Is it safe to run the boiler off my generator

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Old 01-26-15, 11:05 AM
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Is it safe to run the boiler off my generator

We lose power 2-3x per year for days at a time, we finally have a generator to make dealing with this a lot easier but I'm wondering about hooking it up.

What I have is power coming in to an outlet box on the side of the boiler. the outlet is used for a condensation pump, but the power continues on to power the boiler as well.

If I open that outlet box, disconnect the power coming in (and shut off the breaker), can I safely plug the generator into the outlet and run the system?

It seems safe to me since I won't be back feeding anywhere, but is it ok to run the power through the outlet like that? I wouldn't want to ruin our system.. if it isn't safe, please let me know how people usually power their boilers from their generator. BIG storm coming today, almost guaranteed to lose power
 
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Old 01-26-15, 11:32 AM
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Short answer is yes, make sure the breaker is off for that circuit or physically disconnected from the rest of the house.
 
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Old 01-26-15, 11:34 AM
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It will only be as safe as you make it so.

Safety is no accident.

The PROPER way is to install a legitimate TRANSFER SWITCH.
 
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Old 01-26-15, 11:43 AM
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It sounds like you are wanting to make a suicide plug and use that to back feed an outlet on your boiler circuit. Can it work if done properly... yes. Is it "legal" or "approved"... no. Is it safe... no.

How do people safely run their boiler from a generator? You think a bit more ahead and install a transfer switch and cord to connect to your generator.
 
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Old 01-26-15, 11:45 AM
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The PROPER way is to install a legitimate TRANSFER SWITCH.
Listen to Trooper. Use one of these: http://www.amazon.com/Reliance-TF151.../dp/B000HRWG8U

One thing you didn't say was that you'll need a "suicide" cord to make your connection to the receptacle - male pins on both ends. If the generator is running you'll have live exposed connections.

Accidents happen. Do what you can to prevent it.
 
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Old 01-26-15, 11:46 AM
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Absolutely not!but what you may do is take an extension cord ,cut the female end off and connect the cord to the line side of the switch in place of the current feed,remove the ground from the box and tie it to the cord also,remove the supply neutral and connect the cord neutral to your boiler neutral.everything should be isolated from your service at that point.
Your first thought would be using a Suicide plug very dangerous!
Geo
 
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Old 01-26-15, 11:47 AM
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Thanks guys! Pilot, if it isn't back feeding anywhere else how would it not be safe... seems identical to a boiler wired to a plug to me??

that you'll need a "suicide" cord to make your connection to the receptacle - male pins on both ends
ah, I see... hmm
 
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Old 01-26-15, 11:51 AM
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seems identical to a boiler wired to a plug to me??
Which y'all may do things different up there...

All I know is that in our neck of the woods, cord connected boilers are not allowed by code.

They MUST be hard wired. Why? I have no idea, it's just the way it is...
 
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Old 01-26-15, 12:00 PM
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so I'll have to figure out the suicide situation, but it seems that powering the system like this is safe for the system, right?
 
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Old 01-26-15, 12:41 PM
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I believe what Dane thought you are suggesting was making up a 'cheater cord' out of an extension cord with a male plug on both ends.

THAT is dangerous!

If you can safely connect a cord and plug to your boiler and plug that into the generator, as long as the output of the generator is 'clean' ... good sine wave, low distortion ... then you should be OK... but this is a 'hack' way of doing something in an emergency. The PROPER thing to do is have a transfer switch installed.
 
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Old 01-26-15, 12:47 PM
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If there is a service switch on the side of the boiler, you can replace it with a double pole-double throw (DPDT) switch with a male pig tail. This will allow you to disconnect from the utility & avoid using a suicide cord. The male pig tail would not be live while connected to the utility power.
 
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Old 01-26-15, 03:16 PM
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Old 01-26-15, 03:36 PM
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Here is my lash-up using a 2-pole, 3-position switch:



I can't remember what I paid for the switch, but it wouldn't have been like me to pay $65. I may have used a 15-A vs. 20-A switch, but not sure. (My boiler is normally connected to a 15-A, a.c. circuit.) Notice the convenience receptacle that I added which is powered by the backup power source. Also, notice the male plug dangling.

My backup power source is an inverter that I can connect to my truck's 12-V battery/alternator. I have a heavy-duty extension cord that will reach from my garage down to the boiler. Even during an extended power outage, natural gas isn't usually affected. When my truck needs more gas to run the inverter, I figure I can drive to a filling station somewhere with power.

Some of you New England people might need such a thing within the next few hours?
 
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Old 01-26-15, 03:47 PM
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That looks good, as long as you are aware that SJ cable with the plug may not be 'code'. I know ppl do it all the time though... I would consider getting rid of that and adding a flush mount male plug in a 4" box next to the switch.

Could even get one with a spring loaded dust cover!

http://www.amazon.com/Leviton-4937-W.../dp/B00074USHY

Or, for that matter, put that in the garage and run MC cable to your transfer switch.

I'm sure a 15A would be fine... as long as it's on a 15A circuit breaker... and yes, I'm sure cheaper.

Some of you New England people might need such a thing within the next few hours?
Yes, quite so! 16-24 inches of snow predicted here, and gusts to 50 MPH...

Many of the filling stations around here have backup gensets ... after Sandy... that b1tc4
 
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Old 01-26-15, 04:03 PM
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I like that suggestion of a flush-mount, permanently mounted plug. Not totally necessary, I think, in my situation, but I can never resist any DIY upgrade. Where do I get one that will fit into a Rayco box or cover plate?

Regarding a 15-A vs. 20-A switch. I notice that I installed a 15-A convenience outlet. A 15-A outlet on a 20-A ckt is OK per NEC, but I don't think I would have installed it through a 20-A switch.

I don't need a dust cover in my basement.
 
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Old 01-26-15, 04:35 PM
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The flange mount receptacle by itself is probably going to run more than the outdoor one with the plate and everything... mounts on a regular box too.

http://www.amazon.com/Leviton-5278-C.../dp/B0017SOZ8C

I pretty sure the 4" covers are available with a single round knockout for that receptacle.
 
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Old 01-26-15, 05:20 PM
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Thanks! I leaning toward the weather-proof model. No holes to drill in a face plate.
 
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Old 01-27-15, 09:30 AM
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15 Amp transfer switch with boiler on a 20 amp breaker?

thanks Trooper! I've purchased the Reliance Controls TF151W Easy/Tran switch you posted from Amazon, should get it Thursday. My two concerns; 1.) should this 15 Amp switch be safe to use given my Burnham natural gas boiler is on a 20A breaker; and my generator can put out 5,000 Watts? and 2.) only controlling one circuit, will both furnace and hot water heater be operated by this switch? I believe they're both on one circuit but I'm puzzled as to why there seem to be two separate feeder cables powerning the forced hot water heating system. The hot water heater is a separate tank run on natural gas; there are two sheathed cables entering the Master Switch box; one is NM 12-2, but the other has unmarked black sheathing. Shutting off the 20A breaker cuts off all power to the master switch and to the Zone 3 switch in same 2-gang box; so I believe both the furnace and the water heater tank are on the same circuit; but I'm puzzled why there'd be two sheathed cables powering, if just one circuit. There's another breaker marked 'Water' on a second panel which is on the first floor; but that doesn't seem to control anything. 90 year old house, maybe it's an old installation that's been upgraded but never dismantled. I assume the main breaker panel is the larger of the two, that is in the basement right where electrical comes into the house. Thanks!
 
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Old 01-27-15, 09:41 AM
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Were you able to trace that black cable ? Most gas water heaters don't need power. Does yours have a draft inducer ? Maybe the black cable feeds that.
 
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Old 01-27-15, 10:02 AM
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thanks Geo so with my wiring (after shutting the main panel breaker);
1.) I'd remove the feeder black wire from master switch, cap it; and connect the black from my generator extension to that screw on the master.
2.) since the white feeder wires are pigtailed but don't connect to either the Master, or the Zone 3 switch, they must be the neutral...do I need to remove both supply white neutrals from their connected pigtails, and replace with cord neutral? or just one of the supply neutrals?
3.) green cord wire attaches to the supply neutral; even though the supply neutrals aren't connected to anything in the box? or do I add a grounding screw to the box and attach green to it?
4.) Is it possible that the two sheathed cables are on just one circuit? voltmeter shows zero watts on all screws of both the Master, and Zone 3 switch in that upper 2gang box that receives the feeder.
5.) I do have Trooper's recommended 15 Amp transfer switch on order from Amazon, so I need to make certain the heating system is operated on only one circuit; and, that this 15 Amp switch will work even though it's replacing the 20 Amp circuit breaker; and it will work with a 5,000 Watt generator. Here's pix I tried to upload last night to previous post...wiring
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Old 01-27-15, 10:20 AM
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thanks Pete; Haven't been able to trace that black cable yet. Its black wire either provides the hot for the master switch; or it goes directly to the thermostat for Zone 3. But when the furnace is not burning; and the circuit breaker is thrown off; you notice a whirring sound stop, and the system is entirely quiet. throw breaker on, and you hear a whirring sound start again; so it does sound like a fan; and assuming gas furnaces are totally quiet when not burning, it must be part of the water heater. I don't recall seeing a conduit leading to the water heater that could hold a wire; but I'll look again. Do the pics just posted, and my lengthy write-up describing the wiring from last night help?
 
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Old 01-27-15, 01:53 PM
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I'm confused.

Does pdoyle in MA = pwilly in NH ?
 
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Old 01-27-15, 01:55 PM
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I think something is wrong in those boxes... I haven't studied carefully, nor have I read the text...

BUT... it appears to me that you have 120VAC circuits MIXED IN THE SAME BOX with 24VAC low voltage control circuits, and that is a big no-no.

Are my eyes deceiving me?
 
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Old 01-27-15, 02:01 PM
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I'm going to be honest with you...

My opinion is that you should seek the assistance of a professional.

Yes, the White wires are neutral... that is something you should know before you even open an electrical box.

NO! the neutral wires are not to be connected to any GREEN wires, or to the box.

Seriously, quit before you cause a problem...
 
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Old 01-27-15, 03:33 PM
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No, pdoyle in MA is my only identity.
My initial post on this topic was in the HVAC forum, then was transfered by a moderator to electrical; so you might not have seen my initial posting.
 
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Old 01-27-15, 03:53 PM
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You may be correct; there are very thin gauge colored wires, like you see on a thermostat; in the same box with 120 VAC wires. I as the homeowner have not done any work on the heating system myself. This is a 90 year old house that I've only lived in for 5 years, and I've seen shoddy work in various places; certainly not done to code, apparently by unlicensed people. The Burnham natural gas furnace looks pretty old, though it gets routine maintenance annually by a reputable service company. It heats the house fairly well; considering the exterior walls have no insulation, and the windows have pulleys and don't insulate well.
The hot water heater was installed by a licensed plumber in 2011, and we've not had a problem with it.
Because of the mixing of the different types of circuits, Do you suggest we have a licensed electrician check all the wiring to bring up to code in the heating system? If it's a safety issue, then that's what we'll do.
No I wasn't planning on connecting the green extension generator wire to the white neutral service wire; it would be connected to the bare ground wires of the 12-2 feeders. I was just remarking that those feeder ground wires are not connected to each other or a grounding screw in the box; they're just loose. And especially with shoddy work, I learned never to assume white equals neutral; so just checking on that connection. But if we need to have an electrician re-wire the system, might as well ask him to install the transfer switch. Make sense?
thanks
 
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Old 01-27-15, 04:19 PM
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if we need to have an electrician re-wire the system, might as well ask him to install the transfer switch.
I agree, except delete the "if." Get a qualified electrician in before you create a shock or fire hazard.
 

Last edited by Shadeladie; 01-29-15 at 04:59 AM.
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Old 01-27-15, 04:43 PM
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gilmorrie; you made your point, and I will hire an electrician.
 

Last edited by Shadeladie; 01-29-15 at 04:59 AM.
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Old 01-28-15, 08:38 AM
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If you have already purchased the Reliance transfer switch,which looks pretty slick,I would button up those switches at the boiler,and only if you feel comfortable at the panel I would mount that transfer switch by the panel and make your connections there,the switch has a 15amp breaker installed in it may not be a bad idea to switch the breaker to a 15 amp it the panel as well,follow the mfg.recommendations for hookup.

Geo
 
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Old 01-28-15, 10:00 AM
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Thanks very much Geo; I appreciate it!
 
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