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Old 11-26-2008, 06:55 PM   #1 (permalink)
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back feeding electricity through dryer outlet

alright, ive got a portable light tower in my yard right now for the winter. aside from making lots of light, it has a generator with outlets built into it. It can generate a good but of electricity, and can run for days at full load.

I have heard, and read, that you can make a cord, with a male end that will plug into the generator's 230v outlet, and at the other end, a male plug will plug into your dryer or stove outlet. Then you turn off the main breaker, and start up the generator, and you can "backfeed yourself" and have electricity in moderation.


Any thoughts?
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Old 11-26-2008, 08:12 PM   #2 (permalink)
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Yes you technically can, you will be limited to putting in the amount of the breaker you are plugging into. It is not the best option, but it will work in a pinch.

You trying to use this as backup?
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Old 11-27-2008, 05:09 AM   #3 (permalink)
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We do this the few times the power goes out to keep the light and heat on.

I would do this only as a emergency back up if you have this generator get the proper switching gear.

We are also told we are to have a Miller Bobcat for this task but it keeps getting rented out.
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Old 11-27-2008, 07:22 AM   #4 (permalink)
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you must turn your breaker the main one so you do not back feed to the power grid and hurt someone. Ed

I have read a few dozen comments on this one on an Rv site. the pro and cons and dangers. ED
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Old 11-27-2008, 07:55 AM   #5 (permalink)
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it is safe as long as you make sure you turn off the main breaker. I'd also power down the un needed breakers and slowly bring them back online so that you don't surge the genny. There is nothing wrong with doing it that way, I've got a 50 amp plug just for that at my house but it is locked and the locks are set up so you must turn the breaker off before you can get the key to unlock the second box.
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Old 11-27-2008, 08:17 AM   #6 (permalink)
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i just made my "suicide cord" the other day to do this. my oven outlet is next to my back door. it is on a 40a circuit. i only plan on using my generator to keep my refrigerator and possibly a tv/computer going when the power is out. i lost a bunch of food last year when the power was out for a while. when the power goes out this year i will flip off my main and water heater breakers, fire up the generator and then plug in the "suicide cord". i don't have heater so i don't have to worry about that kicking on and i will limit what i use inside the house.

i am ready for this winter. i have the generator topped off and have 15 gallons of gas on standby. this should keep me going till i can resupply.
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Old 11-27-2008, 09:36 AM   #7 (permalink)
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i just made my "suicide cord" the other day to do this. my oven outlet is next to my back door. it is on a 40a circuit. i only plan on using my generator to keep my refrigerator and possibly a tv/computer going when the power is out. i lost a bunch of food last year when the power was out for a while. when the power goes out this year i will flip off my main and water heater breakers, fire up the generator and then plug in the "suicide cord". i don't have heater so i don't have to worry about that kicking on and i will limit what i use inside the house.

i am ready for this winter. i have the generator topped off and have 15 gallons of gas on standby. this should keep me going till i can resupply.

Don't forget in addition to the 15 gallons you have the gas in your yota and other vehicles (assumes you have a gas genny and gas vehicles). I keep about 12 gal on tap + the 12 in the genny + 24 aval in my truck and 15 in the wifes car and another 15 in the race car (93 oct). I figure that'll run me a good long while. I also keep extra oil, plugs, filters, etc, just in case.
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Old 11-27-2008, 09:55 AM   #8 (permalink)
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Why do you have a light tower in your yard
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Old 11-27-2008, 03:41 PM   #9 (permalink)
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Why do you have a light tower in your yard

I think a better question is, why don't you have a light tower in your yard?
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Old 11-27-2008, 04:14 PM   #10 (permalink)
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Transferr Switch

Do it right or don't do it at all. Have a transfer switch installed so there can NEVER be a mistake of NOT turning off your main breaker and causing some poor lineman's death!
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Old 11-27-2008, 06:37 PM   #11 (permalink)
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Do it right or don't do it at all. Have a transfer switch installed so there can NEVER be a mistake of NOT turning off your main breaker and causing some poor lineman's death!
The lineman failing to gound the line before working on it would cause his death, not someone backfeeding the grid.
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Old 11-27-2008, 07:23 PM   #12 (permalink)
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Why do you have a light tower in your yard

Who doesnt?? The place i work has 200+ of them, and they sit in the yard all winter. why not have one as back-up power, and if i need ALOT of light, i have it.

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I think a better question is, why don't you have a light tower in your yard?
Exactly



I think i am going to go ahead and go to lowes or somewhere tomarrow and buy some male/female plugs and some wire. I figure i can cut the line to the water heater and well pump pressure switch in half, wire a male plug on the appliance side of the cord, and a female plug on the "in" side of the cord. During normal use, i just keep the cords plugged into each other. when the power goes out, i fire up my light tower, plug my cord into it, go in the house, disconnect the male/female plugs in the lines to the well pump and water heater, and plug the lead from the generator into the awaiting male plugs coming off the appliance..

I would really feel bad if i fucked something up and killed a lineman...as much as i hate people, i'm not out to kill somone just trying to do their job.


The light tower makes 30A at 230V, (plus 120V), so i should be able to run them both at once, just not have them start at the same time; whoch may prove to be harder then it sounds.......
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Old 11-27-2008, 10:08 PM   #13 (permalink)
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The lineman failing to gound the line before working on it would cause his death, not someone backfeeding the grid.
True they should ground before working, but you may hurt someone else that innocently thinks the lines are dead because they are down. A transformer receiving the back feed steps that back up to what it normally receives.
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Old 11-27-2008, 10:18 PM   #14 (permalink)
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A transformer receiving the back feed steps that back up to what it normally receives.

and your generator would surely bog down and probably stall as it is trying to power all the houses on your grid.
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Old 11-28-2008, 07:15 AM   #15 (permalink)
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Do it right or don't do it at all. Have a transfer switch installed so there can NEVER be a mistake of NOT turning off your main breaker and causing some poor lineman's death!
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The lineman failing to gound the line before working on it would cause his death, not someone backfeeding the grid.
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True they should ground before working, but you may hurt someone else that innocently thinks the lines are dead because they are down. A transformer receiving the back feed steps that back up to what it normally receives.
We got through this every stinking time someone asks this question.

No line mechanic is ever gonna touch a line until it is "dead AND grounded".

I worked in the executive offices for a power company, wore a banker's suit and tie everyday and "I" had it pounded into me that one never went within falling or reaching distance of a "Potentially" energized conductor without confirming it was both "Dead and grounded". The last thing my job as an environmental engineer was ever going to require me to do was work on the electric lines but I still had the safety aspects pounded into me on a sickeningly regular basis!

When is the last time anyone heard of a line mechanic getting fried during outage repairs? It's been a long time!

Throwing the main breaker is more than sufficient to protect what you guys apparently think are some really stupid line mechanics. Better yet, do what I have done... Unplug the refrigerator from the house and run an extension cord directly to the fridge-but, use a big-ass extension cord.
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Old 11-28-2008, 10:59 AM   #16 (permalink)
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We got through this every stinking time someone asks this question.

No line mechanic is ever gonna touch a line until it is "dead AND grounded".

I worked in the executive offices for a power company, wore a banker's suit and tie everyday and "I" had it pounded into me that one never went within falling or reaching distance of a "Potentially" energized conductor without confirming it was both "Dead and grounded". The last thing my job as an environmental engineer was ever going to require me to do was work on the electric lines but I still had the safety aspects pounded into me on a sickeningly regular basis!

When is the last time anyone heard of a line mechanic getting fried during outage repairs? It's been a long time!

Throwing the main breaker is more than sufficient to protect what you guys apparently think are some really stupid line mechanics. Better yet, do what I have done... Unplug the refrigerator from the house and run an extension cord directly to the fridge-but, use a big-ass extension cord.
I've got a friend who's a lineman, after hearing some of his stories I take as much precaution as I can, from what he's told me if they do find you are backfeeding into the grid then they are going to cut your service and not be in a hurry to hook it back up once the power is restored.

For some brands of panel you can buy a simple interlock that allows you to back feed through a breaker only after turning the main off, this requires a breaker dedicated to a plug for the generator. Backfeeding though a dryer plug also means you are feeding currant though the ground wire(unless you have a 4 wire dryer plug), I doubt that the NEC is found of this practice.

In some cases you can have a safe, code compliant way of feeding your panel for 100$ or so, pretty cheap compared to to possible(though not likely) loss of life that could happen if the wrong chain of events unfolded.

Brewchief

BTW my friend almost lost his life because of a simple mistake that know one noticed until it was almost to late, he walked away from that job because of it.
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Old 11-28-2008, 11:09 AM   #17 (permalink)
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Old 11-28-2008, 05:47 PM   #18 (permalink)
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Backfeeding though a dryer plug also means you are feeding currant though the ground wire(unless you have a 4 wire dryer plug), I doubt that the NEC is found of this practice.

please explain to me how long you think you could feed power though a ground wire before your breaker tripped.

and technically, wouldn't you actually be back feeding a neutral (unless you had a 4 wire) which is probably bonded to ground in a residential service. if some how this line actually got hot, it would be grounded immediately and you generator would trip a breaker or stall.

nec isn't going to like anything unless there is a "break before make" type switch for a generator service. sometimes people like me live in a rental and are not going to rewire the panel for a transfer switch.



kind of on the subject, i really want to know how long your generator (lets just say an 8kw) would run if you were actually back feeding the grid? you would be boosting the voltage back up and then bucking it back down at the next transformer trying to power every one's house that is on the grid.
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Old 11-29-2008, 07:22 AM   #19 (permalink)
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please explain to me how long you think you could feed power though a ground wire before your breaker tripped.

and technically, wouldn't you actually be back feeding a neutral (unless you had a 4 wire) which is probably bonded to ground in a residential service. if some how this line actually got hot, it would be grounded immediately and you generator would trip a breaker or stall.

nec isn't going to like anything unless there is a "break before make" type switch for a generator service. sometimes people like me live in a rental and are not going to rewire the panel for a transfer switch.



kind of on the subject, i really want to know how long your generator (lets just say an 8kw) would run if you were actually back feeding the grid? you would be boosting the voltage back up and then bucking it back down at the next transformer trying to power every one's house that is on the grid.

You would be feeding the current that would normally be traveling on the neutral wire though the ground wire because you have 120V and 240V at the genset, this might not seem like a big deal because the neutral and ground are bonded at the panel but in some cases the ground wire is downsized and may not be able to carry the amperage without getting hot. The ground wire is there as a safety, not to carry currant, unless there is a problem.

As for powering the grid, what if the break in the service line is the wire that feeds just your transformer, it would only backfeed to the transformer and not into the grid but the potential for injury could still be there.

I understand that it would take an amazing sequence of events to injure or kill a line worker but as we all know shit happens.


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Old 11-29-2008, 08:21 AM   #20 (permalink)
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I understand that it would take an amazing sequence of events to injure or kill a line worker but as we all know shit happens.


Brewchief
Industrial accidents occur far more often because of intentional disregard for safety rules than due to any other reason. If line mechanics get shocked, it is because they did not ground the circuit they were working on.

I saw many incidents that were due to inattention, ignorance, or disregard for safety (yes, I did demand termination for the man who I caught wiring an interlock switch in the on position and fought it to the union and won!). I can only think of a single situation where a design flaw resulted in an accident and fortunately, no one was injured in spite of a huge potential for blowing up the building and a good chunk of the city.

It's not dead until it's dead and grounded! Otherwise, you WILL be dead and grounded.
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Old 11-29-2008, 08:35 AM   #21 (permalink)
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You would be feeding the current that would normally be traveling on the neutral wire though the ground wire because you have 120V and 240V at the genset, this might not seem like a big deal because the neutral and ground are bonded at the panel but in some cases the ground wire is downsized and may not be able to carry the amperage without getting hot. The ground wire is there as a safety, not to carry currant, unless there is a problem.

Brewchief
so you are saying that i would see a significant voltage if i put my voltage meter between the neutral leg of my generator and a earth ground?
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Old 11-29-2008, 11:06 AM   #22 (permalink)
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You would be feeding the current that would normally be traveling on the neutral wire though the ground wire because you have 120V and 240V at the genset, this might not seem like a big deal because the neutral and ground are bonded at the panel but in some cases the ground wire is downsized and may not be able to carry the amperage without getting hot. The ground wire is there as a safety, not to carry currant, unless there is a problem.

Brewchief
As this is a dryer outlet, I wonder if this would be an issue. Aren't dryer and stove outlets typically up-rated and run with short runs of cable recognizing the load placed on the home electrical system by these high current devices?
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Old 11-29-2008, 01:48 PM   #23 (permalink)
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so you are saying that i would see a significant voltage if i put my voltage meter between the neutral leg of my generator and a earth ground?
No, you should see no voltage, however because we are using 120v and 240v we need a neutral leg(for the 120v) using the ground wire as a neutral to carry the currant could result in an unsafe situation, if you put a voltmeter on it you should see no voltage to ground, if you put an amp meter on it you would see the currant it's carrying.

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As this is a dryer outlet, I wonder if this would be an issue. Aren't dryer and stove outlets typically up-rated and run with short runs of cable recognizing the load placed on the home electrical system by these high current devices?
In most newer homes the wire size shouldn't be an issue, in some older homes however I've seen dryers and stoves wired with cable that has a substantially smaller ground wire(2 #8 and a #12 or #14 for the ground, my understanding is that since the ground is designed to carry currant for a short period of time in the event of a short it can be smaller and be perfectly safe. If you look in the NEC you will see that circuits over a certain size can use a smaller ground wire and meet code, somewhere in the 35-40 amp range IIRC is where it starts, I would assume that in the past it was acceptable for smaller circuits and that could cause some problems if you try to pass a large amount of currant though it.

Brewchief

Last edited by brewchief; 11-29-2008 at 01:53 PM.
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Old 11-29-2008, 04:50 PM   #24 (permalink)
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you must turn your breaker the main one so you do not back feed to the power grid and hurt someone. Ed

I have read a few dozen comments on this one on an Rv site. the pro and cons and dangers. ED
My neighbor is a lineman . They make all the customers kill their gensets or they wont fix their power .
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Old 11-29-2008, 05:21 PM   #25 (permalink)
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Buy a 3 pole knife switch and wire your genset to one side of the switch and have your power company wire the other pole to your switch. Normally only $150 to have them shut power off and connect to the switch. Then you will have a manual transfer switch with the centre lug wired into you main panel. Also don't forget to ground your lighting unit or you could kill yourself or someone you love.

I am an electrical generation technician. I work on generators everyday as well as power distrubution. You don't want to kill someone you love or yourself so use your "suicide cord" to wire your generator to your knife switch.
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