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IowaCowboy
Want to go back to Iowa
Premium
join:2010-10-16
Springfield, MA
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reply to IowaCowboy

Re: Portable Generator question

Click for full size
I pulled the cover off of the main panel today just to take a peek at the complexity of installing a transfer switch. Does not appear to be that complicated although I hope those two thick wires connected to the main breaker are insulated adequately (I am going to avoid those two screw terminals on the main breaker like the plague).. The neutral and ground are on the same bus (located in the upper right quadrant of the panel). If need be, I can have the poco pull the meter for an hour or two. The house was built in 1988. I don't like the sight of the aluminum wire but I think those are higher voltage cables.

I plan on wiring both 20 amp kitchen circuits (one has microwave and the other has the fridge) and the three lighting circuits and the GFCI circuit to the switch. The lighting circuits handle the plug-ins in the house. I need backup power because I have a medical condition that could be life-threatening in a power outage (I have to sleep on a ventilator at night due to life threatening sleep apnea). I cannot hire an electrician because I cannot afford one. The generator was bought by a relative last October during the snowstorm. It was a lucky grab as they were in short supply.

I cannot wire the heat to the transfer switch as the house has electric heat and the generator does not have the wattage to handle such a load. The generator is a 5500 watt unit. The water heater is electric as well. We have city water.
--
I wish I still lived in Iowa; Everything there from rent and groceries to Cable TV is much cheaper in Iowa (especially with an overbuilder in town).


fifty nine

join:2002-09-25
Sussex, NJ
kudos:2

You don't need a meter pull. You need to shut off the main.

The usual disclaimers apply, this is dangerous, better for a licensed electrician to do, yada yada.



pike
Premium,MVM
join:2001-02-01
Washington, DC
kudos:3

1 edit
reply to IowaCowboy

Aluminum service entrance cable is normal, nothing to worry about there.

There are some other issues that need addressing while you're in there, however.. the first one that jumps out at me is the white wires being used as hots (can't tell from the picture if they're double pole breakers). Additionally, the ground/neutral bus bar is a mess (I'm having a hard time even finding where the utility neutral is connected to it). Finally there's several instances of multiple conductors being terminated on the same screw.

I'm by no means an expert on residential work, so I'll defer to those that are to guide you through correcting this stuff.



IowaCowboy
Want to go back to Iowa
Premium
join:2010-10-16
Springfield, MA

The white wires are hooked into double pole breakers.



fifty nine

join:2002-09-25
Sussex, NJ
kudos:2

I believe they still need to be identified as hots though by taping them.


itguy05

join:2005-06-17
Carlisle, PA
reply to IowaCowboy

I would think long and hard about this as it sounds like you have just enough knowledge to be dangerous (and that statement includes me).

No electician would work on a live wire for a panel replacement. When we had ours done last October the POCO pulled the meter and then it had to be inspected and proof of that before they would even think about putting the meter back in. And it took almost all day as service reconnects are low priority for them.

Since this is a rental and you are not an electrician I'd never do any work on the systems. What happens if the transfer switch is defective and burns the place down? Since it was not installed by an electrician, that's all on you (and yes you would get nailed for it). Say something happens and it backfeeds? Again all on you.

I'd never touch it in a rental at all. Just use extension cords and be done with it. Or buy the place and then you can do all you want and not have to worry about it.



fifty nine

join:2002-09-25
Sussex, NJ
kudos:2

Wiring in a transfer switch does not have to involve a panel replacement. For a small selected circuit panel all you are touching are branch circuits.



IowaCowboy
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Springfield, MA
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1 edit
reply to itguy05

said by itguy05:

What happens if the transfer switch is defective and burns the place down? Since it was not installed by an electrician, that's all on you (and yes you would get nailed for it).

In that scenario, if the transfer switch was defective, then it would be the manufacturer that would be liable.

pike See Profile said that the wiring (done by a so-called professional electrician) in the panel was poorly done (such as using white wires as hots without marking them). They are 240 volt circuits because I recognize the breakers going to the electric baseboards as I turn them off in the spring and turn them back on in the late fall. I am wondering if the electrician used the incorrect wire to wire the heaters.

I have heard of 14/2 being used on three-way circuits instead of 14/3 and they use the bare copper as a traveler. There was an incident a few years back where a kid got fried because the the babysitter built a new garage and the electrician used 14/2 instead of 14/3 to wire a three way switch. The cost difference: less than $10 and a kid got fried because the electrician cut corners to save a few dollars.

I will agree that there are plenty of good electricians out there but like any profession, there are a few bad apples out there. Even physicians get in trouble for various reasons. It just seems with the rental properties I have come across that the landlord/developer hires the cheapest guy to come and wire the building (with instructions to keep it as cheap as possible). The electrician who wired the place has his name on a sticker in the panel but considering that this place was built in 1988 (nearly 25 years ago), he is probably most likely retired.

Another electrical project I have done (about a year ago and it did not burn the house down or electrocute anyone) was installing a vacancy sensor on the kitchen light, and my electric bill has gone down slightly as a result. With the high electric rates here, any device that can save power is worth the investment.

That loose piece of romex next to the panel was powering the timer for the now defunct lawn irrigation system (that was not in use when we moved in back in 2002) was powering the irrigation timer in a locked box on the outside and it was hooked into our power (which is illegal as it is powering landlord equipment on the tenant's meter).

--
I wish I still lived in Iowa; Everything there from rent and groceries to Cable TV is much cheaper in Iowa (especially with an overbuilder in town).

itguy05

join:2005-06-17
Carlisle, PA

said by IowaCowboy:

said by itguy05:

What happens if the transfer switch is defective and burns the place down? Since it was not installed by an electrician, that's all on you (and yes you would get nailed for it).

In that scenario, if the transfer switch was defective, then it would be the manufacturer that would be liable.

I'm not trying to be a d!ck but seriously think long and hard about this. If something were to happen, in theory the manufacturer may be liable (need to read the warranty very carefully) getting them to pony up may be a challenge. As well as since you don't own the place you'll have the landlord, their insurance, your insurance, any other tennant's insurance, etc all breathing down YOUR back.

And you can bet it will happen as everyone will be trying to deflect the blame and the easiest person would be the one that installed it - ie: you.

If you owned the place, that's one thing but since you don't own it, I'd steer clear or let a pro do the work. That way if something were to happen you can simply deflect the blame to them.

I've done tons of electrical work at our old house including wiring up the workshop area. But I'd not tackle a transfer panel.


IowaCowboy
Want to go back to Iowa
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Springfield, MA
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reply to IowaCowboy

The generlink is out of the equation as I got the following e-mail from generlink.

Thank you for your interest in the GenerLink transfer switch. We have been
in contact with Western Massachusetts Electric but unfortunately they do not
allow any consumer owned products to be installed behind their meter. Please
let me know if there is anything else I can help you with.
So this is the only option for a transfer switch left and this is what I may install. I can run the input in an existing hole leftover from when I had DirecTV (which has since had its wires cut). I read the instructions and it is not difficult to install.
»www.homedepot.com/webapp/wcs/sto···biYl5mc0
--
I wish I still lived in Iowa; Everything there from rent and groceries to Cable TV is much cheaper in Iowa (especially with an overbuilder in town).


IowaCowboy
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Springfield, MA
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reply to IowaCowboy

Not that I would let my kid attempt to do this (if I had kids) but just saw a YouTube video of a 14 year old teenager installing a transfer switch.

Not sure if his parents own or rent the joint but I'd love to see the look on the building inspector's face with it being installed by a 14 year old non-electrician.

»m.youtube.com/watch?v=7FfsPeY68PU

--
I wish I still lived in Iowa; Everything there from rent and groceries to Cable TV is much cheaper in Iowa (especially with an overbuilder in town).


PSWired

join:2006-03-26
Annapolis, MD

Other than the EMT setscrew connector used on NM cable at the transfer switch inlet, looks like he did a good job. The greenfield between the switch and the panel could stand to be supported too.


diroms

join:2012-10-20
West Simsbury, CT
reply to leibold

Do you have a more detailed description of where the neutral-ground bond is on this generator? I'm running into the same issue. I do see a short wire going from the ground screw to the middle screw of the outside outlet. if i remove this short jumper, is this breaking the bond? thank you!



leibold
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join:2002-07-09
Sunnyvale, CA
kudos:9
Reviews:
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Based on the published documentation that short wire is the neutral-ground bond. I have a different generator at home (generac) and therefore can only go by the manual.

said by diroms:

if i remove this short jumper, is this breaking the bond?

Yes. You can make sure that it is the correct wire by measuring the continuity between ground and neutral before and after disconnecting that bonding wire.
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diroms

join:2012-10-20
West Simsbury, CT

thanks for your help. do i need to remove the wire entirely? i attempted to remove only the neutral side and the breaker on the generator still flipped as soon as it was turned on with cable connected to house.



leibold
Premium,MVM
join:2002-07-09
Sunnyvale, CA
kudos:9
Reviews:
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Under no circumstance should a regular breaker drip because of a missing or present neutral-ground bond. A regular breaker monitors the current through the hot leg(s). It couldn't care less about what you are doing with ground and neutral wiring (with the caveat that a working return path has to exist for a current to flow).

It is different for GFCI or AFCI/GFCI combo breakers where an incorrect bond between neutral and ground would correctly indicate a ground fault condition and trip it, however that doesn't apply here.

If your regular breaker on the generator is tripping then you have either a severe overload condition (Even a 300% overload would take about 10 seconds for a thermal trip of the breaker. It would take almost 10 times the rated current for an immediate trip.) or a short circuit.

The first thing to check whether you are trying to backfeed utility power into the generator (which is an extremely dangerous situation). Disconnect the cable from the generator and carefully (without touching the pins yourself) measure whether there is any voltage on any of the pins. Regardless of the setting of your transfer switch or home breakers if using a lockout kit (try all combinations) there should never be any voltage between any pins on the cable going to the generator. If you detect voltage on the cable stop immediately and do not connect the generator (or anything else) to that cable until your home wiring has been fixed.

The next thing to check would be whether the connecting cable is wired properly. Especially with twist-lock connectors it is not unusual to see the wires connected in the wrong order because someone was looking at a picture of the plug instead of the markings on the plug itself (which are often hard to see). However with the L14-30 it really takes effort to mess it up: the ground wire is on the flagged pin (right angle bend, marked G) and the neutral wire is the opposite narrow pin (marked N) and the remaining two wide pins (marked X/Y or L1/L2) are the two hots (as long as they are not being connected together it doesn't matter which hot goes on which pin.

If the cable appears to be wired correctly on the connectors it may be defect (internal short circuit). With the cable disconnected from both generator and your home measure whether there is continuity between any two pins on one end of the cable (there should be none).
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diroms

join:2012-10-20
West Simsbury, CT

Great reply. I can't believe that I'd be backfeeding utility power to the gen. I'm using a reliance controls transfer switch installed according to the manual. with the switch set to line, there should be no power going through to the power inlet. i will check and see.


diroms

join:2012-10-20
West Simsbury, CT

using a voltage tester, with the cable still connected to the house outlet, i removed the cable from generator and verified that there is no power on any of the pins on the cable end.



leibold
Premium,MVM
join:2002-07-09
Sunnyvale, CA
kudos:9
Reviews:
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reply to diroms

said by diroms:

I'm using a reliance controls transfer switch installed according to the manual.

With all switches in the normal (utility power) position there is no connection from the generator to either utility power or the attached load even if you did get red and black wrong when installing the transfer switch. With red and black reversed, putting the switch into the generator position will connect the generator to the utility power grid instead of the intended load.

Is this one of the models with the integrated cable inlet or a hardwire model ?

With those models that have the cable inlet there isn't any generator side wiring that you would have to do yourself and eliminates the possibility of a wiring mistake. That would point to either a defect L14-30 cable or a defect transfer switch.

If you have a multimeter check the cable by putting it into the lowest Ohm setting (a beeping/blinking continuity tester works as well) and test with the cable disconnected from home and generator.

There should be 0 Ohm resistance or continuity between:
Plug Ground (top) to Receptacle Ground (top)
Plug Neutral (bottom) to Receptacle Neutral (bottom)
Plug Hot (left) to Receptacle Hot (right)
Plug Hot (right) to Receptacle Hot (left)

There should be no continuity (infinite resistance) between:
Plug Ground (top) and Plug Neutral (bottom)
Plug Ground (top) and Plug Hot (left)
Plug Ground (top) and Plug Hot (right)
Plug Neutral (bottom) and Plug Hot (left)
Plug Neutral (bottom) and Plug Hot (right)
Plug Hot (left) and Plug Hot (right)
You could do this test on the Receptacle end as well but the result would be the same and it is easier to ensure good contact on the plug end of the cable.
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fcisler
Premium
join:2004-06-14
Riverhead, NY
reply to IowaCowboy

»www.interlockkit.com/

Just put in a 50A kit for a 12,500 watt generator. I like these much better than the transfer panels. I just marked off which breakers to flip off (in his case: the stove. It ran EVERYTHING else) and be done with it.


Mr Matt

join:2008-01-29
Eustis, FL
kudos:1
reply to IowaCowboy

Check out page 9 of this online catalog:

»flipflashpages.uniflip.com/2/346···041/pub/

They show various temporary power distribution centers.