ECN Forum

What do you do?

Posted By: gfretwell

What do you do? - 09/18/17 04:43 PM

Power has been out here for over a week with no end in sight. I have people wanting me to look at their dryer back feed a lot and wanting to know if it is "safe". My first answer is always no but I do get pushed on it. I have looked at a couple, held my nose and said y'all be careful now. Two were simply condemned and I told them to use cords. Both seemed to have neutral connections that were failing some way and I did not want to own any part of it. The first guy I thought was half way safe had the main off covered with duct tape and "NO" written on it with a sharpie and a nice looking SJOW cord with connectors. I still had to explain the term suicide cord.
I am very happy I put in a real transfer interlock and a back feed circuit. My hookup was literally seconds.
I am running on a 5.5 kva set fairly successfully but no AC except in the bedroom. With load Management I can keep the pool blue, run the well and 2 fridges along with the normal general lighting loads. Pretty much all of the GL breakers or on and we are managing what we turn on.
The fuel burn seems to be about 0.6 GPH on gasoline but that jumps up to 0.85 gallon an hour on propane (if the gauge is close).

I really wish there was a company offering an interlock kit for a reasonable price. Most people choke when they see >$100 for a little piece of sheet metal and a couple of guides.
Posted By: Potseal

Re: What do you do? - 09/18/17 09:53 PM


In your location how popular are residential generators that burn natural gas?

In Saskatchewan a lot people use natural gas for appliances, heating, hot water, BBQ's, etc. I am considering what I will do when I am able to install a standby generator - natural gas, propane, gas, one that gives you 2 options...? Not sure.
Posted By: gfretwell

Re: What do you do? - 09/19/17 12:17 AM

Mine is tri fuel but we do not have piped gas here. It would certainly be an attractive option if I did. Propane is clean burning, stores well and does not present the carburetor problems gasoline generators have but it is expensive. I can burn gasoline cheaper but I hate handling the gas. I have a 120 gal (actually 150 but they only fill to 80%) propane tank in the ground that they come fill. The problem is my generator will drain it in less than a week. In an emergency situation like last week I may not be able to get propane that often. It is great for a couple day outage tho.
Posted By: HotLine1

Re: What do you do? - 09/21/17 12:44 AM

Glad you are doing as well as can be expected.
Back with hurricane Sandy up here I was out of power for 18 days. Ran a 9.9 KW gen (gasoline). Real good friend from north Jersey dropped the gen and 30 gal of gas. Backfed cb in my Sq D QO panel, main locked/tag out.

As to the neighbors, yes, they came calling. I 'supervised' a few, had a few others that had to make it 'safer'.

If I owned a gen back then, it would have been a victim of the flood!

There have been a steady install of whole house gens since Sandy hit, a lot in the Twp I work in, all are natural gas, or as you call it 'piped gas'. I have not seen any propane units, but they are around.

Funny, but sad, two (2) gens recently installed at two firehouses failed inspection yesterday. Both start & run manually, but don't run on utility failure. DUHH!! One diesel, 1 natural gas. Unhappy group with concerns over Jose and Maria.

Stay safe.
Posted By: gfretwell

Re: What do you do? - 09/21/17 06:33 PM

The thing I found out about propane is they eat a lot of it and you can't count on getting a delivery anytime soon. I am a week out on a request with no truck.Fortunately my power came back in 8 days and I still had about 4 days of fuel left (gasoline and propane). Gasoline was getting easier to find by then so I was not really worried. I like the convenience of propane but it is expensive at 0.85 GPH on a 5.5KVA generator. I suppose I would run gasoline during the day and propane at night if I was doing this again for a while. A full tank of gas would get me through the night tho. I was still refueling in the dark and I don't like doing that. I suppose I really need some kind of battery powered light beyond a flashlight in my mouth, out there at the generator location. I also found need of 12vdc a few times when we were outside by the pool and not running the generator, just for our tunes.
I have a whole list of things I can do to make life easier on gen power.
One is to put a switch in my water heater to put the elements in series so the draw is more reasonable. It will take longer to heat the tank but it won't be 100% of the generator capacity. I even thought of putting smaller elements in it. We do not really use that much hot water so a slower recovery is not an issue.
I also need to balance my phases better with the required 120v equipment. For one, both fridges are on the same phase. That is just a breaker swap in the panel.
I am thinking about walking around with a 100' extension cord plugged into what I will call phase A and checking the outlets I use against that as a sanity check.
I was able to keep all of my general lighting breakers on and we just used some discipline in what we used.
My problem was always with too many locked rotors hitting at once.

I did put a breaker interlock in my panel years ago so I am not depending on LOTO. That part was pretty slick.
I will be better prepared next time.
Maybe when things really slow down I will make an enclosure for the genset. It is under cover in the location I use but not really enclosed so it was pretty noisy. I found hanging mover blankets over the block walls and between there and the neighbor cut the noise way down for them. With an enclosure I would be looking for a design that blocks noise but allows sufficient air flow. I would still want the exhaust going straight out so I will still need an external sound baffle system of some sort. I also want it up off the ground a few feet.

The biggest complaint I heard from my neighbors was that their generator would not run the AC and that is mostly a night time problem (sleeping). For the kind of money you will spend on a generator to run a big central air system, you could install a small mini split in the bedroom and have money left over. They are so efficient that you could get that money back by turning the central system off (or way up) at night. I never even saw the lights dim when that unit was running. They use an inverter design and start very "soft".
Posted By: ghost307

Re: What do you do? - 09/22/17 12:26 PM

If you have a Harbor Freight tool store near you they have a nice LED light about the size of an oblong hockey puck for $4.
Sometimes they run a coupon for it where it ends up being free.
I got several of them and they really come in handy since I can stick/hang them in different places and see what I'm doing.
Posted By: gfretwell

Re: What do you do? - 09/23/17 02:37 AM

We got along great with the little black Ironton flashlight from Northern Tool ($2)
I have a bunch of them and they seem to be the best little flashlight of the cheap (or even more expensive) ones. It always seem to be the switch that goes bad and these seem pretty solid. These are the ones in the drop bins with the junk tools.
Posted By: NORCAL

Re: What do you do? - 09/24/17 03:04 PM

My shop has a transfer switch since that's where the water pump is, powered by a Miller Bobcat 225NT* AC/DC welder 8000 KW gen, if power is needed in the house cords will fit the bill, the water heater & furnace are natural gas that do not require power, kitchen is all electric so that could be a problem.

*Was originally going to buy a 5 KW Honda, but listened to someones suggestion & bought the Miller welder for $400 more, got 3KW extra, & a portable welder as a bonus.
Posted By: gfretwell

Re: What do you do? - 09/24/17 04:05 PM

I have thought about my options going forward but power failures have been so rare here that I think I will live with what I have until I have another one. If it looks like I am starting a trend of more frequent problems I may go for something in the 7KVA neighborhood that has better voltage regulation. Fuel burn is still a concern tho so bigger is not necessarily better. I have proved I can get by with 5.5 kva but a little more would avoid nuisance trips. I found out the bladder tank on the well pump has lost some air so I was presenting locked rotor on that pump more than necessary.
Posted By: SteveFehr

Re: What do you do? - 10/16/17 12:11 AM

I use a portable 5.5kW; it will just barely run my 2.5 ton AC unit, but we don't normally even try and just let the gen support lights, TVs, computers, and refrigerators which helps stretch the gas longer. We've always shut it off at night and locked it up back inside.

I get the desire for suicide plugs, but I just don't trust the normal homeowner to do a manual non-interlock and not electrocute line workers. It's a few minutes worth to whip up a sheet metal interlock; easy enough to do it right.
Posted By: HotLine1

Re: What do you do? - 10/16/17 11:22 PM

Just today, I came upon a homeowner suicide setup. Nice compliant inlet, interlock on panel, done by lic. EC. The HO had to show me his 'used it for years' setup. 10 Ga rubber cord, twistlock modified to fit the 'new' gen, and the good old dryer plug to backfeed his panel. "I just turn the main off, and put tape on it'!!

Posted By: gfretwell

Re: What do you do? - 10/17/17 05:08 AM

That was what I saw a lot of here. Most worked OK but one had some real strange stuff going on and I just loaned him a bunch of cords. He told me he smoked the satellite box, the fridge would only run with 2 branch circuit breakers on and he had other issues. It sure sounded like a neutral problem to me and I did not want to own a bit of it.
I think some of these problems may be simply because some generators ground the neutral and some don't. If your dryer cord is only connected to the generator ground, the neutral floats.
I really hope I talked a few of these people into some kind of transfer equipment, even if it was just the panel interlock device. I do have my neighbor next door on board.
Then they could run a real 4 wire feed into a back feed breaker (with a clip) and be somewhat legal with the interlock.
At that point you should lift the bonding jumper in the generator. (Non-SDS) I am not sure it is life threatening tho if you didn't and it might actually be more dangerous when you are using cords.
© 2020 ECN Electrical Forums