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Re: I feel sorry, #60709 01/10/06 10:59 AM
Joined: Nov 2001
Posts: 745
mamills Offline
Ironically, a couple of days ago, a friend of mine told me he was going to make one of these suicide cords for himself, only on a slightly larger scale (to connect to his electric range receptacle). I do not know if he saw these things on eBay or not. I'm not sure if I got through to him with explanations (and even pleading) as to why this was so dangerous. Then I told him that I would report him to the local fire marshal's office if he followed through. Of course, I probably will never have any way of knowing if he actually made one of these hideous things (unless something horrible happens, God forbid), and I've probably lost a friend in the process. But if it makes him think twice and decide not to go ahead, I guess the personal loss is worth it. I'd rather have him (and his family) alive and mad at me than the other way around [Linked Image].

Mike (mamills)

Work Gear for Electricians and the Trades
Re: I feel sorry, #60710 01/10/06 11:29 AM
Joined: Aug 2005
Posts: 265
Sixer Offline
renosteinke states "First of all, I would like to confess that I, more through luck and reading instructions, rather than having any special talents, have hooked up a few gennys, battery banks, and so on- without any transfer / backfeed problems. May this streak continue...."

There is a HUGE difference here, in the fact that you are a qualified electrician. That is your "special talent". You know the difference of what is safe and what could put others at risk. As qualified tradespeople most all of us bend the rules a bit at times, which is fine as long as the safety of life or property isn't comprimised. We also know what the consequences of our actions could be if a serious mistake was made.

This is where the difference is. Most unqualified do-it-yourselfer's have no clue, just "as long as it works".

I see that eBay has not removed this listing, even after numerous complaints from us. I guess all we can do is collectively keep bombarding eBay and the seller with complaints until the listing is removed. I did a quick count from this seller's eBay profile, and he's sold at least 15 of these instructions.


"Will it be cheaper if I drill the holes for you?"
Re: I feel sorry, #60711 01/10/06 11:32 AM
Joined: Jul 2004
Posts: 9,482
gfretwell Offline
I failed a transfer switch that appeared to be a commercially available product because the input connector was a 50a female receptacle. There was no way to use this without a suicide cord.
This is more prevelant than logic would suggest.

Greg Fretwell
Re: I feel sorry, #60712 01/10/06 12:34 PM
Joined: Sep 2003
Posts: 649
winnie Offline
My comments on this topic tread close to political discussion, IMHO the only sort of political discussion appropriate here: the politics of electricity delivery and use. However I understand ahead of time that this post might require 'moderation'.

Electrical safety is both relative and random. Doing things 'by the book' is not an absolute guarantee of safety, nor is not following electrical code mean a certainty of fire, death, and destruction. More to the topic at hand, the evaluation of cost versus benefit where electrical safety is concerned is very much about politics and profit.

Electricity is very easy to control and direct, and a surprisingly small amount of copper and insulation will serve to deliver a tremendous amount of power to a load. As long as nothing goes wrong, the 'zip cord' and 'twist and tape free air splices' that we comment about in the photo forum will work just fine. 14ga conductors will _probably_ be just fine on that 30A water heater, 100W lamps will probably work just fine in lamps that say 'use max 60W lamp'.

However, if there is any breakdown in the conductors or insulation directing the electricity, then that tremendous power will be delivered to the fault.

Most of a _proper_ installation is not the stuff actually necessary to deliver power to the load, but instead the stuff necessary to remain safe when something goes wrong. You simply do not need 14ga wire, junction boxes, wire nuts, or even circuit breakers to run a 120V 60W lamp. If everything worked absolutely perfectly, you could use 22ga enameled magnet wire, not in any sort of cable, snugly wrapped around the meter terminals and simply run on the surface to the lamp. Everything beyond this bare minimum is concession to the fact that things go wrong, and we want to remain safe when things go wrong. Exactly how much redundancy and protection is really worth it is _very_ difficult to quantify.

With a _proper_ electrical installation, the risks are _very_ low. So low that we don't really have a good way of even calculating the odds. And herein lies the problem. People have a very hard time properly juggling very low risks with very bad consequences. Given the choice between not having electricity, an _inexpensive_ approach that has a 1 in 10000 chance of killing someone, or an expensive approach that has a 1 in 100000000 chance of killing someone, 'common sense' would select the inexpensive approach. ('Common sense' is wrong in this case...) (note, I've pulled the numbers out of thin air; I don't know the real risks.)

At some point, even if you take the time to do the math properly, and consider all of the side effects and their costs, you hit a wall where you have to assign a dollar value to a human life, and have to evaluate extremely low risks where there really isn't sufficient data to make a good judgement. Once you hit that point, the arguments are very much about politics.

Code and listing are essentially a _political_ process whereby 'people who should know' are creating their best efforts as to where to balance the costs versus risk reduction aspects of electrical installation. But this balance most certainly includes economic self interest; just look at how the whole AFCI thing played out. Or for another example where politics, safety, economics, and human death have played out with a very unclear result is nuclear versus coal power.

The _fact_ is that if this 'suicide cord' is correctly used, it will do the job without harming anyone. Correctly used includes things like shutting off the main, connecting everything prior to starting the generator, manually shedding sufficient load, etc. There are very real risks when using this cord, including the very real possibility of simply forgetting to do things like throw the main breaker, however with only a little bit of common sense the risks are quite small.

The risks are so large that neither the NEC nor the listing agencies are willing to say 'safe enough', and the risks are large enough that they have killed people, and I would never advocate using this sort of installation, but none the less the risks are very small. Essentially a proper cost versus benefit analysis says that this cord is far too dangerous to use, but such an analysis weighs a small risk against the cost of killing someone.

IMHO this system is actually pretty darn close to something acceptable. Change the gender of the cord and add a breaker interlock system, and you have something much safer; not as safe as a full fledged transfer switch system, but probably safe enough for listing. ( I know that screw down sheet metal breaker interlocks are available for some residential panels.)

Sorry for the rant. I agree that the particular item discussed is (and should not be) acceptable. But ECs _do_ have an economic interest in proper installation of acceptably safe systems, and the decision of what is 'safe enough' is riddled with economic interests.


Re: I feel sorry, #60713 01/10/06 02:41 PM
Joined: Jul 2003
Posts: 141
Spark Master Flash Offline
When I was a small child, I got ahold of a bunch of pieces of copper wire and stuffed them into a receptacle and got shocked.

Should I blame the linemen who fed the electricity to the house for not adequately blocking electrical current from entering my hand?

Don't linemen have an "idiot stick" to tell if there's any voltage before they grab the wires, or are they dumber than a drunken plumber? Don't they have a multimeter of some kind?

Don't linemen shut off power above the break prior to working on the broken power line, in case the line is energized uphill?

Don't they protect themselves by removing the wire from a terminal downhill from the fix in case the line is energized during the fix, or are they naturally risk-takers?

Didn't the guy on ebay say to leave the main circuit breaker off?

Are circuit breakers not up to your standards to shut power off?

Do some of you think everybody is an idiot, and that they can't possibly power up their home with a generator without killing a lineman? Do you think that people have no right to keep their freezers full of meat cold, or to keep life-saving medical equipment powered up for Grandma?

Do you think that only an idiot would fly a kite in a lightning storm without a journeyman's license?

Do you think that only a journeyman electrician can drive a car? The movement of cars on city streets, with lights that tell them to go or stop, is dangerous, like electricity. Are electricians the only people smart enough to operate them? People without high school diplomas, housewives, plumbers, and borderline retards can drive cars legally.

Some of you guys are so (Removed) politically motivated. You're well-suited for organizations where you can politically ruin careers if somebody does something you want to cry publicly about, just because you can. Some of you can't see that there's a safe way of doing something that could be dangerous if done wrong. Some of you would rather just call everybody a fool. Some of you couldn't think outside the box if the box hit you in the head.

By the way, I've never powered up a house with a generator yet...but I do have a 5,500 watt generator. I've been through hurricanes, earthquakes, tornadoes etc. and if you haven't, you don't know the misery of long-term lack of electrical power.

Maybe somebody from New Orleans or S. Mississippi can lend something to this discussion, instead of self-aggrandizing holier-than-thou people who have no problems other than Removed

No offense...nothing personal.

Edited for absolutely non ECN-type content

[This message has been edited by electure (edited 01-10-2006).]

Re: I feel sorry, #60714 01/10/06 02:54 PM
Joined: Apr 2005
Posts: 197
LearJet9 Offline
Guys, those posts are to long for my short attention span!!

Re: I feel sorry, #60715 01/10/06 04:17 PM
Joined: Sep 2003
Posts: 649
winnie Offline
Spark Master,

Cars are a perfect example of why common sense isn't, and how the creation of rules is as much based in politics as in the reality of increasing safety, and how personal responsibility and accountability is not enough when you are talking about taking risks with other people's lives.

IMHO the electrical code is much more closely tied to real safety then to just making some special interest money.

IMHO lineworkers should be grounding and testing. But an unexpectedly energized line is a substantial increase in risk to a lineworker. IMHO the increased risk of a backfed transformer is sufficient to make it reasonable to require some sort of interlock between the generator and the main in a residence.

This doesn't need to be a full up transfer switch; the interlocked breakers that I described are more than sufficient to bring the risk down to a reasonable level.


Re: I feel sorry, #60716 01/10/06 06:27 PM
Joined: Aug 2003
Posts: 173
Speedy Petey Offline
Spark Master Flash, I have a feeing that I agree with you regarding the "off-topic" parts of your post, but I am appalled that you would even consider defending this jerk offering these instructions for this cord set.
Yes, I have been through a several day outage. Yes, I have used a generator without a transfer switch. But I did it SAFELY. I removed the circuit from the panel and wired it to the generator. Totally bypassing the service. Was it "legal"? No. Was it safe? I say yes since I had to reverse my work to go back on line, and NO male-to-male cords were used.

No one here is "holier-than-thou" regarding this topic. No one here has any monetary gain by expressing their opinions on these boards. We are preaching to the choir.
We offer these options to our customers and tell them the benefits of doing it the right and SAFE way. We cannot make anyone do it our way. We hope our customers have the brains to at least do it safely.

From the tone of your post you seem to think this guys has a good cheap emergency solution to an expensive dilema. Do you think ANY male-to-male cord is safe???

Speedy Petey

"Anyone who has never made a mistake has never tried anything new." -Albert Einstein
Re: I feel sorry, #60717 01/10/06 06:34 PM
Joined: Jan 2003
Posts: 4,391
iwire Offline
Spark Master Flash

You are certainly entitled to your opinion and I will not address each of your points.

I will tell you this much.

You are dead wrong about my motives and I am willing to bet you are wrong about the other members motives.

This is not a "make work' issue to me at all.

A homeowner could go the breaker interlock route that Jon pointed out and I would not feel like I lost work over it.

The only thing that concerns me about this is the danger to others.

If this guy blows himself up I do not care.

What I do care about is this guy is leading people to believe this is safe method.

It is not a safe method no matter what you think.


Bob Badger
Construction & Maintenance Electrician
Re: I feel sorry, #60718 01/10/06 06:58 PM
Joined: Jan 2006
Posts: 558
Rewired Offline
Wow.. i don't believe what I read..
Look, accidents happen do they not? Those cords are an accident WAITING TO HAPPEN!
I don't care what the dude from e-bay says about shutting off breakers or this or that.. Someone may ACCIDENTALLY FORGET TO SHUT IT OFF...
Linemen are not idiots... but what if one is in the process of grounding a presumably dead line and NOW because someone made a MISTAKE and FORGOT to open their main breaker, grounds out this line and now has a big arc in their face, not nearly as much as what it would be if the line was powered from the utility but still, there is the potential for problems! Why hack in something and have the risk of killing someone???
Lemme tell you something. I worked at an electrical supplier for about a decade, know what? most people "off the street" ARE idiots.. people would come in trying to cobble up some bastardization and you know what? I would not sell them the material because I can't, If someting were to happen, in today's world it would fall back on me because " I sold it to them!"
I now am a 4'th year apprentice with a well known electrical company in this city and we do a LOT of service work to a couple of big property / housing management company's...
Do you know how many times I get emergency calls that the "lights do not work" only to find out that the bulb in the shall we say "chandelier" is burned out or that the table lamp or even the appliance is NOT PLUGGED IN!!!
Just had one call one superintendant was whining her outside lights were on past 8:30 a.m, something HAD to be wrong.. Just had to because they said so.. Turns out at that time, EVERYONES lights are still on because it was cloudy and raining and still quite DARK, as has been the past week.. Photoswitch was fine, all in the complex were fine..

Need I say more???? Some people just do NOT have common sence.. Some people are just idiots.
Some people should not be let behind the handlebar of a shopping cart let alone behinde the wheel of an automobile!

Now, you said you had a Generator and from what you say, you think its allright to " do what you have to" to keep Grandma's life saving medical equipment running or a fridge full of food cold after a disaster??
Know what? Why not just do it correct the first time and never have to worry about it.. Go, spent the $$ and have the proper transfer switch or transfer panel installed and let it be!! I did! now I KNOW there is minimal risk to me or anyone out performing work on the grid where my residence is connected!

Oh ya by the way.. I stuck things in the receptacles too when I was a kid, got shocks and LIKED IT!, blew out fuses, left flare marks up the receptacle plates, you name it.. I quickly learned that electricty is DANGEROUS, and I think you should too..


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