How to Trouble shoot this???

Discussion in 'Electrical Forum discussion & Blog' started by Carl Simmo, Sep 25, 2007.

  1. Carl Simmo

    Carl Simmo New Member

    Messages:
    11
    Hi everyone - I have a decent size generator to use in case of outages and my house was hard wired and a 4 prong outlet under the panel and 10\4 cable w\ male fittings as well, that we plug in after the MAIN & A/C are thown in the panel .
    Why would only half of the house lights work and the other half would not light, when their breakers are on ? I did notice that when I tried my garage lights they came on VERY dim:confused: Could this be a loose wire on one of the breakers? What's the best way to isolate the problem in your opion?

    Thanks your help and suggestions,
    Carl
    Last edited: Sep 25, 2007
  2. Speedy Petey

    Speedy Petey Licensed Electrical Contractor

    Messages:
    988
    Location:
    NY State, USA
    Considering the EXTREMELY dangerous and ILLEGAL backfeed setup you are using I doubt you'll get any replies other than to install a proper transfer switch or main-breaker-interlock.

    That would be my only comment.
  3. jwelectric

    jwelectric Electrical Contractor/Instructor

    Messages:
    2,529
    Location:
    North Carolina
    Mine to .
  4. BrianJohn

    BrianJohn DIY Senior Member

    Messages:
    151
    Location:
    VA
    If improperly operated it is possible you may be backfeeding the utility, which can and has killed utility lineman in at least one case. Utilize the proper equipment for the job or sell the generator.
  5. Please get a proper transfer switch or connection hub (see below), or don't use a generator at all. Turning off your main breaker does NOT isolate your electrical panel.
    http://www.dom.com/products/generators/hub.jsp
    Two out-of-state power company linemen helping our northeastern NC area restore power after Hurricane Isabel in 2003 were killed here due to this very type of improper hookup.
    Mike
    Last edited: Sep 25, 2007
  6. frenchie

    frenchie Jack of all trades

    ditto.

    ...
  7. amartin725

    amartin725 New Member

    Messages:
    37
    I echo the other's comments...I would also caution that you could be damaging many of your appliances with this.
  8. leejosepho

    leejosepho DIY scratch-pad engineer

    No, something else is keeping power from getting to half your breakers, and you would need an experienced and irresponsible electrician to get that straightened out. Like everyone else has said, there is absolutely nothing good or okay about backfeeding a system through a receptacle. I used to do that until someone explained these things to me, and now I am no longer willing to risk causing property damamge or death for anyone.
  9. HandyAndy

    HandyAndy General Contractor, Farmer

    Messages:
    68
    Location:
    Haxtun, CO
  10. Old Dog

    Old Dog G.C. 22+ years(in 3 states)

    Messages:
    82
    Location:
    Hawaii
    I'm wondering...

    Carl,I'm assuming from your post that you bought the house with this hookup already there...It's obvious this wasn't inspected and I wonder what other potential dangerous work has been done.I would get an experienced electrician in to take a look see to make sure you don't have any other problems lurking about.
    BTW,you have been lucky no one has been killed with this setup...
  11. jwelectric

    jwelectric Electrical Contractor/Instructor

    Messages:
    2,529
    Location:
    North Carolina

    Mike have you seen one of these installations?
  12. molo

    molo New Member

    Messages:
    840
    Location:
    cold new york
  13. speedbump

    speedbump Previous member

    Messages:
    4,540
    Location:
    Riverview, Fl.
    All good advice from the above posts.

    It also sounds like your using a 115 volt generator feeding a 230 volt panel.
    If I were a fortune teller, I would see nothing but doom and gloom from this install.

    bob...
  14. Carl Simmo

    Carl Simmo New Member

    Messages:
    11
    I understand everyones comments and WILL have someone come out. To be perfectly honest, my neighbors have the same set-up:eek: . The generator has a 4 prong female connection on the front panel of the generator next to the 115v inserts, there is a 10-4 cable w\ male 4prong lockers on either side that connect the generator to metal box labeled 240v generator on the panel side. Now, on the breaker panel on the bottom there's a dedicated dual breaker labeled "generator",that goes to a conduit\ metal box underneath the panel. This also labeled "240v generator" w\ a 4 locking 4 prong for the cable.
    My question is how is this a danger for linemen if the MAIN and a couple others are thrown prior to plugging cable and starting generator? Is'nt the power isolated at that point?:confused:
  15. Wet_Boots

    Wet_Boots Sprinkler Guy

    Messages:
    798
    Location:
    Metro NYC
    That linemen have died from the setup you have is all the explanation required. Don't jabber about it. Fix it.
  16. Speedy Petey

    Speedy Petey Licensed Electrical Contractor

    Messages:
    988
    Location:
    NY State, USA
    There are probably thousands of these widow maker setups out there. It only takes one mistake to kill a lineman. It can and DOES happen annually. Do YOU want to be responsible if someone messes with your setup and someone is hurt or killed???
    THAT is why this is an unacceptable setup.
  17. Carl Simmo

    Carl Simmo New Member

    Messages:
    11
    You guys are the pro's so that's why I posted here and value your opinions. With that being said, I have an appointment w\ a local electrian for Sat.. He is gonna go over the transfer switch pricing with me and look at my other problem. What should I expect to pay for a install?
  18. leejosepho

    leejosepho DIY scratch-pad engineer

    Well, I suppose so, but the work would not get done!

    That was my own logic when I had a similar setup, but no, total isolation cannot be guaranteed as long as even only the common is still connected. I do not know why that is, and maybe someone else here can explain. However, the bottom line is that the simplest "Oops!" would send power out to the utility line and possibly cause damage or death.

    Look back at the link in HandyAndy's post. That kind of disconnect might be the least expensive way to go.
  19. Furd

    Furd Engineer

    Messages:
    446
    Location:
    Wet side of Washington State
    It is not a problem with the "common" lead (I think you meant to write neutral) but that there is no positive method of ensuring that the main breaker might not be closed when the generator is supplying power to the panel.

    The connecting cable between the generator and the panel, having a male plug on each end, is also a hazardous situation in that the possibility exists that it could be disconnected from the panel while the generator is running or disconnected from the generator when the panel is energized from the utility and either action would leave hazardous voltage on the male plug.

    Using a more conventional "extension cord" between the gennie and the panel is little better because in this case there would be a male plug or inlet connector that is connected to the panel by only a circuit breaker and the possibility exists that this "generator only" breaker could be closed while the panel is energized in the normal manner from the utility.

    In the above scenarios if the utility power is applied to the generator it will in all likelihood destroy the generator and in the process quite possibly severely hurt, or kill, anyone in the area.

    People will try to justify using such an arrangement as the original poster described by telling themselves, and anybody that will listen, that they would never make that mistake.

    People are far too often wrong.

    The ONLY acceptable method is one where the generator and the utility power can NEVER be connected at the same time. There are several different ways to do this and they include a 3-position transfer switch, a separate transfer panel and a circuit breaker interlock kit.
  20. mattbee24

    mattbee24 In the Trades

    Messages:
    100
    Location:
    Fremont, OH
    If backfeeding through the neutral is a problem, then wouldn't a seperate panel with a breaker interlock be equally as dangerous?
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