Well Pump, Generator, and Questionable Wiring

Reply

  #1  
Old 08-28-13, 09:38 PM
Member
Thread Starter
Join Date: Aug 2013
Location: usa
Posts: 10
Well Pump, Generator, and Questionable Wiring

There are some things you should know:

1.) I do not know much about electricity.
2.) We lose power about once a month for 12-48 hours at a time anytime there is an electrical storm.
3.) I have now had three electricians out to the house and each one finds something very odd with how my entire house is wired in some respect or another.

That being said, the power has gone out one time to many. We have lost refrigerator contents or been extremely inconvenienced by having to purchase large coolers and make sudden runs for large quantities of ice one time too many.

So I bought a generator. The plan? We have a wood stove, we have a camping stove, and propane grill, we basically have the essentials besides water and refrigeration if the power goes out.

My Goal? Purchase a generator and run the well pump and my refrigerator.

I purchased a 5500W Generator. Fridge is good to go plugs into the 120v outlet no problem.

My big problem is the well pump. It IS 240/20amps (tested with voltage meter) and has a 20amp breaker in the main circuit box. The weird thing is from the pump control someone has wired an actual wire with a twist lock 125v 15amp male end that goes into a 125v 15am female receptacle in the wall that goes to the 240v 20 amp breaker box. (its a circular 3 prong 125v 15amp receptacle).

I am trying to avoid actually putting a manual transfer switch in as honestly I only need the well pump and fridge and have gotten a variety of estimates for transfer box installations from 600-1000 installed.

What I have ended up doing based on the "under the table" recommendations from two electricians, (a few others have said I shouldn't do this at all). I have purchased a 12g extension cord (only rated at 125v 15amp) and have a female 125v 15am female receptacle to accept the male portion of the pump, and on the other end of the extension cord added a 240v 30am male receptacle (black to x, white to y, green to w and nothing in the ground), which I then plug into the 240v/30amp insert of the generator.

So far no problems. The pump is turning on and off no problems, the generator is handling the load no problem.

But I guess i am looking for a more variety of opinions. Both electricians that said I could do this said it wasn't to code and wasn't "kosher" but for temporary use they wouldn't have a problem running this setup themselves. The other two electricians seemed to be more code oriented and wouldn't recommend anything other than the installation of a transfer switch and said I was risking burning down my house by performing this workaround.

The power is on now, but at some point it will go out again. Before I actually run this setup for the well pump for a potentially extended time (and honesty the water will only be plugged in periodically throughout the day (for showers, and refilling the toilets) in power outage situation I figured I would get some further opinions.

So is this actually super dangerous? Or is this kosher in the respect I only need intermittent water service from the pump and running the fridge is my only other main concern?

Again since I know nothing about electricity really and am going off differing opinions from differing electricians I am looking for further opinions.

So the Cliffs if this makes sense:
1) My water Pump is 240/20
2) The Pump plugs into the wall into a 125v/15amp female recepticle via a 125v/15amp twist lock male receptacle and goes to the 240/20 amp in the circuit box.
3) I have made an extension cord that is 125v/15am female and accepts the pumps 125v/15am male receptacle. The other end of the extension chord is a 240v/30am male receptacle that plugs into the 240v/30am receptacle of the generator.
4) The setup is working fine but I have only tested it a short period of time.
5) I am looking for others opinions about this (I know it isn't code, but do you think this is acceptable in emergency situations)
6) Just for anyone that is confused there is NO BACK FEEDING going on here.

If this makes no sense either just let me know, like I said I am not electrically inclined.
 
Sponsored Links
  #2  
Old 08-28-13, 10:15 PM
PJmax's Avatar
Group Moderator
Join Date: Oct 2012
Location: Northern NJ - USA
Posts: 46,124
Welcome to the forums.

The Pump plugs into the wall into a 125v/15amp female recepticle via a 125v/15amp twist lock male receptacle and goes to the 240/20 amp in the circuit box.
I understand what you are trying to do when the power is off but the normal day-to-day connection should be safe and rated for the job. Why didn't you use the proper 240v twist locks ?

black to x, white to y, green to w and nothing in the ground)
Actually it's black to x, white to y and green to ground. The w is not used.
 
  #3  
Old 08-28-13, 10:23 PM
Nashkat1's Avatar
Member
Join Date: Mar 2012
Location: USA
Posts: 8,470
The only problem I see with what you've posted, other than the connections noted by PJ, is a bit of terminology. There's no such thing as a "male receptacle." Plugs are male. Receptacles are female.

I wouldn't lay that extension cord close to anything flammable. That said, I'm puzzled as to why it's only rated to 15A if it has #12 AWG conductors in it. Should be good for 20A, I would think.
 
  #4  
Old 08-28-13, 10:51 PM
Member
Thread Starter
Join Date: Aug 2013
Location: usa
Posts: 10
Well I didn't do the original pump wiring and I'm not in the know how as to how to remove the 125v/15 amp receptacle from the wall as well as the 125v/15amp plug from the pump and replace them both with a proper 240/20amp one. I PROBABLY could do it, but the less I mess with permanent electricity the better (that being said, based on your suggestions, I'm not sure why the electricians I've had out haven't made the suggestion or offered to replace or rewire the pump so I could just do a 240/20 straight into the generator). I really just want to make sure that in emergency situations this setup i have is ok.

As for your second question, for the extension cord, I have the pump controller (120/15 plug) male end going into a 120/15 female end of the extension cord (black to gold, white to sliver, and green to green), then the other end of the extension is the 240/30 amp male end (I have wired black to x, white to y, and green to w as the electrician said I needed two "hot" and no ground... so that is how i have it wired as stated earlier --> black to x, white to y, and green to w, with the colored green ground slot empty) and this plugs into the 230/30a plugin of the generator.

The setup is working well, after 10 minutes the extension cord wasn't getting hot to the touch, and I had the shower running/toilets/faucets running to cycle the pump 15-20 times, so I assume as long as we are plugging the water pump only when needed (5-10 minute showers, and intermittently to fill the water pump reservoir for the toilets and drinking water) that its "fairly" safe?
 
  #5  
Old 08-28-13, 10:58 PM
Nashkat1's Avatar
Member
Join Date: Mar 2012
Location: USA
Posts: 8,470
for the extension cord, I have the pump controller (120/15 plug) male end going into a 120/15 female end of the extension cord (black to gold, white to sliver, and green to green), then the other end of the extension is the 240/30 amp male end (I have wired black to x, white to y, and green to w as the electrician said I needed two "hot" and no ground...
For a straight single-phase 240V circuit you need two hots and a ground. No neutral. You need to move the green to ground as PJ suggested.

I'm sure that's what your electrician meant.
 
  #6  
Old 08-29-13, 01:29 AM
Member
Join Date: Mar 2006
Location: Wet side of Washington state.
Posts: 18,399
Extension cords are made of flexible cable. There are two main categories of flexible cable in general usage, type S and type SJ. There will likely be additional letters after the S or SJ but right now these are the letters I will address.

Type S flexible cable denotes a cable with conductors rated to a maximum of 600 volts. The S by itself denotes a "hard service" cord and the type S cord has a lot of insulation around the conductors to protect the entire cable from damage. Type SJ is similar but with less insulation; the J designation means "junior" so SJ is "junior hard service" cord. It is insulated to a maximum of 300 volts. Either type S or type SJ is suitable for use as an interconnect between the generator and the point of use. The type S would be a more rugged cord.

The primary code deficiency is using plugs and receptacles rated at 15 amperes and 125 volts as was done on the pump wiring. These should have been and should be replaced with plug and receptacle rated at 20 amperes and 250 volts. This is easy enough to do and in this particular instance three-prong plug and receptacle is proper, you do not need four prong. The interconnect cable should be a #10 type S or SJ. The generator end will have the proper four prong plug to fit the generator and the pump end will have the proper three prong connector to fit the pump plug. A three conductor cable is sufficient ONLY if you use this interconnect for the water pump only.

If you think you might at some future date want to install a proper transfer switch or transfer panel then you really should use a four-conductor interconnect cable from the generator to the pump. This way by only changing the connector on the pump end to a four prong you will be able to connect to a standard power INLET connection. Using a three conductor cable will NOT allow you to use the same cable in the future.


Nashkat1 asks, "That said, I'm puzzled as to why it's only rated to 15A if it has #12 AWG conductors in it. Should be good for 20A, I would think.
Flexible cables are rated differently than fixed wiring. The chart is in Article 3 near chart 3.16. I've mislaid my NEC but just off the top of my head as I recall a #12 flexible cable is limited to only 15 amperes and a #10 is limited to 25 amperes. These ratings are routinely ignored in favor of the ratings (Ampacities) for fixed wiring but...
 
  #7  
Old 08-29-13, 07:52 AM
Nashkat1's Avatar
Member
Join Date: Mar 2012
Location: USA
Posts: 8,470
Flexible cables are rated differently than fixed wiring. The chart is in Article 3 near chart 3.16. I've mislaid my NEC but just off the top of my head as I recall a #12 flexible cable is limited to only 15 amperes and a #10 is limited to 25 amperes. These ratings are routinely ignored in favor of the ratings (Ampacities) for fixed wiring but...
Yes, they do get rated differently. Also, among its many wonderful features, the NEC gets rearranged every so often. I found this in Table 400.5(A)(1) Allowable Ampacity for Flexible Cords and Cables, in the 2011 edition:

Copper Conductor Size (AWG), 12 Thermoset Types S, SJ Column A, 20 Column B, 25
 
  #8  
Old 08-29-13, 11:06 AM
Member
Join Date: Mar 2010
Location: USA
Posts: 3,093
Nothing wrong with unplugging equipment and appliances from the usual wall receptacles and plugging them into extension cords to connect to the generator.

If a piece of equipment such as a pump is indoors and you do not want to stretch the extension cord out a window or door, then there is nothing wrong with installing an ordinary receptacle on the wall inside and connect it to nothing but a "male receptacle" on the wall outside to which you attach the generator cord.

But if the generator connection actually connected to the male receptacle is rated at X amperes then all the (female) receptacles connected to that segment of line directly must have the same rating. For example if the generator feed is 240 volts at 30 amps, the wiring subsystem may not have 20 amp (or 15 amp) wall receptacles connected directly. Lesser rated regular receptacles may be added to this subsystem via a subpanel between the regular receptacles on the inside and the male receptacle on the outside. This subpanel might be fed only from the male receptacle and have no connection to any wiring or receptacles associated with the regular house wiring.

Mod note: In the NEC outlet is defined as: Outlet. A point on the wiring system at which current is taken to supply utilization equipment. That can be a light, a switch, a junction box, receptacle, even a breaker box.
 

Last edited by ray2047; 08-29-13 at 11:44 AM.
  #9  
Old 08-29-13, 01:30 PM
Member
Thread Starter
Join Date: Aug 2013
Location: usa
Posts: 10
Thanks for all the input everyone.

So basically as everyone has said its not Code and not Approved to do this. But again what are safety concerns? Overloading extension cord? Somehow ruining the well pump? (that would be bad too). I'm assuming much of the concern comes from the different amperage issues - the circuit breaker in the house is 200v 20amp), the pump is wired with 120/15amp recepticle and plug, and the generator is 220/30amp.

As far as the 220/30amp plug I am using: I will change the neutral into the ground section, but with the current setup what exactly is going on? The pump is working well (i am assuming because it is getting 220v) but what is going on with having the ground going to neutral into the generator? Thanks.
 
  #10  
Old 08-30-13, 01:51 AM
Member
Join Date: Mar 2006
Location: Wet side of Washington state.
Posts: 18,399
As far as the 220/30amp plug I am using: I will change the neutral into the ground section, but with the current setup what exactly is going on? The pump is working well (i am assuming because it is getting 220v) but what is going on with having the ground going to neutral into the generator?
Equipment ground and neutral are at the same voltage potential since they are "bonded" (connected together) in the service (main) panel. There are technical reasons why you need to connect the equipment ground to the proper conductor having to do with parallel return paths for the power used. This is perhaps slightly less important for a straight 240 volt load (your pump) than in a mixed 240/120 volt circuit. Nevertheless, maintaining the protocol of having the equipment grounding conductor separate from the neutral conductor (unused in the case of a 240 volt only load) IS a very good idea.


...the pump is wired with 120/15amp recepticle and plug,...
This absolutely needs to be changed. You do NOT want the ability to ever be able to plug a 120 volt appliance into a 240 volt only receptacle. Nor do you want the ability to ever plug the pump into a 120 volt source as it will destroy the pump motor. Replace both the receptacle (use a single position receptacle) and the plug with a 20 ampere, 250 volt twist lock model. Follow my previous recommendations concerning the interconnect cable from the generator to the pump.
 
Reply

Posting Rules
You may not post new threads
You may not post replies
You may not post attachments
You may not edit your posts

BB code is On
Smilies are On
[IMG] code is On
HTML code is Off
Trackbacks are Off
Pingbacks are Off
Refbacks are Off


Thread Tools
Search this Thread
Display Modes