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Thread: Is this portable generator hook-up OK?

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  1. #1
    DIY Junior Member mbwayne's Avatar
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    Default Is this portable generator hook-up OK?

    I'm looking for some middle ground between running extension cords to my portable generator vs. a transfer switch. Please let me know if you see any downside to this hookup: (1) 15-foot L14-30 cable from 7500W generator to 30A outside inlet box; => (2) 50' 10 gauge/4 conductor cable to female L14-30R receptacle (or box mount the female receptacle); => (3) Y-adapter with male L14-30R plug that splits into 2 120V 20A receptacles. The main things I want to power (2 sump pumps and a fridge) are within 20 feet of each other in the basement, so there would be minimal need for extension cords to plug into the Y-adapter.

    If I decide to install a transfer switch in the future, I would already have the 50' run to the electrical panel, so the only wasted components would be the female L14-30R and the Y-adapter.

    Two questions: (a) With this set-up, will I need to ground the generator outside?; (b) Is there any way to skip the Y-adapter and simply create 2 120V receptacles from the 10/4 cable? (I read something about not wanting to share the neutral, but not sure how the y-adapter wires this safely).

    Thanks for your help.

  2. #2
    Electrical Contractor/Instructor jwelectric's Avatar
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    No you don’t need a ground rod for the generator and all the rest needs to be scraped and a new and better idea.
    Use enough cords to where you can use 120 volts to supply 120 volt appliances.

  3. #3

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    I would give serious consideration to a sub panel with a transfer switch. Standing in puddles in the the middle of a rain storm is no time to jury-rig a generator.

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    DIY Senior Member Chad Schloss's Avatar
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    i really don't know why people think that hooking up a generator in the rain or snow or sunshine for that matter is all that difficult or dangerous. he is talking about using a twistlock connection, which is probably the best connection you can get on something like that.. explain what is so dangerous, standing in a puddle or not, how inserting a plug into a socket and twisting it, then firing up the gen set will injure / kill you, please?
    Last edited by Chad Schloss; 10-20-2011 at 07:37 PM.

  5. #5

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    Quote Originally Posted by Chad Schloss View Post
    i really don't know why people think that hooking up a generator in the rain or snow or sunshine for that matter is all that difficult or dangerous. he is talking about using a twistlock connection, which is probably the best connection you can get on something like that.. explain what is so dangerous, standing in a puddle or not, how inserting a plug into a socket and twisting it, then firing up the gen set will injure / kill you, please?
    Well for one, it is bad for the generator to operate it in rain. The generator has electronics in it that are possibly not water resistant - GFIs, load sensors, idle controls, hour meters, inverters, etc. Its also not so great for the electrical portions of the generator either. Personally I would never operate my generator in the rain, however I've seen many people right in my neighborhood do it. One of my neighbors thought he would be smart and keep the generator up close to the house, under the roof overhang, to help keep it dry. Too bad he faced the generator exhaust toward the house. He was lucky, the house did not catch fire, but he melted a good sized section of siding. I think that counts as a very close call as to how you can be injured or killed when you operate a generator in the rain.

    Two, you are however betting your life on something most likely made in China. They don't have the best QA departments over there. If you come into contact with any sort of fault and you are wet the odds of the shock killing you go way up.

    Also, it is well documented that homeowners DO kill themselves with generators. They use them during a storm and they are already worried about the food in the fridge, pipes freezing, basements flooding etc, so they rush and they don't think through everything they are doing. They use undersized extension cords to connect to heaters, they run the generator in the garage to keep it dry or not bother the neighbors at night, they refuel hot generators because their basement will flood if the sump pumps don't have power, they run extension cords up stairways - the list goes on. After every major storm causing substantial power outages in my area there is always a report of a homeowner killing themselves or the whole family with a generator.

    Personally I don't advocate running your house off extension cords. It always starts off as "I just need it for the fridge/ furnace". But after a couple days of no power there are extension cords to the lights downstairs, the lights upstairs, the TV, the microwave, etc. I think a transfer switch is the only way to go.

    -rick

  6. #6
    Electrical Contractor/Instructor jwelectric's Avatar
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    Dirck makes some good points and none of these self-contained generators are listed for use in during inclement weather.

    Then we have the listing issues

    ENGINE GENERATORS FOR PORTABLE
    USE (FTCN)
    GENERAL
    This category covers internal-combustion-engine-driven generators rated 15 kW or less, 250 V or less, which are provided only with receptacle outlets for the ac output circuits. The generators may incorporate alternating or direct-current generator sections for supplying energy to battery charging circuits.
    When a portable generator is used to supply a building or structure wiring system:
    1. The generator is considered a separately derived system in accordance with ANSI/NFPA 70, ‘‘National Electrical Code’’ (NEC).
    2. The generator is intended to be connected through permanently installed Listed transfer equipment that switches all conductors other than the equipment grounding conductor.
    3. The frame of a Listed generator is connected to the equipment grounding conductor and the grounded (neutral) conductor of the generator. When properly connected to a premises or structure wiring system, the portable generator will be connected to the premises or structure grounding electrode for its ground reference.
    4. Portable generators used other than to power building or structure wiring systems

    Cords is the only other way it can be done but it cannot have duplex receptacles on the 30 amp plug.

    On a side note is the type of current one of these small generators deliver. It is not very clean and some electronics are very unforgiving when it comes to the signal they receive from these generators.


    Sump pumps and a light plugged in is about all one of these small generators will take. They are not designed to have a lot plugged into them.

  7. #7
    DIY scratch-pad engineer leejosepho's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by mbwayne View Post
    If I decide to install a transfer switch in the future ...
    Maybe someone has already said this and I have missed it, or maybe I am wrong, but as I understand things, it is *never* okay to have a generator connected unless there is something mechanical making it absolutely impossible for any power from the generator to ever get/go back out to the incoming service line for the duration of the generator's connection.
    "Great minds discuss ideas, average minds discuss events and small minds discuss people." --Eleanor Roosevelt

  8. #8
    DIY Junior Member mbwayne's Avatar
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    Thanks for all the great comments. I've gotten quotes to install a 10-circuit transfer switch with the same run described above, and they've ranged $1600-$1850 for materials and labor. Just can't swing that right now for a device that may only be used once per year.

    Is the Y cord splitter the main problem? I was looking at the GenTran Model #RJB10403Y. Is this not a safe/approved device? If so, it just seems like all I'm doing is providing a 10/4 extension from the generator to the Y-splitter, which seems much safer and quicker to set up than running extension cords from the generator.

    Thanks again.

  9. #9
    Electrical Contractor/Instructor jwelectric's Avatar
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    The 10 circuit transfer switch is no longer an approved deal; see my post above from UL

    The splitter is protected at 30 amps and the duplex can be protected by no more than 20 amps and be compliant and safe.

    We must be aware that just because something will work in no way means it is safe.

    The only safe way to use one of those small generators is with a drop cord from the receptacle to the equipment being served or to connect it to a transfer switch that also switches the neutral.

  10. #10

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    Quote Originally Posted by mbwayne View Post
    and they've ranged $1600-$1850 for materials and labor.
    My was installed for $500 in labor. I purchased the material myself, it's been a while but I'm gonna say less then $200 out of pocket. On my sub-panel I have the following circuits:

    Well Pump
    Heat
    Refrigerator
    Microwave
    Family room wall sockets

    What else would you need?

  11. #11
    DIY Junior Member mbwayne's Avatar
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    I think the materials would be about $500 ($350 for 10-switch panel; $90 for 40' 10/4 cable; $50 inlet box), so I agree that $1100-1350 for labor seems a little high, but that was the range from 3 electricians in my area (maybe post-hurricane price jump?). As for number of circuits, the price difference from 6 to 10 circuits isn't that great, and I'm sure I'd appreciate a few more circuits when needed (although not at the same time).

    In any event, sounds like some heavy gauge extension cords will be the way to go until I can do the transfer switch. A bit tricky in the dark with kids and dogs, but should only be in rare emergency situations.

    Thanks again for the input.

  12. #12
    Electrical Contractor/Instructor jwelectric's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by mbwayne View Post
    I think the materials would be about $500 ($350 for 10-switch panel; $90 for 40' 10/4 cable; $50 inlet box), so I agree that $1100-1350 for labor seems a little high, but that was the range from 3 electricians in my area (maybe post-hurricane price jump?). As for number of circuits, the price difference from 6 to 10 circuits isn't that great, and I'm sure I'd appreciate a few more circuits when needed (although not at the same time).

    In any event, sounds like some heavy gauge extension cords will be the way to go until I can do the transfer switch. A bit tricky in the dark with kids and dogs, but should only be in rare emergency situations.

    Thanks again for the input.
    You came here asking two questions which you got a good safe and code compliant answer to.
    Quote Originally Posted by mbwayne View Post
    questions: (a) With this set-up, will I need to ground the generator outside?; (b) Is there any way to skip the Y-adapter and simply create 2 120V receptacles from the 10/4 cable? (I read something about not wanting to share the neutral, but not sure how the y-adapter wires this safely).

    Thanks for your help.
    Quote Originally Posted by jwelectric View Post
    No you don’t need a ground rod for the generator and all the rest needs to be scraped and a new and better idea.
    Use enough cords to where you can use 120 volts to supply 120 volt appliances.
    Not only that but you also got the installation instructions for a transfer switch should you decide to use one as outlined by UL
    ENGINE GENERATORS FOR PORTABLE
    USE (FTCN)
    GENERAL
    This category covers internal-combustion-engine-driven generators rated 15 kW or less, 250 V or less, which are provided only with receptacle outlets for the ac output circuits. The generators may incorporate alternating or direct-current generator sections for supplying energy to battery charging circuits.
    When a portable generator is used to supply a building or structure wiring system:
    1. The generator is considered a separately derived system in accordance with ANSI/NFPA 70, ‘‘National Electrical Code’’ (NEC).
    2. The generator is intended to be connected through permanently installed Listed transfer equipment that switches all conductors other than the equipment grounding conductor.
    3. The frame of a Listed generator is connected to the equipment grounding conductor and the grounded (neutral) conductor of the generator. When properly connected to a premises or structure wiring system, the portable generator will be connected to the premises or structure grounding electrode for its ground reference.
    4. Portable generators used other than to power building or structure wiring systems

    Then you post the post above.
    Let me say that I know you are going to do what you are going to do but once again before you go and spend all that money think about the safety of your family first above watching TV
    Also don’t be too disappointed if you have to keep going outside to restart that generator or if you lose a lot of electrical equipment

  13. #13

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    It would appear that you came here to get support for your decision, clearly you don't want advice. Just so incorrect information isn't left in this thread, I will correct your material costs noted above:

    1 ea. Square D 8 Circuit/Space Transfer box is $99 at Lowes
    http://www.lowes.com/pd_28277-296-QO...7C1&facetInfo=

    4 ea Square D Tandem Homeline Circuit Breakers are $44 at Lowes ($11 ea)
    http://www.lowes.com/pd_4372-296-HOM...nfo=Square%20D

    1 ea Load Center Outdoor Connection is $28 at Lowes
    http://www.lowes.com/pd_242306-82364...7C0&facetInfo=

    2 each 250V/30A - 3 wire plug at Lowes $38 ($19 each)
    http://www.lowes.com/pd_197490-334-L...7C1&facetInfo=

    Wire ~ $50

    Total cost of materials about $260.

    I see that you've shown 40' of 10/4 cable. You should consider putting your outside hook-up on the same wall as the main & subpanel box (just opposite of them actually) which is where you will also find your outside meter. Place the generator within 6' of the outside hook-up. This will reduce the cable length from 40' to 10'.

    Sometimes you have to install things correctly versus how you want them.


    Edited to add

    I am editing this post to add one more link to the UL white book

    http://www.ul.com/global/eng/pages/o...l/newsletters/

    once open search for FTCN and see how things have changed in the past three years concerning these small generators.
    Last edited by jwelectric; 10-21-2011 at 04:30 PM.

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