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Old 11-25-2013, 04:46 PM   #1
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Manual b/u generator: Safest way to alert that utilities are back on line?


We're in a rural location with a correctly (edit: I *believe*) installed manual transfer switch immediately after the meter. When the bull is thrown to the generator side, both hot legs are totally disconnected from the pole and power is supplied by a ~40A gas powered portable generator (edit: which of course doesn't supply ALL the power we could use, but lets the most important things run so long as we're careful). Problem is that, with no visible neighbors or streetlights, there's no good way to know if utility service is back.

I see Reliant has a device something like the bastard child of a sniffer pen and a smoke alarm (http://www.nooutage.com/thp108.htm), but the service from the utilities comes into an outbuilding (where all this occurs) which means I need something more than a beep. I'd like to wire a ringing bell, maybe with a second one in the house, which means some sort of relay that's sensing voltage ahead of the transfer switch. I don't want to compromise the separation between the utility and the genny, but the best solution I see is to wire a little relay directly to the utility side of that transfer switch that energizes a circuit whose load side is supplied by the generator... but it reduces the gap between the two sources from a huge dead air gap in the transfer switch to just the body of that relay.

Thoughts? Better suggestions? Upgrading the genny to one capable of using an ATS, and installing an ATS, isn't going to fly.

Luke in NY

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Last edited by ldeikis; 11-26-2013 at 05:01 PM.
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Old 11-25-2013, 04:54 PM   #2
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Manual b/u generator: Safest way to alert that utilities are back on line?


Try installing an indicator light on the mains side of the transfer switch.
You can mount a colored par 38 light under the eve's and point it
towards the house.
Cheap and easy !

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Old 11-25-2013, 04:55 PM   #3
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Manual b/u generator: Safest way to alert that utilities are back on line?


A separate sub could have been installed so that only circuits in that sub would be powered by the generator. That way when power came back on, the other circuits would be powered by POCO power. In this scenario, you could have used a breaker interlock vs a xfer switch. Much cheaper.

What to do now? I'm not sure. They might make some sort of audible alarm, but I haven't ever looked for one.
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Old 11-25-2013, 05:21 PM   #4
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Manual b/u generator: Safest way to alert that utilities are back on line?


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Originally Posted by k_buz View Post
A separate sub could have been installed so that only circuits in that sub would be powered by the generator. That way when power came back on, the other circuits would be powered by POCO power. In this scenario, you could have used a breaker interlock vs a xfer switch. Much cheaper.
A separate sub would have been impractical here, b/c the generator needs to energize several circuits in the barn as well as several in the house, which itself is a sub and a good hundred feet away. Much simpler to just have an interlock and switch it all over... plus it was here when we moved in.

I need something more than a light, as we rely on power for temp control and ventilation in the barn, and are therefore running the generator even in daytime if the power goes out. I'm going to poke around a bit more... I'd really like to not have a lone relay between the energized house and the PoCo feed, but don't see a very simple alternative yet. Hard to believe this is a unique situation.
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Old 11-25-2013, 05:32 PM   #5
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Manual b/u generator: Safest way to alert that utilities are back on line?


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Originally Posted by ldeikis View Post

I need something more than a light, as we rely on power for temp control and ventilation in the barn, and are therefore running the generator even in daytime if the power goes out. I'm going to poke around a bit more... I'd really like to not have a lone relay between the energized house and the PoCo feed, but don't see a very simple alternative yet. Hard to believe this is a unique situation.
Not sure why this is complicated. Any siren will do the trick. Even a car alarm siren which are a dime a dozen with a 12 volt power supply.

I'm not so sure I like your idea though. Your generator will have to be sized properly to run it ALL and that can be expensive. Either that or you will have to KNOW what was energized before the power went out and shut things down before you switch over in order to avoid possibly maxing out the generator right out of the starting gate. Are you sure you can do that in the dark?
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Old 11-25-2013, 05:49 PM   #6
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Manual b/u generator: Safest way to alert that utilities are back on line?


We are going to need how this is set up. I'm assuming the feed from the barn and the feed to the house panels originate from the xfer switch?

If this is the case, putting anything ahead of the xfer switch would be a code violation as the wiring would be unprotected. Is there a main before your xfer switch?
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Old 11-25-2013, 05:59 PM   #7
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Manual b/u generator: Safest way to alert that utilities are back on line?


There are transfer switches out there, that have an indicator for when the incoming phase is powered. It uses Current Transformers with a power meter.

Or just invest in a Ted5000 with two MTU's and two sets of CT's. This would be the simple way, vs sinking a couple thousand into a fancy transfer switch, with readings for incoming voltage and amperage, for both the Poco side and the gender side.

As for the siren, how would you purpose shutting it down, when power is restored?

Check with your utility, to see if they have an automated way of notifying their customers,mwhen power is restored in the area.

If you are doing the gender as backup, I would also look at a UPS that would allow those circuits that go to the gender, stay online, until the generator goes online, or it runs out of fuel. They start around $1,000.00, you have to still purchase deep cycle batteries for it.
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Old 11-25-2013, 07:24 PM   #8
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Manual b/u generator: Safest way to alert that utilities are back on line?


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Originally Posted by k_buz View Post
We are going to need how this is set up. I'm assuming the feed from the barn and the feed to the house panels originate from the xfer switch?

If this is the case, putting anything ahead of the xfer switch would be a code violation as the wiring would be unprotected. Is there a main before your xfer switch?
I think you're picturing it right, and I'm also coming to the conclusion that there may not be a reasonable solution to this. Anything wired ahead of the transfer switch would be unfused--as well as have to either be wired to live utility feeds, or require a visit from the utility company to shut down the feed, both of which are bad (unsafe/illegal or expensive) solutions.

For clarity, currently the power comes from the pole, through the meter, to a 200A fused transfer switch. From there it goes to two panels, one immediately adjacent that feeds the barn and another outbuilding, and another in the house. The goal is to have a safe non-contact way to sense voltage, even with no current, in the feed from the utility. With even a small amount of current it would be a simple solution, but with NOTHING flowing I don't know that it's possible. I also note that that Reliant device seems to be no longer available!

I know the generator can run the necessity loads because we penciled it out and have used it for that purpose many times. Yes, it's annoying and less wonderful than an ATS with a real standby generator, but money is a factor in my life and this is the solution I can afford. I just want to avoid this issue where I'm burning gasoline at $4/gal for hours after the power is restored. I don't really need a UPS--a brief outage is no big deal--but we can't allow the power to be out for more than a couple hours.

I wish the meter had a little LED or something and I could just wire up a little photosenor and a relay, but alas it's all boring LCD.

Oh, and turning the siren off: I figured I'd wire it to a switch, so when I go out and throw the transfer switch back to the utility feed and shut down the generator, I'd turn the siren off. Otherwise it'd always be on.

Still open to suggestions.

Luke
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Old 11-25-2013, 08:45 PM   #9
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Manual b/u generator: Safest way to alert that utilities are back on line?


Our PoCo will call us to confirm the power is on if we report an outage. It's an automated system and lags up to an our but it's free. Does yours offer something similar?
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Old 11-25-2013, 08:55 PM   #10
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Manual b/u generator: Safest way to alert that utilities are back on line?


Instead of using gas, change over your generator to use LP gas. Not only will it be cheaper, but you do not have the storage problems, as you do with gas sitting, waiting for use, for long undetermined periods.
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Old 11-25-2013, 10:57 PM   #11
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Manual b/u generator: Safest way to alert that utilities are back on line?


Quote:
Originally Posted by ldeikis
I think you're picturing it right, and I'm also coming to the conclusion that there may not be a reasonable solution to this. Anything wired ahead of the transfer switch would be unfused--as well as have to either be wired to live utility feeds, or require a visit from the utility company to shut down the feed, both of which are bad (unsafe/illegal or expensive) solutions. For clarity, currently the power comes from the pole, through the meter, to a 200A fused transfer switch. From there it goes to two panels, one immediately adjacent that feeds the barn and another outbuilding, and another in the house. The goal is to have a safe non-contact way to sense voltage, even with no current, in the feed from the utility. With even a small amount of current it would be a simple solution, but with NOTHING flowing I don't know that it's possible. I also note that that Reliant device seems to be no longer available! I know the generator can run the necessity loads because we penciled it out and have used it for that purpose many times. Yes, it's annoying and less wonderful than an ATS with a real standby generator, but money is a factor in my life and this is the solution I can afford. I just want to avoid this issue where I'm burning gasoline at $4/gal for hours after the power is restored. I don't really need a UPS--a brief outage is no big deal--but we can't allow the power to be out for more than a couple hours. I wish the meter had a little LED or something and I could just wire up a little photosenor and a relay, but alas it's all boring LCD. Oh, and turning the siren off: I figured I'd wire it to a switch, so when I go out and throw the transfer switch back to the utility feed and shut down the generator, I'd turn the siren off. Otherwise it'd always be on. Still open to suggestions. Luke
Luke,

Look into a SPD that sits under the meter in the can. Most utilities will provide and install them. Make sure it has the LED lights on it. Should solve your problem.

If your utility does not have them they are available from electrical supply houses.
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Old 11-25-2013, 11:11 PM   #12
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Manual b/u generator: Safest way to alert that utilities are back on line?


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Luke, Look into a SPD that sits under the meter in the can. Most utilities will provide and install them. Make sure it has the LED lights on it. Should solve your problem. If your utility does not have them they are available from electrical supply houses.
http://www.carebase.com/Meter-Treate...rester-SPD.htm
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Old 11-26-2013, 12:24 AM   #13
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Manual b/u generator: Safest way to alert that utilities are back on line?


One example of an automated transfer switch. http://www.transferswitch4less.com/series165.htm. But really, if you do not want to go through that, just go with what I mentioned before, regarding using a Ted5000 with two Mtu's and two sets of CT's.

Doing anything else, is going to be more of a pain, unless you have a genset that will always be connected to the transfer switch, for automated control. They even come with Cellular uplink, so that you can monitor while gone, to be notified of conditions, or any problems.
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Old 11-26-2013, 05:52 AM   #14
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Manual b/u generator: Safest way to alert that utilities are back on line?


Quote:
Originally Posted by ldeikis View Post
We're in a rural location with a correctly installed manual transfer switch immediately after the meter. When the bull is thrown to the generator side, both hot legs are totally disconnected from the pole and power is supplied by a ~40A gas powered portable generator. Problem is that, with no visible neighbors or streetlights, there's no good way to know if utility service is back.

I see Reliant has a device something like the bastard child of a sniffer pen and a smoke alarm (http://www.nooutage.com/thp108.htm), but the service from the utilities comes into an outbuilding (where all this occurs) which means I need something more than a beep. I'd like to wire a ringing bell, maybe with a second one in the house, which means some sort of relay that's sensing voltage ahead of the transfer switch. I don't want to compromise the separation between the utility and the genny, but the best solution I see is to wire a little relay directly to the utility side of that transfer switch that energizes a circuit whose load side is supplied by the generator... but it reduces the gap between the two sources from a huge dead air gap in the transfer switch to just the body of that relay.

Thoughts? Better suggestions? Upgrading the genny to one capable of using an ATS, and installing an ATS, isn't going to fly.

Luke in NY

wait a minute ... 40 Amps ?? is this a seperate manual transfer switch ?? "normally" on a portable you are only powering some of the circuits ...

link me to it .


are you saying that your transfer switch does the WHOLE SERVICE ????

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