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Old 01-19-2011, 09:57 AM   #1
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B&S Generator with Connecticut Electric Xfer Switch


We bought a Briggs & Stratton 7K standby generator for power in our house after losing power twice for approximately 1 week each time in December 2008 and February 2010. The unit is powered by (2) 20# propane tanks.

We also bought a Connecticut Electric 7.5K, 10 breaker transfer switch and had that wired into the appropriate circuits. We tested the Xfer switch with a portable Kohler gasoline powered unit, and it worked great.

We have resolved the first problem - since the purchase of the B&S generator, it has never run. It was brand new and each time we tried starting it the breaker would trip. It took almost 2 years to resolve, but after a few weeks at the repair shop recently, it was determined that it had a weak breaker, which was replaced, and seems fine now.

Here is the problem and I am hoping you can help me understand what to do. I have very little knowledge of electrical stuff, so the easier you can make this to understand, the better...

The B&S generator is bonded. The Xfer switch is bonded. We soon realized that we cannot use them as is, together.

Option #1: Connecticut Electric stated that the generator could easily be unbonded to run with the switch as it is usually removal/disconnection of a single wire.

Option #2:The repair shop (who fixed the unit at no cost because it was still under warranty) stated that they would rather unbond the Xfer switch. They said that since it is a subpanel-type installation, that it is bonded via the main panel anyways, and bonding is not needed at the Xfer switch. Of course, this will cost us money. (I am not currently working).

If you are not familiar with the Connecticut Electric Xfer switch, the connection are made by removing a wire from the breaker and connecting it to the wire from the transfer switch. Then you take the corresponding wire from the transfer switch and hook to the breaker where the original wire was removed. Simple stuff.

My concern was if we tamper with the Xfer switch and ultimately replace the generator, will we have to rewire the Xfer switch again if it is not a bonded generator? The electrician told me that once the Xfer switch is unbonded (as it is presumably bonded via the main panel) we can run any kind of generator - bonded or unbonded without having to worry about it.

First off, I am not clear on what "bonding" even means. To me it sounds easier (and cheaper) to simply unbond the generator and leave the transfer switch alone. The generator also has (4) 110 outlets, that we do not plan on using, but they are there nonetheless. If the generator is only being connected and used when we lose power, what is the best solution?

Option #3: I have also heard that we can simply disconnect the ground wire from the outlet on the outside of the house, so for all intents and purposes it looks like a perfect installation and does not void the warranty on either the generator or the transfer switch. This seems like the easiest, cheapest and all around best solution to me.

Are there pros and cons for each type of solution? The easier you can make this for me to understand, the better as I have zero electrical knowledge once I get past changing the remote control batteries.

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Old 01-19-2011, 11:33 AM   #2
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B&S Generator with Connecticut Electric Xfer Switch


"Bonded generator" as a buzzword means that the neutral (white wire) in the generator is connected to the generator frame that the green wire is always connected to.

Unbonding means removing that connection which procedure might be the unscrewing of a green colored screw or removing a jumper wire or little strip of metal.

If neutral and ground are unbonded at the generator and then you connect the generator to a typical whole house electrical system (not just a subpanel or subset of circuits) then the neutral and ground will become bonded again*. This is because neutral and ground are connected together somewhere else in the system. But the unbonding at the generator still needs to be done when you are instructed to.

Normally the entire electrical ystem in your home should have neutral and ground bonded in exactly one palce and that is usually the main breaker panel. So when the generator is wired in so that any or all of the circuits in the main panel can be energized, then the neutral should not be bonded to ground at or in the generator. Also you would not have neutral to ground bonding in the transfer switch.

An example of keeping the bonding of neutral to ground at the generator is when the generator is connected to a subpanel and, using the transfer switch, only the household circuits in that subpanel can be energized. Neutral is not supposed to be bonded to ground in a subpanel so the one and only neutral to ground bonding is now at the generator.

If the instructions show how to unbond neutral and ground at the generator then doing so will not void the warranty. Same for the transfer switch.

Your option 3 will not work and furthermore you may not connect a generator to your home electrical system using an ordinary outlet (female receptacle) on the side of your house.

Neutral to ground bonding in the transfer switch is tricky. You can choose whether to have it not bonded, bonded only in the generator position or bonded all the time. You would have to understand your electrical system and generator to be able to select which.

* In a generic and technical sense, bonded means electrically connected with essentially no resistance for example with metal to metal contact. Also note that if A (such as the generator white wire) is bonded to B (such as the main panel neutrals and grounds) and B is bonded to C (such as the generator ground wire) then A is bonded to C.

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Old 01-19-2011, 12:12 PM   #3
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B&S Generator with Connecticut Electric Xfer Switch


Thank you Allan,

I noticed your location - I am in Londonderry

There are no instructions with either the generator or transfer switch as to how to unbond either unit. The electrical company that repaired the generator is a B&S authorized shop and said that they cannot unbond the unit for that reason.

The outlet on the side of the house is not a standard female receptacle. It is an outlet purchased specifically for the generator.

Most of what you said is still Greek to me.

Here is the terminology I received from the transfer switch manufacturer, in case it adds anything:

Quote:
The Connecticut Electric EmerGen Switch products are not neutral switching products. The EGS product requires that your generator be a "floating neutral" type. This can generally be accomplished with a minor modification to the generator (usually the removal of a single bonding wire). Please contact your generator manufacturer for instructions on how to float the generator neutral for use with this type of product.
It sounds as if the best and easiest way to make this work is by unbonding the generator, but I do not know how to do it - and any dealer who can do it, won't do it. If I screw something up while doing this and damage the generator, it will not be covered under warranty.

We purchased this in the midst of the December 11, 2008 ice storm. It sat in the box until the February 26, 2010 wind storm. We tried starting it then and it did not work. All we want is a working unit, but I am out of work myself and cannot afford to replace the generator or transfer switch. It seems so simple, yet...
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Old 01-19-2011, 12:21 PM   #4
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B&S Generator with Connecticut Electric Xfer Switch


Forget option 3 that would be a safety hazard.

Option 2 makes no sense to me at all since you are bonded at the main panel which you cannot change.

The only option is to unbond the generator since the transfer switch does not open or switch the utility neutral but keeps you solidly connected to the utility neutral. This will keep neutral current from using the equipment ground to return to the generator.


For what it is worth very few homeowners really understand this neutral bonding thing and I don't think the generator or transfer switch manufacturers do either. They really don't address it in the instructions for these manual transfer switches. They usually just say consult with local authority or electrician...LOL. I see Connecticut at least gives you some guidance.

I would venture to say there are many thousands of portable job site generators that are being connected to a homes wiring system and operated with bonded neutral and ground at the generator. This could very easily be solved with a bonding switch and instructions included with these portable generators stating the proper position of the switch depending on how you are using the generator and the type transfer switch your using.

Also un-bonding a generator may not be a simple as disconnecting one wire.
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Old 01-19-2011, 12:31 PM   #5
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B&S Generator with Connecticut Electric Xfer Switch


I have read that people have installed a switch in the bonding circuit for just that reason. I would think that would be a perfect solution.

I have contacted B&S, Connecticut Electric and three local electrical companies - two of whom are B&S authorized dealers. Five entities and five different responses. Surely, it cannot be that difficult where nobody can agree on the best method that will not kill someone in the process...
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Old 01-19-2011, 12:35 PM   #6
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B&S Generator with Connecticut Electric Xfer Switch


I'm not sure if the code making panels of the NEC can agree on this subject... It is a hugely confusing matter even for many electricians.
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Old 01-19-2011, 12:37 PM   #7
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B&S Generator with Connecticut Electric Xfer Switch


Now I take it that the outlet on the side of your house is a male receptacle namely with prongs recessed in a shallow hole.

From there a four wire cable (240 volt hot hot, a neutral, and a ground) goes to a transfer switch near your main panel. Ground and neutral should not be bonded within the male receptacle.

What I personally would do: Turn off most of the appliances and lights so you don't start off with an overload. Get the usual extension cord meant to connect the male receptacle on the side of your house to your generator sitting nearby. Plug it in and turn the generator on.

Hint: If the generator was just out of the box sitting by itself and you plugged a light or tool in one of the built in receptacles, and the generator did not work, you need to get that fixed first.

One additional thing I would do. Run a #6 gauge bare wire from the main panel ground (or the bare ground wire of similar size emerging there) and out to the generator, connecting to the generator frame. This would be a redundant ground just in case a loose connection should occur in the grounding conductor going through the generator's extension cord. And drive a ground rod at the generator, connecting that to the newly strung ground wire too.
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Old 01-19-2011, 12:49 PM   #8
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B&S Generator with Connecticut Electric Xfer Switch


Rick

The power inlet your using is fine and designed for generator use. Unbonding the generator from ground will have no effect on the generator ... you cannot harm it by doing so but always remember to bond neutral and the frame, receptacles etc if you going to change to operating cord and plug equipment at a job site where the generator will be used as a stand alone system (separately derived). This provides an equipment ground and fault path to the generator center tap (neutral) in case a tool shorts to its metal frame (grounding type 3 prong corded tools). You need this to get the generator circuit breaker to open keeping you safe from electrocution.

I believe this is your general or similar setup

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Old 01-19-2011, 01:41 PM   #9
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B&S Generator with Connecticut Electric Xfer Switch


Quote:
Originally Posted by AllanJ View Post
Now I take it that the outlet on the side of your house is a male receptacle namely with prongs recessed in a shallow hole.
This is correct.

Quote:
Originally Posted by AllanJ View Post
From there a four wire cable (240 volt hot hot, a neutral, and a ground) goes to a transfer switch near your main panel. Ground and neutral should not be bonded within the male receptacle.
It is slightly more complicated that this, but not much. From the male receptacle outside the house, the wire goes to a junction box just beneath the transfer switch. At this junction box, there is a wire that plugs into the transfer switch. This was done since the transfer switch is not equipped to be hard-wired - ideally, the male receptacle would have been hard-wired to the transfer switch and a blank installed where the male plug on the transfer switch was. Initially, we planned on just running the wire in through a window and plugging it directly to the transfer switch, but then I decided I would rather not have exhaust fumes in the house.

Quote:
Originally Posted by AllanJ View Post
What I personally would do: Turn off most of the appliances and lights so you don't start off with an overload. Get the usual extension cord meant to connect the male receptacle on the side of your house to your generator sitting nearby. Plug it in and turn the generator on.
With the generator still bonded? This is part of the problem. It seems that B&G feels that the issue we had with the generator was caused by plugging the generator into that transfer switch. They said it could damage the GFCI breaker on the generator. They are not cheap to replace either at $120 a pop. (The reality is that we did not even get the B&G generator started, nor did we have the transfer switch at the time this happened. It was installed later and used with a Kohler gasoline generator, and worked famously.) In actuality, the unit was tripping the breaker while cranking. It never started. The repair shop replaced the breaker and said that it was fine after that. But the fear of using the generator with this transfer switch (as is) and blowing another breaker is not appealing to me as I will have to pay for the next one.

Quote:
Originally Posted by AllanJ View Post
Hint: If the generator was just out of the box sitting by itself and you plugged a light or tool in one of the built in receptacles, and the generator did not work, you need to get that fixed first.
I think this part is all set...

Quote:
Originally Posted by AllanJ View Post
One additional thing I would do. Run a #6 gauge bare wire from the main panel ground (or the bare ground wire of similar size emerging there) and out to the generator, connecting to the generator frame. This would be a redundant ground just in case a loose connection should occur in the grounding conductor going through the generator's extension cord. And drive a ground rod at the generator, connecting that to the newly strung ground wire too.
My apologies, but I have no idea what this means.
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Old 01-19-2011, 01:43 PM   #10
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B&S Generator with Connecticut Electric Xfer Switch


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Originally Posted by Stubbie View Post
Rick

The power inlet your using is fine and designed for generator use. Unbonding the generator from ground will have no effect on the generator ... you cannot harm it by doing so but always remember to bond neutral and the frame, receptacles etc if you going to change to operating cord and plug equipment at a job site where the generator will be used as a stand alone system (separately derived). This provides an equipment ground and fault path to the generator center tap (neutral) in case a tool shorts to its metal frame (grounding type 3 prong corded tools). You need this to get the generator circuit breaker to open keeping you safe from electrocution.

I believe this is your general or similar setup

Hey Stubbie,

That is fairly close to the setup. We will never use this unit for anything other than a backup generator during a power outage. Should I disconnect the (4) 110 receptacles to prevent them from being used?
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Old 01-19-2011, 04:16 PM   #11
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B&S Generator with Connecticut Electric Xfer Switch


Quote:
Originally Posted by Stubbie View Post
For what it is worth very few homeowners really understand this neutral bonding thing and I don't think the generator or transfer switch manufacturers do either. They really don't address it in the instructions for these manual transfer switches. They usually just say consult with local authority or electrician...LOL. I see Connecticut at least gives you some guidance..
There is a difference between not understanding this neutral to ground bonding thing and being unable to break the neutral to ground bonding in the generator.

I am trying to imagine what would happen if the generator were not connected to house ground, for example the green wire was unscrewed from the male receptacle.

1. The generator will continue to supply power to the house (hot, hot, neutral).
2. The generator's own GFCI will not trip but GFCI units in the house will continue to work normally.
3. Should a fault (short or "unwanted bonding") occur in the household wiring or in an appliance, the results as seen inside the house would be no different compared with utility power or with a generator with ground properly connected to the system but neutral not bonded to ground at the generator itself.
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Old 01-19-2011, 09:57 PM   #12
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B&S Generator with Connecticut Electric Xfer Switch


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Hey Stubbie,

That is fairly close to the setup. We will never use this unit for anything other than a backup generator during a power outage. Should I disconnect the (4) 110 receptacles to prevent them from being used?
Nope I wouldn't ... just let them be. At some point you have to say enough is enough ....
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Old 01-19-2011, 11:20 PM   #13
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B&S Generator with Connecticut Electric Xfer Switch


Rick

Found a drawing that might help with understanding what you have ... in this situation the generator is supplying power to a 240/120 volt load. The transfer switch does not switch the grounded (neutral) conductor. It is solidly connected at the transfer switch. A ground rod isn't necessary as you are neutral grounded via the service panel grounding electrode system ... ground rod in the drawing. The generator is unbonded or floating the neutral ... if it were not then a parallel path exists and neutral current will be present as objectionable current on the metal and equipment grounding conductors (green lines).

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Old 01-20-2011, 12:40 PM   #14
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B&S Generator with Connecticut Electric Xfer Switch


The unit that you have is a switched neutral unit, to make this work you will need a switched neutral transfer switch. This transfer switch will have three pole breaker and will switch both hot leads and neutral leads. This will require isolating all of the neutral leads from the transfer switch power circuits. A transfer switch that will work with your unit is a 71014, I have also included some dealers below that are good dealers in your area that will be able to assist you with any further questions.

Kingston Enterprises
Kingston, NH 800-675-3506

Corr + Sons Electric Inc
Pembroke, NH 602-234-3706
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Old 01-20-2011, 01:27 PM   #15
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B&S Generator with Connecticut Electric Xfer Switch


When the unit is connected to a "main" panel, switching the neutral won't accomplish anything. When the transfer switch is put in the "gen" position the neutral and ground coming from teh generator will rebond using the merged neutral and ground busses in the panel.

To prevent downstream bonding in order to keep the bonding at the generator, the main panel would have to have neutral and ground separated.

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