Surge still blows furnace control board out

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Old 02-24-16, 08:18 PM
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Surge still blows furnace control board out

My friend and I both have standby generators. Power outages are on average once or twice a year. But at his house, when the power is restored and the gen shuts down, a surge has always blown his furnace circuit board. So we put a surge suppressor in the main panel. Result is that the furnace board didn't blow as often. So we put a second SP in the generator sub panel. Result is that the furnace board hasn't blown in years.......until last week.....power outage, power came back on--furnace board blew yet again. Question is...can we use a device such as this one as a fused point of use protection at the furnace? Otherwise, what do you suggest? Name:  20160224_211928_resized.jpg
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Old 02-24-16, 09:47 PM
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I don't see how that fuse will help. Fuse is for over current protection and breaker for the furnace is already providing that protection.
May be installing a surge protector for furnace circuit only will help?

Furnace circuit is usually low voltage and there is 24V transformer inside furnace. So, if circuit board is fried, transformer is supply over voltage.
May be replacing transformer will help as well.
 
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Old 02-24-16, 09:56 PM
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Power surge blew the board out. That is strange. I've never come across the problem before due to a generator transfer.
There shouldn't be any power surge unless your poco has some real issues.
 
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Old 02-24-16, 11:49 PM
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Off chance - What kind of transfer switch and how complex is the hvac system? Possibly has two 24v transformers that get put on different phases during the transfer?

If not a load shedding transfer I would think lots of other electronics would get fried if it was a real surge.
 
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Old 02-25-16, 08:19 AM
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I didn't see it as a Genny issue per se. Genny aside, the problem is when power comes back on there's always, for what ever reason, a surge from poco. Maybe poco does have issues, but a common thing I guess. Several points I'm pondering I need help with....

--What, if any, point of use protection can I hard wire into the J box at the furnace input?
--Or more specifically at the circuit board perhaps?
--Does input power go to the xformer first then step down to both the motor and the circuit bd? (Obviously I want to protect the circuit board) --Certainly the furnace doesn't pull anywhere near 15a, so my thinking was that why not fuse the power input right at the furnace to a bare minimum?
--Though how much amp kick does the motor start account for?
--Thanks very much!

And yes lots of other electronics in the house have previously gotten fried as well.
 
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Old 02-25-16, 08:55 AM
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Not sure how complex your transfer switch is but in some cases the transfer back to utility power can be delayed a bit until the utility power is stabilized,what kind of TS are you using?
 
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Old 02-25-16, 09:05 AM
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The problem at the house uses Guardian Genny 10kw. Not sure if that answers you fully on the TS.
(For reference I have a Guardian 13kw with no problem)
 
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Old 02-25-16, 10:41 AM
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That TS operates automatically ,correct? Do you have the model number of the switch?
 
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Old 02-25-16, 11:12 AM
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So what does the POCO say? Do they offer surge protection at the meter?
 
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Old 02-25-16, 11:16 AM
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It's a bit of a long shot, but have you seen any issues with other devices? Blown light bulbs, oven control board, etc?

I'd be looking at the transfer switch. Is there any load shedding capabilities being used? Maybe there's something odd going on with the LV vs HV side of the transfer switch? I know it's a long shot, but I can't imagine there being that much of a surge from the POCO multiple times.
 
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Old 02-25-16, 11:49 AM
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Astuff had an interesting thought about the 24V transformers -- maybe there's one on a secondary air handler or accessory like whole house humidifier, zone controller or fancy thermostat. I also tend to agree with Zorfdt that there could be something funky with the transfer. Maybe a contact is sticking or something like the switch bounces back and forth a few times?

Transferring back to utility should not cause any surge problem, but does cause some disruption to phase and frequency. Perhaps the genny is not running at the right speed and the high or low frequency and voltage is actually causing the damage not the transfer itself? Have you checked the generator output under load to verify it's producing good quality power in terms of voltage and frequency? Likewise have you checked the incoming supply from the power company for frequency and voltage?

Adding a fuse to the furnace will not have any effect. Something like an in-line UPS with online conversion would almost certainly solve the problem, but I'm more concerned about an underlying root cause. Is the furnace grounded properly? Is the electrical service grounded properly? Is this a standard natural gas furnace? Is there an air conditioner? If so, does the AC run through the transfer switch load shedding feature?
 
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Old 02-25-16, 12:01 PM
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Problematic is trying to cure an anomaly with a protector rather than fix the reason for that anomaly. For example, a transfer switch should disconnect hot wires before disconnecting the neutral. And connect a neutral before connecting hot wires. Was it wired correctly? Otherwise a voltage somewhere between 120 and 240 volts could exist on 120 volt appliances - destructively.

Long before fixing something, first the problem (reason for that anomaly) must be defined. Why does the transfer switch create an excessive voltage? That must be known before any useful solution.
 
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Old 02-25-16, 04:47 PM
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Although you should try to find any source or cause of a power surge, it is possible for one power surge to blow out the surge protector and the next power surge blows out circuit boards and other sensitive equipment.
 
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Old 02-25-16, 06:47 PM
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For example, a transfer switch should disconnect hot wires before disconnecting the neutral.
The majority of automatic transfer switches do not switch neutral. None of the ones I've ever installed switch neutral and I've installed generators up to 250kw.
 
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Old 02-25-16, 07:17 PM
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Lots of input thanks so much.

So Zorfdt you are saying it's unlikely the power from poco consistently surges on target year after year? So look at the TS? I will do that....(after I disconnect the furnace, oven, tv, etc so none of them blow again either.)

Yes other stuff in the house has blown.... TV's etc...... it is a 5 yr old basic natural gas furnace, no zones, DEH units, or fancy stuff.

So Ben, how do I go about finding an appropriate in-line UPS with online conversion?

And the thing is...myself and three other friends all have Guardian Generac Gennys--we live within 3 miles of each other. Only one of us, Gary, has this described surge issue.

Geo yes! The TS operates automatically.
 
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Old 02-26-16, 06:06 AM
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What is the model number of the TS,have you contacted Genrac to see if there is away to delay the transfer to normal power? many of the larger switches do.
 
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Old 02-26-16, 08:33 AM
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A couple more questions -- are you out in the country or in a town? What is the rough layout of how your house connects to the grid? Are you on the end of a long line? Do you neighbors share a transformer with you?

As far as the UPS, there are a couple ways to approach it. There are several manufacturers you could look at: APC, Eaton, TrippLite. Online conversation is in the mid-line / professional and above units. The key distinction is that it makes no direction connection between the load (furnace) and power source. All incoming power is first converted to DC to the batteries, then converted back to very clean uninterrupted AC on the output. This solution is based on the assumption that incoming power quality is actually the problem.

Hardwire UPS units are a lot more expensive, but would be required to strictly meet the electrical code. The other option would be to wire the furnace to have a plug which can then utilize a plug-in UPS unit. It's fuzzy at best in terms of code requirements on a central furnace to affix a plug.
 
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Old 02-26-16, 09:06 AM
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Batteries do not absorb transient currents. In fact, circuit theory (superposition) defines that battery as short circuit (an ideal conductor) for that surge. On-line UPS is to avert the long disconnect time switching between batteries and AC mains. It is not better at 'cleaning' transients.

UPS is recommended to cure a symptom; not solve a problem. Is a UPS on everything - every GFCI, the dishwasher, each recharging electronics, every clock, and every smoke detector? Solve a problem; not its symptoms.

A transient that is destroying furnace hardware and other appliances (ie TV) would also destroy that UPS. Instead, address the defect.
 
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Old 02-26-16, 01:59 PM
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During a power transfer operation, you will get a voltage interruption, also known as a "dropout". There should not be a surge event during the switching process. A surge is a high level voltage spike. Unless you are switching high reactive loads, like large motors, you should not get surges.
Is your furnace motor a multi-speed unit? Is this a high efficiency furnace? Do you have the old burned out controller boards to analyze?
 
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Old 02-26-16, 08:29 PM
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Ben...I thought about doing a strip or outlet type SP at the furnace. But I agree it will look fuzzy or jury rigged code wise, which I don't want.

Isn't there a J box SP unit, or another SP that can go in an enclosure that I can install between line and load at the furnace?

Other wise can I perhaps put another SP breaker in a subpanel type enclosure at the furnace? Or are they all 2 pole anyway?
 
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Old 02-26-16, 08:51 PM
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Isn't there a J box SP unit, or another SP that can go in an enclosure that I can install between line and load at the furnace?
It already exists inside every furnace controller and all other appliances. Described is a transient that exceeds what appliances are already designed to withstand without damage. Existing internal protection is robust. Problem must be traced to and solved at the source. Especially since anything that might increase protection would cost $hundreds per appliance. And is required on every appliance including stove, doorbell, cable or fiber interface, every kitchen GFCI, all LED bulbs, the refrigerator, each clock radio, etc.

Rather than seek a magic box solution, instead, ask how to identify the defect? You have not asked. Fixing a defect comes later.
 
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Old 02-27-16, 01:32 AM
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Rather than seek a magic box solution, instead, ask how to identify the defect? You have not asked. Fixing a defect comes later.
Okay, I'll bite. HOW do you identify the defect? HOW do you fix the defect once identified?
 
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Old 02-27-16, 08:00 AM
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Hey guys...first.....I doubt that poco will take an interest in identifying whether they have a surge problem. So this might sound out of the box....

On the furnace, what if I install a switch/GFCI in place of the switch/plug currently in place? And put the furnace on the load side of the GFCI. I'm thinking a good surge would likely blow, possibly destroy, a GFCI?

And then just to be sure....in the event that the GFCI indeed is destroyed, I can have it wired with a 3 way switch to switch normal power through to the furnace until the blown GFCI can be replaced.

OK....I'm putting it out there...what do you think?

Also I will at some point have someone evaluate the TS.
 
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Old 02-27-16, 09:38 AM
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A surge is a current. That means it flows through a GFCI and everything else in a path to a furnace controller - simultaneously. Long later, something in that path fails. Does not matter if a GFCI is destroyed. That same current has also flowed through and damaged that controller. Damage often is apparent long after that transient current no longer flows.

No such thing as sacrificial protection. Otherwise a fuse (that blows faster) would be perfect protection. Fastest fuse takes milliseconds. GFCI would take longer. Damage can be done in microseconds. Sacrificial protection is a popular urban myth.

No way around identifying a defect before solving it. Even sacrificial protection is only trying to cure symptoms.
 
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Old 02-27-16, 12:07 PM
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Well, c'mon, tell us HOW to find the defect.
 
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Old 02-27-16, 12:54 PM
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Since the thread seems to be looking for a solution, I will interject my experience with resolving electrostatic surges, smaller and faster, but the same principles may apply.
Apologies for not reading the entire thread so hope I'm not duplicating.

One of our primary objectives with circuit board design was to ensure that when the ground got hit, it raised all related circuits together, thus no funny currents across the board. Early on in this thread it was mentioned that two stats might be on different side of the panel, worth investigating.

but, giving this some additional thought, ground and neutral are not supposed to be connected until they reach the panel. However, there are circuits that would work fine if those two paths were in contact further out on a circuit and this parallel path could indeed result in a surge not being evenly distributed across the equipment. Wild guess, but from what I have read here, the problem is localized to this one house. If it is multiple homes then the poco would be involved.

As for trouble shooting this issue, check all related wiring to be sure the grounds and neutrals are not in contact before the panel. It requires a physical inspection as a meter will not work.

Also, the op mentioned that the problem went away for several years and has now returned. Review of any changes, wiring or equipment that may be related in time. For example, old style florescent lights would generate huge spikes when turned on or off.

Bud
One additional note related to the problem going away and then returning, a nail through a wire can make intermittent contact, in this case between ground and neutral.
 
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Old 02-27-16, 06:14 PM
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Thank you for your thoughts, Bud, but I want westom to describe the steps necessary to determine the problem as well as the real world solution. He (I assume he) has set himself up as the forum authority of all things concerning transient surges and he is quick to point out all sorts of reasons why conventional thinking is wrong yet he NEVER offers real-world solutions to the problems.

He is, IN MY OPINION, nothing more than a nerd that has read some (most?) very scholarly papers addressing the problems and then spout out the textbook "cures" that rarely are possible in real-world situations. I want to see something concrete from HIM that addresses the problems rather than just reiterating the problem itself.
 
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Old 02-27-16, 06:42 PM
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Bud thanks....yes history of problem is...(and bear in mind poco goes out average 1 to 3x per year. .....and there's been no wiring changes or other mods during problematic time span of surges.)

--surge damage reduced after the first main panel SP installed.
--surge damage gone (for a few years anyway) after after 2nd SP installed on genny sub panel .
--resurgence of surge damage (intended pun) to furnace occurred last week. (neither SP is blown)

Recap......

-Surges & damage always occur after poco outage when genny shuts off & normal power resumes.
-Simple furnace with no zones, no dual trans, etc.
-Other electronics in the house have blown also. But it's the furnace that gets hit most frequently.
-4 homes within 3 miles of each other including mine have similar gennys....only 1 has this surge problem.

Question.....Does anyone think that having the furnace on the load side of a GFCI just might help protect it...even if there's no gaurantee??
 
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Old 02-27-16, 06:57 PM
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Well yeah Furd....I, and assuming you as well, have seen surges do completely illogical and erratic things...like trip breakers and render them useless....(I've seen that and still don't understand why)

Indeed perhaps Westom doesn't see or experience these kind of almost logic defying disturbances firsthand.....And frustrating when a theory guy inputs this way...and for us, a way to say this simply.....
 
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Old 02-27-16, 09:39 PM
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Furd has his answer. He does not have the anomaly. You do. You decide and act on what you want to do - not Furd.

Good diagnostic procedure always identifies a problem before seeking a solution. No one has defined this anomaly. Correct? That is not a rhetorical question.

No interest (yet) was expressed in learning why damage is happening, how it happens, where it comes from, what its characteristics are, etc.

What specifically happens when damage occurs? Is it anomaly reproducible? What is every item that is damaged? was each powered on or off when damaged. What is used to trace that anomaly to its source? What tool exists to detect when an anomaly does and does not occur (since an anomaly can exist both when and when not damage occurs)?

Try this or wire in that - I can suggest another 100 such solutions. Choose to identify an anomaly or just start installing solutions on speculation. Don't ask. Just install a GFCI since that is only how shotgunning works.
 
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Old 02-27-16, 09:55 PM
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Question.....Does anyone think that having the furnace on the load side of a GFCI just might help protect it...even if there's no gaurantee??
I don't see a GFI as being any help in this case.
 
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Old 02-27-16, 10:21 PM
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In other words, westom, all you can do is use big words and blow smoke.

If you truly knew what you were talking about you would be able to EXPLAIN how to look for the problem. Since you cannot, you are not helping the situation in the least.
 
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Old 02-28-16, 06:17 AM
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Can you interrupt and reconnect utility power to fake a power failure with?

It would help if you could test your generator and transfer switch overall operation and check for power surges.

There could be a momentary open neutral situation within your own wiring causing a power surge maybe of just 150 volts which can be enough to fry some electronics.

(Unplug all electronics and also disconnect the furnace whn performing these tests.) Any power surge is likely to be very short requiring several repeats of each experiment.

Were all the items including the furnace that burned out on the same leg of the 120/240 volt service?

You will want two very small wattage 120 volt incandescent lights, such as a 7 watt night light, to check for abnormal brightness. Plug one in on a circuit on each leg of the service respectively. A fast acting recording voltmeter would be better and much more accurate but takes more know how to use.
 
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Old 02-28-16, 08:55 AM
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OK thanks everyone...probably the only thing I'll do is check for all the ground rods after the snow melts, then call a good genny electric trouble shooter to test things.

And Westom....While I'm certain you have a good mind.......but as Furd indicates.... we'd prefer input coming from practiced minds that have been in the trenches.
 
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Old 02-28-16, 09:04 AM
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As it happens, I've spent the last 2 of 3 weeks in an EMC lab, doing all kinds of testing to get a CE mark on some very sophisticated equipment. ESD, surge, dips, interrupts, conducted immunity, and more. Even knowing how to test and how to fix issues due to failures, I'm reluctant to offer high value solutions here.
With this thread, we have mentioned all from lighting, nails in walls, POCO issues and near magic. Throwing darts at a board. The way the OP is describing this, it fits into a power mains interrupt failure. That is, the power drops to zero for a short time; that time being between genset disconnect and AC mains connect. Even though I have an auto transfer switch at home, I don't know the typical switching time. I suspect it's in the area of a hundred milliseconds or so. If one took the panel main breaker and manually switched it as fast as possible, the dropout would approximate this.
But, this does not usually cause controllers to fail. This is why the next step is to analyze the controller board failures. That is "what exactly broke". Not so general as to say "controller board", but to ID the semiconductor, fuse, etc that failed. This is necessary to stop the dart throwing. I had asked the question of the type of furnace. Most high end, high eff furnaces now have 3 phase induction motors for forced air. THese have a number of semi's in them to create a variable frequency, pulse type drive to the motor. MAYBE, that particular design is sensitive to power interruptions. Note that during the dropout, the motor will be spinning. Some designs have rpm feedback circuits to control the speed. MAYBE the circuit is getting a rpm signal from a shaft generator that stays active during the AC out transition. It may hate that to the point of failure.
 
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Old 02-28-16, 09:53 AM
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Westom, we are here to help the member solve their problem. Theory alone isn't enough. If you can't offer substantive help along with the theory your posts may be deleted as non beneficial.
 
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Old 02-28-16, 09:59 AM
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Thanks...only thing I can interject is that 2 furnaces have been involved in the 5 or so years of the surge problems. The old low eff furnace was replaced for a better one.

And so surges blew the old one, and surges blew the new one.........
 
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Old 02-28-16, 10:34 AM
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AllanJ has asked same questions I asked. He also asked about your transfer switch operation that still remains a suspect for many reasons including one I originally provided. Why did you ignore how a transfer switch can cause that damage?

teleco guy also demonstrates how to address the problem - by first determining why damage happens. Other useful tools and tests exist. For example, a light bulb was critical information. And does not try to cure anything.

I have other tools to suggest. But one must ask rather than insult. That means first changing strategies. You never did ask; did not change strategies. You continued doing what I, AllanJ and telco guy are not recommending.

GFCI was clearly foolish. As explained with reasons why. GFCI will do nothing as explained in blunt technical terms. To say more, first a problem must be identified. Answer all of AllanJ's questions it you really want to find the problem before fixing it.

telco guy also said same. "the next step is to analyze the controller board failures. That is "what exactly broke". Not so general as to say "controller board", but to ID the semiconductor, fuse, etc that failed." He is being more ambitious. Since you listened to Furd, then what he suggests may be impossible. But he is correct. That is how one fixes things faster and the first time.

Furd only understands throwing darts. Adults suggested you stop doing that. Do what telco guy also suggests. But first you must ask adult questions such as "How can I do that?"

A simple tool can be constructed to actually do what I suggested - "Is it anomaly reproducible? ... What is used to trace that anomaly to its source? What tool exists to detect when an anomaly does and does not occur (since an anomaly can exist both when and when not damage occurs)?" But you must ask, "How do I do that?"

Not listed was everything that was damaged - essential facts. Or when each damage happened - simultaneous with what event. Also necessary. Those details are essential to a solution. Ignoring the child is also necessary. Not even provided were details on your transfer switch and how it was wired. Essential facts.

BTW what will you inspect ground rods for? The suggestion is good. But it also means you must ask what to inspect for.
 
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Old 02-28-16, 12:23 PM
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Have you always had the generator,or did this problem start after the install?
 
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Old 02-28-16, 12:39 PM
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Westom....not once have you suggested HOW the OP look for a specific solution. All you have done is break down and criticize others advice. Guess what...if you are no help, then your posts are useless.

Last chance...

Yes, this is public notice.
 
 

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