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Thread: 2019 Hurricane season, Generator hook up notes

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    Member DCorlando's Avatar
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    Default 2019 Hurricane season, Generator hook up notes

    Hi all, with the 2019 hurricane season starting I thought it might be interesting to review generator hook ups. There are some real good options and to figure out what system to use I think it comes down to how the electrical service to your house is configured, how much to spend and how much DIY you can do. The convenience of using the backup generator is also a big factor. In my case the house has a main panel outside on the back of the house and a sub panel in the hallway. Some people may want to buy a large generator and run things like the AC or a sump pump that requires 240 volt split phase. In my case all I really want to be able to run are the lights in the house, TV, some fans and the refrigerator. Everything I want to run is powered from the indoor sub panel. Being a solid DIY person I decided to go with the Reliance ProTran 2. By going this route I can leave the outdoor main panel closed (might be raining during the hurricane ;-) and power up what I want from inside the house.

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    Small sub panel on a load bearing wall with the only mounting options for the transfer switch was a stacked configuration. The wires that came with the ProTran were long enough but I had to replace the supplied conduit with a longer section to accommodate the stacked config.

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    The sub panel was an update to an old house and to get GFCI protected outlets in the bathroom and kitchen a GFCI breaker was used as there was not enough room in the tiny outlet boxes behind tile to fit in GFCI outlets. More on this later.

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    The ProTran 2 was designed for use with 240 volt split phase. L1 runs B, D, and F while L2 runs A, C and E

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    I made a adapter cord that lets me power half of the ProTran from a 1500 watt power inverter. NOTE! this is only an option if you are not going to power up anything on 240 volts. The breakers are standard Siemens and the dual poll that comes with the ProTran must be changed out for single poll.

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    Here is the remote hookup on the back of the house.

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    This setup lets me use two different backup power supplies, the 1500 watt power inverter or the 3500 watt generator. As it turns out the inverter will not power up the new refrigerator but it would run the old one. Not sure why as when I tested the refrigerator it did not blow the fast blow 10 amp fuse in my multi meter. 1500 watts is well above 10 amps. Quite disappointed about that but the refrigerator runs fine on the generator. One thing really nice about the ProTran is a circuit can be can be routed around the transfer switch (not hooked up) so a light would come on when the grid comes back up.

    Depending on how your house is configured, perhaps an indoor main panel you might want to look into a interlock for the main panel instead as it is less expensive.

    Another low cost option would be installing just the outdoor power input box and on the other side of the wall installing a 4 plug outlet box not connected to the house wiring. This would save running extension cords through windows but you would still have to manually plug in anything you want to run. This would only work with small generator with 20 amp max breakers but I'm not comfortable with running cheap house type extension cords on more then 15 amps.
    Last edited by DCorlando; 06-02-2019 at 01:03 PM.


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    While the post is a good one, the depth of the electrical work here really requires someone with an electrician's knowledge.

    The setup I had installed has an auto-transfer switch on the gen-trans. If it detects a power outage, it auto starts the generator and automatically kills any back feed onto the main.
    One, it keeps me from having to go out in the cold (our power losses are usually in the dead of winter during a blizzard,) two, it keeps from having to fiddle with switches and possibly wet plugs, and three, keeps the generator from killing someone down the line.
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    Member DCorlando's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by LowKey View Post
    While the post is a good one, the depth of the electrical work here really requires someone with an electrician's knowledge.

    The setup I had installed has an auto-transfer switch on the gen-trans. If it detects a power outage, it auto starts the generator and automatically kills any back feed onto the main.
    One, it keeps me from having to go out in the cold (our power losses are usually in the dead of winter during a blizzard,) two, it keeps from having to fiddle with switches and possibly wet plugs, and three, keeps the generator from killing someone down the line.


    Thanks for the reply. Going back over the install it really was amazing how complicated it was. While Reliance has excellent instructions and videos the install did require a solid understanding of electronics. There were also some quirks that showed up when I first tested the system. Many new homes are going to have a sub panel full of arc fault breakers and perhaps some GFCI breakers. My setup does not play nice with the GFCI breaker. Even though there is no power going through the breaker it trips when the ProTran is switched from line to gen. GFCI breakers and arc fault breakers work much the same way by monitoring the current on the neutral. On the GFCI is the current does not match the hot the breaker trips. Arc fault are a bit different but I suspect they may also have issues with the ProTran. If you are considering a transfer switch and you have a panel full of arc fault breakers you would want to look into this.

    Killing someone down the line is a very valid point. A lot of people do not understand a transformer works both ways. If the power goes out and someone hooks up a generator without disconnecting from the mains the transformer on the poll that feeds their house will step up the 240 volts from the generator to thousands of volts and make the high voltage line on the poll hot.

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    I chose a transfer switch with interlock. I can either have commercial AC or the generator power but not both. That prevents backfeed onto the commercial side and getting a lineman hurt. I do have to throw the switch but it's in the garage and in the dry so no biggy. Wiring it is pretty straight forward if you understand AC. The pig tail from the tranfer switch wires into the 200 amp box and the items you are powering wire into the transfer switch. My genny powers everything in the house except my furnace and heat pump but I have propane backups for heat so no problem there. If you are going to run a generator and run power cords from it to outlets then for god sakes throw the main breaker so you can't back feed onto the commercial power grid.

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    Member DCorlando's Avatar
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    Another way to go is to use an interlock on the main panel, back feed with a dedicated generator dual poll breaker and manually flip on the breakers that run the items your generator can support and what you want to power up. This would work well on an indoor main panel without a sub panel. It could work with a main and sub panel but gets more complicated as you would have to open both the main and sub panel to select the breakers to run. One example that's not too bad would be everything off on the main other then the gen and the sub breaker and everything on in the sub panel other then the stove. (providing the water heater is connected to the main panel)
    Last edited by DCorlando; 06-02-2019 at 05:17 PM.

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    Super Moderator crashdive123's Avatar
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    Still another way is my Honda 2200i. It runs the fridge, a fan and a light for two houses. AC would be nice, but.............
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    My system consists of a generator with extension cords. But after 5 days with no AC or CPAP last hurricane I may set up something different this year.

    Alan

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    Super Moderator crashdive123's Avatar
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    The reason I went with the Honda was QUIET! After Irma a few years ago and listening to our big genny running for 10 days........ May get a second one some day if I need more power to run them in parallel.
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    Last time I used my gen set I lost power and after a couple of hours decided to go into plan B. I got it out, fueled it up, disconnected the hookup to the main line, plugged it into the house and watched contentedly as everything lit up.

    Ten minutes latter the grid came back to life.

    At least I know my generator still works.

    Years ago I used a Coleman 5k setup to power tools for an off grid house build, and power the house for a time. That thing was loud, as Crash has noted. I wound up building a small shed, complete with foam insulation and finally ran the exhaust through a couple of car mufflers to calm it down.
    If you didn't bring jerky what did I just eat?

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    Where do you guys store your big gennies? We have a big Honda but it has to be wheeled out of the garage into the backyard in an effort to prevent thievery. It's HEAVY! Do you have a way to lock them down securely? Thanks.

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    Super Moderator crashdive123's Avatar
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    Either a pre-made or DIY cage like the home flippers use to keep their AC units from being stolen might work.
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    Mine is on wheels. It's stored in the garage and I wheel it out to use it. When the lights go out I pretty much know it's out of gas or someone grabbed it.

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    40'x8' shipping container where I keep everything else.

    Alan

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    Administrator Rick's Avatar
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    I do hope you let the #1 wife out on occasion.

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    Senior Member kyratshooter's Avatar
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    Put that Honda in a little red wagon and let little Max pull it around for you!
    If you didn't bring jerky what did I just eat?

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    Quote Originally Posted by kyratshooter View Post
    Put that Honda in a little red wagon and let little Max pull it around for you!
    Max is succumbing to that old age. He would do his best if I asked him. But I will make this part of his life as pleasant and pain free as I can. Thanks for thinking about him.

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    Member DCorlando's Avatar
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    By far the best setup for both storing the generator and then using it is a detached sturdy shed with at least one window or other ventilation. Every time a hurricane blows through a few days later I see on the news another family died from running their generator in the attached garage. The only safe way to run a generator is either in the open or a detached structure. Attached are some pictures that may give others ideas on how useful a shed can be. Mine is multi purpose, normal tool storage with the mower taking up a lot of room but is very easy to roll out clearing space. After I get the mower out the work bench has full access. I made a corner shelf for more tool storage and under it I keep the flammable stuff I want away from the house. The generator has a sturdy steel frame so it is used to store the large chop saw. To use the generator all I have to do remove the saw and the flammable stuff then fire it up.

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    When running the generator I put a box fan in the window and it keeps the air inside the shed clean enough for the engine to run without issues. To refuel I hold my breath and cut the gen then leave for it to cool some and the air to clear.

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    Check out the simple cart I rigged up for the arc welder. Someone could rig up something similar for moving their genrator if they don't have a shed. Sure you can get or add wheels direct to the generator but that would make it easier to steal. If I did not have a shed I would make a cart, roll the gen outside then slide it onto a pallet and then lock the cart away.
    Last edited by DCorlando; 06-04-2019 at 12:08 PM.

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    Member DCorlando's Avatar
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    Regarding not having a detached shed here are some ideas that might be useful. Plywood is very useful before the storm to board up large windows then after the storm it can come in handy to perhaps patch a section of roof or to board up a smaller window that got broken. It could also be used to make a basic three wall with roof box to run the gen inside of. It is amazing how much the shed knocks down the noise of the gen. I'm sure a simple three side box would help too.

    Regarding making the gen harder to steal when in use using a post hole digger, make a deep hole, drop in a thick chain then follow with a bag or two of fence post ready mix and a little water. You now have a chain to lock the gen to and when not in use could be kept under the base of a small flower pot.
    Last edited by DCorlando; 06-04-2019 at 12:26 PM.

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    That's kinda what I was thinking. 3 sides and a roof. Maybe a removable roof for maintenance. Some kind of anchor in concrete. We've had it for years and it has single digit hours on it.

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    I have other theft deterrent methods. They make their own holes.

    In times of use the generator is on the back screened in porch. I only run it to keep the freezers cold. Gas is always in short supply at this times as well and I don't afford myself the luxury of full time electricity.

    I have considered getting a generac. They really aren't that expensive but I would have to either buy a propane tank. We don't have natural gas in this neighborhood.

    Alan

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