Generator Problem

Discussion in 'Electrical and Wiring' started by sjm1027, Apr 20, 2018.

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  1. Apr 20, 2018 #1

    sjm1027

    sjm1027

    sjm1027

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    I live in Massachusetts and during the last blizzard we lost our power for 3 days. I have a Honda Generator 3500 watt portable on wheels. I rolled it out and connected it to a 220 outlet on the side of the house going to breaker box. Of course I disconnected my 200 amp service from the street first.
    When I started the generator it only half the house had power.
    About 5 years ago I had an electrical connect this 220 box to the house. It was his idea to set it up like that and all I had to do was to remember to manually disconnect from the street first. 5 years ago my whole house worked fine. I even remember the furnace working as well. I make sure I only run the furnace and fridge and nothing else. Once they shut off I can then use a few lights. Nothing to much because it's 3500 watts.
    Anyone have any idea why only half the house is alive?

    Thanks in advance
    Steve
     
  2. Apr 20, 2018 #2

    nealtw

    nealtw

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    You are sure and you have checked that that generator makes 240 volts.
     
  3. Apr 20, 2018 #3

    JoeD

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    Was it the same generator previously? What is the make and model of your unit?
     
  4. Apr 20, 2018 #4

    Snoonyb

    Snoonyb

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    When you disconnected, you may have inadvertently shut some breakers off, or tripped them.
     
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  5. Apr 20, 2018 #5

    sjm1027

    sjm1027

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    Yes I have 240v output and I had it switched to 240

    IMG_0375.jpg
     
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  6. Apr 20, 2018 #6

    sjm1027

    sjm1027

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    Thanks, I did check every breaker and they were all on.
     
  7. Apr 20, 2018 #7

    sjm1027

    sjm1027

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    Yes it was the same generator
     
  8. Apr 20, 2018 #8

    JoeD

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    Then it sounds like one of the hot leads is dead. Possibly a loose connection. Possibly a corroded plug connection.
     
  9. Apr 20, 2018 #9

    Snoonyb

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    You can check for 240v across the buss bars or 120v from each.
     
  10. Apr 21, 2018 #10

    sjm1027

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    So your saying it could be one of the leads have been disconnected or corroded at the plug? Most likely on the outside of the house.
     
  11. Apr 21, 2018 #11

    JoeD

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    At the plug. In the cord. In the house wiring. You have to troubleshoot to find out where.
    The generator could even be faulty but that would be low on my list and easy to check by measuring for 240 volts at the generator plug.
     
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  12. Apr 25, 2018 #12

    hornetd

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    Steve

    I hope you'll take this the way I intend it so that you can actually hear my concern for you and your family as well as for the Outside Wiremen (Linemen) who are working to restore the utility's lines to service. Any system of disconnection that is dependent on you being home, alert and oriented, and not under the pressure of needing to get the power back on because of something someone was in the middle of is a formula for disaster. On panel interlocks that exclude any possibility of a mistake are now available for most brands of Service Equipment panel boards. The interlock kit is only around $50 if you shop carefully. The directions for installing it are pretty clear. The kits include a template for installation. I would call them cheap at the price.

    Let's say you would not make that mistake. What about if you're not home and that ever so helpful neighborhood know it all tries to hook it up. Also if you have or will have teenage sons that is another source of "I can do this!" error.

    God between you and evil but are you really willing to take the risk of destroying your generator, setting your house on fire, or killing a lineman? If you need more information on the risk go to the OSHA website and search for the accidental death reports for utility Linemen. Every major storm seems to kill at least one Wireman or tree worker. Some storms, like Hugo, Kill 3 or more by generator back feed. The self qualified experts will tell you that Linemen are supposed to test and ground out any wire that they will handle. In the regular course of maintenance work that is true. But after a storm when they are working 12 hour shifts, dealing with shattered poles and open grounds, and trying to sort out the broken mess that used to be the power grid, a mistake or bad luck is very possible. Then there are the Tree workers who work with the wiremen to clear the debris from the lines so that they can be restored. They do not work in insulated gloves, wearing insulated overshoes, with a high voltage proximity detector hanging from their belts. The Linemen tell them those lines are dead because they are broken between there and the substation. They begin work and a generator comes on and one of them dies. You see the transformers that reduce the distribution line voltage down to the 240/120 volts that you use in your home are very simple devices. They will take electricity from either winding and change the voltage to the one the other winding was designed for. Having converted the generators power back to distribution voltage it will send it quite a long way through the surviving lines until it reaches the fault point. It only takes 3 hundredths of an ampere to kill a human being. There has been a severe storm, crews are working hard and likely sweating some, ground crews and tree workers are not wearing protective equipment, and the ground under their feet is saturated with water. They don't even have to touch the reenergized wire. The voltage difference across the ground between their feet; called step potential; can be enough to kill them.

    Naturally the Linemen have no tolerance for generator back feeds. When the detect one they open the service drop or lateral at the street end and recover the power company owned meter. That is called "double block and break." Since that problem now effects a single customer it will be the last level of repairs to be detached. It will also be referred to local electrical inspection authorities. The very least that the inspection authority; Authority Having Jurisdiction; will impose is the inspection of your home's wiring by a Master Electrician in person rather than by Journeymen under their nominal supervision. Some inspection offices will insist on the installation of an EXTERNAL Service Disconnecting Means rated, three pole transfer switch. Do a search on them to get an idea of what they cost. Add the phrase "NEMA 3R" to the search so that you see the greater cost of the weatherproof switch enclosure. They usually start at $500 and go upward from there depending on the amperage which it can control. How can they impose a requirement like that which is different from a home fitted with an interlock kit which costs less then a $100? The back feed demonstrates that your home is a "Clear and Present Danger" to the lives of others. If the Authority Having Jurisdiction does require an external transfer switch they will also require that work be done under the continuous in person supervision of a Master Electrician. God help you if the utility transformer is close to your home in terms of wire feet. And by the way if you have hurt or killed a fellow lineman you can bet your last penny that that is where the transformer will be reinstalled. That will raise the required withstand rating of your entire service equipment to a much more expensive type.

    Please don't risk subjecting either the utility workers or the emergency services responding to the storm generated calls from electricity dependent invalids and the dialysis patients who cannot reach the dialysis clinic and are running out of time, to the risk of death or a disfiguring disability. I am retired out of 35 years of fire and medical rescue work. I know whereof I write. I have seen these scenarios in real life.

    --
    Tom Horne
     
  13. Jul 21, 2018 #13

    WyrTwister

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    Guessing you have a cable to go from the house to the generator ?

    Please post photos od both ends / connectors on the cable .

    Wyr
    God bless
     
  14. Jul 21, 2018 #14

    tmiskimen

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    I agree with hornetd. Nothing scares a line mechanic more than working storm damage and hearing a generator running in the neighborhood. He never knows when a transformer will be backfed and put 7200 volts on the wire he is holding. Install a transfer switch.
     
  15. Jul 21, 2018 #15

    WyrTwister

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    Most defiantly . But I some how doubt that will happen . :-(

    Wyr
    God bless
     
  16. Jul 25, 2018 #16

    Eddie_T

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    I use the same method to connect my generator. Do not be lax but it would take multiple errors to electrocute a lineman.

    "Insulated gloves and sleeves: Linemen must wear insulated rubber gloves and sleeves when working on any type of electrical line. They provide protection against electrical shock and burn, and are tested at 30,000 volts. Protective gloves, usually made of leather, are worn over the insulated gloves to protect the rubber from punctures and cuts."


    REPLY
     
  17. Jul 25, 2018 #17

    WyrTwister

    WyrTwister

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    OK , then let us see you do it .

    Personally , I limit myself to 470 VAC . Want nothing to do with primary voltage .

    Wyr
    God bless
     
  18. Jul 26, 2018 #18

    donald73d

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    I hope an electrician did not install the box on the outside of your house to connect the generator to. That box is fine by itself, but it needs to go to a transfer switch or some kind of interlock. Others are correct, you should not backfeed. A 6 pos transfer switch is not that much money, under $300.

    You need to test all along the path for 220V. Is it 220V out of the generator? Out of the cord?
     
  19. Jul 26, 2018 #19

    ChrisM

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    I have an 8000 watt portable generator and a manual transfer switch that has only the essential circuits hooked up. Even with that much power I can't run the hot water heater and well pump at the same time. So it seems a 3500 watt generator would be a bit small to power an entire house. The dryer, washing machine, and central air conditioning are not included. The system works and I never have to worry about feeding power to the grid accidentally because the transfer switch prevents any possibility of that happening. I agree with Tom Horne on this and consider it irresponsible to not have a transfer switch.
     
  20. Jul 26, 2018 #20

    donald73d

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    Its difficult to power anything that uses electricity for producing heat with a generator. Such as a dryer or hot water heater or oven. I have run a single burner on the stove. The well pump will require at least a 5000 watt generator, maybe 8000 watt. It depends upon the HP and whether there are two wires or 3 going to the pump. Two wires means capacitor is inside the pump, 3 wires means capacitor is in a control box in the house. Three wire allow the pump to draw less at startup.

    My retirement home in DE has two heat pumps for heat and A/C and each has an electric booster coil it uses during a defrost cycle. I am not going to install a generator when we retire unless the electric is out more than I think. I would need a 25KW to 30KW generator. Good thing is I have propane.
     

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