Quick home electric question

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  1. diymirage

    diymirage HP@idle > hondaHP@redline

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    Hey guys

    We are supposed to have some winter storms coming in, so I decided to get a generator (me and just about everyone else in town)

    I got the whole thing hardwired into what I though was my main panel BUT when I pulled the main breaker (labeled 200 amps) nothing happened
    I checked a secondary breaker box and found a breaker labeled "garage panel"

    When I flipped the main (100 amp) breaker on the second box the entire house went dark

    So, apart from not being able to lock out the 30 amp breaker to the generator, as long as the actual main is of, I can power my house through the genny, right?


    On a side note, I guess the 200 amp breaker goes to the box outside, in the bottom picture, anyone know what it is for?

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  2. nm9stheham

    nm9stheham Well-Known Member

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    That looks like a power meter base.... where a power meter would be installed. It completes the connection from the electric company's power meter feed to you panel... but the input power connection from the pole is missing. That would be feeding into the top connections that you show.

    So it sounds like the 'garage panel' is feeding the whole house. But a 100A feed is 40-50 years behind the times for a house feed.... a 200A feed has been the standard since the 80's or earlier. I can only guess what is going on... it is almost like the installation of a new panel started and was not finished. Maybe the prior owner did not pull a permit and so was doing it under the radar and got scared and stopped....??? Who knows?

    Now to your generator connection.... please forgive me for saying the following, but won't pull any punches here as it involves life safety. What you are planning to do is dangerous. If you have the generator feeding into your panel and forget to cut off the main 100A input breaker guess what..... you have energized the main line from your generator. I can and does happen. If you try to feed other houses then good luck!

    What is dangerous is when the power company workers come and isolate sections of the line, and they touch your line thinking it is dead; they can be electrocuted as there is another source of power on the line that they thought they had isolated. Don't doubt this... this kind of death has happened more than once. And it happens just as described... the user forgets to cut their main panel breaker and inadvertently energizes the main incoming power company line.

    So if this is what you are doing, please back up and get a proper whole house transfer switch, which, when you throw the switch, properly cuts off the connection to the power company feed before it makes the connection to the generator. And knowing where you live, to be legal you may need an electrician to do this. You at least need to pull a permit and have it inspected.

    Best course for now IMHO... run some extension cords from the generator when you need it, and run the minimal stuff you need directly.

    Sorry to be negative, but I am honestly concerned about this.
     
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    • JDMopar

      JDMopar Well-Known Member

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      I agree with EVERYTHING nm9stheham said, because I am one of those power company guys that people that don't have a clue what they're doing with a generator have tried to kill. The transformers hanging on a pole have a line with 7,200 volts feeding into it, and it takes that 7,200 volts and steps it down to the 120/240 volts that comes into your house from the pole. Guess what happens when you F up the connections of your generator? It takes that 120/240 volts that your generator puts out......feeds it right back thru the transformer backwards, and turns it into 7,200 volts! That creates the possibility of some young gung ho lineman that forgot to check for feedback and ground the line to get killed or maimed for life! PLEASE GET AN ELECTRICIAN TO HELP YOU. From reading your posts here, I believe you are a good person who would never hurt anyone intentionally...so get some help with it if you can.
       
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      • diymirage

        diymirage HP@idle > hondaHP@redline

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        Thanks guys
        Last thing I want to do is create a dangerous situation, and I fully understand not wanting to rely on me to remember to the the right switches in the right order



        From what I can tell the main is coming in above the small box
        From what I can tell that is perhaps the last remains outside wall of the original footprint
        I believe the house was build in the 70s, and added on constantly (I'll see if I can find some date stamps on the different boxes)

        The annoying thing is that the "main" box is on the north side of the house, in the basement

        The generator sits under carport, clear on the south side of the house
        I would like to keep it there, to keep it out of the elements

        I'll look into one of those "whole house doohickeys"
         
      • diymirage

        diymirage HP@idle > hondaHP@redline

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        And just for the record, if I were to hook it up to the main, with the little "lock out tab" that will not allow you to have both the main, and the breaker to the generator on, we will be A-ok, right?
         
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        • JDMopar

          JDMopar Well-Known Member

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          The bottom pic in your first post is a meter base. Is it on the end of the house near the 100 amp panel? Is there another meter base somewhere else on your house that has a meter in it? If so, I bet it feeds the 200 amp panel.....and somehow the 200 amp panel feeds the 100 amp panel since the empty meter base no longer does. I'd about bet that the wires that come from the bottom lugs of the unused meter base still go into the 100 amp panel, and are just taped up and pushed to the side. If they are still hooked up to the main breaker in the 100 amp panel, they are hot all the time if the 100 amp panel is fed by one of the lower breakers. As long as there is a metal cover for that old meter base, and a glass or plastic cover for the hole where the meter goes, it will be safe. If there is no glass or plastic cover for the vacant meter hole, I will be glad to send you one if you want it. All it does is keeps birds from building nests in the box, or nosey little boys from sticking their fingers in there and getting bit if it's hot! :eek:
           
        • JDMopar

          JDMopar Well-Known Member

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          Yes, they do make a lockout device that makes it impossible to have both breakers on at the same time. A transfer switch is better, but they are more expensive.
           
        • diymirage

          diymirage HP@idle > hondaHP@redline

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          I'll check when its light out again, but it looks like the power comes in (I'll check for that meter) at the 100 amp panel (picture #2) and feeds the panel in picture #1 through spots 12 and 14

          IF picture number 3 is hot, I betcha I can kill it by flipping the 200 amp switch in picture #1

          There is a metal cover for it, but the glass part is missing
          In fact it had to top of a 2 gallon bucket taped to it, to keep the birds out

          I'll post a pick of my electrical meter later, and you can tell me if it is safe to use it to check the lugs in picture #3
           
        • JDMopar

          JDMopar Well-Known Member

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          :thumbsup: I'll look again tomorrow. I'll be glad to get you a plastic meter blank cover and send it to you for free. It would work and look a lot better than a bucket lid....lol.
           
        • diymirage

          diymirage HP@idle > hondaHP@redline

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          Thanks, I appreciate it

          This is the voltage meter I have
          https://www.amazon.com/dp/B000GL5CME/ref=cm_sw_r_other_apa_i_auugEb1R5FH2D

          That should be good to check that base, right?

          I did look outside and the actual meter is located just a few inches above the #2 picture, with one box outside with two breakers in in (one to the AC, one to the back shed)

          The bad news is, that #2 box is chuck full, so I wont be able to put the generator on there and install the lock out device

          Would I be able to have that whole house transfer switch hooked up way on the far end of the house, away from the main box?

          And untill I get this figured out...as long as i make sure the main is off when the generator is on, it is safe for everyone, correct?
           
        • mbaird

          mbaird mbaird FABO Gold Member

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          That explains the massive power outage in the town next to you ! Lol
           
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          • diymirage

            diymirage HP@idle > hondaHP@redline

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            It's about to get worse

            I checked, all the 200 amp breaker does is kill power to that unused meter base in picture #3
            I guess that means I can rip that whole things out, no?

            If you look at this picture, you see 2 30 amp breakers in that panel (top right locations)
            The top one is the one I wired up for the generator
            The second from the top is actually the feed Into that panel

            When I kill that breaker the entire panel goes dark

            Does that make sense?
            Or was that a bonehead move from the previous owner?
            I did not check yet, but i presume that breaker is fed by breakers 12/14 out of the main box

            Would it make sense to leave that as is, or should I rewire those two wires to the lugs above the 200amp breaker ?

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          • Cope

            Cope Fusing with fire

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            100 percent this is correct and needs to be heard loud and clear.

            When i was living in tahoe it was BIG DEAL. you get caught hooked up lile that and its a HUGE FINE..

            Our power was out a lot and everyone was running jensets. The power company aint screwing around if they happen to walk by your panel at night when the power is out and see you lit up with out a disconnect.
             
          • Demonracer

            Demonracer 71 Demon 00 Ram 16 Chrysler 300S 05 Caravan FABO Gold Member

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            As stated earlier, get a licensed electrician! Most likely they will put a transfer switch between the incoming electrical feed & the generator. This will "safely" switch when power goes out, as to not backfeed the generator to local power. You DO NOT want to have a city electrical inspector drop a not very nice piece of paper in your hands because the hook up was done without permits, & by an unlicensed person. Ask me how I know this. LOL
             
          • JDMopar

            JDMopar Well-Known Member

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            You have a good volt meter, and as you've already figured out....it's safe. You can kill the power to the panel with that 30 amp breaker, check the voltage on the lugs of those big wires coming into the 200 amp main, and remove those wires. That will keep those wires from being hot out in that meter base if the 200 amp breaker is in the on position. The previous home owner has layed a screwing on you with all that cobbling. A breaker panel should never be fed from anywhere but the main. If you use your new generator before you can get all that wiring straightened out, just run a good drop cord from the generator outside, and plug your refrigerator into the drop cord. Don't back feed any of your panels with the generator until you get it all straightened out. There may be other surprises you haven't found yet, and it could get REAL bad, real quick if something else is crossed up. Unless I'm looking at it wrong, the meter base that has a meter in it needs to have a service entrance cable that feeds all the way to the top of the 200 amp main breaker that is at present, doing nothing. Then that panel needs to have a 100 amp breaker that feeds back to the main breaker of you box that's already full of breakers. Then, it might be possible to use your lockout device in the 200 amp panel. A lot to think about and digest, but at least you're trying to do it right and be safe. :thumbsup: :thankyou:
             
          • Dfr360cuda

            Dfr360cuda MAGA Again

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            The SO cord is sloppy. Should've connected on the left side or run around the outside. Could get pinched when you put the cover back on.
            Was any of these issues on the Disclosure when you bought the house ? Did you have a home inspection done and the inspector missed this ?
             
          • pishta

            pishta I know I'm right....

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            F it, just run a 4/2 extension cord from generator to a power strip in the kitchen and move your fridge, lamp, modem, TV and X-Box plugs to that. Pop a beer and start up CoD. I like the color coded outlets in the house on a unique generator circuit that is isolated from mains.

            Or Ghetto style: Clip into drop lines with jumper cables before the meter and straight pipe your gas meter too~!
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            Last edited: Jan 11, 2020
          • diymirage

            diymirage HP@idle > hondaHP@redline

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            Yes, we had an inspection done, but if it was noticed, I dont recall hearing about it


            I called my power company and the could tell me a new meter was installed "at some point"
            They couldn't tell me when or where

            On monday I'll call the city, see if I can find a history on permits, maybe that will shed some light on it

            Then I'll see if I have them make the 200 amp panel the main, so I can install a proper interlock (and move that cable to avoid pinch points)
             
          • '73red-duster

            '73red-duster FABO Gold Member FABO Gold Member

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            I'm not an electrician, and maybe one on here will verify this. How big is your generator. Unless it's pretty big, (20-30K) I wouldn't even try to run it that way. I've known of people wiring too small of a generator to their breaker box, and burned out compressors on freezers and refrigerators, etc, (My ex father in law did this) For example if you've got a 5K-10K generator, it won't run your whole house. It will take almost 5K just to run a water heater, if it's electric.
             
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            • diymirage

              diymirage HP@idle > hondaHP@redline

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              Right now, it's a 7k, I intend to return it for a 9-12k version

              I dont need to run the entire house, but I have things on different levels I want to run, gas furnace, gas powered water heater, sump pumps, a few LED lights and the fridge
              Easy enough to isolate those circuits and only use them

              If it were just me, I'd pitch a tent and camp out, but between my youngest and my mother in law, we got an age range living in our house from under 2 to over 70
               
            • '73red-duster

              '73red-duster FABO Gold Member FABO Gold Member

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              If that's all you're going to run, the 7K is probably enough. I wouldn't run a dryer though.
               
            • diymirage

              diymirage HP@idle > hondaHP@redline

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              When I went out to get one, the 7K was the largest they had
              The plan was to use it if we have too and exchange it for a bigger one if we dont need it "now"

              7K seemed to be on the bottom end of what would work, I would feel better having a bigger one hooked up
               
            • '73red-duster

              '73red-duster FABO Gold Member FABO Gold Member

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              Bigger the better!!
               
            • nm9stheham

              nm9stheham Well-Known Member

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              You may be able to run what you have listed... The fridge will have a high startup draw whenever the compressor kicks on but that will be a surge for a fraction of a second. The furnace blower may take as much as 1-1.5kW (1-1.5 kVA). So that ought to be OK with a 7 KW gen (which will probably be good for 4-5KW long term for most of the foreign made cheap gens).

              With the 200A breaker only cutting off power to the disconnected meter base, that says the 200A panel is probably being fed from the 100A main breaker, in addition to that 100A breaker feeding it's own panel. That seems odd. OK... I see you posted that the 200A panel is being fed through that 30A breaker. NO WAY is that to code... But at least the 30A feed breaker looks small enough to trip before that feed wire between panels get too much current.

              Someone used that 200A panel as a sub-panel in the rewire, and it is not safe to use the 200A breaker for the small feed wire size used between panels. So they jury-rigged it in via that 30A breaker. But it is like connecting the generator without a transfer switch..... it is not standard and folks forget and send power to the wrong places when the set breakers expecting the behavior to be normal.

              It would be OK for general safety as you do have a whole house disconnect and current protection at the 100 A breaker. But who knows how heavily that 100A breaker is being loaded. And the 200A breaker back feeding to that unpopulated meter base is just another electrocution issue.... totally abnormal.

              Can o' worms is right! Glad you are sorting this out and asked.
               
            • nm9stheham

              nm9stheham Well-Known Member

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              Hey JD.. We have a done a lot of work for HTC in your neck of the woods. Small world!
               
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