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Power failures

  I've been reading here about a some peoples problems with power failures, so I thought I'd post the method I used during the many power failures I had before I got a whole house generator.

 

  I had a portable generator with enough capacity to run my lights and ceiling fans, fridge, freezer, microwave, toaster oven, well pump, and one small window AC. An easy way to do this is to buy a generator with enough capacity to have a dryer receptacle. Then you construct a cable with 10/4 portable cord with a male dryer plug at each end.

 

  During a power failure you turn off the following breakers: main, dryer, water heater, central heat & AC, stove, water pump, and any other large loads. Plug one end of the temporary cord into the generator before it's started, run the other end of the cord into the laundry area and plug it into the dryer receptacle, start the generator, and close the main on the generator.

 

  Then you close the dryer breaker at the main panel. If you have done every thing correctly you now have power to all the essentials, without having to run extension cords all over the place.

 

  Keep in mind that you've only got about 30 amps available, and the more stuff you have powered on, the faster the generator will run out of fuel. Never turn on the central heat & AC breakers, as this would probably immediately trip the generator. Don't use more than one burner or the oven on the stove, unless you turn off the water heater, well pump breakers, and the window unit AC. IOW you have to actively manage the loads.

 

  To test if the utility power has returned you only have to open the dryer breaker, and close the main. Make absolutely sure that both breakers are never closed at the same time until the generator is disconnected. With the newer electric meters, this test is not necessary. you can just look at the LC display on the meter. If it's back on, you have power.

 

  If the power has returned, open the dryer breaker, and close the main and any other open breakers, shut down the generator and remove the temporary cable, plug the dryer back in, and then close the dryer breaker at the main panel.

  Simple yes? I got so tired of doing the this in the middle of the night by flashlight, that after my portable generator was stolen, and I had gone through a 38 hour outage without it, I had a whole house generator installed. Expensive, but I was getting too old to stumble around in the dark with a flashlight anyway. It also has the advantage of using propane for fuel, and it came with a 250 gal tank.

 

  The generator was installed three months ago, and we haven't had a power failure since. Just a few glitches that didn't last long enough for it to even start its warm up cycle.

 

  See, my expensive new generator is working very well! :>)>

20 REPLIES 20
BirdDog
Assistant Professor

One thing to do this on the hush but to publicly post it is not something I would do. I'm pretty certain doing it can get you in a LOT of trouble in many places if ever caught or especially if something serious results.

 

I'm sure you'll want to tell me I'm wrong now.


@BirdDog wrote:

One thing to do this on the hush but to publicly post it is not something I would do. I'm pretty certain doing it can get you in a LOT of trouble in many places if ever caught or especially if something serious results.

 

I'm sure you'll want to tell me I'm wrong now.


  Well,  I hope you're wrong.  I haven't heard of anyone being sued for posting instructions on how to do something on the internet, but I've been wrong before.  I hope not anyway, otherwise we are all in danger of a law suit by giving any sort of advice here.

 

  BTW I took great pains to make the instructions as safe as possible, and I actually didn't think of this idea first, I got most of it from an old retired Navy diving instructor.  Is he liable also?  Until recently he was still teaching scuba  diving.  Would he be liable if one of his students was killed scuba diving later after completing his course?  I'll probably see him later today and ask him.

 

 Well, I'll think about some more.  What a sorry world we live in, if one can so easily get in trouble for trying to help,

 

"The first thing we do, let's kill all the lawyers."
William Shakespeare

To clarify, I wasn't referring to "doing it" as posting it here getting into trouble, I was meaning actually connecting a portable generator in such a way. Kinda doubt posting the steps here will bring civil action by the power company. Again, just something I personally wouldn't share as backfeeding is already widely addressed on the Internet and so are the laws.


@BirdDog wrote:

To clarify, I wasn't referring to "doing it" as posting it here getting into trouble, I was meaning actually connecting a portable generator in such a way. Kinda doubt posting the steps here will bring civil action by the power company. Again, just something I personally wouldn't share as backfeeding is already widely addressed on the Internet and so are the laws.


  Sorry, I misunderstood the whole point of your reply.  Just about everyone here in Florida  has a generator of some kind, many of them are hardwired to their house wiring by some method during an outage.  The utility companies are well aware of this situation. 

 

  Some years ago when I lived in south Florida, my service entrance was severed by a falling tree limb.  When the utility company came to hook it back up I noticed that the guy doing the work was wearing hot gloves even though the line was dead, and he was working out of a bucket truck.  When I asked him about this, he said that with all of the generators around possibly backfeeding from every which way, wearing hot gloves was SOP.

If you are going to hook a generator up to your home, then do it right.  It's against every single code in the book to do what you have described, it's also very dangerous.  There is a reason that there are special disconnects that are REQUIRED by NEC, local codes, and individual utility companies now for when someone feeds a home with a generator through a main or sub panel.  Too many people forget what order to flip the breakers and it can cause serious injury to linemen if someone forgets to kill the main, it has happened more than once.


@C0RR0SIVE wrote:

If you are going to hook a generator up to your home, then do it right.  It's against every single code in the book to do what you have described, it's also very dangerous................. 


   There are probably not enough jail cells in the world  to hold all of the people who hook up home generators by far more dangerous methods than the one I described.

 

"Too many people forget what order to flip the breakers and it can cause serious injury to linemen if someone forgets to kill the main, it has happened more than once."

 

  Well, I'll take your word for that, although I have about 20 years of experience as an industrial electrician and another 16 years working in industry, and I don't recall ever hearing of such an occurrence.  BTW we used to get a monthly newsletter from some government agency listing all of the accidental deaths for that month, including both industrial and residential. 

 

  The most popular way to get killed in industry,  seemed to be knocking the pins out of an improperly blocked crane boom.  If I remember correctly, most residential electrocutions were caused by an improperly grounded appliance of some kind, electric drills being the favorite.

 

GabeU
Distinguished Professor IV

@gaines_wright 

 

The only caveat I would add is that, if someone is going to do this, they install, or have installed, an interlock switch.  Though remembering to turn off the main is something that has to be done, people forget things, and accidentally powering the generator while the main is still on could cause considerably injury to a linesman or someone else working on the mains. 

 

A nifty trick, though.  I've known people who have connected their portable generators with a cord like this in order to keep their refrigerators/freezers powered, as well as a few other things.  


Ryzen 5 3400G | MSI B450M Pro-M2 MAX | 16GB Corsair Vengeance DDR4 3000 | XPG SX8200 Pro 512GB NVMe | Windows 10 Pro


@GabeU wrote:

@gaines_wright 

 

The only caveat I would add is that, if someone is going to do this, they install, or have installed, an interlock switch.  Though remembering to turn off the main is something that has to be done, people forget things, and accidentally powering the generator while the main is still on could cause considerably injury to a linesman or someone else working on the mains. 

  Like I said to birdog, the utility companies are well aware of all the generators around, and take precautions.

 

  I think the most likely occurrence would be that your running generator would try to pick up all the loads between you and the fault on the line. If the generator was down and the power came back on with the main and dryer breakers closed, the utility power would try to motorise your generator. Neither situation would be good for the generator even though a breaker would probably trip somewhere.

 

 My dryer receptacle was actually located in a detached pole barn about 70 feet from the house with a hundred amp service feeding a separate panel from the main house.  Installing any sort of interlock would have been tricky to say the least.

 

  Well like I said, I don't have to worry about it any more.

 

 

 

 

 

My nieghbor, who's a retired electrician has an extension cord hooked up to a sub panel in his garage looks a little hokey but I guess it works. Me and another nieghbor went over and dug his car out, helped him start his generator, i had to  wade through waist deep snow from the street to the side of his house to shut off his main. He's disabled and on oxygen. he left for warmer climates until this  latest storm blows over.


@alfresco wrote:

My nieghbor, who's a retired electrician has an extension cord hooked up to a sub panel in his garage looks a little hokey but I guess it works.

  I did the same thing, until a friend of mine suggested that I hook a dryer receptacle to the subpanel out in the pole barn where the generator was located.  I didn't have enough spare breakers to leave the generator hooked up all of the time, and I didn't like the idea of the generator being connected with the flick of a switch anyway, IMO the dryer receptacle made everything a lot easier and safer.

 

  Waist deep snow?  Our problem has been the heat.  We just had over a week of near or over 90 degree temperatures.  In the middle of February!

90? yikes, and high humidity no doubt. I prefer the cold.

I'm going to look in to getting a whole house generator, it looks like this summer we're going to have a lot of blackouts.

https://www.sacbee.com/news/state/california/fires/article225626075.html

GabeU
Distinguished Professor IV


@alfresco wrote:

90? yikes, and high humidity no doubt. I prefer the cold.

I'm going to look in to getting a whole house generator, it looks like this summer we're going to have a lot of blackouts.

https://www.sacbee.com/news/state/california/fires/article225626075.html


Over the last couple of weeks I must have seen this one Generac commercial a dozen times.  I hadn't seen one in months, but this must be the time when people are starting to think about them more.  

 

My brother has one at his house and loves it.  I get free natural gas where I live due to a deal that was made with the gas company for running a main across the property.  We have two gas wells within a very short distance of here (about 300 feet and 1500 feet), and the more distant one has the main running right under my front lawn.  If I had one of those generators in natural gas I'd be doing just dandy if the power went out.  Plus, with my house being very small and only needing a 10MBH window AC, I'd have no problem running everything off of a smaller one.  

 

One of these days, perhaps.  Until then I'll be roughing it.  😛  


Ryzen 5 3400G | MSI B450M Pro-M2 MAX | 16GB Corsair Vengeance DDR4 3000 | XPG SX8200 Pro 512GB NVMe | Windows 10 Pro

Free gas that's awesome. My wifes uncle has the same deal with the water company.

I'll  probably be roughing it for quite a while it's hard to get service people to even come out here also the cost may be to rich for my blood ;).

 

 

..."My brother has one at his house and loves it. I get free natural gas where I live due to a deal that was made with the gas company for running a main across the property."....

 

  Wow!  Free natural gas!  If I had that I'd convert everything in my house to run on gas:  heat, stove, water heater, and even a few lights.  I wonder if someone makes a gas powered AC?  If your AC is only 10kbtu, you wouldn't need a very large generator and transfer switch.  

Following this with the interest of eventually getting a generator.

Also because aside from Y and Δ circuits (and Pw=IE), the majority of my power engineering knowledge (from... 1978-ish) is in a book somewhere in my attic.


* Disclaimer: I am a HughesNet customer and not a HughesNet employee. All of my comments are my own and do not necessarily represent HughesNet in any way.
GabeU
Distinguished Professor IV


@gaines_wright wrote: 

Wow!  Free natural gas!  If I had that I'd convert everything in my house to run on gas:  heat, stove, water heater, and even a few lights.  I wonder if someone makes a gas powered AC?  If your AC is only 10kbtu, you wouldn't need a very large generator and transfer switch.  


Oh, trust me, I would too.  Luckily, though, my water heater, furnace and range are already natural gas, so I rarely use the microwave or other electric cooking appliances, especially during the winter.  Well, save for the toaster, that is.  😛  

 

The only thing I wish was different was my furnace.  My house is small enough that a floor furnace would be perfect, and that would need no electricity.  So, though I have all the gas I need, when the power goes out I still don't have heat.  This house used to have a floor furnace, as well as a wood stove in the corner of the living room, but both of those were removed years ago, and the only indication that either one existed was where the flue went through the ceiling, which is now covered with wood.  

 

Both my folks and I live at the end of our dead end road, and my house, which they own, is across the street from theirs.  They had a choice as to which house got the free gas, and though most people probably would have chosen their own house, they chose this one, as they surmised that the free gas would make it more attractive to renters.  Whether it really did I have no idea, but it works for me.  🙂  

 

The amount of free gas has a monthly limit, but in the 14+ years I've lived here I've never come close.  

 

My AC needs about 8.8 amps, so it's pretty efficient.  Even a mid sized portable generator would probably be enough to run the fridge, freezer, some lights, and the AC or furnace.  Maybe even a smaller one.  I see some at Home Depot for around $300 -$400 that would most likely be good enough.  Everything here is pretty small and doesn't draw much, though the fridge is pretty old and probably drawing a lot more than it used to.  Sometimes when it's warmer in the house it take the compressor in the fridge a couple of tries before it starts, though that could just be due to a weakening start/run capacitor. 

 

Edit:  I should add that I have no 220/240 service in the house, so no receptacle to be able to connect the cable in order for it to properly hit both hot bars in the panel.  I do to the panel, of course, and it's to the panel which I would have to connect the generator.  I'd have to have some help, but the neighbor knows a lot about electricity (he installs/maintains industrial heating/cooling systems), so he'd be able to help if I asked him.


Ryzen 5 3400G | MSI B450M Pro-M2 MAX | 16GB Corsair Vengeance DDR4 3000 | XPG SX8200 Pro 512GB NVMe | Windows 10 Pro

I don't have 220 either. If you're going to get a generator you should look into inverter generators they're more expensive but they're easier on fuel consumpition and wont fry your electronics i.e. computers, Tv, etc.

 

 

"Sometimes when it's warmer in the house it take the compressor in the fridge a couple of tries before it starts, though that could just be due to a weakening start/run capacitor."

 

  Oooooo!  I don't like the sound of that!  Years ago I inherited a large Kenmore fridge from my aunt.   After a year or so the defrost timer failed.  The only place to get the part was from Sears at double the normal price for one.  A few months later, the start relay failed.  A few months after I replaced that, the compressor locked up.  Time to get a new fridge.

 

  That was my one experience at trying to save a dying fridge.  Now  the first time my fridge even hiccups, I start looking for a new one.  Refrigerators used to be made to last 15 years or more.  Not in these days, I think my  last one lasted about  six years.  

 

  Hope you have better luck.

 

 

 

 

   

@alfresco wrote:

I'm going to look in to getting a whole house generator, it looks like this summer we're going to have a lot of blackouts.

 

  They are expensive, especially if you do as I did, and get one big enough to run your central AC.  I contacted Generac and they reccomended a local contractor.  The final bill was $11,243.00, including the generator, installation, and a 250 gal propane containing 200 gal of propane.     

 

 

 

maratsade
Distinguished Professor IV

Good info; I've bookmarked the post for future reference. 

 

gaines_wright wrote:

 

  They are expensive, especially if you do as I did, and get one big enough to run your central AC.  I contacted Generac and they reccomended a local contractor.  The final bill was $11,243.00, including the generator, installation, and a 250 gal propane containing 200 gal of propane.