The interlock is certainly simpler and certainly works for most folks, but in my case I only need the 3500w to run the basics, but unfortunately too many of those minimum basics happened to be on the same leg of my main panel. Rather than having to rearrange my main breaker panel, I use the transfer panel to selectively balance a few key circuits to evenly use the generators output.
    Jags likes this.
  19. MasterMech

    MasterMech Guest

    Hey Jags, ever hear of anybody using one of these?

    http://www.apc.com/products/apcav/products/index.cfm?action=detail&base_sku=C2&tab=features
  20. Jags

    Jags Moderate Moderator Staff Member

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    Yeah - I run a big boy version of that for my server bank. The units are designed to help out with much of the "bad" power, but it doesn't have the ability to reform the sine wave. A generator that produces a bad sine wave will still get past it at 110V.

    Notice the graph in the upper right hand corner. This is an example of 3 different types of power generation/rectifying. The one that looks like a roller coaster is indicative of what would come from your wall outlet. The squared off ones are what causes a motor to hum or buzz or blow up your sensitive equipment.

    fullpure-sine-wave-inverter-594.jpg
  21. Highbeam

    Highbeam Minister of Fire

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    Ah, very simple to overcome and a one time investment in effort that is actually a good idea in any case. Good electricians balance the loads on a panel during construction. You may not realize this but every other breaker, as you run down the panel on one side, is on a different leg of the main. It's not a left side right side thing. So to move a circuit from one leg to another only means swapping with the breaker below. Ultra simple and requires no rocket science degree.

    The transfer panel is always inferior and of course the installation of that monstrosity was much more difficult and expensive than swapping that wire to the next breaker.
  22. jharkin

    jharkin Minister of Fire

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    I realize that the main legs alternate. In my case the 200 amp panel was an update to a 100amp panel that was itself and update to a 100amp fuse box that was an update to an old 60amp knob and tube service (which was an update to candles and whale oil lamps ;) ) . When the electricians put it in they arranged things as best they could without having to splice extensions on every circuit to make it fit in the longer panel. The overall loads for the entire house are pretty well balanced - It just that of the 8 or so circuits I really want in an outage 6 of them were on one leg.


    Could I have done it with an interlock? Sure with some effort. But I liked the idea of the transfer to be able to just flip a half dozen loads on, rather than having to remember to turn 30 odd breakers off before starting up to not overload my gen (Also easier for my wife to understand if she ever has to run it without me). Additionally, with the transfer when the power comes back I know immediately because all the non-transferred circuits light up. With the interlock Id either have to keep an eye out for the neighbors power to return or spend more for a power back on alarm. And the transfer box has nice built in metering so I can keep an eye on how much load is drawing on each leg.

    All in all I decided I preferred the transfer. Not saying that its best for everyone or even for most, just that I felt it was best for me. I think everyone's needs are different and there is no one size fits all.
    Jags likes this.
  23. Highbeam

    Highbeam Minister of Fire

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    You make some good points jharkin. The best one is that with an interlock you don't know when the power is back on. That is difficult to overcome and I end up switching to utility power to check on status if I can't see the neighbor's lights as an indicator.

    As far as flipping breakers, you only need to turn off the breakers that feed autostart devices like a water heater. You want everything else to work as normal. For me this means I turn off the water heater and the hot tub only. Big deal, that's two breakers. Working in a panel is not nearly as difficult as you make it sound. Moving two circuits to adjacent breakers would have balanced your emergency loads. Having them perfectly balanced is not necessary anyways since you will never have equal loading in any case as your loads vary on each circuit all the time, for example, you may have a more balanced panel with 7 of your 8 emergency circuits on one leg.

    The thing is you don't have emergency circuits with an interlock, you have all circuits energized except those that you don't want energized. It is a different way of thinking than when your transfer panel limits you to 8 circuits.

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