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Frink
Professor
Premium
join:2000-07-13
Scotch Plains, NJ

2 edits

Generator doesn't work with Power Vent Hot Water Heater

Click for full size
I have a 4000w peak watt portable gene, and am having problems getting it to run my power vent gas water heater. The electronics come on when I plug it in but shortly the error indicator lights on my AO Smith indicate "High Resistance to Earth Ground" see pic. I have a 8awg wire attached to the ground bolt on the gene, and that is attached to a 10awg wire which is in the ground about 6 inches, 25 ft away. The same receptacle powers other devices, a freezer, sump pump, just fine (not at the same time though) but the heater just doesn't want to run. Anyone have any ideas? Here is the manual... TIA!!

»www.hotwater.com/lit/im/res_gas/319688.pdf


shdesigns
Powered By Infinite Improbabilty Drive
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join:2000-12-01
Stone Mountain, GA

Re: Generator doesn't work with Direct Vent Hot Water Heater

Sounds like you generator does not have neutral tied to ground.



ArgMeMatey

join:2001-08-09
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reply to Frink

said by Frink:

I have a 8awg wire attached to the ground bolt on the gene, and that is attached to a 10awg wire which is in the ground about 6 inches, 25 ft away.

#1. I don't understand what you mean by, "attached ... in the ground about 6 inches, 25 ft away." Are they connected by metallic wire, or are you depending on actual "earth" for the connection?

#2. Are you running through a transfer switch, or did you disconnect this from the utility power? Just wondering if there's somewhere hot & neutral got flipped. I assume you're not backfeeding. Right?

#3. This is a power vent heater. A direct vent does not require any power.
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leibold
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reply to Frink

That 10awg wire that is 6 inches deep in the earth probably doesn't qualify as a proper ground (it would have to be a very long wire to provide sufficient contact surface and the soil conditions would have to be just right to get away with such a shallow depth). Other then dissipating static electricity (which is also important) this wire is not useful.

Even if you had a wire from the generator ground bolt to the grounding rod of your home (which is the best way to ground the generator) your water heater would still complain unless there is a bond between the neutral from your generator to ground (meaning the equipment grounding conductor for your home and not the 10 awg wire attached to your generator).

This bond can be inside the generator (some come this way from the factory) and if you are directly plugging in appliances to the generator (using extension cords) that is where it needs to be.

If you are using a transfer switch (or generator lockout kit) the neutral ground bonding is inside your main electric panel (in that case the neutral should not be also bonded to ground inside the generator).
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Frink
Professor
Premium
join:2000-07-13
Scotch Plains, NJ
reply to ArgMeMatey

Ah yes power vent thank you.

The gene has a ground bolt on it, I ran 25 feet of 8awg stranded wire from that bolt, to a stake of solid 10awg which I stripped of insulation and drove into the ground about 6 inches.

No transfer switch, I run extension cords direct.

I know it isn't the best thing to ask advice on, but is there any way I could circumvent that neutral to ground requirement or build a junction to do that in between the gene and the heater? I am no electrician obviously, but I would literally be sitting in front of the thing for the 20minutes it takes to heat the water then disconnect it...my wife and kids are starting to stink



leibold
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said by Frink:

is there any way I could circumvent that neutral to ground requirement

That requirement is for your safety and hopefully your water heater is built in such a way to make it more difficult to bypass the safety feature then it is to use it properly.

At the minimum you need to connect neutral and ground at your generator (that is easy enough to do). However I would also suggest to take that 25ft 8 awg wire and connect the generator ground to your building ground (at the grounding rod would be perfect but anywhere is better then that 10 awg wire stuck in the earth).
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alkizmo

join:2007-06-25
Pierrefonds, QC
kudos:1
reply to Frink

said by Frink:

is there any way I could circumvent that neutral to ground requirement or build a junction to do that in between the gene and the heater?

Now I'll probably get grilled for this, but:

Find a 3-prong plug that you can "dispose" of, as in, you don't care.

Cut off the cable on that plug while leaving a good 3 to 6 inches of cable still on it.

Strip the green and white wires inside that cable, and join them together with a wire nut. (Cut off the "hot" prong and cap the "hot" wire). Then plug that into a free socket on your generator. That will make a "removable" neutral/ground bond.

Now if it's "safe", I don't know, I just know it's not the proper way to do it, but I'm guessing you're in an "emergency" situation.


Frink
Professor
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join:2000-07-13
Scotch Plains, NJ

Thanks everyone for your input. Greatly appreciated.



Frink
Professor
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join:2000-07-13
Scotch Plains, NJ
reply to alkizmo

said by alkizmo:

said by Frink:

is there any way I could circumvent that neutral to ground requirement or build a junction to do that in between the gene and the heater?

Now I'll probably get grilled for this, but:

Find a 3-prong plug that you can "dispose" of, as in, you don't care.

Cut off the cable on that plug while leaving a good 3 to 6 inches of cable still on it.

Strip the green and white wires inside that cable, and join them together with a wire nut. (Cut off the "hot" prong and cap the "hot" wire). Then plug that into a free socket on your generator. That will make a "removable" neutral/ground bond.

Now if it's "safe", I don't know, I just know it's not the proper way to do it, but I'm guessing you're in an "emergency" situation.

So, in theory of course, I would plug that modified plug in to one of the two 120v outlets on the front of the generator, then the second would go straight to the water heater, correct? ...and wouldn't connect anything else for the period of time the heater needs to run, then remove the modified plug once complete. Thanks.


alkizmo

join:2007-06-25
Pierrefonds, QC
kudos:1

The modified plug would join the ground to the neutral. Your WH is looking for that bond so it can know it was properly grounded.



Frink
Professor
Premium
join:2000-07-13
Scotch Plains, NJ

said by alkizmo:

The modified plug would join the ground to the neutral. Your WH is looking for that bond so it can know it was properly grounded.

Got it, so if I have two 120v 3 prong outlets on my generator, one gets the modified plug, and the second just goes to the WH?


alkizmo

join:2007-06-25
Pierrefonds, QC
kudos:1

said by Frink:

Got it, so if I have two 120v 3 prong outlets on my generator, one gets the modified plug, and the second just goes to the WH?

Yes exactly, you gotta sacrifice one outlet for the modified plug.

If you can wait, I would hold out until one of our pros come to comment in this thread. I'm not even sure if I would do this modification myself without having my generator's chassis grounded to the house's ground.


jack b
Gone Fishing
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join:2000-09-08
Cape Cod
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1 edit
reply to Frink

Did you confirm the hot/neutral polarity is correct on your supply "cord"?

And YES, most portable generators have a floating neutral that is NOT electrically bonded to the generators ground conductor.



tp0d
yabbazooie
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join:2001-02-13
Carnegie, PA
kudos:5
reply to alkizmo

I`m an AO Smith warranty service agent, and I can honestly say I havent run into this situation yet.

The control needs a good ground to prove flame properly. If you bond the water heater to the ground rod, it may work. (ie-- run a #14 conductor from chassis ground on the heater to the ground rod)

I know generators can provide noisy power. I have seen noisy power/bad power kill a powervent control. Hope you dont let the smoke out..

good luck, stinky :P

-j
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nunya
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reply to alkizmo

said by alkizmo:

said by Frink:

is there any way I could circumvent that neutral to ground requirement or build a junction to do that in between the gene and the heater?

Now I'll probably get grilled for this, but:

Find a 3-prong plug that you can "dispose" of, as in, you don't care.

Cut off the cable on that plug while leaving a good 3 to 6 inches of cable still on it.

Strip the green and white wires inside that cable, and join them together with a wire nut. (Cut off the "hot" prong and cap the "hot" wire). Then plug that into a free socket on your generator. That will make a "removable" neutral/ground bond.

Now if it's "safe", I don't know, I just know it's not the proper way to do it, but I'm guessing you're in an "emergency" situation.

Don't do this. It's dangerous. Emergency or not. An "emergency" situation never constitutes doing stupid things. Quite the opposite. Don't create a "life or death" emergency trying to alleviate a "loss of comfort" situation.

As explained, your WH is looking for neutral and ground to be bonded. Ordinarily, this would be in the main disconnect (main panel). In your case, it would need to be at the genset.

There are multiple things that could wrong using this cheat. Anything metallic connected to the WH could become energized by the generator in such a scenario. This includes the metallic case and any metallic piping (gas or water). This could electrocute anyone touching them.
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jack b
Gone Fishing
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join:2000-09-08
Cape Cod
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2 recommendations

Scenario gives a whole new meaning to "hot water heater"...



Kurtis

@myvzw.com

I have the same problem and AO smith told me today too bad! They stated that their units are not intended to wOrk with generators. I see lots of opinions on this post but not a clear safe answer?


sk1939
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said by Kurtis :

I have the same problem and AO smith told me today too bad! They stated that their units are not intended to wOrk with generators. I see lots of opinions on this post but not a clear safe answer?

Get a transfer panel and a decent generator.


nunya
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reply to Frink

Most portable generators come with a neutral / ground bond jumper inside the generator panel. In certain situations, removing the neutral - ground bond may be desirable.
For situations where the portable generator is feeding equipment directly out of its on-board receptacles, a bond is desired.

Did you buy this generator new? If it's used, someone may have defeated the bonding jumper for feeding a transfer switch with an un-switched neutral.
Without the specific model number (and manual) to your generator, we are just pissing in the wind.

Although not required when using a portable generator with extensions, I prefer to ground the chassis to the house ground rod if powering any appliance within the home.

A piece of wire stuck in the ground a few inches is not an acceptable ground under any circumstance.
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alphapointe
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reply to Frink

You mean this isn't the right way to do it?
/sarcasm



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TheTechGuru

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TEXAS
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reply to Frink

It's a whole lot easier to just wire the generator directly into your electrical panel. That's what we did during IKE.

Turn the main breaker off and install a normal 30-50amp breaker (depending on how much your gene puts out) in the box with the other breakers and connect the generator to it and connect the common to the common/ground rail.

The breaker will allow reverse flow and power everything. Just keep track of what you turn on and don't exceed what your generator puts out.

The nice thing about this setup is we were able to turn on all our security lights and pouch lights.

When the power comes back on, turn the breaker to the generator off and the main breaker back on.
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alkizmo

join:2007-06-25
Pierrefonds, QC
kudos:1

Are you for real, TechGuru?

Nunya nearly ripped my head off for suggesting a temporary N/G bond.

What you're suggesting is much much much worse.



SwedishRider
Rider on the Storm
Premium
join:2006-01-11
not Sweden
kudos:1
reply to nunya

said by nunya:

Most portable generators come with a neutral / ground bond jumper inside the generator panel

I'm not so sure that most generators come with a N/G bond actually. My 6K watt Sportsman doesn't, and when I brought my testing meter to Lowe's many months ago just out of curiosity, a grand total of zero floor demo models had a N/G bond.

I'm not sure if the manufacturers assume that homeowners will have the bond in their panel (as that's what most homeowners buy generators for) or some other reason, but I'm inclined to think that most generators available in the hardware stores do not have a N/G bond from the factory.

Zach1
Premium
join:2006-11-26
NW Minnesota

said by SwedishRider:

said by nunya:

Most portable generators come with a neutral / ground bond jumper inside the generator panel

I'm not so sure that most generators come with a N/G bond actually. My 6K watt Sportsman doesn't, and when I brought my testing meter to Lowe's many months ago just out of curiosity, a grand total of zero floor demo models had a N/G bond.

I'm not sure if the manufacturers assume that homeowners will have the bond in their panel (as that's what most homeowners buy generators for) or some other reason, but I'm inclined to think that most generators available in the hardware stores do not have a N/G bond from the factory.

Some manufacturers will provide a jumper and instructions on how to connect it. It seems, more often than not, if the generator manufacturer provides GFCI protection on, at least, the 120V 15-20A receptacles, there is either a bond connected at the factory or a factory supplied provision for it. That NOT to say there aren't some without GFCI protection that are bonded or some with GFCI protection lack a bond and/or a provision for it.

A floating system is, in many cases, considerably safer when using portable cord and plug connected equipment since there isn't a return path from either circuit conductor to ground. Once the neutral is bonded to ground, the potential for a ground-fault (faulty cords, tools etc) exists even if the genny is only sitting on the damp ground without connection to a grounding electrode. The danger becomes the same as using a non-GFCI protected receptacle powered by the utility.

Looking at some of the suggestions made on Internet forums seems to suggest that many don't quite understand that electricity from a generator will kill someone just as dead as electricity provided by the POCO. Electricity+inexperience+tiredness+darkness+dampness can equal a death statistic.
--
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alkizmo

join:2007-06-25
Pierrefonds, QC
kudos:1

said by Zach1:

A floating system is, in many cases, considerably safer when using portable cord and plug connected equipment since there isn't a return path from either circuit conductor to ground. Once the neutral is bonded to ground, the potential for a ground-fault (faulty cords, tools etc) exists even if the genny is only sitting on the damp ground without connection to a grounding electrode.

Ok, maybe that's the part that confused me about floating neutral generators.

Are you saying that if a generator has floating neutral, and I touch a hot conductor from that generator, I will NOT get shocked because the neutral of the generator isn't touching the ground (Hence no return path)??

ke4pym
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reply to TheTechGuru

said by TheTechGuru:

It's a whole lot easier to just wire the generator directly into your electrical panel. That's what we did during IKE.

Turn the main breaker off and install a normal 30-50amp breaker (depending on how much your gene puts out) in the box with the other breakers and connect the generator to it and connect the common to the common/ground rail.

The breaker will allow reverse flow and power everything. Just keep track of what you turn on and don't exceed what your generator puts out.

The nice thing about this setup is we were able to turn on all our security lights and pouch lights.

When the power comes back on, turn the breaker to the generator off and the main breaker back on.

Been there, done this and won't hesitate to do it again.


Jack_in_VA
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North, VA
kudos:1
Reviews:
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reply to TheTechGuru

said by TheTechGuru:

It's a whole lot easier to just wire the generator directly into your electrical panel. That's what we did during IKE.

Turn the main breaker off and install a normal 30-50amp breaker (depending on how much your gene puts out) in the box with the other breakers and connect the generator to it and connect the common to the common/ground rail.

The breaker will allow reverse flow and power everything. Just keep track of what you turn on and don't exceed what your generator puts out.

The nice thing about this setup is we were able to turn on all our security lights and pouch lights.

When the power comes back on, turn the breaker to the generator off and the main breaker back on.

A lot of people use this method like this or with the manual main/generator breaker interlock. Works fine.


Jack_in_VA
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North, VA
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reply to ke4pym

said by ke4pym:

Been there, done this and won't hesitate to do it again.

Beats a bunch of extension cords running everywhere.


alkizmo

join:2007-06-25
Pierrefonds, QC
kudos:1
reply to Jack_in_VA

said by Jack_in_VA:

A lot of people use this method like this or with the manual main/generator breaker interlock. Works fine.

The breaker interlock or transfer switch is fine.
Simply going into a breaker is almost no different than using a suicide cable and plugging it into the dryer socket.


nunya
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reply to TheTechGuru

Don't ever do this either. It's illegal and dangerous (highly susceptible to human error which could result in someones death). A proper interlock isn't that expensive.
--
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