Here’s Kent’s question, and you already know I can’t comment without adding a rant. Please do add your comments:
I don’t have a main breaker, I have a lever in my meter box to disconnect from city power. A friend of mine who is an electrician said that you can install a 30 amp 240 volt double pole breaker in the sub panel to supply the circuits with gen power. Is this true?
Kent, ‘I am the Student’ and I learn new things every day. One thing I’ve managed to learn is there are many ways to implement a method to transfer loads from your primary source to a back up generator, and some are far better than others.
We get into code, and some find out the hard way just what Insurance Companies are all about. Your disconnect is a ‘legal’ disconnect. A breaker however is not a legal disconnect in many jurisdictions , you will need breakers that are rated to be used as both a breaker AND as a disconnect switch. If you were to feed your panel in the way your Electrician Friend describes, you want the ‘switch rated breaker’, they exist, and cost a few dollars more.
Next, you need look a little further into the codes of your city, county, state, in most jurisdictions, I think you will find that you need a mechanical interlock between your main disconnect, and your DP (breaker/switch) for the generator transfer, this can be created in a number of ways. I have seen ‘choke cables’ used to fabricate interlocks, this >could< work in your case if it’s impossible to close the gen breaker unless the disconnect is open, and of course, the gen breaker needs be open before you can again close the main disconnect.
Legal is very important, as you will likely never have the deep pockets the insurance company has, and any illegal wiring could create an unexpected liability for you.
Next is understanding the challenges of operating a small generator and typical house hold loads, this can be very different from house to house, and I find the ‘bulk’ transfer switches, (dumping all loads onto the generator with a single transfer switch causes the ‘AVERAGE’ home owner frustration and even appliance damage. IF you have a well pump, designing around that pump and meeting it’s requirements is often key.
Home owners can be in a hurry to get the lights back on, and this is the source of a lot of problems, all too many to mention here. In the method you describe, you’d need to operate the main disconnect and remember to open every breaker in the box, once the generator is verified to be putting out proper voltage and frequency you would add load and watch (monitor) the amp meter(s), voltage and frequency to assure you don’t overload the generator.
The transfer switches I like best allow you to transfer individual circuits off main power and onto the generator, much harder to make a mistake, and much easier to use a smaller generator. People learn in a hurry that a so called whole house generator can leave you with no fuel long before the power comes back on, conservation can be a critical part of your backup plan. Having a step by step procedure for the generator transfer is KEY!
No matter how clear it is in your mind today, when the lights are out, your wife can turn into an impatient nag, and if the kids are crying, and the dogs is barking, it’s not the best time to think, do think in advance and have a simple set of instructions to follow. It may not be you that will need operate the gen set.
Now.. there are Gang Greenies who see the whole world simple, no need to study or plan, you only need a hand full of fairy dust 🙂 Yes, Beth Bucknaked comes to mind. But over my years of hands on study, I’ve run in to so many people (some with advanced degrees) they say “if I had to do it all over again, I’d do it different 🙂
Installing a generator transfer switch at Zach’s house. This article gives us some insight into how small a generator we might be able to use in a house with natural gas appliances, and how we might be best off wiring the generator for 120 VAC only and assuring the stator windings are evenly loaded.
“If I had it to do all over again.” If I had a nickel for every time I’ve heard that. And that previous article I wrote about Beth Bucknaked. She is at the heart of Gang Green! There’s key phrases that set off the Alarm bells in my head when it comes to generators for home back-up. One phrase that screams ‘salesmen’ is whole house generator.’ According to search engine data, it is a term searched for often, but all too many of those people who use this term are likely to tell you… “If I had it to do all over again, I’d…………………….”
I’m the student, I have the questions, but you will always need the answers as to what is legal or not in your jurisdiction. Hands on experience, and operating through long outages helps one develop the better plan. And do remember, a gasoline generator with a float bowl full of gasoline ethanol blend WILL cause you trouble regardless of what others might tell you. Stand by on gird sets are different, as much as you remind people they need exercise them, they won’t! Old fuel can be a big problem, gasoline is by far the worst, it’s a poor fuel, but a fuel full of energy by volume, and we have a lot of it. And of course our Government has done their best to make gasoline fuel far more unstable, and far more difficult to store on site for any period of time.
Now, I’m sure you’ve read that there’s chemistry you can add to gasoline/ethanol blends that solve all the problems, and maybe a Chemist will come along and comment about how these wonder additives keep the ethanol from dropping out when moisture finds it’s way into a less than sealed tank, or how it keeps ethanol from attacking certain materials over time, Autos seldom set for years at a time, generators do all too often, and that too lean condition.. how many are set up to monitor exhaust gas temps? And when that main jet gets coated with crud, your engine runs lean, and exhaust valves and seats suffer, and then you discover that EPA compliant carb can’t be cleaned, or adjusted. Yes, the EPA will tell you, it’s best they keep ‘stupid’ in their ranks, as they think you are too stupid to clean the carb or make adjustments.
And there you go, you knew I’d turn this into a rant 🙂 Too bad we have Beth Bucknaked types running the EPA. But rest assured, now that Fat Lisa is gone, they’ll find another ‘activist’ to man the tiller of that ship on the rocks.