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post #1 of 62 Old 01-22-2019, 04:01 AM Thread Starter
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questions about generators (any electricians)

I have lived in my first home for 4 years now. We have lost power 3 times and 2 of those times it was for a long enough time that a generator would have been very helpful. Most recently we went without power for only 18 hours, but after a few hours I decided to ask my friend to barrow his gen since his power was fine. Short story, it worked great. Even though I had to run extension cords through a window, shove towels and tape around gaps to keep cold air out it was much better than moving family to parents or hotel. Was able to hook up fridge so no food had to be moved to rents or go bad. Ran two space heaters, one for babies room and the rest of family slept in one other room. In retrospect I could have hooked up 3rd space heater but was not sure how well my friends ~20 year old Coleman gen would keep up. My friends was a 3250 running watts gen.

So now I am thinking about buying my own and if I do I think I would like to make it so my house still runs well. ie I can run most of my house. This means running an interlock switch to my panel in basement. I have installed breakers and ran 220v power to my welder in garage just fine. I have done a plethora of simple electrical work around the home. ie installed ceiling fans, extra outlets down walls, wired in exhaust fans to bathrooms. I am in no means and electrician nor would I call myself one.

lets say I want to power the fallowing (peak starting watts listed, worst case)
AC (3ton) - 3500 Watts
HVAC Fan - 700 Watts
Refrigerator- 1100 watts
lights, computer, tv and stuff, 200-500 watts
Maybe electric stove (only single range at a time) with AC off (800-1200 Watts)
Microwave (1500 Watts)

Winter would be less watts with natural gas furnace. But then I would like to run basically whole home

My budget says I can't afford a powerful enough gen to run all the above at once and that is fine. Turn off AC to cook something in microwave or on stove. Run washer or dryer one at a time and so on.

AC, HVAC fan, Refrigerator, miscellaneous electronics add up to 5,500 watts. So I am looking at 7000 and 7500 running watt generators, links below. keep in mind I plan to do this through an interlock switch

Is the below a correct line of thinking.

A lot of the gens I am looking at have a max of 30amp output on the twist lock L5-30r or L14-30r. For the L15 4 prong 120/240 volt options it still says 30 amps. But wait...... 30x120 and 30x240 are quite a bit different in wattage. And even 30x240 is only 7200 watts on a gen that is rated for 8750 peak and 7000 running.

The Costco Firman also lists a "14-50R Dual Voltage 120V/240V - 50A" This makes more sense for running to panel through interlock switch. 50x120=6,000 (cutting it close) 50x240 = 12,000! OK we finally have head room for gens I am looking at that peak at 8750 or 9400. I like head room. I don't want to go near the peak of my gen.


My home.

build in 1967
upgraded panel in 1991 to 80amps
current panel has 30 slots. There is room for a 40 slot panel
Only 3 slots are open and I plan to add more breakers in bathroom remodel. So 40 slot panel might come with gen or bathroom remodel.

So finally my question. I am pretty sure I have a 120v panel with two poles to power my 240v appliances. Any reason why I can't set up a 50amp 240v interlock breaker via the Firman's "14-50R Dual Voltage 120V/240V - 50A"

Also how would I even hook up most other gens that only have 30amp 120/240 lines yet say they can power 7000 watts running and 8250 peak.

Can I assume that gens that list there 120/240v lines at 30 amps can run 240v at 30 amps or is it 15 amp at 240 and 30 amp only at 120v.


Thank you for reading my long winded questions and answering my questions.

Also please be feel free to add any other helpful info.

-Pinky

https://www.costco.com/Firman-Power-...100417697.html

https://www.harborfreight.com/8750-m...ion-63087.html
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post #2 of 62 Old 01-22-2019, 05:36 AM
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Cant help with the technical stuff, but why do you lose power so often?
The supplier should be held to account. And with a family and small children, I'm pretty sure the local council will get on their case as well.
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post #3 of 62 Old 01-22-2019, 07:33 AM
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What you want is a whole house generator set up by a professional. This IS NOT a do it yourself project. Too many things can go wrong that can kill people.



A generator is a danger to the power company workers if not properly installed and setup. This is most important for you to understand.



An improperly installed generator can also be a danger to your house and its contents.


Unless you are a professional electrician leave this job to the experts.


I am a firm believer in having a whole house generator. In 2005 it was hurricane season and I was having open heart surgery. It was postponed once because of a hurricane potential. Before proceeding with surgery reschedule I had a whole house generator installed. I have never been sorry.



Generators have improved since then and the installation method improved.


George
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post #4 of 62 Old 01-22-2019, 07:58 AM
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George is right ^

You should have a "whole house" generator with a transfer switch, so it comes on automatically when the power goes out, protecting any linemen working to restore it. This is vital, or you will be sued .... to death....!

The whole house generator I have is 15 K and is propane powered because I don't have natural gas ..... yet. I would NOT have a gasoline powered generator unless it was absolutely the last resort. Gas can be dangerous to store, burns leaving CO which will kill you and generally are difficult to fill. You should turn off the generator when refilling to avoid explosions and or fire. My transfer switch is rated at 200 AMPs, more than enough to power my house. However, you can transfer the power to a sub panel, which has only the bare minimum circuits you need in an emergency rather than the entire house.


Get professional advice even though you seem to have a pretty good idea of the requirements. I am also skilled enough to have wired all the 120 v circuits and 240 v outlets in my home and my shops and garage and THEN had a licensed electrician come to give a final approval, before the building inspector came.

You sound like you are going to run an AC unit off this generator. Mine is on a 30 AMP circuit and a small generator the size you are talking about would never work. Unless you really need AC I wouldn't size the generator large enough for the AC. My AC is not on the whole house circuit, so if the power goes out in mid summer, I'll just suffer through it, although a small window unit would work just fine.


The answer to your question will only be as detailed and specific as the question is detailed and specific. Good questions also include a sketch or a photo that illustrates your issue. (:< D)

Last edited by woodnthings; 01-22-2019 at 10:10 AM.
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post #5 of 62 Old 01-22-2019, 09:44 AM
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TRANSFER SWITCH, TRANSFER SWITCH, TRANSFER SWITCH ......THIS CAN NOT be expressed enough!!!!!! I have friends that are with different electrical current/power suppliers as linemen (install/repair electrical main lines. I've heard various stories of working "dead" lines and suddenly they were "hot" due to someone turning on their generator that was incorrectly/unsafely installed......many linemen have been killed from this dangerous situation. You can also be held liable for this!!!

the other high death rate with them (generators) NOT properly installed is carbon monoxide poisoning....aka the "silent killer".

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post #6 of 62 Old 01-22-2019, 10:55 AM
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I think you could do the install yourself but like anything else you need to do your homework and find out the correct way. Like Tim said when you set up a whole house generator you install a transfer switch which separates the city utility from the generator. If the power would come back on while the generator was running it would likely be out of phase with the generator and burn it up. It also prevents electricity from the generator from going out to the city utility. If a lineman were to turn the power off and work on repairing the lines he might be in for a surprise if someone has energized the line with a generator. Then if the lineman was hurt or killed you would be responsible.
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post #7 of 62 Old 01-22-2019, 11:49 AM
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The questions that you asked about current (Amperage) and power (Wattage) and shifting these numbers between 120 and 240V indicates you have no knowledge of electricity. That also says that you will at best, ruin some equipment and at worse, cause injury or death to someone.

Anyway, just for the record, here are some basic things to know...........

Power (Watts) = Volts X Amps
Amps = Watts / Volts

So if you have a generator with 7000 Runnung Watts that means: The Current (Amperage) will be:
For 120V ..........7000/120 = 58.3 amps
For 220V...........7000/240 = 29.17
Since 240 is twice as big as 120, it generates 1/2 the current (amps) as it would for 120 V.

Then there is the EXTREMELY CRITICAL sizing of your wires, types of connectors, switches, fusing etc.

Then with start-up current of some motors and compressors such as Air Conditioners, older refrigerator and freezer compressors, etc., there is a big power surge. This becomes a big factor with Harbor Freight stuff. More than likely, the gas motor they have will stall out when there is a big surge as compared to better quality motor/gen sets. Improper sizing of generator or less expensive generators could also take its toll on your appliances over a period of time. If you are determined to buy a cheap generator, then buy one that has a rating of at least one and a half more rated wattage than you need.

MY main experience with generators comes from living on my boat for about 25 years and been through hurricanes where the docks went without commercial power for months at a time. i know what the problems are with the less expensive stuff. Now living full time in my RV I have gotten to see how the cheaper generators perform while I was in the National parks.

The cheaper stuff is OK in an emergency where you are not going to be using too many appliances for not that long of a time period.

If your goal is to eliminate the electric company to save money by using a gas or diesel generator, you will lose big time.

Anyway, I hope that helped.
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post #8 of 62 Old 01-22-2019, 12:10 PM
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If you have nat gas you could get by with about 5-6000 watts, that would run the furnace and most of the other devices you would need


We have the same problem during ice storms, but I have extensive experience with electricity. Most places you are legally required to have an automatic transfer switch, we aren't but I always make absolutely sure the main breaker is off at the meter. We have a 6500 watt genset that is converted to run on LP. We did have a 6000 watt that was gas, but I always made sure if there was any ice possibly coming our way to have at least 55 gallons of gas. They will really suck up gas if pulling hard.


We have been without power for up to two weeks, if we didn't have the genset there would have been murder LOL


As for the genset look on Craig's list for one that is like new but won't run. You can get an Nat/LP conversion kits for $1-200 From US Carburation google motor snorkel it will come up


We have never had any problem with any electronic equipment running on them, and in true reality is is probably the cleanest electricity you have ever used.


A sine wave of 60 CPS electricity is 2300-2700 miles long depending on whose formula you use. With all the generation stations plugged into the grid within 2000 miles of your house, a pure clean sine wave would be pretty rare I would guess

There is no app for experience
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post #9 of 62 Old 01-22-2019, 12:52 PM
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Originally Posted by Steve Neul View Post
I think you could do the install yourself but like anything else you need to do your homework and find out the correct way. Like Tim said when you set up a whole house generator you install a transfer switch which separates the city utility from the generator. If the power would come back on while the generator was running it would likely be out of phase with the generator and burn it up. It also prevents electricity from the generator from going out to the city utility. If a lineman were to turn the power off and work on repairing the lines he might be in for a surprise if someone has energized the line with a generator. Then if the lineman was hurt or killed you would be responsible.

Even if you are using a portable generator you are still required (at least most places) to have a transfer switch to protect the utility workers.


George
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post #10 of 62 Old 01-22-2019, 02:41 PM
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Originally Posted by Steve Neul View Post
I think you could do the install yourself but like anything else you need to do your homework and find out the correct way. Like Tim said when you set up a whole house generator you install a transfer switch which separates the city utility from the generator. If the power would come back on while the generator was running it would likely be out of phase with the generator and burn it up. It also prevents electricity from the generator from going out to the city utility. If a lineman were to turn the power off and work on repairing the lines he might be in for a surprise if someone has energized the line with a generator. Then if the lineman was hurt or killed you would be responsible.
My theory about electricity is if you have to ask, get someone qualified to do it, you may omit one important question and cause dire consequences.
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post #11 of 62 Old 01-22-2019, 05:52 PM
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My theory about electricity is if you have to ask, get someone qualified to do it, you may omit one important question and cause dire consequences.
Were not talking about building a nuclear reactor, household wiring is so basic and simple if someone takes the time to do a little research they should be able to do it even if they have never done it before. Asking questions is a good place to start.
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post #12 of 62 Old 01-22-2019, 06:12 PM
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Installing a generator yourself could result in your utility company pursuing legal action against you if they find out. Most townships/cities(in michigan at least) require a permit for the install. You do not want to be brought in front of a judge because you accidentally caused a utility worker to get electrocuted while he's trying to restore power to your area. I would never recommend anyone do the install themselves. I don't care how much you think you know about electricity...it's not worth the chance of hurting someone else unless you are in-fact a licensed electrician.

Your peak draw doesn't really mean very much because that occurs for a very brief time during startup and the chances of every piece of equipment starting at the same time is an astronomical calculation. A licensed electrician could calculate the necessary load for your house and give you a proper estimate. Most homes can manage with a small 2000W inverter unit if the homeowner manages the load. For a rough guesstimate, take sum of all appliances you want to run and divide that by 0.8. You want a generator to run at about 80% of its maximum capacity for best efficiency. The other 20% is reserved for the startup draw. Some appliances were never meant to be run off a generator because most will produce a very uneven output of 110-130 volts that could fry sensitive electronics like computers, tvs, and audio systems. I would drop the dream of AC and your fridge will keep cold enough for 24 hours if you leave it shut.

I personally don't believe that generators are worth it. I lose power once every year or 2 and the biggest annoyance is that I have to charge my cellphone in my car. I won't spend thousands on a whole house generator that I then have to have serviced on a yearly basis "just in case" I have to go through the terrible injustice of spending 1-24 hours without working lights. Perfect example of first world problems...
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post #13 of 62 Old 01-22-2019, 06:25 PM
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Each situation is different ....

Some households need power at all times, those with young babies, the elderly on breathing aparatus, chair lifts, well pumps, septic pumps to drain a sump to keep from flooding, etc. We all have different needs
so some can get by without power, others not. I took my generator off full time back up to manual on/off so I can mange when it comes on and shut it off when I don't need it.
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post #14 of 62 Old 01-22-2019, 07:47 PM
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Were not talking about building a nuclear reactor, household wiring is so basic and simple if someone takes the time to do a little research they should be able to do it even if they have never done it before. Asking questions is a good place to start.

Basic household wiring is simple and I do not hesitate to make repairs or whatever is required. However, even with my Nuclear Engineering Degree with a minor in Electrical Engineering I would not be about to try to do the install on a whole house generator.


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post #15 of 62 Old 01-22-2019, 08:41 PM
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Basic household wiring is simple and I do not hesitate to make repairs or whatever is required. However, even with my Nuclear Engineering Degree with a minor in Electrical Engineering I would not be about to try to do the install on a whole house generator.


George
There are books available at the box stores that simplify the wiring associated with a house generator. I have such a book for tasks I don't normally do. Myself, I couldn't just do the job since I've never done it before but I think within an hour online or that book would explain what I don't know. A lot depends on how patient a person is to acquire the knowledge needed for a task.
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post #16 of 62 Old 01-22-2019, 09:29 PM
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There are books available at the box stores that simplify the wiring associated with a house generator. I have such a book for tasks I don't normally do. Myself, I couldn't just do the job since I've never done it before but I think within an hour online or that book would explain what I don't know. A lot depends on how patient a person is to acquire the knowledge needed for a task.
I can go online and find plans to build furniture and come here within the next few months to find out why the top is splitting and my joints are coming apart, I guess I can do the same to find out why I killed some poor guy after carefully following instructions I found online to install a generator.

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post #17 of 62 Old 01-22-2019, 09:53 PM
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So, electrical work can be fairly simple no doubt. But it doesn't take much for someone to screw up. If 120V AC bites you, it is usually nothing more than a very shocking tingle. Now if 220V AC bites you the wrong way, your hand can actually lock-up on the wire, or maybe suffer an electrical induced heart attack or heart failure or none of the above other than your hand being thrown violently back at high speed.
There is also the risk of an electrical fire or someone from the electrical company getting electrocuted while working up on a pole.
Reversing a hot and neutral lead will wreak havoc on some appliances.

Also consider that most inexpensive generators are not made for outdoor use. So if you get lazy, only for 'a little' while, you can ruin your generator out in the elements.

Other than the above, I say "go for it".

BTW, It's not the things you know that bite you, it's the things you didn't know.
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post #18 of 62 Old 01-22-2019, 10:11 PM
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I can go online and find plans to build furniture and come here within the next few months to find out why the top is splitting and my joints are coming apart, I guess I can do the same to find out why I killed some poor guy after carefully following instructions I found online to install a generator.
Frank, I had the thought BUT hesitated to post......WE see these posts all the time here AFTER the screw up, at least with wood it isn't as apt to cause death. GREAT POINT!!!!!

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post #19 of 62 Old 01-22-2019, 10:47 PM
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I can go online and find plans to build furniture and come here within the next few months to find out why the top is splitting and my joints are coming apart, I guess I can do the same to find out why I killed some poor guy after carefully following instructions I found online to install a generator.
If he carefully followed instructions there shouldn't be any difference in what he did or what an electrician would do. Then there is no guarantee an electrician would do the work correctly. Some of the worst electrical work I've ever seen was done by a licensed electrician. It's why I quit hiring them and started doing the work myself.
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post #20 of 62 Old 01-23-2019, 02:25 AM
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If he carefully followed instructions there shouldn't be any difference in what he did or what an electrician would do. Then there is no guarantee an electrician would do the work correctly. Some of the worst electrical work I've ever seen was done by a licensed electrician. It's why I quit hiring them and started doing the work myself.
No, the electrician can screw up too but the chances of that happening are close to zero. The electrician has had years of training in the classroom and on the job, is licensed by the state, and carries liability insurance in case anything bad happens. Is it really worth the legal backlash that could occur over trying to save a few bucks on an installation?
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