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Small Generators and Heating Systems
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Small Generators and Heating Systems

After Hurricane Sandy, many people with small generators had great difficulty in using them to provide power to fuel pumps for boilers providing heat to their homes. The generators provide 115 volt AC, but they cannot be simply attached to the incoming switch box without a lot of thought and knowledge of electricity. The boilers run on fuel oil but the relays and the electrical ignition systems and fuel pumps require electricity. Gas generators have to be run outdoors. Many people die because they operate such generators within a garage or basement. Beside a generator, one needs to purchase heavy duty extension cord of sufficient length ro run from the generator (at least a dozen feet from the house wall) to the house. In the dark, with a small flashlight, is not the time to learn about "housewiring 101". As an alternative to plugging in to the main fuse box the elctrical supply to the fuel pump and boiler can be isolated before hand with a simple male and female plug. In the event of power failure, simply switch plugs from the one leading to the house power wupply with that of the emergency generator.

Think about how you would tie in beforehand. Some people simply pull thre main switch and attach a female plug to the extension from the generator and plug it into a wall outlet. This, of course is VERY DANGEROUS, especially with children about, because if the plug is pulled out there are two live prongs. If you do this remember to unscrew all light bulbs in the house and unplug unnecessary motors. It helps to have a number of very low-wattage bulbs (7 1/2 watt), or flourescenhts or LEDS because many small portable generators will overheat if overloaded. Remember that generators have to be under load, preferably loaded from 75% to 90% of their output capacity. Never run a generator for extended periods with no load or a low load. You make have to add a hundred watt bulb or two to bring the generator under load.

Thing about how you will tie in if you use the main box. You will need heavy cable. Enough to carry twenty amps. Preferably thirty amps. There are "bolt-on" clamps available from motion picture supply companies. Some people solder copper plates to the cables so they can be inserted in the blades of the throw switches. Needless to say this is something that you should learn about before a disaster. And you may need help from a professional electrician. Remember if the basment is flooded, and you are standing in water, and your genreator is running when you make the connection (or break the connection) you stand a good chance of being electrocuted. By the same token, if the power comes on and you disconnect the unit and reconnect to outside power, again be aware of the danger of electrocution. If you are working on connecting power it is a good idea to have two people present, one as a "safety person". You don't want to be knocked unconscious by a temporary shock and drown in two feet of water.
2 Comments Post a Comment
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463897_tn?1342704822
Thank you for posting .. what became a huge obstacle during the storm and still to date is that electricians cannot obtain the necessary parts needed to connect to the panel box for permanent or temporary setup!  
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144586_tn?1284669764
If "BX" (the cable that looks like a spiral of metal) or conduit is submerged in water, especially salt water, it must be replaced. The moisture will eventually corrode and potentially cause shorts. Ordinary water does not conduct electricity, but water with salt in it, or any dissolved material does. Replacing cable (if it is available) may take a long while. If the basement is pumped out the wires and relays close to the water heater and oil burner may be rinsed thoroughly with a forceful stream of fresh potable water and dried in place with a grounded hot-air drier, severed from the main circuit and fed by a generator. Replacing the relays will cost about $30 U.S. If the tank is submerged you can count on water being inside, and the filter must be replaced as well as all water drained.  Needless to say, in preparing for a flood think about pre-purchasing a relay set, an ignition set  and a filter and keep them upstairs in a dry place (the attic). You will need to run the fuel pump electrically with the line "broken" and the water run into a shallow tray or bucket, then transferred to a larger bucket for removal from the cellar. Because the line is close to the ground you may not be able to use a tall bucket.
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