Auxillary Genny without an xfer switch - Legal???

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I prefer to keep my mouth shut until I know what I'm talking about and since I'm not familiar with what the codes are or how they are applied outside of where I'm at (Taxachusetts) I thought I'd seek an answer from someone who knows how things get done in Florida.
A good friend who lives in an Orlando suburb (Windermere) told me that he'd invested in a rollaround backup generator for his home,an expensive one in a ritzy gated development earlier this month. He hired a licensed electrician do the installation for him.
When he described the setup I winced, but refrained from telling him I thought he'd just bought a dangerous and probably illegal installation until I had a chance to confirm my suspicions.
The first thing which struck me as having a strong smell of stupid about it was that the installer had mounted a four pole 30 amp female socket on an inside garage wall and made my friend a 30 foot flexible cord with a MALE plug on BOTH ends to use to connect his new generator to that receptical. The ramifications of using male plug on the house end of that cable hould be obvious to a blind man.
From the rest of my friend's description I gathered that there was NO disconnect switch installed. My friend was given instructions to turn off the main disconnect to the house, and also turn off all the individual circuit breakers in his panel, then roll the genny outside the garage, plug in both ends of that cord, start the genny and finally flip on the breakers for the circuits in his home he needed to use.
From a purely technical aspect, I'm sure that setup will work just fine when operated by someone who knows exactly what they are doing, but it's hardly idiot proof if the person using it suffers a "brain fart" and forgets to take all the proper steps in the correct sequence.
I've heard things are a bit less restrictive in Florida that they are up here, but I was shocked, just shocked, to hear his description of what he's got. (Pun intended.)
Can someone confirm that what he's told me describes an setup which shouldn't be allowed to exist?
Would I be on safe ground telling him he that for everyone's sake he should do something about making what he's just had put in safer, toot sweet?
Thanks guys,
Jeff
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My name is Jeff Wisnia and I approved this message....

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Jeff Wisnia wrote:
(some snippage by me)

The 30' connecting cord your friend now owns is sometimes called a "Dead Man Cord" or "Death Line" or "Suicide Rope", at least that's some of the names I've heard.
There's a good reason for that!
But first, the double-male cord has so many nicknames because this particular setup is done often. I used it when I worked in the cable industry and we had to power a remote antenna site from the emergency generator on the truck. Something tells me that OSHA never knew about it.
Is it legal, to code? ???. Being that the fixed receptacle in the home is probably wired to code, that's likely where it ends as far as the NEC is concerned. Is it safe? Exactly as safe you say it is. Does your friend realize that he must have a totally clear head when he goes to use the thing?, that having a few beers in him or a family problem on his mind could fry his ass? He better.
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I have not looked up the code in a while in my area but most installations are requireing transfer panels installed with doubled ganged breakers.
Most use the boxes that wire the devices want to backup to, this is cheaper and prefered if only have a 120V gen since if tying back to main panel in any way would only power half of the panel anyway and would need to make sure all needing backed up is on that leg and not good to have both legs of a 240V source tied to the same phase.
The most expensive way but good if have a big enough gen is to have the transfer switch at the mains level.
Even if the local code does not require most electric companies may require it in most places these days I think.

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Even cheap (<$500) generators will do 240v. Sometimes, like mine, requires a special plug to tye the neutral to ground, in addition to the power cords.
Some installations will separate out the critical circuits, so they are on backup power, and leave lesser and decorative circuits so they go off. This would be done where run time or fuel consumption is a problem.
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It wasn't really an electrician who installed it, was it?
Everything about it is illegal everywhere. It has to be impossible to connect to the genny without first disconnecting the line, and visa versa.
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toller wrote:

As far as my friend knows thy're licensed. It's a good sized firm he used, the same group which wired his home when he built it about ten years ago.
based on what "I-zheet M'drurz" said above, I'm coming to realize that the electrician's fixed work is probably perfectly legal, and it would be my friend's actions, not his, which might be illegal or actionable if he fried a lineman. I forgot to mention that the electrician installed a double 30 amp breaker in the feed to/from that receptical he installed in the garage, to match the 30 amp full load rating of the genny my friend bought. That should make that outlet perfectly legal.
I suppose if someone got fried by that double male plug cord, and it could be proved without question that it was the electrician who made it up and sold it to my friend the electrician might be in difficulty legally, but proving who made it up would likely be near impossible several years from now, 'eh?
I guess it's like a hiring a contractor to add on a second story porch for you, with a code height railing. He can't be held responsible if you decide to stand a potted plant on the corner of the railing which then gets blown off and causes brain damage to the electric company's meter reader who happens to be below at the time, not expecting things to fall on him.
Jeff
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Yes, assuming they got it inspected, it was legal. All they did was install a dryer outlet. Your friend would be the criminal if he ever used it.

He has a receipt for the project, doesn't he?

Your analogy does not hold up. The electrician installed it specifically for the generator, and provided instruction and the suicide cord. I assume he did not get it inspected, for any inspector is going to ask why they want the outlet in the garage. Most people in better neighborhoods don't have any legitimate use for a 30a/240a outlet in their garage. I am not a lawyer, but I would be willing to bet the electrician would be held liable for any unfortunate results from the installation. It has to be fit for the purpose intended, and it isn't.
However, the whole thing couldn't have been very expensive and your friend can always use the wiring to install a proper hook up. Just out of curiosity, what gauge wire was used? He did everything else wrong, why not use undersized wire?
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toller wrote:

I suppose, but I wonder if it gets as specific as mentioning that double male cord...And if it does, describes it in enough detail.

Not that I disagree with you, but I happen to have just that sort of outlet in my garage (And, not to brag, it IS in a "better neighborhood") 'Course it's probably the only one in a hundred or so houses nearby. I needed 230 volts for my old "buzz box stick welder which I occassionally use for hobby projects.
Fortuitously, the 50 amp fused disconnect for the air handler's auxillary heaters of one of our heat pump HVAC systems was in a closet on the other side of the garage rear wall. You can guess the rest. I just have to make sure not to let the auxillary heat come on while I'm sparking away. <G>

That much detail (wire size) I haven't heard yet, but I'd expect it was adequate to carry the 30 amp genny output. I had another chat with my friend and he said he'd found his next door neighbor and another guy down the street had almost identical genny hookups, also without idiot proof transfer switches.
I'm guessing that the labor costs to properly install a typical transfer switch system, which requires getting at and cutting into each of the six to ten branch circuits the user elects to power up with the genny is what would run the electrician's bill through the roof and kill their deal on selling the homeowner a generator. In homes of that quality the breaker panels are often sitting in finished walls, which pretty much says that cutting into branch circuits will require the services of another trade or two to close things up again.
I think the installers must just take the easy route of "adding a breaker and a dryer outlet" as near the service panel as they can get, and don't spend too much time thinking about the downstream liability.
My friend has no recolection of an inspector showing up to look at the work, but one may have come and gone without their noticing it. Again, my ignorance of the way things work in Florida leaves me wondering if that kind of simple "adding a breaker and an 230 volt outlet" job even requires a post inspection. Maybe someone here will tell us.
Jeff
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It cost me 120 to have the transfer panel instaled It would have been cheaper but drilling through he house was hard. Mine was prewired and labeled wires, Generac.
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It would be unusual to get an inspection for a new outlet. However, it is probably a legal requirement. Your friend can find out by calling the town building department (though right now they probably have more important things to do). Should your friend chose to go to small claims court over this, the fact they did it illegally (without an inspection that is) would help.
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I'm not a lawyer, but I'd be willing to bet that there'd be many arguments about this during the court case. How much liability that ultimately lands on the electrician and how much lands on the homeowner is a crapshoot, pure and simple.
To paraphrase Clint: Does he feel lucky?
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toller wrote:

It is illegal, unsafe, and, if the power co. finds it he's likely to lose his service. Linemen have been killed by this. There is a thread in alt.engineering.electrical titled "Backfeeding with a portable generator - REAL safety concerns???" started on 9-6-04 that covers this very topic.
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No Spam wrote:

You can't just say it's "illegal", the outlet itself (assuming it's wired to code and with proper workmanship) is perfectly legal. The homeowner backfeeding a generator into that outlet is beyond the scope of all of that, it has nothing to do with the safe, legal outlet on the guy's garage wall.
And as somebody else (original poster, I think) has mentioned, that type of minor work may well fall outside of the need to get permits and/or inspection in his jurisdiction, as many munis permit some electrical/plumbing work to be done by homeowners.
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I-zheet M'drurz wrote:

Regardless, according to the OP this whole setup was apparently rigged only to provide power from a portable generator to the house panel. As such, the entire set up is not legal and is extremely dangerous. I find it hard to believe that a licensed electrician would risk his lively hood by installing something like this. Further, if I was the owner of this home, and the contractor was the same one that wired it when it was built, then I'd be greatly concerned about about the quality of the wiring job hidden behind the walls.
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It is probably illegal, it is unsafe, it is dumb. Transfer panels interlock out the main panel and have 2 watt meters so you do not overload each of the gens 2 legs. Ask your hillbilly friend how he knows watts consumed and how he is balancing the gen. Also exterior boxes are water proof, Mine has a Male socket , so when Im drinkin I dont fry myself on a hot cord
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Generac sells a pre wired 6 circuit 2 watt meter complete kit for 200, it has exterior box, cable , plugs and sockets, A good deal purchased separatly it woud be 350
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Funny you mention this method.
In the Canadian Army Signals Corps, we used to use a double ended dong to plug into local civilian AC power to fire up out HF radio teletype vehicles, as opposes to running the generators.
Worked great; as always the drill was to have a very good ground <regardless of power source>
did we know it was inheritantly unsafe.....yes. Did that stop us....no.
was it stupid.......yes.
cheers....Ole
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Oh really? Like this?
http://www.meatcannon.com/detail/1/3392/1/7/31/AC_DC_Double_Dong_Black_18inch.html
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Etcetera.
I'm going to pull together several of the other comments and make a few of my own.
First off, connecting a generator this way is absolutely code-illegal everywhere in North America. In Canada, getting caught doing this could result in a $6K fine and potentially jail time even without it "doing something bad".
[The electric utilities act of Ontario takes non-code electrical wiring very seriously if law enforcement want to press charges.]
Worse if you cause damage. Much worse if you hurt or kill someone.
Technically, the electrician could certainly argue that "I just installed a dryer outlet, what the homeowner does with it is _his_ responsibility". So, in some sense, the electrician _might_ be able to evade unpleasant consequences.
Trouble is, he knew what it was for - he told the guy to make a suicide cord. Likely without telling the homeowner that it's bad or why. That's at least professional malfeasance. Perhaps criminal negligence. Depends on what happens. And how hard the authorities want to work it/make an example.
Which if it comes to court, you'll have the homeowner trying to shift blame to the electrician. Which the electrician may win, or he may lose. Most likely, both lose.
Losing _may_ mean more than just losing a license. Here, worst case, BOTH the electrician and the homeowner end up with fines and jail time, and the electrician will be out of a career when he gets out of jail.
If the homeowner could prove that the electrician advised him to do it this way, the electrician will "get it" worse than the homeowner.
If he's _really_ luckly. That's poor odds.
Secondly, consider insurance. This is a serious no-no. If that thing causes a fire or kills someone, do you think an insurance company will cover it? Not a chance.
Certainly, during an emergency, you gotta do what you gotta do. But planning and installing an illegal connection ahead of time is going to knock that excuse down the toilet if anybody gets hurt.
During the great ice storm, I saw worse things when we gave the worst hit areas some assistance with inspecting home generator installations. But those were jury-rigged during a dire emergency, and we made sure that they were as safe as they could possibly be. Disconnected the scariest one - but fortunately, he was one of the few who had just gotten power back.
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Chris Lewis wrote:

Is it still illegal (notice I didn't ask if it was stupid or dangerous) if you pull the electric meter before connecting the generator? Then you are isolated from the utility grid, in fact more isolated than if you had a transfer switch because those could theoretically fail.
You might have trouble getting the utility to reseal the meter, but I don't think that would be a problem after a protracted power outage (the "gotta do what you gotta do" principle)
Bob
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