Generator backfeed revisited

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Right up front, I want to acknowledge that I know what I'm discussing is potentially unsafe and probably illegal. That being established, I'll continue.
I am the *only* person in the house who would go anywhere near the breaker box, much less throw a switch. I am also keenly aware that an improperly connected generator backfed to a main panel can injure a line worker; and I can assure those concerned that I am familiar with the necessity and procedures for isolating the generator power from the public grid. Under no circumstances will my generator be connected unless the main breaker is open.
So, assuming I don't royally f*ck up, tell me the truth. Is it truly feasible and practical to provide power to the house by backfeeding to a wall outlet from the generator? I'd only do this for providing "comfort" power (lights, tv, etc.) while providing direct power via extension cords for major power users such as frig, freezer, etc.
Without a long discussion about the legality, and assuming I'm a reasonably intelligent adult with enough sense to not electrocute myself or burn my house down, is this a workable solution?
Joe F.
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Apart from the factf that it is careless, and dangerous, you are likely going to be feeding through a 15 or 20 amp outlet. That will flow back through a 15 or 20 amp breaker. And this circuit is just one side of the 240 volt service. Any loads (about half of them) that are connected to the other side of the service won't see any energy. This isn't enough to be comfortable when power goes out. Both meters on my system sit at about 25 amps when we are without power and are conserving.
Do it right and put in a transfer switch, also called a safety switch. It's not difficult and it is the right way not only because it is the right way, but it works much better.
RB
rb608 wrote:

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Just use ty wire and duct tape to make the suicide cord.
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I have a transfer switch, But I have heard of people backfeeding. Try it and let us know what you learned.
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Chances are (no pun intended), I'm not going to do it at all; but the circumstances behind the question are that we have a substantial ice storm forecast & I just bought the generator today. I *will* be getting the correct stuff installed asap, but that won't be before the lines come down tomorrow.
Joe F.
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Then why not just run a few extension cords, Alot safer and your not exposing people or your gen to a possible blow. Also a UPS can Mess up a generator, as a ups will read a swing as a surge and go to ground. Even honda with stable voltage doesnt recomend it.
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The absolute worst thing to do is to try it when you have a power outage. Doing unfamiliar things in the dark and cold is a sure way to kill yourself or others.
Please use extension cords.
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I suspect that that highest danger would be AFTER the power is restored.
A "typical" SUICIDE cord would have MALE-MALE connectors: one each for, say, the dryer outlet and the generator outlet. Or it would be a cable "hardwired" into the panel via a 2-pole breaker with the other end a MALE connector to the generator.
When commercial power is out, the only danger comes from your generator. The linemen are "safe" if your main breaker is open. You are "safe" if the panel end (or dryer outlet end) of your SUICIDE cord is attached or plugged in. The danger in installation is that if the power comes on while you are working (ASSuming you forgot to pull the mail breaker FIRST) you will get zapped.
While you are operating the main danger comes from you MALE-MALE "extension" cord. If it pulls out of the dryer outlet, you have a LIVE MALE CONNECTOR! Since that "extension cord" will, likely, be running through a partially open window, anyone might be tempted to unplug and toss the cord outside and close the window. YOU might do that if you are not thinking hard.
When the power is restored you first impluse might be to leave the generator running while you "test" to ensure the commercial power is good. If you "miss" the breaker going to the generator when you turn the main breaker back on you might get a surge that can damage the generator before the breakers can trip. If you decide to "unplug" the generator you end up with a HOT MALE connector.
If you think clearly none of this will happen. But after a day or two or three or four of running about looking for fuel and load managing the house you might get sloppy.
There is a REAL danger.
Unfortunately, you can buy a ready to go generator from Wal-Mart of less than $500. It will cost you close to that much money to pay for and install a load transfer panel that will only switch some of your stuff.
You can buy the stuff to make SUICIDE CORDS at any hardware store. But you can't find a relatively inexpensive source of Double Pole Double Throw (DPDT) switches that might make it safer and easier to use your generator in an emergency.
What's "funny" is that the local volunteer rescue squad/fire department has a big sign out saying: Buy a Generator NOW! Since I live in an area where many folks get their water from private wells they should either take down the sign. Because if you are on a private well, the MAIN thing you want the generator for is the run your pump.

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rb608 wrote:

If you've come here looking for absolution for this unsafe potentially deadly technique then do what the hell you want and pray you don't end up on trial for manslaughter.
If you want to know how to do it right I will spend all of the time you need to help you do it right. The cost of a completely safe installation is not a lot more. When utility workers back feed an electrical service during emergencies they use a double block and break technique. They open the main breaker and pull the meter. The generator is then connected to the meter tails meter end. This is done for service to hospitals, nursing homes and the like. All you have to do is tell me what brand and model of panel you have and I will tell you how to set this up so that any member of your family can do it safely and easily. -- Tom H
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Oh, yes it is!
You can get a generator for $500 or less. A suicide cord might be thrown together for another $50.
I suspect that installing just a small load transfer subpanel (which look to be close to junk) would eat up $150 in hardware. If a "pro" puts it in, you are talking about another $100.
A "whole house" solution can cost a substantial fraction of the cost of an entirely new service.
What is/are needed is/are CHEAP ways of getting you generator SAFELY connected.
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John Gilmer wrote:

That of course depends on how you do it. There are relatively inexpensive ways to do it safely that anyone who can wire up a suicide cord could install for themselves. -- Tom H
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John Gilmer wrote:

Here's my DIY panel: I chose SPDT switches with a large break-before-make transition, and to the transfers with the genrerator off.
http://webpages.charter.net/dwarner2/GPclosed.jpg
http://webpages.charter.net/dwarner2/GPopen1.jpg
Note that the circuits don't have overload protection in generator mode, but, since the gen only outputs 3000W, and shuts down at about 28A, I didn't add breakers.
To help juggle loads, I added a remote meter at the top of the basement stairs, fed by a current transformer in the transfer switch box:
http://webpages.charter.net/dwarner2/meter.jpg
http://webpages.charter.net/dwarner2/meter.jpg
I already had a small subpanel box, which I stripped, cut, added the switch support, etc. I don't think it cost over $150, while dedicated transfer panels with the same number of circuits were over $300.
Downside: One of the switches went permanently open when I transferred the kitchen quickly under load. The refrigerator was probably running, and the inductive kickback of the compressor motor against the steet supply killed the switch. The main panel breaker did not trip on this "overload"
I'd probably do it over if I could find SPDT breakers that could handle overload protection AND transfer in one unit.
To reply, please remove one letter from each side of "@" Spammers are VERMIN. Please kill them all.
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The other downside to this is that if you attempt to sell your house you may well have to remove it since it doesn't comply with the NEC. Additionally, insurance companies are looking for ways to avoid loss payments with greater frequncy. They'd likely give you a hard time.
RB
Doug Warner wrote:

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The problems with the DIY transfer panel are: 1) only 120 volt loads and be switched; and 2) lack of protection since EVERY circuit could draw 28 amps including "lighting" circuits which are often only 15 amps.
The NEC owes it to the American Public to properly address the home generator problem. When they look at things hard they take account of human nature. They may well find (or encourage others to find) cheap ways of backing up the home power with a generator.

That would be 100% up to the buyer (and whoever writes the mortgage.) Houses are routinely sold (with FHA loans) that have sub-standard wiring. There seems to be a "don't ask, don't tell" about this sort of stuff.

In what sense? I have lost count of the number of home insurance policies I have had on various places and NOT once has the company inspected the wiring. The ONLY thing one company did was to send a guy to walk around a house we got at a bargain to ensure that is really was as big as we claimed.
If a house burns down and it is caused by faulty homeowner wiring in most places the insurance company will still pay. If they don't pay they risk the state regulators fining them. If it goes to court, a jury of homeowners (each of whom likely has a bit of "faulty" wiring) will take the insurance company to the cleaners.
Where I live, insurance companies can't hide behind pages of fine print. If they want to get into the wiring inspection business they can; but if they do, they have effectively "approved" the situation which can expose them to third party liability directly rather than as an insurer to the homeowner.
In practice, the companies recognize that they are PAID to assume these risks. The collect the money and if something happens they pay up.
The only crisis in homeowners insurance comes when home prices are falling and the only way homeowners can "cash out" is for an "accident" to happen.
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rb608 wrote:

If you backfeed the electric dryer outlet with the 220V output from your generator, it should work OK if the main disconnect is open.
Make sure you connect the neutral or you will have weird and dangerous problems.
Bob
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I guess the OP should also assume that breakers/disconnects have never been known to fail closed.
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That "may" be possible, however most modern commercially made "generator transfer panels" use circuit breakers to disconnect the utility power and connect the generator power to the house.

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Manual transfer switches use CB's to protect the branch circuits. GEN--OFF--LINE switches are used in manual transfer switches to isolate the load(s). It's a known fact that regular CB's sometimes can and do fail closed. Learn how to post so people can follow who's saying what.
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Well, there are appoved panels that have a mechanical interlock to ensure that only one of two breakers is engaged at any time.
IOW: the type of failure you described is considered rare enough that it isn't considered to be a serious safety issue.

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Which is exactly what the OP said that he is _not_ interested in using.

Electrical accidents are often due to either poor wiring or ill-advised behavior on the part of the victim. I can fully understand that some people who have never seen a breaker that won't open when turned OFF and/or trip on short-circuit can come to the ill-advised conclusion that it's a rare occassion; even assume that just because they turned a circuit OFF that it is deenergized and further arrive at another ill-advised conclusion that checking for voltage is not necessary. Interesting how those persons are usually the very same people who make the biggest stink about it (if they are still alive) when/if something does happen to them or others regardless of fact that their actions were based upon their own ill-advised conclusions.
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