Generator Beackfeed question

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  #1  
Old 04-12-06, 02:04 PM
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Generator Beackfeed question

Hello

This is my first time posting. I spent the past hour reading all about generator backfeeding, or, more like reading about how it is against the law and not an accepted practice by any means. I have to say that I was JUST about to do this exact thing. I live in South Florida and just bought a 5k watt generator and I was about to make a male to male 220 volt plug to go from my generator to my dryer outlet to power my home and control the items i want to power by using the breaker switches. My uncle said to do it as long as I turn off the main outside - he did it last year during Wilma.

But as I said, we didnt know it was illegal, not to mention unsafe for line workers (by means of leakage). So needless to say we wont be doing that again. BUT, i am also trying to avoid paying the $$ for a transfer switch.

Which brings me to my questions.

First I have to decide, what exactly would I want power for? I mean, high powered items? Central A/C for a 1500 square foot house - i dont know how many watts that is but a voice in my head says my 5k isnt big enough. (so im going to get a wall unit a/c for emergencies). My kitchen fridge, and my hot water heater.

Here is my question. I dont want to pay several hundred dollars to have a transfer switch installed just to heat my hot water heater up. Since I can use extension cords to run the fridge i wont need a transfer switch for that either. My hot water heater is hard wired and takes 220v. How can I use the generator to heat that water heater up without backfeeding and without the expense of a transfer switch? Would it be more economical to have an electrician convert the 220 hard wire into a 220 v outlet so that it can be plugged and unplugged like the electric clothes dryer? Then I can run a 220v extension cord from the generator to the electric water heater.

Am i on the right track? Thanks.

multi007
 

Last edited by multi007; 04-12-06 at 02:24 PM.
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  #2  
Old 04-12-06, 02:49 PM
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You cannot convert your water heater to be a cord and plug device.

Why would you be willing to spend dollars on a generator and not be willing to hool it up properly? That makes no sense whatsoever.

You don't have a choice. You need some method that will allow one and only one source to provide power to the panel, without any back feed issues.

This means either a proper transfer switch, or a main breaker interlock.
 
  #3  
Old 04-12-06, 04:09 PM
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If you can deal without central hot water, some heavy duty extenstion cords will be adequate. I mean, good heavy cords -- like 10 gauge. The only way to use the water heater will be to have a properly installed transfer switch/panel/interlock. You need a very large generator to run an air conditioner. Your genset can handle a small window unit, but not much more.

You may want to consider purchasing a small cord-and-plug water heater to use with the generator; the type that are like a large coffee pot. Just check your wattage rating to not overload the generator.
 
  #4  
Old 04-12-06, 04:22 PM
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i going to agree with Racraft regaurding about the generator set up.

what you describine this as far there are very limited choice you can run from the generator and the load will add up fast and can overload or stall the generator fast.

i did see it happend before i work on alot of generator installements from little 7.5 Kw to monster one sometime bigger than your house is which it will support small to med size town easy.

speaking about Hot water heater it is not festible to converted to the cord and plug type [ the code are pretty fussy with this ]

you may have to start look around what you can run on the generator as you mention 5 Kw [ i genrally dont count surge unless you got motor loads then i will figure it diffrent ]

one way you can do is bring hevey duty cord inside and plug it in with power plug strip.

but after you run the small genny you will relized how much load it will take

btw for 5Kw gas powered portable genny will gulp about a gallon of gas per hour at full load.

Merci , Marc
 
  #5  
Old 04-12-06, 07:07 PM
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racraf - i understand why you would ask why get a gen without paying for the correct hookup, its not that i dont want to pay for the hookup, its that im trying to find the least expensive way to do my hookup. im not an electrician so the only way for me to know is to ask. (i was always told - there are no dumb questions..) also, it seemed simple logic to me that you can wire the hard wire connection of the water heater into a plug. there does not seem to be any difference between hard wiring and installing a 22volt plug. regarding the generator not being powerfull enough, i also im thinking that if the hot water heater has heating elements anything like a regular heating element would, if the watts going into the water heater is less than what it needs, then it would either a) take much longer time to heat the water, or b) heat the water to a cooler temperature, or c -0 both a and b.

both are not a bad thing for me. a warmer shower is better than a cold shower. but certainly not a good as a hot shower. but anyway...

somebody mentioned to me that you can even step down the 220v to 110 v and use the 110 volt extension cord to give the hot water heater some power to heat up the water more than nothing.

generally how much am i looking at for a transfer switch? this is a portable generator so it would not be a permanent hook-up. would it be connected to the transfer switch by a male to male 220 volt cord (generator 220 volt to the transfer switch?)

if this is costly, and backfeeding is a no go, then im not going to do it and just live with my coffee maker sitting by the bath tub to make hot water... lol
 
  #6  
Old 04-12-06, 07:15 PM
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First off how big is the generator? This is the deciding factor.

Absolutely NO, with regards to:
if the watts going into the water heater is less than what it needs, then it would either a) take much longer time to heat the water, or b) heat the water to a cooler temperature, or c -0 both a and b.
This is WAY off base. It is not the watts "going to the heater". It is how many watts is ths heater drawing off the genset. And forget the silly (not stupid) notion about running the heater at 120v. You are wasting your time and gasoline with that idea.
 
  #7  
Old 04-12-06, 08:24 PM
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Multi,

You and I are in much of the same boat...email me, and I'll give you some details... ******@*****.com

No e-mail addresses in the forums. please use the forums so we can all learn.
 

Last edited by mattison; 04-13-06 at 06:10 AM.
  #8  
Old 04-12-06, 08:39 PM
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lets read the NEC

Article 702.6 talks to the transfer rqmt. There is the following "exception": "Temporary connection of a portable generator without transfer equip. shall be permitted where conditions of maintenance and supervision ensure that only qualified persons service the installation and where the normal supply is physically isolated by a lockable disconnect means or by disconnection of the normal supply conductors."

How I read this is that if you choose to work your situation under this exception, you ought to follow every part of it. The part about being qualified, the part about a locking disconnect, and the part about supervision. If you attach your neighbors gensets without a xfer switch, it would certainly seem to open up serious liability for the "handyman". If you do your own temp. connection, then I'd want to be a EE or electrician, or have one at the residence. I'm not a lawyer, and I have no idea how a court would interpret this exception. But, I'd be real darn carefull...
 
  #9  
Old 04-12-06, 09:19 PM
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your in south fl and your worried about hot water in the summer

we turn our hot water heater off may through oct or so .

sounds like you got a genrator without thinking things through

I would primarly be worried about refegerator , some fans and maybe a microwave to cook on .

these need to plug into the generator direct unless you pay for the transfer switch

(actully I'm not all that sure that the water heater can't be put on a plug it was discussed recently on a pro board I hang out on and it seems to be a local code issue not NEC so you might want to call your county buidlg dept . actully they said some areas prefer it to be on a plug )
 
  #10  
Old 04-12-06, 09:46 PM
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I have a gas water heater. It needs 120 volts for the exhaust fan (it is a direct vent model that has a fan) and electronics. It has a cord and plug.

I have never seen a 240 volt water heater that was plugged ion or that comes with a cord and plug. I suppose somewhere they may allow this, but not where I live. Even so, a 30 amp 240 volt water heater would need a 30 amp receptacle. A 5 KWatt generator comes with a 20 amp 240 volt receptacle.

You connect a portable generator to a transfer switch with an extension cord. A cord that has a male plug for the generator and a female socket on the other end. The female socket fits into a recessed plug that is either part of the transfer switch or is wired into the transfer switch.

Here's the bottom line. If someone dies because your generator backfeeds the neighborhood, and they figure out it was you, you will be charged with manslaughter, where you could go to jail for a long time. That's the criminal aspect. After that there is the civil aspect, where you could lose a lot of money.

The reason that an interlock switch or a transfer switch is required is that people forget and make mistakes. However, a mistake won't get you off the hook if someone dies.
 
  #11  
Old 04-12-06, 09:53 PM
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Your little 5KW gen. would power a few lights, the refrigerator, and maybe a very small window A/C.

The WH needs probably 4.5KW. Central air is probably anywhere between 6 and 12 KW.
 
  #12  
Old 04-13-06, 05:06 AM
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Thanks 594, I didn't go back and re-read the OP. I see now it is a 5kw. You're right on all points.

NO WAY I'd even attempt to run a water heater off a 5kw, even though the heater is only 4500w.
 
  #13  
Old 04-13-06, 06:42 AM
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mangoman - i recognize the irony in living in s florida and wanting hot water. showering without heated water is not confortable - even if the water is luke-warm. coming from new york originally where the water comes out of the tap ice cold, you definately need a hot water heater, however in florida, the water is still 20 degrees cooler without a heater. plus the other use is to run the dishwasher.

telecom guy - The "exception" you mention is beyond my skill set. 1) I am not qualified to meet this criteria, 2) i dont have the knowledge to remove the 2 hot mains to prevent backfeeding.

As I have stated before, I am NOT going to backfeed the generator. So the fact that everyone keeps telling me that its illegal and unsafe and illegal, and against code and illegal, and blah blah blah. I get it. I thought I was clear. I am not going to backfeed.

As for the 220 volt plug for the hot water heater, im surprised it cant be done. there seems to be no difference between a hard wire system and a 220 v plug. anyway...

Any ideas how much (in general of course) a transfer switch would cost? Thanks.

anthony
 

Last edited by multi007; 04-14-06 at 10:44 AM.
  #14  
Old 04-13-06, 07:06 AM
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Here is a safe, inexpensive, code compliant way to transfer power to your water heater. http://www.electricgeneratorsdirect....roducts_id=268

That is a single circuit transfer; if you want more loads your into either extension cords or a more involved transfer panel.
 
  #15  
Old 04-13-06, 08:35 AM
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Interlock kits are very good options and affordable. Word of FYI, many utilities (most) require you to notify them of any generator that is going to be hooked up to a dwelling. They then must approve the method you intend to use.
Also many utilities provide a transfer device that they will install for you, you lease it or buy it. These generally are installed to your meter base.

Might want to take a peek at this to get a better understnding of portable generators.....
http://www.omafra.gov.on.ca/english/...htm#continuous

These are interlock kits......
http://www.interlockkit.com/kitorder1.html
 
  #16  
Old 04-13-06, 11:02 AM
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I have this one sitting in my garage waiting to be installed before hurricane season, multi:

http://www.electricgeneratorsdirect....roducts_id=314

A little pricey, but has everything needed to do the job right.

I'm confident that as soon as I have it installed there won't be a hurricane within 500 miles of the area for the next 50 years.
 
  #17  
Old 04-14-06, 06:32 PM
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Main Breaker interlock is your best remedy.

If you can tell us which brand of service equipment you have in your house we can tell you whether there is a main breaker interlock kit available for that panel. Interlock kits are less than $100. With a generator inlet box and the rest of the parts the materials cost is less than $200. The beautiful thing about a main breaker interlock kit is that you can then run anything in your house that the generator is capable of carrying.
 
  #18  
Old 04-21-06, 04:04 PM
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sorry for the delay, i was out of town. what i think im going to do is have an electrician come in and install the thingy (thats my electrician speak) above. I made a list of household items that my generator can run if connected to the house. ceiling fans, wall unit a/c, refridgerator, hot water heater and a tv. not all running at the same time buts its definately worth it. I was quoted $350 give or take over the phone by a master electrician. (i wonder if a elementary electrician would be cheaper? just kidding.)

Anyway thanks.
 
  #19  
Old 04-22-06, 08:31 AM
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Originally Posted by multi007
sorry for the delay, i was out of town. what i think im going to do is have an electrician come in and install the thingy (thats my electrician speak) above. I made a list of household items that my generator can run if connected to the house. ceiling fans, wall unit a/c, refridgerator, hot water heater and a tv. not all running at the same time buts its definately worth it. I was quoted $350 give or take over the phone by a master electrician. (i wonder if a elementary electrician would be cheaper? just kidding.)

Anyway thanks.
Thanks for the feedback.
 
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