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TheTechGuru

join:2004-03-25
TEXAS
kudos:2
Reviews:
·HughesNet Satell..
·WesTex Connect
reply to Frink

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

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.
--
CompTIA Network+ Certified



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.
--
Zach


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
Premium
join:2004-07-24
Charlotte, NC
Reviews:
·VOIPO
·ooma
·Verizon Broadban..
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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
Premium
join:2007-11-26
North, VA
kudos:1
Reviews:
·Millenicom
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
Premium
join:2007-11-26
North, VA
kudos:1
Reviews:
·Millenicom
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
Premium,MVM
join:2000-12-23
O Fallon, MO
kudos:12
Reviews:
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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.
--
If someone refers to herself / himself as a "guru", they probably aren't.



DKS
Damn Kidney Stones
Premium,ExMod 2002
join:2001-03-22
Owen Sound, ON
kudos:2
reply to nunya

said by nunya:

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.

Amen. Amazing how people want their comforts like hot water and A/C in the midst of a power outage. I can see wanting to run a fridge or freezer and a water pump on a well and maybe a stove, but a hot water heater?
--
Need-based health care not greed-based health care.


Jack_in_VA
Premium
join:2007-11-26
North, VA
kudos:1
Reviews:
·Millenicom

2 edits
reply to alkizmo

said by alkizmo:

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.

Never mind...


Jack_in_VA
Premium
join:2007-11-26
North, VA
kudos:1
Reviews:
·Millenicom

1 edit
reply to DKS

said by DKS:

said by nunya:

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.

Amen. Amazing how people want their comforts like hot water and A/C in the midst of a power outage. I can see wanting to run a fridge or freezer and a water pump on a well and maybe a stove, but a hot water heater?

I use my generator to heat my water for showers. What's wrong with that? I just turn off everything else and turn the breaker on for the water heater and let it heat. It only takes about an hour. The hot water is enough for 2 showers and hot water for hand washing etc through the day.

So why do you have a problem with that? There is nothing "amazing" about it. Why take cold showers when you don't have to?


TheTechGuru

join:2004-03-25
TEXAS
kudos:2
Reviews:
·HughesNet Satell..
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reply to Frink

The generator we did it with was hardwired. Everything was perfectly safe as long as no one turned on the main and generator breaker at the same time. No one had a key to the electrical box but me so no issue there.

As long as we weren't backfeeding the system, electric company could care less and it was outside the city limits away from city inspectors.

But in the future I want a propane generator and a 500 gallon tank buried cuz keeping the tank filled was a PITA.
--
CompTIA Network+ Certified



DKS
Damn Kidney Stones
Premium,ExMod 2002
join:2001-03-22
Owen Sound, ON
kudos:2

2 recommendations

reply to Jack_in_VA

said by Jack_in_VA:

said by DKS:

said by nunya:

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.

Amen. Amazing how people want their comforts like hot water and A/C in the midst of a power outage. I can see wanting to run a fridge or freezer and a water pump on a well and maybe a stove, but a hot water heater?

I use my generator to heat my water for showers.

So why do you have a problem with that? There is nothing "amazing" about it. Why take cold showers when you don't have to?

Do you need a shower in the first place? Having been through many power outages over the years, some lasting days, I have discovered that a sponge bath is just fine. And soap, water and a wash cloth at any temp works just as well as anything warmer.

I would suggest that if this attitude is typical, people are going soft. Very soft.
--
Need-based health care not greed-based health care.


chamberc
Premium
join:2008-08-05
Irving, TX

1 recommendation

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.

It'll work... not the best solution, but "safe enough" for temporary use.


TheTechGuru

join:2004-03-25
TEXAS
kudos:2
Reviews:
·HughesNet Satell..
·WesTex Connect
reply to DKS

Some people need the generator for not only a water heater but a water well pump too.

Cold shower when it's below freezing outside and 40 degrees inside is a good way to become sick at a time you may not be able to get medical attention.
--
CompTIA Network+ Certified


garys_2k
Premium
join:2004-05-07
Farmington, MI
Reviews:
·Callcentric
·callwithus
reply to DKS

said by DKS:

Do you need a shower in the first place? Having been through many power outages over the years, some lasting days, I have discovered that a sponge bath is just fine. And soap, water and a wash cloth at any temp works just as well as anything warmer.

I would suggest that if this attitude is typical, people are going soft. Very soft.

Yeah, and I don't like to go camping, either; I like my modern conveniences. Tell you what: We'll all buy whatever capacity generators we want, to power whatever appliances we want (for me central air is good to have) and we'll leave the discussion about the technical details. Is that OK with you?


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

Everyone's advice is totally appreciated, and I understand the risks completely. That being said, bathing my 2 & 3 year old this morning in water that would not make them scream made all of us a lot happier...



GenNewbie

@rr.com
reply to Frink

I had this exact problem the last few days. Down to the exact same light pattern on my power vent propane heater. Very frustrating. I have a small Honda portable generator 2000W EU model. I put it outside the house on 4 concrete blocks and run a heavy duty extension cord to the things I need to power (usually alternate the fridge, freezer, furnace and hot water heater) . The generator location is right outside a small basement sliding window and just a few feet from where the HWH and furnace are located. My vent on my hot water heater and power for my furnace are each a 3 prong plug into an outlet. I had this done so I could use the hot water heater and furnace in the event of emergency via a genreator. Both are propane so have modest electric needs. I alternate and don't use both at once even though once the motors start up I think I would be fine. My old hot water heater worked fine, but the replacement wouldn't fire up this storm and gave my the ground issue. Ugh...

Here is my stupid Q. My Honda has an external screw connection for a ground to be hooked up. If I sink a copper rod into the ground next to the concrete "pad" I use and hook that up to the ground on the generator and then fire it up, is that safe and would it work with the hot water heater issue? I can leave the rod and blocks "permanently installed" on the side of the house to make it easier if this solution would work.

Thanks in advance for any thoughts or suggestions.



DKS
Damn Kidney Stones
Premium,ExMod 2002
join:2001-03-22
Owen Sound, ON
kudos:2
reply to TheTechGuru

said by TheTechGuru:

Some people need the generator for not only a water heater but a water well pump too.

Yes, I know. I would include a well pump as "necessary".

Cold shower when it's below freezing outside and 40 degrees inside is a good way to become sick at a time you may not be able to get medical attention.

How so? Wash quickly and dry off fast.
--
Need-based health care not greed-based health care.


DKS
Damn Kidney Stones
Premium,ExMod 2002
join:2001-03-22
Owen Sound, ON
kudos:2
reply to garys_2k

said by garys_2k:

said by DKS:

Do you need a shower in the first place? Having been through many power outages over the years, some lasting days, I have discovered that a sponge bath is just fine. And soap, water and a wash cloth at any temp works just as well as anything warmer.

I would suggest that if this attitude is typical, people are going soft. Very soft.

Yeah, and I don't like to go camping, either; I like my modern conveniences. Tell you what: We'll all buy whatever capacity generators we want, to power whatever appliances we want (for me central air is good to have) and we'll leave the discussion about the technical details. Is that OK with you?

Capacity is part of the "technical details". There is always a limit to capacity.
--
Need-based health care not greed-based health care.

garys_2k
Premium
join:2004-05-07
Farmington, MI
Reviews:
·Callcentric
·callwithus

said by DKS:

Capacity is part of the "technical details". There is always a limit to capacity.

But your, or anyone's, opinion of what constitutes a reasonable amount of capacity, or what to power, is not a technical anything. As for limits, some people put in 40KW backups for their house, I doubt that's too limiting for most anything.


DKS
Damn Kidney Stones
Premium,ExMod 2002
join:2001-03-22
Owen Sound, ON
kudos:2

1 recommendation

reply to Frink

said by Frink:

Everyone's advice is totally appreciated, and I understand the risks completely. That being said, bathing my 2 & 3 year old this morning in water that would not make them scream made all of us a lot happier...

Kids are resilient. I would suggest that not wanting to hear your child "scream" is a parental issue, not an issue of basic safety or child care. Besides, unless a child is in diapers or is sick, washing daily isn't an essential. Let them go dirty for a few days as a treat.
--
Need-based health care not greed-based health care.


DKS
Damn Kidney Stones
Premium,ExMod 2002
join:2001-03-22
Owen Sound, ON
kudos:2
reply to garys_2k

said by garys_2k:

said by DKS:

Capacity is part of the "technical details". There is always a limit to capacity.

But your, or anyone's, opinion of what constitutes a reasonable amount of capacity, or what to power, is not a technical anything. As for limits, some people put in 40KW backups for their house, I doubt that's too limiting for most anything.

Sure it is. The system is not unlimited. Capacity is limited by technical issues, number of appliances, real need and such tangible things as money. The response to the OP was generally that "What you want to do is unsafe". That's a technical limitation. So Plan B is?
--
Need-based health care not greed-based health care.


alkizmo

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

said by GenNewbie :

My Honda has an external screw connection for a ground to be hooked up. If I sink a copper rod into the ground next to the concrete "pad" I use and hook that up to the ground on the generator and then fire it up, is that safe and would it work with the hot water heater issue?

This whole confusion about grounding, neutral/ground bond, etc etc, reminds me of myself last year when I was setting up my generator (I planned AHEAD )

I know most of the confusion comes from people thinking that the "ground" protection on extension cords is all about sending current to a rod that's burried deep. But that's incorrect.

In reality, the ground wire in extension cords and receptacles serve as a current return path to the neutral if a hot wire touches a metal casing of an appliance. That metal casing is tied to the ground wire on the extension cord, and shoots the current straight back to the generator (or electrical panel) where it is then returned to the neutral. Basically, it causes a short circuit that trips the breaker (Instead of leaving the metal casing electrically LIVE to shock anyone who touches it).

Floating neutral generators (no connection between the ground wire and the neutral) don't offer any protection through the ground wire on your extension cords. A ground rod won't help.

The screw is connected to the metal chassis of the generator.
The metal chassis of the generator is connected to the ground part of the outlets.
The ground part of the outlets is connected to NOTHING.

I'd really feel more comforable not explaining this, because I'm not an expert, I just understand the principle. I WILL miss important details in my above explanation. All I know is that my generator setup is safely grounded, but I don't know the exceptions when it comes to using extension wires. My setup has the neutral/ground bond at the generator, and my transfer switch breaks the neutral/ground bond from the electrical panel. So my experience doesn't apply well in cases in this thread.

Whizkid, Nunya, in this time of crisis, these people need a crash course

garys_2k
Premium
join:2004-05-07
Farmington, MI
Reviews:
·Callcentric
·callwithus

1 recommendation

reply to GenNewbie

said by GenNewbie :

Q. My Honda has an external screw connection for a ground to be hooked up. If I sink a copper rod into the ground next to the concrete "pad" I use and hook that up to the ground on the generator and then fire it up, is that safe and would it work with the hot water heater issue?

No, that wouldn't help. The problem is that, in your house's electric panel the incoming neutral and the ground wires are physically bonded together. The water heater depends on that continuity to work properly.

Some generators, and it sounds like yours is included, do not have that bonding between its neutral and ground. Hence, the water heater won't run.

What is needed is a connection between your generator's neutral wire and its ground wire, best made at the generator. Grounding your generator to a ground rod will mostly serve to reduce static electricity shocks. On the plus side, with the generator's neutral and ground wires bonded a short from the hot wire to a grounded appliances's chassis or frame will trip the generator's circuit breaker, a very good thing.

How to make the bond was covered above, with the mangled cord that alkizmo suggested on page 1 (and Nunya, a knowledgeable electrician ripped him a new one over). Basically, it's connecting the "third prong" of the outlet to the neutral prong of the outlet. That connection need only be done once, at one outlet, on the generator.

My generator already has that bond and it'd be fine with this type of water heater. What it's not so good with is connecting to my main panel, I had to break the bond when doing that so that the only bond would be the one IN the panel (more than one is not a good thing).


Jack_in_VA
Premium
join:2007-11-26
North, VA
kudos:1
Reviews:
·Millenicom
reply to DKS

said by DKS:

Do you need a shower in the first place? Having been through many power outages over the years, some lasting days, I have discovered that a sponge bath is just fine. And soap, water and a wash cloth at any temp works just as well as anything warmer.

I would suggest that if this attitude is typical, people are going soft. Very soft.

How can you call me soft when I can and will take a hot shower regardless of a power failure. You can live with a dirty body as a sponge bath doesn't cut it or you would never take a shower and just "sponge" off.

Heating the water is no problem for me so why is it a problem for you?


Jack_in_VA
Premium
join:2007-11-26
North, VA
kudos:1
Reviews:
·Millenicom
reply to garys_2k

said by garys_2k:

said by DKS:

Do you need a shower in the first place? Having been through many power outages over the years, some lasting days, I have discovered that a sponge bath is just fine. And soap, water and a wash cloth at any temp works just as well as anything warmer.

I would suggest that if this attitude is typical, people are going soft. Very soft.

Yeah, and I don't like to go camping, either; I like my modern conveniences. Tell you what: We'll all buy whatever capacity generators we want, to power whatever appliances we want (for me central air is good to have) and we'll leave the discussion about the technical details. Is that OK with you?

+1 What you said


leibold
Premium,MVM
join:2002-07-09
Sunnyvale, CA
kudos:10
Reviews:
·SONIC.NET
reply to GenNewbie

said by GenNewbie :

If I sink a copper rod into the ground next to the concrete "pad" I use and hook that up to the ground on the generator and then fire it up, is that safe and would it work with the hot water heater issue?

Installing a dedicated ground rod for a portable generator is the safe and correct procedure when using it in a outdoor scenario for which portable generators are generally designed.

When using a portable generator to power appliances inside a home this no longer applies! Having two independent grounding systems is unsafe and for this very reason a code violation. A proper bond between all grounding systems would be required but it is much easier to just connect the generator ground lug to the existing building ground then to install a new grounding rod.

The part about getting your water heater to work has already been answered correctly but I wanted to clarify the safety aspect of grounding the generator (which is distinct from the issue of the neutral - ground bond).
--
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