As the OP, I'll add an anecdote on this very tangent. I was rewiring an
attic light, and being uncertain which breaker was which, I turned the light
on & flipped breakers until it went off. In an unusual fit of caution,
after opening up the junction box, I tested all of the wires inside. To my
surprise, there was still a live circuit in the box. The previous homeowner
had run two breaker circuits through the same JB. Coulda been unpleasant.
Ya just never know unless you check.
It is absolutely possible and can work perfectly. I have a 220V (#10 wire)
outlet in my garage, whose original purpose was to power woodworking
equipment while I was building the house. When I have a power outage, I
throw the main breaker in the basement, plug the generator into this outlet
using a special extension cord I made (male on both ends), and away we
go--the entire house is powered, though it is probably not a good idea to
use the electric range, and my welder is not usable either. Just be sure
1. Throw the breaker
2. Plug the extension cord into the house outlet
3. Plug the other end into the generator
in that order. Reverse the order when shutting down. This has seen me
through 5 or 6 power outages (we don't get very many). The generator is a
5000W generac, not very expensive.
A possible problem with this, and why I didn't mention a "welder outlet
in the garage" in my previous message is the NEC allows you to use #10
wire with a 50A breaker for a welder. You could burn up the wires
without tripping the breaker if you backfed this circuit with a
generator bigger than about 7kW. (Also if you replace the welder with
one that has a high duty cycle and operate it at high power.)
You really ought to pull the meter (tell the power company you are doing
this) or padlock the main disconnect, just to make sure someone doesn't
come along behind you and turn the mains back on.
I've always backfed my generator so I can tell you that it works just
fine electrically BUT:
1. You can get electrocuted if you plug an operating generator into an
existing outlet since the plug will likely be male and easy to touch.
I plug the house into the generator via the female end of the cable.
2. You really need to do more than just pop the main. I have whole
house disconnects and actually put a padlock on the panel just to be
sure no-one else can touch it.
3. You need to sequence circuits manually or your generator could go
"poof". When my deep well pump is starting and running I need to
insure there's little additional load on the generator. Induction
motors consume 3-10X more current starting than running. You need to
factor this in to your procedure and you better not be wrong.
4. The receptable you use to backfeed the generator should be a high
amperage 220 v outlet such dryer outlet or you might not feed your
home properly. Once again you still need to ensure your balancing the
homes load with the generator outlet.
5. Your backfeed cable system better be capable of handling the full
amperage of the generator.
OK, I think I gave you the straight info. your asking for but the most
important advice is that things are at their absolute worst during an
It can be dark, cold, and you might be in a hurry to get things
online. Mistakes are totally unforgiving.
I have a detailed checklist and I follow it and double check it just
like an airplane pilot would. I also have practice outages a few
times a year.
Dave covered things but one overlooked area by most is load. As dave
said starting current is much higher for motors. And a good cheap 6
circut transfer panel for 200$ helps you manage that by giving you 2
watt meter to balance your unit. If you havnt actualy gone around with
an amp meter and measured starting and run load on every apliance to be
used you could not only burn your generator out but your apliances
to by overloading. No a generator fuse wont protect you. I dont know
what unit you purchased, but I will bet it wasnt a honda or other top
line voltage regulated model In which case you would be wise to
monitor voltage through your use of switching apliances. Some cheap
units can swing 40 v from no load to full load, with corresponding HZ
You may be saying BY BY to that new furnaces control board or TV ,
Amazes me *WHY* the utilities haven't come out with an "Additional temporary
input / utility bypass" meter pan?
-Bring portable generator to meter location.
-Open side access door of meter pan (Which physically disconnects meter from
-Inside side access is a recessed 20 or 30 or 40 (to match generator's rating)
ampere male plug.
-Attach female end of extention cord to meter bypass outlet
-Attach male end of cord to generator.
A solenoid operated ejector which, upon restoration of utility's power, would
"punch" the cord out of the side input socket and the door would spring shut.
Another option: a fireman switch on the door cover which would shut down the
genset if the door isn't open.
There is a connection hub that mounts on the meter base. You plug your
generator into it and manage your load off of your regular breaker panel.
You can buy one from Dominion Virginia Power for $995. Follow the below link
to Dominion Virginia Power's page.
Research on the web shows that some power companies will lease the device to
their customers for less than $10/month; Dominion won't.
A thousand dollars is a bit steep for me to pay to be able to connect a
generator to my house for the occasional power outage.
They have. It is called a generlink.
One catch they provide it as a monthly billed service. A mere twenty
dollars a month. That is not a typo they get 240 dollars a year for it
and that to me makes paying for transfer equipment quite reasonable by
I posted about the generlink several weeks ago. Dominion Virginia Power
wants $995.00 for it installed. They will not lease it. You buy it and can
take it with you if/when you relocate. It is nice in that you manage your
generator load from your existing circuit breaker panel. However, it is a
bit too costly for me.
How much would a 200A DPDT switch in a NEMA 12 (weatherproof) enclosure
cost? Put it between the meter and service panel and use it as a manual
transfer switch. Not everything has to be automated...
I don't recommend testing the matter, but unless your generator is grounded,
you can't get electrocuted that way. A severe electrical burn sure, but not
electrocuted. Think about it; what circuit are you completing if you touch
one prong? (okay, if you touched one prong with each hand, you could get
electrocuted, but that is reaching.)
You know, its because of people doing things like this that we end up with
laws prohibiting it, which in turn makes it more expensive for insurance,
installation and equipment to protect against doing it. Why not do it right
and get a transfer switch? Is it really worth saving a couple of bucks when
you run so many risks? The "I'll never do it" and " no one but me will
touch it" excuses have killed and injured many. Really, please dont cobble
together some lame system that puts others and yourself at risk.
During the great 1998 ice storm, a friend and I spent some time "inspecting"
homeowner generator installations (as a favour to a neighboring township, who
by and large were without power for almost a month). We saw a couple
of backfeeds, but none of the suicide-cord variety. And we did one ourselves
(of a 100Kw generator into the publics works garage).
Or in an earlier situation, someone doing a complete rewire (new panel
in a different location) was caught in the middle of a strike and
couldn't get the feed moved. So the electrician backfed the new panel
via a dryer circuit. In fact, _suggested_ by an inspector.
During an emergency, you do what you gotta do.
That being said, while a suicide cord is "simple", it's quite unsafe in
a number of ways, and frankly, while you'd probably get away with it,
it's _unnecessarily_ unsafe.
_Unless_ you install a transfer switch, I recommend you use extension
cords. If, after the power is out for a day or more, and there's no
expectation of power restoration _soon_, and you must must must have
backfeed, then consider backfeeding. Instead of a suicide cord, do this:
1) Do what you have to do to disconnect the main feed. Hopefully in
a way that's easy to restore when the power comes back. Just switching
the main breakers off isn't good enough (even with lockouts). Pull
the breakers, or pull off the output of the main breakers. Or something.
Pull the meter if you have to (and cover the hole).
2) Direct wire the generator into the main panel or outlet (presumably a
dryer outlet or something else large ampacity).
When power comes back, take your time and make absolutely certain
you have the sequence right. Turn off the generator _first_.
Chris Lewis, Una confibula non set est
It's not just anyone who gets a Starship Cruiser class named after them.
To begin with, this is dangerous. However, it can be done practically.
I have mine setup in a super-cheap manner. Outside, in a cement block house
with a poured slab roof, a 12kW electric start Generac, wired to a dual
30-amp breaker via #8AWG cable. I have that breaker clearly marked with a
label that says "Turn off main breaker before turning on this breaker" as a
reminder of the sequence and to minimize human error.
I am the only person in the household authorized to make the transfer. When
the Aug 14th blackout hit, I started the Generac, turned off the 200A main
breaker and turned on the dual 30A breaker, feeding Generac's output to both
sides of the bus. Voila, normal household operation (excepting my 10kW sound
system, which has a peak draw of over 15kW at full power output), but
everything else, well pump, stove, air conditioners, works fine. And never
in 18 years have I failed to execute the transfer procedure properly.
Granted, if I had a lot of money to spend on it, I'd get a 200A transfer
switch and a CAT diesel generator and automate the whole process, but this
jury rig works and outages are not that frequent.
The only way to do this is at the breaker panel. I would not feed back into
I don't recommend doing this, unless you can garantee that you won't be
backfeeding into the electric grid.
Mark & Mary Ann Weiss
VIDEO PRODUCTION . FILM SCANNING . AUDIO RESTORATION
Hear my Kurzweil Creations at: http://www.dv-clips.com/theater.htm
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